Lifelong Habits


The behaviors that we see our children and teens doing now are often the habits, hang-ups and routines that they will be doing many years down the road. As a counselor, I chat with adults all the time who tell me that they remember starting a certain pattern or patterns in their life way back when they were much younger. If we are honest with ourselves, I am sure we can look back to the past to see many of our personality quirks (some cute, some not) did emerge when we were running around the elementary playground or strolling through the halls in high school.

There are a few habits or ways of living life that I would like to highlight because I see the long term issues and honestly, much of the damage could have been avoided. I believe that good parenting involves recognizing the ways in which our children go through life that might hinder them later and working towards solutions while they are still young enough to be pointed in a new direction.

A few of the most negatively impacting habits include:

1) The creation of phobias:

There has been an increase of children who won’t wear this sort of clothing or must not have buttons on any items they come in contact with or will only eat from a list of 5 foods and on and on. As parents, we must be mindful to watch that our children’s world doesn’t become so confined to only the items they will tolerate or we are aiding in their development of phobias. Young children must not be allowed to dictate what they will wear or not wear. When a fuss is made about buttons, we as the parents calmly and lovingly explain that buttons are a part of life and there’s no getting away from them. We do not shift our wardrobe choices for our kids to not include any form of buttons. We push through and insist that our children be emotionally flexible. Now I do have to say that certain diagnosed mental health conditions make it very hard to simply push through but that is a very small percentage of the large group of children nowadays who have begun living very confined lives of only a few acceptable items in their world.

2) Good hygiene can’t not be ignored:

While our kids are young, we must instill in them the routine of caring for themselves on a regular basis. I know this sounds absurd, but you’d be shocked at how often I have come across young adults and middle aged folks that do not respect themselves enough to maintain good hygiene. Almost 100% of the time, the low self-esteem started in childhood when parents or a parent did not teach the youth to present their hair, teeth and body to the world in a way that reflected a healthy self worth.

3) Good manners can’t be ignored either:

Ever work with someone who didn’t know how to regulate themselves during a business meeting or heated discussion? I would take a wild guess that for the vast majority of these folks, speaking to others in a disrespectful manner was common place in the homes they grew up in. Ever come in contact with someone who almost always has a snappy tone, even when talking about something non-confrontational? That was probably how their family of origin spoke to one another and so it comes flying out of their mouth even before they know it.

4) Learning to hear NO when needed:

Ever wonder how narcissists are created? They either didn’t hear no enough growing up or they heard is so much that they learned to meet their own needs. There is a healthy balance somewhere in between never hearing it and hearing it too much. As parents, we will be doing our children a service if we allow them to experience disappointment and frustrations while they are young and the topics are about ice cream or bed times and not bigger adult issues down the road. Emotional flexibility is vitally important to all human beings and children who didn’t hear no enough growing up, become adults who expect everyone to cater to them.

The bottom line is that the environment we grew up in and then raise our own kids does have lasting implications. Let’s reflect on where there are areas we need to re-do from our own childhood and areas that as parents, we need to start addressing today so our kids have a better chance of having good habits that will last a lifetime.

“The Tooth Fairy Forgot Me!” – Revisited…

People often ask what are some of the most read blog posts that I have written and the one about the time the “tooth fairy” snoozed through her duties is definitely a favorite on my blog. It was originally posted in May 2011 and here it is making a encore appearance…

My kiddo lost his eighth tooth yesterday while at school. He put the tooth on his night stand for the tooth fairy and fell asleep expectantly. When he woke up, the tooth was still there and he exclaimed,  ”the tooth fairy forgot me!” Oh yes, this is what happened at my house this morning. As he was in the bathroom, the “tooth fairy” was running through the house to get her rewards and shove them under his pillow. He had not yet looked there for the goodies! The tooth fairy totally forgot last night about the tooth on the night stand. YIKES! Between pick up from school, going to the library,  homework, making dinner, sitting at soccer practice from 5:30-7:00pm, snacks after practice, shower, prayers and sleep; the tooth fairy’s brain was a little fried by the end of the night.

As Dr. Dobson says, parenting isn’t for cowards. I would also add that parenting isn’t going to be easy for those who struggle with perfectionism. Being a parent is a messy,  messy job. Ask any mom or dad who has been hit with urine or poo while changing a diaper. Raising up an emotionally, physically and most importantly spiritually healthy human being is a huge task. We will make mistakes. Like the tooth fairy sleeping on the job.

We have to laugh at our adventures and misadventures as parents. If we can’t, it’s not going to be a fun journey for anyone involved, including our  kiddos. We also must surround ourselves with supportive people who understand the ups and downs of parenthood. There is no time nor space in life for allowing a crowd of bystanders who have critical or mocking spirits. I am not alone in coming into contact with these types. The parents who must compare their little Susie or Johnny to your child. The types that secretly think they could do a better job than you are doing. The types that undermine your confidence in your parenting. Those types are not operating in a spirit from the Lord and unless they are willing to change, you will have to hit the eject button on them and quickly.

No, we don’t need critical family and or friends circling; just waiting for us to make mistakes so they can feel superior. Yes, we need loving caring people in our lives who will come and put their arm around our shoulder and give us a pep talk. We need people who can laugh with us at our missteps in parenting and laugh with us when our kids take missteps because believe me, both will happen.

Be encouraged today in your parenting. We may not be perfect, but we are perfect for the kids God has entrusted to us.


SAHMs vs Working Moms


Ah, yes. The debate of all debates among women. Stay-at-home moms versus working moms. The topic that hurt feelings, strained friendships and some tears have hovered around. Just this week at the office, it was the center point of several sessions so I have decided to throw my two cents into the blogging world on this issue.

I began working with families in 2000 so that gives me many years of having counseled with hundreds if not a few thousand different couples and kids. Women with children all fall into one of the two categories so these last thirteen years have been a wonderful research opportunity to gain insight into how either option for women can be done well or a train-wreck and everything in between.

There are several ways to be really good at either a SAHM or a Working Mom. I won’t be able to share everything that I have observed as a counselor on both sides of this debate but I do hope to at least hit the highlights and lowligths; if you will.

Moms With Young Kids:

This is definitely the hardest season for a mom because the decision to work or stay home with the kid(s) pulls women in so many different directions.  A couple has to decide together what is right for their particular financial situation, young children’s needs and the needs of the couple. I say the needs of the couple because marital satisfaction is closely tied to this decision and how it is implemented by the mom.  Sorry ladies but a SAHM who doesn’t do it well will cause major cracks in the marriage that need to be addressed quickly.

If a mom is going to stay out of the marketplace and be with her children during the day while they are young, there are some definite pit-falls to avoid. I have seen many fine women really fall apart in areas of organizational skills, personal care and overall quality of life. Now I have also seen some amazing SAHMs of young kids. Perfection is never the goal but these moms keep structure to their day, never forget about their own interests and really maximize the opportunity they have with their kids.  I believe that the SAHMs of young kids who are most successful see it as a season in life and really pour themselves into enriching times with their children but never lose sight that children grow up and moms need their own hopes, goals and dreams beyond parenthood. 

Working moms of young children also have a wide range of success possibilities. Some of the greatest challenges I have seen for working moms of little ones is creating the moments of emotional connecting; even after a long exhausting day and week at work.  It’s the same struggle for working dads but many are successful at it so there is no reason a working mom can’t be also. Kids of working moms get to see that there are a wide range of people who can love them, enrich their lives and I believe this leads to kids developing a strong sense of community and their place in it.

Moms With Older Kids:

As a counselor, here is where I start to see being a SAHM really take a turn for the worse for many of the women I have worked with over the years.  What is a SAHM of young kids to do when those kiddos start school? My answer? Get busy. I believe therapeutically that it is very worrisome when women do not re-enter the marketplace after their kids have started school. I am not saying that all moms need to be working a full time job. Not at all. Being able to pick up kids after school, drive them to their activities and have that time after school of bonding is essential. What I am saying is that the moms of older kids that I have seen navigate well into this new season of life have done so by putting structure to their week by getting a part-time job.

Why is a job important? It allows former SAHMs to realize that their season of full-time parenting is waning, it allows moms to regain skill sets that might have been lost during the years at home and it situates the women to be better prepared for the changes that are ahead as children grow and seek more independence from mom and dad.

There is no reason a mom of older kids can’t work a few days a week and take care of the household chores on the other days. Truth is that it doesn’t take five days to clean a house, do laundry or run errands. Ask any working mom. They do it in the margin left over. Ideally, a mom of older kids would be out of the home, in a work environment, and still have time for the other tasks of raising kids into adulthood. A part-time job is a great solution.

One argument that some SAHMs have about employment is that they have been out of the work place for too long to be hired. I have seen bright, motivated SAHMs who approached a business of interest to them about volunteering 15-20 hours to gain experience. Tell me, what small business would turn down free awesomely-organized-get-it-done- mom labor? No one. The SAHMs of older children who have made the transition well are those that have returned to the marketplace at least on a part time basis and are able to contribute again to the family income. 

Yes, family income. Let’s chat about that for a minute. With many of the SAHMs or Working Moms I have seen, there is a correlating husband to go with it. There are a few common denominators to the husbands of especially SAHMs. The husbands seem pleased with the fact that they are able to provide a lifestyle for their families that includes a mom that stays at home. This is a source of achievement for most of these men and that’s a good thing. What I also hear very frequently in the office is a sense of resentment that the whole burden is on them. What? Wait, isn’t that the opposite of what I just said? Yes it is. It seems, like with all things, there is a double edged sword to having a husband as the breadwinner and a SAHM.

The couples that I have watched do the very traditional family structure of dad works and mom stays home and do it well have really good communication with one another, respect for each other’s roles and most of all, great discussions about money. Ironic I know but when the SAHM takes on the job of managing all the finances, this is where many husbands start to feel like a hamster on a wheel running fast to keep the electricity on at the house.

As you can see, there are so many things to cover on this topic and I can’t do it all right now but the main point is that with every decision, there is a correlating pro and con. Whether you are a SAHM or a Working Mom or married to one of these ladies, finding a healthy balance is essential and if you find yourself out of balance, counseling is an option to help set the course in a better direction for everyone involved. A perfect equilibrium is really tough to achieve but important to strive for it daily.




Five Things I’ve Learned This Week – 04/24/13


Five Things I’ve Learned This Week or Was Reminded Of:

1) Unless we are willing to do something different, the outcome will continue to be the same.

2) For many parents, the years between sixteen until the eighteenth birthday are confusing. The teens are not yet adults but have grown past those early teen stages. My advice is that with each passing year, the parenting relationship should morph into mentoring; with the parent’s directives lessening and the teen’s decision-making skills increasing.

3) Failing to nurture relationships will cause them to wilt; just a like plant that is not given water.

4) Burning the candle at both ends really does eventually lead to the candle burning out.

5) I love free things and every Monday in April was free coffee day at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Dunkin Donuts.  I will miss Monday’s in April for that reason but wait, there is one more!

What’s on your list?

Cattle Education

My child attends public school; for now. I say for now because I believe that parents should take each school year one at a time and re-assess what their child(ren) need academically and socially.  We can not just assume that the traditional American model of education will be a good fit for our children throughout their educational experience.

I find most school environments to be what I call “cattle education.” By that I mean many children are herded through each grade, given little opportunity for an individualized learning experience and essentially must stay in their “pen” until the rest of the group moves on. Many children do not flourish in these types of settings.

Our kiddos change and mature so greatly within a traditional school calendar year and it is wisdom to take inventory at the end of each grade to determine what they  need for the upcoming academic year in the Fall.

For example,  I have worked with parents whose child ended a grade having done very well academically but struggled throughout the year socially. The parents and I brainstormed about ways to improve the social environment for the child and making a move to a smaller, private school was the right choice for the family. The child did very well and was able to advance in social skills due to a change in the school setting.

Another child I worked with had experienced an unsettled home life and the parents determined that even though the child’s current school wasn’t ideal in their views, the child wanted and needed consistency in one area of life. Therefore the parents kept the child in the same school and it turned out to be the right choice.

There are a few aspects to education that we must be mindful of and the most important to me is that the school setting we have our children in should not just become a babysitting service. Our children must be able to utilize their school days in highly productive ways that are enriching or it may be time to rethink the environment where your child is being educated.