Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Power of Great Expectations for Your Child

Expectation: a belief that something will happen, or a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be (Merriam-Webster)

In last week’s blog post, we looked at how a few well thought-out and carefully phrased Family Rules can lessen arguments and powers struggles, and help our children learn right from wrong.   Today, we will look at the concept of individual and family Expectations.  Let’s begin by reading the definition of “Expectation” provided above from Merriam-Webster.  Expectations are guidelines for growth and behavior, which set the bar a little above where parents currently view a child to be developmentally.

Developing good expectations is a higher level parenting skill.  Well-thought out expectations set a framework for each child to encourage his or her intellectual and emotional development. They help young people successfully navigate life and learn how to make great choices based on the values and principles their family holds dear.

Here are a few examples of expectations for different age groupings of children.  When our children are in the toddler through the upper elementary years, we expect them to gradually learn how to keep their voices down and stay in their seats and generally behave when dining at a restaurant.  When our children enter the elementary and especially in the middle and high school years, most parents have an expectation that each child puts forth his or her best effort in school. For each school year, parents might expect their children to increase their abilities to participate in class discussions, keep up with studies, and prepare for and take tests.  As our children enter young adulthood, most parents create opportunities for their sons and daughters to practice living independently and provide food and shelter for themselves.

As parents, one of our many duties is to help our sons and daughters grow to be the best they can be.  Carefully crafted expectations, lovingly set at an appropriate developmental level, can motivate our children and give them something for which to strive.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Setting a Framework for A Great Family Life Using Rules and Expectations

“Rules point the direction for the family by putting the values of the family into action.  Rules help people know what to expect...”                                                                     Family Wellness Associates

One of my favorite shows to watch lately has been the British comedy, Doc Martin, which has quirky characters and beautiful scenery. A recent episode focused on parents of a 12 year old boy, who believed in parenting their son by totally ignoring any of his misbehavior, asking other adults in the village to do the same. Predictably, the boy proceeded to terrorize the place, vandalizing cars and more. Ignoring the boy’s misbehavior did not work for the parents, the town, or the intellectual and emotional development of the boy.

Though the family in the story is fictional, the parents’ struggles with their son highlight the very real need for all families to recognize and define a few well thought-out family rules and to set some positive expectations for each child.  In this blog post, we will take a look at the importance of creating and using a few good Family Rules.

Many people use the terms “rules” and “expectations” interchangeably, but they are not the same. Family rules are specific and discrete rules for behavior that have natural or logical consequences if not followed. For example, a Family Rule for younger children might be, “we use our words, not our hands” to show children that they should talk through differences, instead of pushing and hitting.  A Family Rule for tweens and teens might be that everyone helps with chores at a set time on the weekend.  Using a few well thought-out and carefully phrased rules gives the whole family a framework that lessens arguments and powers struggles, as well as helping children learn right from wrong. Rules may vary from family to family depending on which principles and values each family sets as their highest priority.  For example, some families might feel it is more important that a child’s can voice his opinions while another family may feel it is important that a child is speaks respectfully to adults, holding back on his or her opinions.

In the second of this two part series, coming out next week, we will take a look at the role positive expectations take in encouraging the intellectual and emotional development of our sons and daughters. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sharing Our Wisdom and Love Through Stories

 “The world is shaped by two things- stories told and the memories they leave behind.”
                                    Vera Nazarian, Science Fiction Author

My husband, John, comes from a very large family.  Whenever the family gets together, the stories abound of their growing up years. The matriarch of this large, loving family is my 85 year old mother-in-law, Gretchen.  She is strong in her love of the Lord and is a kind and gentle woman, with a great sense of humor.  She has a great sense of humor, an infectious laugh, and boy, can she cook fantastic Cajun food! She was a devoted wife to John’s father, Jack, until his death, after 50 years of marriage. She raised 10 kids and had a very rewarding career as a school teacher.

Gretchen is also a very wise storyteller. The wisdom in her stories has shaped her husband, children, their spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Having been a part of this family for the majority of my adult life, the wisdom in my mother-in-law’s stories have shaped many aspects of my life.

One story in particular, has really had a lasting impact on my life. Just after she retired from teaching, Gretchen shared with me an observation about her life:
“I’ve lived my life in 20 years stages. The first 20 years I spent growing up and getting a high school education. The next 20 years I spent having my 10 kids and raising them. When my youngest was in kindergarten, I started the next 20 years of my life by getting my degree in education and having a fulfilling career as a teacher. Now I’m in the next 20 years of my life - the retirement years.”

When she shared this story with me, I was impressed with the many things she had accomplished in her life. I was also impressed with the wisdom she showed in focusing on a few key life areas at a time, instead of trying to do it all at the same time. She shared that story with me almost 20 years ago, and as you can tell it made a lasting impression, as I still share this story with others.  Her story gave me permission to focus on what was most important to me at different stages of my life.

Sharing stories from your family is a great way to pass on wisdom to your children. The memory of my mother-in-law’s story, in many ways, has shaped the progression of my life. Just as Gretchen’s story gave me wisdom to apply in my own life, telling your children family stories can have a profound impact on the decisions they make in their lives.

What stories have you heard that have stayed with you over the years?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mama Doe Shows Us How to Sacrifice

In today’s “it is all about me” society, we’ve been lead to believe we should put ourselves first.  Yet being given the great privilege and responsibility to mindfully raise our children sometimes requires sacrifice.  A story from nature about sacrifice and overcoming fear comes to mind as I write this post. 

I am lucky to office from my home and look out over the beautiful Hill Country view through my front window.  We have a moving landscape – gorgeous Axis deer and White-Tailed deer graze across our yard several times a day.

While working with my associate, Angela Woodrow, the other day, I noticed an Axis doe approaching our front beds to apparently nibble on the new growth our plants were putting out.  At this time of year, I tend to shoe the deer away to help the plants grow a bit.  Unlike White-Tailed deer, Axis deer are very skittish.  They are easily scared or shoed away.  This doe, however, kept returning.  I shoed her away several times before I stopped to think what could drive her to go against her shy nature.

Pausing my work, I looked carefully at the bed she was determined to get into.  Sure enough, hidden among my plants was a newborn fawn.  The mama doe was simply trying to get to and protect her baby.  It was a really sweet scene.  As you might suspect, mama doe decided to move her baby to a place further away from that crazy human!

Mama doe’s first inclination was to stay safe and avoid contact with me.  She had to sacrifice concerns for her safety  and overcome her instincts for what was best for her in order to protect her fawn.  

As parents, there are times when we need to sacrifice what may be in our best interest for the sake of our children.  It might be a relatively small sacrifice like stepping up to volunteer for your child's band, theater or sports activities.  It might be a larger sacrifice such as passing up a promotion at work that requires a lot of travel and time from home.  It may be deciding to take a job away from home simply to keep the roof over your loved ones' heads. Regardless, it takes courage and a willingness to review your options with your loved ones, reflect on the possible impacts each decision could have on all, and respond with courage and sacrificial love in the decision that is best for your family.