What happens on family night … stays on family night. At least that’s what we said the night I dramatically pantomimed changing my adult daughter’s diaper. It was the final round of Cranium. If my husband guessed correctly, our team would take the win. If not, it was sure to go to the other team.
In the last few seconds, he shouted, “Changing a diaper!”
I raised my hands in victory. “Yes!”
The other team groaned as my husband moved our player piece into the winner zone. My daughter got up off the floor, red-faced and raspy from screeching/laughing.
Now, whenever we decide to play a game on family night, her older siblings (and brother-in-law) always tease her with, “Let’s play Cranium.”
And she always spits back “No!,” much to their delight.
Creating a fun family night
Family night has been a thing in our family since the kids were little. Now that they’re all out on their own, they still love it. So do my husband and I. I credit family night for one of the main reasons we’re a close family.
It hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve learned some things (sometimes the hard way) to make weekly family nights an event they won’t want to miss.
1) Yummy food. If your kids still live at home, this is a night to put something special on the menu. When mine were little, they’d beg for pizza — an obvious way to make the meal fun for them.
There are other nights for “eat your vegetables” and “try it — you’ll like it.” Family nights are a great reason to put out those “Yay! Best mom ever!” foods.
Now that mine are young adults on a meager food budget, anything that isn’t Ramen noodles or Kraft macaroni and cheese puts a smile on their faces. I usually make this my night to put more effort into cooking dinner. It’s also our one dessert night of the week.
Whatever their age, choose a menu (or restaurant) that will be sure to lure them to the table.
2) Fun activity. Don’t let the night end with everyone slipping away after dinner and melding with their devices. Planning an activity keeps the conversation going, often getting into the deeper issues of life. We’re fond of board games, so it doesn’t take much to entice them to play a round or two. Sometimes we’ll hike at a local landmark or head to the nearby city park if the weather’s nice.
Some weeks, like Easter week, we’re simply exhausted. Those are great times to head to the theater or rent a movie to watch at home. This weekend, my heart melted when my youngest curled up next to her dad on the couch like she did as a little girl.
3) Safe conversation. Speaking from some of the most painful parenting lessons I’ve ever learned, I highly recommend saving the difficult conversations for later. Most issues can and should be dealt with individually, but if it’s truly a family matter, we schedule a family meeting.
We work hard at cultivating positive interaction, with more encouragement than correction. For me, the work is especially hard, since I didn’t grow up in a positive environment; too many times I’ve repeated the mistake of being too harsh with my children. Often, it takes intentional work on the parents’ part to create a supportive and affirming family environment.
I’ve watched the work pay off not just on family nights, but throughout the week as well. Recently, one of our adult kids sent us all a group text before a big job interview and instantly got 100% response with many variations of, “You go, girl!”
One Small Win: Whether your kids are just barely old enough to sit at the table, or if they have dining room tables of their own, family nights are a great way to create great memories and foster closeness.
And if you ever find yourself playing Cranium and draw the “pantomime changing a diaper” card?
Do it with gusto.
Your family will be talking (and laughing) about it for months to come.
Lyneta Smith is an inspirational writer and speaker who lives with her husband near Nashville, TN. Some of her favorite things to write in her planner: date nights and family time with her adult children. She’s owned by a frisky Boston terrier and a tortoiseshell cat. Connect with her at www.lynetasmith.com.
Homework often feels like swimming in quicksand; it takes a lot of effort to make a small, microscopic bit of progress. I think my son often feels the same. His face, his voice, his delay of the inevitable all lead to a night of overwhelm, and there isn’t one of us who welcomes the arrival of it. Instead, we have had to reframe homework time in order to do more than simply survive the wade through quicksand.
Changing the homework atmosphere
In a moment of desperation, when overwhelm was about to suck every bit of joy from the house, I opted to change the atmosphere. It was time to think outside the box.
Who knew that lavender essential oil was just as important as a No. 2 pencil? It was news to me but now I keep it on hand. Diffuse it or wear it on your wrists to erase overwhelm – yours and your child’s! I bet fresh baked cookies, freshly cut rosemary or flowers would work to invigorate and motivate as well.
A clear space to work makes a big difference. It drives us all nuts to have to clear a spot or work around the syrup on the counter. Have a clear spot ready to go. Also, there’s something about a flickering candle that ushers in peace and shows overwhelm the door. The candlelight serves as a reminder of what home is – a place of peace, it serves to remind me not set a place at the table for overwhelm.
Music is powerful and completely customizable! What type of music focuses and calms your child? Instrumental music, soft rock, a movie soundtrack, or white noise? One night I put on John Coltrane just as I was about to pull my hair out and the strains of the talented saxophonist melted the frustration so that we could all stay focused on what is important – our relationships with each other!
Sometimes everyone needs a break. “Finish that worksheet and we can go shoot some hoops.” “Let’s practice your math facts and then we can have a snack.” “Go ahead and finish that sentence and we can go dance it out.” Homework will feel less like a prison sentence when there are opportunities to blow off some steam.
Atmosphere matters in homework. I can’t do my son’s homework for him (I already passed 4th grade), but I can set the tone in our home. Homework is not always going to be fun but there can be more smiles in the midst of math, more patience in the writing of the report. It is possible to end the night tired yet satisfied, that together, we navigated homework well.
One Small Win: With a simple step outside of the box, homework becomes more than just school work – it becomes a lesson in being patient and kind while mitigating overwhelm.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
5 Questions Stepmoms Face:
- When is the honeymoon phase?
- What is my role exactly?
- Who do I always feel unwanted in my own home?
- When do we start to bond as a real family?
- Will my stepchildren learn to love me?
Are your kids acting entitled after the Christmas craze?
Mary Hunt, the author of Raising Financially Confident Kids, walks you through how to kick entitlement and irresponsibility to the curb this year and teach your kids that just because they have $3 doesn’t mean they need to spend it on bubble gum and Pokemon cards.
- A no-fail plan to help your kids become financially responsible.
- How to keep your kids from falling into ugly habits of entitlement and financial irresponsibility.
- A step-by-step plan to teach your kids about finances.
- Eliminating entitlement and growing gratitude in your kids.
Listen in and find out how you can start the year off with a huge dose of financial responsibility and a heaping dose of gratitude.
When Annemarie was little, she had no interest in her Playskool kitchen with plastic food. She wanted to help us do the real thing: fix our real breakfast in our real kitchen.
We’d set up the step ladder, and she’d climb up and happily measure ingredients and mix pancake batter.
It was a great arrangement. She was fully engaged in meal preparation, and we felt like such great parents, teaching our little girl life skills at an early age!
Then Annemarie became fascinated by the electric skillet.
We warned her that it was “HOT!” That only peeked her curiosity.
We moved it as far out of reach as possible, but if we turned away for a split second, she’d start to climb the counter, one hand outstretched toward the skillet.
We tried everything we could think of to distract her, forbid her, instill a sense of respect in her.
Annemarie’s obsession became an all-out determination to touch the electric skillet.
After many near-misses, we came to the unthinkable conclusion:
Our little girl was going to experience the natural consequences of her curiosity.
The only question was when.
Daniel and I discussed, prayed, and ultimately made one of the hardest choices we’ve ever made as parents: we decided to let her touch it when we were present.
The next morning, we wiped the skillet clean of oil and turned it to the lowest setting. Daniel stood on one side of the ladder; I stood on the other. At a pre-arranged signal, we both acted distracted.
Sure enough, Annemarie’s tiny hands shot toward the electric skillet. Eagerly, she grabbed its sides.
Her triumphant face registered shock quickly followed by pain. She stumbled and, as Daniel caught her, began to cry.
“Hot!” she wailed, pointing to the skillet with reddening fingers. “Hot!”
I dabbed soothing medication on Annemarie’s hands, and we took turns holding and rocking her until she calmed down. After tucking her in bed for a nap, Daniel and I let down our stoic guards and held each other as we cried.
After that experience, whenever we told her that something was “hot” she repeated “hot!” in a voice of respect and gave it wide berth. And her budding fascination with electric outlets completely vanished.
Letting Annemarie touch the electric skillet worked. But two decades later, I still tear up as I tell this story.
I still feel torn between my desire to protect my child from harm and my responsibility to teach her about consequences.
I also better understand God’s heart toward me: always wanting to protect me but also letting me experience the consequences of my disobedience:
“So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you!
Mind you, don’t despise the discipline of Almighty God!
True, he wounds, but he also dresses the wound;
the same hand that hurts you, heals you.”
What’s a necessary “shocking” parental choice you’ve made or experienced? What was the motivation behind the choice? What were the results?
My bad mom friend and author of today’s Bad Mom Monday challenge is Cheri Gregory. Cheri has been married to her college sweetheart for over a quarter-of-a-century and has two college-aged kids; she blogs about expectations, “baditude,” and hope at www.CheriGregory.com.
So we had my son’s birthday party last week on June 30th. The date is only significant because as I was texting people about the party one mom sent a message back with the following question: “Didn’t he turn 7 back in December?”.
Yes, yes he did. (That was for all you Phineas and Ferb fans out there)
I guess I’m “that” mom. The one who had a TERRIBLE year at work. The one who barely had energy to do laundry and cook, much less plan a party.
The one who loves her children more than her job but found her job taking too much of her time, energy and thoughts.
It’s one of those things that I NEVER thought would happen to me, but it did.
It sounds silly to become so upset about being late with a party but it matters to me – or should I say, to my expectations! I’ve always been the mom who plans parties everyone enjoys and (being honest here) raves about! It’s my little “rocked it baby!” moment and I love seeing my kids have such a good time.
Not giving my son a birthday party with his friends brought a weight of guilt and disappointment that was new and very uncomfortable for me, I felt like such a bad mom!
In order to deal with this awful feeling I decided to just stop and remember what matters most.
I decided my son would not be scarred for life and I was NOT a terrible mom. Instead, I was a mom who was human and just trying my best. I stayed focused on the essentials – what I needed to really make it through.
First I had to be HONEST. I had dropped the ball and for that I apologized to my son. I also explained the situation to him and his response was so sweet and understanding. I think it’s okay for my boys to see me goof and claim responsibility while also promising to make things right!
Next I needed the essential of PERSEPCTIVE. Failing to give him a party felt like a BIG deal but when I stepped back and looked at the big picture I realized that I hadn’t totally failed him. I’d been working hard to make sure I was home to tuck him into bed and able to be at all his games and most importantly, turn off my “work brain” and truly listen to him.
When my perspective is focused on the big picture and I’m able to be honest with myself and accept my blunders I think I become a better woman and a better mom. On those “bad mom” days, I have an opportunity to allow God to come in and fill in the missing pieces of my identity with HIS truth. I want to live my life focused on the essentials and not the extras – I want people to come first, not projects and parties.
Keeping this balance is tough, but it’s so worth the effort. And by the way, my little December baby was able to have a pool party. Complete with leis, sunshine and lots of laughter.
Kasey Johnson is learning daily how to ignore the extras in life and focus on the essentials. As an educator, author, speaker, blogger, wife and mother, Kasey understands the balancing act we sustain as mothers. Her new book and Bible study, Mom Essentials is all about this challenge that every mom is facing.
Visit her blog, www.smarter-moms.com, to learn more about Mom Essentials.