Tag Archives: parenting healthy kids

Parenting With Your Best Friends

Graphic Art Creds: Katie’s Best Friend Emma Gulitti

The very first tip in my book, Parenting with Gumption and Grit, says this: Don’t go it alone. It’s #1 for a reason. In making an argument for the interconnectedness of all people, English Poet John Donne penned these famous words in a 1623 essay, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” As much as I might sometime like to retreat from the world and everyone in it, I am keenly aware that I simply cannot do life alone. Well, not successfully anyway.

I have never been one to parent that way either.

My husband and I have raised three daughters. It is probably no coincidence, but nevertheless, it is rather funny as I contemplate just how many mothers of my daughters’ best friends have been my best friend. Throughout the years, these dynamic duos, have included Kristine and Tanna; Susan and Abi; Wendy and Alysse, Vanya and Kylie, Shari and Casadi, and Lisa and Emma. Just to name a few. We were a military family, so we moved around a few times as the girls were growing up. It was always hard when we moved, but that was only due to the close relationships we had nurtured and cherished in the place we left behind. It was the same for me and the girls. But as hard as it was to leave, each new arrival found us enveloped once again by moms and daughters ready to take us into the fold. So yeah, as soon as we made landfall, we made friends. And I mean the true blue, steadfast, and resolute kind.

How did that happen?

Well, the truth is you have to be willing to take risks. It requires vulnerability, transparency, and even personal disclosure. And as if that isn’t risky enough, it requires you to actively listen when the other person is being transparent and vulnerable. But this kind of sharing and depth doesn’t just happen the first day you meet someone. These kinds of forever friends are built on a foundation of trust that evolves out of sharing your lives together. For me and my mom friends that meant shared carpools, listing one another as emergency contact persons, birthday parties, graduations, and recently, even weddings! But it also meant late night telephone calls, semi-emergency coffee meetings, and crying on each other’s shoulder. I have sent and received my share of casseroles, hosted more than a few sleepovers, and kept kids when my friend’s husband was on a long deployment, and she just needed a break. Life is just easier when you have others to lean on. It’s also a lot more fun.

This world inflicts deeper wounds than what our individual skill set alone can manage.

We were never meant to shoulder our personal burdens unassisted. That may be a new concept to some of you, but it is true. I cannot imagine navigating this parenting venture solo- 1 without my husband or 2 without my steadfast friends and fellow moms. Who knows better than you how it feels to have your tween, teen, or young adult child break your heart? Another mom that’s who. Who knows better than you how exhausted you are from sleepless nights with a nocturnal infant?  Another mom that’s who. Homework, significant others, discipline issues, joy, and heartbreak. I’ve navigated all of that and more with other mamas, who like me sometimes just need a hand up from someone who understands!

Just a few days ago, my middle daughter Halle flew to Florida between college semesters to visit her precious friend Alysse whom she met over a decade ago when both of their families were living overseas. I know the two of them have weathered many storms together including quarrels with their respective parents. A few days following their visit, I was texting with Alysse’s mom Wendy, sharing prayer requests for both girls. Next week, my friend Kristine is coming for a visit. Her daughter, one of Shelby’s best friends for over 20 years, was married this year. The funny thing about that is, I was there with her in the midst of her struggle with infertility before she became pregnant with Tanna, over 22 years ago. And now here we are. So many years and so many celebrations, calamities, and adventures later, we are still standing. A few grey hairs for sure. But still stronger than ever.

I have navigated some tough, and some joyful seasons with some pretty great moms. And guess what? We are still, all in this together. Some of them live minutes away from me. Some of them, hours. But all of them are an intricate part of my story. Our kids drew us together. Now nothing can draw us apart. Neither time or distance.

We certainly don’t expect a life free of obstacles or pain, right? Of course not. Indeed, we know that is not true. Especially in parenting. Psalm 23; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; John 14; and Romans 8:26, just to name a few, each of those verses are rife with both trouble and assurance. In each of them we see difficulty surrounded with help. Pain surrounded with healing. Hardship surrounded with relief. Be the one who surrounds another mom with help, healing, and relief. And, be the one who receives that from another mom. She’s the best best friend you’ll ever have. Don’t. Go. It. Alone. That’s an awful lonely island to inhabit.

Our Unwillingness to Change Blocks Our View

Recently a mentor of mine was helping me work through a couple of current conundrums in my life. At the end of our discussion, she reminded me that I had no control over the actual people in my conundrum or their own personal outcomes. I find this frustrating since I am a problem solver by nature. I pleaded with her, tongue in cheek, to just give me a few steps for successfully changing them. She just laughed and reminded me to consider what is in my area of influence and what can I personally change.

In other words Judy, what can YOU change in YOURSELF to make YOU better? So that those around you benefit in the process? I think that is so true in parenting and marriage too.

When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees…… Photo Creds: Judy McCarver

Sometimes we want instant solutions to make our children behave or to get our spouses to do ____________XYZ! I did recently write five-great-habits-for-getting-your-kids-to-listen. And it’s true we need tried and true methods of handling situations in our life and parenting. Yes yes yes! But the truth is a lot of relationship building and successful parenting is about how much WE are willing to change ourselves. We are often so intent on manipulating others, that we cannot as my grandmother used to say, “see the forest for the trees.” In other words, we can’t see solutions because our big giant egos are blocking the view. We can’t see what would bring us joy or happiness. We can’t see what would actually help! We are just blinded by our own unwillingness to change things in ourselves that perhaps need to be changed and that can be changed.… For example, I recently recommended to someone the financial peace program by David Ramsey for helping squash her debt. It’s actually a proven program that has helped literally hundreds of thousands of people reduce or eliminate millions of dollars of personal debt. Anyway, she was super offended because unbeknownst to me, she was atheist and said she would never do that program since Ramsey is a Christian. Oops, I felt bad. I had intended no harm whatsoever in offering this advice and I apologized for doing so unwittingly. I then shared with her the truth that I am a Christian, and yet one of my very favorite leadership books ever written was by a Mormon (The Severn Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey). Moreover, I added that I have a handful of solid parenting books in my personal library written by various experts in their fields, which make no reference to Christianity. Along with those, I also have parenting books authored by some of my favorite Christian authors. I have learned from all of them. But she couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She couldn’t acknowledge that this was a perfectly good tool to debt free living for her and her children. She was blocking her own view.

I was blocking my own view back in my early 20s. I made bad decision after bad decision, and conveniently always found someone to blame for my bad decisions. It is true that I had been dealt a difficult childhood of sorts. But only when I acknowledged that my life was about more and more of me and less and less of anyone else, did I finally have the wherewithal to ask God to please pick up the pieces of my brokenness and help me move forward. And not only that, but the wherewithal to ask other people to help me. I finally figured out I was blocking my own way out of misery. It is true that my life had been hard. But I still managed to be my own worst enemy.

That realization and awakening was the beginning of a new lease on life for me. I was able to be in healthy dating relationships for the first time in my life. I was able to build friend relationships without undue expectations of those I was befriending. This led to healthy parenting down the road. Knowing I cannot change people around me makes me a healthier individual and therefore, more adapted to parenting kids (now young adults) who are also healthy emotionally. Knowing I can ultimately only change myself led me to be better equipped for parenting my kids with purpose.

Being in relationship with our kids as we are raising them is a different thing all together than what it means to be in relationship with our spouses or parents or adult friends. And I want to make that clear. There are multiple scenarios we find ourselves in with littles where we do have to tell them what to do. And we can and should expect them to obey us. But God has created them, like you, fearfully and wonderfully. (Psalm 139) When we recognize that He has created all of us with purpose then we can look at all of our relationships through that filter and not through the filter of our pride or our past or our unmet expectations.

What can you change about yourself today? How will that set you on a path of better parenting and more joy in your relationships?

How NOT To Raise Blue Ribbon Haters

Photo Creds: Emma Gulitti

In my daughter’s business there are a lot of haters. She’s a journalist. A young college journalist, not yet graduated into the greater world of news reporting outside the walls of her university, but still a journalist.

I told her to put her armor on. This is going to be a tough road.

She has already encountered blue ribbon haters. On one occasion, she inadvertently addressed a source in an email as he, but it was in fact a she. She ripped into my young college student who had no malicious intent whatsoever. She just made an error, and a minor one at that, based on the source’s name. My daughter apologized of course. But that didn’t matter to the offended. No forgiveness was granted. And not only that but the opportunity for a grown professional adult, (more than ten years older) to teach my student something about her life and her work in a life giving way, was completely lost.

Dang it!

The offended one only had it in her heart to hate, not to teach, not to grow, not to share. This person, who I believe felt like she had to fight hard to gain respect in a man’s world, lashed out at an unsuspecting young reporter, when she felt that position was threatened. She presupposed that this young woman somehow must have known that she was a she, yet intentionally referred to her as he, with the sole purpose of personally offending her. The student in this case had no malice aforethought at all. Indeed, she is by all accounts a studious and sincere student and employee. Not perfect by any measure. Case in point, an error was made. But rather, full of integrity and the desire to report truthfully. It seems crazy to me that you would just assume a complete stranger has it in for you. Yet, people take up this position frequently. They do it all in the name of some grand cause. But the truth is, these days, hate meters are pegged by the slightest provocation.

Let’s be clear. There are extremely serious offenses that happen in our culture, our communities and our world every day that leave deep scars and make the necessary art of forgiveness a challenging one. And rightly so. But more and more, the bar for hating in our culture has dropped dangerously low. The slightest mistake, rendering nothing more than perhaps a typographical error or a poorly timed statement, is elevated to a level of scrutiny for which it is simply not worthy. The truth is that a much more troublesome quandary idles deep inside of the hater. Whatever trivial event they trumpet on the outside as reprehensible, is a reflection of something much more spurious and bitter on the inside.

If you are in the running for a first place trophy in the contest of hating someone, whose only “real” offense is that they are not perfect, you might need to adjust the lenses through which you view all of humanity. Maybe the real issue (the spurious and bitter one) is that this person looks different from you, acts differently or votes differently. It is for all of us to examine difficult situations we find ourselves in, personal and professional and pursue a way to make positive changes, correct mistakes, and in the process grow yourselves and others. However, when we knowingly exploit a person’s mistake or his life and work inexperience in order to tear him down and even destroy him, then in that moment, you are a blue ribbon hater.

Do you see yourself or your child anywhere in this scenario? Are you a blue ribbon hater? One day I was perusing my old neighborhood’s online help site. It’s a place where you can post things for sale or ask questions like where to get a good car mechanic. As you can imagine, it can be very helpful. However, on this particular day a discussion started about an incident at the local high school. The person who initiated the discussion was unhappy with how the school administration handled ensuing communication with parents. By the end of this thread, over 50 grown adults were slinging mud at one another, using words as missiles. There was not a single constructive element to this online conversation. The whole intent of the majority of contributors was to verbally annihilate their perceived foe. These parents were themselves bonafide, blue ribbon haters. Naturally, our kids learn by “monkey see, monkey do.” How sad that truth can be when we, the parents, are acting like a spoiled, selfish, angry 2 year old.

Blue ribbon haters are on the radio too. One of my favorite radio stations does a “birthday scam” every few days. At the bequest of a person’s loved one, the DJ calls that person, and pretends to be a representative from an actual organization or place, who is complaining about their yard being unkempt or the fact they owe money for a cable bill. You get the picture. Almost every single phone call ends with the birthday girl or guy blowing up in anger. Conflict resolution be damned. Threats, swearing, you name it, full scale nastiness ensues. Finally, the DJ says, “Hey this is so and so from such and such radio station, and your husband wanted us to call you and say happy birthday.” By the end of the birthday scam, the only way to describe the birthday girl or boy in that moment is a “blue ribbon hater.”

Blue ribbon haters are characterized by a number of fundamental traits: 1 They have very few conflict resolution skills. If something goes amok with their grades, or their bills, office policy, or their project they hired out, or with their neighbor, or with a co worker, or their aunt, uncle, spouse or child, they go 0 to 60 in a hot minute. Erratic are the emotions of the day. Their responses are shallow, reactive, and angry as opposed to steady, thoughtful, and discerning. They simply don’t have conflict resolution skills that involve the ability to listen before responding, gathering information before acting, and only then advocating for themselves or their organization with both veracity and professionalism. 2 Blue ribbon haters never seek reconciliation, only punishment and self satisfaction. This is self explanatory. The punishment may only be a verbal assault as in the example of the birthday boy on the phone being scammed by the radio DJ. But whatever the case, punishment and a sense of self satisfaction is the goal. 3 Blue ribbon haters are not interested in mentoring relationships. Mentoring threatens to dismantle their platform of discontent. In their minds if they either reconciled with or mentored the person who offended them, that would condone the offense. Mentoring would require mature and well thought out responses. Hating only requires a knee jerk reaction. It’s less work. 4 The goal of the hater is to tear down. It isn’t to build up. To deconstruct, not instruct. The hater asks, “How can I make you feel worse?” And then they do that thing. 5 Blue ribbon haters are primarily interested in advancing their own agendas. Compassion and generosity are always secondary to that. Therefore advancing the cause of personal or professional growth is often viewed as an obstacle. 6 Blue ribbon haters are typically disgruntled in one or more areas of their life. If that is the underpinning of your relationships and your daily demeanor, then the stage on which your life plays out and unfolds will always be marked by conflict and discontent, never resolution and growth.

The title of this article is how NOT to raise blue ribbon haters. Okay. Go back to the last paragraph. And be sure to teach your children the opposite of numbers 1-6. And if you are a Jesus follower, be certain that these tenets didn’t begin with us. Teach them: 1 Conflict resolution skills. (Matthew 18:15-17 & James 1:19-20 & Proverbs 18:13) 2 The necessity of both reconciliation and accountability in order to create positive change. (2 Corinthians 5:12-21) 3 Ongoing mentoring relationships. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think it is also true that an ounce of mentoring is worth a pound of healing. (Proverbs 15:22-23 & Proverbs 27:17 & 2 Timothy 2:2) 4 To build up others whenever and wherever we possibly can especially when we are in a position of influence and control. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 & Romans 14:19) 5 Compassion and generosity are not just for the weak-minded as you might have been told. They are in fact indicative of strength and self-confidence. Teach your children the truth about these two tenets. (Ephesians 4:29-32) 6 Discontent that stems from a disgruntled heart, can paralyze you in life and keep you from all good things. Truly, discontent with real issues can lead to real action and change. But, discontent that is rooted in bitterness is a breeding ground for hate. (Philippians 4:10-13)

Don’t. Be. A. Blue. Ribbon. Hater. And don’t teach your kids this either. Assess the situation that is tempting you to proceed with hatefulness. What are the facts involved? Was it personal and malicious? Sadly, personal and malicious, even if they are present, are also not excuses for being a hater. Hate just perpetuates hate. But it helps to make an assessment of the situation to determine with truthfulness how serious it really is or isn’t. Because clearly this is going to inform the level of response required (if it even requires a response). Does the situation you are in, whether you are the offended or the offender, require a response? Does it require change? If it does, then grab ahold of the opportunity to construct not deconstruct, to heal not destroy. To offer solutions, not additional chaos and conflict.