Make the Holidays Great Again

The holidays are here again and I think we need to revisit last years newsletter about this topic and see how we are doing. Are you stressed out? Worried about family gatherings? Fretting about how much money you are spending? Are family members pressuring you? This is not the holiday spirit. Maybe some of this can be avoided.

Let’s be proactive, parents and couples can avoid some of these pitfalls by pre-planning and communicating. As a couple each of you might have different expectations and this can be challenging so talking about what is to come can avoid the conflict. This needs to be done in a way that is nonjudgmental so your partner does not feel attacked and get defensive. Remember there are a lot of emotions tied up in the holidays. Here are some areas that should be discussed.

Family: How are we going to handle family? Where will we be on the holiday? Who will talk to the family and tell mother or mother-in-law that we may not be able to make it this year? Make sure that you listen to each other and come to a solution that you can both live with, remember you are on the same team and there needs to be compromise. And what about your immediate family, your children, will they get to celebrate at home? Are they the focus? Hopefully they are not seeing the holidays as a time of stress and anger.

Making it special: Talk about how to make it special for your family. You may want to start your own special traditions. What makes the holiday time unique for your family? It can be a magical time for children, you may want to look at lights or pick out your own tree. Make a special meal or dessert. What ever your special thing is you can make it your own.

Finances: What about the money? How much can we spend? It is easy to get carried away but it isn’t worth the stress and strife that comes in January. Can we make some baked goods or something more personal to lesson the cost and avoid the mall? Talking about this ahead of time and sticking to the plan can avoid conflict.

Busyness: There are so many events to go to. Holiday parties of friends or at work. The children might be in a school performance, church activities, so many things to do that we get overwhelmed. You and your family need to decide what you will agree to and what you will say “No” to. It is alright to say “No”.

It is better to experience this time of year as a team, united and in agreement. Taking the pressure off and knowing your partner is with you. Talking about what you want and expect ahead of time can avoid conflict and stress this holiday. Let’s get back to the true spirit of the season and make the holidays great again.

By Lisa Strong

Does your life reflect what you say you value?

Most people would say that the people in their life, spouse, close friends and family members are very important to them. That they really value these relationships. But what I often see is that little energy and time is being put into the healthy preservation of these relationships. Where do we invest our time and what does that focus tell others?

Social media and social pressures are a huge enemy of the family. It is a distraction. Sometimes we use distractions as a coping mechanism for the stress in our lives. Why are we avoiding the real interactions with the ones we say we care about? Why are we allowing this distraction to pull us away from family? We must get something from it, something that feels more comfortable and validating than a true human interaction.

Real interactions can be uncomfortable, we sometimes don’t know how to respond or what to do and especially with the people we say are most important to us. The interactions can be stressful. Even time with our children playing a game may seem stressful and more demanding than what we get from social media. We can even use social media to avoid being alone with our thoughts, this social media distraction is much more comfortable.

What do the people in your life see you valuing. You may say that your relationship is important but do you take the time to talk about your day and to listen to them share there lives with you? Do you show concern? Do you take time to go on a “date” and spend time focusing on this person who you say you value?

What do your kids see? Do your kids get more than 30 min. in the evening with you? Do you spend more time scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching cute puppy videos on Youtube than you do with your own child. And when you are with your child are you so busy taking pictures of them and posting them that the child is not getting your full attention?
Your child wants to be important to you, not the social media world, they want your attention. Can you spend time playing a board game with them, or cheering them on at their activity and not have them see you checking your phone.

If you say that you value your family or those people in your life that you call family then show them. People watch what you do not just what you say. Children are looking at your actions. Let’s show them that you value them by giving them a call, spending time, making these people a priority and this will be the first step to Save Your Family. Don’t wait for the crisis where your spouse feels like you don’t care or your child is rebellious, depressed or overwhelmed with stress . This is what we see each day in our business. Take care of the things you value. Save Your Family Today and we won’t have to be called tomorrow.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

We’ve all been there.  Your patience has been tested to its limit and your tolerance level has reached its max.  This is usually when consequences for your child’s bad behavior come flying out of your mouth that are extreme, impossible to manage and even more impossible to sustain over time. But when action flows out of that emotion it is guaranteed not to be one of your finest parenting moments.  So what do you do? Recognize the value of discipline and the harmful repercussions of punishment.

Punishment produces some very negative characteristics in your children: guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, regret, self-pity, fear, and more. Because it’s focused on the past, children feel helpless. They can’t undo what they’ve already done, and they can’t change the circumstances that their behavior has produced. Punishment doesn’t give them a means to right their wrongs.  The tools they need to understand how to right a wrong aren’t included in the punishment pack­age. It is simply retribution that leads to a lot of negative emotions.

Discipline, on the other hand, is future-focused, always pointing toward future acts. It has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with righting what was done wrong. The purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty for an offense, the purpose of discipline is to train for correction and maturity. The origin of punishment is the frustration of the parent, the origin of discipline is a high moti­vation for the welfare of the child. The result of punishment is fear and shame, the result of discipline is security. Discipline always holds the child’s best interests, not the parent’s anger, in the forefront. It is never out of control.  Consider this:

Parenting Myth: Discipline requires parents to penalize their child as payback for an offense.

Parenting Reality: Discipline means applying appropriate consequences to encourage a child to make better choices in the future.

What messages are you sending your kids? Few parents will bluntly declare that they’re penalizing a child for his misbehavior. We don’t express punishment in terms of vengeance. But when the veins are popping, the voice is escalating, and the parent towers intimidatingly over their children, the message is easily confused. You may have discipline in mind, but your children probably inter­pret your outbursts of anger as pure punishment. It needs to be clear in their minds that you are imposing boundaries for their good because you love them.

Written by Lisa Smith


Protecting Mind and Body

As I watch young moms in my community I see many of them being hyper vigilant in the protecting of their children from harmful foods, chemicals, environmental toxins and anything that can harm their physical body. They are making their own baby food from organic vegetables, blending produce purchased at the farmers market.  Some parents are dressing their babies in clothing made from natural fibers, staying away from any synthetics. They are careful that the toys the child plays with are free from asbestos, lead and other toxic materials. The toys should be safe and eco friendly. I am not criticizing any of these loving, protective behaviors. Of course we want to do all we can to make sure our children are physically healthy and safe. 

My concern is that I see such vigilance in this protection of their physical bodies but what about their minds? We don’t let our children feed on junk food but their mind is feeding on harmful ideas in the media and we accept it as normal.

An average American youth will witness 200,000 violent acts on television before age 18. The problem is not only about violence but about all social behavior, how relationships are handled, sexual behavior, family dynamics and friendships. Children watch and assume that what they see on TV is how things are done and an estimated 54 percent of American children can watch this programming from the privacy of their own bedrooms. Why do we allow these ideas into our children minds so freely? 

I think that the longer you can delay putting your child in front of the TV the better off they will be. Children can learn to entertain themselves in an active way instead of being passively entertained. But if you have decided to have a TV in your home then you can still monitor the content. The problem is you can’t monitor the content if you can’t see the TV so do not put a TV in your child’s room. Have the TV or computer in an area that you can see. If you can view programming with your child and discuss the content then you can have input and control. 

This all seems like common sense, children mimic our behavior, I am often telling parents to model what you want your child to do, so then having them mimic what they see on TV is no surprise. I am not saying that all children that see a violent act on TV will act in the same way but why don’t we expose them to the behaviors we want them to learn? Let them watch behaviors that show kindness, respect, generosity, perseverance and compassion. The challenge of monitoring what your child views gets harder as they get older. When your children are teens I know this can be a battleground in the home. You will hear “all the other kids are watching this”. It won’t be easy and each child is different so just keep in mind as parents we are not only their to protect their physical body but their minds as well. 

By Lisa Strong

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Why Is It Hard to Forgive

Every single one of us has had to consider the idea of forgiveness yet it is one of the trickiest subjects to navigate and get our heads around.  What is forgiveness and why can it be so hard to forgive?

Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. This, of course, would cause hesitation to forgive.  It’s important to realize, however, that we do not have to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us. Here are some components on forgiveness that we must consider:

  • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role. 
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again. 
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. 
  • We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused. 
  • Forgiving does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses
  • Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude.  
  • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.   
  • We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.” 
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future and that’s okay.  The key is to work through those triggers.
  • Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive. 

Forgiveness is a key to living a whole and empowered life.  Allow yourself the time to consider who in your life you may need to forgive then keep in mind the principles above to start the process.

 Written by Lisa Smith

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We all want our children to show us respect but what does that really mean? Respect is defined as “to admire someone as a result of their abilities, qualities or achievements”. You may feel like your children do not respect you especially in the teen years when they have their own ideas and are challenging yours. How do you get your children to show respect? Well, first off you can not force respect.

Sometimes the word respect is used as a synonym for honor. If you want your children to honor you then remember that you are the parent, you are not their best friend, you are not on equal levels. But even though you have more power this does not mean that you over use that power. You set the rules and enforce them but you also act with service, caring, love and humility. You are the leader, not a dictator.

Being a leader and a role model is also how you can teach and earn respect. First, we need to behave in a way that is worthy of respect. One way to do this is to show respect to your spouse, other family members and people out in the community. When you show that you can resolve your differences in a peaceful way this will communicate a powerful message. When children experience respect firsthand within their family then they are more likely to be respectful of others. Simply stated, “respect begets respect”.

Your child may respect you but not always agree with you. There is a difference. As parents we will be listening to our teens and all of their contrary beliefs and we may want to set them straight.  We are not always there to change their minds but to validate their thoughts. We can give our alternate viewpoint but it will be received better if it is not forced upon them.

Journalist and author William Attwood wrote “Don’t demand respect as a parent. Demand civility and insist on honesty. But respect is something you must earn—with kids as well as with adults.”

When discussing their view, your teen may get angry and defensive. It may get to the point of backtalk, name-calling, cursing or yelling. Don’t counter this with “Your not being respectful” because they may not feel like you deserve their respect at that moment but that doesn’t mean that you should accept rude, hostile behavior either. They need to act in a way that is not demeaning but treat you and others in a civil way. These behaviors are unacceptable and should be corrected.

So show your children that you are worthy of respect, do your job well, be a person of integrity, someone they and others can count on. Treat them fairly, be consistent and be someone who stands by their word. Show them that you value them but require them to also value you in their actions. Gaining your children’s, your spouses or another person’s respect is not quick and easy. It takes time and conscious effort but will be well worth it.

Written by Lisa Strong


Don’t Mess With Tradition

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Holidays like Easter which was just last week can bring memories of family gatherings, traditions and celebration. Each family has their own unique family rituals and traditions which you may or may not look forward to. For a child growing up they come to expect certain things on these special days. Easter for my family was hidden baskets and eggs, a special lunch including Jello eggs and extended family and friends stopping by. The children woke up excited and knowing what to expect.

When events are predictable and happen the same way each day or year then a child feels in control, secure, safe and less stress. They can prepare themselves for what is to come and this can be especially helpful for children who are highly sensitive, the structure offers them stability.

They look forward to what they know from past experience is coming. Even adults do not want to change from their traditions. When I tried to change the menu on Thanksgiving and make a mashed potato casserole instead of last minute making mashed potatoes, (I was trying to simplify my work load) this idea was met with resistance. “What no mashed potatoes?” I learned  not to mess with the tradition.

A child’s daily routine brings them stability. Children learn many things from these routines, such as how to take care of themselves. Having a morning and bedtime routine for example can teach a child how to dress themselves and good hygiene. However, the most important thing we all learn from regular routines is that life runs more smoothly if things are organized and predictable. Does your child have a bedtime routine? If you forget one of the steps, bedtime story, tucking in, or a glass of water you will hear about it from your child. Again, don’t mess with routine.

Your whole family can benefit from a structured routine. There will be less stress and drama if a child knows when he/she is expected to do homework or what time dinner is. In the routine each child can play a role. One child can set the table, another clears the table and rinses the dishes. Maybe Friday night is family movie night. Take turns picking the movie, have pizza, make popcorn and everyone is together and knows what to expect.

Knowing what to expect in our hectic lives  can provide structure and stability to a child. The structure improves efficiency and the family runs more smoothly. The benefit to the family and the child is a calmer child, clear expectations, less strife and family bonding.

Written by Lisa Strong


Go Deeper Not Wider

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We’re in a friendship crisis. Three quarters of Americans are not truly satisfied with their friendships. Paradoxically, in an age of Facebook and always-on connections, a growing body of research is proving what many of us already feel deep in our gut: we’re actually lonelier and more isolated than ever before.  How can this be?

Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert says that the number one predictor of happiness is the strength of your bonds with your friends and family. It’s not about the number of people you associate with. It’s about the quality of those relationships.  But can you do both? Can you enjoy quality relationships with lots of people? The hard truth is no.  That’s why we need to go deeper, not wider.  It’s great to “know” a lot of people and to maintain a vibrant network.  Remember, however, that it’s not about how many people you know but more about the ones you are deeply bonded with.  And there doesn’t need to be that many!  Keep this in mind…

You might be a superhero (I like to think I am but others may disagree), however, in order to have deep friendships you have to let your Kryptonite flag fly to those who matter most.  Psychologist and relationship expert Beverley Fehr says that the primary hallmark of friendship is intimate self-disclosure—or showing vulnerability.  Showing vulnerability is how we get closer with people and requires gradually revealing more intimate information about ourselves. This gradual reveal helps increase trust, support and loyalty— therefore, going deeper, not wider.   

Written by Lisa Smith

SMFT Lisa #1 (1)

Family is a Give and Take

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A family functions best when everyone contributes. We all can play a part. It is clear that mom and dad have bigger parts when the child is young but even a toddler can learn to contribute to the function of the family. As a child gets older they can be responsible to contribute more and more. This is how we avoid raising teenagers who feel entitled. 

There are many families where entitlement is a major problem in the home. Parents call for help frustrated with the demands of their teenager. When a teenager expects their parents to do everything for them and they don’t contribute to the well being of the family then this is a behavior that frustrates those around them and a belief that will not serve them well out in the “real world”. 

When a child is young, this is the time to start training them, giving them small jobs to do. Young children don’t complain about helping, they like to contribute and feel important. At dinner time you can ask them to put the napkins on the table or when you are cleaning, give them a small broom and ask them to sweep up. I know they may not do a good job, and honestly it would probably just be easier to do it yourself but you are teaching them to contribute and the payoff will come later and you will be glad you didn’t just do it all yourself.

They need to learn that there is a balance between their own needs and wishes and those of others in the home and ultimately in society. If your teenager asks you to drive them to the movies and expects you to hand them $20 that may be fine if they have learned to be helpful at home but why are we handing our children money and driving them all over when they complain about washing their dishes or feeding the dog? Make sure they understand that there needs to be a give and take in a family. It is not all take. If they expect you to be understanding of what they want then teach them to be understanding of the needs of the family, too. 

If your teen is not used to this concept then you will need to be strong as you teach them. They will understand this new idea and may even agree as you are taking them to the movies and giving them the $20. But when you later ask them to do the dishes after dinner that is when the challenge begins. Stand strong. If they choose not to do the dishes it doesn’t have to be a fight just remind them of this the next time they need something. You need to stop giving if they are not giving. They will soon see what they need to do. Your job is to be consistent and clear. This is how a family works and truthfully this is how the world works. There is always a give and take. 

Written by Lisa Strong


Our 7 Day Challenge

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We’ve all done it and it’s been done to all of us.  It goes something like this: you’re talking with a friend or family member and you tell them about something that is stressful, disappointing or upsetting.  They respond by telling you how equally, or more so, they are stressed, disappointed or upset about something in their life.  You might say “I am feeling overwhelmed and have a lot of anxiety right now.  Life just feels really hard.”  They might respond “Oh, I know what you mean.  My life has never been as stressful as it is now…..”  It’s like they never even heard you but continue on with their own narrative which says their situation is at least as difficult as yours so don’t feel so bad.  It has become a pet peeve of mine.  And truth be told, I am as guilty of doing it as anyone else.  But I sure do hate when it’s done to me!
As I’ve reflected on this over the past week I decided to challenge all of us to make a change, including myself.  For the next 7 days when someone, anyone, tells you about what’s bothering them, about their stressful day, their broken heart, their anxiety or some bad news they received… pause.  During that pause separate yourself and your own circumstances from theirs.  Then only… and I do mean only… acknowledge what they shared and validate it.  Don’t try to relate their situation to one of your own.  Don’t enter into a who is more stressed and overwhelmed contest.  Don’t talk about yourself at all!  Simply acknowledge their feelings and encourage them with some positive (but not dismissive) words.  You might say something like “Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that.  Thank you for sharing with me.  I’m here to listen any time.”  Or “That sounds really hard, I can see why you are overwhelmed.  We can’t lose hope because you will make it through this and I am here to support you.”  You get the idea.  
You will be amazed at how this kind of response will impact those around you.  And you will be equally amazed at how good it feels when those around you respond to you like this when you share something that’s weighing on you.  
It’s 7 day challenge.  We will do it together.  Start now and tell me how it goes!

By Lisa Smith

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