Thanksgiving is more than a meal: 4 tips for good conversation

It’s coming and you or someone you know is thinking about the menu, the table arrangements, and the guests. You may be hosting or you may be a guest. Excitement reigns but stress also intervenes. A difficult relationship, wild children, big expectations, and a little fear of not pulling it off like she does. Pinterest, blogs, and magazines deluge us with beautiful decorations and yummy food to cook. It’s all a bit overwhelming. And then throw in, “What will we talk about during the meal?”

Here are 4 things that can help relieve the stress, give you a conversation plan, and help you focus on what really matters.

  1. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Thanksgiving is first of all about a time to celebrate what God has done. We want the focus to be on Him- thanking Him in 2 ways: for who He is –his character traits (kind, generous, faithful, etc.) and for what He has done (brought us through a hard year, led in a decision, given a new friend, etc.).

With adults: Take turns sharing something from these two categories.

With kids: One year we passed around a bowl of corn kernels (uncooked pop corn). Each person took several kernels and then with each kernel they named something for which they were thankful and put it in a dish. This works with any age. Another year we made a “thanksgiving chain” (similar to the old fashioned Christmas chains). Each person wrote as many things as they wanted-one per strip; we joined them together and hung it across the room. This is an activity you can do as guests arrive and big kids can help little ones.

It’s also fun to read the story of the first Thanksgiving.

  1. Focus on others.

Food is yummy and crafts are great but our real goal is to love others. Is there a lonely person you could invite? Someone who has no place to go? How can this be a time of reaching out to someone else? Recently we had a young friend from Nigeria join us. We asked him to tell about his country, his life, and his faith. The 4 kids at the table heard stories so unlike their own. It was enriching. You may have an elderly person at your meal. Ask them to tell about their youth. Who was President? What was invented while they were growing up? What was their Thanksgiving like? If they are a person of faith, how did they come to know Jesus?

As parents, one of our jobs is to think about exposure. Exposing our kids to different types of people will enlarge their view of God and model for them how to care for others. 

  1.  Ahead of time, make a list of table questions.

Who is someone you respect and why?

What is your favorite book of the last year? What did you like about it?

If you could interview anyone (dead or alive) whom would you like to interview? What would you ask them?

We love the ribbon questions and other products created by Barbara Rainey. (Click here to view all of Ever Thine Home’s products)

Based on the people who will be together, prepare good questions ahead for conversation. Involve your kids in this. One of our goals as parents is to train our children to be good conversationalists. This is one practical way of teaching them to become other-centered rather than self-centered.

4.    Practice Manners.

Why does this matter? Manners represent the character trait of respect. Every year at our cousin camp (click here to read about the last one), we act out good manners and bad manners. We practice shaking hands, looking someone in the eye and saying, “Hello, I am (name).” We practice good questions to ask adults, “How has your year been?” Sure, it’s awkward at first but the kids really get into it-especially the bad manners parts! And we hope they are taking it in.

Practice manners before you go to your Thanksgiving dinner. Be very specific with your children. Use “please” and “thank you.” Ask to be excused and say, “I enjoyed the meal.” (Stay at the table until permission is given to leave.) Offer to clean up. Be sure to greet guests at the door and walk them out. Deposit all devices in a basket at the front door (leave yours too). Attach a note: “Please leave phones, etc. here. We want to focus on you!” If you are the guests, think about leaving yours in the car. Don’t forget to send a thank you note when you get home.

So what really matters at Thanksgiving?

It all goes back to the 2 great Commandments:

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, this is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37-38)

Use this Thankgiving as a time to plan creative ways ways in which your family can live out these great commandments.

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“Whatever….”

I have to be honest. This phrase usually accompanied with a roll of the eyes and a shrug depicting a who cares attitude bugs me. Somehow it seems irresponsible. Whatever happened to sentence structure and proper grammar?

However, I’ve realized that whatever has a deep theological message.

Several years ago my husband John was put in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. He’d been tired and had flu like symptoms but he thought it was no big deal. He was immediately sent to intensive care where he remained for 5 days, until he was finally diagnosed with Lyme’s disease, which had infected his heart. He was treated and is fine today.

This past year our grandson Mac (age 7) had a stomachache, which became life threatening and necessitated a liver transplant. We just celebrated his first year anniversary and he is doing well. (Read about it here)

There were scary moments for me. In both situations, I vacillated from “he’s going to die” to “he’ll be alright.” Psalm 91 and Psalm 121 were very comforting.

My husband or my grandson could have died. There are no guarantees. No matter how much we pray, life doesn’t always turn out the way we want. Although I knew that in my head and from life experiences, now I feel it at a deeper level.

In moments like these we cry out to God, we plead, we beg, we make promises, and we experience excruciating fear and waves of peace. Ultimately however, it all comes down to relinquishing…in a sense saying to God, whatever.

But, and this is a very big “but,” the one thing we can know for sure as we come to whatever is that whatever happens He will never leave us or forsake us. Underneath our fears of losing our loved ones (and all of us will experience this), is the greater fear– although perhaps unrecognized–of being forsaken by HIM. And that will never happen. Jesus was forsaken on the cross by God in order that we might never have to experience this. He went through it for us.  This was His hell—in our place. Whatever happens to us and to our loved ones, He will be there. He will never ever leave us alone.

And so dear friends, whatever for me has become a reminder of His presence, a presence that nothing whatsoever can take away. It’s guaranteed.

I will never leave you or forsake you.”

(Hebrews 13:5b, Joshua 1:5)

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Help! I’m ruining my kids!

“I’m the worst mother in the world. I think I’m ruining my kids,”

Tears began to roll down my face. Once again “Miz Edith,” my elderly next-door neighbor, wrapped her arms around me and replied, “Susan, you are not the worst mother in the world. You are just in a hard season and you are doing a good job. You will be all right. Your kids will be all right.”

I was in a hard season. We had recently moved to a new town and I had 5 children-7 and under (including colicky 6 week old twins), a husband with a demanding new job, and no friends, no family, and no help.

Except “Miz Edith.”

Many times during those early years I would run across my lawn, often in bare feet and pj’s, knock on her door, and burst into tears. Miz Edith didn’t always give me advice but she always comforted me. What she gave me was perspective. She reminded me that although this season was hard, it would not last forever. And she reassured me that I was doing a better job than I thought I was.

One of the hardest things about raising young children is that we don’t feel like we are making any progress. We discipline them and they turn around and do “it” again. We teach them to speak kindly and they are rude once more. We think we are making progress in sibling rivalry and then a fight breaks out. No matter how hard we try and how many times we tell them, we don’t seem to make any progress.

Recently a father with three young kids said, “If we didn’t care how they turned out raising them wouldn’t be so hard!” But we do care—so much. One of the things we have to remember in this season is that we are sowing and we are not going to see results for many years. In other areas of life we often see results soon. But not in parenting. Training is a repeated endeavor over and over and over. We will be less disappointed if we realize they may not get “it” for several years. Just keep at it and don’t expect fast results.

The problem isn’t just our child’s behavior. It’s us. We lose our tempers. We overreact. We get frustrated and we get tired. And when we make a really big mistake we wonder if we are ruining our kids. Our kids are not looking for perfect parents. There aren’t any. What they need is an honest parent. A parent who is willing to say, “I made a mistake and I am sorry. I should not have reacted that way. I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?” When our kids see us asking for forgiveness they will be more likely to grow into to men and women who are humble enough to ask for forgiveness themselves.

When you feel like you are ruining your child remember:

Your ability to ruin your child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem her.

“For nothing is impossible for the Lord.” Luke 1:37

Seek out a “Miz Edith” for your life. Each of us needs someone older who will give us perspective. But we can also be an “Edith” in a younger person’s life. We can become “sandwich women.” We are the peanut butter in the middle with the top bread representing an older mentor above us and the bottom bread someone younger for whom we care.

Just think how our culture might be changed for good if we all made a commitment to become “sandwich women!”

 

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Confessions of a Social Media Buff: Getting off the Social Media Treadmill…

I’m thrilled to have my friend Yvonne Lingo share her story today. It is a story that touches each one of us.

I’m done. I just deleted the Facebook app off my phone. Again. I’ve got to take a break from social media. It’s taking over my life! I’m spending way too much time posting, thinking about it, and checking it a million times a day!

True confession. This has been my repeating inner monologue for the past 5 years. Yes, years! Then a week or so later the Facebook app reappears on my phone and I’m back battling all kinds of unwanted feelings—comparison, jealousy, discontentment and the most nagging feeling of all, overexposure. Can you relate? I mean, how long was I going to let social media invade my mind? My heart? Our family? My marriage? It started out so fun, finding friends and sharing pictures, right? Somewhere along the way sin crept in. I didn’t even notice; it was so subtle. I started to notice that after I spent time on social media I was just plain crabby. It was getting ugly. I would say things to myself like, why can’t we be doing that? Or how come her husband says all these nice things about her and mine never does. (By the way, my husband doesn’t even have any social media accounts!) I was exhausted by it all and tired of trying to keep up or deal with the constant pressure of “showing our life off.” I’m not trying to be overly dramatic but something inside of me just started screaming out, like I was suffocating. Honestly, I felt like the prodigal son who ran away and squandered his father’s inheritance on cheap fun only to wake up realizing he was eating out of the pigs’ trough. It got real.

Here’s the thing, social media itself is not bad. I just gave it way too much power in my life. I allowed it to eat me up. And I forgot what life was like when things were kept private. You didn’t know what everybody was up to on the weekends while you cleaned out your closet. Which by the way, you’d be shocked at the number of junk drawers my husband counted up in our house this year. It might have been close to 17, but that’s beside the point! You get the picture. I don’t know what the best solution is for balancing social media’s influence over your life and I’m not saying cutting yourself off 100% is the right or only answer. Because let’s face it, it’s part of our world. We all live with it. For me, it is a heart issue. Social media started to compete with my time with the Lord. My heart got too crowded for Him.

On top of that I felt isolated with three little ones at home. Bottom line, I needed God to free me from the cycle of social media. When I decided it was time for a real break it was just after this past Christmas. I was scared I’d lose touch with friends or heaven forbid miss out on something fun and what would I do when I was bored? It was clear that social media had actually become an idol in my life. And idols are exhausting. I literally would look at my social media feed the second I woke up and it was most likely the last thing I saw before I went to sleep. I ran to it to fill those lonely and yes, bored places inside me as a stay at home mom who was missing connection with other adults.

God is really funny because the morning I unplugged from social media my phone rang. It was a friend seeing if we could get lunch. Later that same day, I got a text from another friend asking me to meet up at the park with our kids. Over time I started having real honest conversations with friends at the playground, my hair stylist, family and others about this crazy social media thing. I felt a new freedom inside. That feed on my phone seemed like a hollow replacement for real life. I discovered more time for the things that really mattered—sitting and watching my kids play without being distracted, sitting next to my husband on the couch and being present, and unhurried time with God. It was so healthy for me! Have I gone back on since? Yes. But I hold it a little looser, and I’m a little more wary of its influence. I thought I’d be missing out on something but the truth is I was missing out on something much bigger – God’s merciful love and my own REAL life right in front of me!

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When your faith gets fragile….

In case you missed it, we’re offering 20% off One Word card orders now through 10/25. Get your holiday shopping done early!

 

This week is the one-year anniversary of our grandson Mac’s liver transplant. He just turned 7 years old. Re-living those memories of a year ago has brought back many emotions. Hearing the helicopter land on the roof of the hospital bringing the donor liver, weeping for that family who lost a child but chose to give life to ours, a hospital chapel packed with friends who stayed up all night to pray with us, sing and read scriptures, 4 frightened young siblings who were at home praying for their brother. (Read the story here)

Today Mac is doing well. There are still ups and downs, and he’s had another surgery to repair an artery. Weekly or bi-weekly blood tests continue and meds are often changed. Side effects like hair loss, itching and shots for low white cell counts come and go. Life sometimes feels like an emotional roller coaster. We realize this is a “new normal” for our family and especially McLean and Libby, his parents. Life will never be the same. That’s hard.

All of us experience hard things in life. Scary times. And sometimes our faith just gets wobbly. It feels like it is running out. We try to churn up trust and usually fail.  And then we feel guilty because we think we should be able to trust.  But the reality is that we cannot churn up trust. God doesn’t expect us to come to Him full; He loves us on empty. Desperate. Weak. He simply wants us to come as a tiny child-needy, dependent. (Matthew 18:3)

I visualize a bucket- an old tin farm bucket that over time and much use has developed leaks.  It’s my faith bucket and sometimes it feels full and healthy and sometimes it gets leaky and fragile.  When it’s leaky I long for it to be filled up.  How do I get it filled?

One thing that helps me is to make a list of all of the ways I’ve seen God be faithful in the past. Small things like the encouraging text from a friend just when I needed it, the verse I read that spoke specifically to me, the neighbor who brought a meal. Big things like the best medical team, the friends who “just happened” to have gone through the same thing and could offer encouragement.  God often reveals His faithfulness to us through other people. This is the way the body of Christ is made to function.

Whenever we are discouraged or feel weak in our lives it helps to make a list of God’s faithfulness in the past. It helps to write down favorite scriptures about God.  When we focus on who He is and what He has done, our faith bucket will begin to fill up again and we’ll be less likely to fear the future.  Our buckets will always be leaky this side of heaven. We are people in process, continuing to need to be filled. When we get to heaven, our bucket will have no leaks and we’ll see Him with complete faith. But for now, we pray, “Fill us Lord,” and we take time to thank Him specifically for his faithfulness in the past.

This week, I’m thanking him for all of you who have prayed for Mac and our family. You have blessed us in ways you cannot imagine and we are deeply grateful.

 

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Overwhelmed with Fall Activities or Feeling Stale?

I feel both.

Yes, fall for me is way too overbooked. All the start-up stuff, all the expectations. Sometimes I want to run away and hide. At the same time I can feel stale in my faith, in the daily routines. It’s as if I’m in a sailboat being tossed around by heavy winds and my rudder isn’t working.

I need a rudder.

Good news!

We have a rudder: it’s the word of God.

Each morning I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me one character trait of the Trinity to focus on that day. This morning the thought that came to me was, “He is the God who does new things.”

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth. I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Two things became clear. First, I need to focus daily on who He is rather than on who I am or am not. Second, I need the encouragement of His word-daily. Just the thought that I can expect Him to do a new thing in my life this fall was such an encouragement to me this morning!
Last year my book, One (devotional) was released. It contains one word, one verse, and one thought for one hundred days. You can order it here.

This was followed by the release of One Cards designed by Christy Yates & Jessica Blanchard with content from this book.


NOW WE HAVE AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT:

We have recently added two new themed sets of One Cards – “Joy” and “Wisdom.” We heard from some of you that you’d like to send these as cards to friends, so we have also created stationery! There are two different sets of eight folded cards with envelopes. We are offering a sale right now so you can get a head start on holiday shopping. Use code FALL20 for 20% off any order! Click here to shop now!

Thanks so much for spreading the word.

 

 

 

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The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed (Guest Blogger and Giveaway!)

I’m thrilled to have my friend Sara Hagerty blog for me todoay. I loved her new book and you will too! Sara brings beauty to the written word and she’s real, authentic, and vulnerable. You’ll recognize yourself in many of her thoughts and you’ll will love her. 

Still in the fog of morning sluggishness and with a thinly veiled air of motherly annoyance, I dropped my four older children at soccer practice with water bottles and balls and snacks in baggies. I thought perhaps I could use a few laps around a field to clear my head. So I put two-year-old Bo in the stroller with no plan for where to walk, just knowing I needed to pound it out on the pavement. The chaotic early morning rush to get everyone ready and out the door had shredded my nerves. I struggled to like my kids in that single moment, and I surely didn’t like myself. I was remembering why we didn’t do these early morning activities very often.

On days like this, I have to whittle life down to one passage, which is part of training my eyes to see wonder: “On the glorious splendor of your majesty,  and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness” (Ps. 145:5–6 ESV).

I pushed and pounded harder than necessary to move the stroller, but with as much exertion as I needed to work out the morning’s frustrations. I recited these verses in my head a dozen times while replaying the last forty-five minutes of trying to hustle everyone out the front door. The flustered child whose water bottle didn’t have as much ice as she wanted. The missing shin guard. The squealing baby and the car seat stained from last week’s takeout that I’d forgotten to clean.

Then this one phrase interrupted my venting: “I will declare your greatness.”

The morning wasn’t great. They were grumpy. I was terse. They were late. I was unforgiving. They joined a field of players who had lily-white skin and families that from the outside certainly looked more intact than ours. This morning held so much more than soccer, and very little of it was great by my standards. But I would find Him, here.

Is this a time to reach back and remember? I wondered. To declare the greatness of the God who hurdled mountains of paperwork impossibilities to bring our children home? The God who brought them today onto a soccer field with breakfast in their bellies and a mommy who would ask their forgiveness when practice was over? The God who made this toddler in the stroller in front of me, after my womb was empty for twelve years?

A small flash of color on the path caught my eye, and I swerved the wheels of the stroller to miss a brilliant blue eggshell.

“Look, Bo!” I said pointing, still halfway lost in my thoughts. “A birdie was in that egg!”

“Egg. Egg. Eggie!” Bo’s voice grew louder with each repetition. I set my feet back on the path and my mind back on the Psalms: “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate . . . I will declare your greatness.”

With each phrase of the passage, the erratic pounding of my heart was recalibrating, finding its steady rhythm again. I was telling my soul what was true as if it were undergoing CPR. The morning still felt messy. I was relieved our long-term houseguest hadn’t witnessed my behavior, and I didn’t really want to tell Nate about it later. But I did want to repent to my children. I had spent long years without ever asking for forgiveness from Nate in our early married days, so my desire to repent was significant. God was doing a work in me.

As we continued on the path, Bo intermittently interrupted my thoughts with “Oh!” pointing in childlike wonder to a tree and then a car and back at the eggshell as we passed it on our return trek. And now I couldn’t seem to get my mind off it. This shell struck me as so much more than a discarded home for a baby bird. This small piece of God’s created order evoked a question I’d been asking with my life but hadn’t put into words until this morning: What is greatness to You, God? What are Your wondrous works?

I’d seen God’s greatness in the miracle ruling in the Ugandan court system that granted two children a home in our family. My marriage is a wonder—we made it through the rise and fall of a business and the rise and fall of our stubborn hearts. My children, though I might have thought them ruffians that morning, were having parts of their broken hearts restored. All of these were glorious wonders.

But the eggshell. And the soccer practice down the street. Wonders?

God was inviting me to reconsider the ever-unfolding opportunities for wonder around me. There were opportunities for awe at God in even the most unlikely moments, and my eyes needed to be trained to see them as much as my heart needed to be trained to engage them. God was available, infused into my every minute, but my flesh was bent toward independence. I hadn’t been trained to see Him in the eggshell. Or at soccer practice.

I could see the wonder of God in the knowing look Nate gave me across the kitchen island the night before when he heard me encouraging a child he knew would be easier for me to critique. I was in awe of God as my daughter, who has a painful history, slid her hand into mine at church while we sang, “I see heaven invading this place.” I was invited to wonder later that day when I shut the door to my bedroom to ask Him for help with a different (presently difficult) child. He was wondrous when I didn’t have time to text friends for prayer but paused to talk to Him in the midst of chaos and felt that permeating peace that could be attributed only to God. And wonder was in my children who were merely players on a field to most spectators of the game, but who were beginning to understand that they are a son and daughters when no one but God, Nate, and I are looking.

Yes, the eggshell and the soccer practice are wonders. These things are beautiful because they point to a Creator God who both sees and orchestrates the glorious details of life. Who reaches into my minutes. These things have the power to cause me to look at Him, if I step back and let them. They have the power to move my heart, if I let it engage. Dozens of minutes every day are shot through with this wonder, pregnant with potential to draw our eyes up to God. Our flitting eyes, with just as many opportunities to behold things that won’t nourish our souls, need to be trained to see them. They need to be trained to see the face of Jesus.

The house fills with the fragrance of oil. The whole earth fills with His glory. My soul fills with awareness of His wonder. Today.

And before long, I’m unwinding, sitting before Him in the small moments of the day, sliding my watch off my wrist and looking up to Him alone.

 

Sara Hagerty is the author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed, a wife to Nate, and a mother of six, including four children adopted from Africa, one toddler who’s found his voice amid them all, and a wee-babe. After almost a decade of Christian life, she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. God met her and moved her when life stopped working for her. His Word and His whisper took on new shape and form to her in the dark. Sara writes regularly about life delays, finding God in the unlikely, motherhood, marriage, and adoption at SaraHagerty.net.

Blog URL: http://sarahagerty.net/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahagertywrites/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/everybitterthingissweet/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaraHagerty

Unseen Book Page (including trailer): http://sarahagerty.net/unseen/

Unseen Teaser Trailer (30 seconds): https://www.facebook.com/everybitterthingissweet/videos/1092345277534182/

Unseen on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Being-Hidden-World-Noticed/dp/0310339979/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502463845&sr=8-1&keywords=unseen

 

GIVEAWAY! One reader will be gifted Sara’s new book! Go to my instagram to enter @susan_ayates

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Don’t Get Caught

Have you ever found yourself feeling:

 “I’m just so mad, so hurt—again. I’m not going to share my heart with him anymore. He doesn’t understand. It is too painful. We’ll live in the same house but he can do his thing and I’ll do mine.”

Most of us, if we are really honest, have felt this way about our husband from time to time. I call it falling into the trap of emotional divorce.

Don’t get caught by it.

Imagine a solid glass patio door. Emotional divorce is a bit like slamming that patio door shut on our hearts. We still see the person on the other side but there’s a strong sealed panel between us. We begin to close up our heart to him.

This trap can occur during stressful transitions in our lives-a move, a job loss, financial pressures, a new baby, caring for elderly parents, a child in crisis, etc. We are stressed and if each of us responds differently to the issue, we get irritated. We are too exhausted to communicate. We are afraid, and we unintentionally take it out on one another.

What do we do when we find ourselves falling into this trap?

  1. Recognize what is happening and refuse to let that “patio door” separate you.
  2. Make the decision to take a sledgehammer and begin to chip away at that glass wall. Thick patio doors don’t usually splinter into pieces all at once. It takes a steady chipping away at a tiny crack until the door dissolves.
  3. One wise friend suggests saying, “I’m sorry. Let’s push the restart button and go forward as a united team.”
  4. Talk to a godly older couple and ask for their help. Most churches have older couples that would be happy to mentor you, pray for you, and encourage you. Get counseling as needed.
  5. Remember God is for your marriage. He is the strong “super glue” holding you together. You can rely on Him. He will bring you through this time and your marriage will be deeper and stronger as a result.

“For nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)

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Stop the Sass

“You stupid, big fat ugly Mommy.” “You are so mean. I wish you weren’t my Mom.”
“You are the worst Mom in the world.” Or: “No! I won’t!”

If you haven’t heard these phrases or ones like these in your home you must not have kids!

Backtalk in a home with children of any age is a common occurrence. But it can leave us feeling like the worst parent in
the world. We wonder, Am I handling this right? My friend’s child doesn’t do this. Her child is respectful. My child mouths off constantly. I am about to lose it!

Here are 6 tips to help face the challenge of sass:

  1. Remember you are the boss.
    Children, especially strong willed ones, will inevitably try to “run the show” and if you get in their way they will let you know it, often with a tongue-lashing. It’s easy to become involved in a power play. But this is dangerous for the child and will perpetuate problems for the parents. Remind your child that you are the boss. You determine what is acceptable and what is not. Avoid a lengthy debate particularly with young children. They can negotiate you to death and sometimes you simply need to end the conversation. They must obey you or there will be consequences, period.
  2. Be very clear about what words are allowed.
    “In your face” verbal abuse should never be permitted. Neither should blatant rudeness.
    “You are a —-.” is not acceptable. This is a lack of respect and respect is a character issue.
    “If you don’t—-, I won’t— or I will–” is not acceptable. These are threats and they put the child in the position of calling the shots. Stomping your foot and saying “no” to a request from a parent is not permitted. This is defiance. So how do we respond when this happens to us? If it is verbal abuse say, “You may not speak to me in that manner and then immediately initiate a punishment. There are many options for punishment. The most important thing to remember is that the punishment must be swift, very unpleasant for the child, and then be over and love given. A consequence that doesn’t cause pain or sadness to a child has no meaning. What you choose will depend upon the age of the child, the infraction and what has meaning to this particular child. It is important to recognize that a child who gets away with verbal abuse will be more likely to become a teenager who verbally abuses his parents and rebels, an adult who abuses his colleagues or employers, and a married person who abuses his or her spouse.
  3. Distinguish between back talk and feelings.
    There is a fine line between a child expressing her feelings and verbal abuse and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference. A child who says, “you are so mean, everyone else gets to…” is expressing her feelings if she is not in your face with defiance. A good response to this might be, “I’m sure you feel that way now but one day you’ll understand.” Or employ a little humor and respond, “I probably am the meanest Mom in town,” and burst out laughing. Humor often dissolves tension. Our daughter Libby was punishing her 4-year-old daughter Greyson. Greyson responded, “When I get to “Cousin Camp” this summer I am going to tell your Mommy (that’s me!) how ugly you have been to me!” Libby responded, “You do that!” I am still laughing over this.
  4. Give them words to use.
    Give your children words to use to express their feelings in a way that is not defiance. “I feel like….” Is a good substitute for, “You ‘blankety blank.’”   But remember when it is clear verbal abuse do not negotiate, take action. It is particularly important to discuss with your teens how to argue without crossing the line to disrespect. Role-playing is helpful. In a conversation demonstrate both a healthy way to make your case and a disrespectful way to engage. Practice and listen to each other. This is a skill they will need to develop for many relationships. You may not come to agreement but the exchange can be done with civility. You are still the parent, the boss.
  5. Practice forgiveness.
    The most important ingredient in the home is that of forgiveness. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to go to my husband or to a child and say,” I shouldn’t have said what I did and I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me? “I can’t remember a single time in which I felt like doing this. I’d much rather have said, “But if you had__ or hadn’t___.” We go to one another out of obedience not feelings. Feelings take time to heal. Genuine healing will be difficult apart from the asking and granting of forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough unless it is an accident- like spilled milk, or a broken dish. When we intentionally wound one another we must ask forgiveness. God willing, we are raising future husbands and wives and they are going to need to know how to practice forgiveness in their future homes. It will help them if they see us doing it now.
  6. Remember it’s never too late to do what is right.
    If you realize that you have been letting your kids get away with verbal abuse you can still do a course correction. Agree as a couple what your new policies will be. Write them down. Mom and Dad must be on the same page or your child will play you against each other. You have to cover each other’s back. One Dad upon witnessing his child verbally abusing his wife said, “You may not speak to the woman I love in that manner.”

Call the kids together at a time-not in the midst of conflict- and clearly explain the new policy. Include what is and is not acceptable and what the consequences will be. It is likely to take at least 3 times of enforcement when you change course before they believe you really mean what you say. Consistency and firmness are crucial. One of the things that is so hard for parents is that we feel like we do this over and over and don’t make any progress. Our expectations are unrealistic. This kind of training takes years. Just keep at it. You are getting through even if you don’t feel like it right now. Our child’s security comes from knowing he or she is not the boss. We are. It helps to ask them with humor, “Who is the boss?” Who loves you the most in all the world?”

“I do!”

 

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