Jan 042013
Fan the flames

Fan the flames (Photo credit: Dey)

Some days my gratitude list includes that fact that my parents were busy and overwhelmed learning how to take care of me – otherwise, they might have had time to find out that teen parents are destined to poverty and failure!  Fortunately they didn’t know that.

 At the age of nineteen, they were married, full time university students – and parents. Whatever their plans had been until then, they now had responsibilities to take care of.

 Fortunately, their parents had taken the time to plant their feet on the ground and aim their eyes toward the sky.  It never occurred to them to do anything BUT to figure out how to create the best possible family they could.  They were blessed with the examples of hard work, goal setting and ‘stick-to-it-ive-ness.’  It took ‘early parenthood’ to bring these skills and attitudes into focus.

 That’s the point.  Everyone starts somewhere.  People are born with unlimited amounts of potential, most of which never gets tapped.  Early in their lives, something or someone creates a spark.  Circumstances – often unpleasant ones – help them catch fire, get to work and accomplish the things that matters to them.

 Are the tough times in your life fanning a spark that will grow into a flame?

Jan 242012
English: France in 2000 year (XXI century). Fu...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the things I love about my work is the opportunity to collaborate with some wonderful people.  In a phone call last week one of them commented on some significant changes she had noticed in my work.   “The gloves are off” is how she described the change.  “How did you do that?”

The short answer?  I stopped caring.  While parents, kids and families matter more now than ever, I quit bothering myself about  things that other people tell me I should care about.  Instead of obsessing about “traffic” and “reach” and “influence”  and “metrics,” I’m back to being me: sharing good content as often as I can, trusting that it will reach someone who will benefit from it… when they need to connect with it.

It’s not that I don’t need or want feedback.  I like to learn… but it was getting in the way.

So how did I learn to stop caring? The way I learn best:  the hard way.

I worried and fretted. I checked and measured… and drove myself half insane.  Then, as it sometimes does, life added some stresses of its own.  For the privacy of those involved I will say only that some people I care deeply about faced some very difficult circumstances.  To make matters worse, there was nothing I could do to help.

What’s that got to do with parenting?  Or the Four Foundations?  Quite a lot, actually.

Tough times can make us bitter or make us better.   If we pay attention, illness, injury and error can reconnect us to what matters most.  It’s similar to what happens when we realize we can’t smooth all the bumps in the road our kids will travel: we decide to teach them to navigate the bumps.  And with that learning comes a level of fearlessness that frees us to give our best efforts and “let go” of the results.

When we share this attitude with our kids they often become too busy “taking care of business” to hear the warnings from the people who want to tell them they’re doomed to fail!

Apr 062010
Mormon Family Dinner

Image by More Good Foundation via Flickr

What if there was a single, simple thing that you could do that would help  your children to:

  • say ‘no’ to alcohol and other drugs
  • remain smoke-free
  • maintain or improve their grades
  • stay in school longer
  • decrease their chances of bullying or being bullied
  • and earn more as adults….

You’d do it, right?  Of course you would.

It turns out there is such a thing.  It’s called ‘family dinner.’  Really.

For many years research has shown that there are a number of actions that parents can take that will increase their children’s ‘resilience.’  (Resilience is a way to describe the process of building skills to endure hardship.  It helps kids to make choices that are in their best interest.)  Simply stated, building resilience is a way to increase the odds that our children will remain drug-free, for example, and having dinner together as a family is one of those ‘resilience-building’ actions!

It turns out that 15 minutes of quality communication each  day is a good start.

The 15+ Make Time to Listen…Take Time to Talk campaign (by the National Mental Health Information Center, SAMHSA Health Information Network) has a goal of providing practical assistance to busy parents trying create high-quality conversations with their children.

It’s a pretty simple concept:  parents who talk with their children about what is happening in their lives are better able to provide them with leadership and guidance.  Time Magazine ran a terrific article on the topic a while back.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t come easily or naturally to everyone.  That’s where Make Time to Listen…. Take Time to Talk comes in.  The site offers ideas and free publications to help you get started.  Lots of them.

Take a look…. you can have fun, too!

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