Is Your Home Filled With Laughter?

When our kids are little it is easy to laugh at the cute things they say and do.  Even during those early years of school we watch with excitement as they encounter new experiences and are filled with wonder.  And then as our kids become tweens and teens the climate in most homes changes.  Instead of laughter, life gets serious — sometimes too serious.

Maybe it’s our kids pushing our patience or their mouthiness that makes us as parents feel the need to control.  I think sometimes we realize that our kids are no longer those sweet, innocent children any more and we become fearful of the possibilities and reality of what could happen if they make the wrong choices.  We push them to strive for excellence in school or in sports because college is looming up ahead and we come to the realization that someone needs to pay for it.

Whatever the circumstance with your teens, take time to fill your home with laughter.

I was talking to a mom a few weeks ago and could feel the weight of heaviness resting on her shoulders.  She was giving me a list of all the things her teenage son wasn’t doing.  It was obvious that mom had certain expectations that her son was not fulfilling.  Blame was heavy as we talked.  She no longer found joy in this son, only condemnation.  Laughter was the furthest thing from her mind.

I’ll admit I’ve been in that place at times.  When our kids are doing things that cause us fear and anxiety it is easy to be so afraid that we can’t find any joy in any moment.  At times it seems they aren’t listening to anything we ask them to do.  That’s when it is time to take our thoughts captive.  It’s when we need to be able to think quickly on our feet in order to turn the difficult moment into a memorable opportunity filled with laughter.  It’s where we show our kids that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

So what can that look like?

  1. When there is conflict in the house, have a family code word.  In our house there is a code word that will bring laughter to any situation.  If we hear siblings arguing, either Dave or I will enter the room and quietly watch the verbal match.  When the right opportunity presents itself, we say the code word and immediately change the subject.  Inevitably, our kids will look at each other, then they’ll look at us, and laughter will fill the air.  Everyone in the family knows the code word and everyone has permission to use it.  It means unhook the bickering and laugh!
  2. Find the positive in every situation.  Even disaster can have a silver lining if we take time to look.  If your teen flunks a class, he’ll have opportunity to prove himself again and learn from the mistake.  If your daughter wrecks the car, she’ll most likely become a more careful driver.  If your teen is still breathing, that is the positive — find joy in that moment.
  3. Be mindful of the now.  Too many times we fearfully get wrapped up in what could happen in the future — won’t get into college, won’t get a scholarship, will end up doing something stupid like alcohol or drugs, or whatever is your greatest fear.  Work on the now and the future will take care of itself.  Find joy in the moment and love your teen right where he is.  Remind yourself that the future is in God’s hands.
  4. Find time to do fun things with your teens.  You know your kids better than anyone.  Try doing some of the things that they like to do with them.  Chances are you’ll bring laughter to the room as you try to lip sync or play one of their video games with them.  I’ll never forget being in the mall with my son as we both tried to do DDR (Dance, Dance Revolution for those who don’t know what that is :))  My son never laughed so hard as I drew a crowd in the mall as the worst player ever.  It’s a great memory for both of us.
  5. Take negative comments and situations and turn them into laughter moments.  My husband, Dave, is the expert at this in our home and I’m working hard on it.  When one of our now 20-somethings comes out with a sharp accusation or negative comment, Dave will take it and put a spin of laughter on it.  Just like Dare 15 in With All Due Respect, quick thinking with a dose of humor can turn a difficult moment into an opportunity to teach respect.

Proverbs 31:25 (NLT)

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

Nehemiah 8:10b

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Dare you to not take life quite so seriously when your kids become tweens and teens.  Humor in the difficulties of life can bring opportunity to model respect and provide teaching opportunities much more than lectures and condemnation.  

“Let go…and Let God”,

Want a way to connect with other Moms?  Why not grab a copy of With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens and go through the book together.  Whether your kids are 9 or 29, you’ll find the questions will apply to your parenting.  You can also connect with us in the With All Due Respect eCourse on Facebook.  It’s free for a limited time.

Here’s what Shaunti Feldhahn, Social Researcher and Best Selling Author of For Women Only had to say:

“A spectacular tool for every mom who has heard the advice “be purposeful,” and wondered, “But what does that mean?  This ultra-practical guidebook shows each of us what it means.  Step by step, day by day, this amazing resource will walk each of us into being the godly moms we all deeply want to be, to have the impact on our kids we are all longing for.”

Are You Cultivating the Relationship?

The phone had been silent for several days and Shannon began to worry. Silence usually meant something was going on that her daughter didn’t want her to know about. Silence meant whatever was happening was something that her daughter knew she wouldn’t approve of. Silence meant this chasm would widen, the earth would give way, and then it would all come tumbling out–every unbelievable detail.

Shannon had grown accustomed to the turbulence that accompanied these silent times; they rattled her very soul. Shannon prayed; she sought answers from Scripture; she had given her daughter back to God more times than she could remember. But here she was again, crying out to God for some sort of awakening to occur in her daughter’s life. “Speak to her, Lord,” she uttered once again.

Shannon was learning that she was the one who needed to stay connected to her daughter. Amber needed a steady force in her life. Without Shannon reaching out in Amber’s own mode of communication “texting” or “Facebook – IM”, the telephone lines would continue to remain silent. “Checking in to see how you are doing,” she pounded out on the mini touchscreen. “Just wanted you to know that you are loved.”

“Love you too, Mom” came quickly back on the screen.

“You doing ok?” Shannon responded.

“I guess.” Amber replied. “Call you when I get off work.”

Shannon prayed throughout the day. She prayed for Amber. She prayed for whatever Amber would share with her this evening. She prayed that her responses would always come across as loving.

But silence continued throughout the evening. No call from Amber. Shannon continued to pray for her daughter. She’d try to reconnect again in a few days.

Three days later she sent a text to Amber just to see how she was doing.

The phone rang. “Hi, Mom. Sorry I didn’t call you back the other evening.”

“Honey, that’s okay. I know you’re busy. How’s work going?”

“Fine. How’s Harold doing?”

“He left, Mom.”

“What do you mean, he left”?

“Mom, he moved out.”

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry. How are you feeling about that?”

“I’m so upset–yet part of me is glad he is gone. At least I know what kind of man he really is.”

“What made him decide to leave? You two were starting to talk about marriage.”

“Mom, I guess you’ll find out soon enough anyway. I’m pregnant.”

Shannon took a deep breath. She knew her next words were critical. She could either bring life into her daughter or create an avalanche of destructive feelings into their conversation.

“Honey, I’m not sure how to respond. I’m in shock. I’m going to be a grandmother. How are you feeling about it?”

Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.

Sometimes our 20-Somethings make choices that we not only disagree with, but they make choices that will impact our lives in ways we would rather not deal with. Even though it would be easier to write them off saying that they can deal with their own issues (they know our phone number), we need to show them the love of Christ and initiate relationship. Words that come out of our mouths can either incite further anger and rejection or bring healing. We may not always be elated by the news they share, but it is important that we respond with the love of Christ.

Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Dare you to connect with your 20-Something today by speaking words of tenderness to them. Why not send them a text?

“Let go…and let God,”





Change Around the Corner?

Graduation time always has me thinking of transitions.  I coined a phrase from a friend who was talking about the changes with her daughter.  She calls them her “happy/sad” moments.  I don’t know about you, but that phrase conjures up a lot of emotional images for me.  I find it awesome that she takes time to notice her feelings of these moment-in-time changes as she goes through the parenting process.  There are SO many of these times to recall as our kids start gaining more freedom.

  • Happy that your child is off having fun with friends; sad that she doesn’t need you as much.
  • Happy that your teen is starting to see success in several areas of his life; sad that he doesn’t share as much with you.
  • Happy that your teen is graduating; sad that you’ll miss her when she goes away to college.

We’ve all been there through each change, sometimes happy for the passage from one phase into the next, but a bit of sadness of the unknown. 

As I write, my daughter-in-law left her 17 month old for the first time this past week.  I watched as she quickly made her flight reservations excited for a break.  As she neared the airport, I watched the tears flow.  Happy/sad indeed.

“Happy/sad” moments are a clue that we need to change our parenting especially during the teen years.  If we watch for them, we’ll know what the next step should be.

Unfortunately, by the time our tweens and teens are in middle and high school, we’ve sometimes become so accustom to these “happy/sad” moments that we almost forget to take notice of our emotion.  We get trapped in the norm of change and forget that  we need to start parenting differently.

I loved it last week when my friend sent me a text.  “Happy/sad.  My daughter got her license last week and now drives herself to work.  Excited Megan has more freedom and I have more time. Missing our long talks together in the car.  How do I get my daily time back with her?”

Each of the “happy/sad” situations we encounter typically means less interaction with our kids.  So it means we have to be more intentional in connecting with them.  We need to be an initiator in the relationship.  The hard part to the equation is that as our kids get these new freedoms, they have more things they can do and more people to interact with that can keep them entertained.  They no longer need us.

Or so they think.

So what can we do?

  • Engage with them intentionally.  What fun things do you both enjoy?  Sports?  Hobbies? Food usually works, especially Starbucks.
  • Take note of what they like to do and schedule a date with them.  Don’t forget to remind them as the date gets close.
  • Let them know that you miss your time with them.  “Honey, I’m excited that you have your license and are becoming an adult.  I want you to know that I miss our talk time in the car.  I don’t want to lose our connection since you’ve only got a couple of years left here at home.  What kind of things could we do?”

As your kids move through their milestones toward freedom, we have to become more deliberate in connecting with them and also make sure that we don’t become someone who is overly needy of their time.  Learning to let go sometimes means that we need to find other people or projects to fill the void of time we are typically with our child.  Try to remember that you are learning to walk a tightrope balancing life so that your tween and teen feel free to grow and explore and will know that you’ll be just fine when they do leave.

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Each new phase we enter with our children gives us a new opportunity for growth.  “Letting go” means we have to trust God more and more with those we love and if we do it well, we’ll reap the benefits of growing closer to Him in the process.

Glad you’re on the journey with me.  If you have a new graduate, celebrate the happy/sad moments.

“Let go…and let God”,



So what “happy/sad” moments are you currently wrestling with?

Too Busy for Relationship?

Standing in the kitchen I was focused on fixing dinner when my teen walked through the back door.  Barely looking up, I asked my son how his day went and continued pealing potatoes for the evening meal.  He sat down at the kitchen island and rambled on about all the things that had happened during the day.   With an occasional glance I would give him my half-hearted “really” as he continued his story.  I had other things on my mind–the to-do list of my evening activities.

As soon as he took a breath I interrupted.  “I need you to go get your homework finished.  Your dad and I have a commitment after dinner and I have several things to do before then.”

I could tell he was frustrated with me.  And, yes, I probably should have been more focused on his needs.  But life can’t always revolve around when my teen wants to talk, can it?

The truth was, I blew it.  It wasn’t in the fact that I ended the conversation.  It was in the how I ended the conversation.  

Matter of fact.

No consideration for his feelings.

And a “task” that I felt at the time was more important than listening to him. 

I wasn’t focused on the relationship.

As parents we all make mistakes in how we interact with our kids.  But do we make an attempt to recover from them?  Do we learn from our mistakes and think through how we should handle it next time?

As I lay in bed that night thinking through my day, I realized that I needed to apologize to my son.  I asked for his forgiveness the next day since I made my agenda for the evening more important than what he had to share.  I told him how I blew it and how I wished I could have a do-over.  I shared the specifics of what I wished I had done differently.  We talked through them setting a plan in place for the next time a similar thing occurred.

  1. Look him in the eye.  Teens want to know that we are really listening and eye contact is a mechanism to bonding.  It says they are more important than the task.
  2. Speak your truth.  “I would really like to hear about your day and I only have 10 minutes before I need to get ready for tonight’s activities.  Would it be okay if you share the highlights while I peel the potatoes and we’ll talk after your dad and I get home tonight?  I really want to hear about what is going on in your world.”  This is also where you would give any instructions about the evening.
  3. If he agrees, position yourself with your task so that there is eye contact during the conversation.
  4. When time is up, say something positive.  “I really love that you come and share your day with me.  I just wish I had more time right now.  I’ll look forward to our talk later tonight.”  

Teens have a lot to process about their world and it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that they are willing to talk with us.  We want to encourage them to see us as their confidant.  One of the most important things we can do to build the relationship is to be a good listener.

Colossians 4:6

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Sometimes just sitting with our kids, listening as they talk about their day, can give us insight and opportunity to influence their decisions if we validate their feelings and show them acceptance and that they are important in our lives.

Dare you to assess whether you make your teens a priority in your life and handle your interactions with them with respect and humility.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Wish you could help Dad be more intentional in your teen’s life?  365+ Ways to Love Your Family:  Practical Tips for Dads of Tweens and Teens is an easy way to quickly help him have a positive way to have influence.  In less than a minute each day, he can put an action in place that will teach your kids the language of respect.






Are You Making Sense of Your Truth for Your Kids?

I remember a time when my kids were excited about extended family coming to our house to stay for a week.  It was an annual occurrence that would be a happy yet dreaded time of the year for me.  On the one hand, I was looking forward to the time to reconnect, but as time drew near to their imminent arrival, the noose would feel tighter.  I would feel the tension in the back of my neck and that awful pit in the stomach as I furiously cleaned every corner of my house.  I found myself yelling more at my kids as my stress level escalated because I needed to get the house in order before they arrived.  If it wasn’t perfect, I’d hear about it.

In reality I had not made sense of my own truth.  Instead I would recite bible verses to myself making sure that I hit His standard for who I was supposed to be.

  • Love is patient, love is kind.  (1 Corinthians 13)  Translated: I must be patient and kind in all things this week.
  • Selfless love lays down his life for another.   (John 15:13)  Translated: I must give up my needs and wants in order to love this person while they are in my home.
  • Love one another as I have loved you.  (John 13:34)  Translated: God loves me even when I sin, so I must love this person regardless of the things this person says to me.

And the list went on. 

It was my way of making sure that I was perfect when this person came to visit.  If I was well prepared in advance, maybe this time I could avoid the hurtful comments and constant critique of where I wasn’t measuring up.

After three days of of being scolded, I was typically ready for them to leave.  Regardless of what I had done to prepare, I still wasn’t measuring up.  And let’s face it, it’s hard to be “perfect” for a whole week.  My temper would get the best of me, words would be exchanged, and my kids couldn’t quite make sense of why Mom was so angry.

It took me more than a decade to discover my truth.

The truth was there was unresolved conflict that had simmered for years.  There were family secrets that I was sworn to keep.  And someone else trying to drive my family’s activities for an entire week was enough to send my well intended scripture verse litany to the far recesses of my brain as I emotionally erupted. 

I had believed the lie that if I could be perfect for one week out of the year when this person came to visit and that I could shield my kids from the pain of my reality.  I could hide the truth about these people in my life.  And even though my desires were honorable–to hold family in high esteem–I couldn’t keep the mask on in front of my kids for an extended amount of time.

It wasn’t until my kids were in their 20’s that the family secrets came out.  One day with tears in her eyes my daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, we never understood why you got so upset when they were here.  What you told us about them and what we saw never matched up.  I’m so sorry for all your pain.  How could you have even allowed them to stay in our home?”

With those words, the light bulb went on.  It had never occurred to me that I had a choice to allow them to stay.  It didn’t dawn on me that I was trying to live a lie of that perfect family for my kids.  In my world of truth, my feelings were to be ignored and not explored.  And I was to humble myself to the point of letting others walk all over me.

Once I stared at truth from a scripture perspective I had a new dawning.

Matthew 22:37-39

Jesus replied: “‘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.”

The truth was that in those moments, I was not loving myself.  I was putting more emphasis on being perfect for this person rather than for speaking my own truth and examining my worth through my relationship with Christ.  What this person thought of me was more important than what God says.  I realized I was modeling for my kids that other people have more value and their opinions of me are more important than God’s opinion or desires for me.  He is the creator of my feelings and longings.  I learned to take John 8:32 to heart.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

I had modeled that being real wasn’t safe.  Being vulnerable and authentic while speaking my truth, didn’t have merit.  It was easier to pretend than be known.

A harsh reality for a woman who wanted to be a Godly mother.

Since that day I spent with my daughter, I’ve learned that to be open and honest with my feelings is a good thing.  It brings connection and healing.  Sharing our truth with our kids (when it is age appropriate), even though they are truths that make us feel shame, can truly set us free and give our kids a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals.  Hiding our true identities out of shame and remorse says that we aren’t worthy of being who God created us to be.  It sets us up to not be truly known by those around us.

It blocks the connection that most of us desire.

The good news is that by learning to be real and authentic as I recognize who I am in Christ, I’ve worked through those fears of not being “good enough”.  Sure, they will rear their ugly head at times, but I now know that I can take my thoughts captive.  I’ve learned that being a doormat brings me nothing but frustration and pain while living in my NOW and being aware of my feelings helps me process the real truth of the moment.  By doing so, I can help my kids see that mom isn’t always perfect and it helps them recognize and accept their own imperfections.

It also helps my kids accept imperfections in others so that they can show empathy and grace to the hurting people they encounter.

Dare you to look to see what realities you are masking for your kids.  Maybe it’s time to be authentic so truth can allow your family freedom to connect on a deeper level.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Learning to be lovingly authentic with those around us takes work.  It means we need to know who we are in Christ while learning skills that will woo others rather than push them away.  Many of us tend to be pendulum swingers.  What I mean by that is that one minute we’re trying to be patient, loving, and kind and then something sets us off to where we are ready to blast a person we love because they have offended us or haven’t complied with our requests.  This applies especially to our relationship with our teens.  We love them unconditionally one minute and can’t wait til they move out the next.  We want our relationship to be really good but at other times we’ve had our fill of their behavior.

Deflating Defensiveness is a course we’ve designed to put an end to the emotional roller coaster.  You will learn how to deal with the other person’s emotion while you take care of yourself in the heat of the battle.  You’ll learn what works to draw you closer together in the moment.

May 30-June 3 we hope you’ll join us near Cincinnati, Ohio for a Conflict Resolution Training Retreat that will deepen all your relationships.