Posted in counseling, goals, motherhood, parenting, values

Value-Driven Goals

When I (Selena) went to work as a camp counselor after my freshman year of college at an outdoor adventure camp, we were expected to lead our campers through various activities, including rock climbing, rappelling, zip-lining, and mountain biking.

Spoiler alert: I had never done any of those things before.

Within the first 24 hours I was on-site at the camp, one of the directors took us to a steep hill made of dirt and loose rock and proudly announced that this was our mountain scooter course. For reference, this is a mountain scooter:

Think BMX bike, but in scooter form.

Before this summer, I had not ridden anything with two wheels since I was at least 12 and definitely never on anything besides pavement. So after I watched a few people ride down before me with seeming ease and thrill, I volunteered to go next before I let the peer pressure I was feeling psych me out. I remember thinking something along the lines of, “If I’m confident, how bad can this be?”

Turns out, it could be pretty bad. Twenty minutes later I was standing in a shower while my female director and camp nurse were cleaning rocks out of the giant swath of road rash on my legs and rump. Later that day when I went to meet some counselors from another part of camp for the first time, I was so bandaged that one guy shouted out at me, “Whoa! Did you get shot?!” We were not a “camp name” or “nickname” kind of camp, but I quickly became known as “Boo,” short for ‘boo-boos’ to my co-workers.

About a week later in our training we were all gathered to practice riding the mountain bike trail we were expected to take our campers on. I was terrified. I couldn’t even coast down a hill on a scooter, so how in the world was I going to be able to make it through this trail? It was through dense, wooded, and rocky terrain and I was certain that I would never be able to avoid wrecking and seriously getting hurt.

I was already scoping out the rocks and trees and ditches that I wanted to avoid when the experienced mountain biker who was leading our training told us something along these lines:

“Make sure to look where you are going. If you look at a rock, you are going to hit that rock. If you pay too much attention to the tree you are trying to avoid, you will run right into it. Your bike will go wherever you are looking, so focus on where you want the bike to go, not on where you don’t want it to go.”

And you know what? She was right. Whenever I pedaled confidently and set my focus on the path I wanted to take, I made it through alright.

As we continue to write about goals this month, I want you take some time and think about your goals, your word for the year, your intention, or whatever thing you are pursuing in this season.

Got it?

Now ask yourself why you are heading in that direction. Sit with that question. Because chances are that your core motivation for that goal is either to cultivate a value in your life, or to avoid becoming something/someone you are afraid of becoming.

On the surface, that distinction may not sound like much, but I would argue that it makes all of the difference. It means the difference between staring at the rocks and trees you are trying to avoid and actually focusing on the trail you want to give meaning to your life. Whenever our motivations for something are based around a fear (fear of ‘letting yourself go,’ fear of falling behind, fear of becoming like someone you know, etc), then our attention is more focused on what we do not want to be than on who we want to become. It’s really hard to find a target when you don’t know where it is, just some of the places where it is not. Whenever you are running towards something just because you are running away from something else, you are more likely to get discouraged and even take a meandering course. It would be exhausting to go on a bike ride where your only goal was to not hit trees. It might be engaging for a while, but eventually you would just be riding around aimlessly and without a sense of purpose. It’s hard to stay motivated whenever you aren’t driven by purpose.

As the beginning of the year begins to melt into the rest of the year, I want to invite you to reexamine your goals and your values. Do your goals match the things that you say you value in your life? Are you heading in a direction with purpose, or are you only focused on the things you want to avoid? If you get stuck, make a list of your top 3 values and think of both big and little ways that you can shape your life to better reflect that value.

My husband loves mountain biking and he will say that it’s 10 times easier to successfully ride a trail whenever you fully commit to what you are doing rather than being held back by fear or uncertainty. Value-driven goals allow you move forward with purpose and with clarity, while the ones created out of fear will always wear us down. Find a trail that takes you closer to fully living out your values and ride it hard; you’ll end up in the direction you end up looking towards.

Staying focused together,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in counseling, goals, home, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Creating Kid-sized Goals

As we begin the new year and evaluate the goals we have for ourselves, often we have goals for our families as well. This could be an expectation that this year your partner will put their dirty clothes INSIDE the laundry basket going forward or that your kids will learn what it means to land urine INSIDE the toilet for a change.

The problem with these hopes can be their dependence on others to change their own behavior. However, as a parent, we are able to target ways we want to influence our children during the upcoming year. Often, it can be daunting to decide what expecatations we can set for our children due to variety in development. Here are a few ideas to consider as well as ways to determine age appropriate, reasonable goals for our children.

START SMALL

It can be tempting to create a large, general target such as, “clean their room.” However, this can be too broad and the lack of meeting this expectation may create more frustration. A better choice may be one small step. Beginning for a three year old may be, “put their bowl/ plate in the sink after every meal.”

This is something the child can physically complete and the expectation can be easily repeated. Once something small is achieved and the child has proved proficient, it is ok to increase the responsibility.

BREAK DOWN GOALS

Not only do you need to start small, keep even bigger expectations in small increments. Rather than instruct them to “clean your room.” Allow them to do one thing at a time. This may be first putting their clothes in the laundry basket, once that is completed, put all their stuffed animals in their place, make their bed, etc. This way they do not get overwhelmed.

STATE EXPECTATIONS FREQUENTLY

Children forget. Heck, I forget to move my clothes from the washing machine to the dryer almost daily. Stating a goal for a child often, calmly and in a concise manner helps train their brain. You have heard the phrase, “repetition, repetition, repetition.” It is accurate. Our kids do not always avoid doing tasks we ask of them on purpose. Assuming the best, can help curb some frustration that comes from being ignored.

WORK ALONGSIDE

It is more encouraging to do chores or other tasks alongside others. When children see our behavior as a model for our expectations of their behavior, it can be more effective. This can begin as helping them complete their task initially, as they gain the confidence to do each goal. Eventually, it can end in merely working alongside in a task we have set for ourselves or similar to their endeavor.

For children being expected to have “reading time”, read your own book next to them. If it is cleaning their room, clean your own. If it is sitting calmly in time out, breath calming breaths alongside them. As the saying goes, positive behavior is “better caught then taught.”

Setting expectations and goals for children can be difficult. We know we need to teach them responsibility, for their maturity, but can be unsure where to start. It is ok to start small. Any step in giving them tasks to work or behavior to adhere to, is helpful for their development.

Remember that this is not easy. Teaching is a noble calling and parenting is as well. As we parent we teach our children how to tackle the expectations of others. We never do this perfectly, but have grace with yourselves and your kids as well.

Teaching alongside,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in emotion regulation, home, parenting

Holiday Detox to Rhythms in Routine

The holiday season has come to a close! I’m not sure about you, but I need a holiday from the holidays. Holidays can be exhausting for parents and kids alike. As we are a few days into the New Year, I am working to wrap up the Christmas season with my family in a meaningful way and dive into 2020 with renewed perspective and purpose.

Reflect with Gratitude

I hope that your holiday was wonderful, yet I know for some of you it was not what you wanted or hoped. Holidays are difficult are for many. If you can reflect, is there any aspect that you are thankful for, even if it is small? Gratitude improves our mood and lifts our spirits. It can give us momentum to turn the page into a new decade and shift our view for the better. We often make the holidays all about us, let’s be honest – all about our children, forgetting the meaning of the season. Let’s work to bask in thankfulness over the true, undeserved Gift given to us on Christmas and blessings we have.

Reinstate Routine

We have been out of almost every routine and it is affecting the adults and children in my home. Too much sugar, screen time, free time, getting exactly what they want, lax bedtime, and the list goes on of normal rules and boundaries that have bent over the past few weeks. Gliding into a routine again is a change, so if you are receiving some resistance as you reinstate your rules and routines, that is normal. Remember, you are the parent and what you say goes. Getting into these routines again will help everyone return to normalcy and some predictability.

Seek Counseling

If this holiday season was particularly challenging for you, or if adding gratitude and routines are not sufficient, I encourage you to seek professional counseling to help process and navigate hurt and emotions.  My hope is that healing and belonging can take place for you in the counseling setting.

Goal Setting

I am not exactly referring to New Year’s resolutions but how to implement a change, improve, or start new.  A great tradition that many people have at the beginning of the year is choosing a word for the year to define a theme. Examples include: peace, steadfast, patient, inviting, genuine… I would encourage you to think of a word or a goal that may improve your mental health this year. What is practical or doable to help you as individual and in turn will help you be a better parent? A tip for goal setting is the acronym SMART:

Sensible

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

Let’s take the theme of being patient this year. Rather than stating, I want to be more patient with my kids, consider the following. I am going to implement patience tomorrow morning during the before school routine. This means, I will get up early to get myself ready for work before the kids are up. I will pack lunches and school bags the night before. I will treat my children with kindness instead of sharpness and grace instead of critique. If we look at this plan, see how it meets the criteria of SMART and is much more doable than being patient in general? Using this format, it is easier to make a goal a habit.

You were chosen to do this job of raising your kids. You are qualified when you don’t feel like it. Speak kindly to yourself. Rely on His strength instead of your own.

Growing with you,

Andrea

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in Uncategorized

Hospitality as an Introvert

“And this is a quiche my mom used to make,” my dear friend walked me over to the end of an incredibly long table of enormous food quantities, revealing a perfectly round and perfectly baked quiche at the very end. “She taught me how a few years ago, and now I add a few more ingredients to it to make it perfect.” She winked.
I, a college sophomore, gave a nervous laugh. “I’m taking notes on hospitality from you!” was my quick response, though I had never ‘hosted’ anyone in my life, nor did I have any intention to do such a thing after seeing the spread at this party. Looking around, the thought of even inviting over half of the people sitting down for dinner at my friend’s house made me shudder. No, I was much more an introvert myself, and my own spiritual gifting lay somewhere in the camp of exhortation and administration (read: a “behind-the-scenes” sort of person).
So you can imagine my dismay as the charge of hospitality was preached from pulpit after pulpit in the years following. Some independent study of my own confirmed that, in fact, hospitality was a ‘mark of a true Christian’, most explicitly in Romans 12 but also Hebrews 13. Looking to the life of Jesus, we can see how much ministry happened over a dinner table, a rhythm so commonplace and important that it would be where Jesus elects to spend His last hours with his dearest friends at the Last Supper (and they suspect nothing).
But what about us introverts? Would be my resounding thought. My house is so small! I can’t cook! I don’t know anyone well enough to invite them into my home! How do you start meaningful conversation?
While some may be uniquely gifted in the area of hospitality, the truth is that we are all called to it. To take a definition from Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Gospel Comes with a House Key, hospitality is the practice of turning strangers into neighbors. The roots of the Greek word translated “hospitality” mean “love of stranger.” Note the varying potentials that these definitions imply. A lie to confront when it comes to hospitality is that it is a practice reserved for big personalities, wonderful cooks, and folks who are thoughtful with the details. Do not be intimidated by people like my dear friend with the amazing quiche: she has a gift for hospitality, yes, but people like her are not the ideal to be achieved.
Be wary of insecurity and comparison. Welcoming anyone into your life and your home involves the potential of scrutiny and discomfort. Rarely is hospitality, in any form, glamorous and idyllic.
And yet! How kind of the Lord to invite us into this kind of ministry. Consider how God Himself welcomes you with open arms. How lost so many of us would be without this kind of boots-on- the-ground, front lines type of interaction with believers. Rather than a standard set by extravagant table settings, let us work instead to plan hospitality as a rhythm.
When setting this rhythm, a defense against the traps of comparison and insecurity would be to set boundaries. It is critical for me, as someone who does not get my energy from being around people, to have limitations that allow me to continue hospitality as a regular practice and avoid burn out. Consider the following if you, too, struggle with straining yourself to the point of being unable and unwilling to show hospitality for extended periods of time:


1.) Clearly articulate your level and type of availability to others

2.) Invite others along into existing rhythms


3.) Give yourself permission to create your own style of hospitality


Ultimately, it is right to spend yourself for the sake of the gospel. However, good ministry often occurs over durations of time, and certainly depth is more often found here. It is good to have boundaries in place that allow for a commitment to the practice of hospitality as a rhythm of life. May God sustain us as we go

Madie Fox

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boundaries, counseling, motherhood

Comparisons and Boundaries

As a parent, do you ever find yourself ‘on repeat?’ In this season of parenting, one of the things my husband and I find ourselves saying over and over again is “This is a tool, not a toy.” We are trying to teach our toddlers the differences in how to treat different things. Toys are things that you can play with (for the most part) however and whenever you want. Tools, on the other hand, are things that you have to learn and respect the rules of if you want the privilege of using them.

Tools, when used properly, enhance our lives in hundreds of little ways throughout the day. However, when we misuse tools, they can oftentimes become dangerous. One tool that can be especially helpful when setting up boundaries is comparison.

Comparison gets a bad rap, especially during the holidays. There is a scene from Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas where Betty Lou Who takes out all of the lights from their house, even from their refrigerator, in an attempt to have the best light display. But to her dismay, Martha May Whovier whips out an even more spectacular light display leading Betty to be disappointed that once again she will be outdone out by Martha May. This is what comparison feels like too often during the holidays. Whose tree has the best decorations? Which family has the cutest matching pajamas or best Christmas card? How much money is your friend, brother, neighbor, etc spending on Christmas? Will your kid be the only one not getting a certain toy for Christmas? Have you done enough holiday themed activities? Have you created enough magic?  

This kind of comparison, the image-focused, materialistic, competitive kind of comparison, can be truly detrimental. It can lead to feelings of failure and symptoms of anxiety and depression. But this kind of comparison is just one way that the tool of comparison can be used. When used well, comparison has the potential to lead us towards renewed growth and can help us explore new perspectives.

Compare Yourself to Your Past Self

You are not the same person that you were last year. You have grown and changed. Recognize your growth and celebrate it. Had a bad year? Take time to look back on how resilient you have been. You have survived. You have endured. Change takes a lot of time, patience, and compassion for the person you were at the beginning of the process. Sometimes change can feel like trying to watch your hair grow. You may find that you have grown more than you thought when you take the time to compare yourself with who you were last year (or last week, or 10 years ago, etc. etc.). Your boundaries may still not be where you want them to be, or you may feel terrible at enforcing them, but allow yourself to take a step back and put your progress into perspective.

Compare Yourself to People Whose Values You Admire

It is always good to have people in your life who you admire or who inspire you. Find people whose values are the same as yours, but who have more or different kinds of life experiences than you. This doesn’t just apply to parenting, but to marriage, careers, ministry, and art as well. Comparing yourself to people who have the same values as you can be incredibly helpful for problem-solving, especially with your boundaries. This kind of comparison allows you to discover how others handled the same or similar problems and you can benefit from the experience and wisdom that they have gained in their own attempts to establish and keep good boundaries.

Compare Yourself to People Who Are Nothing Like You

There is a term in sociology called ethnocentrism. It is the belief that your own culture is better than any other culture. Almost every culture has traces of ethnocentrism and it serves a very important purpose of creating social solidarity, pride, traditions, and a feeling of belonging. When creating and managing your boundaries, it is important to remember that you are likely looking at your life with some traces of ethnocentrism. In other words, you may think that you have figured out the best way to mother, raise a family, balance work and family time, etc. If you want to continue to grow, find people who live life differently than you do and try to find out why. Be curious and open-minded and discover the things that they do that they think are best. By exposing yourself to different ideas and developing compassion and understanding for others who choose to live differently than you, you will be able to more objectively evaluate your own boundary choices and continue towards more holistic growth.

We all wish you a Merry Christmas,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boundaries, counseling, emotion regulation, home, motherhood, parenting, trauma, Uncategorized, values

Boundaries Have No Age Requirement

Our children deserve to have a voice in some boundaries. This does not include no vegetables or whether they are able to handle many hours of screen time. However, they are individuals with thoughts and feelings. It is important to consider the boundaries they need to establish for themselves. Here are a few.

WHO THEY TOUCH AND HOW THEY TOUCH

It can be complicated to allow children power over these boundaries, especially in the south. Everyone hugs and the older generation expects kisses. To allow a child to forgo this tradition may cause some raised eyebrows. It can be seen as rude or impolite to refuse to give their Great Aunt, that they have met once, a long hug. Consider our expectations of our children. We expect them to have control over their fidgeting, rolling of the eyes and tone of their voice, but often do not allow them to have control over situations their bodies are placed in. 

This does not need to be a prolonged conversation or one that leaves them vulnerable to criticism. As their parents, we can set the expectation that they will have a say. Our family gives the suggestion of a “hug or a high-five” with every person in our children’s lives. Therefore, they know they have a choice and are able to respond to our instructions to give one or the other. The other person hears our promoting and knows we do not insist our children give hugs, no matter the relation. 

HOW LONG THEY ENGAGE IN AN ACTIVITY

Our children tell us more with their behavior, than with their mouths. No matter the age, we can tell when they are reaching their “meltdown danger zone”. The words get whinier and the legs are more susceptible to collapsing out from under them in dramatic retaliation. These signs tell us our children are done. Without words, they are asking to be given less stimulating time to collect themselves.

  They let us know when it is time to leave the playdate, time to go home from the party, time to exit Chick-fil-a in a football hold flight to the car. It can be inconvenient at times, but parenting is about sacrifice. Their little brains and bodies can stay engaged or active only so long until they need a break or change of scenery. 

HOW THEY FEEL

It can be very tempting to try and control the emotions expressed by our children. We do not think it is valid to be angry that we would not allow them to lay on the floor next to the toilet. We do not think it is valid that they are devastated that we will not allow them to eat the dog’s food. We may not think is is valid that our teen thinks their life is ending because they cannot see their boyfriend/ girlfriend for one day. Children do not always make sense. Teens do not always make sense.

  But feelings are never wrong. Let me restate that: feelings are never wrong. They can be expressed in disobedient, disrespectful or harmful ways. However, they are not wrong. They may have an intensity that we do not believe matches the situation, but they are not wrong. People are allowed to feel how they feel and have someone see, hear and acknowledge their feelings. When we do this, we are teaching them that they have value and they are allowed to feel, how they feel.

Boundaries are tricky. When we allow people to adhere to their own boundaries, we reinforce our belief in their validity as individuals. Kids do not always want what is best for themselves or know what some boundaries need to be, that is where parenting comes in. Our children know themselves and have their own experiences. The parents responsibility is to teach them how to mature into healthy, engaged members of society. This requires us to treat them as such in an age appropriate manner. Children are allowed to have boundaries. It is important that adults listen to children and respect their boundaries.

Learning together,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boundaries, counseling, emotion regulation, home, motherhood, parenting

Protecting Your Mental Energy

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We have been writing about boundaries this holiday season with our time, activities, and people. The closer to Christmas is gets, it is becoming obvious we need to set boundaries on how much we are thinking about the season to dos and holiday itself. Outside of the Christmas season our thoughts may jump from chores to work to raising kids to marriage to calling that friend to figuring out dinner. During this season interject thinking about buying, wrapping, Christmas cards, gingerbread houses, holiday treats, Polar Express train, seeing Santa, school program, and the list goes on and on. No wonder parents are tired!

By the end of this season, I do not want my children thinking I have acted like the Grinch due to the holiday to do list they know nothing about. I want them to remember a joyful and peaceful mother exuding those qualities we talk about this time of year.  I hope they learn more about the true meaning of this season than feeling rushed around doing all of the holiday stuff. So let’s take a few practical steps to protecting our mental energy this season so we can be the parents we want to be.

Write It Down

We cannot control the popcorn thoughts that come into our mind during the day. We can keep a list going of what we would like to do so we do not forget. When something comes to mind like, “ Oh yeah, I need to get a gift for my child’s teacher,” jot it down and shelf it for later. When you have a minute to yourself (which can be few and far between) spend some time planning and wrapping your brain around it.

One Thing at a Time

We are tempted to multitask when we have many things going on at one time. It usually does not make things go faster. Let yourself focus on one task at a time, work on being present with that task rather than letting your mind race over everything you need or want to do. You will enjoy it more if you are in it. Reframe the word “task” and change it to “experience.” Experience the advent calendar or cookie decorating rather than getting through it.

Make it Pleasant

Whatever the task, experience, or event, how can you make it more meaningful or fun? Light candles, listen to music, put a movie on or call a friend to chat while you wrap, address cards, or cook. Which member(s) of your family can you involve to make a memory instead of just completing a task. Practicing gratitude during this season is always a good idea and proven mood booster. Remember to look at Christmas time through the eyes of your children, they notice the things we take for granted.

Experience this season rather than trying to escape it. Write down your to dos and look at your list when you are ready. Take one thing at a time and do your best to enjoy it.

Christmas Blessings,

Andrea

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.