What is the biggest surprise you ever experienced?  Was the surprise good or bad?  How did you react? The bad ones are often labeled as shocks.   I had a blast planning a surprise birthday party for my dad’s 50th birthday and then again 21 years later for my sister’s 50th birthday.  She should have known, since we planned my dad’s party together.  My husband, children, and grandchildren totally surprised me with a retirement party when my thirty years of homeschooling was complete as our youngest son graduated from high school.  It was incredibly wonderful.


The grandkids swarm me as I enter my  surprise retirement party

Some people love all kinds of surprises. I enjoy being on the planning end of a surprise.  Some people do not handle surprises well.  They much prefer to know, in advance, if possible, what and when things will occur.  Routine is comforting to them.  The unknown is not.  They ask plenty of questions.   Flexible is not their middle name.  They need security.

Children are people too. Some enjoy routine.  They love Taco Tuesdays, not because they really love to eat tacos every week, but because they like to know what to expect.  Those children are comforted by a printed menu posted in an easily accessible location.  Others enjoy not knowing until they sit down.   I think the indecisive people prefer things just happen without their involvement.

my 5

All my homeschool graduates (our 5 children)

If you have more than one child, then probably one will love routine and one will love variety.   They will continually challenge you, especially ones who are not the same as you.  Do your best to accommodate both and at the same time also challenge them.  Life has lots of routine and variety.  Help the routine child to be accepting of last minute changes.   Changes are okay and only a small interruption which will be manageable.   Help the variety lover to embrace some mundane.  Perhaps tackling the mundane in small doses during their personal best part of the day, is a workable strategy.

Routine or variety can lead to crisis. A school age child is able to creatively brainstorm ways to cope and manage both.  Doing this will develop a valuable life skill for them.   No doubt, whichever style of person they are, their future mate will be the opposite.


school memories compiled by my kids





How do you behave when you are frustrated?  Do you swear at the computer? Do you hang up on the accounts representative because she can’t assist you in the way you want her to? (shameful confession – yes, I did that today.)   Do you scream and yell and stomp around like a preschooler?  Do you justify your bad behavior because you are stressed or overwhelmed?

Parents, your toddler, preschooler, child, adolescent or older teen is watching you.  They are taking notes about your behavior all the time.  How you handle your stress and your frustration is being recorded in their mind.  No matter what you a have told them is acceptable, your actions are the teachers they remember.

T with paint

My grandson,  “cookin” with paint.

Sometimes when I can’t get the check book to balance or make my printer scan wirelessly to my computer, I have to just walk away.  Walking away probably preserves my sanity as well as the printer/copier machine.  Walking away allows me to cool down and take a break from the frustration.   Later, perhaps even the next day, I can approach the problem again with fresh eyes and much less frustration.   Generally, when I do this the problem is quickly and easily resolved.

You know your toddler was not being malicious when he emptied the Vaseline and baby powder all over the bathroom.  He was simply experimenting and it was a fascinating redecorating of the walls, carpet, vanity and towels.  They are always so proud of their masterpieces that they often cover themselves as well.  Toddlers are experts at providing parents with opportunities to demonstrate stress and anger management.

Please teach and model healthy and productive methods of stress management to your children.  Here are a few more ideas:

Go ahead and cry.  Tears are a wonderful stress reliever.  It is okay to cry in your child’s presence.

Take deep breaths.     Go outside and get some fresh air.

Participate in physical activity or exercise.

Take an Excedrin or the pain reliever of your choice, taken as directed.

Discuss with your child or spouse how to tackle the problem.   They have great ideas.

If possible, take a nap.   Everyone benefits from at least a quiet time alone.

Give yourself some time.  Does the problem have to be resolved immediately?

Play some favorite music.  Music is an emotional language that speaks to our spirits.

Examine your own attitude.

Find something humorous and laugh.

Take a picture of the disaster and post it on fb for sympathy or in their baby book.

Hold your child and read a book together.  They will soon be too big to fit in your lap. Everyone needs a hug.

D and D

My daughter and I  in the late 1980’s (which explains the the huge glasses and crazy bangs)

Results and Guarantees

I am always amazed when good people who are good parents turn out terrible kids and more amazed when scumbags produce good kids.  I conclude that both nurture and nature have important roles in the development of children.  Parenting is hard work.  Generally, when parents are intentional in their parenting they will eventually see the rewards of their labors.  Heartbreakingly, there are exceptions.

No one has to remain a victim of poor parenting.  Every day each of us can choose to cast off the bad and embrace the good from our own upbringing.  Someday your children will do the same.


If you have been a poor parent, you can change.  Make one small change at a time and work to master a new trait or habit.  Then address another behavior.  Maybe you need to do some apologizing and perhaps you need an accountability partner.

Being a great parent is not a guarantee that you will be 100% pleased with your offspring.  But don’t let that be an excuse to be a lazy parent either.    The outcome is not entirely your obligation or blame.

Be the best parent you can. In about 20 years of practice you will have made some amazing discoveries and learned so much.   Just when your primary parenting years come to a close, you will be ready to be an awesome grandparent.

King Solomon made this general observation and wrote it down for us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”


At age six or seven I proudly and boldly informed my mom that I knew all about sex.  She was rather horrified, but I didn’t notice.  I was concentrating on correctly reciting what I had heard.  I continued with, “There is the boy sex, and the girl sex, and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . the insects.”  I don’t think she laughed as I expected her to do.  Instead there was a huge sigh of relief.   Actually I didn’t understand the joke myself. That event occurred many decades ago and she still tells the story.

Kids sometimes say shocking things.  It may simply be  to find out how you will react.   I once had a youth tell me on the first day we met, his two heroes were well known mass murderers.  One was fictional.  I believe my only reply was a calm, “oh.”  He never brought it up again.  Today he is a hard-working, husband and dad.

mouthsI have often told students in youth ministry that they could probably say anything to their parents, if they said it in a respectful way.   That may not be true in an abusive or dysfunctional home, but should be true in most homes.

We want our children to be comfortable sharing ideas, thoughts, problems, struggles, dreams, hopes, conflicts, worries, or fears.  Therefore we must be good listeners and value the things they say to us. Keep ridicule and sarcasm locked in the closet. Be encouraging.  If you respond negatively toward their ideas           and thoughts, they may think you feel negatively about them.

If you can nurture positive communication while they are in the grade school years, the teen years will be smoother.   Teach them what a respectful tone sounds and looks like. It needs to be calm and not loud.  It needs to be filled with “I” statements and not accusations.

Teach them diplomacy, tact and timing.  Bringing up a conflict or presenting an out-of-the-box idea will be received better at some times than at others.   When there is a disagreement ask them to offer alternatives.  Perhaps consider a trial period to try an alternative solution.

Privacy is another area where children must be taught.  I recall my parents repeatedly telling us before a vacation that we did not, and should not, talk about our trip.  We were told that friends did not need to know where we were going or that we would be out of town.   When our neighbor’s house was robbed and vandalized while they were on vacation, the lesson was secured in my mind.  Help your children learn which topics are appropriate in which situations.  Of course, most of the time this learning process is awkward and maybe even embarrassing, but everyone will survive.

When people are hungry, angry or tired (H,A,T,) is not the best time to decide or resolve issues.  That is a good time to say, “I can’t discuss this now, can we do it later?”   Then be sure to choose another time and do it.  When screaming and yelling begins, most real communication ends.

When my children were little, I often told them I could not hear them when they were whining or begging.   Never accept demands, lies, foul language, or insults from your children.  These are counterproductive to meaningful conversation.   Yes, there are many appropriate times for parents to give orders and expect obedience.   Requests accompanied by please and thank you are suitable at other times.

Communication skills are priceless skills which will be a benefit to your family and to your children in school, in the work place, and in their future relationships.   Model them and teach them.

talkin in CZ

She was learning English and I knew almost no Czech, yet we had great discussions about religion and politics