Author Archive : Kendra Fleming

Have Patience

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

When I was a kid my mom taught us a song about a snail named Herbert who needed to learn to have patience. Being the awesome big sister that I was, I often sang it to my brother whenever he was getting impatient. Of course, this always helped to bring him patience—not! Soon, this silly song became our way of irritating each other whenever we recognized that we were about to lose our patience.

Several years later, as I was raising four little kids and feeling a little stressed, I would find myself singing that song. As I watched my little girls growing impatient with each other or with that shoe they just couldn’t tie, I would sing them the song about the impatient snail.

When I was a kid, I thought my mom was teaching us that song to help us learn patience. But now that I’m older, I realize she was singing that song to remind herself to have patience.

I have to admit that I’ve lost my patience more than once. I can clearly remember a day at the park. I was there with several mom friends—using my “nice mom” voice. During that time, one of my girls pitched a fit when she couldn’t have the swing, one of them threw their lunch on the ground, one had to go to the potty every five seconds, and then they had a melt down as I tried to drag them across the parking lot to the car when it was time to go.

I falsely kept a smile on face the whole time. Buckled them in while taking deep cleansing breaths as they screeched. And the second I got in the van and shut the door I hollered: “I’ve had enough! I don’t want to hear another peep until we get home.” I yelled so loudly that I shocked them. Total silence for about five seconds. Then they all started to cry. Yep. I’d been pushed to the limit. I’d lost my patience.

I’ve been taught that love is patient. And I love my kids more than life. So, why is it so hard to be patient? Here’s why. I’m not perfect. I’m human. I’ve got a long way to go. I want to be patient . . . but sometimes I’m not. I don’t want to be pushy and snippy and impatient . . . but sometimes I am.

Here are a few things that help me when I’m struggling for patience:

1. I watch my tone. When I’m impatient my tone is short, bossy and snippy. When I choose a kinder tone I seem to be able to communicate with patience.

2. I step away. I know this is not always possible. But I’ve been known to lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes or go for a walk until I find my happy place.

3. I listen to music. Happy music. I have a playlist of happy songs and when I feel my impatience boiling  up I turn up the tunes. Music has the ability to change my mood.

4. I look into their faces. When I look into the eyes of those kids that I love, it communicates something to my heart. It reminds me that I’m shaping who they will become. It smoothes out my patience.

5. I remember that others are patient with me. There’s a part in the Herbert the snail song that says, “Remember that God is patient too, and think of all the times when others have to wait for you.” Many have been and continue to be PATIENT with me. I’ve been on the receiving end and I know how good it feels.

What about you? Do you ever lose your patience with those little people you are trying to raise? What do you do when you are trying to gain patience with your kids?

Getting it Right

Friday, February 24th, 2012

I’ve been watching my daughter do all kinds of crazy things to get my little granddaughter to eat her vegetables. We are currently blending them into a green yogurt smoothie. As my daughter works to get Baby E to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, I listen to everyone give her all kinds of advice. There is a lot of wisdom in the advice. I love when more experienced women share their knowledge. Many times my advice is heaped right on top.

But every time Baby E locks her mouth shut and shakes her head no, I see my daughter’s shoulders slump a little bit. I know she must be wondering: How did all of these other women succeed in getting their kids to eat veggies? (P.S. We didn’t.) Am I doing something wrong? She’s tried all of the advice. I know that she loves Baby E and wants to get it right.

If you’re like me, you desire to help these young parents. You want them to learn from all of your mistakes and successes.

Here are a few tips to help them as they work to get it right:

1.  Support their efforts. There is very rarely one right way to parent a child. I’ve heard a million pieces of advice on everything from potty training to getting them to sleep through the night. But sometimes in all the advice-giving, we overwhelm young parents and undermine their confidence. Instead of trying to change their way of doing things, support them. Do it their way. Remember how much you learned by trying? They need to learn that way too. Who knows, we might learn something new.

2.  Encourage their hearts. Instead of telling them the right way to do everything, tell them about the mistakes you’ve made. You know, that time you thought your child was faking and they really had a broken arm? Remember how everything turned out okay? Speak to their emotions. Let them know that in spite of your fears, weaknesses, and mistakes, your kids thrived. Tell them what a great job they are doing. Let them know you are proud of them. Remind them that their child will survive their mistakes. Lift them up when they are discouraged.

3.  Give them advice. When they ask and when they don’t, refer to #1.

4.  Help them. Babysit, do the dishes, buy them a much needed stroller, let them take a nap, or cook them dinner. Roll up your sleeves and help. Raising children is hard work. If you want to have influence and a place in their everyday lives, then help them. These young moms have nothing to prove. Don’t make them do it by themselves. Help to carry their load so they have the energy to do the demanding job of parenting.

In those moments when you’re supporting, encouraging, and helping you just might find that you are sharing far greater wisdom than you can imagine. And you will have the pleasure of knowing you helped a young parent become a GREAT parent.

A Lesson in Endurance

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Monday’s article reminded me of my first plane trip with my oldest daughter. She was nine months old and I was a blissfully naive new mommy. We were flying from Virginia to Montana to see my family.

I was so excited to get there that I booked the earliest flight they had (mistake number one). This meant that I had the baby up, fed, bathed, in her cutest outfit, with a bow in her hair by 5:30 a.m. I was enthusiastic and not in the least deterred by the early hour.

It was a little embarrassing when she had a complete blow out on the flight from Virginia to Cincinnati where we had a short layover. But not even the sound of the passengers gagging was going to deflate my enthusiasm. Being the great new mom that I was, I pulled out her one extra outfit (mistake number two) that I had packed and she was once again smelling good and looking darling.

As we were landing, I noticed my sweet baby was looking kind of green. About five seconds before the wheels hit the ground, she threw up all over me. I hadn’t packed any clean clothes for myself (mistake number three) and didn’t have anything else for her to wear. The smell was awful. People were gagging for real this time. I still had a short layover and a six-hour flight to go.

I am no longer smiling. We ran through the airport and tried to find clothes quickly before we had to get on another plane. I purchased a Cincinnati Reds T-shirt that was too big and put it on my beautiful baby. She looked pitiful.

She ended up with a stomach bug and cried or threw up the rest of the way. Our flights were delayed, my baby was sick, and I was exhausted. At this point I was close to tears.

I had envisioned walking off of the plane with my beautifully dressed baby and showing her off to family and friends. Instead we landed after midnight, and I walked off the plane, handed the baby to my mom, went to their house and crashed.

What I learned from this experience and many other parenting experiences just like it has taught me one valuable lesson.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is endure.

Now, that might seem passive and wimpy, but there have been many times in my life when the strongest thing I can do is endure.

By endure I mean take a deep breath, pull from an inner strength, and calmly respond to my child and everyone else around me. By endure I mean slowly and steadily do the next right thing. By endure I mean quit worrying about what everyone else is thinking and just do what I can to care for those I love the most.

When I say endure I mean remember that I’m not alone. In the hardest times, God is with me. He’s with you. He’ll give you the strength that you need. He holds us in His hand.

Do not fear, for I am with you; . . . I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my right hand, (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).

As a parent, you are so much stronger than you know. And there will be times when you will need that great inner strength to get your whole family through a tough time. Little adventures like plane trips are just opportunities for you to exercise your much needed muscle of endurance.

When you’re tired, sad, sick, brokenhearted, embarrassed and ready to give up, blow up, or walk away, just take a deep breath and endure.

You’re not alone and your faithfulness to do the next right thing is building the strength that you need for tomorrow.

Pitching A Fit

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Confession: Sometimes I watch the show Hoarders. It totally freaks me out and yet I watch. I don’t know if it inspires me to clean my house or I just like freaking out over a house filled with cats. Anyway, the other day I was watching it and a 40–year-old woman threw a total, out of control tantrum, complete with yelling and screaming and stomping of feet.

Now here’s the thing. I’m around two-year-olds a lot. And when a two-year-old throws a tantrum it’s not pleasant, but I will admit sometimes it looks so silly that I smile a little bit. Especially since it’s not my child. When you’re two, it’s expected that there will be an occasional melt down. No real harm done.

But when a 40-year-old woman pitches a great big ‘ol fit. It ain’t cute. Somewhere along the line she didn’t learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. She didn’t learn to communicate effectively when she was upset. She didn’t learn self-control.

When you’re two and you pitch a fit, you can’t cause too much damage. When you’re two and you throw yourself on the floor you don’t have too far to fall. When you’re so mad at your mommy that you want to call her names, the worst you can do is “stinky face.”

But when you’re 40 and you throw yourself on the floor, or you throw anything for that matter, someone is going to get hurt. And your words, when unleashed in anger can cause damage to those around you that can never be undone.

Self-control really matters. And the best place to begin strengthening that muscle is when you are a kid. It’s so much harder when you’re 40—and so much more ugly.

When your child is two, you can expect a lack of self-control. It’s who they are. They are immature. While understanding that it’s appropriate for their age you’ve got to start guiding them toward self-control. One of the best things you can do with a young child is to make sure that they DO NOT get what they want when throwing a fit. If they want attention, ignore them. If they want a candy bar at the grocery store and melt into a screaming puddle, leave the store.

Don’t let their lack of self-control benefit them in any way. Easier said than done when your little darling turns into a fire-breathing monster, right?

As your kids get older, begin teaching them how to push that pause button, take a deep breath and make a better decision. So, when you see it building in them, and you see them about to blow a gasket, call a time out. Teach them how to recognize how they’re feeling, take a deep breath, gather themselves and choose their actions instead of letting their actions take over and choose for them.

By the time your kids are heading to their teen years your hope is that they are practicing a lot more self-control. Your goal is that they are able to think through the consequences of their lack of control and make better choices. They’re still learning. Mistakes will be made. But you should see a lot of progress from when they were two!

Teaching your kids to have self-control starts when they are young. It’s an important job. And even though you and I both still struggle with aspects of self-control, I hope I don’t ever see you or any of your kids pitchin’ a fit on an episode of Hoarders!

Traditions Create Memories

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to bake a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve and decorate it with the kids. I usually try to make a multi-layer round cake, and when the kids were young I would dye the layers red and green. The taller the better! The kids would decorate it with all kinds of Christmas candy and it was usually a delicious and glorious mess.

The kids have gotten older and now we make fancier, more grown up cakes. They are not as messy, still delicious, but somehow a little less glorious. There is just something about little fingerprints in the frosting that makes it better.

This cake is usually the centerpiece of our family Christmas desserts. It’s a great reminder that the whole reason we are together is to celebrate HIS birthday.

Another tradition we have is to read the Christmas story from the Bible (Luke 2). When the kids were little we would use their preschool Bibles. Now that my parents live close by, it’s usually my dad who reads it. Last year, we added candles. Again, it causes us to stop and remember the day our Savior was born—together.

We have favorite ornaments that we put on the tree every year. And I love to get the little “preschool” nativity out every year. So many things remind us of the birth of our Savior.

As a young mom I was so busy during the Christmas holidays. With four kids there were unending Christmas programs, classroom parties, teacher gifts to make, and Christmas pictures to be taken. The schedule was overwhelming and there were many years that I wanted to skip over the more “meaningful” aspects of Christmas.

Now that my kids are older and they love the traditions, I’m so glad that I didn’t. Even the things that would normally be corny to my teenagers somehow seem okay when it’s Christmas. Some of the memories are hilarious and some are emotional. But they are things that are unique to our family. These traditions communicate that we belong together. They allow us to focus on the important things in the midst of the chaos.

As the kids get older, they are the things that matter most.

So, don’t let the crazy of the Christmas season smother out the traditions that allow you to celebrate our Savior. Don’t miss this opportunity to create your most treasured memories.

A Generous Heart

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Last week I sat in a training class for our early childhood team. The lady leading the training was fabulous.

She has been a teacher and a training consultant in the public school system for the last 40 years. She is also the mother of three grown children. In the middle of her training she dropped this sentence and boy has it stuck with me. She said,

“Overindulgence obliterates gratitude.”

She went on to say that through the years she noticed a real trend in parents who overindulge their children. Her feeling was that this was usually driven by guilt. Maybe it was due to the guilt of working too much, or guilt due to painful family issues, or a sense that their child didn’t have everything in life that other friends’ children had.

I also just got back from a mission trip to China where I worked with children who had nothing. No home, no toys, no parents. Nothing. Talk about feeling guilty! It’s been really difficult for me to reconcile all of the things that I give my children and yet know that there are children in other places who have so much less.

At the heart of it all, I want my children to learn to live with less so that they can give to others who need their help and I want them to be grateful for the things that they have.  I have to believe that there is a strong tie between the abundance of “stuff” that they get and the tenderness of their heart to the needs of others.

So, here are a few things that I’m trying this year as we head into the Christmas season:

1. Share the true need. Take time to help your kids understand the great needs of many people in our world. Or better yet, be specific. Find a specific need and focus in with your family. Help them understand.

My youngest daughter went on the trip to China with me and together we sat down with our family, shared our pictures, shared our tears, and communicated the true and desperate need.

2. Talk about a way to meet that need. As a family, brainstorm different ways that you could meet that need. What can you DO to meet that need?

We are going to sit together as a family and decide together what we can give to help those sweet babies in China.

3. Give the family ownership. Let your kids help make the decision of what you will do. This could be a wonderful mission for your family to rally together. But your kids have to feel like they are a part. Find a way to invest that is more than parents writing a check.

Our family is going to talk in general terms about our budget and decide what we can give up to make sure we are giving to China. Our kids are old enough to help us make these decisions.

4. Limit gifts. As my kids have gotten older, the gifts are more expensive. I love to give my kids the things that they want, don’t you? But Gary and I are going to be careful not to overindulge their wants.

I want my kids to have a wonderful Christmas, but not at the expense of developing a generous and grateful heart. Stuff breaks, rusts, and gets thrown to the bottom of the closet eventually. I want to nurture in them a desire to invest their lives and their resources into things that will last forever.

Truly Grateful

Friday, November 11th, 2011

When my kids were little and someone would give them a cookie or a toy,  I would always say, “What do you say Jack?” And his sweet little voice would say, “Thank you for the cookie.” Now that they are older, I listen for their “thank yous” and try my best not to prompt them. Something about reminding your 18-year-old to say thank you doesn’t go over very well.

But I want my kids to be more than well-trained and polite.

I want to nurture in them a truly grateful heart.

This is difficult. In our world, my kids have more than they will ever need. The number of gifts they receive for Christmas and birthdays is almost embarrassing. They are never in want and they have never experienced great loss.

How DO you nurture a grateful heart in the lives of children who believe that they SHOULD have everything they need?

Here are a couple of things to consider:

1. Don’t excessively give “stuff” to your kids.

You would think that the more you have, the more grateful you become. Because you have MORE to be grateful for. But somehow the opposite is true. Somehow the more we have, the more we take for granted. Strangely, when we have less, we are so much more grateful for each gift we are given.

2. Express sincere gratitude for the things YOU have been given.

As a parent, you need to go beyond the polite “thank you.” Talk to your kids about the things you are grateful for. Help them see what a difference that gift or that home cooked meal made for you and your family. Express gratitude for your health, your job and your family. Go beyond the stuff and express your personal gratitude for the bigger aspects of your life.

3. Teach your kids to take care of what they have.

When you are truly grateful for something, you tend to value and take care of it. Taking care of the things that you’ve been given communicates that you understand the value of the gift. It matters to you. You are grateful.

4. Instill in your kids the understanding that everything belongs to God.

This is the thought that we don’t own anything. It’s all a gift. Every breath? A gift. Our children? A gift. A warm home? A gift. Clean water? A gift.We don’t deserve these things. We certainly aren’t in control of these things. God has given them to us. They are a gift. Everything we have belongs to God. It is all in His control. It’s all a gift.

When your children are young, you are in the training phase. You are teaching them the “thank yous.” But when you go beyond “thank you” to really helping their heart understand that they don’t deserve what they have, you have the opportunity to raise children who understand that everything is a gift. And a day will come when they realize the true value of those gifts.

On that day? You will have a child whose heart is truly grateful.

What are some other practical ways to teach your children to be truly grateful?

The Ultimate Creator

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

When children are born, we marvel over every little toe on their foot. Everything about them is amazing to us. And when we get that first smile—oh man, I remember that moment so clearly.

And then they grow! And they are taller than we thought they would be. Or their hair is red and curly. Or they can throw a ball like no other one-year-old you’ve ever seen. Or maybe they are shy and quiet and taking it all in.

From the moment a child is conceived, we see God’s incredible creative nature on display. Each and every person is unique.

Have you ever seen the Redwood Forest in California? Or a beautiful sunrise over the ocean? Or how about a three-toed sloth? What was God thinking? Why did he make such uniqueness all around? He is so obviously the Creator.

So, here’s my question. If God created us to be marvelously unique, how much time do you spend trying to press your child into an acceptable mold? You know, maybe you want them to be a businessman like their granddaddy. Or maybe you think your little girl should be super organized just like their mama. Do you wish they were a certain size and shape? Do you think your son should play football, or your daughter play the piano?

There is nothing wrong with them picking up the traits of their parents or the people around them. Believe me, they are soaking up everything that you are.

But what if we stepped back for a moment and viewed our child as this unique and amazing creation? What if we reveled in the creativity that God has shown in the creation of our child, just like we would in the amazing creativity of the beautiful Island Butterfly in the picture above?

Aren’t they amazing? God did something truly and purely creative when He made that little person that you love so much.

Raising Beautiful Girls

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I have three girls. When they were little I was all about the hair bows, the ruffled socks, and the cute shoes. I loved getting them ready for the day. They were so cute!

It was so easy back then.  I thought they were beautiful. Their daddy thought they were beautiful. In their little world, who else mattered?

Ah, but little girls grow up. They become sixth graders. Have you ever met a sixth grade little girl? They are just beautiful. They are gangly and unique. They are natural and fresh. They are awkward and wearing braces. They are stuck between a little girl and all grown up.

Like I said, they’re beautiful.

I remember like it was yesterday when my daughter, who is now 18, was in sixth grade. She used to get ready for school in my bathroom every morning.

One morning she was fixing her hair. She first put it up in a ponytail, then huffed in disgust, and took down. Then she curled it. Then she straightened it. Then she pulled it back. She was getting more and more frustrated with her hair. I offered to help.

She said, “Mom, I hate my hair.” I couldn’t believe my ears. This was my kid who was born with a full head of beautiful dark hair. Total strangers would stop me to tell me how beautiful her hair was. She undeniably had the most beautiful hair in our family, and yet when she looked in the mirror, she hated her hair.

Clearly she was not seeing what I saw.

Our girls need us to reflect back to them the truth about who they are. There is so much more to them than what they look like. They were created to be so much more than a pretty face. But this world works against them. It reflects something totally different back to them.

In the eyes of the world, our girls don’t measure up. They aren’t thin enough, tall enough, or beautiful enough.

Very few women make it through those early years completely unscathed. But if our girls are to grow up and thrive with confidence in spite of the standards of this world, they need our help.

Here are a few ideas:

Recognize and praise their non-appearance strengths.
Are they a fast runner, a great friend, a creative writer, or an excellent dancer? Celebrate the qualities that make them unique.

Encourage and teach them how to take care of themselves.
Teach them that they need to get enough rest, exercise, eat right, shower, take care of their skin, and brush their teeth. When these things are lacking, it takes a toll on their confidence.

Don’t allow yourself to obsess, publically talk about, or criticize the physical flaws of your girls.
As moms we can be the worst. Imagine a mom talking to Aunt Betty….“Have you seen Sarah’s front tooth? It sticks way out in the front and it’s huge!” We look at it like it’s a medical or dental issue to be taken care of. Braces are a good thing! We have to remember that our words are a reflection back to our daughters of how we view them.

Celebrate uniqueness.
Point out the unique qualities that you see in them that make them special. We all know that young girl who looks ordinary to the average observer, but when she smiles, the whole room lights up. Point out and celebrate the differences more than you celebrate the sameness.

Teach your daughter from the beginning that God made them.
What if your daughter grew up believing that the God of the universe who created her uniquely knew her by name, had a plan for her life, and loved her? How would this change the way that she viewed herself and her purpose in this world?

Some of our girls will struggle with this more than others. It’s our job as parents to keep reflecting back to them a healthy and true sense of who they are and who God created them to be.

Just Being Honest

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Sometimes I struggle with telling my kids the truth about themselves. Not so much the good…but the bad and the ugly. I know it’s my job to help them grow.

I want to be their cheerleader.

I want to believe they can do anything.

I want them to go for their dreams.

But then I watch the American Idol tryouts and I think to myself, “that child’s mama should be shot!” She knew his voice caused cats to fight in the back ally. Why didn’t she tell him?

She didn’t have the heart.

She couldn’t find a way to redirect his passion.

She didn’t want to crush his dreams.

So how do you balance a belief that your child can do anything with the reality that he will never pitch in the major leagues?

When should you fuel his dreams?

Nobody wants to be a dream crusher. Especially when it comes to their kids.

Here’s what I try to do:

1.  Mostly encourage.

I want to make sure that for most of their lives I’ve communicated in a way that encourages my kids to try new things and to pursue their dreams. Negative feedback is a withdrawal. It can hurt. I want them to be so filled up with encouragement that they can listen to and grow from the negatives that will come their way.

2. Tell the truth.

This is the tough one. But if you can learn to tell your kids the truth in a way that doesn’t wound them, they will learn to trust your advice.

NOT: Your singing makes my ears bleed.

MAYBE: Not everyone can be a great singer, but I love to watch you on the ball field.

3. Always believe in THEM.

Even if I don’t think that my children will be Olympic swimmers, I do believe that there are valuable lessons to be learned in the training process. I believe in them. I am for their growth. I want them to glean everything they can from a given opportunity.

4. Leave room for possibilities.

I don’t know what the future holds for my kids. I believe that God has a plan for their lives. I believe that my kids will accomplish things in their life that are far beyond what I currently imagine. I want them to grow up OPEN to the possibilities that God has for them.

Giving your kids honest critical feedback is tough. But I think to myself…if not your mama…then who?

I would love your advice.

What do you do when you need to give difficult feedback to your kids?