A Habit of Gratitude

It is impossible to overstate the importance of developing good habits. In children, good habits develop their character. 
Parents of young kids work on teaching the habits of hygiene and good manners.
But perhaps the most important habit we can teach our children is the habit of gratitude. Gratitude enlarges the brain and develops empathy for others. Gratitude reflects a heart of understanding towards others. Gratitude enlarges the number of friends one has—because grateful people are happy people. In his book The Happiness Advantage Shawn Achor recommends that folks keep a gratitude journal. Achor is one of more than a dozen authors who recommend this practice for keeping us on track with a grateful heart. Today book stores and office supply stores stock a variety of cute gratitude journals—but what other ways can we model gratitude for our kids and others in our lives?
When my children were small one ‘game’ we played was a “go-around” in the car while everyone yelled one thing they were grateful for that day. We started the list with ‘A’ and tried to keep it going till we got to ‘Z’ and someone had to be grateful for the ever- present zebra.
Did this one habit change the lives of my adult children? Well, it helped! I can safely affirm that claim. While some sour-faced toddlers grew into temperamental preteens and moody adolescents, my clan— for the most part— learned to handle emotions with a more steady and calm assurance that
situations change and generally, with work, circumstances improve. 
When we first moved to Houston, Ted was pursuing a doctorate.  Times were tight. Our daughter was going to public school which meant LUNCH MONEY!!! Naturally, before sending our first grader off to school we often had to play “find the change in the couch cushions.” Not only was this a great way to avoid negative thinking during that time but it taught her that there could be FUN in the hard times! A side benefit: now that she is a mom of six children, she has mastered that game with her own kiddos years later!
Did we accomplish this grateful thinking 100% of the time— no. I lean toward the pessimistic side of the street while Ted resides permanently on the sunny side of life.
Reaping the benefits of gratitude today, I see my happy grandchildren often writing “thank you” notes in whatever imaginary handwriting they employ for the day.  They have been thankful for snails, frisbees, friends, and chocolate chips.  A recent conversation went like this…
Me, “ Thank you for the sweet note. Can you read it to me?”
Darling grandchild, “This says thank you for the cookie.”
Me, “What cookie?”
“The one you are going to give me, Silly.”
Gratitude has its pay off! 

Why Do I Have to Practice Parenting?

We practice law. We practice medicine. Who practices parenting?

We practice law. We practice medicine. Shouldn’t we practice parenting?

FamilyEaster2017Practice parenting. That is what you are going to go with?”

My poor husband was baffled. After 15 months of talking about reopening my blog to discuss the phenomenon of being the parent to ALL adult children he was sure I would have a better title that PRACTICE!!

“Why do you have to practice this? You have been a mom for almost 40 years. Aren’t you a pro already?”

As a matter of fact, I am a pro. Dictionary.com defines  a professional is someone who is engaged in a profession. (Don’t you love when the definition tells you nothing?) But the word profession is defined as an occupation, especially one that requires PROLONGED training! (Emphasis all mine!).

I have been a parent over three decades and I have been ‘in training’ every day.

Check that one! I am a pro!

But the word practice is used to mean the carrying out or exercise of a profession. Of course you have most often heard this in the use of a law practice of the practice of medicine. Obviously we would all love to read a physician’s post after 35 years of treating the common cold on how to avoid the germs and make the illness pass more quickly, right? If an attorney who have been practicing a quarter of a century posts on how to draw up the unbreakable contract you would read that, right? Sure! 

So here I am: professional parent (because of the INTENSE and EXTENSIVE  training) and I am putting out my shingle to say: Welcome to my practice! 

Lots of us think we are still in the business of practicing— like Little League baseball: show up every day from 3-5 and take a swing and a miss until you get it right. Hence, my tagline: everything worth doing is worth practicing. That should let the readier know: I am still swinging and missing at being a parent to adults…but I am willing for you to grab a seat and watch me swing.

What I REALLY want from the readership is a lot of armchair coaches who can comment on how to better swing at how to celebrate your grown kids when they do something GREAT, like have a birthday! I hope to get coaching advice on posts about when to give advice to your kids and when to take the advice they are giving you.

My goal is that PRACTICE PARENTING can be both a sounding board for when we royally mess this up and an advice column when we truly want and need help. 





Charge to the Graduates

You will need to envision a world much better than the one you currently inhabit. You will need imagination to invent tools for problems we are yet to discover in venture we have yet explore.  

Recently I gave a graduation address that reminded me that as parents of young adults we have to challenge our young adults to GROW UP and follow their calling. Maybe you need a reminder as well. 
Given May 4, 2018 at the PACES PAideia Graduation:
Our youngest son, Teddy, graduated from Liberty University in Business Administration in 2015.


Tonight you are symbolically crossing the threshold into your own life. And while this is only a fantasy to some —  it will be the night that you remember as the night you crossed from a child to an adult. Becoming an adult isn’t a modern concept.
Many millennial‘s would deny the necessity for the rite of passage into adulthood and scores of teens would urge you to become Peter Pan and refuse to grow up.
Some adults will tell you that you can continue to be a child as long as you can dream and imagine. The good news is this is TRUE! Young adulthood for you as a classically trained Christian adult will demand dreaming and imagination.
You will need to envision a world much better than the one you currently inhabit. You will need imagination to invent tools for problems we are yet to discover in ventures we have yet to explore.
You will need imaginations and dreams, but you will also need hope, virtue, and courage.
You must move out into the world with the hope that you are going out with a cause and purpose. That cause is to make your world a better place. How you do that, is as varied as your gifts and abilities.
But that you must do it, is non-negotiable.
You all have a calling on your life. And although the calling may take different mediums, we know that the calling was issued in Matthew 28:19 and 20. These verses  tell us that your  calling is to go.  You already figured that out. You have been looking forward to going since you were 13, if you are like most young adults.
And as you go, you are to make disciples, and you are going out into a world that may not only be antagonistic toward Christianity, but at times violently so. Remember when Jesus Christ gave the first disciples the Great Commission, he did so to followers who were going out into a world power that not only sought to shut off the ideology of Christianity, but to slay its bearers.
There may be days you feel like you were living in that same society. However, your calling to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make disciples does not change.
As you go out with the hope that you will be changing the world for the good through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the gospel of Jesus Christ— you must also go out with virtue.
Obviously, as PACES graduates, you will be able to write epic essays and give brilliant oratory. Not to be overlooked,  you must first win your audience through your virtue. Remember, Quintillian reminds us that an orator is a good man (or woman) speaking well.  Regardless of what you have heard and seen about college students, you are called to be salt and light wherever the uttermost part of the world is for you.
This doesn’t mean that you will have no fun. On the contrary, through your virtue you will have enjoyable life-changing experiences that you will revel in telling your children and grandchildren about with unashamed faces. As many of us can testify, your college years can be the most impactful and dynamic of your Christian life. And these events and relationships can certainly set the stage for virtuous friendships and life-changing decisions to be made. Be ever watchful for those opportunities.
And finally, you must have courage. College campuses can be havens of academic and spiritual growth. They can also be Satan’s tempting ground to try your character. Remember that this is the furnace where your character is forged.
When faced with temptation, remember that this is your testing ground. Face this new environment of temptation the way you have faced all other temptations thus far in your life: remembering that the outcome of your testing is a strong and godly character.
Your support at college is as important as it was in your high school years–and now you are ready for the real lessons your family can teach you.
As I said at the beginning, you are crossing the threshold into adulthood. Although you have received a measure of success in your journey thus far, never hesitate to call on those of us from your past who encouraged you on this journey. A threshold doesn’t have to mean a closed door behind you. You may not feel ready, and honestly we may have some thoughts about that as well, but we all know that you are ready and you will cross the threshold and take the next step knowing that you can look forward with hope, virtue, and courage.
Additionally,  we know that you can look over your shoulder as we cheer you on with loving affection and belief in you. May the Lord continue to bless you as He has in the past with good friends, good parents, good teachers, and a mind given to you by the Creator of all things for his divine purpose to be fulfilled in your life.
 May God bless you tonight and always.

When Our Adult Children Are Angry (part two)

Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, in his blog recently stated the key to overcoming challenges lies in the ability to fight negative forces with love.

Turning Negative Actions into Positive Thoughts
Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, in his blog recently stated the key to overcoming challenges lies in the ability to fight negative forces with love.
Attempting to use love to overcome anger, I have been examining my reactions to my children’s anger and determining how I could have met that negative energy with love.
Here are some things I know:
  • I must love the struggle with my young adults because it makes me appreciate their intelligence when we work through a hard place together.


  • I must love challenges because they make me stronger and cause me to change in ways I would not have done before.


  • I must love the competition of fighting for time with their growing interests, hobbies, and jobs because it makes me better at appreciating their time as well as my own.




  • I must love the negative people that say I will never be close to my adult children because they provide an opportunity to practice positivity in all my relationships to other young adults I know.


  • I must love my adult children when they hurt me because they teach me forgiveness.


  • Most of all, I must love my fear in this new journey with adult children because fear makes me more courageous.


Often, as the parent of young adults, I fail to see the benefit in the hard emotions of parenting because this is a new chapter in my parenting journey.  Since this is foreign, my mind says, “This must be wrong! I have never done it this way before!” New signals growth. New can signal an even better relationship than I previously thought possible.
New might mean more honest and mature.
Anger might be the immediate reaction to growth on the horizon; instead,
meet it with love, and positive thoughts will replace negative actions.

I must seek BETTER through love.




How do you fight negative actions with positive love? Leave a comment below!

Our Children ARE ANGRY with us!

We often tell our young children, “It is more important to be kind than to be right.” 

Can you employ that motto today with your adult children?

I can’t believe you think that!
You don’t trust me!
I am not a child any more you can’t talk to me like that.
Even with all the emphasis we place on communicating well with our adult children—sometimes words will hurt. Feelings will get smashed. Sometimes our children become very angry with us.
As parents, we might try not to overreact to certain words or actions by our adult children.
We might even think we are doing a good job of not overreacting only to hear, “You are so judgmental. You overreact to everything.”
Even though we feel like we are being reasonable and logically presenting our concerns over how they spend their money or the friends they are choosing—they may not appreciate this (or other) unsolicited advice. Often our adult children hear screaming when we feel we are speaking in a controlled tone.
And then there are the times we REALLY ARE SCREAMING!  
Your children will get mad at you. And you can bet it will be at the WORST possible time.
A few days before Rachelle (my first daughter to have a big church wedding!)  got married, she and I fought over something. I can’t remember what the issue was, but I DO remember running up the stairs yelling behind me, “Don’t follow me up! I am going to my room and lock the door.” Rachelle returned the volley with, “You can’t run away from me! I am your daughter!” 
That really happened. I can’t make this stuff up.
Rule #1: Contain the emotion. 
Don’t act like I acted. Be the adult.  Jon Gordon of The Energy Bus defines emotion as energy in motion. If your child’s decisions have made your energy NEGATIVE energy, go for a walk or ride a bike before engaging in the conversation. Don’t put your NEGATIVE energy into motion through emotion.
Rule #2: Focus on the issue … and keep it short.
If you disagree with their choice of job, habits, friends… speak your opinion and make a logical case. Then leave it alone. Avoid long explanations that validate your opinion. If you sell them on the first point you have given them enough to explore your point of view. You will not argue them into agreement.
No one ever changed their mind about something through long posts on Facebook. Your FACE-TO-FACE is no different.
Your adult children are MORE than the issues that divide you…do not let the issues separate you!
Rule #3: Acknowledge the bond between you. 
If emotions run out of control: DON’T RUN THE OTHER WAY.
Unlike me running up the stairs, calmly say something like, “We are not going to agree on this, but we do agree that I am on your side and want the best for you, right?”
Sometimes even this blows emotion back in your face because your offspring thinks you are patronizing. When that happens find some way to make a bridge, even a small one, back to your child.
We often tell our young children, “It is more important to be kind than to be right.”
Can you employ that motto today with your adult children?
What topics cause anger between you and your adult children? How do you show you are on their team even when you disagree. I would love to read your comments below.


Respecting Our Children

We can’t change the past with its irrefutable consequences: but we can frame how we talk about their failings—just as we would want them to do for us.

12309535_10156238931410527_5044600972047148374_o“I have forgiven him for 15 years for this behavior. Now, I am through. We are not inviting him to any more holidays until he dates better women!”


“He settled for this career. He should have been a doctor or at least a dentist. He had so much potential.”


 “She deserted the family when she went to California. Now she is lonely and it is her own fault.”


Remembering good times with our children helps us respect them more.
Often not holding past offenses against our adult children proves difficult. Like their parents, our children make mistakes. All mistakes have consequences. Some mistakes have larger consequences than others.
Our kids deserve respect in good times and difficult!


We can’t change the past with its irrefutable consequences, but we can frame how we talk about their failings—just as we would want them to do for us.  If nothing can be done to undo a bad decision, such as an accident while driving drunk, then we file that knowledge and act accordingly: without harassing the person who made the mistake once s/he acknowledges the error.
How do we move forward?  What can we do to prevent future decisions that cost our kids their potential?
Start with RESPECT. We have to pray for our emotions and feelings. We then let our actions guide our emotions and thoughts. We ACT out of RESPECT. We move toward them with RESPECT.
The phrase “people do what people see” advises us to RESPECT our kids so they can RESPECT themselves and act out of RESPECT for others.
Sometimes we can LEARN to respect our kids!


It begins with us. Do we:
R — Respect our kids and exhibit self-respect. Instead of asking for respect, do we give it and earn it?
E — Exceed the expectations of others. Do I set the the bar higher for myself than anybody else sets it for me?
S — Stand firm on convictions and values?
P — Possess maturity and demonstrate it by responding like an adult?
E — Experience a healthy family life by encouraging others and remaining positive?
C — Contribute to the success of others? Are we their biggest fan?
T — Think ahead of others. Are we pro-active in our relationships? Do we anticipate our response and improve upon it or do we simply react and let the chips fall where they may?
There is no easy way to continually respond with respect toward our adult children. We have to accept that we have done it imperfectly in the past.
As psychologist Carl Rogers remarked,
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Being who I really am is the first step in becoming better than I am.

Communication: Listening

John Maxwell teaches the LADDER of listening. How do you rate yourself when you are speaking with your adult children? 

Last week I stated:
Frequency of communication can vary with every family and every season.
Instead of focusing on HOW OFTEN 
WHAT should I communicate with my adult children?
And just as I was about to press “PUBLISH” 
I got this text:
Am I ever gonna hear your voice again? It has been 40 forevers!

Back to the drawing board.

Rule #1 in dealing with adult children: 
Just as you figure it out
 the rules will change. 
When they were teens asking lots of questions and ‘checking in’ were being nosey and irritating–now they want us to check in and ask questions. 

What is the trick to keeping up with what my adult kids need to communicate with me?

Listening Skills


This appears to be so simple and it is anything but easy. 
It seems that somewhere between high school graduation and reentry into your home as a self-reliant adult our children learn a different language. We have to PROBE for real answers to their questions and we have to learn question for meaning.
John Maxwell teaches the LADDER of listening. How do you rate yourself when you are speaking with your adult children? 


LOOK      at the person speaking
My kids know they do not have my full attention when I am looking at my phone. How about you?
ASK        questions to clarify their message
Recently upon hearing some about a problem from the daughter in the picture above I said, “Oh, I see you need my help with that?” My daughter was, “No, there isn’t anything you can do. I just wanted you to know.” OH!! Good thing I asked!
Do NOT      interrupt
Nothing says disrespect like trying to finish a sentence for someone else.
Do NOT      change the subject
I am terrible about this! My son was trying to tell me about an experience he had while he was in the Marines on Iwo Jima. Since my Dad has served there, this was an emotional topic and I knew I was going to end up crying. I tried to say something to move the conversation to Scott’s time in the service or ANYTHING ELSE. Then, it struck me that this was an emotional moment for HIM too. I stopped, looked him in the eye and listened with all my heart—as all four of our eyes filled with tears.
Emotions:      Check you EMOTIONS at the door when listening
The story of listening to my son WAS an emotion we could both share. Anger is NOT an emotion you want to share with your adult child. If they are infuriating you simply say, “Give me a moment. I need to check my emotions on this.”  Be the adult. Do not become angry—it is a choice.


RESPOND      when listening! 
At the end of the conversation try to respond with a positive action (if needed) or at least words of encouragement in the particular situation. When one of my daughters was thinking of going back to school to get her midwifery degree she talked it out with her dad and I. It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with my own Dad when I wanted to start a new venture. It was one of the few times in my life my Dad did not encourage me. Although I thought Rachelle was biting off more than she could chew with the new degree, her two jobs and six kids, I knew it was her calling. Encouraging her, I promised to edit her papers while she was in school. And yesterday she took me up on it!
Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give your adult children.
What thoughts do you have on listening well? Please comment below.

Communication: Part Two

The question is not FREQUENCY of communication but the nature of the communication that should alert parents that an adjustment might need to be made in their relationship.

Parents of adult children say:
In our day the adage was “cut the apron strings at 18 and send them on their way!” That never happens now!
If she doesn’t text me three times a day I know something is wrong.
We have a “know to need “policy. We know when he needs something.
How much should I communicate with my adult children?
Will they think I am nosey if I call too often?
Will they think I have forgotten them if we only talk once a month?
Do your adult children enjoy checking in with you every day or two? GREAT! Or are your adult kids busy in their careers and family life and only call or visit once a month or so. Not unusual.
The question is not FREQUENCY of communication but the nature of the communication that should alert parents that an adjustment might need to be made in their relationship.
Margo calls her mom every day. As a career gal she checks in on her way to work to ask her mom’s opinion about the day Margo has planned. Margo details the work-out she had that morning before heading to work. She worries about maintaining her weight and asks her mom to research diets and nutritional for her. Last week Margo broke up with a guy she had been dating for three months. She could not put her finger on what was wrong with the relationship but she was sure something was not quite right. Her mom said it best when she explained to Margo, “You are just not soul-mates!” Even though Margo lives three states away she is never far from her mom.
Kent feels left out. He has five siblings still at home and wants to stay in touch with them. Since going off to college three years ago, he feels that the family has abandoned him. Although he talks to one of them every other day or so he does not feel like he “gets” them any more. Last month, when one older sister told Kent that another sister had become “really serious” with a boyfriend Kent could not believe that he was just now hearing about it. It is as if Kent has moved to another planet and his family has forgotten him!
Frequency of communication can vary with every family and every season.
Instead of focusing on HOW OFTEN
WHAT should I communicate with my adult children?
Most young adults have busy lives and we suspect they are “just too busy to call home.” But research tells us that the opposite might be true. 
Studies from the General Social Survey in 2017 show that young adults (especially Millennials) are lonely and getting lonelier. 
“Zero” is the most common number of confidants, reported by a quarter of those surveyed in 2017 when asked how many people they could talk to about “important matters.” 
It is not the multitude of words or  frequency of communication that determines a relationship but the depth of the message.
On the day of our 40th anniversary lots of the kids gathered to celebrate and the communication was fun and LOUD!!!
Deep connections are not all made with a daily check-in or advice on what to eat for breakfast. Connections are made through substantive concern and encouragement of what matters most to others.
A letter from John, our oldest son, reminds me that WHAT I say matters more than how often I speak. The letter came shortly after he had been at college. “Your sacrifice to send me here is not unnoticed,” the letter begins. For six concise paragraphs  John thanks and encourages Ted and I to “seek those things which are above and set [our]mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:1-4).
We did not then, nor do we now speak to John every week. But he never doubted we were on his team and his greatest fans… until he got married and had two kids. Now we are members of the growing fan club!
One of these guys is the chairman of the fan club but through texts, letters, phone calls they all know Ted and I are on the club!
In my communication to my adult children I need to be encouraging them. I need to encourage them to stay the course in their marriage, their parenting, their calling, their schooling, and especially the hardest things in life.
They can pretty much figure everything else out for themselves.
These guys remind me… COMMUNICATE…. each in their own way!
PS Just as I was about to post this I get a text from a daughter (who may or may not be in this picture!)
“Am I ever gonna hear your voice again? It has been 40 forevers! “
Sometimes it is about the frequency! More on that next week.
Have communication advice or issues with your adults? Please comment below.

Culture Changing (Part Two)

Never underestimate the power of yours words!  Speak life into your world.

According to Brian  Zahnd in Beauty will Change the World,  Prince Vladimir the Great  realized that a common religion would unify his Russian people.  On becoming the monarch of Kiev, Vladimir sent delegations across the globe searching for the ‘perfect unifying religion.’ The delegation came up short.
Although some religions were abstract or theoretical, others were dour and obscure and none could mystify and unite the Russian people. Then, the delegation returned from the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. The words of the delegation personify the importance of culture to all of us:
Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place 
where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor 
beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know 
that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty.  *
What can I DO to add culture changing activities into my family/corporation?
  1. Create 

Encourage every opportunity for your children to create. 
Creating food together sets the tone for communication and connection. 
Create real products
My husband can do anything with his hands. He is very skilled with a hammer and nail. He is also skilled with a tile cutter, saw, drill, paint brush, and edger. He creates beauty in and around our home. That creativity changes the culture for us.
Instead of cursing the darkness of immoral messages in movies, illegible prose, and heinous poetry encourage your children to explore all avenues to CREATE culture.
Terah is the baby sister. Everyone believes she can change the world… but we ALL want her to play it SAFE while she is doing so! 
  1. Look for where change needs to happen
Instead of believing that they are too young or small and the problems are too big and scary— look for where change needs to take place.
When Terah was in college she told me she was working to end human trafficking. I actually thought, “What? Are you kidding? You barely weight 100 pounds! What are you gonna do? Beat up the pimps and traders?” On the outside I said, “That’s GREAT! What’s the plan and who are you going to be working with?”
I was smiling on the outside and praying on the inside.
Do not discourage ANY change in the culture for the good!
My girls love to text and share pics! This was a share the love day!
  1. Never underestimate the power of yours words!  Speak life into your world.
The power of life is in the tongue. Change your culture through your words!
  • You are instrumental in a movement that saves the lives of women and children!
  • You are changing how people think of giving birth.
  • You have made a life changing difference in the life of that family!
  • You are a brilliant mom raising brilliant children!
  • You are becoming a lawyer that will lock up the bad guys and set the innocent free!
  • You are a crusader for social justice!
  • You are righting the wrongs of your past!
“The first step – especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money -the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture.
To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in.
To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.” Chuck Palahniuk (writer)
Culture changing starts with one small attitude and influence. Today: change your culture for the better!
Tell me some of your culture changing experiences below!
*CS Lewis The Weight of Glory