6 Habits of a Highly Effective Family

The other day I got an email from a TV producer and they wanted our family to try out for a reality show called “The Kitchen.”

Yeah.

It was some sort of cooking show and they wanted “real families” who fight, I mean, cook often together in the kitchen. The email went on to say, “We are specifically seeking out families with an interesting point of view, a unique style of parenting, and a real-life story unfolding in the family.”

Were we being punked? I looked for the hidden cameras. It’s like They Knew about our unique parenting style called “Stop combing your sister’s hair with your spaghetti fork or I’m going to hurt you bad.”

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I took this to mean, “We are looking for some of those family moments…you know the ones.”

And believe me- we have plenty of them. From the typical eye roll to the “I wish I had a different family,” comments that leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy, we just might help a network’s ratings.

But we won’t. Because, we are in fact, not that family (this time).

My family is probably a lot like yours. Messy. Like sticky apple pie you can’t quit.

But even in our worst moments, I want my family to be governed by good habits that make us effective in the world for God. When we wrote out our family mission statement so many years ago, it was more of a craft project than a projection of where we wanted to go. But God has used those words to guide and shape us.

In the ebb and flow of the family dynamic, there are good days and bad ones. And we don’t get it right all the time. But at the end of the day, I want to be able to say that we did something good for someone else-that we were effective in some way. We don’t always get it right or do it well, but there are 6 habits that we aim for regularly:

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  1. Let go of what others think | Parents seem to master this one before teens do. Just as I’ve learned not to care, my kids are very aware of what others think. Striking that balance is important. But so is remembering that at the end of the day, if you’re following your heart and God’s, it’s much easier to live without the restrictions of pleasing everyone else.
  2. Listen to each other | I’m still in listening school. As a mom, I think this is one of the greatest gifts I can offer my family: tuning in. I have watched my children come to their own conclusions, work out many of their problems and feel better about situations, by nodding my head and affirming they are simply being heard. And also, if I pause 5 full seconds after my husband asks me a question, he keeps talking.
  3. Lament the losses | I think it’s important that we pause to recognize the losses in our family-whether it’s a friend or a perfect test score, a pet goldfish or a first boyfriend, our family gets broken. And when we walk thru loss together, it makes us heal stronger.
  4. Love no matter what | Some of my children do not always make choices I want them to make. Shocking, I know. But at the end of one of those hard, tearful days, when consequences land wherever they may, I want my people to know that love wins. No matter what they do, who they become, how far they run, they are deeply loved.
  5. Live brave | I spent most of my life living scared. I was terrified far too long. Fear of failure, fear of missing out and not fitting in captivated me. I want my family to try, to live a little scared because that’s when we feel most alive.
  6. Latch onto God | Family life doesn’t always look like I thought it would. Neither does following Jesus. I’ve always thought it was done a certain way-church 3 times a week, Christian radio presets, church camp with the Christian t-shirt to prove it and a little rhinestone Jesus leading the way. My ideal was wrecked and I’m discovering I can’t make my kids follow Jesus the way I follow Him. I just want them to find him and hold on.

I’m glad God loves messy families.

Even the ones on TV.

Dear Son, It’s Okay to Be A Nice Guy (Faith-based Resources for Our Sons)

You’re nearly 13 years old.

Your voice is cracking and your little sister keeps mentioning your mustache.

You pretend you don’t hear her.

And I pretend it isn’t there.

You are 5 inches taller and you fill your plate three times before you’re full.

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You are a young man now and you are trying to fit into your man-sized feet.

Son, I want you to know you don’t have to be cool.

You don’t have to be tough.

You don’t have to wear a stiff upper lip.

You don’t have to fit in.

You don’t have to be girl crazy.

You don’t have to apologize for being kind to others.

I see the confusion in your eyes and the question in your voice as you try and navigate our culture that depicts men as either weak pushovers or calloused tough guys. Movies portray guys as either terribly sexy or extremely wimpy. They either hate women or use them.

Neither impress you and I know sometimes you wonder where you fit in.

You are sensitive.

You download worship songs.

You open the door for me and rush to bring in groceries.

You don’t enjoy violent video games or playing truth or dare when friends tempt.

You timidly raise a hand while we sing at church.

You want to be a world-changer.

But listen to me—these things don’t make you wrong or weird. They make you YOU. You are exactly who God created you to be: a nice guy.

And that’s okay.

Your son might be like mine or he may not, but either way, he’s probably getting some mixed signals from culture and peers. We’ve found some excellent faith-bases resources to help our boy navigate both. Maybe they will help your son, too:

Faith (Devotions, Spiritual Growth):

  1. Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
  2. You Were Made to Make a Difference
  3. It’s Not About Me Teen Edition
  4. Make Every Day Count – Teen Edition
  5. Triple Dog Dare: One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Boys (ages 9-12)
  6. Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood
  7. Your Boy: Raising a Godly Son in an Ungodly World

Purity (Lust, Sex):

  1. 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son
  2. Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity (The Every Man Series)
  3. Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys: 7 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son [7 Questions You Should Ask Your Daughter]
  4. Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World

Weekend Away:

Passport2Purity® Getaway Kit by FamilyLife
(guide and resources to help you take your son on a weekend to talk about purity and sex)

Faith-Based Resources For Raising Daughters In a Faithless Culture

I stood at the counter opening mail when my little girl held up her white tank top and asked, “What is this thing?” pointing to the elastic band. She’s small for her 8 years, but I was surprised her size 6 top had a built-in bra. I explained what it was and she giggled.

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I couldn’t blame her. But I know how fast time flies and I know what’s coming.

I pulled a book from a package and the colorful cover caught her attention. “What’s that?” I was excited to see my friend’s new book, thinking I would put it up for when my daughter was old enough to read it. “It’s a devotional book for tweens,” I said and flipped it over to read the back cover.

“It says ages 8-11. Does that make me a tween?” She asked with pride and excitement.

No. But help me, Lord, it’s getting closer.

We’ve been snuggling up on my bed before bedtime nearly every night since, reading For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens together. Tween or not, it’s something she’s ready to jump into. This is a book she could really read on her own, but I love the few minutes together and the conversation that follows.

The world will educate and influence our girls if we let it. I’d rather teach my daughter about values and self-value.  I’ve shared these resources before, but I continue to get emails asking me for suggested resources for our daughters. Here’s what I’ve got:

Books for Mom and Dad (Body image, modesty, sex, purity, boys):

Books/Magazines for Daughters:

Devotions to have with your Girls (Tween to Teen):

Stylish Clothing Sites with Modest Choices for teens/girls:

Events:

Positive Girl Clubs/Groups:

Music:

  • Britt Nicole
  • Francesca Battistelli
  • Jamie Grace
  • BarlowGirl
  • Mandisa

Websites for our Girls:

Other:

  • A Mighty Girl: collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls

What They Don’t Tell You About Raising Kids

I spent five long years trying to become a mother.

And I’ve spent the last fifteen trying to be a good one.

Raising kids is probably the most important thing I will ever do. But I didn’t get educated in a classroom or with a how-to manual; I learned on the job and mostly by making mistakes. When they wheeled me and my new baby girl out of the hospital to join my husband who was pulling up the car, I remember hesitating and looking at the nurse nervously. She patted my back and whispered, “You will do fine.”

For our first hour at home as a family, we sat across the room and stared at her, while she slept in her carseat.

We were terrified she would wake up.

We were terrified she wouldn’t.

That sort of sums up my parenting experience so far–What if they do? What if they don’t? Will they? Should they?

I have second-guessed and been given second chances. I have marveled at all I didn’t know and been amazed at what I learn every day.

They didn’t tell me the sleepless nights of pregnancy were a foreshadowing of the next 18 years.

They didn’t tell me the deep-breathing was for more than birth.

They didn’t tell me about the first set of stitches or the second. Or that I would get woozy every time.

They didn’t tell me that I would want to give my kids everything, but that I mustn’t.

They didn’t tell me how hard it would be to say no, but I must.

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They didn’t tell me I would watch my heart get on a school bus.

They didn’t tell me I would long for school to start as much as I long for it to end.

They didn’t tell me there would be math. Lots of math.

They didn’t tell me about the first time my child would hurt my feelings.

Or how angry I would feel when someone hurt my child’s.

They didn’t tell me how I would ache to fix their problems.

They didn’t tell me I would fall into bed physically exhausted when they were little and emotionally drained when they were older.

They didn’t tell me I would give up something I love, so they could figure out something to love.

They didn’t tell me I would yell.

They didn’t tell me I would laugh until my sides ache.

They didn’t tell me I would cry myself to sleep because of something they said or worse, because of something I said.

They didn’t tell me my son would call me in the middle of school today and ask to go home early because he is grieving his beloved archery coach’s terminal diagnosis.

They didn’t tell me I couldn’t make some things better. Or how badly I would hurt when my children do.

They didn’t tell me how hard some days would be.

They didn’t tell me how fast it would go…

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They didm’ tell me how much I would love being their mom.

They didn’t tell me all these milestone and phases for one reason:

There is joy in discovering motherhood –the beautiful and broken days– for ourselves.

One day at a time.

I Want My Daughters To Know What A Real Woman Looks Like

I waited until she came into my bathroom like she does most mornings before school.

“Here honey, let me help you,” I offered as I handed her a hair brush. “Hey, so I heard you were on a diet,” I said in a light-hearted teasing tone and I waited for a response. My friend had told me about our daughters’ conversation about dieting at school the day before. They are both second graders.

“Oh, I was just kidding, Mom,” she assured me.

I figured as much, but I pressed in, “You don’t need to be on a diet. You know that, right?” Lately, at 8 years old, I’ve noticed she cares a little more about her hair and what she’s wearing for the day.

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“I know. But I do need to eat healthy. You tell us that all the time,” she had me there.

I thought of all the eating out we’d done on our weekend getaway and the Valentine’s candy and her sweet tooth and those same words that had come out of my mouth. “Yes, but healthy eating isn’t dieting.”

We talked more about good food choices and about all our favorite desserts. It wasn’t an hour later when I read that girls as young as 5 years old are concerned about body image. And why wouldn’t they be with only perfect bodies, long thick hair, and clear complexions gracing every magazine cover at the grocery store? “I think there’s a lot of talk about teens and body image, and many parents become aware of that when kids hit puberty, but kids as young as 5 are already expressing a desire for a body that is thinner than their current self or future self,” said Seeta Pai, vice president of research for Common Sense Media and author of the report.

I thought about what I’d seen the day before at the Honor Roll Breakfast at the high school my daughter attends. Terrell leaned over and said, “No wonder our daughter changes clothes so many times before school. Look at how these girls are dressed.” He was right, it was like a fashion show. And with it comes pressure to fit in.

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“It’s crazy how we’re so inundated with these images of perfection and … we’re teaching young girls that that’s normal. So people are growing up now with these ideas of how they should look,” said Juliana Lyons, “It’s setting us up to fail because we’re not perfect. We’re not Photoshopped in real life.” Juliana is a teenager who has recently gained a lot of media attention for a song she wrote called Beautifully Flawed saying just that.

I think that’s why I gasped and clapped my hands out loud when I saw the image last week of supermodel Cindy Crawford looking well, imperfect. The viral photo was controversial because some said it was leaked while others said it was intentional. Either way, it wasn’t photoshopped. It was the body of a real woman- a mom whose body bares the marks of pregnancy and change. It wasn’t perfect and that’s what made it so beautiful.

Instantly, when I saw it, I felt better about my own soft rolls and thick middle. There’s something powerful about showing what untouched photos of real women look like and it’s exactly what our daughters need to see.

Odds are they won’t see it in their favorite movie or on the cover of the popular magazines. That’s why we have to show our daughters what a real woman’s body looks like and be okay with it. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to improve our health, but accepting and loving who we are and what we look like is a great start to improving our health.

There is a real temptation to hide our imperfections, to cover our ample areas, to talk negatively about what we don’t like in the mirror.  But when we are unhappy with our bodies and verbalize it, our little girls pick up on it. “Five- to 8-year-olds who think their moms are unhappy with their bodies are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own, according to Common Sense Media’s report.

In our culture, it’s hard for them to decipher what is real and what is computer-perfect.

I usually duck when someone tries to take my picture and my tendency is to avoid public swimming and I like to have everything “fixed” before I leave the house. My daughters pick up on all of these things and I’m determined to do better.

My husband’s favorite picture of me–it’s on his phone and computer screen saver and he’s always referring to it, is one of me in Africa with wrinkled clothes and skin, without makeup, very dirty hair, sitting in one of the poorest homes I’ve ever been in. He says it’s real beauty, the kind that goes far deeper than what I’m wearing or how I feel about what I’m wearing.

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We need to rock that swim skirt like a champ and go ahead and feel good in our skin. Our daughters need to see our imperfections and our insecurities. They need to know that real women have blemishes and bloating and that real beauty comes from within.

Because a real woman doesn’t always have the perfect spring wardrobe or all the good hair days.

She doesn’t always cook gourmet meals or pass the white glove test.

She can’t always hide the crows feet or chipped toenail polish.

Sometimes she laughs loud and cries often.

She is imperfectly beautiful.

If you ask a small child who the most beautiful woman in the world is, they will often say, “Mommy!” Their perception of perfection hasn’t been jaded by media or culture. They are looking past the tired eyes, yoga pants and three day hair-in-a-bun. They see beauty in the small acts of service-the hug, the extra cookie, the bedtime story.

We should, too.

It’s a great way to show our daughters what real women look like.