Overcoming Toxic Parenting

Better Parents Make a Better World

Not even one of us has had ideal parents. Neither have we been perfect parents. There is room for improvement and it’s never too late, according to author Rick Johnson.

His new book, Overcoming Toxic Parenting, helps readers identify what toxic parenting looks like, how they may have been a victim without realizing it (there is a lot of denial among abused children) and how to be better parents.

I felt a little guilty when I started reading this… if I took it out in public I’d have kept it in a brown paper wrapper. Why? Because I’d never want anyone to think I was claiming my parents were toxic. And I certainly didn’t want to be identified as a toxic mom.

“Toxic” is a little too strong for what some of us have experienced, but there are relatable nuggets for everyone throughout this book. For instance, I realize I had a “helicopter mom.” What’s worse is I became a bit of one myself. It’s so hard to let your kids fall flat on their kiesters, and sometimes I just swooped in before they hit the ground. Anyone with me? My kids are grown and I’m still working on this one.

I was never neglected or abused (and hopefully my kids would say the same), but a study Johnson cites reveals that nearly two-thirds of people surveyed had endured one or more adverse childhood experiences. That’s a lot of folks who have junk to overcome.

The majority of Overcoming Toxic Parenting deals with specific ways to heal, move forward and recover from a messed-up childhood as well as to not repeat those mistakes as a parent.

Steps to Overcome Toxic Parenting

Some of his guidance includes:

  • Dealing with grief and anger.
  • Learning to forgive (yourself and others).
  • When/how to confront abusers.
  • Identifying what children need to thrive.
  • Protecting kids from child molesters.
  • How to create a healthy parenting strategy.

I will admit I didn’t think this book was written for me, but when I started reading I was proved wrong. While my parents were not abusive or alcoholics, they did get divorced. That takes a toll that lasts forever. You may also gain bits of new understanding into your spouse as you read this. Unresolved issues from your past (big or small) will certainly rob your joy, now is the time to deal with it.

This book has solid research but is compelling and not dry. Read it to gain insight into your past, your spouse and yourself as a parent. Better parents make a better world. This book is a fabulous tool if you want to move in that direction. (Great resource for therapists, too.)

*Rick Johnson is a moving and talented speaker. (I’ve been in his audience a few times.) Book him for your event at this link.


Honorable Role Models in Scarce Supply

 Honorable Role Models in Scarce Supply

Fun fact: Cheaters sometimes win. Take a look at the Russians getting to participate in the Olympics. Not very good for modeling sportsmanship to children, but parents are always having to explain bad stuff famous people say and do to their kids, right? So just add this to the list.

In addition to failing to represent good sportsmanship, it also undermined the message of “natural consequences” that parents expect their kids to learn from team sports. “If you cheat or lie, you’ll get caught and be kicked off the team.” And other things like, if you don’t do the work, you won’t likely finish well.

Steroids, doping and other means of gaining an unfair advantage (cough-deflate gate-cough) are more common than any parent would hope.

We’ve all learned to not EVER rely on stars (in music, film or sports) as role models for our little ones. Most are pretty lousy examples even for adults. They all seem to believe their own PR and that their pay checks and popularity give them golden privileges to say and do anything that crosses their minds. It doesn’t matter who’s watching or who will be imitating them.

Sleazy attire, X rated PDA, crude language, marital infidelity, hateful-snarky gossip on social media… those are common practices of celebrities, in addition to the lack of good sportsmanship that has left the building.

It’s very easy to start to slowly lower the bar of what you expect of kids, let alone what your own moral code is becoming. Sitcoms make us laugh at people being malicious to one another. Romantic comedies leave almost nothing to imagine when it comes to sex.

It sounds so admirable and lofty to say, “I’m unplugging the TV” or taking away your kid’s phone, but we all still live in this culture that is far less than pure. So what are some things you and I can do to detox and rise above the mess of bad role models?

  1. Read reliable reviews before seeing (or letting kids see) a movie. World Magazine is a great source.
  2. Look for ways to model integrity (let your kid know that when she turned six you had to start paying more for her ticket at the zoo…and NO, you won’t lie.)
  3. Find wonderful, positive role models and lift them up in front of your kids (and other adult friends). Watch for admirable behavior on and off the field (or stage).
  4. Don’t let yourself be seduced into admiring unholy people or indulging in unholy entertainment. This is for you, but also because your kids know more than you think, and you’re their most prominent role model.
  5. Watch movies and read books about athletes and other stars who have overcome great obstacles without cheating.
  6. Define honor and be purposeful to live an honorable life.

There may be a cesspool around you, but you (and your kids) don’t have to dive in the deep end. How do you do it?

The One for the Job

Self-reliance is a hard thing to get ahold of. From the time we were born someone else was always taking care of us and in our touchy-feely culture, we tend to over-protect kids, so some grownups never fully grasp it. They feel entitled to help and complain loudly when it doesn’t come. I’m the proud mama of kids who have gotten it. I know you’ll be uplifted as you read this post by my daughter.

Bold Living podcasts (on a wide variety of topics) are archived on my website. Diane Markins

I’m the One for the Job

by Kimberly Markins

As the single working mother of a five-year-old the first and most important lesson I’ve had to learn and apply is that most jobs are up to me.

When I was a kid, the stuff I didn’t want to do, or was afraid to tackle were usually covered by my parents. When I had a partner (not husband, but he is the father of my little girl), we shared duties and balanced things out. (Cleaning the litter box when I was pregnant was his job…just sayin’.)

But now I’m the only grownup in the house and this little person (rightfully) expects me to take care of daily life. She can’t cook dinner, lift heavy objects, earn a living or make doctor appointments. I wouldn’t want her to clean the cat box, even if she volunteered. Whatever it is, I’m the one for the job. I’m in charge and have had to embrace that fully.

In addition to being a mom, I’m a hospital social worker. I was at the nurse’s station finishing up a busy day. I heard a girl squeal/scream something about a bug. Then another one saying “it’s as big as my hand Kimberly!” I got up, grabbed a couple of paper towels, picked up the rather large roach, squished it and tossed it in the garbage. I didn’t cower or even hesitate. A CNA said to a group of women “I guess Kimberly’s the only man around here!” After I finished laughing…..

All I could think about was my mom and grandmas. They taught me how to be “the man,” to cowgirl up, put my big girl panties on and shut up. I come from a long line of strong women. They had no idea I would be a single mom and how completely invaluable those lessons were to me.

While there might have been a few times (like when my mom made me kill a black widow with eggs on its back…eew) that she just didn’t want to take care of the yucky task at hand. But mostly I know these forced lessons in strength and courage were for my benefit.

I know I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. And whether you’re a single mom or not, this is a simple truth that applies to all of us, because there will be times when you are the only one to do the job. What jobs do you wish you didn’t have to do?

Mother’s Day isn’t Just for Moms

The first eyes you looked into…the first smile and first voice you heard. The first smell was her skin. Your mom. Just like baby ducklings, we imprint and follow her around (after we can walk), like we’re attached with a string…even when she goes to the bathroom.

Our world is full of crazy people and most of that can be traced, in some way, back to their moms. There are those who are in desperate need of attention, those who desperately don’t want any attention and those who are oblivious but gain our attention anyway.

I’d love to know about Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s relationships with their mamas when they were little. I think this would be a fabulous new sitcom, especially if we could make them next-door neighbors.

This is a season where we celebrate moms. Almost all moms get flowers, a tacky bathrobe, a sappy card or at least a long distance phone call on Mother’s Day. And damn it, we deserve at least that much.

I’m not saying all moms are equal. I’ve known some women that would make the Proverbs 31 lady hang her head in shame. I’ve also seen some moms (a couple at Walmart and gas stations) that are in no way deserving of the title (or even a bathrobe).

Mother’s Day isn’t just for moms though. It’s for all of us. It’s a day we can reflect on childhood, a simpler time in life when all our needs were met by someone else…unconditionally (if we were so blessed).

My mom was one of those amazing creatures who thought of everything. She wanted us to feel pretty and be liked, so she made sure we were clean and had trendy clothes. She also taught us to smile at strangers and be nice to everyone at school (that’s the secret to being liked, btw, being genuinely nice).

When we’re kids…and honestly when we grow up, we don’t think much about what (or who) made our moms the humans there are/were. They just were…and that was what mattered.

As with most moms, I don’t long for a new designer Kate Spade purse or diamond earrings for my Mother’s Day gift. I absolutely don’t even want a gift, other than to be thought of, loved and appreciated for what I’ve done. Good and bad. Mistakes, failures and triumphs. I was all in, fully invested in my kids.

We all do the best we can then pray (loud and often) that God will handle the rest.

Moms, I hope you get some extra love this week, and if you’re lucky enough to still have a mom on earth, give her a massive dose of appreciation. Happy Mother’s Day.

Getting Through Your Child’s Difficult Stage

Kids! Who needs em? You ever felt that way? You’re not alone. They can worry us sick or drive us to the liquor store (not literally, they are usually the passengers), but we love them more than words can express. Read this guest post from my friend Cindi McMenamin for some genuine help.

Bold Living podcasts (on a wide variety of topics) are available on my website.  Diane Markins 

Getting Through Your Child’s Difficult Stage

By Cindi McMenamin, Author of 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom

Is your child going through a stage that is worrying you or driving you crazy?

As I wrote my book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, I interviewed moms of children going through the “questioning” stage, the “testing” stage, and the “lack of motivation” stage, to name just a few.

In some cases the phase lasted only a few months. In most cases, it lasted about a year. But in every case I’ve seen or heard about, it was a limited time – a short season of a child’s life.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we are assured: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” The next seven verses talk about the different – yet normal – stages of our lives. That passage is not only a commentary on life, but can be seen as an excellent commentary on a child’s life, as well as the stages of parenting we will go through.

While Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for every activity under heaven, it does not say there is “a time to worry, and a time to trust.” That’s because there is never an appropriate time to worry, only to trust that the God of the seasons and stages of life is over this season and this stage of your child’s life, as well.

Here are some practical ways to trust, rather than worry, when your child is going through a difficult stage:

  1. Learn to Respond, Rather Than React

When we react, rather than respond to our children’s behavior, it can escalate a situation between a parent and child, especially if you are reacting emotionally to something you don’t understand (like your child’s choice of dress or unusual request). Instead of reacting to something your child might say from a bad attitude or an irrational thought, respond by calmly saying “Tell me more about that.”

  1. Learn to Laugh

It helps to have a sense of humor. See the “stage” as something to look back and laugh about later.

  1. Learn to Count it Out

One mom told me she “counts to ten” in every situation where she’s tempted to blow. Being patient by taking a deep breath and counting makes sure we are not as impulsive and emotional in our responses, as our children are in their actions.

  1. Learn from Moms Who Have Been There

God many times speaks to us through the wisdom of others. Talk to godly moms who are facing the same things with their kids and can offer sound biblical insight. If you don’t have a group of moms around you who can give you biblical advice, find a Moms in Prayer group at your children’s school or find a moms group at your local church.

  1. Lean on God and His Word

In Psalm 16:8, David said: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

You can have that kind of confidence, too. As you lean on God and His Word, you can stand firmly and be a steady, immovable force in your child’s life no matter what he or she is going through.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter,  and her  newest book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom.  For more on her ministry, books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.



Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster From Full House to Empty Nest

This post by author (and my friend) Michele Howe caught me off-guard. I’ve only experienced a short empty nest season of “too much quiet.” But… I know it’s coming again and I know I will experience the same emotions she describes. Have you been there or thought about what it will be like? Read and see what you think. Comment to win a copy of Michele’s latest book- Empty Nest, What’s Next? Parenting Adult Children without Losing Your Mind. It offers terrific tips for the transition to parenting adult children.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster From Full House to Empty Nest

by Michele Howe

“You have set my feet in a spacious place.” Psalm 31: 8

“We need to fight coolness with every fiber of our being. I want to stop admiring the cool, the detached people. I want to hug the messy, conflicted, honest, passionate people who are living their lives with enthusiasm.”

Debbie Macomber

I’m convinced that one of the most telling ways to figure out what’s going on in your life is to take a good look at your meal planning routine. It took me quite a while to get it through my brain that I didn’t really need as much food on our dinner table each evening after our kids moved out. At first, it felt strange paring back or halving every recipe. Unnatural even.

Finally, I got used to the fact that our children weren’t dropping in to eat, staying for supper, or surprising us with a bunch of unexpected hungry friends. Even this small adjustment made my heart sting at times. Like lots of women, I love to cook and feed those I care about. The kitchen, be it large or small, is the natural gathering place in most homes. I sincerely believe it’s the fragrant smells, the sight of something delicious simmering on the stove, and the small talk that goes on while the meal is being prepared that just draws folks to this center place and keeps them there long after the meal has been consumed.

So when the happy and full kitchen becomes rather quiet and lonely…emotions can take similar directions. While I am not complaining about having to cook less (in amounts or frequency)…I now understand how these days being more subdued, slower-paced, and definitely quieter, can trigger some emotional sadness. During those hours of the day that used to be frantically filled with food preps, laundry, playing chauffeur, teacher, doctor, counselor and more…I find the quietness of moment somewhat unsettling. Or I did.

After listening to myself talk to myself about feeling low and out of sorts one silent afternoon…I started listening in earnest to a speaker sharing about living in the moment. We’ve all heard these pick-me-up talks where the person who’s speaking gets pretty convincing about the wisdom of living in the now for several important reasons. One; it’s all we’ve got. Two; we miss so much good when we’re pining away for our yesterdays (or tomorrows). Three; Jesus told us to live today and not worry about tomorrow because He has given us everything we need for just today. Bingo!

Oddly enough, it was the aloneness that finally got me to listen to what God had been telling me all along. Sure, I was at a crossroads…but even the most positive, promising changes bring a certain tension and some associated stress…because whether we admit it or not…we are creatures of habit. Habit comforts us. Habit makes it easier to plan our days without too much over-thinking. Habits, over time, mold us and make us who we are.So, I decided that while my habits had to change, my emotions would eventually catch up with my new choices. In all truth, I still experience the occasional surges of sadness that our house is empty now. But most of the time, I’m too busy living in the moment and appreciating it for all that it’s worth.

*     *     *

Living in the moment isn’t an optional choice we get to make in this life if we call ourselves Christians. It’s a truly biblical mandate that Jesus instructs His followers to obey and take seriously. When we allow our thoughts to linger in the happy past (remember that we often forget the trying challenges of that “happy” past) we forfeit all the joys surrounding us today. When we continue to dream about the future (a future that hasn’t been promised to any of us) we neglect the beauty of this day, this hour, this very minute. Growing up and maturing means stepping out of the chaos of life long each day to reflect upon what we’ve learned along the way. It also means staying silent long enough for God to talk to us afresh, to direct (and redirect) our steps, and to infuse us with the desires He wants to fulfill in and through us.

Quietness might not be what we’re used to after such long seasons of rearing children, but it might very well be the best thing for us. Sitting in His presence, waiting on God to nudge us, means we are confident that He has some wonderful plans for us that will get our passions ignited and stirred in all the right ways. Certainly, as He has done all through the years, God has and always will set our feet in a spacious place. And that’s His happy promise to us.

Preparing Young Warriors for Spiritual Battle

Children are our most precious resource. When they learn hatred and bigotry, they become hateful. When they learn kindness, they become kind. When little ones learn faith, they learn to withstand challenges with grace. But there is a spiritual war going on and an enemy that would love to eradicate our future leaders. We all have a stake in helping them learn to fight. Check out the post below and comment to win a book from Angelique La Fon-Cox’s Huggabear series.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

Preparing Young Warriors for Battle

by Angelique La Fon-Cox

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

You may think your child is too young to be a warrior of God, but the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:12 ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.’ I can testify that children are some of the most powerful warriors of God this world has to offer. To face the world today we need to train our children to be strong in spiritual warfare; to be warriors of God. But where do you start? How is this training done? Churches and their programs are excellent and important, still, the most consistent training for spiritual strength is done at home by you.

  • Teach your children daily by example.
  • Plan devotionals.
  • Read Bible stories.
  • Play worship music in your home and car.
  • Sing His praise together.

Most importantly: pray with your children. Teaching them prayer is the most supernatural, powerful weapon of spiritual warfare they will ever have. Teach them to speak scriptures to their trials, for the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible, is truth unchanging and the same weapon that Christ Himself used when battling Satan. There is power in speaking God’s Word and there is power in prayer! Teach them to claim the victory of God’s promises, for every promise written is for them—and you! Let them watch you develop your relationship with the Lord and I can say from experience, they will follow you. Here is an example of how this investment can bring great riches in return.

My husband has been laid off for the past eight months. He applies for jobs daily and we both do all we can to support our family during this test.  One day I was struggling and could hardly pray. My children had on their “Armor of God” (Eph. 6:10-17) and were ready to assist me in battle. My son, Samuel (8), wrote a note that said, “God will help you.” My daughter Aven (12), wrote in my prayer book, “You will be alright, just keep praying. Hebrews 6:5 ‘After waiting patiently, he received what was promised’. MaCaedyn (9) my youngest girl came and prayed for me with all her heart.

Your children can truly be powerful warriors of God. Do not underestimate the child God has given you, for He has created them for mighty things! It’s never too early to start showing them the way.

*A special gift! For a free ebook of Exordium the first mystery in The Intercessors series (by Angelique La Fon-Cox), simply send an email request to: theintercessors@hotmail.com. Don’t forget to comment on this post to win one of her Huggabears books for little ones.

Advice from Dads in the Trenches

In honor of Father’s Day I asked for input from young dads who are currently “in the trenches” of parenting. Like armchair quarterbacks, it’s easy for older dads with grown kids to offer sage advice, but it’s also easy to forget some of the day-to-day struggles. And, culture changes what some of those struggles look like. The hardest part of writing the post was whittling it down because I got a massive amount of great stuff from several savvy dads (whom I will share  for resources at the end because they are all worth connecting with). So (drumroll) the top six things dads are dealing with today (in no particular order) are:

  1. Balancing work and family life.
  2. Effective co-parenting (especially as regards to disciplining kids).
  3. Teaching kids lasting, significant values and goals.
  4. Living out God’s model as a dad.
  5. Maintaining healthy relationship with kids’ mom.
  6. Financial future of family.

Some of these are age-old issues, but some are fresher problems. Finding balance between work and family has been a top concern of women for the past few decades but dads didn’t express this as a big problem in the past. Not sure why…either they didn’t have as much responsibility/ time at home or they could compartmentalize it better. There are also many exciting, fun things pulling all of us (moms, dads and kids) in different directions: volunteering, church, sports, crafts, kids’ activities… Someone has to be the voice of reason and stop the madness. Young dads are helping around the house in bigger measure and are eager to engage in teaching, nurturing and relating to kids more than in the past (perhaps?). They feel the pull to be home internally as opposed to external pressure. Being able to get and remain on the same page where discipline is concerned is the source of many marital battles. Mine included. My husband was much tougher and I (especially in the rear view) was much too lenient. There are no easy answers but the key is to talk often (out of kids’ earshot) and present a united front. Even if you have to flip a coin, or alternate who gets to decide the consequence in each instance. Don’t let this divide you and try to listen respectfully to your spouse’s perspectives. Teaching kids strong values can be challenging. It’s easier to make a preschooler’s bed than to wait for her to get it done. Saying no and letting it stand can result in a lot of unpleasantness. Watching the glee on your child’s face when you buy that special toy is tremendous… but they come to expect to get what they want when they want it without working for it. Saving for something is a wild idea. Teaching values is not for wimps and requires manning up! Walking the Walk It’s a fact that kids believe what they see. If dads don’t live out what they are teaching, kids aren’t likely to adopt  values taught. Those little eyes and ears are on you all the time and when you drop an fbomb, skip church, yell at their mom or have a few too many cervesas they are storing it away in their data base-brains for later use. Being a man who truly wants to live a Godly life all the time is a tall order. Kids will fare so much better when parents love and respect each other. Maintaining a good marriage takes work, sacrifice, humility and desire. Compromise is an absolute. Intimacy may need to be scheduled. (ugh) When parents are divorced it can be much harder to have a friendly/functioning relationship with the mother of your kids. It really should be a priority. You can only control your behavior, but you can certainly do that, and hope she will follow your lead. It will be so worth it over the long haul. (Think graduations, weddings and grandchildren!) Almighty Buck Money. Is it the root of evil? The bane of your existence? Or is it the ticket to freedom and happiness? None of the above. People around the globe live with little and with abundance. Some on each end of the wealth spectrum are very content and some will always be dissatisfied- seeking more. If money is the thing that drives you, that you talk and think most about or even worry about, you are not living the peaceful life God wants for you and your tribe. Giving things up, living in smaller homes, taking public transportation and eating off the 99 cent menu don’t hold high appeal, but those things may be necessary for financial peace and freedom. Don’t be a slave to cash or the material things in life and you’ll teach your kids to be free as well. A few last tidbits from the guys: *Make playing with kids a priority. Fun speaks and teaches volumes. *Don’t let peers or popular culture influence your parenting decisions. *Stay calm in the midst of chaos. *Look for unique ways to influence your kids (this takes double effort for part-time dads). I hope to hear from some other dads in comments as well as perspectives from moms in the trenches. A huge debt of gratitude to the following dads. I know you’ll want to see more of what they are up to and even say thanks. K C Procter “You can be productive and present with your kids without losing your mind.” Jeff Pennypacker  www.underdogministries.org The value of masculine mentors. Kyle Benoit-  kbenoit@ggwo.org Joshua Zarzana Book: “The Son Who Chases the Father” Adam Harvey Ryan Bilello Twitter @Ryan_Bilello Justin Farrell Book:  God and Grandpa: Lessons Learned on the Road Trip of a Lifetime

Boys Need Men; Impact of Male Role Models

Boys being raised without dads is pervasive in America. While my heart breaks for the single moms raising them, I pray that they won’t adopt a cavalier attitude of “I can do this without a man.” For women of strength, courage and faith, a male mentor for your son is a truly valuable asset and not one to be ignored because of pride. You are doing a terrific job, but boys do need a male role model.  Check out Jeff Pennypacker’s post below. Share your thoughts and opinions in a comment.

Also, Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website. Several guests have discussed this topic if you want more.  Diane Markins 

What’s stealing manhood from your son?

by Jeff Pennypacker

Thieves come to steal that which is most precious to you. The soul of your son is one of the most precious gifts given to any mom. What does a mom do when you’re working double-time, dad is absent, and your son’s manhood is being stolen in the dark of night?

The answer is to fight back, fight hard, and stop at nothing to win.

The problem is that the battle is inside the mind of your son locked up like a vault lined with 12 inch thick steel walls.

Is it possible to break through? The answer is yes, if you begin to understand how to unlock the vault.

I understand how difficult it can be to know what’s going on inside the mind of your son, not because I have raised boys, but because I was the son of a single mom. My parents divorced when I was six years old and I have spent the greater part of my 37 years trying to restore that which was lost. Seeking restoration led me to connect with many moms raising boys and every one of them have asked:

What can I do to shape my son into a man?

It’s a loaded question but I have tried to capture the solution in my newest book, Broken Boys – Extraordinary Men. In the book I discuss the major obstacles stealing manhood from your son and how you can overcome them.

To answer the question at hand, there are two very important things you can do right now that will get you on the path to success with your son.

First is to seek to understand what your son is going through on his journey. The second is to equip him with mentors to succeed.

Of course it’s sounds easy until you dive in, get frustrated, and throw your hands up in despair. Maybe I can shed some light for you out of this excerpt from my book, Broken Boys-Extraordinary Men.

Begin to understand your son and his journey.

“…When you have a clear understanding of what your son is going through and what he needs along his journey, you both will have a greater rate of success…Please set aside the notion that everything will “be okay” when Dad is not around. Everything is not okay. Your son wants to grow up and say, “I’m successful,”  “I’ve made it,”  “I feel valued,” “I feel loved,” “I know who I am as a man,” “I am a great man,” “I am a leader,” and “I will be a great dad.””

I believe once a starting point is created, then it’s crucial to provide mentors for his success. In my book I discuss getting mentors in depth. This excerpt is a partial story of how I got my first mentor.

“… In the middle of a heated argument, my mom told me if I wanted money for things, I had to go make it on my own… After our argument…I walked across the street, knocked on a few doors, and asked if I could mow the lawn. After I heard “no” a couple of times, I stumbled upon a “yes” at Fred Patrick’s house.

Fred Patrick became my first mentor. He let me mow his lawn, but he did more than that. He helped build me as a man.”

Mom, you are the first and last defense you have against society stealing manhood from your son. fight back, fight hard, and stop at nothing to win.

The entire mentoring process (and so much more) is outlined in my book Broken Boys-Extraordinary Men.

Challenges and Advice for Young Moms

I asked for input from moms under 40 and was a little surprised at what I found out. Not much has changed since I was a young mom. Women still struggle with the same things. It gave me a sense of relief (because I’m past it) and a little sadness for the young moms who are still facing all those same issues.

This Mother’s Day, instead of focusing on our older moms (whom we all love and appreciate) I thought it would be appropriate to spotlight the younger moms who are still in the trenches. Want to take a look at what they are dealing with?

Primarily four concerns are plaguing them, just as they did me and many of my mom-friends 20-plus years ago.

  • Time management- how to get it ALL done in one day.
  • Making sure kids have everything they need to grow, mature and fulfill their potential.
  • Keeping the spark hot and staying connected to their husbands/ For single moms: having time and courage to meet someone new.
  • Maintaining an identity and self-value.

Here are a few bits of wisdom I’ve learned (often from making mistakes) and gathered from others over the years.

It is absolutely and unequivocally impossible to accomplish everything on your list in a single day. The sooner you can accept that and be ok with it, the less you’ll struggle and feel like a failure. Simplify and prioritize. I know—you’re thinking, “How brilliant…I’ve never heard that before!” But hearing it and doing it are different animals. Your family must eat, but missing a T-ball game occasionally will not damage them. Everyone should have clean clothes on, but they don’t have to wear the ones they like most. Do your best to under-schedule your day. You seldom will succeed and if by chance you end up with a little down time, grab it with both hands and don’t add to your list.

We read parenting books and go to mom’s groups and are told that we have the most important job in the world… shaping our children is up to us. No pressure, right? I remember wanting my kids to get a chance to try as many things as possible. That included at least one season on almost every kind of sports team, various musical endeavors (violin, piano and cello to name a few), acting and dance classes, riding horses, learning to water ski and surf during the summer… you name it and they did it. This is a terrific way to find out what your kid is good at and passionate for, but the problem lies in teaching them commitment. When you have a “let’s give everything a little try” mentality, there is an implicit message that if you don’t like it, you move on.

My husband and I tried to do both…offer them the “sampler experience” while explaining to them that they couldn’t quit until the season/class was completed. This can lead to burn-out for both parents and kids. Maybe a good compromise would be to try to find a weekend, one-shot opportunity when they want to experiment with something new, but when they decide to be on a team, they have to stick it out?

The practice of disciplining kids can be a real hot button between moms and dads. I will confess that this was the one issue my husband and I argued about the most. I was more lenient and he was tougher. In retrospect (and hearing from my adult kids) I can say I wish I’d deferred more to my husband and we’d been a little tougher on them. The key to winning in this case is having time to talk things through and getting soundly on the same page before the big stuff comes up.

And speaking of husbands, it is really difficult to make time for talking and connecting when kids are demanding your attention every waking minute. Most people don’t have vast resources to pay a babysitter for frequent date nights. But however it happens (trading child-care with other couples, family helping or sacrificing in another area to pay a sitter) alone time is essential. I suggest spending only a quarter of the time talking about kids and another quarter talking about practical issues like broken appliances and finances or jobs. Set a boundary and reserve half your date time to talk about how you’re feeling, being playful, flirting and affectionate. It may not sound romantic but scheduled romance is far better than no romance.

If you’re a single mom, you may have even more on your plate and no one to share the load. It may be helpful to find other like-minded single moms to trade child-care with and also to support you emotionally. Be sure you have a little time away from your kids (and work) to breathe, relax and even socialize. You won’t meet the love of your life sitting in front of the TV in your yoga pants. There are fun and meaningful things you could be doing on occasion to connect with the outside world.

All moms have a tendency to play the comparison game, and believing that they fall short. Some women seem to have it all together, but you’d likely be surprised at what’s really going on in her home and in her head. Do your best, according to your own life, resources and schedule. Own it with pride.

One last thought, you will not always be a mommy first. There will come a day when you have a little more time to explore your own interests and nurture your gifts and step into a purpose that doesn’t revolve around your kids. It’s a good idea to try to begin that process now. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a week, try to begin stepping into your identity and the calling God has on your future.

If you’re not feeling the love today, remember that what you’re doing is exceptional, almost impossible and of the highest value. You were called to be their mom and the One who called you is equipping you daily.

Share your challenges, memories, advice or encouragement in a comment below. Happy Mother’s Day!

*Special thanks to my daughter-in-law for contributing greatly to my research.