The Importance of Having Family Traditions

I love to listen to podcasts on parenting.  One of my favorite is Eyres on the Road by Richard and Linda Eyre.  They wrote my very most favorite parenting book, The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership On one of the most recent podcasts I listened to they talked about developing strong family traditions and how doing this helps create a strong family bond and encourages kids to  want to be with their families.  Richard said when talking about teenagers that they “cling to traditions.”  We have all probably experienced for ourselves or seen  it in our own families that kids love traditions and it is important to keep those traditions.

The Eyres talked about how traditions don’t have to be only the big ones at Christmas or birthdays, but traditions can also be at bedtime, when kids get home from school, Sunday dinners, etc.  I love that they stressed having traditions for even the small and simple things we do every day as well as the big events.  After listening to this podcast I felt motivated to take a look at the traditions that I grew up with and the traditions that we are doing as a family now.  I think that we passively are doing traditions in our families (good or bad), but they suggest to be more focused and intentional about these traditions.  The Eyres suggested that we do three things to make our traditions more intentional:

1. Review our traditions and make a list of the ones we want to keep or add.  (This is best done in a family meeting)

2. Record our traditions in a way that helps everyone in the family anticipate and remember the traditions (write it on a calendar, or a written list that is posted).

3. Carry out these traditions with joy.  Parents should be enthusiastic about these traditions.

I love these steps to follow and I can see how each step is important.  I’ve heard that writing down goals can make them more likely to happen and I think it’s the same way with traditions.  Including the kids would be a good way to get everyone on board and agree to the family traditions that are important.  Reviewing the traditions is also a good way to evaluate our traditions to make sure that they are valuable.  For example, during Christmas is there a tradition in place to focus on Christ and serving others rather than just the fun/commercialized parts of Christmas?  To record these traditions you could make a poster to hang on the fridge or write it on the calendar and then after the tradition, the kids can write about it their gratitude journals.  The Eyres have a tradition book that they use to write about all of their traditions and record their memories about them.  I’m sure that some traditions are easier than others to be enthusiastic about as a parent, because let’s face it… some of our traditions are a lot of work for parents!  So if the kids are wanting a tradition that you really don’t think you can maintain year after year, then find a compromise that you are willing to repeat and be excited about.

I haven’t had that family meeting yet with my own family to decide on traditions because I wanted to gather a list of traditions first.  Here goes my traditions brainstorm….

Family Traditions

Birthdays:

  • Let the child choose a tradition for his/her birthday (The Eyres mentioned bowling, jumping in leaves, floating a cake)
  • Decorate the house the night before
  • Big friend party
  • Family party
  • Same event/place every year (sporting event, play, movie, water park, park, amusement center, etc.)
  • Tape balloons in plastic behind a shut door so that when kids open the door the balloons fall on them
  • Cake (nicely decorated, doughnut cake, certain kind of cake, etc.)
  • Birthday person chooses dinner
  • Morning pancake in the shape of the age they are turning (a 3 on their third birthday)
  • Sparklers in cake instead of candles (Warning: Do NOT do this one indoors.  My poor mom had a burn in her dining room table ever since my 16th birthday because my friends thought this one was a good idea…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas:

  • Get pajamas on Christmas Eve
  • Recreate the nativity scene with all the kids and cousins
  • Choose another family to secretly buy gifts for
  • Decorate sugar cookies
  • Christmas cards & letter
  • Each child gets a new ornament
  • 12 days of Christmas service activity
  • Donate toys and clothes to a family in need or a thrift store
  • Ugly sweater party
  • Rotating which kid gets to put the star on the Christmas tree
  • Elf on the shelf (I personally hate this one, but the kids love it so I feel stuck…)

Beginning of School Year:

  • School clothes & supplies shopping (give kids a certain amount of money and they have to budget that money to make sure they get everything they need)
  • Have a talk with all school aged children individually about pornography and sex (age appropriate)
  • 1st day of school picture by the front door
  • Record in their journals what they want to be when they grow up and what their current interests are (read about kid journals here)

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner:

  • Everyone eats at the table together as often as possible
  • Sweet and Sour Service (read about it here)
  • 60 Second speeches- The Eyers talked about this one and it sounds fun.  Each person has 60 to give a formal speech on a random topic.
  • Assign kids to help cook the meal and to help clean up after the meal.  They can earn rocks for their jar- read about that here)

Bedtime:

  • Family scriptures and prayer
  • Gratitude journals (read about these here)
  • Dad and mom each take half the kids and put that half to bed then they switch the next night.
  • Make a dice out of a wooden cube and write 3 M’s and 3 D’s on that die.  The kids gets to roll the die to see who puts them to bed that night (M=mom, D=dad).
  • Read aloud as a family
  • Read books individually
  • Read stories about ancestors
  • Lay out clothes for the next day

Other times you can brainstorm traditions you want to do as a family could be:

  • Season traditions (Summer, Spring, Fall, & Winter) (We go to Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge every summer and my kids look forward to these trips all year)
  • Holiday traditions
  • Last day of school traditions
  • Early-out from school traditions
  • Sunday traditions (church, dinner, family game night, etc.)
  • When kids get home from school and leave to go to school
  • When kids leave to the house each day (for example, my husband’s mom always said, “remember who you are” before kids walked out the door).
  • Making a family theme for the year
  • Memorizing a scripture or quote as a family

I’m sure there are so many other times that your family will want to define your tradition, but these ideas should get the ball rolling.  I’m also guessing that as kids get older that these traditions will change.  It would be good to have a family meeting once a year to reflect on the traditions and decided if any changes need to be make.  I like the idea of having a traditions book that can easily be added to and changed, but at the same time will be a place to remember all the traditions from the time the kids were little.  I will add an update to this post after I have had a meeting with my own family to let you know how it goes.  I would love to hear some of your favorite family traditions and if you try to make them more intentional as well.  I’m hoping that these family traditions can help my family feel nice and happy!

 

A Year WITHOUT Toys!

That’s right, I said it! My family has agreed to go a full year WITHOUT toys.  We are not going to go totally crazy and get rid of all our existing toys, but for a full year we will not add ANY toys to our home.  This means birthdays, Easter, Christmas, and school carnivals!!

Why?

Why would we put our kids through such a year??  I will answer with a follow up question, “have you seen our basement!??”  We really do have so many wonderful toys.  And the kids do actually play with them now and then.  But it honestly feels like we are picking up the toys from the floor more than they get played with.  Looking back at the toys my kids got for Christmas, just 2 months ago, I can think of one toy that still gets played with.  The rest of the toys are either broken, like the drone for my 2 year old (imagine that), or out of batteries.  I have decided that more often that not, the fun with toys comes with the excitement of opening the toy and the first 5 minutes following.

Reaction:

I was pleasantly surprised with how this conversation went down during dinner.  The kids were enjoying this amazing homemade chicken Alfredo made from the instapot, which I will post about later; when my husband announced that we had something big we wanted to propose.  We built it up by saying that the kids were going to want to complain at first, but that no one was allowed to say a word until after this idea had been explained fully and that we would take questions and comments at the end.  When they all agreed not to whine or complain until they had fully heard us out, we dove right in.

We explained that we would like for them to go a full year (now until Spring Break 2019) without adding any toys to our collection.  They were a bit concerned about Christmas and how would Santa know not to bring toys, but we assured them that we could write to him and explain.  My 9 year-old daughter said, “good, I was just going to ask Santa to surprise me this year anyway!”  All of the kids were surprisingly on board with this idea.  We gave them some ideas for things they can still ask for on birthdays and Christmas, like clothes and experiences.  My son decided that if a friend comes over after giving him a toy for his birthday only to find it gone, that he could just say that he lost it.  Rather than encouraging this white lie, I told him that along with birthday invitations we will include an explanation that our family is not adding toys this year.  Friends can do other gift ideas, or better yet, just skip the gift altogether!

By the end of the conversation and after these concerns were addressed, everyone was on board.  In fact, my two oldest said that they thought this was a great idea and they think we should do this forever!  We decided that if we can truly go a whole year without any new toys that for Spring Break next year we will plan a big family trip.  I feel like this gives us all a reward and motivation to keep our focus.

Struggles:

I do feel like the hardest part for them will be the little carnivals and dumb toys that they get at random events.  Think of all the little 50 cent toys that find their way under the seats in your car and at the bottom of every toy box.  And think of how excited those kids are to get those types of toys in the moment.  School parties, Christmas parties, summer fairs and carnivals all seem to send home an unnecessary treasure of some sort.  These little treasures will go straight to the trash or thrift store rather than into our home.  The elementary school in our home town puts on an amazing fundraiser called, A Night at Hogwarts, every year and they go all out!  My kids come home with a new wand, new creature (stuffed animal), and new pranks from the Joke Shop every year.  I believe this may be their biggest trial.

Here is a list of ideas we gave them of things that are allowed to ask for as gifts or buy with their own money:

  • New clothes
  • Hoodies
  • Hats
  • Glasses (because my 5 year old just bought glasses without a prescription from Walmart)
  • Earrings/jewelry
  • Shoes
  • Batteries for their existing toys
  • Movie tickets
  • Bowling gift cards
  • Restaurant gift cards (Hello McDonald’s!)
  • Jump House gift cards
  • A day at the zoo, aquarium, or museum
  • Tickets to a sporting event (college or professional)
  • Tickets to a play at a fancy theater
  • Disposable art products (paints, oil pastels, paper, crayons, markers, etc.)
  • Disposable manipulatives (play-dough, kinetic sand, etc.), but only if ours needs thrown away
  • Books
  • Posters for their rooms
  • Favorite candy, cereal, or food that we don’t normally buy
  • A day kayaking on the pond
  • Ice skating
  • Swimming
  • Rent 4-wheelers, snowmobiles or jet-ski’s, for a day
  • Flower pot or spot in the garden and something to grow all summer that is their own
  • Special blanket (my sister makes personalized blankets that are amazing!)
  • Bags (drawstring bags, duffel-bags, purses, etc.) these are easy and cheap to personalize too.
  • Water bottle
  • Music (CD or downloads)
  • Watch
  • Electric toothbrush (my kids go crazy for these…)
Who doesn’t want a pair of prescription free glasses from Walmart??

There.  30 things to give the kids OTHER than toys for the next year.  Just so we were all on the same page, we came up with a list of things that we consider “toys” that we are not allowed to add:

Cannot be added to our house:

  • the obvious toys (cars, figurines, remote control things, dolls, etc.)
  • Lego’s (this one might be tough)
  • new things to ride (bikes, scooters, skateboards) UNLESS the one they currently have breaks
  • DVDs
  • Wii games
  • board games
  • sporting equipment (again, UNLESS something breaks and we don’t have a back up)
  • water toys (squirt guns, tubes, noodles, etc.)

After writing it down, we can see that the list of things we will NOT get is much shorter than the list of possibilities.  Throughout the year, we are also going to work on getting rid of some of our current toys.

I’m excited to see how this goes.  I hope we will focus more on what memories we can make than what we can get.  The kids were nice and happy about this idea.  I’ll keep you updated on how long that lasts 🙂

5 Ways to Make Dinnertime More Meaningful

There are many studies available that demonstrate the importance of having dinner as a family.  There is a great website called The Family Dinner Project.org where I found a list of benefits of having dinner as a family:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

These are pretty good benefits I’d say!  It wouldn’t bother me a bit if my children had these things in their favor.  I’m sure there are many other benefits.  In my own personal experience I have noticed:

  • A stronger bond as a family
  • Greater connections with my children
  • I gain a sense for the emotional state of each child
  • Kids are less picky-eaters
  • A chance to have uninterrupted conversations (at least until someone spills…)
  • An understanding of each child’s eating habits

I’m sure the list goes on and on.  My family is at a wonderful stage right now where we can sit down as a family and eat dinner 7 days a week (my daughter does have to miss 1 day a week occasionally, because of gymnastics.)  I know my family might not be able to maintain 7 days forever, so for now I am soaking it in and enjoying every minute.

I’ve noticed that there are certain meals where we all walk away feeling “nice and happy” and some meals we walk away feeling frustrated.  If the boys are overly hyper and being totally crazy and my husband and I are having to remind them to STOP… chances are, this will not be a real bonding opportunity.  From my experience with the good and the ugly, here are

5 ways you can make family dinnertime more meaningful:

      1. Have a child help you make dinner and set the table.  This is great because that child feels ownership in the meal and is “on your team” when it comes to making dinnertime meaningful.  During dinner, be sure to compliment him or her on how much you appreciated the help.  The rest of the family usually joins in on giving compliments (thus the “higher self-esteem” benefit from above).
      2. Compliment the cook.  My husband is the one to set this example at our house.  Ever since we were first married he has always thanked me for dinner (even when we go out to eat he does this if it was my idea to eat out).  At first I didn’t realize how important this one was, but as my kids get older I have begun to recognize the value.  He is setting a good example for them to have gratitude and good manners.  After he thanks me for a meal, the other kids follow.  More than once, my son has written in his gratitude journal (be sure to read my post on gratitude journals here!) that he was grateful for dinner following his favorite meal.  If one of the kids helped to make dinner then my husband thanks me as well as that child.
      3. No electronics at the table.  We are lucky that our TV is in the basement and nowhere near the dinner table, so we are not even tempted to watch TV during dinner.  However, with phones and tablets we can now watch shows or text people or browse social media anywhere!  We have made it a rule that there can be no electronics at the table.  That means that if the phone rings or dings to notify a text, my husband and I ignore it.  There have been a few exceptions when we need to take a call, so we always ask permission first from the rest of the family.  There have also been a few times that we are having a discussion on something that we disagree about or want to know more about, so we might ask permission to use the phone to look up information quickly.  But overall, this is a strict rule that I know will become more important as my children grow up and get their own phones.  That is why we are setting the standard now.
      4. Eat dinner before starvation sets in. There are a few days of the week that we are out at an activity and come home right at dinner time.  I have noticed that if we come home hungry and I still have to prepare dinner that everyone gets hangry and is less social when we finally do eat dinner. When I am at the top of my game, I have dinner in the crock pot or in the oven with a timer ready to eat when we walk in the door.  That way, we can walk in the house and smell the amazing aroma then sit down and eat immediately.  Attitudes are good and bellies get full before the hangryness begins!
      5. Talk about your day.  There are many ways of doing this.  But the important thing is that you establish how you want to do this and you do it.  When we take turns talking about our day, it significantly reduces the wild and crazy boy stuff I described earlier.  My family does “sweet and sour, service.” Each person takes a turn describing the sweet part of his day, the sour part, and one way how he served someone else.  It has been a great way to teach the kids to be reflective on their day and has helped them understand service.  My little ones still ask me if I know of a way they served, but my older kids are starting to identify the service they provide.  I love that everyone gets a turn to share and it helps teach the kids to be good listeners.

I hope that these 5 things can help make your family dinners more meaningful and I would love to hear other ideas that you are doing in your family.  Good food and good company always help me to feel nice and happy!

The Rock System (paying kids for chores)


Do you pay your kids for doing chores?  I have heard about parents who pay their kids well for doing chores around the house, and I’ve also heard about parents who say that doing chores is just a part of being a family.  I can see good in both concepts.  While I do agree that chores is just an expectation of being part of a family, I also want my kids to learn how to manage money before they are really making a lot of money and the risks and lessons learned are harder. I have tried several different methods to pay kids for doing chores, but the rock system (as I like to call it) has been the most consistent and convenient way to make sure it happens.  It was completely free for me to make and is easy to start right away.

I gathered up baby food jars for each of my kids.  My two older kids have the taller baby food jars and my two younger kids have the small jars.  I removed the label on the jars and wrote each child’s initial on their jar.  The last step to getting it ready to use is to find your “rocks.” I used the glass beads you can buy in the craft section at the Dollar store or Walmart.  I’m not sure why I call them rocks, when they are clearly not rocks, but oh well.  You really could go out and find different sized rocks and even paint them to make them cute.  You could use cotton balls, dried beans, candy, or whatever you can find around the house.  That’s it.  You are ready to start paying kids for their chores.  Now, here is how is works…

For every chore your kids do, they get to put a rock in their jar.  If they want to do 5 chores in a day then they get 5 rocks.  Some chores are worth two rocks (cleaning the bathroom AND the bathroom floor).  If you try out this hot spot wheel, then kids would get a rock after doing their hot spot.  When the jar is full they get paid.  So simple!  You can decide on the amount that each kid gets paid for a full jar.  When we first started and my older kids were about 5 and 6, they both got paid $2.50 for a full jar.  In our family, we donate 10% of our money to our church, so $2.50 made it easy to figure the 10% the kids would pay for tithing.  Our younger kids received $1 for their full smaller jars.  This was such a small amount of money, but the kids love getting paid and feel so grown up to have their own money to do with as they wanted.  A good idea is to teach kids to give 10%, save 10%, and keep the 80% to do with as they chose, but since I was paying my kids such a small amount I did not stress over the saving part.  They could spend their money on whatever they chose.

Now that my kids are a bit older, I felt that they should have a raise and more financial responsibility along with it.  We had a discussion with the kids to see if they felt they deserved a raise.  At first my seven year old wanted nothing to do with a raise… this was  a good teaching point.  Now he understands what a raise is and you better believe he wants it! We agreed that the kids will earn their raise on a full jar IF they had an overall good attitude while doing their chores.  If we have to remind them to change their attitude more than twice as they work on filling their jars, then they do not get the raise and go back to the $2.50.  We agreed to pay our kids their age in dollars for every full jar.  For example, my nine year-old earns $9 for a full jar and my seven year-old earns $7, etc. In a perfect world I would always have the exact change on hand to pay the kids the minute they fill their jars.  I do not live in that perfect world.  Sometimes they get to empty their jar to start over and I just make a note that I owe them their money.  That immediate reward for a full jar is much more powerful though, so if at all possible try to have several dollar bills available at home.  Now that my kids are making more money we can talk more about saving for college, cars, missions and also saving for big items they want.  My daughter attends a gymnastic camp at her favorite college in the summer and she is expected to pay for a portion of that camp.  So she is working on saving towards that.  My two older sons have decided that they want to buy one of those battery powered cars they can drive, so they have combined their money to save for that. After just a couple of weeks (and some Valentine money from Grandma and Grandpa), these boys are already up to $61 combined!  Any time they ask to buy something at the store I love that I can tell them, “sure you can buy that.  You have your own money now!”  It’s funny how those silly little things are not as appealing if they have to use THEIR money to buy it!

A recap of why this system works for my family:

1. Cheap, easy and fast to put together and get started.

2.  Kids receive an immediate reward for doing their chores.

3. Offering a raise for good work ethic teaches kids a real world concept. (and less whining!)

4.   Allows kids to develop a habit of paying tithing.

5.  Kids can learn about money management.

6.  It is easy for ME to be consistent with this system.

A clean house and watching kids work makes me a nice and happy mom!  I would love to hear your experience with this rock system if you give it a try, or about what other payment systems work for you.

Hot Spots

Isn’t chore time your favorite part of the day?? I just love how when I tell the kids that it’s time to do chores they all quickly stop what they are doing and jump up and down and beg to get started right away. NOT!!! We all know that it’s easier, faster, and will get done better if we just do all the dang chores ourselves, right?  But, we also know that doing this is a great way to raise entitled slobs.

There are so many wonderful methods out there that really do help chore time go smoothly… or smoother.  For my family, assigning a “HOT SPOT” to each person is what really eliminated my fear of saying, “time to do chores.”  It’s pretty simple.  I created a spin wheel to match each person with a chore.

 

 

I first cut out a large circle and a smaller circle that was about an inch smaller than the large. I then divided the circles into six even slices (do this depending on the number of people in your family).  In each section of the large slice I wrote the name of each person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the small section I put a picture of an area around the house: dining room, bathroom, entry way, living room, kitchen, and family room (this is when having a large family pays off!!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then put the small circle on top of the large circle and attached them with a brad in the center and voila! You now have a hot spot chart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now what do you do with it?
Each person is now assigned a spot in the house, A.K.A. a hot spot! And that person is responsible for keeping it decluttered and clean until the hot spot chart is turned to assign a new hot spot. We usually rotate hot spots every week or two.  You can do it daily, monthly or weekly; whatever works for you.

Before you begin this process make sure to take the time to go through each hot spot and give your expectations of what it should look like.  I usually just wanted the area picked up each day, not necessarily cleaned.  After explaining the rules, try it out by simply saying, “check your hot spot.” I love that I don’t have to give assignments or explain what they need to do.  We usually like to set a timer for five minutes and see if everyone can do their hot spot before the timer goes off.

After everyone has completed their hot spot and it meets mom’s approval, then the kids would get a rock in their jar… which brings me to another day and another post!

Are you ready to be nice and happy??