Over-scheduling: Megan’s Story

You might know the phrase, “the bad news is time flies; the good news is you’re the pilot.” This is so TRUE. Luckily, we can navigate our own time and choose how we spend those moments we hold dear to our hearts. We can easily become too busy to experience life together, to share those special moments and our hearts with one another. I am a busy mother of 3 beautiful girls and my priority is to give my family the ultimate gift… each other. Giving them the “time” to truly know and understand one another and to explore life enabled them to develop STRONG relationships in our family. The key to making all of this a reality is simple—I didn’t over-schedule my family.

PWA Dec Family Spotlight Megan

In today’s society, kids are overloaded with activities that are robbing them of their childhood. They are constantly on the go, trying to experience every interest that each child may have. I didn’t want to force a “theme” on my daughters at such a young age. I have noticed kids seem to act as if they are programmed when life gets too busy. I encouraged my girls to pace their interests so they could develop into their own authentic selves. Giving each child one activity allowed them the necessary time to live in the moment and truly focus on other important things, which helped form crucial values and mold their morals. Activities such as eating dinner as a family, playing with each other and having those special times as a family are all essential to developing healthy values.

An astonishing fact that blows me away is that 40% of families eat together only three or fewer times a week, with 10% never eating dinner together at all. Family meals nurture my family and provide us with a unified experience which connects each one of us with love and security. I feel connected with each one of my girls and because we have established a close relationship, I feel they know they can come to me with any life obstacles that come their way. I owe this to the consistent bonding that we have, and feel my relationship would not exist if my daughters were over booked.

In addition, time has allowed my girls to develop an imagination. Having time to create their own activities and to explore their inventive side inspires my girls and molds them into beautiful young ladies. A strong imagination does not make you impractical, it’s a wonderful tool in life that gives you unlimited opportunities! In fact, people who lack imagination are inclined to think negatively and to be unhappy.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while Imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

-Albert Einstein

Extra time can also play against us as parents these days. Today, kids are not always choosing to play board games and go outside to play. They are glued to screens and are using the tech world for their enjoyment. Some kids may spend hours at a time staring at a screen, resulting in missing out on life. Although, technology can be a good thing. Not all screen time is bad, and it can actually be a great resource and building block in our children’s education. However, as with anything, moderation is key. One time, by choice, my girls decided to give up all electronics, and I was amazed at the difference in their attitudes! Since they had given up all of their gadgets, they were forced to nurture their imaginations, enabling them to find more happiness and contentment within themselves. This goes back to how important imagination is. I believe it is one of the foundations which creates happiness and peace within.

To sum it all up, not over-scheduling my family gave them time to use the gift of imagination and for them to experience life at a pace that is enjoyable. Every child and family is different, and finding your own groove as to what works for you is ultimately the best. What I do know, is time is extremely precious. Each time we share our moments together, we create precious memories we will all cherish for a lifetime!!

Megan

Principle Vs. Rule Based Parenting

Kris’ Story

You’d think I would have been embarrassed when teachers and parents began questioning the way I was raising my children. In their defense, my approach to parenting isn’t something that many families are used to, and hearing that our house had “no rules” must have come as quite a shock. Let me backtrack a bit, and tell you the story of how my twins left everyone astonished – what some people may have perceived as a “shameful” parenting moment was truly one of my proudest…

PWA Oct Family Spotlight Kris Frodsham

When my twins began 5th grade, their Sunday School teacher was going over the class rules and asked the students, “How many of you have rules to follow at home”? All of the students raised their hands…except my twins. The teacher, doubting my twins’ absence of raised hands, questioned them directly, “Do you have rules at home”? Quite innocently, they replied “No, we don’t have rules, we have principles.”

When it comes to the question of how to best raise our children,
I think it’s important that we first look at what we are trying to achieve in the long-term.

I think every parent would agree that the desired end result is that our children are able to make good choices, leading them on a path of happiness and success. My four beautiful children are truly the joy of my life, but the gift of motherhood can also be hard. And not just physically, but mentally as well. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could help my kids become the best that they can be. I finally concluded that children either follow or break rules. However, principles become a way of life, defining who we are. I didn’t want to control my children…I wanted to guide them.

Rules vs. Principles

Rules: Cause you to act or behave by someone else’s definition of what’s right and wrong.
Externally restrains you through authority and discipline, usually resulting in defiance.

Principles: Allow you to differentiate between what is good and bad based on who you are.
Internally inspires you to do the right thing.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a parent is how to mentor my kids independently. What I mean by this is that each child is their own special and unique person. In order to cement core values within them, you have to approach children as an individual. Core values (principles) are the basics of “right and wrong” and come naturally when children are taught based on who they are. I let my values be their guide, and through example, our family’s principles have become second nature to all of my children.

If ever something “wrong” came to the surface, I let natural consequences be their punishment. For example, one of my daughters cheated on a test. She was so determined to get a good grade, and somewhere along the way she made a poor choice. Because of her strong moral values, the natural consequence of guilt was enough for her, and she corrected her mistake with honesty.

Also, learning how to fail was an important lesson for my children. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” You see, the only real failure in life is failing to TRY. Most kids are taught only about winning and success, but nothing about what leads to these. Teaching my kids that failure is part of the foundation to triumph, that it’s simply a required step in achieving their goals, has proved invaluable to their success as adults.

I wanted my children to “shoot for the stars”
and think nothing less of themselves if they fell short.

I’ve found that in life, limits only sustain people. I knew that limitless potential required my children to be confident in themselves, and I wanted to give them stepping stones of responsibility and control at a pace that fit each child’s developmental stage. So I gave my kids choices…choices that they could handle…choices that would foster independence and confidence. Giving them the power to choose for themselves, was like planting the seed of self- reliance and confidence.

Empowerment gives us such great satisfaction. It allows us to feel like we can conquer anything, and more importantly, that we (not others) have the power to define our lives.

Every parenting technique is different, as well as every child. In my experience, principle based parenting worked for my children. I never worried about them blindly “following the crowd,” because I taught my kids how to act/react based on their principles. I never dealt with typical teenage defiance because there were no rules to defy.

Doing what is best for you and your family is going to look different from mine, but ultimately when it comes to the question of how to best raise kids, the answer is love…hands down.

Kris Frodsham

Family Spotlight: Wendy Stem

In the spring of 2011, after our older daughter Abigail had started second grade, she began experiencing frequent stomach aches. They would usually come in the evening around dinner time, she would become flushed in the face and just need to lie down. After six months of doctor’s visits that included everything from strep throat to allergy tests and even an endoscopy, the stomach aches went away.

Parenting With Amy

Six months later, our younger daughter Sarah, shortly after starting first grade, began experiencing the same symptoms. Unfortunately, Sarah’s were more intense. She had stomach aches, cramping, and painful constipation. She became fearful of several things including being sick, going to school, and being by herself. There was a lot of crying, a lot of screaming, and several trips to the pediatrician’s office. After testing for a few things, it was becoming clear that Sarah was on the same path that Abigail had been on. Fortunately, this time around, our pediatrician recommended visiting with Amy to investigate the possibility of Sarah’s symptoms being related to anxiety.

During our first visit with Amy, she assured me that all of Sarah’s symptoms, while they could be something physical, aligned with a child feeling anxiety. Because Sarah is very verbal, often times we feel like we can reason with her and explain situations, but trying to explain Sarah’s anxiety to her and tell her the “right” way to view it was clearly not helping. Amy has helped us better understand the viewpoint of the anxious child. She has helped us learn how to talk with Sarah in such a way as to acknowledge what she is feeling, to help Sarah feel validated in what she is feeling, instead of feeling differently or wrong about it. The following spring, Sarah was doing very well in her first grade class.

It was late that same spring that we had a huge family change – we decided to take an assignment overseas with my husband’s company. We all felt nervous but very excited. We were busy with plans, selling our home and getting ready to move in August when we were delayed by an indefinite amount of time while we waited on immigration paperwork. We moved into a small apartment that was fun for the first week, but the reality of leaving our home, our neighborhood, friends and routine soon hit. We were all grieving, not sure how long we would be in this apartment and not sure what our lives would look like when we moved overseas. It was an emotional, scary time.

We were all feeling quite uncertain about what we were doing, but it is Sarah who is somewhat of the “thermometer” in our household. She felt all of the insecurity and emotion intensely. We had crying and screaming fits, periods of deep sadness, even a period of time when Sarah did not want to get off of the couch to play.

I am so thankful we were able to reach out to Amy again. She was a neutral person with whom Sarah could talk, and who, according to Sarah has great dolls to play with! As her parents, we had this idea that we could just tell Sarah how to “fix” what she was feeling by doing something different, acting a certain way, or believing something specific. One of the most important things we have learned from Amy is how to validate our children and their feelings. Simply being able to listen to them and acknowledge what they are going through as being normal has given them a confidence to work through a lot of these anxious moments.

While nothing about our move overseas was easy, we have done it. Our first move was an amazing adventure, but definitely filled with moments to practice the skills we have learned from Amy! The adjustment continued to be filled with sadness, anxiety, and a little anger, but both girls started new schools overseas, made many new friends and enjoyed an amazing experience. We continue to face fears and anxiety, but with an openness to talk, acknowledge, and validate. We have learned to be aware of our stressors, to recognize what are reactions to anxiety and to reach out for help when we need it, all of which is an ongoing process.

Our girls are now entering seventh and fifth grades, and we have made another overseas move. We have faced the grief of leaving another home, the sadness of leaving friends and the anxiety of not knowing what the next months will be like. Sarah and Abigail have both felt this intensely and have had the same feelings manifest. However, they are beginning to recognize and verbalize how they are feeling, and we know we can work through it as a family. We are thankful for the skills we have learned from Amy, and thankful that we are able to continue to seek her guidance and resources!

Wendy Stem

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Milner

My grandmother once told me that, in parenting, there are only two things you need to say to your child.

Two things. That doesn’t seem hard, does it? Just two things, and you’re a great parent? I was eager for a pencil and paper and could see myself in the future as a new mom: Did I say the “two things”? Check! Cross “parenting” off the list!

But the problem, my grandmother told me, isn’t that people don’t say two things to their kids; it’s that most people say the wrong two things to their kids.

Most people, she explained, say, “Here’s who I think you are,” and “Here’s what I am going to do for you,” when what a parent should say to his child is “Who are you?” and “What do you need from me?”.

I often come at my children with pre-conceived notions about how a conversation is going to go, or what they’re going to need from me that day, and I continue to be surprised at my surprise when those notions are turned on their heads! I remember when my second daughter began to eat solid foods, and I eagerly introduced her to all the foods her older sister had loved so much as an infant. I was shocked when my little one didn’t like avocado, and I can even remember saying to the messy, crying little six-month-old in a bewildered voice, “but your sister LOVED avocado as a baby!”

That was the first time I realized that my younger daughter was, um, a completely different person than my older daughter, and that all my expectations of how it “should” go were about to be dashed. My youngest wasn’t a sequel to a hit novel – she was a blank page waiting to be filled; an undiscovered country begging to be explored.

My oldest is now ten and my younger daughter, eight. I have learned over the years that I parent best when I don’t try to come in as the expert on Who They Are, or with a problem preemptively diagnosed, and the prescription already written; instead, I’m the most useful to them when I try to reverse engineer the situation. What is the problem (who are you?) and if I can picture the desired solution, then how can I work backwards from that to figure out how to get to A from Z (what do you need from me)?

This past fall, we went through a “valley” time in family life – lots of sibling squabbling, door-slamming, disrespectfulness, and more. Their bad attitudes were wearing on the whole family, and our usual discipline methods were not cutting it. So I tried to work backwards through the issue.

The problem – a lack of respect for other family members, and a lack of self-control when dealing with anger and frustration. Rather than heaping consequences on each child for bad behavior, I wanted to encourage good behavior and good choices. But how to do that without outright bribing the girls?

We ended up handing each child a big stack – and they were fairly big – of one dollar bills. “This,” we said to them, “is yours to spend on the family in two weeks, any way you want. We’ll go bowling, or to the movies, or ice skating – you name it. Start planning it now, and we’ll look forward to it!”

Both girls lit up.

“But here’s the catch,” we continued. “Every time you slam a door, speak disrespectfully, are mean to your sister, and so on, we will take a dollar out of that stack. So your behavior over the next two weeks is going to determine whether or not we go for a night at the movies or we all split a single cone at Braum’s.”Their actions, we explained lovingly, have real consequences on the whole family. When one of them acts out, the whole family suffers, and we wanted them to see that in a very real way.

At the end of the two weeks, each girl had nearly all her money left. (Yeah, I was shocked too!) They worked hard, and you could see that as their outward choices changed, their hearts softened as well. Patience grew, and disrespect shrank. One girl took us ice skating and out for cookies, and the other treated us to a family movie day. And on each girl’s “special” day, she was beaming with pride the entire time, bursting with joy at providing such fantastic quality family time. We made sure to praise her throughout the day, saying “Thank you for the choices you’ve made over the past two weeks. It’s because of your patience and grace and kindness that we are able to have this great family time together!”

It’s so easy to stop checking in, I know. When I’m busy and rushed, I fall back on what I think I know of my girls. I forget they’re constantly changing, constantly growing, and I need to continuously look at them and ask them those two questions: Who are you, right now? And what do you need from me, right now?

I don’t always find the answers the same way. Sometimes the girls will tell me themselves; sometimes I find the answer after much quiet reflection; and sometimes I turn to an expert like Amy to help me figure out the reply to those questions. I’ll be the first one to tell you I don’t have all the answers.

But I never stop asking, and it has absolutely shaped who I am as a parent.

Jennifer Milner

Family Spotlight: Debbie Fischer

Structured Doll Play

My husband and I, along with our two sons – ages 4 and 1 ½ years, recently underwent a cross-country move. As corporate relocations tend to go, we moved into a temporary apartment and a preschool that happened to have openings for both boys. Within 2 months, we moved again – this time into our permanent house and, a few months later, to a preschool located near the house. That’s two house moves and two preschool moves in six months.

While our 4-year-old, Graham, had treated the initial move like a grand adventure, the final switch into his permanent daycare was less than smooth. His teachers weren’t as fun (so he said), and the other kids weren’t his friends. Since switching preschools, he started to have more tears about going to school in the morning. Over the next few months, the resistance to attending preschool dramatically increased. He had frequent tummy aches, would sob at drop-off, and ultimately required a teacher handoff at the door. He even began to cry about going to school when we’d tuck him into bed at night, knowing it was coming the next morning. Soon, our normally-awesome sleeper started to wander into our bedroom at night.

When my husband and I would ask him what was going on he’d either say that he didn’t like his teacher or the kids at school were mean to him. One morning, my husband had Graham strapped in the car – ready to go to school – when Graham said he had to make a potty stop. I stayed behind to take him to school after he was finished.

I poked my head into the bathroom to let Graham know that I would be the one taking him in that morning. He looked up at me from the toilet and tears started rolling down his face. Through a strained voice, he said, “Mommy, I am feeling very sad.” We ascertained that he did not actually need to go potty, but rather was delaying the inevitable school drop-off. We washed up and moved to the living room couch to talk more about it. There, he told me that kids at school were being mean to him.

My husband and I, frankly worried about bullying, scheduled a parent-teacher conference to learn more. When I told his teacher about his most recent delay tactic of asking to use the bathroom, she chimed in that he was excessively asking to use the restroom at school too. This is a great school, with incredibly patient teachers, so when they use the word “excessive”, I knew it wasn’t an exaggeration. The teachers also reinforced that they were seeing no issues with the other children at school. In fact, they said, Graham regularly plays with almost everyone in his class. Of course, there are normal disputes over toys, etc, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary.

They were pretty certain we were dealing with garden-variety separation anxiety. They gave us some ideas on how to deal with it at home. They assured us that separation anxiety can ebb and flow, and creep up every now and again without much warning – especially if a family has undergone so many changes in a short period, as ours had.

We tried the tactics that the school gave us, but none of them seemed to help, so I called Ms. Amy. She had been a great help to my son while we were still in the Dallas area, and she knew Graham. Amy agreed this sounded very much like separation anxiety and, among other great tips, suggested we try structured doll play to provide Graham with some additional comfort with our school drop-off/pick-up routine.

I tried it that very night. I asked Graham if he wanted to play a new game with me. He was very excited to try something new! I told him we were going to play “School Drop-off,” and he immediately picked out dolls and stuffed animals to represent each member of the family. The dolls sat down for breakfast together, like we do as a family, then the daddy doll told Graham’s doll that it was time to go to school. As my son’s doll approached the toy car, he stopped and spoke – through his doll voice – and said, “I don’t want to go to school.” I had the daddy doll ask him why. My son’s doll said, “Because I poop a lot… I have diarrhea.”

This was not at all what I was expecting to hear, but it instantly made sense! A few weeks back, Graham had a little stomach bug and had a potty accident at school. School policy dictated that he had to wear a Pull-up for the rest of the day. At the time, it didn’t seem to phase him, but apparently the incident had left some deeper marks than we all knew.

I focused on my doll again, and used the daddy doll to tell him that he was sick then, but he is not sick now and that those types of accidents would not happen anymore. We played through the rest of the drop-off and pick-up routine. Graham loved it so much he asked to play it again two more times!

The next morning, I expected his anxiety to magically be gone, but it wasn’t. It seemed a little lessened but not by much. We briefly reinforced what the daddy doll had told the Graham doll the night before as he left for school. That evening, Graham asked to play “School Drop-off” again, so we did, and there was no talk of dreading school the next day. His drop-off the next morning was just a bit smoother.

Throughout that week, the drop-offs became increasingly easier. The potty break requests during school dwindled as well. Now, almost 2 months later, we have no mysterious tummy aches, no night-wakings, and no significant anxiety about drop-off at preschool. Graham still doesn’t love the idea of going to school on a Monday morning, but it’s nothing like it used to be. He even comes home talking about friends he’s played with that day. Every now and then, he will ask to play “School Drop-off” with me, but the interest in it usually dwindles about halfway through. He doesn’t seem to need it anymore.

I couldn’t believe how effective structured doll play was for Graham. Not only that he was excited to play it but that he was instantly able to tell me what he was feeling – where weeks of asking had only led to canned answers. As his doll was telling mine all his worries, it was a little bit of an awkward transition for me to process what he was telling me as a mother, then respond as a doll character. It was also apparent to me how long it had been since I had played dolls and pretend. I felt pretty rusty – it’s not as easy as it used to be, and felt a little silly too. Also, in not so little ways, my reaching out to Graham with an idea for a game, and making a concerted effort to leave behind household chores to get on the floor for some focused play time, made him feel valued and loved as well.

I can’t thank Amy enough for these lessons!

Debbie Fischer

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Eckert

Then:

Wow… thinking back to the time period that brought us to Amy’s door – sometimes it feels like it was so long ago, and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Desperate is the word I would use to describe that time period. Although it was scary and I was completely at a loss as to how to parent my child, I am so grateful that I was desperate and vulnerable enough to get help. Amy provided exactly the tools, support and comfort we needed.  I would say to any parentEckert Family struggling with an issue with their child – be desperate and vulnerable. There is no shame in not knowing what to do.

Our son, Josh, was a handful – well, he still is. I remember the exact moment when I knew we had a “passionate” child on our hands – he was 13 months old, not verbal yet, but full of things to say. He was standing at the refrigerator, banging on it and screaming for milk, but only in sounds that a mom would know what their child wanted. He was desperate, too. He couldn’t talk but boy did he want and need to. Since Josh couldn’t talk, he was physical. He would hit, throw, run away from me. I was really at a loss. I remember sitting in the pediatricians office just crying to the nurse practitioner about my 2-year old. I “didn’t know what to do!” Thank God for her, and for my desperation, because that moment led me on a path towards help, answers and finally feeling like everything would be “okay”.

How:

The nurse practitioner suggested we start by calling Amy Meyer and a speech therapist. Thankfully, Josh’s non-verbal abilities were pretty easily fixed. I think he was just stuck, and once he got “unstuck” verbally, he has not stopped talking since! Josh becoming verbal, although not overnight, was helpful because he could tell us what was going on, instead of being physical.

The play therapy was quite a journey. First, Amy was wonderful – she was non-judgmental and caring – she was all that we needed. As I mentioned above, I think that is the most important aspect of the process of therapy I received, and still carry with me today, is that “everything is going to be okay”.  I didn’t always know what that would look like, and it might not be pretty to everyone else, but I knew in my heart that we would all be okay, because we were getting help.

Through play therapy we learned what behaviors to care about and what to let go of. Josh was (and still is) all about control. For example – Josh hated to have me brush his hair. Well –my goodness, to have a child go to pre-school without great looking hair – what will people think? Hmmm.. we found out quickly that was a battle we really didn’t need to fight. What a relief!  I was so happy to receive “permission” from Amy that certain behaviors were okay. A particular issue that I remember is that Josh never – truly never – sat down to eat dinner. He always stood up. I cannot tell you how we fought with him over that issue! When we discussed it with Amy, we all agreed that as long as he was with us at the table, ate his food and helped clean up, it was fine that he stood up. Something like this may not fly in another household, but it truly had to in ours because we had to learn that compromise was the key. I feel so grateful that early on, we were able to get to know this child, get to understand that things might look different with him –and that’s “okay”. I can honestly tell you that if we had not gone through those years with Amy, I would be further into the pit that I was in at the time.

There were many situations when I really gave into Josh because it was just so much easier. I was tired of fighting every single little thing with him. I think we made a lot of mistakes by letting Josh have control, and letting him run our family at certain times because it was just such a whipping to stay strong and do the “right” thing. As we learned from Amy, consistency was, and still is, the key.

Now

Oh gosh – Josh is now 10, almost 11, and time certainly does fly! We met Amy when Josh was 2 or 3. I remember talking with Amy and she told me that more than likely,   Josh was ADHD. Because Josh was only 2/3 at the time, he was too young for a formal diagnosis, but I am here to tell you she was right on the money. Amy suggested we go to a diagnostic psychologist and Josh was formally diagnosed at 6 years old (when he was in kindergarten). Since then, we continue to learn a lot about Josh everyday. I really think that since we were so open to help when Josh was young, it has enabled us to be so throughout our parenting journey with him and our other two children (Callie – 13 and Truitt – 6). Since Josh formally stopped seeing Amy, my husband and I have checked in with her a couple of times and I truly feel like I can call her anytime to make an appointment and receive her counsel.  We reached out to her when we knew it was time to take the nest step and have Josh diagnosed – I knew she would be the best source for us. We reached out to her when I was worried about a new problem that arose – sometimes you just need a refresher and a safety net as a parent, and she provided that for us.

Am I the “perfect parent” now because we went to therapy? Nope, I am far from it.  I am flawed, human – I make mistakes daily, hourly. But, I know that we gleaned so much from our time with Amy and I still use that knowledge everyday. I am open to realizing that each of my children is unique and needs different things from me. I realize some things are worth the battle and some are not. One aspect that has stuck with me from going to see Amy is that Josh is who he is. I cannot make him be someone different, I cannot make him be compliant when that is not his nature, I cannot have all the control. That being said, I know that because he is strong willed, we need to be vigilant about helping him realize his strengths and weaknesses. We are fumbling through this process, but we are trying to maintain the tools we learned from Amy to the best of our ability.

Hopefully we are raising great kids that will turn into great adults. Thank goodness we are not alone. It brings me comfort knowing that I can still reach out to Amy.

Jennifer Eckert

Family Spotlight: Brooke Mulford

Before we came to see Amy, I would describe my husband and I as frustrated, end-of-our rope parents. We were struggling with a child who took all of our attention and energy, and then some. I would say the problem persisted for close to a year. We would halfway attempt methods discussed in the multiple parentingBrooke Mulford books we had bought or checked out from the library, but we had no real success and were even more frustrated when nothing worked.

After multiple incidents at home and our daughter’s school, involving hitting and anger, I called Amy, who had been recommended to us by our daughter’s preschool teacher.

Our concerns were that we needed to ‘figure’ our daughter out before it was too late. We also wanted to be better parents.

In the beginning, the processed helped us by making us accountable, which meant that I had to report back to Amy about how things were going. This helped us tremendously! I felt like if we were spending the time and money, we needed to also put forth the effort. And after that, the process changed us. We finally had the tools we needed to be successful parents. We learned that our parenting style just didn’t work, and really clashed with our daughter’s personality. Honestly, I never would have thought that some of the things we were doing wrong were such a big deal until we started making just a couple of ‘small’ changes and saw the improvement!

Our daughter is now beginning to recognize her own feelings and learning how to express them. Her anger and physical aggression towards others almost always stems from frustration, so Amy gave us tools to help her express herself in more appropriate ways, and in turn, help her to make better decisions. I think the thing that was the most shocking to me was how quickly these changes affected our household- it is literally life-changing!

We still have rough days, but they are few and far between. I feel like now we can regain control of the day, as opposed to going from one frustration to another. I believe it has made us happier people over all, and has had a positive impact on our marriage as well. Two less frustrated people who finally feel like successful parents-which is what I believe all parents want at their core-to raise happy, healthy children who are able to cope with life and things that come their way.

Things are good. I feel like we enjoy being parents to our daughter now, and can give her the time and patience that she deserves. That might sound terrible, but when the days were full of frustration, I honestly didn’t want to be around her most of the time. It was a tremendous learning experience for all of us, since we all play a part in our children’s upbringing. Things in our family are very different…we have changed from reactive parents to active parents-which is what our daughter needs and deserves. Our daughter hasn’t had a bad day at school in almost two months-I can pick her up from school and not hold my breath while asking her teacher how the day went! Things are still going great!!

Brooke Mulford

Family Spotlight: Jennifer Bourgeois

Three years ago we experienced a major life change, the death of my mother. I tried to shield my children from the pain that I was experiencing but I didn’t realize at the time how my decisions would affect my children and their own grief. As time went on we began noticing a change in our oldest daughter, Emma. At first we didn’t realize what was going on with her and why she was acting out so much and refusing to separate from me. She was afraid to do things that she normally loved, didn’t want to go to school and would cry every morning, and also became defiant towards us. At the time she was 9 and in 3rd grade. I became very fearful of our mother-daughter relationship and the negative effects on my family. During my own childhood my oldest sister was a “trouble maker” and even as an adult I never understood what happened in her childhood to cause her to rebel the way she did.

Bourgeois-Photo-IMG_3345

The relationship that developed between my parents and oldest sister completely changed the dynamic of my childhood family and I knew I didn’t want that for my family. I was terrified that my oldest daughter would end up like my oldest sister. I was scared and almost felt hopeless.

My father and my other sister were also worried but I didn’t really know what to do about it. My pediatrician recommended counseling and gave us a list of counselors. I was feeling overwhelmed so my husband made the initial call to Amy and she said that she had experience in dealing with grief and children. That’s great but could Emma’s behavior be from grief or are we destined to go down the same road my family went down when I was a child?

I will never forget the first meeting with Amy. I feel like I could cry just writing this now. She has the most calming, non-threatening, warm presence and I immediately wanted to talk to her for hours. I knew that Emma would feel very safe with her. After that first meeting with Amy we felt a sense of relief but also knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. It was a little overwhelming because I knew I would have to really examine myself and my parenting, but I knew we were at least headed in the right direction. Emma met with Amy once a week for about 6 months. It was a rocky six months in our house to say the least. As time went on though we learned so much about Emma, ourselves, our own childhood, and our style of parenting. Talking with Amy I felt inspired to become a better parent.

Despite my fear of ruining my daughter, she helped me to believe in myself as a mother. My parenting style I wouldn’t say completely changed but rather grew and still continues to grow. I honestly don’t know where my family would be today without Amy’s guidance. After a period of time, Emma’s wounds healed and mine did too. We still have to work on our relationship together but it doesn’t feel like we are just spinning our wheels. We can actually see the positive results of our parenting.

This year, about two years after our difficult time with Emma, our youngest daughter, Elizabeth began going through a really awful time. We had an idea of what was going on but because she wasn’t able to verbalize her feelings, just like Emma, we didn’t know for sure. She was seven and was incredibly defiant and super, strong willed. I didn’t know what to do with her and I was sure that what I was doing was only making things worse. This time though I felt such comfort knowing exactly where to turn. Unlike with Emma, I didn’t doubt that things would ever get better. This time I knew with work and time things would be ok. Actually, I knew things would be better than ok. Instead of feeling like a failure as a mother, I actually looked forward to Amy’s help. Every child is different and I needed help parenting my strong willed baby. Elizabeth also needed help in trusting herself and other people. This experience with Amy and Elizabeth has been very different than with Emma. Talking with Amy inspires me to examine the way I parent Elizabeth and my other children. We are still In the process of learning what works for her and what doesn’t but I know that we will be ok, not only ok but a much better family than before we sought Amy’s help.

Parenting Packages Now Available - Schedule Your Time With Amy!

Amy now offers her Equip, Empower and Engage parenting series. Click a button below to learn more.
PWA_pkg buttons

Family Spotlight: Shannon Harris

I don’t know what I don’t know. I keep learning this lesson over and over.

I love being a mom. However, it often feels like we are walking a tightrope between teaching grace and yet providing discipline, having a sense of humor and teaching respect, deciding when the small ‘stuff’ I actually ‘big’ stuff, and vice versa.Parenting with Amy

Two years ago we attended a parenting group with Amy. These few things have made a big impact for the way we parent:

As a working mom, ‘mom guilt’ can occur daily. Amy taught us to give our kids at least 15 minutes of quality time per day. While this seems like a small amount of time, it gets all to easy to be ‘busy’ and miss this opportunity. So, whether I am coloring with the kids, having them help me make dinner, throwing a football with my son or reading books together…. I know it is critical to make the time.

It is innate to ‘fix’ our babies. If they fall and skin their knee, get a bandaid. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are sad, cheer them up. While I still need to tend to their physical needs, Amy taught me that I don’t need to ‘fix’ their feelings. I need to teach them that I am ok when they are sad, or mad, or hurt. I need to validate what they are feeling. Let them sit in their feelings. I can say “I know you are mad at me because you didn’t get….” And just let them be mad until they want to work it through. I have started to see the fruit of this process now with my 7 year old. Recently, when he has been disrespectful to me, I have shared with him from my perspective, “I don’t like the way you spoke to me. It makes me sad when you talk to in that manner.” And then I am quiet. On his own, he has now gone off, only to come back 30 minutes later and apologize to me. This shows me he is taking time to process how I am feeling. Which means he is taking time to process his feelings.

In our house, we have a saying “When you mess up, you fess up.” Often as the parent, your instinct is to not show weakness with your kids. But, Amy gave me permission to tell my kids that I am sorry. Or come back to them and explain ‘I didn’t like the way I handled the situation’ today, or ‘I have thought about what I said and I have changed my mind.’ A lot of times we excuse our behavior as parents with the rationale that ‘kids are resilient., or unaffected, or won’t remember.’ As resilient and forgiving as they are, they do remember. I love that we have BOTH Authority in our home AND show humility with our children. My kids are learning that the expectation is not to be perfect, the expectation is to OWN their choices and the consequences. This has to be taught by example.

When we were on a family vacation, my daughter was coming down an elevator with my sister. The doors shut before my daughter got out. For 45 terrifying seconds, she was hysterical in the elevator alone. She seemed to be ok…just frightened…until about one month later when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Cried when I left her at school. Didn’t want to her dance recital or school concert. My natural inclination was to push her through so she (or I) wouldn’t miss out. I was coached to ‘let her heal.’ I needed to build her confidence and trust. Not put her in situations that caused anxiety. Pull back and meet her where she was at. And so we did. I had to keep the normal school and church routines, but soccer, playdates, dance, performances…I had to let them go. It took almost a year for her to fully regain her confidence and not have a ‘spirit of fear.’ But, now she is thriving: dance, playdates, rides the bus to school, skiing. I was so thankful to get guidance during this period, and have a plan to deal with her anxiety.

Lastly, in working with Amy, you learn you have to stop comparing your parenting to other parents. You as a parent have to discern what is best for your kids. And it is valuable to have someone objective, who can know your parenting style and your issues, and give you the ‘words’ to say to your children. I feel empowered when a challenge comes up, but I have a plan on how to handle it. For example, when my kids: roll their eyes, use inappropriate language, have a disrespectful tone, have power struggles with friends, feel inferior in sports or academics, etc. I am equipped with ‘words’ and actions to handle these things. I can validate their feelings, discern if I need to step in or hold back, and be available to talk through the next step or consequences.

Parenting Packages Now Available - Schedule Your Time With Amy!

Amy now offers her Equip, Empower and Engage parenting series. Click a button below to learn more.
PWA_pkg buttons