Author: Julie K. Nelson

I am a wife and mother of 5 children, with only one left at home to spoil. I write, speak, teach at Utah Valley University, cook, travel, and can sometimes be found folding laundry. My newest book "Keep It Real and Grab a Plunger: 25 tips for surviving parenthood" will be released March 2015 and my first book, "Parenting With Spiritual Power" can be found at local bookstores and online book sellers.

How To Fight Fair

Why do you think a man will agree to play sports with the possibility of getting hurt? Why do people march willingly into battle, even in the face of the enemy?

These are examples of conflicts that contain something that protects us and gives us confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Rules.

In sports, there are understood rules. There is a referee to keep players protected. If someone gets a little too heated and loses his head, the referee will call a foul, or a technical. In war, there are rules of engagement that give structure to an otherwise hostile event.

So it is with couples who fight. If they become out of control and unpredictable, their fighting is unproductive, even destructive. However, if couples established agree-upon rules, the conflict can be resolved much easier because both parties feel safe.

These are some rules that couples can sit down and adopt before the conflict arises. If followed, they change “fighting” to a constructive discussion that leads to mutual understanding.

  1. No yelling. Fighting can be passionate and if it gets too loud, it just turns into a screaming match. When one person yells, it’s like a barking dog. The other dogs have to join in, and they just get louder and louder. One person trying to out-do the decibel level to be heard over the other. Then they both end up yelling on top of the other person so that no one can hear the other.
  2. No name calling. Along with yelling, using derogatory statements or mud slinging is against the rules. I call “foul” because you have made this a personal attack and lost reason. We don’t attack the person, but the issue.
  3. Stick to the issue. When hot heads take off running, the contentious couple often start bringing up other grievances. It’s not fair to air a laundry list. Tackle one issue at a time.
  4. Similarly, don’t bring up old arguments. It’s like going back to the landfill, digging up old garbage, and flinging at your partner. The past is over, and the present is what you need to focus on.
  5. Take turns talking. This is probably the one that couples struggle with the most (along with the next related point). If you want to be respected for your opinion, you have to offer the same to the other person. You can’t ask for what you aren’t willing to give.
  6. Listen. When it’s your turn to listen, use all your energy to be in the moment. Don’t let your thoughts distract you. Don’t be formulating your rebuttal while your partner is talking. Even if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying, they deserve to be heard, just like you. Their point of view is their reality, even if it’s different that yours.
  7. Pick a good time to talk. Discuss your disagreement when you both agree it’s a good time to talk. You both need to be rested, relaxed, and ready. That means you might need to say, or email, “Honey, there’s a problem about overcharged on our credit card we need to go over. When would be a good time for you?” The wrong way to go about this is to corner your partner, like when they walk through the door after work (“We need to talk right now about your mom coming to visit!”). This is a sure-fire way to put your spouse on defense and the sparks to fly. I’ve never been a fan of the saying, “Never let the sun go down on your anger.” If I were to try to hash out a problem with my husband when it’s 11:00 p.m. and we’re both worn out, I can promise you that the problem would just grow and we would make it worse. Go to sleep! Get refreshed and pick a better time when you’re on the top of your game.

If you create a list of rules of engagement, both parties will be more likely to feel fairness, a shared amount of power, and safety when disagreeing. It may be easy to agree to the list when you’re both calm, but when emotions start to rule over reason, one of both may resort to hostility again. In that case, it’s very important that you also discuss what will happen in the heat of the moment. One of your can form a “T” with your hands, to indicate a “foul” or “technical” to remind the offending party that they broke a rule. Or just reaching over and gently touching the other person’s hand and saying, “Honey, remember we agreed not to call names” is a kind reminder.

Connecting with your kids through cell phones

Let’s fact it: cell phones get a bad rap. I’m the first one to line up and criticize the addictive behaviors kids are learning through over-dependence on cell phones. Kids exhibit withdrawal-like behaviors when they’re not plugged in for over 15 minutes. And let’s be honest: moms and dad are sometimes worse.

Electronic devices such as cell phones can distance us from meaningful relationships. They entice us to live in a virtual world, to disrupt healthy sleep patterns, to introduce electronic bullying, stalking, and predatory opportunities, and might even expose young children to harmful levels of radiation.

Okay, now the good news. Like all technology, cell phones are amazing if we tap into the good stuff and manage the bad. After raising 5 teenagers, these are the ways cell phones have enriched our family relationships:

  1. Wonder where your kid is? “Find My Friends” is an app that lets you see your kid’s precise location. No way to lie about where they are. If your kids balk at the “stalking parent” approach, make it a condition of having their phone in the first place. They have nothing to hide, right?
  2. Speaking of finding friends, there are so many times when I need to find my child to pick them up at school, or find them in a crowded public place. Finding them via text or calling saves me HOURS of wasted time. I remember years ago, before cell phones, my family went to Disneyland. We split up and had one Walkie Talkie per group. We thought we were so cool!  So did everyone else at the park who couldn’t find their group. Cell phones have made everyone go a little less crazy finding their kids.
  3. Cell phones offer some really fun games. We love group games like Headbandz or Charades, but any solitary game can pass the time waiting at the doctors, or attending a sibling’s LONG and BORING musical Jr. high concert.
  4. Speaking of games, there are tons of educational benefits awaiting on a cell phone. When my kids had to memorize a huge list of words for school, we used a flashcard app, and I’d test them on it. Educational games are great, but be careful to limit their time and not let the games replace human contact. We tend to justify “learning” games, but human-to-human interaction has been proven as the best learning relationship.
  5. Safety and escape plan. There was an interesting blog post that highlighted the need for kids to have an emergency plan in case they got in over their heads with social pressure. He called it their “x-plan” which means an escape plan using their cell phones. Teens can type “x” to their parent’s number which is a secret code for “help me I need to get out of here.” If you get that “x” text, you call your teen back immediately with a bogus story. “Hey something has come up and I need to pick you up right away.” The teen can feign disappointment, but he’s secretly relieved to get out of a party that has turned into drinking, sexual activity, or anything he’s not comfortable with.
  6. Speaking of safety, I  have such a peace of mind knowing that if my teen was on an outing and got lost, perhaps even where it would turn into a critical situation like in the mountains, he would have his cell phone with him to dial 9-11 or phone a parent to help rescue him. My daughter did just that on a side of a road in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho after hitting a deer.
  7. The camera function on a phone is indispensable! Teens have become genius at capturing important information and images using their cell phones. It might be written instructions, a map, or a recipe that they can pull up later to easily reference. It’s the best! If you have a child who has missed a family event, like dinnertime, you can take a picture of the plate of food, text it to them with the message, “We missed you at dinner. Hope you can make it tomorrow.”
  8. Google Maps. Needs I say more? Never get lost again. For someone who is directionally challenged, this would have been a life saver as a teenager.
  9. Send your kid “love notes” via cellphone. Emojis are the new adolescent language. Teenagers can turn cold and prickly during their pubescent years, but will still accept texts with happy, loving messages.
  10. Another spin on #9 is to set up a family group text and send daily inspirational messages. You can do this through “Messenger” as well to include videoclips. These are private messages to your kids with a scripture of the day, an inspirational quote or meme, or anything that brightens their day.
  11. Put on music or podcasts while you and your kids are cleaning the house. It makes a huge difference to take your mind off the drudgery of cleaning by singing and dancing along or learning interesting stuff from a podcast.
  12. Now that I’m a grandma and have kids around the country, can I just end on this major point? Face time, Google hangout, or Skype on my phone is a way for us all to stay connected no matter where we are. I love technology when it melts the miles between us. You can even prop up the phone while you are playing a game or eating dinner to have the faraway child feel like part of the family, if only for a while. For free!

My husband and I were very careful to monitor our kids’ cell phone usage, as well as other electronic devices. We even started them on phones that were call and text only, no WiFi. But as they grew older and learned responsibility, the world opened up through these devices and became a tool for connection. The trick is to be ever-vigilant and in control rather than the other way around. Parents should be their kids’ best examples of putting away devices when a real face time is needed.

20 Parenting Hacks

There’s not place to hide in parenting. Nowhere to run.

Do you need a little help with those sticky, tricky spots? Life can get messy and whenever kids are involved. Or perhaps you’re just tired of hearing, “I’m bored” and you need some time to yourself in the bathroom. Here are 20 parenting life hacks to make your job easier.

1.PLACE TAPE OVER THE SPEAKERS ON YOUR KIDS’ TOYS TO LOWER THE VOLUME.

2. PUT A CUPCAKE LINER UNDER A POPSICLE TO KEEP IT FROM MELTING ALL OVER YOUR KID’S HAND.

3. EASILY SHAPE SNOW INTO BLOCKS USING A RECTANGULAR-SHAPED TUPPERWARE CONTAINER.

4. MAKE MEALTIME LESS MESSY BY PUTTING KETCHUP UNDER YOUR KID’S HOT DOG INSTEAD OF ON TOP OF IT.

5. KEEP YOUR CANDY SAFE FROM YOUR KIDS BY STASHING IT INSIDE A HEALTHY SNACK’S EMPTY PACKAGING.

6. HAVE A KID WHO CONSTANTLY PULLS OFF THEIR DIAPER (OR STRIPS NAKED)? TRY PUTTING THEIR ONESIE ON BACKWARD.

7. CUT A STICKER DOWN THE MIDDLE, THEN PUT ONE HALF INSIDE EACH OF YOUR KID’S SHOES. THIS WAY THEY’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHICH SHOE GOES ON WHICH FOOT.

8. WASH BABY SOCKS TOGETHER IN A LAUNDRY BAG SO YOU NEVER LOSE ANOTHER ONE AGAIN.

9. IF YOUR KID IS AFRAID OF MONSTERS AT NIGHT, MAKE SOME “MONSTER SPRAY” TO SPRAY IN THEIR ROOM BEFORE BED.

10. PUT PLASTIC WRAP OVER THE TOP OF A CUP TO SERIOUSLY CUT DOWN ON SPILLS.

11. ATTACH A CLIP TO THE END OF YOUR KID’S BUBBLE WAND TO KEEP IT FROM FALLING INTO THE CONTAINER.

12. USE AN EMPTY WIPES CONTAINER TO STORE TRAVEL SNACKS FOR YOUR KID.

13. KEEP TODDLERS ENTERTAINED ON A FLIGHT BY LETTING THEM PLAY WITH GEL CLINGS ON THE WINDOW.

14. THE BEST TIME TO CUT YOUR BABY’S NAILS IS 20 MINUTES AFTER THEY’VE FALLEN ASLEEP.

15. KEEP YOUR TODDLER BUSY BY LETTING THEM “PAINT” THE FENCE WITH WATER.

16. PUT A KEY RING ON YOUR CHILD’S JACKET TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR THEM TO ZIP UP.

17. USE SHOE ORGANIZERS TO ORGANIZE YOUR KID’S THINGS IN THE CAR.

18. DOES YOUR KID YELL “TOO COLD!” WHEN THEY NEED AN ICE PACK? GIVE THEM A BAG OF FROZEN MARSHMALLOWS INSTEAD.

19. Turn an old cardboard box, pizza box, or appliance box into something amazing. Let your child color, paint, or draw on it and turn that ordinary box into something magical like a castle, a car, or a T.V.

20. Use a mesh bag to put all those tiny toys (Legos, anyone?) into and  run on a dishwasher cycle to clean.

Article credit:  100 Genius Hacks Guaranteed To Make A Parent’s Job Easier

We don’t have to be the same to be together

Please, everyone, read this excellent blog post. I’m disheartened at the contentious world we are creating to live in. It doesn’t matter if it relates to politics, religion, race. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the public arena or in our homes, with family members.

I would love us all to listen to each other and then say (or respond to social media posts) these words: “I understand.” or “I see where you are coming from.” Period. No rebuttals, no one-upmanship, no “I’m right/You’re wrong” on whatever political, social, or religious issue is in question.

Even those who are seeking to live Christ-centered lives can see things very differently. “While the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. … We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God.” -Dieter Uchtdorf

[About an Armenian family] “It was interesting to get to know what they believe and understand each other better. I liked that they were open-minded and tried to understand what we believed as we tried to understand what they believe.”-From my daughter, Rachel Nelson, in her letter home this week from Russia.

Differences Among Us: What an Opportunity to Teach Children Compassion.

There’s a lot going on since the presidential election and installment of our new President.  A lot of talk, a lot of debate, even hostility between people who should be friends. Conflict brings out the best (and worst) in people.

But conflict shouldn’t be seen as something to avoid or to divide us. It should be viewed as a natural part of life, an opportunity for maturity and growth as individuals, friends, communities and nations. Difference is what makes us stronger and gives us an opportunity to teach children compassion.

Brene Brown is a women who has a strong message about diversity and kindness. I wish there was more kindness going on right now. Respect for one another. Believing the good in others. Understanding another’s point of view rather than proving how I am right and you are wrong. Parents owe this to their kids and to themselves.

Here is a link to her message about how to teach children about compassion with all the political rhetoric.

The Secret Sauce for Apologizing

Imagine this: Your spouse ate the rest of the lasagna you had planned to serve for leftovers tonight. Now there’s no dinner and everyone is hungry and crabby. When you fume about it, he says dismissively, “My bad.”

How’s that for an apology? Do you feel any better?

Probably not.

It wasn’t sincere and it certainly didn’t own up to his carelessness. And it doesn’t put dinner on the table.

Saying “My bad” or a simple ” I’m sorry” may be fine for small, inconsequential mistakes if delivered with sincerity. However, these superficial expressions can easily get the offender off the hook and not feeling the full effect of how their actions hurt others.

Real apologies and sincere contrition involves much more than a few casual words. Apologies signal change and should be accepted by those who were hurt. Happy couples and family members are not free of mistakes, but they know how to treat one another when they let someone down. They use the “secret sauce” of apologizing liberally, every day.

These are the 4 ingredients in the secret sauce:

Be sincere. This is where you look the person in the eye, and with real intent say, “I’m sorry.” Don’t look away until they believe you are sincere. The level of hurt you caused should be matched with the sincerity of the apology.

Accept responsibility. “I should never have said those mean words and yelled at you.” Period. One of the biggest mistakes at this step is when a person begins to apologize and then inserts his big “BUT.” This sounds something like, “I’m sorry I ate the lasagna but I bought it in the first place so I should be able to eat whatever I want.” You can see how the “sorry” part of this was obliterated by every thing stated after the “but.” When we qualify, deflect, or excuse our behavior, it completely wipes out, or negates, the apology.

Acknowledge the result of your mistake. “I really hurt your feelings and I feel terrible about that. I made a mess of things.” State the impact of what you did so you can truly begin a change. This opens up the other person to accept your apology because their feelings are validated. You understand what you did. You are humble and brave enough to see through your loved one’s eyes.

It would be natural right about here to ask, “Will you forgive me?” True, if you have followed the steps to this point, you could expect the other person to show mercy. Asking for forgiveness is a way to have closure and start the reconciliation process. That being said, apologizing should not be conditional. It should be offered with an open heart, free of any expectations that the other person will accept it.

Address change.  Jesus said to forgive the offender seventy times seven times. I’m all for that but I believe He also wanted the offender to learn from his mistakes and make progress toward improvement. I doubt He was asking husbands to excuse their wives day after day for overspending just because she says, “I’m sorry” every time.

If you are truly sorry, that means you truly don’t want to cause pain and problems again. Part of a real apology should be an action plan for how you will make an effort to do better. “I am going to work on this by…. Will you help me?” If you were the thoughtless person who ate the leftover lasagna, this is where you would say, “To show you how sorry I am, I am going to whip up some burritos right now. You just relax and I’ll take care of it.”

Enjoy eating your burrito, lasagna, or whatever you’re having for dinner tonight with your spouse. Be sure to keep plenty of secret sauce on hand to cover the mistakes we all make in families.