Connect Powerfully With a Co-Journal

Co_Journal

Ready for a fun idea that will deepen the relationships in your family?

We got the idea many years ago from an other couple. Eighteen years ago, when Matt and I were first together, I saw a cute journal on our friend’s coffee table and asked if it was hers. She explained that it was journal she and her husband kept together. In it, they would write each other love notes, share ideas, dreams, pictures, and so on.

I went out right away and got Matt and I our own co-journal, and wrote the first entry explaining how it would work. We added a fun twist by hiding it for each other to find. It was thrilling to be right in the middle of my day and suddenly stumble upon the little book.

In our co-journal, we would write about our dreams for the future or the things that scared us or made us happy or made us cry. We’d leave each other sweet love notes and tape in movie tickets from our date nights.Over time, it became a kind of record of the early days of our relationship.

When kids came along, our journaling habits gave way to dirty diapers and weekly menus and new parent to-do lists.

One day I told Jody about our co-journal, and she thought it would be a cool thing to do  with her girls. She bought each of them a journal, wrote a note in the front of each one explaining how it works, and placed them someplace for the girls to find. Then, it was their turn to write back and hide the journals for Jody to discover.

I loved that idea, so I started doing it with my kids, and they ate it up! Over the years, that have used the co-journal to talk about what they want to do in the summer. They’ve written about dreams they had. They’ve asked questions and told me how much they love me…and how mad they are at me. I’ve used it to tell them how awesome they are and to tell them funny jokes and share little stories about when I was a kid, and we have often taped in little gifts in it for each other. The co-journal has opened a new door to their hearts and has allowed me to see fresh perspectives and new sides of their personalities.

The hiding part is fun…and sometimes comical. Our son Seth’s book is smaller than the average journal and can be tricky to find. One night, I had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom. On my way back in, I thought a nice breeze might cool off the room a bit, so I turned on the ceiling fan. Imagine my surprise when something came flying off! Seth thought it was hilarious.

Watching the kids have so much fun with the co-journal even inspired a recent Mother’s Day gift. After following a little scavenger hunt, I found a beautiful journal in the mailbox. In it was a note from my sweet husband, inspiring us to begin a new journal together.

Try it in your family, or give a beautiful journal as a gift to a young couple.

Let us know it goes…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts

A New Definition for Leadership

Leadership

When we think of a leader, we might picture an elected official or the head of a company. Often we imagine someone in an influential role. And that’s not wrong because leadership is influence.

But there is perhaps an even better definition for  leadership — one that can help us see that every single person has the potential to be a leader. The definition came from Dr. Tim Elmore, leadership expert and president of GrowingLeaders.com. Dr. Elmore was a guest on our radio show last Saturday, and he has said that leadership is “solving problems and serving people.”

We have heard parents say that their child is not destined to be a leader, and it’s true that not every kid is going to be a CEO or a politician or even a team captain. But every child can solve problems, and every child can serve people.

As parents, we can do things to intentionally groom this in our kids.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts

Creative Is the New Intelligent

Creative

Creativity and imagination are the keys to the future. They will solve our energy crisis. They will continue to make our lives and work more powerful. If you had told me when I was a kid that I could stand on a street corner and talk on a phone to someone on the opposite side of the planet, I would have thought you were crazy.

Ever watch the Jetsons cartoon? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect to see their technology in my lifetime. I still doubt that I will ever replace my car with a flying mobile, but the Jetsonian flatscreen TVs are a part of our every day life. Video chat is also here. And although we don’t have personal robot maids who are part of the family, Honda’s Asimo robot can walk, talk and have basic human interactions. It will probably be a another lifetime before we can shrink our vehicles to a brief size as George Jetson could, but nanotechnology is a fast growing field that will surely make new and amazing things possible in years to come.

It is all the product of imagination and creativity, but he question for parents is this: “How do we help foster this in our kids?”

We would say that it starts with boredom. Author Nancy H. Blakely, said it much better than we could:

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS — it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision.

I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty.

If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

– Nancy H. Blakey, author of a number of books, including Mudpies: Recipes for Invention;101 Alternatives to Television; Lotions, Potions and Slime; and Boredom Busters, all from Tricycle Press

Parents can certainly turn off the TV or limit time on social media and video games. We can create open space (physically and mentally) for our kids to wander through, but once we establish an atmosphere of boredom, we also have to provide the resources and the encouragement for kids to explore and create.

Here are a handful of posts to give you some ideas. Click through, and try a few new things to cultivate imagination in your home.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts

As A Girl Thinks, So Is She

AsAGirlThinks

Watch Your Thoughts, They Become Words; Watch Your Words, They Become Actions.

Multiple people have been credited for this quote and many forms of it, because it has been repeated by so many leaders.

Perhaps we don’t often consider our thoughts as being the seeds of our future, much less concern ourselves on a daily basis about what kind of self-talk is happening in our minds or the minds of our girls. But we should.

A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund found that, “7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way.”

So, 70% of our girls don’t believe in themselves. That belief system started with self-talk (her everyday thoughts), but overtime, it becomes her identity.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 26 to 15. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

More Posts

Growing Leaders From Monday to Friday

Growing Leaders

When it comes to raising our kids, we want practical tools — stuff that we can actually put on our to do list. But we don’t just want busy work. We want realistic strategies that get results.

Grooming our kids to be leaders is high on our list (Jody and I, that is), but we were surprised to find out that it wasn’t for a lot of other parents. When we first started our radio show, our tagline was “Raising Leaders from Cradle to College and Parenting With the End Result in Mind.” But after about a year, we changed it because we found out that so many parents don’t think of their kids as leaders or even as potential leaders. We heard things like, “Oh my son isn’t really cut out for leadership. He’s not going into politics or anything. He won’t be a CEO.”

Running for office and running a company are definitely leadership roles, but so is being a foreman on a construction crew or the board member of a homeowner’s association or even a dad (he’s the leader of a household). Okay, so maybe kids can’t relate to those kind of leadership roles yet, but what about running a successful YouTube channel or being a popular Viner? Most middle and high schoolers can totally connect with that, but they may not see them as leadership roles. Young people like NigaHiga, Tobuscus, Alx James and Nash Grier are shaping the culture from the camera lens of their iPhones. They are leaders because they influencers.

But when we hear people talk about leadership development, especially when it’s geared toward kids, most of what we find is rhetoric — theory. We hear words like “Explore. Create. Connect. Inspire.” What does that look like in real life?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts

Does Shame Hide in Your Home?

Time Out

Does Shame hide in your home? The key word here is “hide.” Shame can only live in darkness, hiding. Once it is found out and exposed, all bets are off. It’s been caught, had, busted.

Shame is the biggest enemy of self-worth. It destroys the hope of being worthy of love and acceptance. It’s goal is to squash you and make you feel lower than a snake’s belly. And more often than not, it succeeds.

Psychotherapist and author, Beverly Engel says, “Shame is the most destructive of human emotions. Shame destroys a person’s self-esteem and sense of who they are and causes people really serious problems. It’s the core issue of addiction and can cause other issues like suicide,depression and anger.”

Shame has been a familiar enemy in my life, and I have mistakenly welcomed it as if it were a friend. The path of destruction that shame leaves behind is beyond heinous. Self-blame, self-criticism and self-destruction are just a few of the bad fruit that grow from this monstrous tree. And if left unchecked, shame can lead to self-loathing — the mother of suicide.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 26 to 15. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

More Posts

6 Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying

Lying_Blue Fairy1

This week we’re talking about helping kids overcome lying, and today is the day our readers have been waiting for. It is the nuts and bolts of HOW to help your child overcome the habit of lying.

If you are jumping in today, take a moment to go back and read Confessions of Reformed Liar and 7 Myths About Lying. They lay an important mindset foundation that we have to grasp before we can successfully tackle today’s Six Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Step #1 — Be VERY careful not to shame the child.

We can’t emphasize this one enough! Children who struggle with telling the truth will avoid shame at all costs, and if you shame a liar, you will eventually create a better liar. They’ll perfect their “skills” so that they they don’t get caught and have to face shame.

When you are confronting someone who may have been untruthful, be gentle. Remind the child that there are some things that come naturally for her (tell her what those are) and some things she has to work at (like telling the truth). Tell her that a lot of people have to work at telling the truth — she is not alone. Emphasis how much you love her and how much you think she is awesome.

Separate the child from her choices. She is a great person who simply made a mistake, and your job is to help her learn how to become a truth teller.

Be VERY aware of your facial expression and your body language.

Search your child’s face to see how she is reacting to you. If she senses shame, she will react, and if you train yourself to look for it, you will be able to shift gears and let her know that you love her and that you are committed to her success.

But that doesn’t mean ignore it. Which leads me to…

Step #2 — Address every instance of untruth

This week I have been talking about how lying can be habit forming. We have to be diligent and willing to gently address every exaggeration, tall tale, omission of the truth and possible lie.

What if you aren’t sure whether or not your child is lying? Kids who have formed a habit of lying learn to get pretty good at it. But often, you will sense that something isn’t quite right. It’s as if you can smell the lie, even though you’re not sure what it is. If you suspect something is off, address it.

Also, don’t overlook storytelling, especially with a kid who struggles with lying. In yesterday’s post, I explained the kind of storytelling I mean. If you catch your child trying to pass imagination off as truth, tell them him he has a great imagination, and then give him the words to try again. “That’s a great story Johnny. You are so creative. Next time you could say, ‘Mom, I thought of a really cool story. Can I share it with you?’ That way you aren’t pretending that it really happened.”

This is work on our part, but we have to be willing to faithfully (and with great love and gentleness) call them out when we suspect something is up.

The word “lie” carries an element of shame with it. So when you’re confronting this, try not to use it. Instead of saying, “Johnny, I think you’re lying.” Say something like, “Johnny, I think it might have happened differently. Try again, and I’ll help you tell the story the way it really happened.”

Step #3 — Separate the child from the behavior, and communicate love and acceptance for the child.

The goal is for your child to fully understand and believe that you are on her team; you are 100% committed to her success, and you do not think any less of her for struggling with this, just as you wouldn’t think any less of a child who struggles with learning how to read or how to ride a bike.

Let’s say something is broken and you suspect your daughter broke it. You ask her, and she denies it. You can say, “I know it’s hard to explain what really happened. It can be scary to think that mom or dad will be angry with you. But I’m going to help you, and together, we will piece together the real, actual truth and then figure out what to do next. You don’t have to be afraid because I love you all the time, and I think you are awesome when you do great things AND when you make mistakes. I love you because of who you are, not because what you do or don’t do.”

Step #4 — Help the child understand her motives.

Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., author of Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative  to Discipline that Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person, said, “Children distort reality in an effort to ward off an unwanted turn of events or as a way of feeling in control of themselves and the world…Helping them to understand their motivation makes them realize that they can come to parents and share their struggles.”

Helping our kids understand their own motives can also lead them to develop self-compassion. It’s not about letting them off the hook. It’s about helping them to understand what happened so they become more self aware. Once they understand the need they were trying to meet when they chose to lie, we can help them find a better way of meeting that need.

Step #5 — Praise positive effort along the way

Kids sometimes need help going back and piecing together the truth. You can start by asking, “What happened first?”

As she starts to explain the story, praise every effort of honesty. If you sense that she’s veering away from truth, gently point it out and help direct her back. You can say, “You were running through the living to room to get your brother. But then something happened that made the vase fall and break. Can you remember what it was?”

As she starts to tell what really happened, avoid the temptation to feel offended that she lied to you. Let’s face it, it’s very frustrating when someone lies. You feel like you can never trust them. But remember that for a kid who struggles with truth telling, this is super hard. So when she begins to piece together the real story, let her know that you are aware of the courage she’s showing and that you are proud of her. It will give her the courage to keep going.

Step #6 — Speak a new truth

Once the story comes out, praise your child for her hard work, and then say, “ I am so proud of you because every day you are becoming more and more of a girl who always tells the truth.”

Jody and I believe that this step is critical to the long term success of building a truth teller.

No matter how many times a day you have to confront this issue with the same child, end every single session with those words. It will take time, but eventually, she will build a new identity as a girl who always tells the truth.

Earlier this week, I shared a little about the nine month journey that I took with one of my children to help him tell the truth. During that time, I must have said those words hundreds, if not a thousand times (“Every day you are becoming more and more of a boy who always tells the truth.”). It took nine months to see real victory, but the battle was won because he began to see himself as a truth teller.

In that season of our life, there was a big temptation for our little ones to go into our bedroom, climb up on our headboard and jump on our bed. And this was a huge no, no!

One day, my son came to me with tears in his eyes and a deeply repentant look on his face.  He said, “Mommy, I have to tell you what happened because I am a boy who always tells the truth.” No one had seen him do it. He could have easily gotten away with it, but after nine months of hearing the words “you are becoming a boy who always tells the truth” spoken over him, he accepted his new identity as a truth teller. And so he confessed to climbing on my headboard and jumping on my bed.

Whenever I tell that story, I usually get this question: “Did you discipline him for jumping on the bed?” And the answer is yes. Of course I did. I would have done that boy no service by letting it go. He knew it was a major rule in our house, and he knew he broke the rule. Facing the consequence gave him confidence that he could tell the truth, endure the repercussions with bravery and still be okay.

I told him how very proud of him I was for being courageous and being an excellent truth teller. I was tender and full of love, especially as I helped him face the consequence of jumping on the bed, and afterwards, I told him that I forgive him and said that I love him and that I think he’s a brave boy.

As difficult as this process may be for the child, rest assured that they will always feel a tremendous relief when the truth is told, especially when they see that there is no condemnation in your eyes.

It can be very upsetting when someone lies to you. You feel betrayed and manipulated, and it can make you really angry. Your initial reaction might be, “How could you lie to me like that? How can I ever trust you?” But remember, the person who struggles with this needs to feel freedom from condemnation in this process. They need to know that you are on their side and will help them without judgement.

Be Patient

Be patient in this one. Give this process a year. You may be doing it multiple times a day, everyday, for months on end. Don’t lose heart. Go into it know that it is going to take time. Avoid any form of condemnation, and present yourself as a coach and mentor whose only goal is to help empower your child to become a truth teller, and in time, you will succeed!

We know this is a challenging topic for so many parents. Please feel free to contact us with any questions and to leave comments below.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts

7 Myths About Lying

Question Marks

Lying is a complex issue, but at the core, it is deception and manipulation. In this post, I will confront seven myths about lying and compare each one with an opposing truth. I will also pose a question for each one that you can ask yourself — a kind of lying litmus test.

Lying is our focus this week because in all of our travels and conversations with parents, we have found that it’s one of the biggest issues parents confront — and one that typically leaves them feeling exasperated and sometimes hopeless.

Earlier this week, I shared the Confessions of a Reformed Liar, and in it I talked about how when left unchecked, lying can become a habit and a hard one to break. Tomorrow, we will offer six steps for overcoming lying, and we will also talk about this issue on our weekly radio show (see below for details).

Myth #1 — Some levels of lying are okay

There are all different kinds of lying, and some are worse than others, we tell ourselves. There are (to name a few)

  • slight exaggerations
  • little white lies
  • tall tales
  • bold face lies
  • pathological lies

Is it really a big a deal if you tell your kids to say you’re not home because you don’t want to talk to someone? Is it okay to lie about a child’s age to get a cheaper price? Some would say these are just little white lies, and they are okay.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are two moms with nine kids between them (ages 2 to 26). Together they host a weekly parenting radio show, write parenting articles and columns, coach individual families, teach workshops and seminars and speak at conventions and conferences. They are passionate about empowering and equipping parenting on purpose with an emphasis on strong family relationships (loving), raising teachable kids (training), and pointing kids toward their passion and purpose (releasing).

More Posts

Confessions of a Reformed Liar

ashamed

About nine years ago, I realized that one of my kids was developing a habit of lying. I started to notice that he was lying more and more, until it seemed to be happening a few times a day. I was really concerned.

See, I had this habit when I was a kid, and it was SUPER hard to break. After years of lying, I had become so accustomed to it that whenever I was confronted with a difficult situation, my mind was conditioned to think up a lie. It was actually harder for me to think through the situation and tell what really happened than it was to lie. If I was late to a class, my lying instinct kicked in, and I began working out a story to make tardiness seem excusable. As I got older, it actually didn’t even occur to me that it would be better to just own it, apologize and try harder next time.

I didn’t overcome it until my 20’s, when I had a God encounter. I began to understand that I had to fix this, but it was such a struggle. So many times, I’d have to stop mid-sentence and say, “Actually, that’s not true.” It was painful and humiliating. In the meantime, I also had to go back to my family and begin confessing old lies. Yuck! It was rough. But at the end of the day, it was also freeing. And having known what it felt like to be in bondage to lies, I wanted to give my son the gift of a clean conscience.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts

From Offense to Hatred — How to Stay Unoffended

Skyler

Offense can easily spiral out of control and turn into hatred, and hatred is murder’s twin (I’ll show you what I mean in a moment). In the last blog, Jody and I talked about the process of forgiveness. Left unchecked, unforgiveness can take us down a dark road. Take a look:

Stage 1 — “Unforgiveness”

This is the first stage in the downward spiral of offense. This stage is most clearly marked by keeping a record of wrongs. So whenever you catch yourself rehearsing a conflict and feeling the anger and offense rising up, it’s a red flag.

Once you recognize the red flag, you have a choice:

  • You can admit that you’re being tempted to slip back into “unforgiveness” and then make the choice once again to walk through the process of forgiving someone that we outlined in Wednesday’s Post.
  • Or you can give your thoughts over to the offense, rehearsing the situation in your mind over and over, thinking of what you could have and should have said and spiraling deeper and deeper into bitterness.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 2 to 16), including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly radio show, write freelance articles and columns and speak on topics that affect parents and families.

More Posts