Neufeld Institute


Monday, January 16, 2017

10 Tips for a Joyful Life

Joy. I’m chasing it in 2017. Not just because I’m writing a book on it, which I am (stay tuned!) but because as I’m nearing closer and closer to 40 (in 2018) I feel a deep longing to surrender that which does not serve me so that I have sufficient time and space for that which does.
To know what I can let go of and what I must tend more to, I’ve had to evaluate what does and doesn’t serve me in this season of my life. Connection. Healthy relationships. Reading. Writing. Volunteering. Worshipping. Being slow, being intentional, being present. These things serve me well because they fill me with joy. 
Living at warp speed does not serve me. I do not want to look back on this season and only remember that I was busy. I want to remember playing with my kids, gathering around the table, reading great books - I want precious memories to hold on to, and I can only make them if I slow down.

The critic in my head does not serve me, and neither does the one in my life who tears me down or the one behind that keyboard who does the same. Comparisons don’t serve me – comparing my home to the photo on Pinterest or my child to hers doesn’t allow for me to appreciate what I have. You’ve heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy (Theodore Roosevelt, I believe). It's true.

Distractions don’t serve me because they pull me away from joy and overload me with too much input. The ever-moving newsfeed that sucks me in with photos of your beautiful family and interesting articles on brain science can be a joy-enchancer in small increments or a joy stealer if I dwell there too long or allow the wrong things into my mind and heart. An overwhelmed mind is not a peaceful mind. A discontented heart feels no joy.
Pushing myself beyond the limit where I feel safe and comfortable because of the expectations of others does not serve me, and friends, I’ve wrestled with this one for years. There seems to be a certain glory awarded to those who “live big” and “get outside their comfort zones.” Push yourself”, they say. “Reach for new limits.” “Don’t play small.” “Be bold and brave.” You know what? I’m okay with my limits where they are and pushing myself beyond them doesn’t bring glory or growth, it brings me anxiety. Some of us are made to live big, but we don’t all have the same path or purpose. There’s nothing wrong with living small so long as your heart is contentso don’t let anyone shame you into believing you must be more.
Some of us do the most good in the small, quiet comfort of the ordinary day to day, right where God put us.
Joy is all around me. And you. If I slow my mind down Sherlock style and really pay attention, if I open my eyes and ears and slow my breathing and notice – it’s all over the place! Take a second and look around you. Really look for joy. What do you see?
I wonder with a troubled heart how much joy I missed out on because all I could see was the mess, the deadline, the to-do list, the pile, the same ole monotonous routine. How many smiles did I forfeit? How much laughter passed me by? Most importantly, how many moments of connection did I miss with my loved ones because I was looking at something else? How much living have I missed out on?
Granted we are only 2 weeks in to 2017 but so far it’s been a really joyful time, which is important considering we are the same family with the same routines in the same house living the same life we did in 2016, except I’m living it with my eyes wide open now. I’m seeking joy out. Join me?

10 Tips for a Joyful Life

1. Set 3 intentions to start your day. Examples: I will call an old friend. I will play with my kids. I will be gentle.
2. Tidy your home early and often. It helps your headspace be tidier too.
3. Burn the best candle. Use fancy glasswear. Make a toast. Dress up even if you have nowhere to be. An ordinary day can (and should be) celebrated.
4. Make time to read, both alone and aloud to your children. Every single day.
5. Kitchens are for more than cooking and eating. They often have the best dance floors in the house. Try them out.
6. It’s really hard to hear your own voice when your head is crowded with lots of voices. Clear them out.
7. There is absolutely nothing going on in the online world that is better than what you can cultivate in your real world with a bit of creativity and connection. Spend more time making it interesting and beautiful.
8. If you start saying positive, encouraging, genuinely kind things to your kids every day, you’ll see the power struggles dissipate and your home will be a happier place. Try it and see.
9. Don’t  miss out on making a wonderful memory because you don’t want to get your hair wet or smear your mascara.
10. The years with your kids are going to be short whether you slow down and live intentionally or keep up at high speed. The only difference is the amount of beautiful memories you will collect. They’re only little once. Choose joy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The One Parenting Tip to Remember

As someone who has written three books and numerous articles on the subject of parenting, I know that I (and many other parenting book authors and bloggers) write with the intention of inspiring, encouraging, and empowering parents. Yet I also know that the Internet and bookstores are filled with conflicting advice and opinions on child rearing, and sometimes what is intended to be empowering actually feels condemning. What is meant to be encouraging may be discouraging. What is written to be inspiring ultimately may leave you feeling confused, anxious, guilty, or just plain angry. It’s so hard to know which voices to listen to in a sea filled with endless voices.

The best piece of advice I can give to my readers is the advice I had to learn to take myself: in the end, the voice you need to listen to is your own. Not the reactive, knee-jerk voice or the critical voice you carried with you from childhood, but the quiet, calm inner stirring that you’re sometimes afraid to listen to because it’s starkly different from all the other voices surrounding you. That quiet, calm, peaceful inner voice whispers love and connection because that is what we are designed for.
Parenting is a long, tough game, and whether you’re at the top of the first or the bottom of the ninth, you’re playing your heart out because you know it’s all on the line. You want to make all the right choices, so you read countless pages and weigh the science and consult your trusted friends, and you do the best you can. Then, you read something that goes directly against the decision you just agonizingly made and you start questioning yourself all over again. It’s exhausting, I know, to have a constant stream of “you should do this” and “you’d better not do that” messages thrown at you every day.

The further along I get in this game, the more I’m convinced that there is no right way to play for every team but that there is a best way for each individual, unique team. We can all have different playbooks and still play really well, but there is one single quality every team must have to succeed – unity.

So, when all the messages overwhelm you and you don’t know which way to turn, remember this one parenting tip: Unity is first and foremost. Always. Your relationship with your child is number one, and if the relationship isn’t right, nothing else will fall into place smoothly. When you’re not attached at the heart, you lose true authority, and parenting becomes exponentially more difficult. Any time you find yourself struggling in parenting, ask yourself if you’re connected with your child. Are you unified?

In times such as these, I can’t think of anything more important than keeping our children close. Through connection, you will have influence on their values and character. If, instead, they give their hearts to their peers because the attachment with you isn’t strong enough, then it is their peers who will have the influence to shape them. Connection with you will give them confidence, resilience, and a soft place to land when the world knocks them down.

Inevitably, there will be times of conflict between parent and child. We are not on peer level with them, and we cannot always make them happy, but we can always be the one to extend the invitation for closeness, to repair when conflict occurs, and to keep our finger on the pulse of the relationship. Without this important foundation, all else we try to build is in risk of falling. But with that strong foundational support, we can truly build something beautiful and everlasting.

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the author of 3 books. Her newest book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, was released on June 7, 2016. The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting and a co-authored book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early Childhood are both best-sellers in their categories on Amazon. She is the grateful mother to 2 boys. 

**This post was originally published at Creative Child Magazine 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Kids' Birthday and Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is only weeks away! And if you're like me, you have birthdays coming up just before Christmas!

Finding the appropriate gift can be time-consuming, and a bit stressful- whether it's coming directly from you or from your child to their pal. I created a gift guide so you can focus on enjoying time with loved ones (and getting on with your day!) rather than hemming and hawing at all of the options. The gifts are organized by age group from toddler to teen, and all of them are under $40. Happy gifting!

For giftees ages 3 to 5

Geometric Building Set tegu Tegu Blocks combine fun colors, geometric shapes, and a magnetic snap to create a playtime experience that's fitting for the living room or the classroom. Parents (and littles!) love this toy because its production has positive environmental and social impact. get-it-now-200x60

   Make a Match Game mama_may_i_make_a_match_dino1_large_9117 This game helps children grow memory skills with adorable dinosaur chips! The beautiful design is a treat for parents and kids alike. Perfect for picnics, play dates, and rainy games, this game is small enough to carry in your pocket and hip enough for the coolest of pre-k birthday parties. get-it-now-200x60  

For giftees ages 6 to 8

Animal Charades Game mama_may_i_mamamayianimalaction5_fd5e Get kids on their feet and brimming with ideas! This high-quality wooden game is a perfect gift for outgoing children and to create an atmosphere of fun and creativity. get-it-now-200x60

   Pirate Adventure Board Game grouchy-dog-llc_box3drm3_c2be This board game is cleverly disguised. Kids will be having so much fun that they won't even know that they were learning math from an award-winning program. get-it-now-200x60

  Squishy Science Experiment ss-worldwide_screen_shot_20160616_at_43240_pm_5e55 The Slimy Squishy Polymer Bucket is the perfect gift for budding scientists who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the name of...scientific learning! But they'll too be busy having fun to realize they're learning the basics of chemistry. get-it-now-200x60

  Garden Flowers Coloring Book garden-flowers-coloring-book-9781632205247-1459709691.3733.3088 One great idea for a gift is coloring books. These garden flower coloring books are perfect for child and parent, and can make a great group activity. get-it-now-200x60

For giftees 9 to 10

Food Fighter 2-Player Game kids-table_fdf_box_top_jan_5daa Food Fighter is a board game that has two children face off in a kitchen-themed battle. Children will have fun while developing higher-order thinking skills, mathematics, literacy, and executive functioning skills. get-it-now-200x60

  Dream Catcher Kit the_happy_trunk_dreamcatcher2_f343 Building dreamcatchers is a classic crafting activity - this colorful kit has everything kids need to make something unique and beautiful! get-it-now-200x60

  Just Add Milk Experiments griddly_games_outofboxjustaddmilk_62e8 I love these experiments - little parental oversight is required, and they're so easy to do right at home! Girls and boys, readers and scientists, alike will love this colorful kit. Not to mention parents! get-it-now-200x60

Gifts for Ages 11 to 13

Pairs in Pears pairs-in-pears-lr1998-1460411317.7972.3088 Whether or not they love this pun as much as some of us, this game gets kids flexing vocabulary muscles while having fun with a little challenge and competition. Players build pairs of connecting words in matching patterns, like Scrabble 2.0. Best of all it's portable - a perfect gift and activity to bring along on sleepovers or for parties. For a little more "pearity," pair with two more pears! get-it-now-200x60   Rainforest Biome rainforest-biome-discovery-kit-lr2993-1460412048.0125.3088 Budding scientists and tweens who like hands-on fun will love this all-in-one Rainforest Biome - they get to start a whole ecosystem right at home! The biome includes cacao beans (a favorite), clay, an apple snail shell, and more to create a full-on biofeedback loop. Super cool! get-it-now-200x60

   Math & Science Mystery Books slack_for_ios_upload-3 Who doesn't love to solve a mystery?! The One Minute Mystery series takes a simple concept and turns it into an awesome book. Kids will read mysteries, then use their powers of deduction and knowledge of math and science to find the solution. Each is as satisfying as the next! get-it-now-200x60

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Are You a Happy Mom? (Survey)

I am gathering information for a new book where I'm digging into the issues that relate to our happiness and joy as mothers. I need your voice! Please take a few minutes to participate.

Happy Mom Survey #1

Happy Mom Survey #2

15 Ways to Connect with Your Child in 5 Minutes or Less

Ask any parent how things are going and you’re likely to hear some version of “we are staying busy.” Whether you think busyness is a disease resulting in families being over-stressed and not spending enough time together or you see the productivity as a good thing that is benefiting your brain, few will dispute that we are, in fact, a busy people. The good news is that it appears that quality time with our kids trumps quantity. While I’ll always advocate for slowing down and savoring those precious miracle moments with our loved ones, I understand that some days are just so packed that there are only a few spare minutes with which to connect with our kids. For those days, here are 15 ways to connect in just five minutes or less.

1. Gather your child in your lap and read a short story. Of course, this is much easier to do with little kids who still fit on your lap, but if your child is older, sit beside him and read a chapter of Percy Jackson out loud. By making this a daily ritual, you’ll spark a love for reading and spend some quality time together every single day.

2. Offer a heart-felt hug and be the last to let go. This article by Marcus Falicetti outlines why we need at least eight hugs per day. Lots of good comes from a hug, and it doesn’t even take five minutes!

3. Give full, undivided attention to your child and start with saying, “These next five minutes are all yours.” Ask them about their day, how they’re feeling, or what they’re interested in most right now. Make eye contact and listen attentively. We do that so little these days because everybody is checking their devices or multitasking and only giving partial attention. Five minutes of full attention will go a long way in strengthening your connection.

4. Meet their strong emotion with empathy. Sometimes this is inconvenient or even downright tough, and our first reaction is often to shut it down quickly. When we can sit with our children through their big feelings, they get the message “I matter” or “I’m understood” and that fosters a deeper connection to us.

5. Play a game of Tic Tac Toe, Hangman, or have a drawing contest. Keep a small notepad in your vehicle or purse for on-the-go fun. Make use of the time you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office by playing one of these games together and you just might feel less exasperated by your wait and more connected with your child.

6. Have an impromptu dance party. Inject a little fun and spontaneity into your day by turning on a good dance song and sliding around the kitchen in your socks.

7. Tell each other jokes. Laughter equals connection.

8. Stuck in the car? Play a car game like “I Spy” or “Twenty questions.”

9. Special time before bed is a lovely way to end the day. Lie beside your child or sit at the end of the bed and just spend a few minutes talking or giving a back rub.

10. Roughhouse and wrestle around a bit. Give piggy back rides or horsey rides, swing them around, and chase them.

11. Visit their world. Get involved in something that your kid is interested in, like Minecraft for instance. Ask questions. When we show kids that we care about the things they care about, they feel connected.

12. Do a chore together and make it fun. It has to get done anyway, so you may as well use the time wisely and play while you work!

13. Become journal buddies. Whether you just use a composition notebook or buy a journal like Journal Buddies: A Boy’s Journal for Discovering and Sharing Excellence or Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter: A No-Stress, No Rules Journal, writing back and forth is a great way to connect with your child.

14. Spend those 5 minutes outside playing tag, looking for bugs, or collecting leaves. Play hopscotch, blow bubbles, or jump rope. Hula hoop, toss a ball, or walk the dog. You get the idea!

15. Break out the photo albums. Looking back at old memories and cheeky baby smiles is an instant mood booster and a great way to spend quality time with your loved one.

**This article was originally published at Creative Child Magazine.