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Our confidence as moms can easily get erroded when we get caught up in power struggles with

our children. These struggles can exhaust us and deplete our relationships. When we actually

think of the reality of the term “power struggles” when applied to our children, it is quite

laughable. In reality, children have no power. They can’t do or have anything unless it is

facilitated by the adults who are raising them. They can’t buy their food or pay for their own

home, water, electricity, or clothing. We, as parents, hold all the power, including the power to

give the love and approval our children so desperately crave from us. Yet because of our own

fears, woundedness, or past experiences, we often forget this (or use it in toxic, unnecessary

ways) and get drawn into unnecessary struggles with our kids. We lose our tempers and allow

things to escalate, causing us to get caught up in struggles rather than coming to a mutually

satisfying conclusion to the situation. When this happens, it shakes our confidence in ourselves

and weakens our greatest power, our connection to our child’s heart.


I see this frequently in discussions about obedience. Sometimes when our confidence is

waning, we think our children should immediately hop to and do exactly as they are told without

question. If the child hesitates, we might yell, lecture, and drain our emotional bank accounts

with our children over even small things. For example, I once saw a mom do this because her

daughter did not jump up immediately to get a can of peas from the basement when told to do

so. The mom yelled and accused her daughter of disrespect and rebelliousness. They fought for

three hours until the daughter was finally able to tell her mom that all she had wanted was to

finish the algebra problem she had been struggling with for over fifteen minutes before going to

get the peas.


In this example, both mom and daughter had a lot of other stressors. Additionally, they were

both tired and hungry. Almost every one of us has been in a situation like this at some time.

However, the mom went into the encounter with her mind preset to the idea that respect is

shown through servile obedience, causing her to escalate even more.


Servile obedience is the idea that someone of greater ranking is owed unquestioned and

immediate obedience (simple because of their title or rank), and any hesitation or disobedience

is met with harsh punishment. Servile obedience is very different than Christian obedience.

Christ taught us to obey God by making us (through His passion, death, and resurrection) His

friends and brothers/sisters. Through His love for us, He taught us how to love and serve Him in

return. We share in the dignity of God himself. Therefore we are all children of God, all meant to

be working toward closer union with God and each other. We are called to affirm and nurture

that dignity in one another, not lord power over each other. Seen in this light, obedience is really

another form of intimacy, where one person attentively seeks out the needs of the other and

lovingly fulfills them, often without being asked, certainly without being nagged.


Christian obedience, as opposed to servile obedience, presents a challenge to us. Obviously,

Christian obedience is a good and desirable thing, and yet we cannot demand obedience from

another (nor can we nag, whine, threaten, beat, or manipulate it out of someone) if it is to

remain true Christian obedience. In fact, there is only one way Christian parents can “command”

obedience from their children: the same way Jesus commands it of us, through an example of

loving service.


For example, St Therese the Little Flower wrote in her Story of a Soul that she never wanted to

do anything to offend her parents because the love and service they showered upon her

compelled her to offer nothing less than her best behavior. Her parents taught their daughters to

serve the other members of the family by first setting the example of loving service to each

family member and then teaching them how to do the same.


When parents lead and instruct their children in this way, they are discipling their children to

uphold the dignity of each person and therefore foster a spirit of cooperation in the family that

allows each member to work for the good of each other member.


Practically speaking, instead of yelling and demanding, we are listening to each other, planning

so that everyone’s needs can be met, and helping each other live in a family of mutual love,

service, and cooperation.


When we train ourselves to listen to each other with our eyes and hearts as well as our ears we

can have a sense of what our family members need from us. It also helps us approach them with

our needs with respect and appreciation.


Planning as a family for some time to work, play, talk, and pray together, keeps us connected

and balanced, and helps us avoid the burnout that can lead to getting on each others nerves.


Moving into each phase of the day by first checking in with each others needs and hopes are for

that phase helps us each balance our expectations with the expectations and realities we need

to deal with and keeps us in sync with each other rather than stepping on each others emotional

toes.


If this way of life seems desirable, but you don’t know how to begin to implement it into your

family life, you can find help and support at CatholicHOM.com or the CatholicHOM app, as well

as Catholiccounselors.com. Additionally, you can listen and call into the More2life radio show

Monday thru Friday at 10 am eastern on Avemariaradio.net or EWTNradio.com.

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  • Writer's pictureLisa Popcak

So here we are, about a month into the new year. Many of us made resolutions or fresh starts.


Often they concern weight, health, home organization, or professional goals we’d like to

achieve. I hope they are going well for you. If they aren’t, I hope you can step back, reevaluate

what you may need to make progress, and give yourself the grace to try again.


Let me ask you this, were any of those fresh starts about making positive changes in your

family life? Maybe they were or maybe you want to, but may not know how to begin since it

involves other people. But making those changes can be easier than you think if you know

some doable steps.


First, name the big change you want to make. This can come from a divinely inspired aspiration.

But it can also come from an ache in your heart for something better for your family than what

you are currently experiencing or from being fed up with what is going on in your family

relationships. No matter how the nudge toward something better for your family happens, listen

to it, acknowledge it, name it.


What you name will be unique to the circumstances of your family. Perhaps you want greater

closeness, better cooperation, more respect, increased kindness, or anything else that would

benefit your family. Don’t be afraid it’s too big or too unrealistic for your family situation. Just

name the desire you have to make your family better.


Second, now that you’ve named the

goal, daydream about what that would look like in your day-to-day life as a family and write it

down. Some examples could be:


Closeness: We spend time talking, sharing, and connecting around things we enjoy.

Better cooperation: Our family works together to keep our home

running well.

Respect: Our family supports each other’s interests and speaks to each other as we would an

esteemed acquaintance.

( These are just examples. Just name one thing, daydream about what that would look like, and

write it down.)


State any goal you wish to achieve in a positive way that helps you envision how your family will

behave and relate differently when it’s successfully practiced.


Now step back and identify the first tiny step you will put in place. Any lasting change has to be

practiced little by little. Pick one small change that will start you in the right direction, and do it

every day until it becomes second nature. Once it is, you can add a next small step while you

continue to practice the steps that have become routine for your family.


Let’s look at some possible ways this could work with the examples.


Closeness: What is one small way you can add a little closeness to your day? Perhaps you

make sure you pause to hug each of your family members as you greet that person first thing in

the morning. If this hasn’t been something you normally do in the rush of a typical morning,

taking a minute or two to hug each of your family members can really change the entire tone of

your family’s day.


Once that becomes a normal part of your morning, you could add another small step, such as

spending a few minutes with each child as you “tuck them in” at night (yes, this includes teens)

to talk about their day and tell them how much you love them.


Once you are doing both these things consistently, you can add the next small thing while

keeping up the consistency of the step before, which should now be part of the normal flow of

your day. Each little step will build on the other and help you achieve greater closeness.


In the next example, you may want the family to cooperate to keep the home running well.

Again, identify a baby step, such as before bed; each person will pick up any clothes left on the

floor, either storing them properly or putting them in the hamper. This is easily checked on as

you say good night to each child. If they missed something, simply have them put it in the right

place while you are there, then give them a kiss goodnight. As this becomes a habit, you no

longer have to remind them of most of the time; choose another small task to practice together,

such as cleaning up the kitchen together after dinner, or picking up the family room together

before anyone begins getting ready for bed. Practice this in a loving, encouraging way until it

becomes a normal, predictable behavior for the family.


Moving onto the next example, if you want your family to treat each other with respect, start

small such as everyone will say please for any request. State the new practice, and gently

remind anyone to restate their request using please if they’ve forgotten. You can even say,

“Please say please,” with a smile on your face. Remember, this is about being a respectful

family. So be gentle and respectful in your reminders. Once everyone is saying please

consistently, add using thank you. Build up bit by bit from there.


You can make the changes you want for your family by breaking the behavior into tiny,

practicable steps. Just as you taught (or will teach) your baby to start eating solid food by

breaking the food into one tiny piece and letting your baby try and adjust to it before adding

another piece, relationship behaviors can be broken down and learned in the same way.


You can save yourself a lot of aggravation and nagging by naming the big change you want to

make, daydreaming about what that would look like in your family, and then breaking it down

into tiny steps that you practice and build on together one at a time.

51 views0 comments
  • Writer's pictureLisa Popcak

This is such an important principle to me. I know so many moms who really struggle and pressure themselves over what their homes look like. Yet, when I talk to people about their favorite childhood memories (or the childhood they wish they had), they always talk of times of family closeness, times when they felt safe and connected to their most important people. That’s how I define coziness.


If you search “cozy” on Pinterest, you’ll get beautiful pictures of blankets, warm socks, hot drinks, twinkle lights, and candles. Honestly, I love those things. But not all of us have the time, money, or aesthetic for that. It can also be too easy to put focus on the decorating aspect of coziness and forget who we are trying to create a cozy atmosphere for, our family and ourselves.


I was raised around a neighborhood of women who approached their decorating and housekeeping as though they were competing in an Olympic sport. I have a vivid memory of being a young teen and going to dinner at my older sister’s new fiance’s parents’ home for the first time. Since it was a special occasion, his mom led us into the living room, at which point my future brother-in-law’s brother said to him, ”Have you ever been allowed in here before? I’ve never been in here before!” “No way!” he answered, “I’ve gotten in trouble for just looking at it!” Then they both dissolved into laughter. I learned a lot at that moment about the difference between decor and actual coziness.


Coziness is about being present to each other, focusing on one another, making comfortable eye contact, avoiding distractions, and really listening to the other. Those moments can happen anywhere - working on a car engine, cooking dinner, folding laundry, as well as cuddled up in front of a fireplace, under a soft blanket, reading together. True coziness is about togetherness and feeling safe and connected. We aid that by creating an environment of respect, kindness, acceptance, and love. It’s when we feel those things that happy, cozy memories are made.


I know so many moms, sometimes myself included, that can fall into discouragement if our home is not immaculately clean or decorated to social media perfection. But when we allow our thoughts to run that way for too long, we are removing ourselves from relationship with our family, inhibiting the cozy connection that helps our family be close, resilient, and strong.


By all means, create a home that is aesthetically pleasing to you within your means, but don’t think that the work you do on creating that aesthetic will automatically create a cozy family life. Beautiful, cozy-looking spaces are only the staging. It’s the interactions that happen in those environments that really matter. Putting the effort into building or healing the relationships that exist within your walls will be what creates inviting and cozy moments and memories for all involved.

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