Why Routines Are Important For Our Kids

Every afternoon for about 26 years, my kids and I took a break in the afternoon. It started out as naptime, and then became “rest time” when they outgrew naps. As they all got older we just called it “room time.” Everyone to their corners for an hour. They could read, play quietly, listen to music…just as long as they took time for themselves for an hour.

I needed it. They needed it. We all needed the rhythm of routine.

Spontaneity has it’s place. It’s what allows us to be a yes mom. It’s what beckons us to have some unplanned fun. It allows us to take advantage of an impromptu invite to spend the afternoon at the pool.

Routine has it’s place, too. It provides security. It gives healthy boundaries. It can even help regulate emotions.

Our kids need rhythms in their life like bedtime, mealtime, and rest time. They need screen time and no screen time. If they’re school age, during the school year, they need homework time. If they take piano lessons, they need practice time.

Why are routines important? Here are six reasons they need to be valued:

Routines Establish Authority--Our kids need to know who is in charge…and it’s not them. They’re not ready for the responsibility of self-regulating. They don’t have the life experience, knowledge, and emotional maturity. Not only that, they’ll be under authority for the rest of their lives. It’s what keeps our culture civil and makes this country a safe place to be (when things become unsafe, it’s when authority is not respected).  We don’t do our kids any favors by putting them in charge. Sure, there are little things they can choose, and they can take on more responsibility as they get older. However, even when they’re 16 or 17-years-old and yard work needs to happen every Saturday, they’re not likely to step up and offer. They need your accountability and authority to establish and maintain the routines of life that keep your family’s world spinning.

Routines Offer Security–Much of life is unknown. Things change all the time–even a child’s growing body! Then you add in teachers at school, new skills learned in sports or music, and even world events. Children actually handle change better when it’s in the context of a familiar routine.

Routines Offer One-On-One Time With A Child–Whether it’s snuggling and reading a book together before bed every night or having a once a month “date with daddy,” routines give us an opportunity to be make together time happen on a regular basis.

Routines Provide Boundaries–Every child wants to know where the lines are drawn. Of course, they’ll try to cross those lines when given a chance. However, those boundaries can actually eliminate power struggles. When your child knows that the nighttime routine is clean up toys, take a bath, brush teeth, and read a book, they are more likely to operate within those boundaries. They’ll even look forward to doing them and if you have a structured kiddo, they’ll make sure they’re done in the right order every night!

Routine’s Regulate Breaks For Parents–Every parent needs to practice the art of self-care. We can’t take care of others without taking care of ourselves first.  When my kids and I had “room time” it helped them have some personal space in the middle of a summer day. It also gave me–an introvert–some much needed alone time to emotionally refuel and make it through the rest of the day.  Our 8pm bedtime for the kids was important for them to physically get enough shut eye, but it was even more important for Mark and I to have some “we” time for our marriage.

Routines Reduce Stress–When we know what’s coming up we can make the emotional transition needed to move from one thing to the next. This keeps anxiety dialed down for most of us.

Certainly routines need balance with sensitivity. We have to be perceptive to unique situations where routines need to be adjusted like deciding to watch a summer movie in the park which would require a later bedtime for sure.

Yet children thrive on routine. They need the security it provides. And you, as the parent, need it as much as they do.

What about you? What routines have you found helpful? 

Are You Hinting and Hoping?

Mark: On Saturday, we had the privilege of spending the morning with over 80 couples at our No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in Normal, IL.  It was a great morning of working on our marriages together!

Jill: When we do our seminars, we teach a session and then we send the couples off to talk about what they learned in that session.  We give them a template for those conversations, telling them that it will likely feel awkward initially, but reassuring them it will deepen their conversation and really help them hear each other if they’ll give it a try.  By the end of the day, the evaluations speak for themselves. Many commented that they wish they’d had MORE time to talk!

Mark: After each “couple talk time” break we took a few minutes to debrief on how that experience was for anyone who wanted to share. One guy shared honestly that he’d been using the “hinting and hoping” method of communication and had found it ineffective. In just twenty minutes or so, this new way of communicating had netted better results than years of hinting and hoping, it seemed.

Jill: We tend to communicate on the go, haphazardly, too often filled with emotion. Life is crazy busy and communication is often compromised.  Without some intentionality, our reckless communication contributes to the slow fade of defensiveness, the slow fade of disagreeing, or the slow fade of minimizing. (You can find out more about the slow fades in our No More Perfect Marriages book.)

Mark: With that in mind, here are five strategies for changing the way you communicate with your spouse. Four are topics we’ve explored in the past. If you want more info on any of those, click on the topic to learn more.

Reflect Back: When your spouse says something to you, resist the urge to argue back. Instead, reflect back what he or she just said to you. Start with, “What I hear you saying is….” Then ask your spouse, “Is that correct?”  Then, “Is there more?” It’s not time to share your point; it’s just time to hear their point.  Doing so will help your spouse feel heard and valued. It will also change the dynamics of your communication patterns in a positive way.

Ask Three Questions: When you ask your spouse a question, ask him or her three MORE questions before you comment or share your thoughts about the subject.

Validate and Offer Compassion: Say things like, “I can see how that frustrated you.” or “I’m so sorry you’re so disappointed in how that happened.” Your validating, compassionate responses will allow you to build a bridge to your spouse’s heart.

Push Information To Your Spouse: Don’t hint. Clearly communicate information to your spouse. Don’t assume he or she knows information. Or that they will see things the way you see things. Let them in on what you are thinking.

Don’t Use Passive Aggressive Language: This is an ineffective, masked way of expressing anger or disappointment without actually saying you’re anger or disappointed. “Whatever.” if probably the most common passive-aggressive response found in marriage. And the silent treatment probably comes in second place. These are both just sugar-coated hostility. Instead, learn to be assertive in your communication–saying things kindly, but honestly. If you need help learning how to do that, counseling can be a good option.

Jill: Hinting never works. It’s in ineffective form of communication and only contributes to hurts and fades in your relationship. Assertive communication and intentional listening carried out with kindness and compassion will take your marriage communication in the right direction. (Want to attend a No More Perfect Marriages event in the future? Registration is now open for our Valentine’s event in Central Illinois.)

What about you? Which of the five communication strategies do you need to be more intentional about this week? 

It’s Amazon Prime Day!

Living With Less

Special Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. It’s important to me that you know, however, that I only recommend products and services I love and personally use! You can read my full disclosure policy here.

In my #livingwithless life I love a good deal and today Amazon has one! Tuesday, July 11, is Amazon Prime Day and it’s kind of like Black Friday in July!  I hate when I miss out on hearing about a good deal so I wanted to make sure and share it with you, too, so you don’t miss out if there’s something you’ve had your eye on!

Not a member of Amazon Prime?  You can actually join for free for 30 days and take advantage of these opportunities!  Here’s a link that will get you connected to today’s deals: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Once you’re in, here are some great deals available today:

Instant Pot–I bought my Instant Pot on Black Friday last November and I USE IT ALL THE TIME!  It has transformed my cooking! This one is $79 today which is a great price!

Kindle Unlimited: Kindle – Up to 40% Off Kindle Unlimited–While I’m not a big e-reader, Mark LOVES his Kindle! If you love e-books this deal’s perfect for you!

All of the No More Perfect Books are in the $9 or $10 price range with free shipping for Prime members! No More Perfect Marriages, No More Perfect Kids, and No More Perfect Moms!  Some of my other books have great deals too like My Hearts at Home ($8.66) and Real Moms…Real Jesus ($8.87) And if you use the promo code PRIMEBOOKS17 you can save $5 off your book purchases of $15 or more!

Here are a few more offerings today:


When Is It Marriage Season?

Marriage Monday

Jill: I recently put out a question to my friends on Facebook, asking them about a date Mark and I are planning a No More Perfect Marriages Seminar. When I asked who would be interested in attending a marriage weekend on a specific date, the responses began rolling in.  There were many positive responses of interest but also a lot of folks shared the conflicts they would encounter that weekend.  Some indicated that it conflicted with hunting season (which I know is a somewhat limited timeframe). Other’s indicated it conflicted with sports season, or the harvesting season.

Mark: When Jill shared with me the mix of responses, I said to her, “So…when is it marriage season?”

Jill: When Mark said that, I knew he was on to something! You see, there’s always something that will conflict with making time for each other. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

Mark: It doesn’t matter if it’s planning a date night, setting aside time to talk, getting away for a weekend, or attending a marriage seminar, it will nearly always require some kind of sacrifice, because there will nearly always be other options for how you can spend that time.

Jill: With this in mind, here are some tips for moving your marriage to the top of the priority list:

  1. Put your marriage on the calendar FIRST.  Sit down this week and get your date nights on the calendar for the next 12 months. YES, THE NEXT TWELVE MONTHS! Plan from July 2017-July 2018. And then PROTECT those dates fiercely. Once you do that, get some sort of overnight getaway on the calendar during that 12 month period (you’ll have an anniversary in there…right?).  And what about some continuing education for your marriage? What marriage seminar can you attend together? Check out Family Life’s Weekend to Remember events or one of our No More Perfect Marriages seminars (Nov 10-11, 2017 Rochester, MN; Feb 9-10, 2018 Springfield, IL; Feb 17, 2018 Scottsdale, AZ; May 4-5, 2018, Claremore, OK; and May 18-19, 2018, Westerville, OH.)
  2. Resist the urge to think “we can do that after the kids are gone.”  You’ll likely not have much relationship after the kids are gone, if you do that. Not only that, your kids need to see you take time for your marriage. You’re being a role model for their marriage someday!
  3. Realize that you’ll likely miss out on something. Ask yourself, “Is this repeatable?” If the answer is yes, then it’s okay to miss it on the rare occasion. One of ten baseball games might be an example. However, if it’s not repeatable, like your daughter attending prom, then adjust your date night or weekend getaway to make sure you’re able to attend the “not repeatable” event.  The only way to find a “marriage season” is to interrupt another “season” that has repeatable events in it.
  4. Recognize the need to “die to self.” We’re naturally selfish beings. We want what we want. We struggle with prioritizing the right things. We hesitate committing to something because we’re afraid that something better just might come along. Jesus modeled “dying to self” in order to bring us life. We, too, have to die to self in order to bring our marriage life.

Mark: So when is it marriage season? When you and I determine it’s marriage season. When we make it a priority. When we put it on the calendar and protect. And when we’re willing to give up something good in order to invest in something better.

What about you? When will you make marriage season happen? 

Who Are You Learning From?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Yesterday Jill and I had the privilege of spending time with friends from long ago. We met Don and Alice during my first two years of Bible College where he was the pastor of the church we attended. With our closest extended family three hours away, Don and Alice sort of became surrogate grandparents to our two children.

Jill: We shared meals together. Encouraged one another. Linked arms in ministry. But for Mark and I, we also gleaned wisdom from Don and Alice. I don’t actually ever remember a specific time where they sat us down and shared wisdom with us. We just soaked it in by being with them and watching them.

Mark: It was significant that we spent time with Don and Alice yesterday. It was our 34th wedding anniversary and their 65th and 1 month wedding anniversary! When Jill and I met Don and Alice, we had just been married 4 years. They, on the other hand, had been married 35 years. I don’t remember ever really talking about that, but we knew they had years of wisdom we could benefit from.

Jill: As we shared faith strengthening stories yesterday, Mark and I realized how much our commitment to “walk by faith” had been influenced by Don and Alice when we were just beginning our own faith journey as a couple. We were also inspired yesterday by the lives they’re still changing at a time others their age would consider themselves “retired” from ministry. See…we’re still gleaning from them!

Mark: We need each other and peer relationships are important, but there’s also a place for building relationships with those who are further down the road than we are. There are lessons to learn.  There’s hope to be found. There’s truth to be shared.

Jill: Who are you hanging with that you can glean wisdom from? It doesn’t have to be a formal mentoring relationship. It can simply be a friendship forged intentionally.

Mark: And while you’re thinking about it, who are you hanging with that you can impart wisdom to? You’re further down the road than someone else. Who can you invest in and encourage along the journey?

Jill: We’re better together from both sides of the picture! Commit today to seek out the wisdom of others to help you along the expedition of intimacy.

Mark: Oh and by the way, we’re committed to living that out here on the blog, over in our No More Perfect Date Night membership site, at our No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out (register NOW for the next one in Illinois on July 15!), and with our new marriage coaching opportunities! If you need to move the needle on your marriage, take the next right step!


Can I please go to the bathroom alone?

Today’s post is an excerpt from my Real Moms…Real Jesus book. If you have little ones…this is for you! If you don’t have little ones, would you share it with a mama who does? She needs to know she’s not alone and that Jesus is a friend who understands!


I stumbled down the stairs in my early Monday morning stupor. Mornings aren’t my strong suit and it takes quite a bit of time for me to feel lucid. I closed the bathroom door for my first trip of the morning only to hear my teenage daughter yell up the stairs, “Mom, did you wash my gym clothes?” Within seconds, I heard her slightly younger brother bellow, “Mom, if you are picking me up early today, I need a note.” I’d barely been in the bathroom for a full minute before 8-year-old Erica was knocking on the door announcing that her two-year-old brother was awake and had produced a very dirty diaper sometime during the night.

I closed my eyes and thought, “Can’t I just have two minutes alone in the bathroom?

When Jesus walked on this earth, the Bible tells us “large crowds followed him everywhere he went.” People wanted what Jesus had. They were intrigued by his message of a personal relationship with a loving God, which was starkly different from what the Pharisees taught about religion based upon works. The message of the Pharisee’s came down to one word—“do.” “Do this, do that, and be more like us!” they exclaimed in word and action. The message Jesus proclaimed also came down to one similar, yet vastly different, word—“done.” Jesus’ message was one of grace, given through his sacrifice on the cross. You don’t have to “earn” salvation. You just have to accept the free gift.

This was a new message that people longed for and thousands flocked to hear him speak when he was in town. People wanted to be near him. They had questions for him. They wanted to know more about this unique message of hope. Jesus’ message represented an anchor during the storms of life.

For our children, we too are an anchor. Our presence represents security in their budding lives. They want to know where we are and be assured that we will be there when they need us.

Whether you have one child or a whole houseful, the concept of being followed everywhere you go is one you have to get adjusted to when you become a mother. It begins right after birth or adoption. Suddenly you can no longer walk out the door without considering the needs of this new little one. A simple trip to the store requires a diaper bag full of baby supplies and a vast array of baby paraphernalia.

If you add more children to the family, the crowd becomes larger with time. And as children grow older, it’s rare that they want to embark on any endeavor without a friend in tow. Let’s face it, large crowds follow us everywhere we go!

Some moms relish in this constant activity of kids and their friends and some moms find themselves overwhelmed and stifled by it. I enjoy the constant activity but can only handle it for a limited time. Because of my people skills and ability to handle most social settings with ease, I’ve assumed that I was an extrovert. However, as I’ve become more in tune with myself, I’ve actually discovered I’m an introvert. I’ve also discovered that the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” don’t really have much to do with your people skills. Instead they are really more about how you are emotionally drained and refueled. Simply put, being with people refuels an extrovert and being alone refuels an introvert.

So what does an introvert mother of five children do? She learns to take care of herself and get the alone time she desperately wants to find emotional refueling she desperately needs. I’ve learned to find a bathroom in the middle of the day, or to seek the refuge of my front porch during the kids’ nap or rest time. I’ve asked my husband to take the kids to the park occasionally so I can have time alone at home. I’ve learned to take an evening out once a week to go for a walk alone, or meet a friend for pie and coffee. This is not only beneficial for me, but for my family as well. When I’m running on a full emotional fuel tank, I’m more patient, more effective, and far more enjoyable to be around.

Conversely, what does an extrovert mother of one do? She learns to take care of herself by seeking out a moms group she can become a part of. She invites another mother and her children over for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. She organizes a ladies night out for the moms in the neighborhood. And even though being with people refuels her, an extrovert mom still needs to find quiet moments to nourish her soul.

Jesus was intentional about finding time to refuel. He knew there were many demands upon his time and energy and he had to be a good steward of his body, soul, and mind. Nobody had to tell him, “Jesus, go rest.” Instead he recognized his need to pull away from the crowds and find the refreshment he needed.

As moms, we need to do the same. People and responsibilities demand much from us and we have to be good stewards of our body, soul, and mind. We can’t wait until we’re drained dry or until someone comes along and offers to watch our kids (like that happens very often!). Instead we have to learn to be proactive about our self-care so that we can be ready to meet the needs of our family.

Talk to God about the demands you feel upon you. Where do you feel smothered by them? What wears you down? Pour your heart out to Him about how you feel and where you feel pulled in a dozen different directions. After all, “large crowds followed him everywhere he went.”

He really understands.

Thank you, God, for having an understanding heart. You didn’t have much personal space in your life and I often feel I don’t have much personal space in mine. Thank you for your example of intentionally refueling with rest, prayer, and intentionally pulling away from the crowds. Help me to learn to do the same and to recognize the benefit for my family and myself when I do so. In Jesus name…Amen.