Parenting Aces – Food for Thought #2


responsibilityThe Family and the Farm

The family lived on a farm and had many animals to be tended. The children showed in the livestock show, but also had responsibilities for other animals on the farm.

As the kids got older, they had chores regarding animals. In addition, they had responsibilities with crops and general farm work. As is usually the case, the kids were generally helpful,but could also be negligent with their chores.

Once they were old enough to show animals, they were considered old enough to carry the responsibility for feeding and watering the animals.  Sometimes, however, they’d show up to the dinner table without their chores being completed. This meant the cattle (sheep, pigs, goats, and cow) were not fed and had no fresh water.

The Rule

Chores were to be completed by 5:30 PM, and dinner was at 6.

One of the first questions asked at the dinner table was, “Have you fed your animals today?”

If the answer was “No,” the kids were sent back outside to do their chores before they could eat. They’d simply complete their chores and then come back inside to eat dinner. However, the scenario kept happening.


The Consequence

The dad found a way to have his kids do time for time.  To help teach responsibility and selflessness, he came up with a plan. The new rule stated that if the animals were not fed before dinner, Jack (or whoever was responsible) had to go feed the animals before he could eat. Not only that, the amount of time it took to feed the animals properly was the same amount of time he had to wait to eat once he got back inside to the table.

The new rule changed things.  Now, if the answer was “No,” said child was excused from dinner to go back outside and take care of his animals.  Once the animals were fed, the child was allowed to come back inside and sit down for dinner. However, he was not allowed to eat until he had waited the same amount of time the animals had waited past their normal feeding time. He’d sit there, watching food be passed around the table knowing he’d have to wait thirty (or more) minutes until he could eat. That’s how long the animals waited past their feeding time, so it was only fair he experienced waiting as they had.

Nixing Irresponsibility and Selfishness

Before the institution of this rule, the animals were fed negligently. The kids came home from school and had homework to do. They’d play or relax and the animals were forgotten. It was easy to become selfish and just look out for themselves, as though life was really just about them.

Once this rule was instituted – and enforced – the kids found it easier to remember that animals need to be fed regularly, too.

responsibilityFood for Thought

Smart dad, this one. He didn’t yell or ground the kids. He just made them wait to eat as long as the animals had to wait past their normal feeding time.

Once their negligence resulted in needing to wait to eat dinner, it was easier to remember.  Dad felt that when their negligence cost his kids something, their memory would improve.

It did. Strange how that works.







The Traffic Ticket That Almost Was



Pre-Ticket Talk

A few days before we were heading out of state for a short vacation trip, I reminded Dave about the inspection on our vehicle. It had expired – which he already knew. It was more than just a few days expired, too – which he also already knew.

“You know if someone notices this is another state, you’ll get nailed,” I told him. “You’ve got time to get it inspected before we leave.”

“Don’t you worry about it,” my hubby told me. “That’s my department. Let me worry about it.”

So I did.

To let him worry about it meant I had to quit worrying. I did that, too.

That’s because I remembered the time years ago when my cousin got stopped for the same thing. She simply told the officer to write the ticket out to her husband, since that was his department. Instead, the officer tore up the ticket. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance, but if it should happen, I was prepared!

Little did I know . . . my opportunity was just hours up the road.

We traveled through Virginia and headed toward West Virginia. As we neared the West Virginia border, we stopped at a small Mom-and-Pop convenience store to fuel our car. Dave unbuckled our six-month-old son and carried him inside the store. I slipped back outside to grab his sippy cup just as a state trooper pulled in right beside our vehicle.


That Ticket Giver

“Ma’am, is that your vehicle?” he asked me as he stretched his long legs out onto the pavement.

“Yes, sir, it is,” I replied.

He gave me one of those got you this time looks and pulled his pad out of his pocket. I can’t stand it when I think someone in a position like this tries to intimidate me. Let me tell you, the intimidation attempt was there in full force. This gal? I was determined not to be intimidated.

“Ma’am, are you aware that your inspection has expired?”

“Yes, sir, I’m quite aware,” I replied, thinking it was just too bad that Dave wasn’t outside with me. I did my best to keep a straight face on this one because it appeared that Dave was about to be had. (Yes indeed, I was going to love every minute of this!)

“Well, ma’am, I’m going to have to give you a ticket,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” I replied, pointing to Dave and our son, who could easily be seen through the window of the store. “You see that man in the store there? The one carrying the baby? That’s my husband. This inspection is his department, and I’m not supposed to worry about it. So could you just go inside and talk to him about it, please?”

I’m not sure what he said, but he put his pad away and went into the store.

I followed him, but I deliberately kept my back to the trooper and stayed in a different aisle of the store. I was laughing inside, and even though I wasn’t crazy about the cost the ticket would bring, I was gloating. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the officer head toward the section where Dave was standing.


Finally, I thought, he will get caught. Maybe next time he won’t be so stubborn.

We proceeded with purchasing our snacks and then headed out the door.

The Ticket That Never Came

I waited and waited and waited for Dave to say something.

He didn’t.

Was he too proud to admit he’d been caught? I wondered.

Yet, he calmly just maneuvered back onto the road and headed northwest.

A few miles later (it was killing me, folks) I asked him if the officer had spoken to him.

“What officer?” he asked.

Would you believe Dave never even noticed the guy? Not a word exchanged between them!

“This is so not fair!” I fussed. “You know if it had just been me, he would have given me a ticket. How could you get away with this?!”

It’s been thirty years, and every once in a while when we drive past that convenience store, I remind him. Actually, I just ask him if he remembers. He just grins at me. He remembers all right. He remembers the ticket that almost was.

Ticket Lessons

This I know. Since that time, my man keeps our inspections up to date. He’s a stickler about that sticker! Not only that, it grates him when his kids have expired inspection stickers on their vehicles. I wonder why.

It was a lesson well-learned for both of us.

I learned how freeing it is to not claim responsibility for what is not mine to claim. Really!

It was fun telling the officer to give the ticket to Dave, but it was more fun knowing it wasn’t mine to claim. I think we all know what Dave learned, as evidenced by up-to-date inspection stickers on every single one of our vehicles.




Three Things Children Need Besides Food, Clothing, and Shelter

children need



children need

Not a one of us would argue the fact that children need to feel loved. It is a primary need for every one of us.

Yet there are things that spell love to kids other than those four letters: LOVE. Parents and adults who truly love their kids will provide not only food, clothing, and shelter.

They will also provide safety, security, and structure.

Here’s how.

Children need Safety. 

When a child feels unsafe, he will act up. He’ll threaten or defy authority because he has no respect for authority. He also knows he can’t trust the adults in his life to keep him safe. Whether he feels emotional or physical neglect, he will feel unsafe. If he experiences emotional or physical abuse, he will feel doubly unsafe. Like an animal cornered, he will lash out, trying to hurt others before they can hurt him. Like a forlorn kitten who finally trusts its owner, a child who feels safe will be your friend.

children need

Children need Security.

We provide security by being consistent and by following through with our directions We provide security by having boundaries that a child cannot cross without receiving consequences. Making empty promises or drastic threats that kids know won’t be fulfilled leaves them feeling insecure. Children need to know that the relationship between their parents is solid and sure. When there is hidden discord, kids can still feel that discord. They need to know that the adults in their lives are in their corner and will not lie to them. If they can’t trust the adults in their lives to tell them the truth, to follow through, or to be consistent, then who can they trust? If they can’t trust anybody, then they will feel insecure. Like a baby swaddled in a warm blanket, a child who is secure will exhibit behavior that says he knows who he is and he knows he belongs.

children need

Children need Structure. 

There’s such security in knowing what to expect and from whom to expect it. When a child’s structure keeps changing, he begins to feel insecure and insignificant. Make it a high priority to provide structure. The structure your home provides might be different than mine and that’s okay. You might even need to change the structure, but if your kids know changes happen to help them, they will be okay.

children need

Your family’s structure will be different than other families’. You might eat at a different time and your food choices might not be the same as your neighbor’s, but children need to know they can expect things to be the same even if the sameness is different on different days.

Giving your child responsibilities gives him structure. What he does is important; his responsibility is important and he needs to feel trusted and appreciated. This provides structure to his world.

When there is a safety net surrounding your child, when there is security in knowing he can trust the adults in his life, and when there is a calm and settled routine, your child will be secure. When your child is secure, he will know he is truly loved.

pinterest children need




Why Our Boys Paid for Windshield Wipers – Teaching Responsibility

We had three boys, but this time it only took two . . . .

I had no idea we were about to embark on a lesson in responsibility the day the front door of the house opened as Dave marched two little guys inside.  

I didn’t even have to turn around to look – I  knew there was trouble when I heard the thud of his feet as he came across the porch.

I took one look at my boys and knew they were the culprits. When I heard what had happened, I had to hide my face. What they had done was rather ingenious and funny, even though I couldn’t let them know!

“I am too upset right now to deal with this,” Dave told me. “These boys are yours for now and I’ll deal with it when I’ve  had time to think about what to do.”

Dave had taken our guys with him as he made his rounds fixing the fence around the pasture on the farm he was managing. They loved to ride in the pickup and “help” their papa. Only this time, they had tired of all the walking necessary to fix the fences, so they stayed behind to play in the truck bed while he was within sight of the truck. It wasn’t long until they decided they wanted to slide – and the easy way to have a slide was to climb on top of the cab and slide down the windshield. Today, the oldest one says he’s pretty sure it was the youngest one’s idea. We’re pretty sure he is right.

The hood of the truck was a safe landing place. After landing, they’d climb up the windshield and slide down again. All was going well until their father came back and found two broken windshield wipers. That’s when he brought them back to the house.

“Because,” he told me, “they’re your boys right now. We’ll figure out what we’re going to do about it tonight.”

One of the problems was that this wasn’t Dave’s truck. It belonged to the farm owner. We would be paying to replace those wipers! Not only was the damage to the property wrong, their behavior showed a lack of respect for equipment, especially when it didn’t belong to our family.

That’s why he corraled his sons and brought them to their mother. Dave was too upset to deal out consequences, and he needed time to cool off. I’m so grateful that he didn’t just give them both spankings on the spot. They certainly deserved one, but it would have been given in a way that was not biblical because Dave was angry at their behavior. That evening, we came up with a plan that would help them learn responsibility.

  1. Dave would pay half the cost of the wiper replacements. The boys would pay the other half.
  2. The boys would do jobs for us around the house or on the farm to earn money for their share of the bill.

We made a chart and put it on the wall. Each quarter they earned was documented as the amount was measured. What the boys didn’t realize was that the money, though earned by them, was still coming from their parents since we were paying their wages!

The cost of the wipers (25+ years ago) was $24.00. Dave paid $12.00 and that left $12.00 for the boys to shell out. $6.00 per boy. Let me tell you: it was a long time coming, this paying on the wipers. You can be certain that a windshield was never used as a slide again. You can also be certain that they learned some things about responsibility!

When they took a turn vacuuming, they remembered. When they had to take out the trash, they remembered. When they chose to use their money for an ice cream cone toward the debt, they remembered. They were learning about responsibility and consequences of poor choices.

Every day, the chart in the hallway was a reminder of their infraction.

There are some things our boys learned from their windshield-turned-slide experience.

  1. Even when something doesn’t belong to us, we need to take care of it.
  2. When I choose to do wrong, I can’t choose the consequences
  3. When a harm is done, restitution must be made, no matter how long it takes
  4. When restitution has to be made, it will help me think before I just decide to do something that I think is fun.

Dave and I learned (again) that there are deeper ways to instill truth into our children than just giving them a spanking. We were reminded that doing this parenting thing right is a lot of work; we could just have paid it ourselves and been done with the chart-keeping and chore-doing. It certainly would have been less hassle. Yet the outcome would not have been the same.

“Why you can’t use the windshield for a slide . . . “

Next time you’re tempted to just fix something your child has damaged, maybe you can think about this story and those windshield wipers. Help your child(ren) become responsible adults by helping them be responsible now.

It’s a win-win, for sure.


Sometimes Mama’s Home Remedy Works the Best

I had never known a summer could be so hot. That summer, I thought that if heat could kill a person, I would die.  I wasn’t from Southside Virginia, and I wasn’t used to the temperatures and humidity in this part of the country. I’d come to work as the nurse at Camp Staunton Meadows for the summer and was unprepared for the blistering temperatures. Somehow, I survived. So did the campers.

Many years later, I wrote about an event that happened that summer. The story is in the book Southside Glimmers. You can read about the book here.

And now, here is the story.

cartoon-313489__180 CHILDREN

Mama’s Home Remedy

Temperatures soared that summer. Humidity squeezed every drop from the children’s flushed bodies as they worked and played. Yet heat and humidity didn’t stop the kids at camp from having a great time!

CHILDREN swimming 2

There were the usual mishaps: a few cuts and scrapes, a myriad of heat-induced headaches, a sprain, a host of insect bites, a few stings, and one broken finger.

I was ready for all of them, I thought. I handed out the usual Tylenol, juice, ace wraps, ice , nd Band-Aids. I was ready for anything—until the bee sting.



She was a petite girl from a big city, and her dark eyes looked up at me, glistening with tears. Her face betrayed her fear while she attempted to still her quivering chin.


She tried to be brave as I wiped the sting and applied my remedy. In a few minutes, she was up and playing with her comrades, seeming to forget about the sting and its pain.

She talked to her father that night, long distance. She told him about the sting, and about the nurse whose medicine had made the hurt go away.

A few weeks later her father came to take her home. Amid the noise and bustle of kids saying good-bye at the end of camp, I noticed the two of them standing off to the side. They seemed to be waiting for something as they stood with clasped hands. Finally, after most of the campers had left, he approached me, pen and paper in hand.

“I vork vor ze Vashington Post,” he introduced himself. “I haf many friends who are doctors. I vould like to know vat medicine you give to my girl.”

manager-462553__180 CHILDREN

For a moment, I was blank and frightened. Was he angry with me? What had I done? Then I noticed his smile.

“I vant to buy more medicine like it for ven my little girl gets bee sting again. Do I need to haf a prescription?” he asked.

Then I remembered those translucent brimming eyes following the sting of the bee. I remembered the brave, trusting, look on the olive-skinned girl’s face a few weeks ago.

“Prescription?” I asked, trying not to laugh with relief. “No, you don’t need a prescription,” I answered. “It’s not really a medicine,” I attempted to explain.

“Den vat iss it called?” he wanted to know. “My yittle girl gets sting many times. Always it hurts. She cries for long time. Dis time, she call to tell us, the nurse use special medicine and zee pain goes away like zat!” he demonstrated, snapping his fingers.

“I vant to vrite it down zo I can get some medicine vor ze next time she gets sting. Vere did you learn about dis medicine?” he persisted.

“I learned about it when I was a little girl, from my mother,” I explained. “Do you know what Cornstarch is? Do you have it in your house?”

He nodded, obviously puzzled.

“All you need is some cornstarch and water.”

“Cornstarch? Vater?” he asked.

“Yes, you just mix some cornstarch with cold water until you have a smooth paste. Just put a spoonful or two of the paste on the sting. It cools the skin and eases the pain,” I assured him.

“Dat is vot you used?” he asked, incredulous. “Dat iss all?”

“That’s what I used,” I assured him.

He tucked his paper and pen into his pocket. Then, reaching down, he took his daughter’s hand.

“I vill be sure to tell my vife,” he assured me. “Sank you zo veddy, veddy much.”

“You’re so welcome,” I answered.

I watched them leave, smiling to myself. Cornstarch and water. Mama’s home remedy.

I had come to Clover, Virginia, to be a camp nurse for the summer, leaving my job at a medical center. I had worked with some of the best professionals in our hospital. I had participated in and witnessed numerous miracles, and I had administered expensive, rare drugs in order to save lives.

Yet when she came crying to me for comfort and help with the sting of the bee, I responded with my mother’s home remedy instead of a sting-stick. Of course, it took a little longer to treat the problem. I needed to mix the paste and sit beside her, spooning the liquid onto the welt on her arm. It also made a bigger mess than other methods would have made.

Was it the time and attention that helped the cure, or was it the ingredients in the remedy? Could it perhaps have been the combination of both that produced the healing results?

In the years since that sting and that father’s questions, I’ve come to appreciate even more some of the tried and true home remedies available to anyone. They’re always on hand, always available, and the benefits are priceless. Just like cornstarch and water.

In the sickness of the world around me, there are some who scoff at the basics and ridicule those who dare to rise above mankind’s fallen state. They claim that times have changed, and that we live in a different world from back then.

How many times I’ve run for the latest invention, read the latest philosophy, or pondered the latest theory. How many times I’ve felt disillusioned and disheartened! How often I’ve wished I had just stuck with the basics!

CHILDREN campfire

When it comes to raising kids or relating to others around me, I plan to stick with the home remedies I learned as a child. They work, every time. Mama instilled in us a reverence for God and for His Word. She modeled respect for authority, thereby expecting it of us. Mama didn’t gossip; she fleshed out restitution and forgiveness. My mama also believed in and practiced the rod of correction for training her children to act and respond properly. Mama knew the importance – and  demonstrated – repetition for learning. Our mother taught us responsibility for actions.

They may be old-fashioned, but they’re still the best for me. I’ve never known any of these ingredients, if applied correctly, to fail. They provide greater healing than any quick-fix methods I’ve seen recommended.

These days when I’m tempted to try out the latest trend in dialog or tolerance, I remember that Mama’s home remedy still works best of all.