Mother Who Teaches Values Inspires Character

What Real Mothers Know: Understand Your Family's Values So Your Children Can Live Them

What Really Matters for Mothering: Be Intentional

The Real Benefit for Kids: Empathy, Strong Character, and a Moral Compass

The Lesson a Real Mother Teaches: There's something about being a mom that makes us want to do everything possible for our kids. Well, why not? Don't we hope that our children will have every opportunity for happiness and success? That's why we're so brilliant at packing in all those special classes, rehearsals, team practices, and private coaching for our budding little geniuses every day. It's a marvel how we're able to multitask from dawn to midnight. But is all this frenzy in our children's best interests? Do they really need so much? Real moms don't think so. They recognize that their influence will be far greater if they center instead on only those things that they feel matter most. So they focus on the real stuff: being clear about their family's values. Real moms know that kids must have a moral code to live by and that they will learn that code through you—but only if you are mindful of that code and live it yourself. Stick to what really matters for your family, Mom, stay true to your beliefs, and you will greatly increase your positive influence.

"She Prioritized Her Values So Her Family Could Have a Code to Live By"

Strong families have something that they believe in together.

—Marilyn Perlyn

Six-year-old Amanda Perlyn was afraid that her new teacher, Dr. Malko, was going to give her an injection on the first day of her new school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. But once her teacher explained that she wasn't "that" kind of doctor ("Don't worry, I'm a doctor of education. I won't ask you to stick out your tongues and say 'Ahhh'"), the first-grader warmed up to her right away.

One day, however, Amanda came home from school quite disturbed and upset. She told her mom, Marilyn, that Dr. Malko was trying very hard to put on a smile but that Amanda and all her friends could tell that their teacher was worried about something.

"Dr. Malko told us that her daughter, Elena, was sick and that there might be days when we'd have a substitute teacher in her place."

A week later Elena herself came to visit Amanda's class. She was twenty-seven years old and wearing a large hat that covered the entire top of her head.

"And when she took off her hat, Mom, there wasn't any hair! She was bald. But she let me touch it, and her head felt so smooth."

That's when Dr. Malko told the class that her daughter had cancer and was receiving chemotherapy that made her hair fall out. A few weeks later, Elena stopped coming to visit, and Dr. Malko was absent more, too. Every day it seemed harder and harder for Dr. Malko to smile, until one day Amanda overheard two teachers in the hallway outside her class talking about how difficult it was getting to be for Dr. Malko to pay for Elena's medical expenses. Her husband had died of cancer, and she had no health insurance.

Amanda came home and asked her mother, "What's insurance?" and "Can I have some money to give my teacher so she can help Elena's cancer?"

Marilyn's first reaction was to try to protect her child from the seriousness and potentially fatal outcome of Elena's disease. But Amanda was persistent and continued to ask her mom how she could help.

"Amanda was feeling her teacher's pain and wanted to be a part of the solution to help her. But she was only six! I wanted to shelter her from suffering—she was so young. But she was so insistent. "Mommy, we have to help Dr. Malko," she'd plead. I finally realized that I was the one who didn't have the courage— it was my daughter who taught me that you should act on your feelings because those strong emotions are what mobilize compassion. My acceptance of my daughter's empathy empowered me to learn, to act, and to teach others that children can make a difference in the lives of others."

Marilyn and her husband, Don, were working very hard at that point in their lives. Beside the fact that their funds were limited, they didn't think that just writing a check would have been the best way to nurture their daughter's empathy. Marilyn began to realize that this was a great opportunity to show her daughter some of the most important things she valued as a mother: service, compassion, selflessness, helping others. But she wasn't sure how to go about doing it.

Marilyn remembered reading a newspaper article about children helping others. It said that children need to be given some ability to fix a corner of their world even at a young age. Though her daughter was only in the first grade, she wasn't too young to make a difference.

So she and her daughter started to brainstorm together. What could they do to earn some money for Dr. Malko that didn't cost them a cent except their time, energy, and creativity? Marilyn knew that her daughter was very artistic and liked to do things with her hands. After talking it over, the family, including Amanda's two older brothers and dad, decided to make reindeer ornaments for both Christmas and Chanukah—some with red noses (Rudolph) and some with blue (Moishe).

"We took the bark from palm trees, and the glue, noses, and eyes were donated, and we spread everything out all over the floor to create our own reindeer assembly line," Marilyn reported. Then Amanda and her family sold them all door to door in one weekend for $10 each.

Amanda counted out the $1,000 they'd earned, put it in a box, and brought it to her astonished teacher.

"I still get goose bumps when I remember the words that Dr. Malko said to Amanda as she embraced her in front of the class. "When children do such acts of kindness," said Dr. Malko, "they are like angels with invisible halos on their heads."

That spring, Dr. Malko's daughter, Elena, died. Amanda was very sad.

"I had the same old instinct, to protect her from pain and sad feelings," Marilyn recalled. "Amanda wanted to go to the funeral, and at first I said no. But she was so insistent that once again I knew I had to trust her heart and give her another opportunity to show other people she cared for and supported them."

Amanda continued to think about Elena and be concerned about Dr. Malko as she entered the second grade. That Christmas, she and her mother were at the shopping center and saw an announcement for a contest to write an essay about someone you wish could be with you for the holidays. But Amanda turned it around and wrote instead that she wanted Dr. Malko to visit her only living child.

"I want to show my first-grade teacher, Dr. Malko, how much I love and care about her. Her daughter died this year. All she has left is her son, Michael, who lives in Idaho. For all her hard work teaching kids her whole life, I think she deserves to have Christmas with her only family. I got a fortune cookie that said, 'An emptiness will soon be filled.' Now I want to give my fortune to Dr. Malko."

Then one day Amanda received a phone call: She'd won the trip for her teacher. Dr. Malko was overjoyed and flew off to Idaho to spend Christmas with her son. But she wasn't the only happy one.

"It was one of the proudest moments of my life," Marilyn said, "that my child had helped someone else. It was an incredible high."

Amanda showed Marilyn the strength of their family's values through her compassion, empathy, selflessness, and willingness to give of herself and work hard to make good things happen for other people. It motivated Marilyn's mothering instinct to cultivate caring for others with her whole family.

"I sat down with my family and said, 'Look, Amanda has just had this experience. She learned something that the rest of us didn't know. No matter how old you are, you're old enough to make a difference in someone else's life. I want you two boys to experience what Amanda has just taught all of us. And Daddy and I need to get involved helping others as well.'"

Marilyn and her husband decided to help each of their three children develop a project that was of personal interest to them and that helped fill a need in the community. Amanda's love of stuffed animals led her to a project called "To Have and to Hug," in which she collected and distributed thousands of new stuffed animals donated by various toy stores to hospitals, foster children, and abused and neglected kids. Eric, their athletic child, started a project he called Stepp'n Up, in which he solicited sneakers from shoe stores and has so far distributed more than fifteen thousand pairs to needy kids. Their oldest son, Chad, who aspired to be and now is a physician, started a project call Doc-Adopt, in which doctors and dentists adopted the medical or dental needs of an underprivileged child.

"Before all the reindeer, the funeral, and the essay contest, we had never really talked about what we stood for as a family and what we expected our kids to do about it. But my husband and I learned something from our six-year-old daughter about what's right and wrong as a parent. She showed us how things can cross your path sometimes, and you have to stop and choose which way you're going to go. We have to recognize those opportunities where we can help our kids use their own strengths, feelings, and skills to make a difference according to our family's values.

"The feeling that Amanda and the rest of us got from helping Dr. Malko's family was incredibly wonderful, so we decided that helping others was going to be a year-round priority in all our children's lives. Over the years our children have received many awards and much recognition for their service to the community. But nothing has made us happier than knowing how their characters have developed into the kind of caring young people who we are proud to say are our children."

What Real Moms Can Learn from This Story

The story of Marilyn and her children shows how important it is for a family not only to have values but to apply them. Marilyn and her husband hadn't really talked about their shared beliefs, hopes, and expectations for their children. They knew instinctively without saying that of course they wanted their children to have compassion and empathy, to be selfless and care for other people, but it wasn't until Amanda showed them how important it was to find a way to express these values, to be helpful to the teacher she loved in a moment of crisis, that

Knowing Your One Wish for 1t real mom wisdom

Your Family

Suppose you were allowed just one wish for your children, and just suppose your wish would be granted. Here is the rule: the wish must be something you personally can control (so it can't be related to things like your kids' health, financial status, or longevity). It has to be something you can inspire or nurture in your kids and family. Once you figure out your one wish, it will become your "one central truth" or your core family motto. It will be what you want to keep true as your central mantra for your day-to-day mothering. What would your wish be? Write it down, then tape it on the fridge, keep a copy in your wallet, key it into your Palm Pilot—and read it often. It will remind you of what you think really counts when it comes to your family and will help you stay focused on what matters.

Marilyn became intentional and developed the maternal secret of guiding her kids in expressing their family values.

Many moms tend to go in too many directions at once and struggle to take on every potential activity and opportunity for achievement. Instead of succumbing to that temptation, Marilyn focused her family's energies and commitment on one major passion. And the outcome? Her approach not only produced great results but also actually made their family life more manageable by not scattering their efforts and by bringing their family closer.

Amanda taught her family what a difference they could make—each of them. Marilyn and Don taught their children how to use their special feelings and unique skills to help other people and fulfill their family's values. What happened to them ultimately was that these caring activities not only defined the purpose of their own lives but inspired other families as well. The Perlyn family, who now live in Boca Raton, received the

R. David Thomas Child Advocate of the Year Award and an award from the Points of Light Foundation. Marilyn's children have appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and in books, magazines, and other media.

Of course I'm not implying that your ultimate mothering goal should be to end up on Oprah or receiving accolades from the White House. But by identifying your family values and tuning in to what matters most and then sticking to it, you'll discover that you will have more quality time together and will be more likely to create a family of purpose. Here is how this secret can help you and your family:

■ Every family has values, whether or not they write them down or think them through. If you identify and express these values, they can give your family vision and purpose.

■ There are daily opportunities to apply your family's values and beliefs.

■ Often your children create chances to express these values and beliefs. Your role is to support and guide them to use their special feelings and skills in ways that are unique to them.

■ Defining your vision and purpose as a family will help you prioritize your daily life so that you're not spinning your wheels trying to be the perfect mom.

■ Putting your vision and purpose to work will save you energy, time, and money because you'll base your decisions for your family on what really counts.

Is This Real Mom's Secret Part of Your Parenting?

How intentional is your day-to-day parenting? How well are you nurturing empathy and compassion in your kids?

real mom alert

Sticking to What Matters Boosts Your Happiness

Researchers find that parents and grandparents who have clearly targeted beliefs and then stick to them as their family purpose helps them feel more satisfied with their lives. In fact, 55 percent of caregivers felt more positive about their role if they stuck to their purpose of what they felt mattered most in raising kids.

1. Have you stopped to identify your top value or belief for your family? For example: economic security; education for career enhancement; spiritual connection to a higher power; good health and nutrition; service and caring for others. What is it?

2. If you turned to your parenting partner right now and asked him if he could identify your values or beliefs, what would he say? Would he share those values?

3. If you sat your kids down on the couch and asked them, "What is the most important thing we all stand for as a family?" how would they respond?

4. During the last week, have you been confused about such "mom stuff" as "Should I let my kid watch that TV show or listen to that CD?" "Should I make my daughter finish her homework alone, or should I help her so she can go to sleep on time?" "Should I let my son buy those really pricey sunglasses so he can look like his friends?" Do you stop and ask yourself, "How are my values and beliefs affecting my children's day-to-day lives?"

5. Think over the last few days. How many times have you discussed or explained your values with your kids? If you do object to that TV show, have you told your child why? If you do insist that your child practice that "stupid violin," do you explain your reason?

6. What is the one thing you recognize in yourself that you need to change to become a more intentional mom? Write it on the lines here. Then get ready to learn the secret and use it with your family.

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Stopping the Dreaded Three D's REAL

mom did

Margie Sims of Essex Junction, Vermont, is a mom of eight kids ages one to eighteen who realized that a big part of her mothering would have to be prioritizing. After all, carting eight kids from piano to French to soccer to violin each day was not only unaffordable but also simply impossible. But Margie also knew that what did matter was raising her kids to have strong character. That goal was at the top of her parenting priority list. A mom in her Bible study class gave her a real mothering tip that she swears was the best advice she's ever heard to help her keep focused on that priority: "Always discipline for just three things: "Disrespect, Deceit, Disobedience." Anytime any of her kids displays one of those "Three D's," they know their mom will not tolerate it. "Sticking to those three rules in my house has helped my family enormously," Margie says. "It's given my kids a code to live by, helped them develop the character I want most for them, and helped me prioritize what matters most."

Four Steps to Boosting Intentionality

Step One: Create a Family Value's List. Turn off the TV, put the kids to bed, and turn on the answering machine. Get yourself focused and leave enough time so you can really think. Take out your laptop or a pad and pencil. Now answer this question:

Aside from good health and security, what traits do you hope your child will possess as an adult? Write down as many as you can think of, but write at least ten traits. Here is a list to help you get started.

altruism

gentleness

politeness

assertiveness

genuineness

prudence

calmness

graciousness

purposefulness

caring

gratitude

reliability

charitableness

helpfulness

resourcefulness

chastity

honesty

respect

citizenship

honor

responsibility

compassion

humility

reverence

compatibility

idealism

self-control

consideration

industriousness

self-discipline

cooperation

initiative

self-motivation

courage

insightfulness

sensitivity

courtesy

integrity

serenity

dependability

joyfulness

simplicity

determination

justness

sincerity

discipline

kindness

steadfastness

empathy

love

tactfulness

excellence

loyalty

temperance

fairness

mercy

tenacity

faithfulness

moderation

thankfulness

fidelity

modesty

tolerance

flexibility

obedience

trustworthiness

forgivingness

optimism

truthfulness

friendliness

patience

understanding

frugality

peacefulness

unselfishness

generosity

perseverance

wisdom

Step Two: Identify Your Top Three Family Values. Now reread your list. Which traits really matter to you the most? Start crossing off ones that aren't as important to you until you finally have your top three to five family values.

Step Three: Choose One Value to Nurture. Now select the one value you want to tune up in your family right now. Use the following five strategies in the acronym TEACH to boost the value. T-Target the value you want to apply right this minute in your home. Focus on only one at a time so you don't get overwhelmed and spin your wheels trying to do too much. Many moms target a different key value each month. Write down your choice so you don't forget. E-Exemplify this value in your own everyday behavior. The easiest way for your child to learn any new value is by actually seeing it in action. So intentionally start looking for ways to tune up your chosen value anytime you're with your children. If you think courtesy is important, then intentionally start using more courteous language and behavior. If self-control is your targeted value, then this is the time to start taking those deep breaths and counting to ten. A-Accentuate the targeted value in simple ways. For example, if respect is your targeted value and a song that abuses women is played on your car radio on the way home from school, seize the opportunity to make a point about treating all people with dignity. C-Catch your children displaying the value and praise them for it. "Hey, I know it was hard to admit you broke your brother's hockey stick. I appreciate your honesty." H—Highlight the value of the value. "I loved how you smiled at Grandma. That was being really kind. Did you see how her face lit up? Whenever you're kind, it helps make the world a better place." Whenever you highlight, be sure you name the value and tell your child exactly how it made a difference.

Step Four: Do It Again. Repeat the process for as many values you want to nurture in your children.

what

Simple Ways to Remind You THREE REAL

■ Collect inspirational quotes. Patty Service, a mother of two from Palm Springs, California, has for years collected inspirational quotes that depict her values. She cuts them out or prints them on index cards, then puts them under a piece of glass covering her dresser. She can then read them each morning, and doing so reminds her of what matters most to her and her maternal vision.

■ Create a family intention statement. Joanne Kleindeinst, a mother of four, felt that conveying her maternal mission statement about perseverance to her children was so important that she had her family spend an afternoon together brainstorming mottoes about their value. Her kids finally chose "Our Family Always Finishes What We Start"; they printed it on colorful pieces of card stock and hung them on their bedroom and kitchen walls. The motto reminds them of their intention.

■ Enforce a two-times-a-day rule. Judy Baggott, a mom of three from Palm Springs, California, identified kindness as the one value she wanted most for her children to acquire. She emphasized the value by quickly reminding her children before they left for school each day to do two kind things for someone. Her intentionality paid off: her kids are now grown, and a strong trait in each is kindness.

Six Simple Steps to Boosting Empathy and Compassion in Your Kids

Often the most difficult part of getting your child to do kinder deeds for others is knowing where to begin. So tune in to your child's passions and interests and match them with appropriate projects. Here are six steps passed on from other parents on how not only to become a more charitable family but also to get your kids passionate about doing compassionate deeds for others by guiding them toward projects of their choice.

1. Choose a project based on your child's interests and talents. The first step is to help your child choose something that he is good at and enjoys doing. Tune in to problems that concern your child and start by looking around your neighborhood—for example, property that needs cleaning up, a park where kids no longer feel safe playing, a homeless shelter that needs sprucing up, or elderly people who are lonely. Look for other service projects in the Yellow Pages under "Social Service Organizations." Help your child analyze the good and bad points of each possibility and then choose the one problem he wants to work on most.

2. Research the topic. Next, help your child find out as much information as she can about the problem. A word of caution: don't be discouraged if the organization is not receptive to actual kid involvement and only encourages your child to collect money and donate possessions. Stress to your child that she doesn't need an organization to make a difference. Any small action is a start.

3. Think of all possible solutions. Suppose your child is concerned about the homeless living in the park; he might brainstorm and come up with these ideas: build a shelter, get a hotel to house them, put beds in the park, give out blankets, raise money for cots. Now have him choose the ideas he feels are most manageable and that he wants to commit to doing.

4. Enlist others in the cause. Some kids like to form clubs, which can include neighborhood kids, classmates, scout or church members, or just friends. The more people in the group, the more energy they have to make a difference.

5. Plan for success. The more your child thinks through her plan, the greater the likelihood she will succeed. So help her organize for success by asking her what resources and people she will need for her cause and then offer age-appropriate help in gathering resources. The older your child is, the more responsibilities she should assume.

6. Implement the solutions and evaluate progress. Now encourage your child to carry out her plans. Getting started is often the hardest part for kids, so you might ask, "What is the first thing you need to get started?" Support her efforts so that she carries out her plans. Stress that the best-laid plans never go smoothly, so help your child evaluate her progress and change any areas that need correcting.

real mom alert

Doing Good for Others Is a Happiness Booster

Marilyn Perlyn recognized that her daughter felt happier doing good deeds for others. It was a big reason why her purpose for her family was to become more charitable so that her sons could gain the same feelings of satisfaction as Amanda. Research supports Marilyn's gut feeling that performing acts of altruism or kindness boosts your happiness quotient. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside, found that people who do five simple kind acts a week, especially all in a single day, experience dramatically magnified feelings of happiness.

Making a Promise to Yourself

1. Did you identify with or were you inspired by the story of Amanda and her mom, Marilyn? What was it that resonated for you and your family? Is this one of the secrets you want to focus on and tune up in your family? How would applying what matters most about intentionality benefit your child?

2. Tough as it may be day after day, being intentional is the best way to teach your family such values as compassion and empathy so that your children can follow them. So check

A Pledge to Stick to What Really Matters s real mom talk

When I was pregnant with my first child, I noticed how my friends always seemed to be rushing about with their children. They'd packed their days with practices, lessons, and appointments, and all the while they complained they were "so busy." I'd sit and wonder: What's the point? Are they really enjoying their kids doing all this stuff? Where's the simple joy of playing, having fun, and creating happy memories? It was at that moment I vowed not to jump on that bandwagon of frantic over-scheduling and manic mothering. I wrote a promise to myself in my journal that day: I would stay true to myself by raising my future children based on my beliefs. I jotted down what I hoped most for my children: that they become respectful, have solid character and kindness of heart. I also knew that I wanted them to love imaginative play and be creative. The journal entry became my mothering plan. The best part was that it was so simple, and it helped me focus on what mattered most. It also kept me guiltless: I wasn't concerned with what other mothers did with their kids. I knew what was right for mine.

It's been eighteen years since I wrote my promise, and now as I look into my children's eyes, I'm so glad I stuck to my plan. My daughter is a happy and confident sophomore in high school. Just last week I hugged my son goodbye as he begins his freshman year at Princeton. I felt assured in knowing he'll be just fine on his own. Realizing that my children have a strong sense of character, respect for others, and kind hearts makes me genuinely happy that I stayed true to the promise I'd made so many years ago.

-Jaynie Neveras, mother of two children from Atherton, California out the four steps to boosting intentionality and review all the other boxes, guides, tips, and stories in this chapter. 3. Go to A Mother's Promise on page 55 and write in the one thing you'll do differently over the next 21 days to apply the beliefs you hold dearest to your heart.

A Real Mom's Resource Guide

The Biggest and Brightest Light: A True Story of the Heart, by Marilyn Perlyn and illustrated by Amanda Perlyn (Bandon, Oreg.: Reed, 2004). The wonderful true story of Amanda Perlyn's gift of caring for her teacher is told in this charming picture-book version written for four- to eight-year-olds. It should be required reading for every child.

Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family, by Phil McGraw (New York: Free Press, 2004). Dr. Phil provides a plan to help you identify what you need to stop doing and what you need to start doing to lead your family with a sense of purpose. In particular, read and reread the section on how to help you define what you consider to be success and then use the steps to create and claim it.

Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, and Money, by A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003). This book offers good advice that might help you recognize what you really want to give high priority in your family, and the strategies to get started.

Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids, by Julie Bort, Aviva Pflock, and Debra Renner (New York: AMACOM, 2005). If you're caught in the guilt trap of trying to "do it all" for your kids, this book may help you realize it's time to prioritize.

Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 2003). The bottom line to great parenting is that we need to understand who we are and what we believe so we can pass those beliefs on to our children. This book will help you recognize what matters most to you.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, by Stephen R. Covey (New York: Golden Books, 1997). This book offers excellent resources to help you clarify what really matters most to you in your role of mothering and raising great kids, and the tools to achieve it.

Teaching Your Kids to Care: How to Discover and Develop the Spirit of Charity in Your Children, by Deborah Spaide (New York: Carol, 1995). No more excuses! Here are one hundred projects to get your kids involved in doing good for others. It's a practical guide for parents of children from kindergarten to high school, with clearly outlined ways to help your family learn to care about others.

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