CMO – Chief Mood Officer by Courtney DeFeo

Y’all remember Courtney DeFeo (Lil’ Light O’Mine) who has been such an encouragement on appreciating and watching out for folks in our lives that sometimes get overlooked or underthanked? Well, she’s just written a book. And I asked her to share something from it. She cracks me up – and blesses me at the same time. Might she encourage us all in our role as CMO (Chief Mood Officer).  Because, even when the moods are bad – here’s hoping we can laugh in the midst, because we are ALL there at one time or another.

Thanks for sharing Courtney! …and thanks for walking the road with me. -K

View More: you know what happens when you ask your kids a question? You get an honest answer.

I was basically fishing for a compliment. The conversation went like this with my five-year-old. We had just moved to Orlando from Atlanta.

“Ella what do you remember from our old house?”

I was smiling – thinking my darling angel was about to mention one of the award-winning birthday parties I threw her, or her Pottery Barn Kids decorated room or all the million toys we bought her.

And here came the answer.

“I remember when you got mad and kicked the dryer.”

That moment felt like she kicked me in the deepest part of my heart.

It’s true guys. I have never hurt my kids or kicked my kids, but I did kick my dryer. And my five-year-old remembered it. Shame. Guilt. Embarrassment.

Yes, me the author of In This House, We Will GIGGLE kicked a dryer. Are you serious?

I am normal. I am human. I have bad days and good.

I’ve come to realize that I am the CMO— Chief Mood Officer—in our home. When I am annoyed and uptight, the whole family is on edge. If I am stressed, everyone is stressed. Sure, the kids’ fighting or lack of sleep or something else may be at the root of my mood. But I’ve discovered it doesn’t really help to figure out who caused what. I just need to break the cycle.

As CMOs of the house, we moms have some amazing superpowers. We carry delight and joy in our very fingertips and eyes. Our children crave our love, touch, and approval. They want to know we see them and we love them even when things are going downhill. If the mood in the house is tense, we can assess if it’s because we ourselves are too busy, too stressed, too critical, or too tired.

Often bringing in joy is as simple as scooping up a little one to give him a heartfelt hug or smile and word of affirmation. You can almost see the life come right back into his heart. As adults we get the same feeling of affirmation from our heavenly Father during our prayer time and time in His Word.

Check out Courtney’s book (especially great for moms of young kiddos) to get the skinny on her fun and creative ways to set the mood (there’s more than candles or music – even though Pandora’s Pride & Prejudice station goes a long way) – that can add a little lift to life in every home.


Courtney DeFeo is a popular blogger and creator of ABC Scripture Cards featured on “The View.” She is a graduate of Auburn University and has worked in marketing for Chick-fil-A. Courtney and her husband, Ron, are the parents of two children. To connect with Courtney, visit

Raised in a Glass Jar by Kathleen Fischer

The following reminder is by our dear friend Kathleen Fischer.  I hope her words bless you like they did me. When I saw this, it reminded me of something I read last week by Tim Elmore on listening (from Habitudes). He said there are 5 types of bad listening. And, even though generic in nature, they seem to be especially applicable to the way I/we tend to listen to teens. 

  • Judgmental listening – jumping to conclusions about the speaker
  • Selective listening – only hearing what you want to hear
  • Impatient listening – finishing other people’s sentences, interrupting them
  • Egocentric listening – thinking about what you’ll say as others are talking
  • Patronizing listening – pretending to listen, but really off in your own world
  • Stubborn listening – listening, but not open – your mind is already made up

It convicted me that in my role as parent/trainer (probably as friend, too), I need to work on my listening skills, especially with my teens. I need to listen, not only in order to love them well by hearing, but also to instill and model good listening skills so they might learn how to listen in return. (Okay, so maybe that’s a bit pie in the sky, but one can hope :) In that vein, I especially appreciate Kathleen’s admonition: But across the arc of adolescence, a radical shift is necessary in family conversation….parents need to speak less and teens need to speak more. Listening – only a portion of Kathleen’s thought provoking post today.

Thank you, Kathleen (as always) for encouraging/inspiring us today… and thanks for walking the road with me.  -Kay


A man raised a baby swan in a glass jar, but as the bird grew it became stuck in the jar. The man was caught now, for the only way to free the bird was to break the jar, killing the swan.  – Zen saying

It was clear that they loved their girl, had the best intention of protecting her. Her parents acknowledged that, hoping to shield her from difficulties, they had limited her friendships; made sure she was in a good school with nice girls; closely monitored her contacts and activities. The young girl had been raised in a veritable glass jar…the whole world was hers to see but she was to remain protected, set apart until….when?

But, as teens do, she saw the bright lights of the world beckon her….she wore daring clothes away from her parents’ sight; she found intriguing companions on the Internet; she shielded her parents from what she knew would hurt them and might estrange her. The GOOD NEWS: breaking the jar did NOT kill the lovely swan.

But the crisis which ensued begs the question of all loving parents: how can we raise a teen “in” the world but still safe? 

Parents have 3 jobs: safety, decency and exiting their kid’s life.

I believe that we know when to exit our child’s life because he/she is managing her own safety and decency pretty well (Note: I did not say “perfectly” because even really good kids can misestimate danger or a bad situation). One of the most important tools to help our teens learn to manage for themselves is a simple one, conversation. But across the arc of adolescence, a radical shift is necessary in family conversation….parents need to speak less and teens need to speak more.

By the time our teens are 13 or 14, they know what WE think…what we need to know is, what do THEY think?

  • Have they absorbed the family’s values?
  • Are they able to spot trouble and formulate a plan to keep themselves safe ?
  • Are they able to weigh and discern possibilities?
  • Are they becoming more flexible so that if Plan A doesn’t work, they can shift to Plan B?

One dad I know who was working on his communication with his teen son coined a new term, “bottom-lining.” He would say, “I think I’m bottom-lining it too much for him,” by which he meant that he was coming to a conclusion and enforcing it on his son rather than encouraging his son to think things through for himself. Even when our kids get it wrong, we can remain helpful if we frame a failure for them (and for ourselves) as a learning experience. Questions like

  • What was the good/safe part of this plan?
  • When did that part go awry?
  • If you had it to do again, is there anything you’d do differently?
  • What do you know now that you didn’t know this time last week?

I’m fairly certain that we cannot raise our lovely swans in glass jars without great risk to them and to our relationships. A parent’s role is to help them to develop the ability to make safe and decent choices for themselves. As one sage put it,

Our job as parents is not so much to prepare the road for our kids but to prepare our kids for the road.

Kathleen M. Fischer, longtime Dallas resident and mother of three, is a registered nurse with a master’s degree. In a career spanning more than forty years, she has worked in public health settings; taught in public school and at the university level; and presented professional educational seminars. Kathleen continues to be a popular speaker in corporate, professional, church and community settings, often presenting topics from her books, Bringing Our Boys Through the Second Decade and Simple But NOT Easy – Regaining Balance In Our Family Life.
Listening is more than hearing … how well are you doing?

A Reminder to Breathe

Some phases of life are “easier” than others. Right now, we’re in one of those remind-me-to-breathe times. I don’t know why.

But in the midst of challenges, I’m always grateful that rarely does everything crumble at the same time.

With five kids, usually one is dealing with something funky. It could be their own bad attitude and unwise decision making. OR it could be a situation that falls into the unfair category. Because, inasmuch as people travel behind our wake, we travel in the wake of others. And sometimes things beyond our control can pull us down.

It never ceases to surprise me – the way parents question ourselves in the midst of trials. We don’t tend to overly praise ourselves in the good. If your kid scores National Merit or makes the Club sports team they practiced so hard to make – we aren’t sending props out to ourselves.  … So why are we so quick to microscopically re-live every detail when life isn’t quite so smooth? We think back, wonder if, question decisions, worry about the future, and quite possibly fret.

I think that’s a waste of effort and mental capacity (which in my case is very limited :).

The other night at dinner, I saw something that I hope I remember for a long time. It’s something I already knew – but something that can get lost in the midst. It was a reminder to breathe.

While waiting for our food, the kids began to doodle.


I sipped my tea and I watched and I noticed –


each child, doing his/her thing. … Always up for a game, little Tic-Tac-Toe, playing …


the brother (you can’t see) next to Tic-Tac-Toe scribbling wildly :) …


a sister and her seascape (I can almost hear the kid repeating one of her all-time favorite phrases “Just keep swimming … swimming … swimming” while doodling) …


a brother who can’t turn it off (by the time our food came, he had filled every blank space in front of him with equations building off of each other) …

IMG_2654.JPGand another sister, playing with letters.  A future graphic designer maybe? I don’t know, but this is what she sees and thinks about most of the time. Her name is Lucy. Can you see it? She does – with everyone.

Oh my goodness … they’re all so different.

And I started to breathe.

And I asked myself … are you loving them well? Really loving them for who they are, not who I want them to be or think they ought to be or who society says they should be. But loving them for the special individuals they are. Am I helping each of them discover their unique gifting and building them up in that? Even when such gifting might take them down a road that could look a bit different than what I or everyone around me expect(s)?

Each child is gifted. (Some are gifts are easier than others.)

And each parent is gifted, too.

Gifted to love the children, with whom you have been blessed, like no one else can love and encourage them. Remember that. And breathe.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


Table Talk: Motivator or Manipulator by Andy Kerckhoff

Today’s guest post is by our friend Andy Kerckhoff. He’s a teacher, an author and blogger at growingupwell - and a parent. So he has special insight and wisdom that I always find interesting. I hope you do as well. Check out Andy’s blog or his his book: Critical Connection: A practical guide to parenting young teens.

Thanks for sharing, Andy … and thanks for walking the road with me.


son Once again, his room isn’t clean, not by any standard. Her backpack, jacket, and shoes are scattered about the floor of the hall, again. His grades are sub-par in math, again. She is making the family late to school, again. He seems to be nonchalant about his music audition this weekend. She isn’t running enough to prepare for soccer tryouts next week.

How do you approach the lack of motivation: carrot or stick?

What’s the best approach: direct confrontation, positive affirmation, a new system of consequences? Push hard or back off? Constructive criticism?

Who knows? It’s a minefield, to say the least.

It’s a thin line between motivating your child and provoking him or her to rebellion. Motivating a child, especially a teenager, is not an easy road. There will be resistance, mistakes and regrets, and that is if you are doing it right.

For example, my son loves to play guitar. When he first started playing, there were times when I pushed him too hard. I felt that he needed to learn his scales and play with a purpose at times, rather than just play for fun. I provoked him to anger occasionally. At other times, I employed an easy-going attitude toward him playing the same riffs over and over for fun. And sometimes I regretted that.

It’s a tough call. Nobody wants to be too tough or too soft. It’s a fine line to walk.

In addition, the thin line seems to move whimsically. One day, it’s here and another it’s there. One day you have a great conversation that challenges your daughter to work harder in school, and the next day she is in tears at the slightest mention of schoolwork. One day you motivate, the next day you provoke.

But the way I see it, you have to be willing to be seen as the bad guy. You have to be willing to step over the line occasionally, even if it means regretting it later. But if you step over that line too often, then you are pushing way too hard. Motivation can become manipulation. It can be a slippery slope.

If your child feels provoked and discouraged daily, then you have a big problem on your hands. The Bible explicitly warns: “Fathers, do not provoke your children or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). Apparently, fathers have been pushing too hard for thousands of years, and they probably always will.

But I contend that it’s our role as parents to push the limits occasionally. Not that we want to intentionally go over the edge, but we need to push to the edge now and then. For example, in soccer it’s best to use the whole field. Don’t just keep the ball in the middle. Don’t be afraid to send it to the edges, even if it occasionally goes out of bounds on accident. If you never cross the line, then you are not pushing hard enough. Yes, you need to push often enough to warrant an apology occasionally.

I recall when my high school basketball coach told me that I needed to foul more. What? He thought I was playing too safe, too nice, too careful. He said that I should get about three fouls per game. Seriously. He knew that I needed to be more aggressive, that I was not likely to foul out. He was right. I became a better player, and I didn’t foul out often, hurt anybody, or become a hacker.

I think some of us parent too safely. We are too timid, too afraid that if we tick off our child that he or she will spin out of control in some way. Or we are too aggressive, too afraid to let our child make his or her own mistakes and suffer the consequences.

Conversely, if you never back away and let your kid fall short of an expectation or make some mistakes, then you are a control freak. You need to learn to back off. Not all the time. Just some of the time. You need to be willing to do nothing and perhaps regret it later. That’s right. You should occasionally regret your decision to not say something.

After all, not all motivation should be extrinsic. In fact, the best motivation is intrinsic. Therefore, you need to let your child determine his or her motivation now and then.

So, stop playing it so safe. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Don’t always be “Mr. Consistent” who never makes his child uncomfortable.

Instead, be more like the coach who motivates his players to the point where they are playing to win, unafraid of making mistakes. So what if the ball goes out of bounds occasionally? Who cares if the ref calls a foul now and then?

I am not a fan of any form of extreme parenting. I think that too-safe parenting is extreme. Don’t be afraid to step in and motivate. And don’t be afraid to step back and observe, rather than navigate. Use the whole field, as they say in soccer. Don’t worry about getting called off-sides now and then. And be willing to let the kids play, free of your constant barrage of instructions from the sidelines.

Be confident that you are capable of making the right choices, and you are capable of dealing with some parenting mistakes. For if you are doing your job as a parent well, then you will push too hard at times and you will pull back too much at times. It’s ok. It’s better than playing it too safe.

Be a good motivator, but don’t be a constant manipulator.