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4 Ways Suzuki Applies to Family Social Media Training

I was a Suzuki mom. My kids started violin lessons at age 3. We later moved beyond Suzuki, but I applied many of the things I learned as a Suzuki mom to later help my son with speech therapy when he was a preschooler.

Now, as I train parents, youth leaders, and teens on social media, basic tenets of Suzuki training apply to teaching teens to use it well.

  1. Learning begins young. Age 13 is the minimum for social media sites like Facebook. I support that minimum and also believe that’s a good time for parents to introduce their kids to limited social media use where they learn to use it well.  It is easier to friend and guide a 13 year old than it is a 15 or 18 year old. Teach them well while they are more likely to listen. As we moved back driving ages, more teens have opted not to do any drivers ed but to simply get their licenses at age 18. And now studies are showing an increase in traffic fatalities among these 18 year olds because they never learned to drive well or with training. The same applies to social media.
  2. Nurture by love. Kids who feel loved and connected are going to be more likely to reflect that in their social media content. Once I heard a teen refer to another mom, “I feel sorry for her kids when they are sick. She complains on Facebook about it so much they must think she hates them.” What is she teaching them?
  3. Good examples inspire greatness. Parents and youth leaders who model using social media for good lead by example. Teach teens by example to promote their communities and encourage others. Kids learn to talk by listening to their parents. They are still listening – and reading – as teens.
  4. Listen. Suzuki parents listen to their kids play and help them improve, a little at a time, with positive encouragement.  Sometimes I tell parents to see what their kids are doing on social media, and they refuse. Their kids might be asking for help or need some encouragement. Other times, parents listen, and we help their kids avoid driving off a cliff. Many parents have no clue what their kids are posting on Facebook or Twitter.

Savvy social media use will matter for teens when they pursue jobs, college entrance, and scholarships. Social media background checks are and will be the norm.  

My kids know I can access their latest Facebook statuses with 2 clicks on my smartphone. In my parenting via social media classes, I tell the story of how I responded and what happened the day my phone joined the wrong teen’s Facebook profile to my daughter’s contact – and the OTHER girl posted an expletive ridden update about her family.

Families invest time and money helping their teens prep for college entrance exams. They often hire tutors if needed and make sure their kids have well-rounded outside activities.

It is now equally imperative that families work with teens on smart social media use that helps – and doesn’t hurt – their future college and career options.  

Teens who use social media well, especially those who are funny, can set themselves above the pack at scholarship time.

How Not to Parent on Facebook

I am absolutely sick.

I just watched that viral Youtube with the angry dad who shoots his daughter’s laptop. I won’t embed it because it embodies on many levels what can go wrong with parents who don’t interact well with their teens on social media.

The mistakes?

  • Don’t humiliate people online. Even if people are out of line, public humiliation never improves a situation.
  • Don’t post when angry. I’ve done it, and I’ve learned from mistakes. When angry, step away from the keyboard and put down the phone.
  • Don’t destroy property. This is hard as a parent – there are times as a parent of teens, I have gotten that angry. Physical violence does not solve problems.
  • Don’t respond to anger with more anger. Anger + anger = more anger, not resolution of a problem.

I teach community classes to youth organizations and church groups – on how to work with young people on social media. I share my own mistakes and experiences as a mother of Facebooking teens.

Like every parent of teens, there are moments I have felt that absolute hit the wall frustration. The best advice I was ever given was by a more experienced mom who advised me to approach discipline issues with a perspective of how to address the problem but not block lines of communication.

Shooting a teen’s laptop and posting it on Youtube will not improve family dynamics.

My older teen will leave home in 6 months for college. With each day, I realize that our time before she leaves is precious; even when we’re angry at each other, I’ve got to find ways to make it better.

We all know our time with kids passes quickly; what happens if a tragedy strikes right now, with this family, before they can make peace and find resolution? This angry video would stand as the tombstone on the grave of their family peace and happiness for lifetimes.

I’ve been at the receiving end of public humiliation. Once when I was a toddler in church, as my parents were musicians, I sat in a pew and decided I had had enough being good in church. So I kicked the pew in front of me with my dress shoes. And I kept kicking and pounding the pew, which echoed so loudly I woke up the guy in choir who always slept through the sermons. The lady who was supposed to watch me did not stop me. As soon as the service ended, my mother marched into the congregation and whipped me in front of everyone. I never kicked a pew again.

Yes, I needed to be taught a better way to behave. Public humiliation was not the way to make that happen. I still remember that Sunday morning over 40 years ago.

Like the dad in the video, I had a tough road and worked my own way through it. Thank God my teens have an easier life and know what it’s like to have the childhood I didn’t.

Parents do need to monitor and respond to how their teens interact on social media.

This video, however, is a tragic testimony in how not to socially parent.

Why I Wear Jeans to Church

Getting ready for church was a major event at the tail end of the 1960’s. I often went to bed on Saturday night with a head full of foam rollers, ready to dress up Sunday morning in my dress, anklets, patent shoes, and gloves.

A lifetime later, as the mother of teens, we had set a tradition of wearing nice clothes on Sunday to church. Gone were the gloves, hats, skirts, and stockings. But we still tried to dress nicely and never let our kids wear jeans to church.

A couple of years ago, one Sunday morning, I felt terrible. I barely made it into church and was wearing jeans because I just didn’t feel up to changing into something nicer. They weren’t dirty or torn. But when we walked into church, there was a Church Lady who looked me up and down and glared at me with the Death Stare.


As she stared at me with disapproval, I thought back to a lifetime ago, when I was in a community theatre production of Godspell at the age of 18. Godspell‘s author had struggled with addiction issues, found Jesus, and stumbled into church one Sunday (wearing jeans and looking scruffy) and also got the Death Glare. He was then inspired to write Godspell, a contemporary musical of the life of Jesus, based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Yes, it was very 1970’s.

Then I thought back to my own days as a struggling college student when I was lost and hurting, and the occasional Sundays when I would quietly slip into the back pew of a church, desperately hoping for something that could fill the gap in my heart. As I sat anonymously in those back pews, had I gotten a Death Glare for wearing jeans, I might not have returned. I might not have realized that we go to church to worship God, not to seek the approval of other people.

That resulted in my change of Sunday clothes.  My family is dressed well, and I usually wear jeans – coordinated with an outfit, but jeans.  If my clothes offend someone, I would rather get the dirty look than risk someone lost and hurting in the back pew gets it instead.

As a Catholic, Christian believer, I know my job is to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus – to reach out to those who are lost and hurting and show them someone cares. I know how they feel because I was once one of them. Sometimes I achieve that goal better than others and merely hope each day I can do a better job at it than the day before.

Paul said he would be all things to reach all people.

For me, in this season, that means I wear my mom jeans to church.

4 Success Tips for Social Scholarship Hunts

Parents of college students looking for college scholarships must become socially savvy, if they aren’t already.  In the old movie Spencer’s Mountain (Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara starred in this movie by Earl Hamner, writer of the Waltons), they try to find a way for their oldest son Clay Boy to go to college. In order for him to qualify for a scholarship, he has to learn Latin quickly.

Last year, KFC Scholars gave away a $20,000 scholarship in a Twitter contest, to a student who won with a single Tweet.

Colleges and scholarship committees routinely do social media background checks to ensure top applicants’ presence online matches the carefully crafted applications, essays, and interviews.

New century, new skills. If you want an edge up on scholarship hunts, you and your teen need to learn to use social media pronto. And I don’t just mean how to post a status and a picture. It’s knowing what to post and how to post. And knowing what not to post. Social savvy is like the vitamin supplement to a scholarship search.

Basic tips to get started:

  1. Google search news alert is your friend. This lets you receive regular emails for any new online sites that mention a name or phrase.
  2. Makeovers aren’t just for homes or fashion. A teen who has been online since age 13 may need to do some spring cleaning of old information. I help business people package themselves online and sometimes help teens as well. Sometimes, it’s a matter of learning best practices.
  3. Twitter is your ally. With the hash tag #CollegeChat, I have learned countless tips this year to help me better help my daughter with scholarship applications.
  4. Colleges are already here. Colleges are watching what students post and Tweet. They are inviting applicants and incoming freshmen to join Facebook groups. Some are creating parent groups as well. Some are friending incoming freshmen.  This is an opportunity for students and their families to distinguish themselves from the pack with constructive posts and the ability to ask good questions.

In Spencer’s Mountain, Clay Boy learns Latin, wins the scholarship, and goes to college. Of course, he later goes on to become a writer of hit movies and TV series.

For me, my teens are at the beginning of their scholarship and college journeys. I don’t know what the ending will be. But I do know that savvy use of social media is a tool in their college prep arsenal to give them their best chance at a better education.


5 Ways Extension Transforms My World

“Share your stories,” I was told last week at my first PCaret meeting in Indianapolis. PCaret, or the Purdue Council for Research, Extension, and Teaching. PCaret brings together people who have been impacted by and see the benefits of Extension programming. Here’s my story.

Getting my kids to join 4-H 8 years ago was the best decision I made as a mother.  I never knew it would change our lives.

Computer Hardware Workshop With Webcam

    1. 4-H Prepared My Kids for a Changing World. As my kids begin their college search, their 4-H experiences have prepared them to handle challenges. It’s not just the skills they learned showing chickens, baking pies, or building rockets. It’s their experiences as 4-H camp counselors or leadership training. It’s competing in state contests, managing food booths, volunteering at the State Fair, and more. It’s leadership training in Washington, D.C. and white water rafting in Georgia. Later this spring, my daughter will serve as 1 of 2 Indiana delegates at the National 4-H Conference. 4-H pranks have inspired their creativity. My daughter my son’s Christmas present with duct tape last year (after seeing a 4-H prank). Last weekend at a Product Innovation team scholarship contest, she covered a container with yellow duct tape the same way. Her graphic skills she learned doing project posters helped her, as did experiences working on projects late the night before the fair. She could handle the stress of  getting a challenge at 8 p.m. and working with her team until 3 a.m. to present to faculty members of a university’s School of Business at 9 a.m. the next morning. (They won 1st place.)
    2. 4-H Broadens Knowledge Bases. 4-H is working to build 1 million new scientists with its programming. Locally, I started a Tech Club 6 years ago that offers monthly science workshops. Last year, through corporate donations, we sponsored our first all-club rocket built and launch. With an all-new Junk Box Robotics curriculum designed by national 4-H, we have a template for affordable hands-on workshops that will teach physics, robotics, engineering, and more to our members through workshops for several years.
    3. Extension Homemakers Still Thrives. Last year, I became a Ya-Ya, a local extension club. Our meetings are  my Moms Night Out, when I can learn new things and am encouraged by other busy wives and moms. The younger moms there keep me current on changing trends and technology.  We teach and encourage each other through meeting programs. We share ideas for our homes and families via Pinterest.
    4. 2008 Small Garden Contest Entry

      Master Gardeners Builds Skills. When my daughter went through the Master Gardener program last term, she learned how Japanese beetle traps were made. During last week’s Product Innovation contest, she applied that to her team’s Leprechaun Trap, using a pretty female leprechaun as bait to capture greedy leprechauns. She sold her team members with the point structure (learned from 4-H projects) – half of the points were for creativity and innovation. Like all the other Master Gardeners in our county, she will volunteer 40 hours this year to share knowledge and work in community gardens.

Extension Becomes Extended Family.

    We live in a world where many of us no longer have the support of extended families. Many youth don’t have strong role models. Many of our county’s 4-H leaders are 2nd and 3rd generation volunteers. Some have volunteered more than 40 years. That stability transforms lives.

Thanks to the Millers who helped lead Energetics for 37 years.

Extension’s programs have extended not only our family’s experiences but also our opportunities.

As Extension has transformed my family’s world, it’s inspired us to create a better world for others.

Healthful Eating = More with Less

The cookbook More with Less by the Mennonite Doris Jansen Longacre can give steps for families to climb out of the obesity and nutrition crisis. It gives not only recipe ideas but a mindset on how to incorporate healthier choices into a family menu and how to cook the foods involved. The premise is that we can learn to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.

Grocery shopping is sometimes an obstacle course for me because I see families with children who pile their carts full of junk with minimal if any nutritious choices in the basket. Some say that fresh fruits or vegetables are too expensive.  They are more affordable if the chips, desserts, sodas, and fruit juices are left out of the cart. That  cuts across social-economic classes. On my last trip, I held my tongue when a girl told her affluent mother, “I will only eat chicken nuggets, hamburger helper, and cookies,” and the mother nodded yes. The mother gave her daughter permission to eat a diet that would result in a lifetime of health issues.

Longacre pulls no punches as she describes our overdependence on processed foods. Just because we use vegetables in a casserole doesn’t make it healthful if we pile empty calories with it. She writes:

Casserole recipes must be evaluated for what they involve. For example, some people reject old-fashioned gravy because it’s too caloric but use commercial source cream. Herb-seasoned stuffing mix is the latest fashionable casserole-topper, while in many homes stale heels mold in a corner of the breadbox…Contemporary casserole recipes all seem to call for a can of soup. Will future cooks be born, live, and die without knowing how to stir up a smooth white sauce? Will there finally be only three flavors identified at a carry-in dinner – cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and cream of celery? Buy a wire whisk and break the mushroom soup cycle. Save money and cans by returning to the basic 5-minute white sauce. Variations are as infinite as the herbs and seasonings on your cupboard shelf and the cheeses, broths, and vegetables in your refrigerator.

It is key for parents to help their kids develop a taste for nutritious choices. It takes at least 17 times for a food to be introduced before kids decide whether or not they like it. An unexpected consequence of my trying to fix foods for my kids without the mushroom soups/mayonnaise products is that they prefer the real taste of foods instead of the processed masking. Whenever we donate food to a food drive, my son’s first choice are cream soup cans because he doesn’t like how they taste.

I have cooked for my family since I was 9 years old. Longacre’s cookbook is one of the resources that helped me learn to really cook instead of lean on rice mixes, burger helpers, and canned sauces.

What I like is that she describes simple, nutritious recipes, and explains how to combine proteins and carbs.  The cookbook shows how to incorporate whole grains, beans, and fresh vegetables into a family meal plan. The cookbook introduces international recipes and varied ways to fix vegetables.

We can all improve our nutrition choices – start with our own dinner table. Then expand to our communities. If you are in a church or other civic group that sometimes offer meals, be the one who prepares the healthful menu choice. If you serve or sell foods for fundraiser find ways to add healthier choices – serve some bananas. Go to whole grains. Add vegetables. Add it as an option with the others and help us all see that nutritious food options can taste good.

Relying on a casserole loaded with soups, creams, mayonnaise, cheese, and potato chips plus a token vegetable isn’t going to keep that boneless skinless chicken breast a low fat menu option. Serving it with low fat varieties of all of the above is simply going to add to the cost and add other health issues. The low fat food often has more sugar or sodium to replace the fat flavor. Serving those options long term masks the taste of real food instead of teaching us to savor it. It’s time we set higher standards for ourselves.

If you would like to learn how to make the most nutritious meals possible on limited resources, I highly recommend More with Less.  (an affiliate link)

God Will Take Care of It

“God will take care of it,” a friend consoled me after I burst into tears when I saw her while shopping just after Christmas.

It was the evening I wrote about with my bad dressing room experience. I had certain shopping that had to be finished before New Year’s Eve, and that evening was my only time to finish it. So, despite the the bad experience in one store, my 911 call in another parking lot, and our making decisions on what to do about the dressing room incident, I had to keep going.

To avoid any other problems, I drove to the opposite side of town and went shopping, hoping not to again see the peeping Tom. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach and struggled to keep my composure. I prayed for God to help me, texting a few trusted friends and asking saints and angels to pray to God on my behalf.

Once I was in the store, I saw a friend – we don’t know each other very well but have kids the same ages and have been in several activities together. “How was your Christmas?” she asked.

As soon as she did, I was overwhelmed with the night’s drama and trauma and burst into tears, sobbing on her shoulder. Then I worried – our Christmas had been wonderful, the best in years. I didn’t want her to think terrible things had happened. So as soon as I calmed down enough to choke out some words, I told her Christmas was good, but some bad things had happened that evening.

I was quiet, and few if anyone else in the store knew anything had happened or that I was upset.

She let me cry on her shoulder for a moment and told me, “Whatever it is, God will take care of it. He will handle it.” Sometimes moms are moms to their children and sometimes for their friends.

I straightened up, regained my composure, thanked her, and was able to finish my errands. Afterwards, I felt convicted to stand for what was right and tell what happened to try to prevent it from happening again. A few days later, I wrote the blog to share what had happened. Friday, I wrote how the situation resolved itself.

When I wrote how the situation resolved, I realized I left out that at each step the hand of God was there and how He helped. At the moment I needed help the most, when I felt the most powerless and alone, He sent someone to deliver a message and comfort me.

God will take care of it. He will handle it.

We have a place we can go to seek comfort and aid when we need it the most.


Our British Christmas Dinner


  • Pigs in a Blanket (British style, with bacon wrapped around cocktail sausages) with a cranberry sauce dip


  • Salad with baby greens and dried cranberries

Main Course:

  • Standing Rib Roast, seasoned with mustard, garlic, thyme, and pepper, a traditional British favorite
  • Yorkshire Pudding, a batter baked in muffin tins with beef broth, mentioned in British cookbooks from the 1700’s
  • Twice-Baked Potatoes (this recipe is comparable to what I make. However, I add a beaten egg to the potato stuffing and pipe the potato back into the jacket for a more attractive product)
  • Oven Roasted Broccoli
  • Corn (fresh frozen from summer gardens)


Cranberry Spiced Wassail, a British drink, mentioned in Beowolf, that was mentioned in the Saxon’s toast before the Battle of Hastings in 1066.


Flying Forward, Leaving Baggage Behind

Don’t let yesterday’s garbage block your adventures today.
My children still teach me this lesson.

A lifetime ago, during my unhappy childhood, my dad had a pilot’s license and flew recreationally.  In my book He Uses It For Good, I describe the role flight took the day my childhood ended.

When I was 9, my dad went out one Saturday morning for a solo flight. A funny thing happened on the way to the airport; he took a wrong turn and left.

That turn was the first step in my losing most of my childhood – our home, friends, dignity, possessions, and any sense of stability.

So for a lifetime, recreational flying put a bad taste in my mouth. My dad’s small plane misadventure left me with a lifetime of emotional wreckage to clear and rebuild, as I wrote in my book.

And now I have a daredevil daughter. She loves every amusement park ride – the scarier the better. When she flies around the corners, or up and down a roller coaster, I see sheer delight in her eyes.

And she wants to fly, to get her pilot’s license.

For her birthday, we paid for a single flight lesson for her. This week, she took it. Richard and I went with her to the airport – I knew nothing would happen but needed to make sure there weren’t any wrong turns this time. They invited me to sit in the back of the 4-seater, but I kept my feet firmly on the ground, camera in hand.

I snapped photos as they climbed in the plane and began their adventure. She loved every moment of her flight. I felt better  once they were safely back on the ground.

One day, she will get that pilot’s license and fly on the wings of eagles.  She doesn’t carry my baggage and will soar to places I’ve never imagined. She has a great father and will never know what a dad gap feels like.

As I stay on the ground cheering both her and her brother on their life journeys, God teaches me how true the tag line for my book He Uses It For Good is:

2nd chances and happy endings are possible.

And more: when we face forward, we can leave yesterday’s heavy baggage behind.

Christmas Stressbuster Survival Tips

Twas the week before Christmas, all through the house,

Creatures were stressing, even the daughter’s pet mouse,

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

And stressed out parents were pulling out their hair.

Does your Christmas season seem like a reality show of challenges, each tougher and more stressful than the last?

This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Christmas, a free ebook by Susan Oglesby Hyatt, is the best new resource I’ve seen to bring the joy back to your Christmas season.  I highly recommend it. My favorite suggestion is her adaptation of Bingo.

Here are other websites of ways to add a shot of joy to your Christmas wassail:

Here’s to taking back Christmas and making it fun again!


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