8 “Instead of” Tips for Parenting Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Are you parenting a child who has had trauma?

Are you parenting a child who has a capital letter syndrome — such as ADD, ADHD, FAS, SPD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder — or another special need?

If so, then this is for you!

When it comes to parenting kids who have had trauma, I  struggle with imposter syndrome. I often ask myself, “How can I help other parents when I couldn’t do it perfectly or even well myself sometimes?”

We must let go of the myth that perfect parents exist. They don’t. And raising kids who have had trauma means a huge learning curve for us parents — especially if we have parented our bio children okayish with great results.

Traditional parenting is for securely attached children — kids who want to please. Any sort of parenting requires a foundation of connection with the child. That connection comes more easily with kids who haven’t experienced trauma. For those who have, the foundation is absent or shaky, and as a result, the child feels no need to follow commands or listen.

Traditional parenting tends to swoop in and fix the immediate problematic behavior. It is a short-term approach that doesn’t work with kids who have trauma. Instead, you need to take the time to consider the need behind the child’s behavior and focus on the ultimate goal of connection.

Kids who have trauma care more about control and survival. When a child has a disorganized attachment style born out of trauma, he will want to control his surroundings. Control will trump following instructions every time. In fact, the very thing that would make him feel more connected, he will fight.

As the authors of The Connected Child explain, “Children who encountered deprivation or harm before they were brought home lack many types of connections. They can lack social connections, emotional connections, neurochemical connections, cognitive connections, and sensory connections.” Because these connections do not exist, traditional parenting will not work. We must change our parenting to adjust to the fact that it will be different with these kiddos.

“Instead of” Parenting Suggestions

  • Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).
  • Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.
  • Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.
  • Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”
  • Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.
  • Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.
  • Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.
  • Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).

Many of us grew up with the lecture approach to parenting. For every infraction, Mom or Dad had a carefully selected and time-tested sermon they could pull from a database in the recesses of their mind. “If your great aunt Mary knew that you turned on a show in the middle of the night, [insert stories of monsters, bible verses, sticks in the eye, etc.].” You get the picture.

After a while, all our brains heard was the sound of a grown-up talking on Charlie Brown: “Wah, wah, wah, wah.” No matter how eloquent you are, your child may only hear the first 8 to 12 words. If you waste those first words, you have lost them. And long lectures aren’t the best way to get your child to listen and learn anyway.

Choose and use your words carefully. Aim them at the behavior, not the child — and there’s no need to bring other family members or what your parents would have done into it. Try instructions like these:

  • “Walk, don’t run.”
  • “We don’t hit.”
  • “Use your words.”
  • “Try that again.”

Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.

We’ve all done it. We see the precursor to a meltdown or a potential fight brewing over a toy, but we wait. We wait because it isn’t that bad yet or hasn’t gotten violent. Next thing you know, the situation is out of control.

Sometimes it helps to stop and ask yourself: Why wait? Would you rather spend five minutes addressing the behavior and reconnecting now, or spend the next two hours living with the fallout? It’s a pretty simple choice in my mind. I’ve learned from experience how draining the two-hour or day-long fallout of a complete meltdown can be. As a result, I lean toward addressing an issue while it is a tiny seed instead of waiting until it grows into a giant oak tree.

Recently, my daughter and I were on our way to the zoo with her kiddo. We were meeting her sister and her kiddos for a day of fun (four grandkids + zoo = fun). As usual, we talked about our trips together when she was growing up —  zoo trips, field trips, vacations.

My grandson had been watching a show on the iPad while we talked, but it ended. “I can start a new one,” I offered. We had been hoping he would fall asleep during the first one, but no go.

“Are you sure you can get back there?” my daughter asked.

“Remember who you are talking to,” I reminded.

“Nevermind,” she said, and laughed. “You used to climb back and sit with us to get us to calm down.”

“Yep, I did.”

Some super safety-conscious parents are shaking your heads right now in disbelief. Yep, I crawled over seats and sat on the floor of the suburban to calm kids down or interrupt a fight before the trip turned into a giant meltdown.

Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.

When I was a young and naive parent, I thought I needed to have control all the time. There were no choices. My first child blew that theory out of the water. She was very much an “I can do it myself” child. If I didn’t offer her choices, she offered them to me. I got a lot of flack from family members for not being more strict, harsh, or punitive with her.

The funny thing is, I was judged for being too strict with my kids with trauma just a few short years later. That’s another story for another time.

The point is, Audrey taught me the value of giving choices. I’m not talking about moral choices. I mean giving kids simple choices like:

  • Do you want to wear black tennis shoes or purple?
  • Do you want a peanut butter sandwich or a ham sandwich?
  • Do you want to read this book first or that one?
  • Do you want to give Uncle Bob a hug or not?

Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”

A re-do is simple. Remember when you missed five on your spelling test and your teacher had to write the ones you missed each five times? Or when you were in gym class and missed the basketball hoop on the first shot but kept trying until you made it? Or when you got married and were trying out your cooking skills for the first time and something didn’t taste just right, so you called Mom and with her help tried again? Those are all re-do’s.

As the Empowered to Connect training manual explains, “Offering your child a chance to “try it again” and get it right — what we call a re-do — is often an ideal way to respond. In addition, this approach provides your child with body memory for doing the right thing and offers an opportunity for you to then give praise and encouragement once she re-does the task, follows the instructions, or interacts in an appropriate manner. This approach can help your child to experience doing the right thing and deepen your connection with her as well.”

Practice Outside of the Moment.

When teens or adults start a new job, they go through training. Usually, this training is practiced outside the moment. Training is not introduced when an employee is melting down over not knowing how to use the computer system (although that can happen). Practicing outside the moment allows you to teach a child when his upstairs brain is activated, instead of waiting until he flips his lid.

The authors of The Whole-Brain Child explain the concept of your upstairs vs downstairs brain: “Imagine that your brain is a house, with both a downstairs and an upstairs. The downstairs brain includes the brain stem and the limbic region, which are located in the lower parts of the brain, from the top of your neck to about the bridge of your nose. Scientists talk about these lower areas as being more primitive because they are responsible for basic functions (like breathing and blinking), for innate reactions and impulses (like flight and fight), and for strong emotions (like anger and fear).”

The downstairs brain is survival mode. No logic or reasoning is applied — just illogical, knee-jerk responses. When a child gets stuck in their downstairs brain, his body shoots cortisol through his system, and he lives on the edge. A simple request sounds like YELLING.  IN FACT, EVERYTHING IS AMPLIFIED. A CAR THAT PASSES THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS A THREAT. A COMPLIMENT IS TWISTED INTO A CORRECTION.

You get the point. Scary, huh? It’s no fun to live there.

I did lots of practicing outside the moment with my kiddos before we went somewhere. My funniest story using this tool is practicing to go to the library. My newbies had recently come home from Poland, so I had kiddos aged 12, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 1. Four of them had never been to a public library before, so we practiced at home. We pretended the bookshelves were the library. I showed them how to get a book, whisper, sit down at a table, and look at the book they had retrieved.

Our town had a small library with an unusual practice. When you got a book out, you replaced it with a ruler to mark your place in order to return it if you didn’t check it out. My kids loved this practice a little more than I realized. When we got to the library, they used all of the rulers to mark places and got a giant stack of books — which ties in nicely with my next point.

Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.

Traditional parenting often relies on assumptions. We assume that the child should know how to behave in an environment or know what to expect. We say things like, “You should know better” or “Be quiet! This is a library,” as if a child who has never been to a library would know that information. Just like my kiddos didn’t recognize the implied rule that you should only get one book out at a time.

You can practice outside the moment for about anything:

  • Going to a restaurant.
  • Going to a ball game.
  • Flying on a plane.
  • Shopping.
  • Skating.
  • Visiting a friend’s house.

Not only does this help your child know what to expect, but it also alleviates fears. Many kids need to know what’s next, and if you have informed them and practiced with them, it will be a smoother ride for both of you.

Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.

One of the popular parenting tools frequently used is time out. As the authors of The Connected Child explain, “These isolating strategies may be useful for biological children who are already connected and emotionally bonded to their families. But isolating and banishing strategies are extremely problematic for at-risk children because these kids are already disconnected from relationships, attachment-challenged, and mildly dissociative because of their early histories of neglect and abuse. Isolation is not therapeutic for them.”

Instead of isolating, keep the child near you so that you can co-regulate for them. Your presence as a calm center can help them become calm down more quickly.

While a traditional time-out may not be a good idea, you can still have a “calming corner” in a public room (such as the family room or kitchen) with a pillow and a few toys for toddlers. This is a think-it-over place and can become more sophisticated as the child gets older. You can say, “Sit here and think it over. When you’re ready to talk, let me know.”

Just a caution — your child will not turn into Pollyanna just because you created a think-it-over space. When the child is ready to talk it over, he may say “ready” with the voice of a Balrog. That’s okay. Meet him where he is. Let him tell you in his own words what he did wrong, and if he doesn’t know, give him the words. Lead him through an apology or a redo or both. Make sure you finish connected. Then it’s done.

And when it’s over, it’s over. Don’t keep bringing it up. Saying things like, “Earlier today, you did that thing so I don’t trust you” or “You couldn’t handle yourself earlier, so never again” or any other broad statement makes the child feel less-than. If you know a child can’t handle participating in whatever brought on the meltdown, keep that to yourself and parent. Arrange the environment to give him something else to do.

For example, if the child has had too much screen time and it caused the meltdown, play a board game together (even if you don’t want to). You are investing in your child.

Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.

When parenting a child from a hard place — i.e. one who has had trauma — it’s easy to get into a pattern of only noticing “bad” behaviors. Because the child already believes he is worthless or of little value, harping on the negative only solidifies his belief.

When my newbies first came “home,” they were in a state of disorganized attachment. At times, I felt as if my home would never stop feeling chaotic.  My kiddos had a survival-of-the-fittest mentality, and finding something praiseworthy was difficult in those beginning stages of “family.”

Instead of waiting for my kiddos’ behavior to rise up the bar I had set before I offered praise, I set my sights on something other than measuring up. I began by praising them for playing with Play-Doh, creating something with LEGOs, putting on a puppet show, eating food — pretty much anything I could praise. The kids sometimes bristled at the praise. They may have wondered what my motive was, but eventually they began to accept it and even expect it. “Mom, look what I built!” This is connection.

Imagine if you never received any praise at all. Imagine if your life was just a fight to survive, and everything you did was wrong. You couldn’t sit right, eat right, speak right, or behave right in general, and people pointed those things out constantly. How would you feel? How would you feel if suddenly you started receiving some praise for things? Wouldn’t you keep doing the things you received praise for?

Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

When we look at behaviors as needs, we are less likely to take them personally. For instance, when we remind ourselves that the child can’t regulate — not won’t regulate — we can set our personal feelings aside. When we set our personal feelings aside, we can take the reins and parent. It’s not us against them; we’re all on the same team.

So before taking a behavior personally, ask yourself what the child needs. Is the child. . .

  • Hungry?
  • Tired?
  • Over-stimulated?
  • Triggered?
  • In his downstairs brain?
  • Unsure of the expectations?
  • Unable to adjust to a change of plans?

It’s our job to be the emotionally stable person in the relationship. In an article for PBS, Katie Hurley explains one thing you can do to help your child become aware of their emotions: “Express your own emotions. Parents have a tendency to hide their own emotions from their kids. While kids don’t need to be involved in the fine points of adult problems, it’s okay for them to see you sad, mad or overwhelmed. When you label and talk about your own emotions, you show them that we all have big feelings to cope with and that you trust them just as they can trust you.”

Two of my kiddos struggled with recognizing emotions in themselves and others. I made flash cards with different expressions on them: happy, sad, angry, afraid, frustrated. We practiced recognizing emotions with a mirror and with the cards.

Sometimes, the things we take so personally are emotions the child isn’t equipped to express. In that sort of situation, the child often reverts to anger — the go-to for kids in survival mode.

Using the IDEAL Approach

For all interactions with your kiddos, use the IDEAL response as a guide. The IDEAL Approach is among the best tools for parenting, teaching, or supervising kids who have had trauma:

I: You respond immediately, within three seconds of misbehavior.

D: You respond directly to the child by making eye contact. Get down on their level.

E: The response is efficient and measured. Use as few words as possible.

A: The response is action-based. Lead the child through a re-do.

L: Your response should bed leveled at the behavior, not the child.

One final note: The suggestions in this article are simply tools for parenting. Not every tool is useful in every situation or with every child. You must find which work for your child. In extreme cases, a child may be so violent that he is a danger to himself and others the home. In that case, you need to get professional help. Don’t try to go it alone.

How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Feel Welcome in Your Home

Have you brought a child home through foster care or adoption?

Or are you just beginning the foster/adopt journey and want to make sure kiddos feel welcome in your home?

On The Whole House Podcast episode 77, How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Feel Welcome in Your Home, Kathleen and Kristin share some quotes from crowd-sourcing and some from experience.

What are some things you do to make your adopted/foster child feel at home?

“Top of it:Schedules.

Their own stuffed animal bought by us the day they arrive.

A light on at night.

An anthem.” – Paige Bowser

I asked Paige to explain the anthem, and she said, “A song. Let the older child pick a song that expresses what he feels. This becomes their anthem.”

“I’m not sure how to answer this. We have only had a couple of placements and they have been babies. We give hugs and talk softly. We give them a new blanket. We try to get to know them as soon as we can by watching carefully so they have a chance to teach us who they are, and then we meet them there.” – Rachel Eubank

“ I agree with Rachel. We first have to see how traumatized a child is. Comfort comes from different things for each child. I think the first thing we give each one is Space enough to catch their breath. An overwhelmed child can’t make healthy trusting connections. Honestly, You have to trickle your love and comfort Into their lives. They gradually begin to trust You. The second thing is a smile and words of comfort.” – Bob Eubank

Smiling is super important because kids will mirror you. Everyone feels stress when a kid is first coming into your home. Don’t let it show on your face. Smile.

Some things to consider when welcoming a child:

  • Toys. Some kiddos (mine included) have none when they come “home.”
  • Ownership. Having their own stuff when they come to your home is big deal.
  • A comfortable bed. Some kiddos have never had their own bed.
  • A backpack. We got L.L.Bean backpacks embroidered with the kids’ names when they came home through adoption.
  • Words of reassurance. We need to give words of reassurance such as, “So-and-so loved you so much that they bought you this gift.”

Consider the perspective of the child. Older kids are more aware of what is going on in the adoption/foster care arena, so they may be able to communicate their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. Either way, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. Consider what they need and do it for them instead of for yourself.

Ten Practices to help your adopted/foster Kiddo feel welcome:

1. Calm fears. If kids don’t feel safe, they will act out in survival mode. Be aware of their past, and keep an eye out for triggers. You’re not always going to know why a child is afraid, but they almost always have a reason.

We all have fears, and even as adults, we sometimes can’t figure out where they came from. One of my fears is riding in the back of a car. It took me a long time to trace the fear back to after my parents’ divorce, when my dad would come to pick us up, load us into the back seat of his car, and start driving without giving us any information about where we were going.

2. Adjust the surroundings. You may have to adjust your surroundings for a season to help your new kiddos feel more comfortable. To them, you are weird, and your house is weird.

Even if a child was removed from an unsafe home, that doesn’t mean his home of origin didn’t feel normal to him. He’s still connected to it. Be more flexible than you are used to being. It will be chaotic for a while, and that’s ok. Helping your child achieve felt safety is worth it.

3. Be aware the child may have never been alone. My college roommate adopted a sibling group of three who had never been alone. For the first few years, they refused to sleep in their own rooms, opting instead to all share the same bed.

In cases of neglect, on the other hand, a child may be a little too used to being alone. It’s important to be aware of this and gently coax them into family time together.

4. Be prepared to adjust your menu. When we brought our four home, the youngest had a cleft palate. Getting nutrients into him became my second career. He was underweight, and because of his limited food choices in the orphanage, he wasn’t interested in eating anything new. I bought a food processor and pureed a variety of foods to meet his nutritional needs. It was a challenge.

After his cleft-palate surgery, he lost the ground we had gained in eating new foods after his month of liquids. One day at lunch, I stayed at the table with him, trying to get him to eat. All the other kids had left the table. I was so frustrated, I cried. I called a friend for prayer. Her husband answered the phone, listened, and prayed with me. Food challenges are real.

Yours might not be that extreme, but you still have to be flexible. You may find out your new kiddos refuse to anything spicy or that they hate peanut butter sandwiches or something else that’s a staple in your house.

5. Your child may miss friends (as well as family, which is a given). Be sensitive to that. Let them talk, and don’t take it personally. Missing their bio family, their old friends, and other parts of their past is natural. It’s not a comment on your abilities or value as a foster/adoptive parent. It’s not even necessarily a reflection of their thoughts or feelings about you.

6. Make sure your kiddos have plenty of snacks they can get to. In the orphanage, my kids didn’t always have the food they needed when they needed it. Kids from neglectful homes may have had a similar experience. You can alleviate the fear by having a snack basket within easy reach that they can access whenever they want.

7. Be sensitive to the clothing needs and the types of clothes your kids want/need. My kids had never owned a pair of jeans, so jeans were the item they wanted first.

8. Understand that their belongings have meaning, but they may not understand the value of things. Our kid came with nothing. Some kids come with a blanket or stuffed animal. Those belongings are important to them, even if they seem insignificant to you.

Keep in mind that kids who have never owned anything may not know how to take care of things. They may let something float downstream because they lack cause-and-effect thinking and don’t think about the fact that the item cost money.

Also, understand that if you put a high value on things, that will be tested by these kiddos. Remind yourself: “People are more important than things.” I reminded myself of this aloud so much that my kids repeated it to back me when something got broken.

9. Remember that your kiddos may need extra supervision, online and otherwise. In The Case of the Missing Person (more on that below), Sera is messaging people without her parents’ supervision or permission. All kids need supervision, but kids from hard places can get into trouble quickly and have trouble spotting dangerous situations.

One of my kids, for instance, started a forest fire out of a simple lack of understanding that lighting a fire in the woods is dangerous. The orphanage didn’t give them much practical experience with the great outdoors.

10. Schedules are security. They let kids know what will happen next, which is especially important to kids who find themselves suddenly in unfamiliar surroundings with complete strangers, as foster kids do.

If you’re not a schedule type of person, don’t worry! You don’t have to break your day into inflexible half-hour increments with every second account for. Instead, you can implement a general “first this, then that” routine. For instance, “after breakfast, we do chores” or “after lunch, we take a nap.”

The video below is an advertisement but paints a realistic picture of what happens when foster children come into your home.

Remember the weird things you had to tell your kids?

If you had biological children before you fostered or adopted, then you know you have to tell kids things you never thought you would have to say — like “Don’t lick the bathroom floor” or “Don’t lick your sister.”

Remember that, and apply it to foster kids. You don’t know what they have been taught about hygiene or whether they know the stove is hot. They may have been taught things that are not acceptable in your family culture. Don’t blame and shame the child for where they came from. Grace. We all have our perceptions of good and bad.

Assume that they know nothing — not as though they are stupid, but in the sense that they weren’t raised in your family culture. The first few times they do something “wrong,” assume they really didn’t know any better. Don’t assume they are being intentionally defiant or trying to push your buttons. They may just not know that something is annoying, generally frowned upon, “gross,” or “bad.”

Also, be specific in your instruction. Remember that it’s easier for kids to process positive instructions (“Do this”) than negative ones (“Don’t do that”). Instead of saying what you don’t want them to do, take some of the guesswork out and let them know that they should do. For example, you could say, “Use your inside voice” instead of “Don’t yell!”

Excerpts From The Case of the Missing Person

In the podcast, we mentioned The Case of the Missing Person — a book I wrote about a girl named Sera who is adopted through the Colombian hosting program (more info about that program here). The following scene describes her thoughts on coming “home.”


“Let me show you your room, Sera,” Clare said. I mean Mom. I couldn’t get used to that. I had spent my first eleven years in Colombia without a mother. I had come to the Craven family as part of the Colombian hosting program. Through that program, I had stayed with the  Cravens for three weeks. The Cravens had decided to adopt me. I was glad. Most of the time.

Right now, I was scared out of my wits. There was no going back to Colombia now. It wasn’t perfect there, but it was all I had ever known. Now I was here in the U.S. in a home I would be in forever. FOREVER.

The house was nice. Clare liked white. A lot. White walls. White cabinets. White furniture. There were a few colors in pictures on the walls. Totally different from the bright colors in the orphanage. Sunshiny yellows. Oranges. Terracotta tile floors. My room was white too. White bunk beds. Those were new.

“What do you think?” Clare, I mean Mom, asked.

“It’s very white,” I said quietly.”


You can listen to the first chapter of The Case of the Missing Person below:

A Few Responses to some Flack we received on What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?

Kristin and I take a few random moments in this week’s podcast episode and respond to some of the criticism we recieved about this article. One theme was that we shouldn’t see our adopted/foster kiddos as a ministry. Our response?

Whatever we put our hands to is a ministry.

We aren’t running around John 3:16 ing everyone. I didn’t  to adopt to have a ministry. I love my kids. They are a priority to me. I’m very protective of them. I don’t share their stories. Those are there own.

Another theme was – all parents need support to an extent.

All parents need support to an extent. Fostering is different. It’s harder. You can’t plan a vacation. You can’t take them to get a haircut. There is so much added stress. The visitation is planned according to the the availbility of bio family, not foster family or the child. Saturday-

Another theme was -Reunification should be the goal.

Culturally, that is not always a good goal anymore. Drugs, alcohol abuse is prevalent and our culture has changed.  There has been a moral downward shift in our culture

It is not always in the best interest of the child to be reunified. Keep children in mind first.

The Basics of Design With Tessa Allen

On the podcast this week, special guest Tessa Allen shares some design tips and a little about her background in interior design. It’s encouraging to listen to her perspective because she doesn’t come from an attitude of “having it all together” or “knowing it all.”

It’s okay to copy color

In Tessa’s home, the color flows from room to room. It’s cohesive, calm, and comforting. What’s amazing about the color? She copied. The ideas/tones/color palettes came from looking at other people’s homes. She picked her mindful gray (Sherwin Williams) and navy from friends’ homes and a model home.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief. It’s okay to copy. This isn’t a third-grade spelling test — it is your home. If you feel comfortable with a color in someone else’s home, try using it in yours!

Don’t follow a trend you don’t like

On the podcast, I share a story about a blue couch. I bought a blue couch with those tufted pillows attached to the back because it was a trend. Neighbors and friends were putting this style of couch in their homes, so I followed suit.

Guess what? I didn’t like it. I bought it because I wanted to follow a trend. I put that couch in my basement family room hoping the kids would jump on it, spill stuff on it, and it would need to be replaced. They did all of the above, but I didn’t get to replace the couch right away. Instead, I had to live with the stained couch for quite a while until I passed it on to my younger brother.

The lesson? Don’t buy something you don’t LOVE just because it’s trendy.

If you love a Trendy Idea, use it in Moderation

I have a wall of shiplap in my family room. I love it. The truth is, the shiplap wall was birthed out of a need to cover some holes — big holes that meant the wall needed to be replaced or covered. I chose shiplap, and I love it.

I also love bright colors. Sometimes they are the trend, sometimes not. Although I learned the hard way not to cover the walls of my house with them, I still have lots of accents of color that can easily be changed. If you see a new trend such as the popular navy or blush, try doing an accent wall, or a paint a piece of furniture that can be changed with little effort.

Shop for Used furniture

Let’s face it: We don’t all have unlimited funds to purchase furniture and wall art. I can’t tell you how many times I see a piece and tell my husband, “It’s all in the details,” as if he will jump on board for my purchase. The truth is, he doesn’t really care about the details until he sees it all together. It’s just a personality trait, not a fault. He often doesn’t mind my logic or my latest purchase at Hobby Lobby of a coffee mug to display on the coffee bar — if there is money set aside for it.

If there is no money, there is no money. If there is a bit of money, then consignment stores are the way to go! Consignment, second-hand stores, and yard sales all have treasures waiting to be found! You just have to go find them. Just don’t go hog wild without Tessa’s next point in mind.

Know your color Palette before you purchase

Tessa suggests carrying your paint swatch in your purse when shopping for decor. Brandi Panson mentioned this on last week’s podcast (and article). “Begin with the end in mind” is the way she phrased it. If you have no color palette, no end in mind, no style in mind, you will buy whatever appeals to you (raising my hand) and waste money. It doesn’t save you any money to buy all kinds of knick-knacks and decor unless they fit your home’s style and color palette.

They don’t make it like they used to

My parents used to say “they don’t make them like they used to.” I thought it was weird, then. What’s weirder is I say it myself now. I have wanted a yellow chair for years because yellow is my favorite yellow! I’ve looked at ones at IKEA for many years, but I just couldn’t plunk the money down to get a yellow chair that doesn’t fit my style.

So I waited. This past Christmas season, my sister Anne found a vintage yellow chair in a local shop, The Looking Glass. She sent me a photo. As soon as I opened the message, I knew that chair was yelling my name! “Kathleen! Kathleen! Kathleen!” I immediately contacted the owner of the shop and asked her if it was available. She said yes, but she could only hold it one day.

I texted hubby: I found my Christmas present. I waited a few minutes and shot him this text: We have to pick it up tomorrow, and we need the truck. A few minutes later: It’s this much $$$$. He got a laugh out of it, and I got a vintage yellow chair that I love… which leads me another one of Tessa’s points:

It’s okay to wait

We have been conditioned by HGTV to think that a whole house can/should be done in a weekend or a matter of months. That’s not realistic in many scenarios and not always the best idea. When you move into a home, it’s important to see how your family functions in that space. It’s also important to figure out what style you want to see. This takes time.

And with a limited budget, often we have to design in the most cost-effective ways. That may mean stripping wallpaper off the dining room walls is the first design step. It may also mean that sectional you want for the family room will have to be on the back burner for a while, even if you are shopping second hand. That’s okay. It is more important to be content with what you have then to have everything look perfect.

If you are struggling with this concept, I hear you. I struggle to. For years I made my home an idol. You can that my story here.

Make your home fit your family

I think we alluded to this on last week’s podcast, but it’s worth repeating. You may be looking at all the photos of homes from our social media this month and thinking, “That’s just not me. I don’t like any of that.”

If so, that’s okay. The point isn’t to pattern your home after someone else’s (unless you want to) — the point is to make your home fit your family. Your home should be unique. It should speak your name, not mine. My family affectionately calls our home “The Guire Shire” (we’re huge Lord of the Rings Fans). Maybe you could try naming your home, too.

Whatever you do, make your home fit your family, then invite me over for a cup of coffee.

Tessa and her daughters

Hi, I’m Tessa.  Daughter of the King, wife of Jess, mother to Lexie & Alivia.  I love to laugh and have fun (not the wild and crazy kind of fun, just simple fun).  I also love music! I play piano, teach piano lessons, and accompany local choirs and soloists. I love teaching, whether it’s piano lessons, general music class, or teaching my girls something new.  I also love to learn.

Interior design has always been something that I have enjoyed.  As a freshman in college, I took an intro to Interior Design class and really liked it.  While I was working on my music education degree, design was always in the back of my mind.  So, once I completed my music degree, I stuck around and got an interior design degree 😊  

I used my design degree for a few years once I graduated, although it didn’t really look like what I had envisioned while in school.  Throughout the years, I have always loved putting my house together, choosing colors, figuring out where things go, discovering new items I want, and deciding how to put it all together.  Since we have moved four times, I’ve gotten to do that a lot!

For me, design and having people feel comfortable in my home is important.  If it brings peace to my soul and my family and friends feel at home, then I consider it a success.  

When My Home Became an Idol

In a culture that worships perfection, we women struggle with creating perfection in our homes. We follow Instagram accounts, hang on Joanna Gaines’ every word, and watch HGTV to make sure we are keeping up with the latest trends. (Raising my hand here.)

I love home design. I love making my home look beautiful. But here’s the catch: I can get caught in the trap of thinking the only thing my home can or should be is perfect. Or I can go to the other extreme and think my home is completely utilitarian. It’s just a place where the food is stored, our beds await, and the TV resides. Either extreme will leave me feeling empty and frustrated all the time.

Our culture has lost sight of a home’s purpose. It’s all too easy to put interior design on a pedestal and worship it. (God forbid we have an outdated avocado colored bathtub!) We get embarrassed when our home doesn’t look like the Instagram accounts we follow, so we don’t invite people over.

My Confession

Can I share something with you? That was me. I cried over a shower color and shape. Yep. Actually cried real tears and begged God to replace the gold shower/tub combo in my master bathroom. My home had become my idol.

An idolater is someone whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God.

After living in a new home and then a farmhouse that we remodeled ourselves, we bought a home that needed a lot of work inside and out. A job change, a Job syndrome, and now limited finances had landed us here. The things we fixed first on our non-existent budget were not visible things. They were necessary fixes that didn’t make the home look beautiful — things like safer outlets in the kitchen. You get the picture.

So, here I was, crying over a gold bathroom. One morning, I was getting ready for church and showering and blubbering about not being able to remodel, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to thank God for the gold shower/tub combination. I did it with tears dripping down my cheeks.

Thanksgiving

In the fall of that year, I hosted Thanksgiving (as per norm). I was embarrassed to be hosting in a home with one brown bathtub and one gold one. Wallpaper was peeling off the walls. An avocado shower sat in a basement bathroom that was more like a cave.

Despite my embarrassment, it turned out to be one of the best holidays ever. My house was full of immediate and extended family from near and far away. No one complained about the wallpaper or the color of my bathroom showers/tubs. We enjoyed our time together.

All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. – Proverbs 15: 15

The point? God needed me to tear down the idol of my home. It needed to be knocked back into place.

When your home becomes an idol as mine did, then perfection becomes the goal instead of comfort. Ask yourself this question right now: Have I made my home an idol?

Remember Your Home Has a Purpose

Homes are gathering places. Places of connection. There is a science to running a home, and there’s an art to keeping a home. Believe it or not, your home can be a work of art when you have a gold bathtub. In case you are wondering, it was another ten years before I was able to replace the gold and brown in my bathrooms. And yet, I hosted holidays, birthdays, cookouts, book clubs, swim days, Bible studies, and more during those ten years.

Making my home an idol impaired my ability to make my house a haven. It became a shrine. That day when I thanked God for my gold bathtub/shower combination while crying was a starting point. It was a seed.

I used to believe that my home had to be perfectly put together in order to invite people over. For many years, I was able to achieve that in other homes. I believed that lie and practiced it until it became truth. When my world bottomed out and we moved into a home that I couldn’t make look perfect (according to my standards), I felt empty. Useless. Unable to function. I ranted, raved, and cried.

Take what you have and make it beautiful

Here’s the thing: My personality didn’t change. I learned to live with a gold shower, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a desire to have a beautiful space. I think it’s an innate feature in women. We love beauty in our homes. We each define it differently, but the desire is there. It’s a god-like attribute.

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*These are some photos of my home now after years of sweat equity. I couldn’t find a picture of the gold bathtub or get a great picture of updates in bathrooms!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God makes all things beautiful in their time. God gave each of us the desire for beauty. To answer that desire, He has created beauty all around us in nature, from the flowers and trees in your backyard to the diverse geography around the world. In The State of the Arts, Gene Edward Veith Jr. says that art is simply copying the Creator. He adds:

“The God-given capacity to make things is the essence of art.”

When we desire to surround ourselves with beauty, we are copying the Creator. Some religions would argue with this and say that we are supposed to deny ourselves any joy in our surroundings. I disagree. When we surround ourselves with beauty, it makes us feel alive. We feel refreshed after a walk in the woods — why wouldn’t we want to bring that beauty into our homes?

So what are some simple ways to beautify your space?

One of my favorite things to do is rearrange my furniture. This habit may be attributed to the many times we moved in my childhood, but I consider it a great habit. Rearranging my living room gives it a fresh look and gives me a new perspective. It only requires some muscle on my part  (and a little help from whoever I drag into the mix).

Rearranging is a simple way to refresh your space. Try it!

Get a new perspective

After living in the house with the gold tub for a few years, I was still despairing over the fact that it would never look “good.” My kids and I had done a lot of projects that required little or no money. We took down wallpaper. Painted walls. Cleaned the basement. Scrubbed the tile in the basement that hadn’t been cleaned properly in a long time.

In my mind, I still had a picture of a dilapidated home — more of a shack than a home. But it wasn’t a shack at all. It was a solidly built colonial. The mind can play tricks on us!

My sister-in-law was in for the holidays and she mentioned a course she was taking. One of the assignments was to take pictures of each room in your home. The goal was being grateful and getting a better perspective. I was intrigued by the idea but didn’t think I would see anything different than I saw in my mind’s eye.

After the holidays, I cleaned each room, making sure there was no clutter on surfaces. I pulled out my camera and got to work. I took photos of each of the rooms from many angles. I loaded them on the computer and scrolled through. The rooms looked amazing. Beautiful. I was shocked. Astounded, really. How could this be? My home looked nothing like the pictures I had imprinted on my brain.

I wanted to make sure what I was seeing was accurate so I called my husband over. I scrolled through the pictures without saying anything. I wanted his reaction to be his own, not based on what I said.

“Wow! That’s gorgeous. Whose house is that?”

“That is our house.”

“No way!” He clicked through the photos again. “I had no idea our house looked that great!”

His perspective had been skewed like mine. In our mind, we were seeing the baseboards that needed fixing, the marks on the hardwood, or the infamous gold tub. We didn’t know what other people were seeing until we looked at those photos.

Perspective makes a big difference.

Try the exercise yourself. Maybe your home is not clean right now, so don’t stress. Wait until it is, or make an appointment with yourself to clean and take photos. If you have lots of littles underfoot, try one room at a time. Shove everything into another room or corner if you have to.

The purpose is not to be fake for an Instagram account. The purpose is to get perspective. Try to wait until you have all the rooms photographed and then look. I know it’s tempting to want to look as you go. Try to wait. Look at each picture and record your perspective. Let your hubby look too. Then go ahead and post it on Instagram and see what your friends think.

I can’t promise you it will look like something straight from HGTV, but I can promise it will give you perspective. Looking at your home through the lens of a camera can give you fresh eyes. You can replace the hypothetical you have floating in your mind with actual photos and move on from there. Maybe the pictures will give you ideas about what things really need changing (and which things look fine the way they are).

I’ll admit I still struggle with the perspective issue. When someone is coming over for the first time, I have a case of last-minute panic. I suddenly see the grime in the faucet creases or the spot of coffee on the floor. Instead of looking at my house as I whole, I see the little bits of dirt or imperfection. It’s silly, but worth mentioning.

We do the same thing with ourselves. When we become more comfortable with people, we don’t mind our imperfections as much. So, if you come to my house regularly, you know where the coffee and mugs are. You can even make yourself a peanut butter sandwich if you want.

Creating a Peaceful Atmosphere in Your Home and Lessons From a Home Remodel

Do you love your home but have a few things you would like to update?

Want to add some color and comfort to your home but don’t know where to start?

Are you afraid of colors and tones?

Not sure what your overall style is?

Then this is for you!

This week on the podcast, Kathleen and special guest, Brandi Panson talk about having a peaceful atmosphere and lessons learned from a remodel. Below are just a few of the points discussed on the podcast, which you can listen here.

Once you start one project, it’s a domino effect.

Brandi started her home remodel with the intention of “just” redoing the floors. That led to a whole house remodel. One house project almost always leads to another, and once you start, it’s a domino effect. That’s part of why every project takes four times the amount of time you think it will.

There will always be trends.

It’s important to find out what your style is before you move forward with any project. Joanna Gaines ushered in a farmhouse style, but she is also quick to point out that there are many other styles. Trends will come and go, but style lasts forever. Just because something is on-trend doesn’t mean you need to have it in your house.

Figure out what your style is first. Then you will be able to pick out items for your home.

When you find something, you will know immediately whether it will fit in with your style or not.

For more info, check out Joanna Gaine’s book, Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave.

“Gaines sets out six core design styles — farmhouse, modern, rustic, industrial, traditional and boho — then delivers detailed definitions and keywords to help you hone in on the one that best represents you.” – housechronicle.com

Keep true to you! Your home should reflect you and not an HGTV celebrity.

Think with the end in mind.

If you don’t think with the end in mind, you will just end up with chaos. Don’t go on Pinterest until already have a pretty firm idea of what you want. Otherwise, you will begin to experience decision fatigue. If you have the end idea in mind and your style all set, then these decisions will fall into place. It will still take energy, but not as much as it would if you had no end goal.

That’s what Brandi was doing for four or five years — just buying a new couch or picture and contributing to the chaos.

And remember that just because you built it that way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

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Brandi’s before and after

It’s okay to ask for help!

Find someone who is good at design.

Brandi found Karen Jobe, who paints cabinets and has a flair for design. She helped Brandi find her style.

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Brandi’s recycled chair

Be okay with thinking outside the box.

  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. It’s okay to recycle and reuse something old to have a new look.
  • Kathleen painted her old oak floors with Annie Sloan Chalk paint and polyacrylic on top (read more here).
  • If your budget is tight, you can do some projects at home.
  • Go to vintage shops, antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales. Keep your style and end in mind while you shop.
  • Make home decor yourself. If you are afraid to go it alone, find a friend and do them together.

Color Tones matter

I say on the podcast that some friends ask me for advice on colors. We’ve all been in those homes that had different color tones in every room. That used to be me. Even though I laugh about it now, tones were something that scared me. I played around with color a lot. It was bright in my home and not light bright. I messed up a lot, but that’s okay — I learned.

Hundreds of gallons of paint later, I have a feel for what works (most of the time). I’m not the only one who felt this way.

“When Chip and I started taking on projects around Waco, I was new to the world of interior design. At the time choosing the right paint colors seemed to be the scariest decision of an entire renovation.” – Joanna Gaines

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Brandi’s cute cat on cute chair

“Understanding how colors interact is crucial when you set out to decorate your home. How colors interact, or color harmony will make any room look like it’s posing for a magazine. No matter how tolerant we are, some colors are just not meant to be used together, and they will literally feel like an eye-sore. On the other hand, there are groups of colors that make particularly appealing combinations, and luckily, there are some strict rules governing their selection. It all boils down to a color wheel and the basic color theory.” – visualhunt.com

The right tones create an atmosphere of peace. When your kids have more peace, you’ve hit the mark. We want our home to be beautiful and feel homey at the same time. Paint is a good — and relatively inexpensive — expensive place to start. You may not be able to do a remodel, but you can do something that makes you feel as if you have put your style into your home.

If you need a place to start – Declutter!

Clutter makes me feel anxious. How about you? Fortunately, decluttering is free! It brings peace with only a little sweat equity.

Sometimes we don’t need to do an extensive remodel or even paint. Some days we just need to find the floor. Decluttering is the least expensive (although still labor-intensive) fix. Some of us find that our home becomes beautiful, welcoming, and homey after we simply declutter!


Podcast Guest:

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I am Brandi Panson, 40-year-old wife to Paul, Mom to Luke and Maggie, business owner, chaos coordinator, animal lover, aerial enthusiast, and farmhouse fanatic!!

The best way to wrap all those titles up in a fancy bow? I am Brandi Panson… Mom-preneur.  Being a mom is my most valued position and comes first in everything I do. 😉

We live in Morgantown, West Virginia in our newly renovated twelve-year-old home.  Although we are incredibly busy, we still try to enjoy every moment as much as possible. You can follow me on several platforms:

Https://www.facebook.com/brandi.panson

Instagram @BrandiPanson

Https://www.snapchat.com/add/bpanson

www.Brandipanson.com