16: How Family Meetings, Gratitude & Saying No Help Her Family Thrive with Valerie Deneen

Learn how this mom helps her family thrive by simplifying their household chores, using family therapy activities to improve communication, and practicing gratitude. She is a true inspiration and I know you're going to love this episode, mamas!

How Family Meetings, Gratitude and Saying No Help Her Family Thrive with Valerie Deneen || On The Merry Messy Moms Show Podcast

Episode Recap

(This is part two of a two part interview! See part 1 here.) Valerie is one of the most intentional, thoughtful mothers I know! I am so inspired by how she and her husband run their household and parent their children. Here's what you'll learn in this episode:

  • How to simplify things in your home by giving your children more chores and hiring out help for the chores you dislike
  • The power of gratitude and how to create your own practice
  • How to learn the art of saying “no” so you can allow space for what you do love to come into your life
  • How to more clearly communicate with your husband so as to have your expectations met
  • Using family therapy activities to improve communication

Links in This Episode

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Valerie’s Bio

Valerie Deneen is the author/creator of Inner Child Fun, a family-friendly, DIY-centric blog with a diverse, international readership. Over the past few years, Valerie has been featured in major media markets around the country, where she shares her creative and unique insights on behalf of Inner Child Fun. Valerie has made numerous appearances on television, print and online media for PBS Digital Studios, Highlights High Five magazine, FamilyFun, NBC Philadelphia’s The 10! Show, WFMZ’s News at Sunrise, and the nationally syndicated The Daily Buzz.

School Uniforms in Public School

When her girls were just starting to go to school, Valerie had them wear school uniforms, even though they go to a public school and uniforms aren’t required. She bought them khaki shorts, skirts and pants, with navy blue shirts. She says it was birthed out of sheer laziness because she hates shopping and laundry, so this was a way to make it easier! 

It just became a habit and now many years later they are still doing it! She’s had no power struggles over clothes and her girls don’t have to worry about what they’re wearing to school. It’s also made laundry way easier and the girls learned early on how to do their own laundry, put away their own clothes, and fold, too!

She likes the idea that when you're going to school you should look like you're ready to learn. But the idea really came from sheer laziness and wanting to make her life as simple as possible!

Outsource Things You Don't Want to Do!

Whether you're a stay-at-home-mom or a working mom, you could still hire out the things you don't like to do to simplify your life and make it easier. I especially think this is important for the families where the dads travel often and for the working moms! But even for stay at home moms, we are truly running mini corporations in our home and it's so nice to get the extra help cleaning the house, or doing laundry.

Don't expect yourself to do it ALL perfectly. It's so unrealistic! Valerie also outsources things to her children that they can do with the clipboard system.

Clipboard System for Chores

Valerie uses the same system that her dad raised her on for chores. She gives her girls a clipboard and they go around the house and notice things that need cleaning or doing and they come to her and say what they'd like to do and negotiate rates for them. She finds the girls even work together on tasks with this method and negotiate the rates together, also!

This system has helped them plan, learn negotiation skills, and even learn how to set goals!

Her oldest daughter came up with a list of things she wants to learn over the summer and HOW she will learn them! Which books she will read, courses she could take, websites, etc.

Family Meetings

The most effective of these family therapy activities to improve communication is simply sitting everyone down and engaged in a conversation. She started doing family meetings after she joined her local rotary club and thought it'd be fun to mimic the same thing at home to teach her girls how meetings go! Habits like these can organize your life very well!

Here's what they do in their meetings (which are usually on Monday mornings while they have breakfast together):

  • Roll Call (yes, even though there are only four of them, they still do roll-call!)
  • A vocabulary word that they actively use all week
  • They praise them for something they did well the previous week
  • Talk about something they could improve

She feels the last two items are really important because so often we rush through our days, weeks and months and don't take much time for reflection. And reflection is KEY to reaching our goals and creating a more intentional life, a life by design and not a life of default.

Toastmasters Taught her How to Praise & Correct Her Kids

Toastmasters, which is an organization that helps with leadership skills and public speaking, has helped Valerie know how to praise and correct her children in a loving and respectful way. They teach the sandwich method, where you sandwich correction with praise – praise, correction, praise.

We talked about how important it is to even do this for ourselves – to praise and celebrate what we are doing well and great as moms, and sandwich our own correction and criticism with praise!

Gratitude & Networking Journals

She noticed a direct correlation between keeping track of things she was grateful for and then inviting more of those things into her life.

She also has a networking journal to keep track of who's she's talked to so she can remember to get back in touch with them and it has opened so many doors for her in business. It also helps her stay in touch with friends and intentionally make that time to get together with them.

Family Mission Statement

It's an ever evolving focus for their family and they are working on creating their own family mission statement!

Mission statements and family meetings weren't something she and her husband did growing up, but she does remember having regular family dinners and how much she enjoyed those.

Intentional, Mindful Mothering

Valerie is very intentional in the way that she runs her household but lets the details work themselves out spontaneously. Definitely one of her strengths! She's very mindful of their time and wants to make sure it is spent doing things they really want to do, that time isn't wasted. The family meetings with reflection, and teaching her children goal setting with the clipboard method have played a large role in teaching these things. Being mindful of how you interact are ways you can use family therapy activities to improve communication.

Self Awareness & Expectations

Her husband, Mark, is also very self aware. Even his boss took noticed and remarked, “Imagine a world where everyone has tails but don't realize they do. Mark is the guy who knows he has a tail and what to do with it!”

He is a big part of keeping the family on track, being intentional with their time and activities, and communicating well with Valerie.

She says she tries her best to not have silent expectations of him but to communicate clearly when she wants him to do something. We women can really fall into this trap of having high expectations of our husbands and then not telling them what we want and expect. This sets us up for certain failure and disappointment!

Give Yourself Grace

A huge part of having self awareness is the ability to see the areas we need to improve and to recognize those areas without beating ourselves up for it or feeling ashamed. There isn't something wrong with you or broken, it's often a lack of understanding of ourselves and others, not understanding our own personalities. It's also looking into our past to see why we feel the way we do now, and doing that without attaching shame to our pasts.

Celebrate Yourself

Find ways to celebrate yourself and celebrate everything you can, even if it seems small!

When Inner Child Fun hit 50,000 likes on Facebook, and Valerie got a cake, candles, champagne and even had friends over to celebrate that milestone!

You can find a milestone for just about anything! “Hey I made it through the week and the toilets are clean – yay!!!”

Celebrating yourself is also another form of gratitude – of choosing a mindset of seeing the good in your life. And when we choose to see the good, we become aware of it and start to see more and more of it, welcoming more good into our lives! Just like when you buy a new car and start to see that car everywhere. Before you had that model car, you may not have noticed it on the road. But now that you're aware of it, it starts to pop up everywhere!

It's also like giving gifts – if you give gifts to a person and they never acknowledge it or say ‘thank you,' you don't want to give them any more gifts. Plus, if we aren't recognizing the good that comes in, we aren't really ready for more of it because we don't even see or recognize what we've already gotten! #truthbomb

It's also so good for our kids to see us celebrating ourselves to teach them this art of gratitude!

Birthday Random Acts of Kindness

When her oldest, Emily, was 10 years old, she decided to do 10 acts of kindness for other people on her birthday! Isn't that amazing? She picked things that were easy to do and didn't cost much.

  • She read to her sister's class
  • She bought a coffee for someone at a coffee shop for $2
  • She left some spare change on a vending machine for the next person

Learn How to Say No, Mamas!

This has been a very valuable lesson for Valerie. If she's going to say yes to an obligation, it has to fit into her purpose and her vision for her life and if it doesn't, then it's a ‘no.' Also be okay with saying no to your kids! It's okay to say no, I'm not going to play with you right now because I need a break. Or I have to start dinner. Go play by yourself!

She says it's the biggest lesson she's learned as a mom and when we say yes to things we really don't want to do, we set ourselves up for stressful situations and even failure. It's so important in being who it is that you're meant to be!

And here's the KEY mamas – when you respect yourself and respect your time and energy and guard it, other people will respect it, too. They will pick up on your confidence.

When you say no to what doesn't serve your best interests, talents and passions, you open up the space for what you truly LOVE to come in! It allows what you want to come to you so that you can fill your life more of the things that feed your spirit instead of drain it.

How Family Meetings, Gratitude and Saying No Help Her Family Thrive with Valerie Deneen on The Merry Messy Moms Show Podcast

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