Meet Defending the Cause board member Sandy Runner! Sandy and her husband Micah have been married for 20 years and have 3 children. From family bike rides to board games to community service projects, the Runner family can often be found engaging in activities together. “We are excited about what our kids enjoy and want to participate in their lives. I make their lives just as important as my own.”
In order to build trust and connection, one of Sandy’s favorite tools is the “bean jar.” Each of her kids has a jar and when they’re caught doing something extra, like helping a sibling, they get to put a scoop of beans into it and when the jar is full there is a reward. On a few occasions her kids might have to remove a scoop of beans but overall, the goal is positive reinforcement. “It really helps because when you’re looking for the positives, instead of the natural tendency to fix what’s going wrong, it changes how we approach each other.” The Runners have also found this little tool creates accountability and ownership while providing the space for hard feedback without anger.
When asked, Sandy’s top piece of advice for families is to “be intentional and focus on celebrating your kids for who they are, making relationships a priority. At the end of the day, grades or chores are inconsequential if we don’t have relationship.”
Meet the Dorseys - Lashon and Samuel have been married for 30 years, and they have 3 adult sons. Lashon is a Nurse educator in labor and delivery and a wellness coach. She is passionate about family, wellness and community.
Lashon shared that the key to her family staying connected over the years has been communication. “We wanted our sons to value communication from the heart. We would talk about everything, school, girls, struggles. I learned to ask questions– they don’t always express themselves but as the questions come, they learn to dig deeper.”
Staying connected as a family these days looks like a monthly family game night and dinner. “My husband is the cook of the family so he cooks for us.”
Lashon expressed that when the boys were young she was working and going to school, so time was tight. “I had to be intentional to make space. Everyday before school – I would make breakfast, and we would talk.”
Both Lashon and Samuel came from difficult homes growing up and were determined to change the narrative in their families. “We had to build something new. We wanted something different for ourselves and for our children. It took work, and it still takes work.”
When asked, Lashon’s top piece of advice for families is “be honest, keep God at the center, and carve our space and time for each other. The moments won’t be given or developed for us – we need to chisel them into time, even just 10 minutes. Kids look for that connection.” And at the end of the day she says “I have learned over time to give grace- not just to them, but to myself, because we make mistakes. We don’t know it all.”
Meet the Garzas - Tiffany and Ricardo have been married for 11 years and have 4 children under 9. Needless to say, the Garza house is a lively place! From dance parties to full theatrical performances, there is never a dull moment. “Our oldest just learned how to sew and is making costumes for a rendition of Frozen 2. All of the kids are involved and she is the director. We asked if we could join, but we’ve become the designated audience.”⠀⠀
A family tradition the Garzas enjoy is going to the beach. “We typically go to Santa Cruz as an annual pilgrimage. This year we set a goal to go to the beach every month. We love the road trips, playing music, jumping around, digging in the sand and getting dirty. The Garzas are intentional about creating an environment that fosters connection and learning. “Our goal is to make things light-hearted – our kids learn best through play.” ⠀⠀
Communication is also key. “We always tell them why we’re doing things or the reason we choose to say “no” sometimes. We ask direct, open-ended questions like ‘Is there anything bothering you? Did I do something to hurt you?’ ⠀ ⠀
Ricardo & Tiffany don’t shy away from emotions, rather, they teach their children how to be aware of what they are feeling. “We recognize emotions in our kids as they are happening and say things like ‘I can see you’re frustrated - tell me what is going on?’ We also tell our kids what our needs are by saying ‘I’m frustrated’ or ‘Dad needs a minute by himself.’”⠀ ⠀
More than anything, the Garzas emphasized that it’s the small things that often make the biggest impact. ⠀⠀“Lean into the small moments – those 10 minutes here and there are a powerful way to let kids know they are seen and heard.” ⠀ ⠀To hear more from the Garzas, you can check out their new Podcast on Spotify called “Marriage in the Middle: A place to encourage and unite our marriages, in the highs and low of the adventure.”