Tag Archives: parenting

When the Usual Parenting Technique Doesn’t Cut It

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children most important

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” C. S. Lewis

I wish I had written down all of the things that I used to believe about parenting so that after having 3 kids I could have something humorous to laugh about when things get a little crazy up in here. Isn’t it true that we believe some pretty ridiculous ideas concerning how to parent a child? Most of these ideas start with…

“I would never do _____.”

“I can’t believe anyone would _____.”

“I am certain I would _____.”

Like I said, ridiculous.

For one, it reeks of judgment. And secondly, these statements are spoken in ignorance.

I used to think that because I worked with children before I had kids, I would have an upper hand on what to do as a parent. Sorry, Charlie, it doesn’t work that way.

After having my first child, I learned quickly certain “techniques” worked well and others … not so much. I subscribed to the “do what you need to do to survive” theory for a LOT of my son’s first year. He was colicky, and he was THE FIRST CHILD. You know what I mean! We’re all a little crazy with the first one, but we learn and they survive, and we become a little less crazy after the second one is born. I did whatever worked for my son and for me, and he seems to be turning out okay. 😉

Now I knew that I had some ridiculous ideas about what parenting a child would look like, and I knew that every child would be different, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality that I may have to parent my two children in two separate ways. I’m still trying to figure this out, so if you’ve come to read some inspirational and new technique for parenting your kids, I must apologize. I do believe that knowing is half the battle! I know that my 3 sons all have different personalities, and one of them most definitely has a different personality from my own!

So here’s what has helped me:

 

  • Am I parenting from my own personality and trying to force my way onto a child with a different personality (when his way may be fine)? Is it worth the battle?
    • Example: I want you to clean your room. Here are the boxes. Cars go here. Trains go here. Dinosaurs go here. Clothes go here. (MY WAY)
    • (HIS WAY) I will clean but I don’t care about your boxes. At least I’m picking up, right?
  • Am I learning to appreciate my child’s differences from me rather than being frustrated that he’s different?
    • He is passionate and wears his emotions on his sleeve and this is good because he can learn to be passionate about something that truly matters.
  • Am I casting a vision for my child, seeing the positive side of his personality rather than being fixated on the negative?
    • Positive: knows what he wants, has a strong will thus a strong leadership capability, doesn’t back down easily
    • Negative: stubborn, strong-willed, argumentative
  • Am I intentionally speaking truth into his life rather than taking the easy road and ordering him to obey?
    • When he yells “no, I’m not going to listen to you!” for the 15th time while in line at Target, I may respond quietly and then let the teachable moment happen later when I talk to him about how God is going to do great things in his life but having that kind of attitude is not respectful to me or beneficial to him.
    • Or I might just threaten him with a spanking and argue back that he’s being rude and to stop interrupting me (which usually just escalates the yelling).
  • Have I realized that I can’t do everything perfectly and still need help? Am I praying for my child’s heart and not just his behavior? Could it be that there is a spiritual battle going on and what I really need to do is ask for God’s protection over him and for God to work in his life?

 

What I know for certain is that I am a different person than who I was before I had children. They are not setbacks or inconveniences in my life. God has used them to refine me more than I’d like to admit! They are a blessing from the Lord. A heritage.

And I’m going to keep reminding myself of this every time it feels less than peaceful in my home.

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When the Tables Turn: Lessons from a Child

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Kid-Teaching

You gotta love it when your 6-year-old son nails you about something you’re doing wrong.

We try to teach our two oldest sons that obedience is important and that there are consequences when they disobey. We also try to teach them that life isn’t about following the rules so that people will love them (or, on the grander scale, that God will love them). It’s a tricky balance because on the one hand, they disobey a lot and encounter lots of consequences. On the other hand we don’t want to encourage a performance-based spirituality.

My simplest solution is to share out loud when I mess up and to ask for Jesus’ help in front of them (and sometimes apologize to them when said mess up involves yelling at them). It is the simplest yet hardest thing to do some days. That is exactly how it went down last week.

The day started out just like every other day, except for some reason I was completely irritated. Not a single person had talked to me that morning, so I couldn’t blame it on anyone. Shucks. But then my second oldest continually got himself into trouble. Grabbing an ornament here. Breaking apart a toy there. Spilling his cup on purpose. Disregarding what I’d just said FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME. Ok, so I exaggerate. But it felt like that, I assure you. Plus, I’m already irritated for no reason, so it just makes my nerves prickle. As we’re getting in the car, I can feel the irritation rising as I’m waiting with little patience for the boys to get themselves buckled. So I say, “I am sorry for being grumpy today. I need Jesus to change my attitude. Lord, please change my heart and help me to calm down.” Whew. Baby steps.

We run our errands and get home (in one piece) and the second oldest starts in on the usual things that get him into trouble. After the 10th transgression (or something like that), I give up on saying anything nice or calm. If he’s not going to listen, maybe he’ll hear when I get louder. That’s how it works, right?

After I lecture my second oldest on this last defiant act, my 6-year-old whips his head around and says, “Mommy, you need to pray and ask Jesus to help you.”

Oh.

Really?

So I say what any spiritually mature mom would say. “Well, I think we should pray for him because he doesn’t know how to obey!”

Nice.

So then my oldest says, “But mommy, you are angry.” Ugh. He’s so right. I’ve been owned by a 6-year-old.

I retreat, realize how ridiculous I must sound, and swallow my pride. “Jesus, help me to be wise with my words and be patient with my children as I teach them about You.” Then I get to apologize to my child who has just received a nice, unnecessary tongue lashing from me.

I never knew that these teachable moments which were intended for my children would turn out to be more for me than for them.

I’m thinking a few verses may need to go up in my kitchen:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harshword stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Will I still mess up? Yes, you bet I will. This life is meant to be lived depending on the One who saved me and continues to save me. He made me holy and continues to make me holy. The sanctification process is just that. A process. It’s not a “try harder and maybe you’ll get better” spirituality. It’s not a “boot straps” religion that requires you to just be tough and get over it. It’s more about admitting when we’re wrong, asking Him to change our hearts, and walking in the truth that He speaks in that moment. Obedience. Grace. Intermingled in a beautiful dance. I hope I can keep in step and follow His lead.

When Will You Learn Your Lesson?

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You’ve had those days. You start out well with a nice, refreshing Bible study, putting your mind and heart squarely on what God’s word says. Then you walk out of your room to go snuggle with your four-year-old son (whom you promised you’d snuggle with in the morning), only to find him no where in his room. You search the house. You call his name. No son. No answer. Then you go to his 2 year-old brother’s room. You open the door then quickly wished you hadn’t. For in that moment you beheld a disaster. Board books everywhere. Aquafor lotion open and half gone on the floor. Vicks vapor rub open and half gone next to the bed. Baby oil completely gone. Two travel size baby lotion bottles open. One tube of aquafor, one tube of lanolin, one tube of Neosporin all nearly gone. And then to top it off, sprinkles of baby powder everywhere.

I begin to cry because I remembered that instead of going crazy with anger, you should show your kid how sad you are that he has done this terrible thing. So I begin the lecture on how sad I am at what he’s done and at how much he’s wasted.

In all the rage and sadness I hadn’t even looked at my two boys yet. As I’m starting the clean up, I finally look at the culprits. There they stand, in my two-year-old son’s bed, naked (mind you the two year old is not potty trained…) and with every manner of lotion and oil slathered in their hair. The bed is also slathered with the aforesaid mentioned lotions and oils and powders. The books, the walls, the toys, the boys…everything is a complete mess. I couldn’t speak for at least 5 seconds (that’s a long time, right?).

That’s when I completely lost it. No more tears. No, it was time to yell. I quickly ordered my four year old out of the bed and told him to go get some clothes on. The two year old was innocent in my opinion but because of the mess I made him stay in the bed just so I could clean up the area and then start a bath. I look back at my 4 year old who is still standing there as if he didn’t just hear me bark my orders. Uh, did I stutter? You’re about to lose your life, child, you’d better get going. So I lift him out of the crib, and he runs to his room. I get madder as I begin wiping baby oil and aquafor off of books and toys and the bed. Most of the oil has soaked into the board books. I’m sure the oil and powder and lotion is also in the carpet. Lovely. As I clean, I just yell, “I can’t believe you’ve done this. Why didn’t you think. You know you’re not supposed to get these books down. Why would you get into these lotions? Did you know that you could have hurt yourself or your brother with these things? You have absolutely wasted my time this morning. I’m going to have to clean up this mess then give you both baths. You’re in so much trouble, mister.”

I finally separate the non-oily books from the oily ones and wipe down the bed frame with a blanket that’s already sprinkled with baby powder. Then as I am about to get my two year old out of his bed, I realize he’s peed all over his sheets and two blankets that were thrown into the mix. Even better. So I start a pile of laundry in his floor then get him out and start the bath. Remember, I’ve left my four year old in his room to get dressed. I peek in there to make sure he’s actually gotten dressed because so help me if he hasn’t…

Thankfully he was dressed and waiting. I tell him again that he’s in big trouble and slam his door, telling him to wait until I’m finished bathing his brother. I get the two year old clean (except his hair…I learned later that the shampoo did NOTHING to wash out all of the lotions and oils out of his hair) and get a diaper on him. I send him off with a small lecture telling him that what they’d done in his room was a “no no”.

I go get my four year old, and he’s sitting in his room playing. Playing. How could he be playing when he should be mourning the fact that he’s just disobeyed his mom, wrecked his brother’s room, wasted practically every bottle and tube in my son’s room, and given his brother these products to possibly ingest and to definitely make a mess? I lay out his behavior and he knows the consequences. Spanking. Three swats. He tells me I shouldn’t have hurt his bottom. Well, son, you shouldn’t have “x, y, z…”

His bath is done. He gets his clothes back on. We get our breakfast and then he does his school work. It’s all I can do to refrain from being in punishment mode all morning. The cold shoulder. The angry answer. The sarcastic remark. I don’t want to be THAT mom. So I push on through, fighting every feeling in me to explode at every infraction, be them intentional or not, important or not.

This is my chore day. I have to get laundry done and go get groceries. I make sure my four year old realizes again that he’s wasted my morning and has set us back in our schedule to get to the store (ugh…this makes me cringe reading back over it). And all day it goes like this. I get angry over and over based on his decisions from this morning. I keep re-hashing it. I realize I’m just so scared that this four year old is never going to learn to obey. If he can’t learn to obey me, how is he ever going to learn to obey God? I’ve written him off as a failure for all of his life because he can’t get this one lesson down… perfectly… right now (and keep in mind, this is my rule follower son!). I even tell him a few times during lunch, “son, you’ve got to learn your lesson or you’ll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.” I remind him of how much I hate to spank him and that I’d rather him just obey. When I ask him to tell me what’s he’s learned, he shrugs his shoulders and gives me the “I don’t know” answer. Again, I’m scared he’s not going to learn so how can I force him to learn his lesson? Maybe if I lecture him a few more times, he’ll learn. Maybe if I add another consequence, he’ll learn. Or maybe not.

My bible study lesson this morning? Living in the truth of who God says you are. Believing Him when He says He’s made me courageous, adequate as His servant, and that I’m accepted not on my own merit but by the blood of His Son. How could my behavior today have taught my son anything about the truth of who he is? I was being fearful (not courageous) as I parented. I felt completely inadequate to deal with this situation properly, and I truly was, because I was trying to fix it in my own strength and through feeling my way around the situation. I was essentially punishing my son over and over with my words, making him feel like he couldn’t even gain my approval until he was perfect. Ouch. That one hurts the worst.

So I began to speak the truth to him about who God says he is. God has called you to be a man of integrity and honesty. To obey Him and love Him with all of your heart. To be courageous. That he is acceptable no matter what he does. And then I apologize for my crazy explosions. God help me.

What I wouldn’t give to have started out that way. I’m not really any different from my children when it comes to learning my lesson. The difference is I have a perfect Father who hasn’t written me off as a failure just because I can’t learn my lesson perfectly today. He gives grace, undeserved. And when we feel inadequate, He supplies the strength and the wisdom to make us adequate. Acceptable. Thank you, Father. I’ll take it all.

{P.S. This happened back in October of last year as we were packing up our home to move. Looking back at this, I just giggle because he was just doing what kids do…making messes and having fun doing it. It’s too bad I was too stressed out to see that. Lesson learned.}

They Call Me “Mom”

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I’ve been debating when I should write about this particular topic. It’s a bit of a touchy issue for a lot of people. But here I go anyway!

For anyone who knows me, you are aware that I value womanhood but not in a femi-nazi sort of way. I started a class at my old church (boo hoo, I miss you ladies) on the role of women as explained in the Bible. This sets off all kinds of red flags for a lot of women because many of you automatically assume I mean “you have to be a stay-at-home-mom, homeschool your children, cook gourmet meals every day, keep a spotless home, and serve your brains out by being completely hospitable all the time” (or any other combination of “that woman”). It’s just unfair! That could be several examples of different ways women express their God-given roles, but I seriously doubt that every woman could do all of those things (or should do them…). For this post, I’m only going to hone in on one particular role: mother.

I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of being a mom. I know, stone me now, what kind of a mother am I anyway?! Well, I’m one of those mothers who has grown into her role as a mom. And I’m still growing… But I definitely believe in the importance of being a mom and raising the children God has given me. I just don’t feel like I’m very good at it. Yet.

You see, I had lots of dreams about what I wanted to do with my life (I know, it sounds awfully selfish written out like that). I was going to get my master’s degree and start out in a great job then have children. I am a planner. This was my plan. But God had the real plan, and enter at stage right, my first child. All of the sudden my perspective changed. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, so this new addition to our family meant I would be staying home. No master’s degree. No great job. No pats on the back for a job well done.

I began to learn very quickly that mothers, particularly those who don’t work outside of the home, get stuck in a vicious cycle known as “it’s never enough.” No matter what you do all day long, you feel like you don’t have anything to show for it. So what do you do to remedy this awful feeling? Enter stage left: works. Anything that makes you feel like you’re doing something that gets results. It could be ministry. It could be volunteering for a noble cause. It could be part-time work. Anything but parenting and taking care of the home (because who wants to work at something that doesn’t get immediate results??).

The world tricks you into thinking that what you do in the home is not “real” work. It gives you no warm fuzzies (only occasionally when that one child does the cutest dance you’ve ever seen or picks up his toys without you asking). It tells you that what you’re doing is not worthwhile because you can’t see immediate progress (and who decides what is actually progress anyway?). And let’s be honest, we believe it almost all the time. When you aren’t acknowledged for that brilliant way you handled a sibling tussle or how you prepared a meal that turned out perfectly, even according to Emeril’s standards, you get discouraged. You begin to question if you’re doing this whole mothering thing right. You wonder if it’s really worth it.

Now take away all those “works” and all those voices that whisper (or scream) that you’re wasting your time. That’s kind of what has happened to me in the last 2 months. When you move to a new place, all you have are each other. You have no church home (yet) where you can serve (cross off ministry). You don’t have a place to volunteer because frankly, you’re still trying to figure out how to get the grocery store to buy food for your family (cross off noble causes). You have no part-time work and no desire to try to look for any for that matter (cross off that job that you can measure your success at). But you do have your children and husband. Suddenly I’m getting better at being a mom because that’s all I have right now!

Those distractions (though they can be very good things to do, don’t get me wrong…it’s all in the motives and in the calling) have become less and less, and I’m able to see with more clarity what I can be doing with my boys right now. Does that mean I’ve got every minute filled with exciting science projects, fun new adventures around the neighborhood, educational field trips, creative snacks and games? No. I told you I’m a mom, not super woman (P.S. neither is anyone else in this world…she doesn’t exist). However I am taking the time to settle into this mom role. Those boys are worth it. One day they’ll be our leaders, and I don’t want anyone looking at me wondering what’s gone wrong with our society. I’m taking this thing seriously, and I hope you do too. After all, we’re not doing this for anyone on this earth. What God thinks is what really matters in the end. He is our standard and the One who determines real success.

So please, be encouraged today if you are a mother. What you do in the home is  important because God says it’s important. Remember that Abraham wasn’t running around the country speaking at men’s groups or volunteering at the soup kitchen to find his worth. He already found it in his God. And this God expected him to go to a new land in faith that God would bring about a promise that he could not even fathom. Later this same God speaks to the Israelites (Abraham’s legacy) about what they are to do – “teach these things to your children…” (Deut. 4:9). No big audiences. No pats on the back. I’m sure God expected Abraham to teach his children who his God was. He was to be found faithful with what God had given him, and I believe you’ll find that he did just that (see the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 and Genesis 12-23). May we be found in that last day as women of faith who did well with what He has given us.

P.S. I’m speaking from a stay-at-home-mom viewpoint. I am in no way downplaying a mother who also works outside of the home because I have a feeling she also deals with some of the same issues I face. My desire is to encourage all mothers to see the importance of what they do in the home whether or not they are there 24-7. Whew. I feel better now that I got that off my chest…

God is good…so what? [Part 3]

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Your view of God as being a good Creator will have an influence on all areas of life. Take this for an example: how you view yourself. He only creates good things. (Remember Genesis, everything God created was good. He called it all good.) We are made in His image (also from Genesis 1:26). No, we can’t really say that we ourselves are good. We are sinful from birth. Yet when He calls us out of that past life into a life following Him, He gives us a new identity–one that is good. We see God as good, and this affects how we see ourselves.

How you view God influences how you view other people. This also relates to how you view yourself, as created in His image. All people are created in His image, and because of this we have dignity. We place high value on human life when we have the right perspective of our Good God because He values each and every life. We will treat people respectfully, kindly, better than ourselves, and all of the above because we know what value He has placed on their lives and how He has called us to serve and bless them. We see God as good, and this affects how we see others.

The way you perceive God has an effect on your values – how you parent, how you cultivate your marriage, how you feed your friendships. If I know that my God is good and has affection toward me even when I don’t deserve it, that informs the way I’m going to handle my children when they’re having a particularly bad day. He does not treat me harshly when I disobey nor does He yell and scream at me when I’ve made a mistake. He’s a perfect parent. Thank God we have Him as an example! We see God as good, and this affects how we live out our values.

My perspective on God has an effect on how I approach work. Knowing that God is good gives me a sense of confidence and cheer because I get to serve a God who loves me. I’m filled with gratitude that He pours out His love on me ESPECIALLY when I don’t deserve it. I’m overwhelmed by His goodness when He withholds punishment just because He desires to show mercy. I love much because I’ve been forgiven much and this fills my heart with joy. So as I go about my day at work whether at home or in an office, I can do my work as though I were doing it for Him. My perspective will be one of gratitude that He’s even provided me with the task at hand. We see God as good, and this affects how we approach our work.

There are so many examples of how our theology, our doctrine, or what we believe about God affects our actions every day. Let us be brave to believe the truth about God, search out that truth when we don’t know it, and rest in the truth when trials come our way. And may we put our knowledge into practice.