Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ten (+2) Parenting Exhortations

This is a repost that I think is timely for homeschooling families. Now that we have all the curriculum chosen, bought, arranged, and the academic part of our school year is underway, I want to encourage my fellow homeschooling mamas "in the cracks," as in, "the mortar that holds our homes together."

For the homeschooling mother,  the start of a new homeschool year is more of the time to make fresh starts and new resolutions than New Year's Eve.

In the past, I have written many, many posts on child training. I could have reposted any of them, but I would like to record my thoughts today (9/2012) as I am pondering getting our new school year off on the right foot. Here are some of my important child training reminders, in no particular order, to help us start things off right. Maybe you will find an idea that will help, encourage, and inspire you!  I need reminders of all these that came to my mind! I will keep striving to glorify the Lord in teaching the children He has given to me!

1. Listen
For your infants, be in tune to their cries and stop to think about what they may be telling you they need. Sometimes they are hungry or tired before their scheduled time, sometimes a tooth decided to make a big push, sometimes they are bored (and need something new and interesting) or lonely (and need some interaction--have the older sibling take turns!).  Listen to their giggles and smiles, and respond with your own.  Listen to their "words," and repeat back what they say. They will be delighted to be "talking" to you! Listen to their heartbeat, and praise God for His miracles. Listen to their sweet breathing, and pray for blessing upon them.

For your littles, get down to their level when they are talking to you, and look them in the eyes. Answer their questions. If they are telling you something, ask your own questions to show you are interested and listening. You will be amazed at how much you can learn about their personalities, their heart's desires, their interests, the way they think, their troubles, and their confusions! Often they will come to you with problems--especially problems with their siblings.  Listen to how they were hurt or frustrated. Sympathize, and empathize. Then you will see how much more easily they will listen to you when you encourage them how to fix the problems! When your 7yo thinks he is being funny, take delight on his behalf and laugh at his humor even if you can't laugh at his joke! If he think he's discovered something new and interesting, take delight in his enthusiasm, and match his enthusiasm with your own enthusiasm for the person that he is! His new idea that he could pick up all the Legos one at a time with a pair of tweezers deserves enthusiasm or at least an interested comment or question! "That might take you until bedtime! Would you like me to plan on serving your dinner here?"  How delightful to hear his laugh when he realizes you listened took joy in his creative idea!  How disappointing if you would have said, "Just get them picked up NOW!"

For the middles to olders, they want you to start listening as more of an equal. Their thoughts feel very grown up at times, and need you to consider their thoughts as such when you listen and respond. They need you to take them seriously. Ask lots of questions. Appeal to their heart and their conscience when you give counsel, and let them make the decision for wisdom in their own minds (they can choose rightly if you present the options).  Pay attention to when they are in the mood to talk and JUMP on the opportunity.  You will know--because they will start talking about nothing or nonsense, or stalk you for no reason, or pester in one little way or another. That may be their way of telling you they need to figure something out--and they may not know what.  Use your words to search them out and help them find their way.  When you are listening, remember yourself at that age and have empathy and compassion for their thoughts and struggles, not condemnation or impatience.

2. Love
Sometimes we find ourselves in those moments with our children. You know... THOSE moments. Where there is ultimate frustration on both sides. There is something that will always work in those moments. Love.

Because love never fails.  When all our other understanding or best child training efforts fail, remember that love never fails. 

Despair.  End-of-the-rope. "I don't have the heart to correct this child one more time." Tired. Crabby. Misunderstood. Defiant.  Crazy. Willful. Stubborn.  "I don't know what to do!"  "I never should have become a mother!" "Is my child going to grow up to be a psycho?" "Go to your room." "I don't even want to talk to you right now." "I don't know what to do with you!"

Well, now you know. Go to them. Without words. And pour the love of Jesus Christ upon them. Open your arms, and let them be the arms of Jesus loving them, right in the middle of all the mess.

I remember the day I learned this.  My oldest was 9.  I had flipped out on him for something--something in my eyes that was a serious and repetitive disobedience over something simple, and sent him to his room until I calmed down enough to deal with him. I went into the kitchen to pray about how to correct him, how to teach him.  And the Holy Spirit very clearly impressed upon me, "Love him."  I made him a grilled cheese sandwich and some hot chocolate.  I took it to his room--where he was waiting to "get in trouble."  I walked in, said, "Here, I made you a snack."  Then I hugged him, and told him I loved him, and that I was sorry for losing my temper. I asked him to forgive me for hurting him. I assured him I would pray about becoming a wiser parent.  I told him how pleased I was with him, and told him again I loved him.

He just started crying.

Love definitely never fails.

Even if the child you are trying to love does not seem to be in the mood to be loved, the words of Scripture still hold true. Offer it anyway.  It will not fail. It will accomplish It's purpose. 

3. Erase
Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Your children need you to forgive them and offer them a clean slate continually--just like Jesus offers to you every moment of every day, should you accept it.  Your children do not need the burden of their past wrongs. Correct them, then forgive them, then forget. Repeat. When they stand before you, mentally wipe their slate clean, and accept them in the moment for who they are. By doing this, you are showing them Jesus, and the work He did for them. This is one way your children can grow to truly know Jesus and all He has done for them.

It is so wearying to train a child with their whole list of past offenses piled up in your brain. It is too much of a mess to try to shepherd that!  There are enough troubles for today! There is enough grace for today.

4. Set the Example
Don't just set the example. Be TWICE what you want your children to become.  If you want them to be wise in the time they spend watching movies or TV, then you watch NONE. If you want them to be wise with their internet time, then make yours next to nothing. You want them to eat wisely? Have patience? Be forgiving? Prioritize wisely? Study God's Word? Pray? Work diligently? Organize? Spend money wisely?

Practice what you teach. Completely. Thoroughly.

And when you don't? Confess. Ask forgiveness. Let them see your example of continual repentance and seeking hard after God's best.

Also, teach your elder children to always be conscious of the example they set for their younger siblings. Make sure they feel the weight of that responsibility! Your child training will be so much easier when the elder children set the example. I have not had to teach my 7yo how to keep his dresser drawers organized--because of his older brother's example.  Each subsequent child I have homeschooled has been that much easier, regardless of learning style or love of academics, because of the trickle-down effect of the example set doing schoolwork. Same for chores, quietness, patience, manners, giving, yielding, helpfulness, self-control, obedience, and faith.

5. Be Consistent
Especially with the infants and toddlers.  Your 8-month-old will test you on this!  He will go after the electrical outlet repeatedly. And if he gets away with it even once because you did not want to get up from the couch or leave your computer or your phone call or your cooking or your cleaning--then you will have lost all ground in your training.

Be consistent in the little things:  sitting nicely at the table, pestering, whining, table manners, picking up toys, breaking things, throwing rocks, arguing with siblings, boundaries (as in what and what not to touch), putting things in the right place, not interrupting, quickly obeying or stopping at the word "No" or "Stop" (for safety's sake), etc. If these things aren't important enough for you to stop what you're doing to correct EVERY TIME, then why would they ever think they are important? It makes you double-minded in your example, and teaches nothing.

6. Appeal to their Knowledge of Good vs. Evil
Thanks to Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Life, we are all born with this knowledge:  the inner sense of right vs. wrong, wise vs. foolish, good vs. evil.  Even two year olds can understand wise behavior versus foolish behavior. As you are teaching and correcting, explain why something is wise and why something is foolish.  My 7yo thinks is is ridiculous to even ask him anymore. He learned long ago that when analyzing wise vs. foolish actions, foolish behavior leads to trouble, injury, suffering, and death.  Boys eat this up.  Get your children in the habit of choosing wise, good, and right, and eschewing wrong, bad, and foolish.  

7. Prioritize
Next to loving God and submitting to/being a helpmeet to your husband, your children are your next priority. Do they know that?  Or do they see other things crowding them out--your internet time, your phone time, your projects.  Put your children where they belong. Hang up that phone if your child needs something--it does NOT have to be an emergency.  What message does that send?  That your child only ranks slightly lower than a catastrophic emergency? Shut off the computer. Put away your project to do one of theirs. I stopped writing this blog post many times to instantly attend to my children in various ways:  cuddle and rock the teething baby, play with the baby, listen to and respond to the other children with my undivided attention, etc.  They need to know how important they are to me, because I represent how important they are to Jesus.

8. Practice Patience
Impatience is a symptom of selfishness.  It reveals that your agenda was interrupted or disturbed by someone else's actions.  It is glorious for all involved if you take the things you want (your quiet time, your computer time, your anything...) and burn it up as a sacrifice to the Lord. Poof! Gone. When you have no selfish desires, and can put others first (as Jesus commands us to do), patience will prevail, and so many child training issues will be instantly resolved.  Practice, practice, practice!

I caught myself today telling my 3yo to hurry, hurry, hurry. He had just used the bathroom and, as always, needed help cleaning himself and getting his underwear and pants back on.  I said, "Come on! Mommy likes you to HURRY with this!"  Then I realized what I was doing.  I like him to hurry because it interrupts what I am doing--like typing this post.  I stopped and looked at things from his perspective.  I never want him to rush when he is going to the bathroom--I tell him so all the time. What a mixed message when I tell him to hurry! Also, 3yo boys are fascinated by the whole process, right down to watching carefully the flushing process.  I also noticed that my  3yo likes my loving attention as I carefully help him back into his clothes. We usually do a little poem (one, two, buckle my shoe...), and we say some mushy things and I give him hugs and kisses.  Why would I rush this time?  Because I am SELFISH!  I stopped my impatience immediately. I told him I was sorry for wanting him to hurry. I sacrificed my blog writing for the moment (took the desire to sit and type and mentally burned it up on an altar and watched it go up in smoke), and took my time enjoying my few moments with my 3yo, which ended with him giving me a sweet hug and kiss and telling me in his adorable voice, "I'm your best friend."

9. Faith
Always be building your children's faith in God, who is ALWAYS good, ALWAYS right, and ALWAYS has everything under control and working as part of His perfect plan.  They  must be exhorted at all times that God is good and that He can be trusted:  rainstorms, illness, frustrating situations, injuries, hot weather, cold weather, hurts, sadness, death, bee stings... your children must continually be taught that although God may not cause these things, nothing happens that He does not allow. They must be taught that our feelings of sadness or hurt over something does not mean it is a bad thing--it means God has allowed something for our good, as always, and we just can't see or feel the good yet.  If your children are not taught this, you rob them of faith, and that is a most serious and dangerous thing indeed. For without faith, it is impossible to please God.  People who don't have a strong underlying faith that God is good and all powerful will stumble, and then create something they can believe in--usually a prepackaged form of God/the Gospel/Doctrine that explains things to their understanding. Faith in pretty Statements of Faith is not faith. Faith is believing in things unseen, mysteries--trusting God with all we do not understand.  Your child must be taught that they do NOT need to understand. They must trust.

If you can't trust God with everything, then you've got nothing. If God is not good and only good, then you've got nothing.  If God is not perfectly right about everything, then you've got NOTHING. No hope. No help. No counsel. No nothing.

There is God, and there is nothing else.

10. Appetite
Train your children's appetites by limiting their intake of  worldly things and offering them "good" food.

Entertainment is full of subtle trouble. Even "The Little Mermaid" sends a dangerous message: Rebel against your father because you don't agree with him, and you will get your own way in the end and live happily ever after. Watching TV builds an appetite for laziness--in thought and deed, not to mention the attitudes and examples served up, cleverly disguised as family-friendly and/or educational programming. If you allow TV or movies, you need to be aware of everything they watch, and take the responsibility to help your children sort out the messages between wise things versus foolish things, good vs. evil, and right vs. wrong. You will be teaching them to measure everything against the Word, and to take their thoughts captive to Christ.

Limit TV and video game time. Seriously. Perhaps 1/2 hour of video games per day (and games that would not offend Christ, at that). Children who play too much, even simple racing games, Super Mario, or Pac Man, will have behavior problems due to stress and over excitement.  It is not normal for any child to be faced with dying 300 times per day, like what happens in a video game. Children's brains are not meant for that type of stress, yet parents all over the world are serving it up in giant proportions. Why? Let's be honest. When the children are playing their games, they don't need anything from us, and we can surf the internet or talk on the phone uninterrupted. Or, even more nobly, we can get the school done with the older ones while the little one plays the Wii (I won't mention any names of who used to do this, but I will tell you the behavioral issues of a certain 3yo cleared up when the video games were restricted to the 1/2-hour per day rule, M-F, none on weekends).  Consider making one or two days a week educational video games--such as a foreign-language game, math or reading/spelling games, typing, music, logic, problem solving, etc. 

Build appetites for good food. Build appetites for hard work, a job well done, peace, order, kindness, giving, serving.

I have always taught my children that orderliness is peace.  I teach them that it is impossible to organize or give order to too much stuff--so they learn at an early age to not have too much, and then learn to have an exact place for everything--and I have built their appetite for the satisfaction that comes from easily putting/keeping everything in its place.  My two older children have a very solid appetite now for simplicity and order. When they visit other homes that are crammed full of stuff, messy, disorganized, wasteful--they hate it. It is not peace. All my children love the peace of sitting down to focus on studies or a project in a clean, orderly, peaceful environment--free of clutter, chaos, and excess. They have far more than they need (and they understand that), but they have what they can manage and organize and care for as a good steward. Their drawers, closets, shelves are always in perfect order with very little effort.  They are taught to keep an eye out for outgrown or worn-out clothes and get rid of them, books that will never be read again, useless acquisitions (i.e. happy meal toys, yard sale finds, excessive, useless gifts from well-meaning relatives and friends, etc.)

Build appetites for healthy activities that prepare them to use their brain and their gifts for the Lord--reading, studying, drawing, painting, building, creating, praying, meditating, problem-solving.

Make a list of God-pleasing activities that do not destroy the brain with worldly ideas and thoughts:  Biking, swimming, hiking, playdough, cooking, sewing, gardening, knitting, writing. Like your toddler will toss a carrot aside for a candy bar, so will your children toss aside good activities for TV watching or other foolishness. The way of the fool is easy, fun, and tempting. It takes one meal to give my children an appetite for junk food. It takes several weeks to build their appetite for healthy food. It is the same way with activities.

Do not give your children superheroes--at least until you are sure their one and only hero is God.  Do not make their bedrooms little temples of idol worship with superhero (or any image) comforter sets, curtains, rugs, wallpaper borders, and stuffed animals. And if  you do let them have some of these things, make sure they at least always have more of God. Give your children the awesome God. Not the Sunday School, Bible story God, but the God that can be trusted to love always, rescue, provide, and obliterate the enemy. The God who made everything, controls everything, and the God who hates foolishness. The God who has more power than any superhero could ever be depicted as having.

Do not let your children "collect."  Do not let them look through catalogs or  sale papers or watch commercials (don't do it yourself, either--that goes for home improvement and decorating shows, too).  This feeds the flesh, and builds an appetite of mindless greed for earthly treasures that moth and dust will corrupt. If you NEED something, you do not need to see it in a catalog first to know you need it. You will need it regardless of whether or not it is on sale.

Avoid toys where you will be tempted for them to continue to add to their collection or set.  Stick with the simple toys that promote God-given abilities to create, think, cooperate, give.  Blocks, marbles, crayons and paper, playdough, real baby dolls so girls can imitate your godly mothering (not Barbie dolls--no girl needs to dress naked adult dolls and try to figure out subsequent role play), good books, good games, puzzles, bikes, kites, musical instruments, tools, flower seeds, paints... Turn off that TV and those Video Games and offer these things in their place. Legos are great--but in a great jumbled mess for creative building. Not collected in "sets."  My boys are Lego fanatics, but the oldest (18) has learned to enjoy putting a set together once, playing with it for a week or so, then dismantling it into the big bin to avoid the collectible mentality. That is how he is teaching his younger brothers, too.

Help them build an appetite for their family--to play with each other. Help them practice loving each other and build an appetite for making each other happy. We are happiest when we forget ourselves and our selfishness and serve others. That is the truth.  That is the nature of Jesus Christ! Children learn this in their families. Teach them to serve their siblings and to have an appetite for making their siblings happy.  My children will tell you that their instructions regarding their siblings are that they should never walk into a room or situation and have the sibling(s) they joined become more upset. Their goal should be to add happiness and joy.  Their job is to make their siblings happier, to make them safer, to meet their needs, and to help. If we carelessly allow them to shove, or even knock into a younger sibling in their hurry to go do their own thing, then we have allowed them to build an appetite for their own pleasures without regard to others.  Don't let this slip through the cracks!  There is nothing more ugly than older siblings who bully, push out of the way, or selfishly disregard the needs of their younger siblings.  Why?  Because we hate that very selfishness in adults, and we hate it in adults, because we hate it in ourselves.

Okay... we get the idea now, don't we?.

11. Words
Build an appetite for quietness instead of noise. For carefully chosen words. Do not allow them to build an appetite for talking too much. That is foolish.  Show them the beauty and wisdom in quietness, stillness, gentle words, fewer words, well-chosen words. They will grow to have an aversion to mindless chatter, meaningless music, TV, and any other constant noise and/or running of the mouth.  Teach them to think twice and speak once. Teach them to choose their music and the moment to listen to it in the Spirit of Truth. Teach them to evaluate and choose their words based on whether the words are kind, helpful, necessary, edifying, patient, truthful, respectful, gracious, humble.  Teach them the simple truth that they can choose to keep their mouth shut in any situation, and if God wants them to speak, then they will find themselves speaking. God said He could make the rocks cry out. God made a donkey speak.  God can be trusted to rule our speech when we are not sure!

Let them know how God HATES lying, and encourage them to be conscious of always speaking true words, even in jest. To be on guard against exaggerations and white lies. The person sensitive to Christ will not allow a single untruth--regardless of the context or setting.  

Set the example in your own speech and words. The children are listening to every word (unless, of course, you are talking directly to them! :-))  There is nothing more annoying or distressful than hearing your own children mirror your ugliest speech. There is nothing more convicting.  When my first two children reached the teen years, I was so surprised to hear them jump into discussions I was having with my husband--discussions where we were talking about the rights and wrongs of this and that, criticisms and complaints and judgments of people. I thought we were being fair, non-judgmental, and objective, until my children chimed in and their words were so ugly!

I enjoy my children's honest words, because they reveal their heart (out of the mouth come the issues of the heart!).  I encourage them to share their thoughts, but at the same time, you know children can sometimes just be noisy silly. Mealtimes bring out the worst in my children for plain goofiness.  And yes, while there is a time and a place for everything, even enjoying some silliness, I have made it a practice to appoint certain "quiet practice" times.  Meal times: I remind them, using many verses of Proverbs, that not talking is ALWAYS wiser, and we practice silence during meal times (at least for five times minutes).  School time: they may not talk unless with permission. Why? The foolish man does not listen to instruction. And you can't listen if you are making noise. You also can't do your best work or thinking, and God is pleased with our diligence (this I tell them).  I'm not trying to be a crazy dictator.. I'm just implementing wisdom practice and awareness.


Plus one more:

12. Encourage Purity of Mind
The Bible commands us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely. For a reason. The thoughts and images fed into your brain are recorded and have an impact.  Children do not need to see scenes on TV of violence, adult content--even simple kissing scenes--things glorifying dishonesty, and depictions of the ugliest and saddest parts of fallen humanity. They don't need to hear romantic or other types of song lyrics. Paul says, "I would have you wise as to good, and simple towards evil."  You don't have to even know about the evil. Knowing the wise is all you need.

Teach your children to be wary. To make a covenant with their eyes and avert them when they must--because although you can control the input in your own home, all you have to do is venture two feet outside your home to be exposed to anything and everything. Grocery stores, billboards, magazine covers, music and lyrics, other people's words and actions in public, products for sale, signs for adult of businesses, all sorts of trash in reading, the indiscreet or foolish posts on facebook, the accidental web content... Your little children, shut off the TV or cover their eyes and explain there are certain things we shouldn't look at or watch.  Your older children, teach them the importance of keeping purity of mind by refusing to allow the wrong images to be burned into their brain. If my children are watching TV anywhere, and even the simplest kiss is depicted, you will see them avert their eyes. They understand that the image is danger--danger of being recalled, thought upon, and turning into distracting daydreams, lusts or temptations. The same is true for traumatizing images--and different things traumatize girls vs. boys.  Boys are called to do things such as hunt, or go to war, or protect the innocent. Girls, however, don't need to think on such things.

Critics of my old blog often accused me of "brainwashing" my children.  Not the case. I do my best not to  let their brains get dirty in the first place.


Well, as is true to form for me, this post has been endless.  So enough for now.  God bless you as you strive to obey Him and to teach your children to know and love Him and have faith--saving Faith.


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