One plan for dealing with misbehavior {aka “the time I forgot about consequences”}

When I had Knox, the older boys were just finishing up the second half of Spring semester. A month after he was born, I attended parent-teacher conferences. During one conference a teacher asked me, “When ____(insert name)___ does something he’s not supposed to do, what is his consequence?”

Crickets.

Oh shoot! Consequences? I had completely forgotten about consequences.

What I wanted to tell her, but wisely didn’t, was when the boys got too wild or broke a rule, their “consequence” was an angry mommy… or the command, “STOP IT!!!!” or choice words yelled across the house.

Feeding a newborn every couple hours made it challenging to remember the importance of an effective discipline system. Meeting the needs of a baby was all-consuming. Providing for physical needs of 3 other boys, then possibly meeting some emotional needs AND executing thoughtful discipline on top of it all? Forget about it.

But her question, “What is the consequence…” stuck in my head for several days. She reminded me how off-base my discipline had tilted. Maybe it had just fallen off the wagon all-together.

For me, discipline swings on a pendulum swinging between too-strict and too-permissive. When things get too permissive, it gets too chaotic in our home and it robs the joy.

James Dobson gives a memorable analogy (this is my summary…) Suppose you are going 90 mph on the highway and pass a police officer. What if the officer could only stand next to the highway and yell as loud as he could, “Slow down!!” & blow his whistle…would you stop speeding?

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But imagine driving with your kids, jamming to your Seeds Family Worship and you see the lights of a police car in your rearview mirror (not that this has happened to me…merely an example). ūüėČ Your heart beats rapidly as you roll down the window to hand over your license & registration. You wait anxiously for the officer to return to the side of your car and determine whether you will be handed the dreaded ticket requiring you to pay a large sum of money.

For the next month…or year…when you get to the specific road you were pulled over, you make sure to go well below the speed limit. And it worked…behavior changed by a consequence.

For a long time I’ve been the police officer just yelling from the side of the road. My kids called my bluff & there was no change in behavior.

Then I was flipping through the book “Good & Angry” by Turansky & Miller¬†and was reminded of a simple way to deal with misbehavior at home. It gave me a plan to implement in those moments I want to just shout “no!”.

Here is my version of their plan for handling misbehavior:

  1. Unacceptable behavior occurs
  2. Ask the offender to sit on our bottom step
  3. Tell him to come find me when he is ready to talk about his behavior
  4. When he finds me we talk through the following questions:
  • What did you do that was wrong?
  • Why was it wrong?
  • What are you going to do next time?

**End with “Now go try again!” (my favorite part…they leave encouraged instead of discouraged).

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I’ve found the boys typically know what they did wrong. But they rarely can express “why” it was wrong (a child development issue…most kids struggle with the “why”). Talking through the why helps form their moral code. For example, “Why was it wrong to hit your brother? Because God commands us to love one another. Hitting someone is not loving or kind.”

Then talking about options and ways to respond next time has also proved helpful in reducing bad behavior choices. For example, “If he takes one of your toys and it makes you upset, you could tell him, ‘I was playing with that car. You can have it when I’m finished.'”

I’m not going to lie & tell you life is grand & my boys never fight or disobey. No ma’am. But I have a plan now. When the baby needs to be fed & someone makes a bad choice I have a tool I can pull out instead of yelling.

What consequence system have you found to be useful? I can use all the help I can get!! 

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Help for deciding when to “let it go”

The Disagreement

All the boys were rough housing, laughing, and chasing one another. Until Quade fell over and Price with his soccer-kleat-wearing foot accidentally stepped on Quade’s chest. That was the end of the laughter and the beginning of accusations and mud-slinging.

My husband quickly grabbed the injured brother and took him to our car. The other brothers followed while I packed up our stuff from the soccer field sidelines and loaded the baby in his car seat.

By the time I sat in the passenger seat anger (fortunately not mine) filled the car.

“He is evil.”

“He said I shouldn’t cry baby tears.”

“Don’t call me a baby.”

I attempt to make things right…”He isn’t calling you a baby. He said you told him not to cry baby tears…(insert Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice:) woh woh woh woh”. ¬†By getting involved I ended up making things worse. The boys aren’t calming down but getting more frustrated.

The Diffusion

Then in a loud energetic voice my husband said, “It doesn’t matter who did what, all I know is…that was A LOT of fun, guys! Price you scored your first goal in your first game on your fifth birthday! And the weather was fantastic. What a great day! Right?”

He did it…GOOOOAAAALL for daddy!!

Bruce easily transformed the negative tone to positive with his exuberance and confidence. And 10 minutes later laughter returned to our little family. Starting with Knox, the baby. He laughed out loud while Price made faces at him. Price called out numbers and Knox laughed louder. Watts joined in hoping to prompt a giggle. Of course, Quade couldn’t resist calling out, “Six thousand, five hundred and forty-two”.

Later when I’m alone with my husband I ask, “I really need to know, how did you do it? How did you easily change the tone in the car?¬†I just can’t alter the mood. I get caught up in justice…resolving the conflict…training and making it right. I just can’t let things go!”

The Difference

He responded by encouraging me…saying it’s good I want to resolve conflict…if the behavior is a structural issue. But since in this case it was a cyclical issue we just needed to move on.

Excuse me, what? Structural? Cyclical?

“Are those business terms?”

My COO husband responds, “Yeah, when a situation comes up at work I have to decide if it’s an issue that will fix itself (cyclical) or needs to be addressed and corrected (structural). In this situation, I think the boys were messing around, the injury wasn’t intentional, the anger and frustration came from exhaustion and it wasn’t really a structural issue.” (he is very wise)

I’ve heard something similar about personality vs character issues. Here is my summary:

Cyclical –> Personality/Developmental

Structural–> Heart Issue/Character

The Disciple

There were times Jesus recognized the disciples would never understand him & his ways. ¬†After all they were sinners and human, limited in their ability to comprehend…so he didn’t address those issues (cyclical). Other times the disciples were way off-base and needed correction…a structural problem.

Peter as an example:¬†Cyclical problem–jealousy: Structural problem–faith

Peter, like all of us, struggled with a few things. One was his faith (denying Christ 3x; sinking when trying to walk on water…”Oh you of little faith” Matthew 14:31) and the other was his jealousy of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

God had big plans for Peter…to spread the gospel & further the Kingdom. In John 21 (after crucifixion & resurrection) Jesus asks Peter 3 times: “Do you love me?” and each time Peter replies, “Yes, you know that I do”.

For each of Peter’s responses, Jesus gives him a focused command: “Feed my sheep“…”Take care of my lambs”…again “Feed my sheep”. The final command: “FOLLOW ME!”¬†Basically he’s saying do not be concerned with what others are doing. Stay focused on my sheep & follow me!

After this conversation, on a private walk with Jesus, Peter still can’t let his nagging jealousy of John go. He glances back at John and says, “Lord, what about him?”.¬† If I had been Peter’s “coach”, in my controlling way, I would look Peter dead in the eyes, shake him by the shoulders and scream: “DON’T worry about JOHN!! Stop being envious of him. I’m with YOU right now. Listen to ME!”

But Jesus handled Peter more gingerly.;) He ignored those temporary human emotions (cyclical) for the essential point (structural):

“If I want him (John) to remain alive until I return, what is it to you? You must follow me.”¬†

Jesus knew Peter was overly concerned with John’s status. Jesus needed to get Peter back on track. Instead of saying “stop being jealous”, He used the words, “follow me”. The heart of the problem…his faith. Believing Jesus worthy to be followed.

With my boys, I overcorrect and get worked up over every offense. I need to filter my reactions with the question: Is this cyclical or structural?

Since God knows the difference, and His Spirit is in me, I need to pray for the wisdom (James 1:5). Most experienced moms say their one regret is not praying enough. So in those moments of frustrations, I need to bow my head, still my heart, and pray for wisdom to know the difference between cyclical (“the things I cannot change”) & structural (“change the things I can”).

 

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Sibling Summer Survival Guide

The summer is great for so many reasons…{your list here!}. For us it means a lot more time at home (too hot in Texas to be outside, unless you are in a pool)¬†AND a lot more time together.

Given all this “time together” brothers can start to get agitated with one another. Buttons get pushed more frequently. Anger rises quickly. I find myself yelling, “STOP IT!” more often than I’d like.

The past few summers, unintentionally, we’ve been targeting some aspects of getting along and working together as a family. After talking with a friend about some of our “relationship lessons”, I thought I would share them with y’all.

1. Peacemaker Pledge

During our vacation I was reading through an Andrew Murray book and I was struck by one passage:

“To quarrel is a sin that comes too easily to children. ¬†Let us train ours to respect the rights of others, to bear & to forgive when our own are affected.”-Andrew Murray

He also used the words: “Seek peace, and pursue it.” AND the verse:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

His words have given me words to express to my boys what I desire for my home. Yes, boys will be wild. However, we can pursue peaceful relationships and still be energetic and fun.

This week we had another “tea party” (snacks of choice…pop tarts cut into small pieces and banana slices). I grabbed a piece of paper and we brainstormed what it takes to be a “peacemaker”. Here is our list:

Since making the list I think we would add: “no name calling” or the positive version–> “encourage with words”. Some of the items on this list are self-explanatory (“no hitting)…others I thought I would go into more specifically below:

2. Harsh Word, Gentle Word

Controlling my tongue is a struggle. One summer I noticed that we all were speaking in a harsh tone. Again, I referenced “The Well-Versed Family”…my boys and I learned the verse:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

The hand motions we used while learning the verse are:

  • “gentle answer”= bring together thumb with pointer/middle finger & then open…keeping opening/closing, back & forth (like a little bird’s beak)
  • “turns away wrath”=sweeping gesture of right hand from the front to around your back.
  • “harsh word”=bring two hands/arms together and apart (like a crocodile mouth opening)
  • “stirs up anger”=stirring a pot

Then when any of us started to use a harsh voice, we could be reminded by the hand sign for “gentle answer” or by a verbal reminder, saying “gentle answer” or “don’t stir up anger”.

3. Treat your brother special (honor)

The concept of “honor” came from the work of Dr. Scott Turansky & Joann Miller. They have several wonderful parenting books. One area they focus on is honoring your parents, honoring your siblings. They define honor as: “Treating others special. And doing more than is expected”.

I know its hard sometimes to just get my boys to obey and do what is expected. Then to have them “honor” and do more than is expected…tricky. However, I have noticed when I encourage and positively affirm the times they have “honored” a brother their desire to “honor” increases.

For instance, I’ve asked the boys to get their shoes. A few times one brother has not only put on his shoes but has gotten his brother’s shoes for him. Immediately I use the words, “Wow! Thank you for honoring your brother by doing more than is expected! Not only getting your shoes on but helping get his as well.”

If I notice a brother being unkind or hurtful, I use the gentle reminder: “Treat your brother special.” They are still trying to grasp the concept of “special”. I ask them how they would treat someone they think is really important…the President, famous basketball player, Elmo. =) Then I say, if that person was here, you wouldn’t hit them in the face or take away their toy. You would offer them some food, speak kindly, and share your things with them.

4. Talk to him first 

My mother-in-law wisely advised me: when your children argue try not to get involved. She reasoned when you do get involved it forces them to take sides and “present” their case to you; trying to win you over to their side of the argument.

When one boy offends the other and they come running to tell me (aka “tattle telling”), I immediately ask them, “Have you talked to your brother? Have you told him how you feel?”. Most often they haven’t. For my two-year-old I give him words to say, “Tell your brother: I don’t like when you hit me. It hurts” or “When you are done with that toy can I play with it?”.

Siblings are the first deep, peer relationships our children will have in which they learn to work through challenging disagreements, communicate frustrations, seek forgiveness, and reconciliation. According to the Bible,

¬†‚ÄúIf your brother or sister¬†sins,¬†go and point out their fault,¬†just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15).

This verse was directed towards dealing with sin in the church. I feel teaching our children to go to the offender first instills a good habit for the rest of his/her life.

Now if you see us at a pool this summer & my boys are arguing with one another, please do not judge or hold me to an unreasonable standard. I’m just hoping by training my boys in how to get along peaceable with others, as adults they will have healthy & happy relationships. The way they relate to one another will not bring them glory but glorify God, the author of relationships.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,¬†forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

*If you want to read more about peacemaking, check out the website: Peacemaker Ministries

How to Cast a Vision for your Challenging Child

Remember my son who has challenged us lately? (read more here)

I shared with a dear friend my fears of what he was going to become. Worried about what he would be like as an adult if he continued with his defiance. Extrapolating his future based on a few flaws.

She encouraged me. Instead of creating a “death sentence” based on the negative, why not cast a vision for what I hope him to become. Speak words of life.

This was a month ago. Since that time I’ve experimented¬†with this concept & it’s been wonderful. I have cast small visions (daily interactions with his brother) and large visions (becoming an Olympic swimmer). Instead of dooming him to a future I project, I’ve opened his world to new possibilities.

I’ve written more on this topic over at the MOB (mothers of boys) Society. Check it out here: Cast a Vision for the Man He Can Become.

These are the steps I’ve found most effective to casting a vision:

1. Keep a positive mindset

Don’t assume the worst of your child (speaking to myself here!). Remember that he is on his way to becoming a godly man. It’s a trajectory. Just because he demonstrates selfishness, rebellion, anger, etc. doesn’t mean God can’t transform his heart over time. ¬†We are all “in process”. Believe it or not, I still sin. ūüėČ

2. Think about what you would like him to become 

Instead of focusing on what you fear he will become, direct your thoughts towards the ideal. For instance, instead of dwelling on the graffiti-writing, hoodlum…picture in your mind the kind, thoughtful gentleman. Pray or seek guidance in Scripture regarding what God may have for his future. The visions I have “cast” for my son are based on truth. I’m not lying when I share how God has gifted him. Just highlighting it for him to see.

3. Keep your voice calm & communicate the vision with optimism 

I struggle with using gentle words. For some a sweet, calm voice naturally oozes out of their mouths. Not me. I have to be intentional. I have to decide to stay calm & be optimistic.

4. Hug & kiss your kiddos often

When I just had one child, maybe even just two, I never had to “plan” to show affection. ¬†Now it’s a different story.¬†Sometimes my desire for peace & calm creates a frustrated tone in my interactions throughout the day. So I have to be intentional to hug & kiss my little ones…particularly the challenging ones.

5. Pray together for the vision

When you pray at night with your children speak the vision over them. For example: “Lord, I lift _____ up to you. Thank you for giving him the gift of generosity. Thank you for how he shares with those around him. May you use his gift to bring You glory.”

What vision can you cast for your child?

“May the God of hope fill you with all¬†joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

French Lesson #2: The “Cadre” {Say Less, Pray More}

A few weeks ago I wrote about my latest realization…overtraining¬†my boys (saying too much & not praying enough). Since writing that post,¬†I’ve made a few more observations about the words that come out of my mouth…

~Five to One~

At a parenting seminar a few years ago, I learned:

“A healthy relationship consists of 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.”(Brad Schwall)

Unfortunately, more days than I’d like, I have it backwards…5 negative for every 1 positive. The reason behind all the negative interactions is my frequent correcting, directing and instructing. Due to the high number of corrections, my boys have stopped listening. Several times when I’ve asked them to “come here”, they run the other way assuming they are in trouble.

“If you stand in your chair you could fall!”

“Wash your hands or you’ll get food on the couch.”

“Don’t run on that wall, it’s wet & you could slip.”

“Blah, blah, blah…”

~Love & Logic~

In my early parenting days I read the book “Parenting with Love & Logic”. The authors ¬†suggested you allow your child freedom to experience natural consequences. If he doesn’t want to wear shoes in the backyard, then let him go barefoot. When he hurts his feet then he will choose to wear shoes. Of course, the¬†caveat¬†here is you should warn them in matters of life or death (parking lots/streets/etc). If it’s not life/death, you allow your child to learn from his mistakes.

This approach has always been hard for me. Particularly since it typically means potential harm to my children and more work for me. For example, if he falls off the chair and breaks an arm, then I have to drag 4 children to the emergency room and take care of a poor little guy in a cast.

On the other hand, it’s exhausting and stressful to be so vigilant. Warning them about every danger. Keeping track of the activities of 3 busy boys.¬†I end up being that dreaded “helicopter parent” or the ogre mommy (in the words of Kat).

~The French Frame~

In the article I mentioned before called ¬†‚ÄúWhy French Parents are Superior”¬†by¬†Pamela Druckerman, it mentions Americans’ over-attentiveness to their children:

¬†¬†“When American families visited our home, the parents usually spent much of the visit refereeing their kids’ spats, helping their toddlers do laps around the kitchen island, or getting down on the floor to build Lego villages. When French friends visited, by contrast, the grown-ups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves.”

Perhaps I make it too hard? Having coffee with the grown-ups sounds lovely. Allowing my children to monitor themselves…a dream!

My husband* tends to give my boys more freedom. He isn’t constantly directing them. In fact, he may have a reputation for not being attentive enough. When we are at a social gathering we both want to talk & mingle.¬†This¬†has become a source of conflict. I feel that one of us should be watching the children at all times. I suggest that we should trade off who watches them. He agrees more with the French approach…children playing by themselves while adults enjoy conversation.

His opinion comes in part from how he was reared. He describes his upbringing to include strong boundaries but a lot of freedom within those boundaries. His parents were NOT constantly standing over him, correcting and directing. But they did have absolute rules that could not be broken. ¬†Since he wasn’t constantly corrected he was more willing to listen when they did train him. They focused on those important boundaries, but let the little things go.

Here is another quote from the article on French parenting:

¬†“the French ideal of the¬†cadre, or frame…Cadre¬†means that kids have very firm limits about certain things‚ÄĒthat’s the frame‚ÄĒand that the parents strictly enforce these. But inside the¬†cadre, French parents entrust their kids with quite a lot of freedom and autonomy.”

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If my goal is to “say less, pray more”, this is a good visual to keep in mind: a frame. Allowing freedom within the frame, but correcting when they attempt to cross outside the frame.

But saying less & giving more freedom does not come naturally to me. I have supersonic sensory powers. I see, hear, taste, feel everything around me. My strong sense of justice makes it difficult to let offenses go unnoticed. Then there is the “teacher” side of me, taking advantage of every learning opportunity. And I care too much about what other people think. ¬†We have 4 boys, for heaven’s sake. We already draw attention wherever we go. To allow them freedom sounds frightening.

~In Conclusion~

I’m not going to get it right 100% of the time. But my goal is to use less “warnings” and give more freedom. Fulfilling that goal will hopefully lead to the right equation: 5 positive to 1 negative interaction.

Ultimately, my goal is to stop before I correct. Decide if correction is necessary. Then pray for character rather than micromanaging each child.

Here is a great prayer calendar for kids on the Inspired to Action blog: A Mother’s Prayer Calendar.¬†¬†There is also 21 days of prayer for boys¬†ebook available for $3.99.

Do you struggle with warning too frequently? Have you been able to successfully implement the “love & logic” approach? When you are at social functions how do you and your husband manage the children? How often do you pray for your children?

*everything written about my husband has been approved by my husband

French Lesson #1: Parenting with Confidence

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Danger of Too Much Training {Say less. Pray more}

I had an “ah-ha”parenting moment. I picked up the book “Hints on Child Training” by H. Clay Trumbull. Two older moms (including Sally Clarkson) recommended the book. H. Clay Trumbull, father of eight children & the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Elliot, wrote it in 1890. The advice he gives is Bible-centered, wise & applicable to children of any generation.

In my usual non-fiction reading habit, I flipped through the book and started reading a chapter that caught my eye. The chapter was entitled: “Letting Alone as a Means of Child Training.”

“Child training is a necessity, but there is a danger of overdoing in the line of child training.  The neglect of child training is a great evil. Overdoing in the training of a child may be even a greater evil.” -H. Clay Trumbull

Let that sink in for a second. No training is evil BUT over-training may be a greater evil.

I always judged those who gave their children no boundaries or discipline, as “bad parents”. But in reality I’m the one to be judged in my “over-training”.

“The young parents who are exceptionally conscientious, and exceptionally desirous of being wise and faithful in the discharge of their parental duties, are liable to err in the direction of overdoing in the training of their children.” -H. Clay Trumbull

In this stage of adding a new baby, I desire control over my kids more than ever. So I increase my training & direction. Fooling myself into the belief that I’m actually in control. The reality is that the more I direct & correct the more I push them to misbehavior. I don’t end up training their hearts.

Here is the advice of one father in his experience with his oldest child:

“I thought I must be training her all the time, and I forced issues with her, and took notice of little things, when I would have done better to leave her alone… I saw my mistake afterwards, and I allowed my other children more freedom, by letting them alone except when they must be interfered with; and I’ve seen the benefit of this course”

After reading this chapter I made a pact with myself…I would turn a “blind eye” to minor infractions of my boys. When one was too rough I would NOT remind him to be gentle. When they use potty talk I would NOT remind them to use “life-giving” words. I would NOT remind them to shut the back door.

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Oh my goodness is it hard! It’s become such a habit for me to correct all day long. AND it’s become a habit for them to wait for me to correct before they change their behavior. 

I realized they’ve become dependent on my words to direct their actions. Their internal monitors for behavior control were turned “off”. All behavior control was external. Not what I want. I can’t be with them at all times. They need to regulate their own behavior.

I also realized that when I didn’t direct them and allowed them to make the right choice, I could reinforce their good choice. Give them credit & positive reinforcement. In the past they were just doing what I asked, now they were doing it on their own…which is true training.

My mentor, Leslie, gave me the advice: “Use fewer words. Pray more.”  In those moments when I’m trying to hold my tongue, I pray.

I pray for the particular character quality. I pray for wisdom to know whether I should intervene. I pray for God to put a guard over my mouth and give me self-control.

Do you struggle with over-training your children? Are you primarily directing/correcting? Will you join me in the “pact” to say less & pray more?

Developmental Surges: Another Excuse for Misbehavior

Days after getting frustrated with my 2-year-old’s obstinate behavior I learned he had the flu. Then he was diagnosed with a double ear infection.¬†I told myself: “No wondered he was being challenging. It wasn’t my bad parenting. He just felt bad! Whew!”

Now that I had an excuse for his behavior I could give him (and myself) more grace.¬†I’ve done the same thing with: teething, lack of sleep, hunger, etc. “He hit your son. I’m sorry. He’s tired.”

But what if your child has gotten all their teeth, is healthy, well-rested, & full but still acting wacky, here is a new excuse to use: a developmental surge.

Years ago when I read about “developmental surges” in the book: “Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, I was ecstatic. It finally explained what I had observed in my sons.

Here is what she wrote:

“Kids go through developmental surges. You can mark it on your calendar. ¬†Somewhere around their birthday and their half birthday, you can expect trouble. ¬†They get cranky and uncooperative. ¬†They might be incapable of doing what they were able to do just a few weeks before. ¬†Nothing seems right.

They’re easily frustrated.

Every time you turn around, they’re crying about something else. ¬†They won’t cooperate. ¬†They want to be held and then push you away when you hold them. ¬†They’re angry–angry at you, at the world, and at themselves. ¬†They are more easily upset by anything.”

(celebrating his 4 1/2 birthday a couple weeks ago…helps explain his challenges)

Yep. I’ve witnessed it. I’m “fortunate” enough to have 3 out of 4 boys with birthdays within 6 weeks of each other. So two times a year they all go through their developmental surges at the same time. Now my 4th child was born exactly on their half birthdays…meaning all 4 boys will be “developmentally surging” around the same time!

But what exactly happens to cause these meltdowns?

“The developmental theorists tell us that this is a time of disintegration, a time when children are moving from one stage of development to another. ¬†Their inner systems are restructuring, creating a new, more complex way of understanding the world.”

In more simple terms:

“Think of five building blocks. ¬†Stack them once on top of the other until you have a tower of five blocks. ¬†This is your five-year old–his inner structure that controls how he sees the world and responds to it.

It works well for him, but as he nears his sixth birthday, changes begin to occur. ¬†A new block will be added to the structure, but it won’t just be added to the top of the stack.

Instead, the tower will come crashing down;

it will disintegrate and a new structure with six blocks will be formed. This time it may be in the shape of a pyramid, with three blocks on the bottom, two in the middle, and the sixth resting on top.

It will be a totally different structure. ¬†During this construction time, which can take four to six weeks, everything that was working well for your child doesn’t seem to be operating anymore. ¬†He becomes overwhelmed easily and is more vulnerable to spill-over tantrums.”

Well, Happy Birthday! 4-6 weeks of disintegration.

I know that I should be parenting with grace every day. No matter how they feel or what is going on developmentally. But I’m human. It’s hard to remember they are sinful just like me. Sometimes it’s nice to have these tangible reminders that some of their behavior is out of their control. Of course, I still set standards of expectations, but give them a break when they are struggling to meet those standards.

Have you heard of “developmental surges”? Do you find it to be true with your child(ren)? Any good birthday meltdown stories you’d like to share?

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Teaching our children to be amused

The other night I attended a parenting seminar at my son’s classical Christian school. What I love about his school is how intentional they are in their approach to educating and training children. I also appreciate their counter-cultural perspective.

However, as a mom of three young children I often make choices that aren’t intentional and frequently follow culture. So I always brace myself before these seminars. I know my “mommy guilt” may raise its ugly head.

The parenting seminar was taught by a husband and wife, Robin & Michael Lewis, who have 4 grown children and who started the school. ¬†Mrs. Lewis began talking about the topic of “amusements.”

She defined “amusements” as “those things that occupy our attention.”

Oh no! One of the topics I struggle with the most…”entertainment”. T.V.? Video games? iPhones? Nintendo DS? Do I let my boys engage in these activities? Is so, how much?

BUT instead of saying “T.V. is bad” or “Don’t let your kids play video games”. She took a different approach…

1) Look at the probable outcome

When thinking about amusing our children or giving them choices of amusement we need to think about where that choice leads.

For example: If I hand my 2-year-old an iPhone to play a game or watch a movie while his brothers are in Taekwondo, where does that choice lead? What will he be amused by when he is 6 or 10 or 21?

What about when my boys are bored and they only think to watch a T.V. show or play a video game? What will they choose for entertainment as adult men? Only something with a screen?

She emphasized that “lifelong habits are being formed now” (no pressure ;)).

2) Take the time to teach them new amusements

In order to expose our children to a wider variety of entertainment options, Mrs. Lewis suggested spending 15 minutes once a week teaching or showing them a new skill. If there is something you enjoy, share it with them.

3) Fill your home with quality choices

Instead of playing “games of chance” (like Candy Land) with our children, Mrs. Lewis suggested we should offer them strategy games.¬†

This was a revolutionary idea for me. As a speech-language pathologist I own many “games of chance”. Candy Land, for example, is a great game to play during speech therapy…I could set the deck so the child would win, the turns were short and the directions were simple.

But she presented a new perspective…we need to teach our children to think when they play games. She gave the example of her son and his friend that played strategy games for hours on the weekends. Now her son’s friend works for the U.S. Government state department planning international strategy.

She also suggested choosing toys with “multiple play” value. Toys such as: blocks, balls, soldiers, Legos, costumes, and even big pieces of fabric/blankets. These toys provide more opportunities to engage their imagination and creativity.

4) Amusements should spiral towards home

When introducing amusements to your family, Mrs. Lewis suggested making choices that direct your children into your home, not away from home. Every family has talents and interests. We should be sharing those with our children and engaging in those interests as a family.

For example, perhaps you enjoy cooking, gardening, or traveling. If you cook together or travel together, you develop a common love. As your children grow, she suggests, they will be more likely to choose to be home and engaging in these family interests over being with their friends.

Okay. So how do you feel? guilt? burdened? I hope not!

I’ve found that in the week since I heard her speak I haven’t made drastic changes…my boys still watch T.V. and play video games. BUT it has shaped my daily choices.

My goal in sharing it here is to provide a different perspective than the one our culture is giving. To encourage you that you can make a difference in training your children in their amusements. To empower you. To inspire you. Definitely NOT to overwhelm you.

The last piece of advice from Mrs. Lewis:

“Each day pray for wisdom in parenting your children. The two biggest deterrents to good parenting: 1) pride 2) not praying for wisdom”

**For a little humor check out this updated version of “Goodnight Moon”…called “Goodnight iPad”:

Good, Better, Best

As parents who want to seek the things of God more than the things of this world, it’s tough to know what to say “yes” to in media.

My husband grew up without a television. It broke when they were little. His parents saw their children were outside playing with their friends more, so they just never replaced it.

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I grew up watching T.V. ¬†with boundaries on what was allowed and not allowed. There were some shows that were completely off limits…like “The Smurfs”. (I had a friend who wasn’t allowed to watch “The Flintstones” because ‘Fred was selfish’.) On Thursday nights as a family we sat and laughed together at “The Cosby Show”. ¬†We loved going to movies as a family. My parents did a great job of teaching me how to evaluate a movie after we watched it to see how it lined up with our Christian worldview.

For our own little family we had to decide how we would handle media. We own a T.V. We have cable. We even have Netflix through our Xbox. How do we decide what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to watch?

We like to use the rule of “good, better, best”.

A show may not have anything morally wrong with it (like “Yo Gabba Gabba”) but is it the better choice of the shows offered? Is it the best choice?

We try to limit how much time our kids watch T.V. So if they only have an hour or so to watch T.V. in a day, I would rather what they chose to be the “best” choice. I try to give them the tools to decide that for themselves.

You will often hear my 2-year-old ask if a show is “PG” or “scary”. ¬†We feel that a “better” or “best” show doesn’t use potty talk or words we don’t allow our kids to use. We try to make sure the behavior being modeled follows the rules of our house (Obey, Honor, Be Responsible).

Do my kids still use potty talk? Of course. Have they seen some shows that may not be the “best” choice? Yes. In using the “good, better, best” system we attempt to minimize exposure to the behaviors we don’t want our children to emulate.

For some families the “best” choice is no T.V. at all. For others it may be no cable. I think the key is defining for your family what your “good, better, & best” choices are. Being intentional about how you handle media exposure and attempting to spend a majority of time in the “best” choices.

How do you handle media exposure in your home? Do you have set time limits or times of day they watch T.V.? Do you decide what shows they can watch? Do you discuss why you don’t watch certain shows?¬†

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable‚ÄĒif anything is excellent or praiseworthy‚ÄĒthink about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Linking up with:

Beyond “Stop it!”…Making Disciples

Discipline. It’s not an easy job.

When frustrations rise & the same issues need to¬†be addressed, sometimes all you want to do is yell, “STOP IT!!!!”.

From my experience “stop it” only goes so far. After the big eyes and shocked expressions fade, the misbehavior begins again. Nothing was learned. No training occurred.

From the word “discipline”, comes the word “disciple”. We are commanded in the Bible to “go & make disciples”. Therefore, if I am going to obey God, then¬†disciplining my children doesn’t mean just getting them to behave. I need to focus on training them to be¬†disciples. Help them want to follow Jesus, not to just make their mom happy.

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Often misbehavior needs to be¬†addressed immediately and there is not a lot of time to go research what a good Biblical response would be in this situation. Also, you will find there are certain behaviors¬†that are common to one child or that are being corrected repeatedly. This is when it is helpful to have a group of “Biblical corrective phrases” to use in the discipline process.

Next time you want to yell “STOP IT!!”,¬†stop yourself and think:

  • What is frustrating¬†me about this situation?
  • What is the character flaw being demonstrated?
  • What behavior would¬†I like to see instead?
  • Was there something that happened in the environment or from a sibling that stimulated the misbehavior?

Continue to note over a couple of days what patterns of misbehavior you are observing. Chose one area of character you would like to develop (for each child). Go to your Bible and in the back should be a topical concordance (if not look online). Look up the character quality you are wanting to prayerfully develop in your child and see what the Bible says regarding that quality.

I’ve found in the 6 years I’ve been parenting¬†that there are a few “Biblical corrective phrases” I repeat often in the discipline process:

  • “A gentle¬†answer turns away wrath, harsh words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
  • “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:25)
  • “Have a grateful heart”
  • “Be patient.” {“bearing with one another in love”} (Ephesians 4:2)
  • “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right (Ephesians 5:1)…I want things to go well for you.”
  • “Are your words helpful or hurtful?” (Ephesians 4:29)
  • “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14)
  • “Honor your brother. Treat him special. Do more than what’s expected.”

As I was looking up the sources for the above “phrases of correction”, I found the following that may be helpful. Try simplifying the phrase to something easy to remember and repeat.:

  • “Serve wholeheartedly as if serving the Lord not men.” (Eph 6:7)
  • “Speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Eph4:25)
  • “Listen to advice & accept instruction & in the end you will be wise.” (Prov 19:20)
  • “Be kind & compassionate, forgiving each other as Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:32)

What phrases do you use frequently? Share them in the comments so we can learn from one another.

**Note: Training a child’s heart takes a lot of love, patience & grace.¬†Quoting a¬†piece of scripture from the Bible is not going to change a child’s heart. We need to be modeling grace. We need to understand our own need for a Savior. We need to be addressing our own hearts during the training and discipline process.