The one parenting question you need to answer

A few weeks ago I learned why we don’t often visit Bruce at work. Taking all four boys to eat lunch with Bruce to celebrate Quade’s 7 1/2 birthday and Knox’s 1st birthday was two bananas shy of a fruit basket.

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Watts greeted Bruce’s employees by lifting up his shirt. Price proceeded to pour salt & pepper out on to the table. Knox celebrated his birthday rightly by dropping his glass bottle on the floor and smashing it to pieces (like a Greek wedding celebration…opah!).

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had a ticket to attend dotMOM, a mom conference, that weekend. The conference actually started around the same time my boys were running circles around a lunchroom table. But I chose to skip the first keynote session with Angie Smith (one of my faves) and fulfill my motherly birthday duties. 

Later that night I finally arrived at dotMOM just as Travis Cottrell began leading worship (one of my highlights by the way). Unlike Angie Smith, a name I was quite familiar with, I had never heard of the evening keynote speaker before.

Apparently, John Croyle, used to play football at Alabama. The first question in my head was, “What could an ex-football player teach me about motherhood?” (arrogant much, Heather?).

Then as Big Mama & Boo Mama introduced John and gave his bio, I had the following inner monologue: “How could his oldest child be 57, when that’s about how old he looks? Did I just hear him say he has 26 children in college? And excuse me, how many total children does he have? over 1800?”

Then John Croyle explained he owns a ranch in Alabama for children who have been orphaned, neglected or abused (ohhhh). A ranch he started instead of pursuing a professional football career (maybe I judged him a little prematurely). He shows these children a love they’ve never known and gives them a hand up to a better life. When they arrive at the ranch John tells them four simple truths:

  1. I love you.
  2. I will never lie to you.
  3. I will stick with you till you are grown.
  4. There are boundaries. Don’t cross them.

How awesome are those?

This ex-football player really knocked this momma over the head with truth when he shared the ONE question he believes shapes every parent’s actions.

You ready? Here it is: 

“What are you afraid of for your children?”

Stop and think about it. What are you afraid of?

While I sat in the large conference room my immediate answer was:  I’m afraid of what people think about my boys. I’m afraid of them getting permanently hurt. I’m afraid of messing them up. I’m afraid they won’t pursue God as adults.

John Croyle argues, “If you don’t get control of your fear, your fear will conquer you. If you are afraid of your children not measuring up. Let that go because it’s not your line to draw. God’s got His line of what He wants your kids to be.”

powerful stuff.

John’s words lingered in my mind for days after…”What am I afraid of for my children?”. Taking note of my behavior, in light of my fears, I realized my actions often didn’t show my true desire to love, cherish and nurture my boys…for instance:

  • Getting upset that toys were left out–>fearful they will become adult slobs & fearful I’m not a good wife if I don’t keep the house clean.
  • Losing my temper because one brother hurts another brother (again)–> fearful there is more evil than good in their hearts.
  • Becoming Impatient when I have to keep nagging them to get ready to go–> fearful of how it looks when we are consistently late.
  • Embarrassed and then controlling when the boys act a little “wild” in public–> fearful others will think I’m a bad mom.

Yes, I want to train my boys to have good habits…but training in grace (not fear). Yes, I want to help them love one another…but by showing them gentle love. Yes, we need to be on time to commitments…but not because we need to impress others. Yes, we need to have self-control out in public…but not because we are consumed with man’s approval.

John’s right. “Guilt & fear are Satan’s biggest weapons.” Fear is robbing me the joy of mothering these precious boys. Because when I look back at the pictures above I see their smiles and realize they weren’t being “bad”… just being boys…in an office cafeteria.

Over and over in the Bible we read, “Do not fear”. Do. not. fear. “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” It all comes down to John’s last bold statement:

“You are a daughter of a King. Act like it!” -John Croyle

I’m already loved by the King of the Universe. Time to put on that big girl tiara and start believing it.

How do you manage your fears? Do you have Scripture memorized? Do you rationalize why your fear is unrealistic? Do you realize how much you are loved already?

Let’s tackle our fears ladies! for the children.

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Confused? Overwhelmed? “Do the Next Right Thing”

I opened the email and read the question. Immediately my mind jumped 10 years ahead. All the “what ifs” and “what could be” filled my thoughts. I allowed my concerns with what others might think, my schedule, my desires, the future unknowns to pile up and paralyze me.

“Much of this confusion arises from taking too long view. We think of years rather than of moments… It is hard to plan a year’s duty; it is easy to plan just for one short day. No shoulder can bear up the burden of a year’s cares—all gathered up into one load! But the weakest shoulder can carry without weariness—just what really belongs to one day.” J.R.Miller 1888

When I consulted a wise friend on how to handle the email, she gave me this advice: “Do the next right thing”.

photo credit (edited with picmonkey)

The “next right thing” in this situation was to simply answer the question. Not to be  concerned with the uncontrollable, unknown future but to focus on the immediate information at hand. I wasn’t answering future questions or making a commitment. I only needed to deal with the next step.

Read these words from Elisabeth Elliot’s on this concept:

“When I went back to my jungle station after the death of my first husband, Jim Elliot, I was faced with many confusions and uncertainties. I had a good many new roles, besides that of being a single parent and a widow. I was alone on a jungle station that Jim and I had manned together. I had to learn to do all kinds of things, which I was not trained or prepared in any way to do. It was a great help to me simply to do the next thing.

Have you had the experience of feeling as if you’ve got far too many burdens to bear, far too many people to take care of, far too many things on your list to do? You just can’t possibly do it, and you get in a panic and you just want to sit down and collapse in a pile and feel sorry for yourself.

Well, I’ve felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea.

The poem says, “Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” That is a wonderfully saving truth. Just do the next thing.

I don’t know what your days look like. I don’t know what demands are tossed your way. In my home, constant requests are being made: “Mommy, I need you to help with my shoes”, “Mommy, can I have a snack”, “Mommy, I spilled my drink”, “waaahhhhhh (3-month old wanting to eat)”, “Mommy, brother has a dirty diaper”…

I often joke: “Your request will be answered in the order in which it was received”. In truth, this is the only way to remain sane in a busy home. To address one request at a time. To continually do the next thing.

I noticed my friend’s advice was “do the next right thing”. Whereas the ancient poem simply stated: “do the next thing.” By following all of the advice given in the Saxon poem, then doing the next thing would be doing the “right” thing. Here are the full instructions given in the poem:

  • Pray*
  • Have faith (casting all care)
  • Look for God’s hand
  • Trust Him with the results
  • DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.

Through prayer in faith, looking for where God is working, and trusting Him to handle the results of any decision we make, we are free to “do the next thing”. The next thing becomes the next right thing.

What decision do you have to make this week, today, in the next hour? Now what is the next right thing to do? Do it!

“Resist the allure of self pity, and just take the next step of obedience. We are typically given enough grace just for the next step. Fret not about what lies around the bend. Perform faithfully the next step, and we will make it home safely in the end.” Professor Ray Van Neste

*Pray: “Direct my footsteps according to Your Word” Psalm 119:133

They DO grow up

My first little guy was a challenge. He was cute & chunky, but cried a lot. He ended up having severe reflux & gas issues for his entire first year…crying for hours and hours at night. We swaddled, patted, paced, swung, shushed…with no luck.

This past Sunday night we sat at the dinner table…my husband, eldest son & myself. I watched my son devouring yummy lasagna a friend brought us. After dinner he walked into the kitchen & returned with a pie for us to share. Then he suggested we play a game of Uno…just the three of us (I snagged this pic real quick on my phone).

I NEVER would have guessed 6 1/2 years ago that this would be the same son. I really thought he would be challenge forever. That he would need consoling for a lifetime.

Was this the same boy almost kicked out of a church program when he was two years old for biting? The one who I was told by his preschool teacher had “difficulties paying attention & most likely always would.”

Yet here he sits with my husband and I enjoying an adult meal & playing a fun game. Loving each others’ company, laughing at jokes & talking strategy.

What the older moms tell you is true. They DO grow up.

So if you are in a hard season (talking to myself too!) remember this will pass. It WILL. Eventually. Pass.

If your baby is crying ALL. THE. TIME. That baby will stop crying eventually. He will grow up. He will laugh a lot more than he cries. You will have lots of fun with him. Some day.

I know that when days are long that perspective doesn’t always help. So just take today. Be fully present and think of 3 things to be thankful for (join Ann in her Joy Dare). Perhaps that will change our hearts from frustration to gratitude to joy (again giving myself a pep-talk!).

Let’s enjoy today because sadly they DO grow up.

Best Behavior Modification Tool: Mommy Time

Thank you all for your kind words and prayers after my post on Monday. I wrote that post for myself. I needed to get the words out & I felt like I would be inauthentic if I wrote any other words. Since my expectations on how it was received were low, it was such a blessing to my soul to be given your encouragement.

One reader in her wise comment reminded me of the best parenting tool I have ever received. Mary wrote:

“As a mom whose youngest child is turning 22 in February I am here to remind you: ‘This too shall pass.’
Take it one day at a time, organize to spend individual time with each child every week, and before you know it they will be grown.”

I have been really struggling with our 4-year-old, middle son…with obedience, his language, how he treats his brothers. A year ago when I was struggling with his behavior I was desperate enough to seek out the help of a professional.

Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions taught me through a webinar some Adlerian psychology to help explain why kids misbehave. She stated that a child’s primary goal is to achieve belonging and significance.

Belonging: emotionally connected; secure about my place in the family; have sufficient POSITIVE ATTENTION

Significance: I am capable; I make a difference; I contribute in meaningful ways; I have PERSONAL POWER

So the child is saying “I want to belong and feel significant, but i don’t know how to do it.”

This is when the misbehavior such as: whining, clinging, helplessness, sibling rivalry, and tantruming occurs. If they don’t get the positive attention they need they will get it with negative attention seeking behavior. If they don’t get the personal power they need (when we order them around too much) they become more defiant.

In order to provide our children with a feeling of belonging and significance, Amy suggests “Mody, Body, Soul time” or what I refer to as “mommy time”.

Mommy Time: spending one-on-one time with each child for at least 10 minutes, 2x per day.

Guidelines for Mommy Time:

  • mom (or dad) needs to be emotionally available…not on the phone or computer.
  • activity should not be on the computer or time spent watching t.v.
  • do what the child wants to do (a puzzle, game, color, chase, trains)
  • label it before and after

Last year I had been really good about implementing “mommy time” but I have completely neglected it the last 6 months or so. Yesterday when I read that reader’s comment I was reminded of the importance of one-on-one time with each boy and how it would help with my middle son’s behavior.

You may read “ten minutes one-on-one with your child” and think that is not very much. I was actually amazed how if I’m not intentional I can go the whole day without being one-on-one with my boys.

Being a pretty routine/structured person, it was helpful for me to be routine in when we did “mommy time”. Some moms enjoy a more relax way of life and “mommy time” may happen naturally in their day. I needed it scheduled…

Here is the schedule I’m hoping to re-introduce:

Morning:

  •  7:30 to 8–eat breakfast
  • 8 to 8:20-clean up breakfast and get dressed
  • 8:20 to 8:50- mommy time!

Afternoon (after naps/quiet time)

  • 4 to 5 waking up/playing/snacks
  • 5 to 5:30 mommy time
  • 5:30 to 6:30 cook dinner

I think what amazes me is how spending “mommy time” with each boy actually allows me freedom to do other things afterward. Because their “attention baskets” are filled  they don’t interrupt me cooking dinner and I deal with less problem behaviors in the evenings.

My tips for multiple children:

  • draw names to decide who goes first
  • emphasize the importance of not interrupting another child’s time (consequence is that the child they interrupted gets more time added)
  • may need to set a timer on the microwave or your phone
  • tell the child “I loved spending time with you. It was really fun to ______”.

My goal this week is to implement “mommy time” into our days. Will you join me? I would love the accountability! Our own little “mommy time” challenge. 

Linking up with:

Taking Credit for the Good….and the Bad

I was complimenting one of my mentors on her amazing 4 adult children and she responded with:

“I decided awhile ago that if I’m going to take credit for the good that they do, I’m going to have to take credit for the bad too.”

Great point.

We pour a lot of time and effort into our children. On a day-to-day basis we don’t typically see the fruits of our labor. There will be the temptation when they are heading off to college, getting internships, finding a spouse, working…for us to take credit for how well they turn out. But they will also go through years where we may not agree with choices they make. If we are going to take credit for the good, we will have to take credit for the bad.

Even with young children, we can brag on and on about something cute, amazing, or brilliant they have done…but do we share the embarrassing stories as well?

Take for example my 4 year old. He is such a sweet heart. The other day I was crying because a close friend’s dad had just died of cancer. He asked me why I was crying and then responded with, “Well we could pray.” Precious.

I felt like all the time I had modeled praying in the moment had sunk in. He understood where our Help & Strength comes from. I felt like a really great mom. A winner.

The previous day, however, he didn’t not make such good choices.

While I was making dinner and cutting the fat off some chicken, he reached up grabbed a small piece of chicken and put it in his mouth. WHAT!?! “spit it out!! Go wash your hands!! gross!!” I didn’t think to tell him not to eat raw chicken or that he would even think to do it.

An hour later we had finished up our Truth in the Tinsel ornaments and had hung them on the tree. I was talking with the boys about Christmas Carols and cleaning up the art supplies when I look up to see my 4 yr old leaping from the sidearm of the couch into our Christmas tree!!!

Like a little monkey clinging on to the side of the tree, it swung back and then ricocheted forward. All this time I’m screaming, “NO!!!! What are you doing?!!!”. I ran to catch the tree as it came crashing toward the floor, ornaments spilling everywhere. (no I did not get a picture!)

In my head I thought, “this is funny, I should be laughing” but in my pregnant emotional state I started crying and verbalizing how sad I was that Christmas was ruined. I sat on the floor at the base of the tree trying to get it to stand back up, lamenting my role as a mom of wild boys.

Do I want to take credit for that behavior? I’ve let him see that seen from “Elf” where Buddy  jumps into the tree to put the star on the top. I hadn’t told him NOT to jump into the Christmas tree. So do I want to take the blame for that?

Yes, our children have free wills. Yes, they have sin nature (not that either of these examples are sin). Yes, they will be independent adults some day and each suffer the consequences of their actions.

My point, and my mentor’s point, is that as moms we need to do our best to train our children in the way we feel God wants them to go. But as far as the results…we can’t take credit for whether there are good or bad results along the way.

It makes me think of the quote I loved from “Give them Grace”, we can’t assume that “good parenting in means good kids out.”  We must be faithful in our role as parents and leave the results to God. “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Ps 3:8).

Linking up with: Thought Provoking Thursdays and The MOB Society’s “Let’s Hear it for the Boys”

This is life. {She Speaks with Wisdom}

Monday, post-Thanksgiving, was a hard day for me and the boys. They were tired. My patience was lacking. By dinner when they were complaining about the food, fighting & whining…”put a fork in me I was done”!

They kept making requests and I was running late to leave for my Momheart group. As I attempted to walk out the door my eldest asked, “Where are you going?”. In my head was the ironic answer, “To go talk with other moms about being grateful” (discussing Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts”?).

My heart was not grateful. I was frustrated, tired and overwhelmed. Then add on all the expectations of what a family dinner should look like: boys smacking their lips in satisfaction from the food I had planned, shopped for and prepared; meaningful conversation about our days; loving and encouraging words spoken to one another.

photo credit

I arrived at my mentor’s, Leslie‘s, house discouraged and beat down. I shared how frustrated I had been at dinner. She spoke wisdom (remember she is the one with the 4 Eagle Scouts):

“Heather, I still feel that way. Even though we have many great conversations, my high school & college boys sometimes make rude comments at dinner. They purposefully put food on the edge of the table for the dog to come eat. Then mimic what I will say in response, ‘a fed dog is a dead dog’. My husband looks at me as I’m frustrated and says, ‘It’s okay honey. This is life.'”

This is life.

I can’t wait for the perfect dinner. The perfect kids. The perfect life.

 This my life. This is it. The good. The bad. The blessings. The challenges.

From the chapter in “One Thousand Gifts” we were discussing that night, I read “expectations kill relationships.”

I expect so much from myself. From my boys. From our life.

What would happen if I would let go of my expectations and embrace that “this is life”?

In this season, in the chaos, in the demands, in the fighting…this is life.

If I count my blessings. If I focus on what’s right and minimize what’s wrong, I realize…this is a wonderful life!

What expectations are you clinging to in your family relationships? What behaviors in your kids rob your joy? What would happen if we could rise above the expectations, accept that this is life and enjoy it for what it is?

“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. ” Ecclesiastes 3:12-14

Here is a little clip of  our wonderful “life”:

She speaks with wisdom…loving your children

My son’s kindergarten teacher has been teaching at his school for 21 years. She homeschooled her two boys and is a wealth of wisdom.

Frequently she sends home great little handouts with nuggets of wisdom. I thought I would share one with y’all that I find myself thinking of often.

It’s entitled: “50 Ways to Love Your Children” and was written by Steve Stephens in “Stories for the Family’s Heart”.

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I would suggest printing off the list. **Update: here is a printable version. 50 Ways to Love Your Children ** Then go through and mark the ones that come naturally. Then go back through and star the ones that you could easily start doing. Then circle the ones you need to be more intentional in implementing. Maybe even plan ahead for something special this weekend? Ok go!

50 Ways to Love Your Children:

1. Hug every morning.

2. Go to zoos, parades and amusement parks

3. Hang their art and awards on the refrigerator

4. Create family traditions

5. Be patient

6. Apologize when grumpy

7. Go camping

8. Play tic-tac-toe and hide ‘n seek

9. Always carry Band-Aids and gumdrops

10. Know their strengths

11. Compliment them

12. Encourage them

13. Appreciate them

14. Eat meals together

15. Slow down

16. Respect their privacy

17. Listen

18. Don’t discipline in anger

19. Be consistent

20. Say “I love you” frequently

21. Let them be silly

22. Accept imperfections

23. Reward good behavior

24. Explain the rules clearly

25. Laugh often

26. Go to their favorite restaurant

27. Invite their friends over

28. Buy ice cream cones

29. Go on vacations

30. Know when to be gentle and when to be firm

31. Make birthdays unforgettable

32. Teach responsibility and respect

33. Choose your battles

34. Don’t embarrass them

35. Help with schoolwork

36. Protect them

37. Build memories

38. Keep promises

39. Say “no” when needed

40. Don’t yell

41. Give gifts

42. Model virtues

43. Pray with them

44. Pray for them

45. Talk with their teachers

46. Tell them your proud of them

47. Reach out

48. Count stars together

49. Talk every bedtime

50. Let go with a blessing

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