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.

DSC_0650

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!).

DSC_0658

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.

DSC_0653

French Lesson #1: Parenting with Confidence

I’m a constant re-evaluator of my parenting…to a fault. It’s a sickness really.

It used to be much worse. For our firstborn, not only was everything new and unknown, be he was also colicky & had reflux which added to our anxiety.

It was sleep training that pushed me over the edge. I thought that I would consult the “experts”, do what they said and see success. Unfortunately, I read one book that said let him “cry it out” and the other book that said I am a horrible mother if I ever let him cry.

Thus began my road to insecure parenting…

With each parenting decision I was paralyzed with the fear that I was going to “ruin him forever.”

So I would try one approach for awhile. Then when it didn’t seem to be working I would try the opposite approach. Poor firstborn child…the ultimate guinea pig.

In my attempts at doing everything “perfectly”, my inconsistency and lack of conviction was actually the real problem.

Now as I’m about to have my 4th son I enter the newborn stage with more confidence. We have our sleep training philosophy figured out. We know where we stand on pacifiers, nursing, swaddling, etc.

But each day I still have to make new parenting decisions in regard to my oldest. I still lack true parental confidence.

This past week I read a really interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about a new book being released called, “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. The article was entitled “Why French Parents are Superior.”

What I first found interesting about the article is how similar French parents were to my husband’s parents. Unique ways he was parented are outlined in this article (more on this in another post…)

I was particularly struck by the way the French parents approach parenting with calm confidence.

“When Pauline tried to interrupt our conversation, Delphine said, “Just wait two minutes, my little one. I’m in the middle of talking.” It was both very polite and very firm. I was struck both by how sweetly Delphine said it and by how certain she seemed that Pauline would obey her.” – Pamela Druckerman

In the past few months (most certainly pregnancy related) my tone with my boys is either harsh, whiny or defeated.

When I use a harsh tone (usually to cover up my feelings of inadequacy when things get chaotic), they react with their own harshness and stubbornness.

When I make a request in an overly emotional tone, I lose my authoritative edge and it opens the door for negotiation and arguments.

Here is an example from the article of the French mom helping the American mom with a toddler who continually tested the boundaries (a scene I was all too familiar with):

“I pointed out that I’d been scolding Leo for the last 20 minutes. Frédérique smiled. She said that I needed to make my “no” stronger and to really believe in it. The next time Leo tried to run outside the gate, I said “no” more sharply than usual. He left anyway. I followed and dragged him back. “You see?” I said. “It’s not possible.”

Frédérique smiled again and told me not to shout but rather to speak with more conviction. I was scared that I would terrify him. “Don’t worry,” Frederique said, urging me on.

Leo didn’t listen the next time either. But I gradually felt my “nos” coming from a more convincing place. They weren’t louder, but they were more self-assured. By the fourth try, when I was finally brimming with conviction, Leo approached the gate but—miraculously—didn’t open it… I was shocked that Leo suddenly viewed me as an authority figure.”

There is no perfect way to parent. Yes it’s good to want to do your best and most likely I won’t stop reading from “experts”.

I need to be confident. But not with a confidence that comes from knowing the perfect way to parent.

If I truly function as a God-centered mom, I could be superior to French parents. I would be confident that no matter how often I fail or make the wrong parenting decision, God is gracious.

God has a big plan for each of my boys, no matter whether I am the best or the worst parent He is an even bigger God. His plan will prevail.

I need to do my part to love God first. Seek Him in prayer. Love my children well. Let God fill in the gaps.

When I set a boundary with my boys my tone doesn’t need to be harsh, whiny or defeated, I can be calm & confident. My confidence comes from the Lord.

“Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
for the LORD will be your confidence 
and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:25-26

“It is the very gospel of His grace that He can repair the things that are broken. He can reset the joints of the bruised reed. He can restore the broken heart. He can deal with the broken vow. And if He can do all this, can He not deal with our mistakes? If unknowingly we went astray and took the wrong turning, will not His infinite love correct our mistakes, and make the crooked straight?” by John Henry Jowett in “A Mother’s Heart”

Sharing the Love of Singing Pirates {& Praise}

This past weekend my boys asked if we could watch Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” for our family movie night. Having just come off a rough day with these wild boys, who had tortured a child at a birthday party, I perked up at the thought {redemption}.

I LOVE “The Pirates of Penzance”. The music. The humor. The characters. love. love. love.

When I was little my parents rented the Beta version of the movie and gave it to me as a Christmas present. This past Christmas my husband bought me the newly released DVD version. I was ecstatic to share something I loved with my boys. I was even more excited when they actually liked it!

So for them to ask to watch my absolute favorite movie was such a gift. It made up for all the moments of disobedience that day, the hitting each other, the breaking of things in the house…we sat cuddled up on the couch together and shared one of my loves.

It hit me how rare it is that I share something with them that I love. When we are driving in the car I often put on the music they enjoy. When picking a book to read we chose the one they like. Activities center around their interests.

By only ever following their lead, I am robbing them of many things… To know their mother in a new way. To gain appreciation for things they may not normally be exposed to. To become interesting and unique adults.

Have you ever watched a show like “American Idol” when the interesting, quirky singer talks about her parents? She shares that her greatest early influences were musicians that her father or mother enjoyed. Her parents had shared a love and it had inspired her to become a true artist. One who stood out from the crowd.

Do your kids know what you love? Do they know what you like to do for fun when you aren’t folding laundry and doing dishes? Have you told them why you love those things?

This principle I realized doesn’t just apply to our hobbies and favorite entertainment…we can share our love of the gospel. We can share a favorite verse. We can share a time in our lives when God helped us through something scary. We can tell them when we made a mistake and God loved us through it.

My hope is that one day when my boys are men and people ask them why they are so different they can confidently say that they fell in love with God because their mom shared her love of Him.

What interest {or love} will you share with your children today?

Here is a sweet clip of my son yesterday and his best friend…it warms my heart to hear them praising their Heavenly Father without prompting. Joining together in worship while they color:

Boys and Aggression: What’s a mom to do?

My post on my boys and their tendency to harm others and it’s humbling effects  spurred some great discussion and questions among my mommy friends. I thought I would continue the conversation on my blog.

Here are variety of situations in which my boys may hurt someone else and how I would handle each situation…to the best of my ability. May you be encouraged to know that I have experienced the embarrassment of my children hurting other children on many occasions and in many locations. You are not alone!

photo credit: momommy

situation #1: Your son hits or hurts a stranger                     in a public place.

The boy in our family most likely to hurt a stranger is my youngest son (the 2 yr old).  He has the least inhibition, the least amount of “training”, least ability to communicate and is developmentally in an aggressive stage.  The older two at this point understand that you don’t hit, push, or hurt kids you don’t know. My youngest sees every child as an equal opportunity victim. If I see him hurt someone, then I will use the opportunity to train by:

  1. removing him from the situation
  2. instructing him gently that we do not hurt others and that we need to be kind 
  3. walking him over to the “victim” and have him apologize
  4. sitting with me for a few minutes to calm down. 

Because I have 3 children and/or may be in a conversation with another mom, I may not see every instance when my son hurts another. Most likely the injured child will either tell me, “your baby hit me” or I will hear the crying child and see them point at my son (that’s one of my favorites…not!).  I prefer to discipline only when I have seen my child make a wrong choice.

However, in those situations where I did not see the assault but the accuser looks trustworthy and my child looks guilty, I remove my child from that area and again have him take a break. I may even ask him if he hurt the child. If he says, “yes”, then I will have him go apologize and work it out.

Situation #2:  Your child hurts his brother or a friend’s child in public.

I feel that when we are out in a public place all acts of aggression need to be addressed as best as possible (same steps as mentioned above).  When we are at home and it is just my boys, we have plenty of opportunities to learn how to treat others, how to apologize, and make mistakes.  If appropriate training occurs at home then the test is when we are in public.  (Training at home can also include reading books like “Hands are not for hitting” or create your own social stories of appropriate behavior).

My older boys know how they are supposed to behave when they are in public. The level of self control needs to be raised.  They know those are not the times to lash out at your sibling. Because I have these higher standards, I try not to have them out in public for an entire day. That’s too much to require of a little boy with hormones flowing.

Situation #3: Your child hurts a friend at a playdate.

photo credit: maalivahti

The boys that my boys play with have been lifetime friends. Their moms are my friends. We have been friends since our boys were first born. Therefore, when we have friends over to play it’s like having extended family over. There are still expectations: no hitting, no biting, sharing toys, and speaking kind words. My friends have taught their children the same thing.

When we are together I don’t want to have to micromanage every interaction between my sons and their children. I want to give my sons an ability to learn from natural consequences that if he treats his friends poorly they will not want to play with him. That’s the best part about playdates…a confined period of time, with good friends, to learn social and play skills.

I can tell when one of my sons is not himself during a playdate. If he is being overly aggressive, unreasonable, purposefully inconsiderate, then I will have him spend some time in his room until he is ready to play well with his friends. But in general, I like to allow them to work out most play interactions. If a friend tries to talk to me about a frustration, I respond with, “have you talked to ______ about it yet? why don’t you tell him how you feel?”. It is how we are commanded to handle conflict Biblically, so we might as well enforce it when they are young.

Real life example yesterday:

We were at a community pool and my oldest son (almost 6 yrs old) and his best friend (calls him his “brother”) were having a battle with pool noodles. His mother and I agreed that we would let them battle. They were playing well together, having fun being boys and they weren’t hurting anyone else at the pool (off to the side). However, the battle escalated, they entered the pool and they each went too far.  Leading to tears on both sides. Each mom took her son to let them cool down. We gave them their space and after awhile they talked it over, apologized and were already scheduling their next play date. Success!

How do you handle fights between your child and another child? What strategies do you use? Any good resources to share?

* I have so many more things I want to say on this topic. may need to turn it into a series! Next installment: Giving boys words to use.