There’s a great post at Pursuing Titus 2 this weekend called “‘Patience’ is ‘Not Putting Up With’” that spoke to me. In it the blogger cites the cycles that we mothers can go through as we interact with our children, spanning the gamut between rigid and dogmatic discipline to overlooking misbehavior in the name of patience. The post records the author’s realization that she had been overly “patient” with her kids which had become permissiveness – with negative ramifications for the tone of her household and her children’s character development. I’ve been there. (more…)
Reflections on rewards for kids January 27, 2010
Praising and reinforcing kids for positive behavior and, related, rewards for kids seem to be all the rage in dealing with children these days. One reads about rewards in magazines at the doctor’s office, sees them being used on Supernanny, and encounters them in school experiences. One school I know gives children lollipops intermittently (daily?) when they are able to maintain good behavior “green” status (as opposed to “yellow”/warning or “red”/stop) and then allows the class to watch a half-hour movie on Fridays if the majority of the kids have remained green all week. This in half-day kindergarten at a Christian school. Not every mom is thrilled about frequent sugar and weekly movies for their six-year olds during school time.
I’m all for affirmation and encouragement and try to build this into parenting wherever I can. But affirmation and rewards are different. I’ve been pondering rewards a good deal of late, trying to sort out in my own mind when their use is and isn’t appropriate. For starters I decided to simply list out some observations about rewards as a kind of baseline. So here goes:
1. Rewards are biblical. I see two types of rewards described in the Bible: consequence-based rewards and next-life rewards. Consequence-based rewards are set up in the Bible as truisms and relate to life on earth and God’s common grace woven through it. For example: we reap what we sow; diligent hands bring wealth. The consequence-based reward that’s most often quoted in the realm of childrearing is Ephesians 6:2 – 3, in which children who honor their parents get the reward of long life and life ‘going well.’ Next-life rewards relate to discrete physical rewards that Christ-followers will receive in heaven from God (beyond the best gift of all, which is the presence of our Savior); these appear to be tangible. Psalm 62:12, Matthew 5:12, Matthew 10;42, Matthew 16:27, and Colossians 3:24 (among others) all teach that God rewards faithful servants in the next life. We are not to follow Christ simply to get his rewards, and our salvation comes through faith in Him rather than actions. But the faithful, already accepted by God because of his grace and love, will receive rewards for service done out of love and obedience to God.
2. Rewards for children can (and often are intended to) work as a form of behavior modification. “I obey mommy, I get a sticker. I want a sticker so I’ll obey. I’ll only obey if I get a sticker.” If an external reward is offered routinely, then a child learns to think this way. The child expects a form of payment for compliance or cooperation. (more…)
Embracing the seasons as we mother January 22, 2010
My son turned four a few months ago, and he no longer naps. It’s been an on-again-off-again thing for six months now, but only recently we’ve hit the Real Deal. He’s done; daytime sleep is over for him as a regular part of life.
This reality been one of the hardest milestones in my mothering life so far. Man, I loved the daily break from kids in my day that naptime reliably provided. I depended on it in more ways than I even realized over the past four years.
My son still takes an afternoon rest time, of course, about 75 minutes long. But these rest times are shorter than naps were and don’t always go down as peaceably as nap times unquestionably did. And even when they do, it requires some thought from me. I have to consider how best to handle non-sleep rest times with my son, especially since we have an independent playtime already in our schedule. Bottom line: the times they are a-changin’, and there’s no going back. Often I’ve had to fight a spirit of resentment and annoyance as the naps showed themselves to be evaporating for good…. at my son, at my life, at the New Us. I didn’t want to give up that part of the Old Us one bit. (more…)
Adopting homeward diligence: before and after January 18, 2010
How does my life look different today than it did before my October diligence revelation and commitment? What does diligence in the home look like for me? Several readers asked me this following my series of homeward diligence posts (more posts on this here, here, and here); this post will answer those questions.
First a reminder: diligence is is not a to-do list or an organizational system. It isn’t legalistic and thus can’t be distilled to daily action items. Rather diligence is a mindset and a heart commitment. It’s Spirit-empowered focus and attentiveness to the tasks God’s put before you – to optimally stewarding your life and all its details. So there’s nothing right or magical about my specific habits in pursuing homeward diligence. They’re things that work for me, allowing me to convert diligence from theoretical to practical. Another mom’s diligence in the home might look entirely different. That by way of disclaimer, to encourage all moms to reject legalism in favor of straight-up faithfulness to God and his call on them, as a lead-in to my list. My personal “Top 8 Things that Foster Homeward Diligence“:
1. Undergirding diligence with Scripture. The two verses that God used to spark diligence in me – through a kick in the butt by the Holy Spirit – were these from Proverbs 31 about the wife of noble character: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks… She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Verses 17 & 27). I read these verses over from time to time during my morning prayer times, and I whisper them to myself sometimes as I go about my household tasks as a form of active meditation and on-th-go prayer.
2. Investing in the necessary tools to manage my household effectively. Until three months ago, I used my Outlook calendar almost exclusively. Great for my personal and professional lives, bad for centralizing information for family life. My main tool for daily reminders were post-it notes… strewn all over my kitchen. Not optimal. So I thought through the items that would best foster my household management and then purchased them. These included: two white-board calendars (a month-planner and a week-planner) that hang side-by-side in my kitchen; a whiteboard to-do list on my fridge; kitchen step-stools for my preschoolers; two recipe binders with labeled tabs to organize my cooking; craft supply organizers for my pantry cupboard. Total investment about $80, which I overcame my reluctance to spend by meditating on the fact that my heart will reside where my treasure is spent. And also by drawing the parallel to professional life – how effective of a consultant would I be if I used dial-up internet or a typewriter? One must equip oneself for success, whatever the realm of work. And because I acquired the tools after the commitment was firmly in place, they’ve worked wonders. (more…)
Parenting by faith, not formula January 14, 2010
I’ve been seeing comments and good reviews in the blogosphere about a recent Christian parenting book called Parenting is Your Highest Calling… and Eight Other Myths that Trap us into Worry and Guilt. So when I happened upon an article by the book’s author, Leslie Leylands Fields, called “The Myth of the Perfect Parent,” I read it with great interest. The sub-headings of the article were even more thought-provoking. Here are three: “Bad Parents of the Bible;” “Who’s in Control?” and “Faith rather than Formula.”
I liked the article and found many true and valuable nuggets to ponder. For example:
–“We are so focused on ourselves – on our own need for success and the success of our children – that we have come to view parenting as a performance or test.”
–“We need to quit asking ourselves, ‘Am I parenting successfully?’ And we most certainly need to quit asking, ‘Are others parenting successfully?’ Instead we need to ask, ‘Am I parenting faithfully?’ Faithfulness, after all, is God’s highest requirement of us.” (more…)
Hormones, self-discipline, and the wisdom of our mothers January 10, 2010
As far as I can tell, I’m not as impacted by hormones as many women. Sure, I get a few cramps and can be a bit cranky at a certain time of the month, but it’s usually nothing to write home about. But things have been a little different of late. Because I can’t breastfeed my period returns quite soon after giving birth, and thus my regular cycle returned when my infant was less than four months. And PMS has suddenly found a new hold on me, it seems. Last week I spent nearly three full days feeling like I was looking at my whole life through a dirty window… And spent my prayer times leafing through David’s psalms of lament about bleakness. I felt miserable.
A few years back my wise mom gave me some great advice about how to handle the blues that hormones can bring. She said: “When you’re feeling low (because of hormones), it’s natural to look for reasons you feel bad. You go searching for things in your life you’re dissatisfied with, and it’s not hard to find them. You can get yourself all bent out of shape about them… But don’t because they’re not the real culprit; you just feel bad because you feel bad. Realize that and let it pass.” I’ve stopped and thought through that pearl of wisdom more times than I can count, and it’s helped me discipline myself to not let my mind and heart delve into unhelpful territory at a time of hormonal upheaval. (more…)
Silliness and foolishness: the line between January 9, 2010
True. Recently though I was faced with a new habit of over-the-top silliness from my four-year-old that prompted some serious reflection. Here’s what happened: the normal four-year-old silliness that was routine for my son suddenly started escalating. It went from being intermittent, genuinely cute (most of the time), and short-lived to suddenly being frequent and obnoxious. I deduced that one or several children in his preschool class had pretty high silliness quotients and he had absorbed this behavior and begun to find it funny and entertaining.
The first day or two of elevated silliness, I found myself annoyed and a bit caught of guard. Why was my son behaving in such an irksome way? He wasn’t doing anything wrong exactly, just bouncing around and saying random nonsensical syllables in a showy manner. Whenever there was a quiet moment he’d start in. Eventually I said to him: “There’s silly fun and there’s silly rude. Silly fun is fine but silly rude is not. And you are being silly rude. Do you understand?” He did. (more…)