Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

Celebrating the kindness of children September 16, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Sibling interactions,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 3:50 am

Tonight we held our long-awaited Kindness Celebration. After two months of recording small acts of kindness that the children display on our large, posted, gangly Kindness Chart, the butcher block paper was finally full so we threw ourselves a little party to celebrate. The kids were beyond ecstatic, having asked about it for days now — “Is the list long enough yet? Can we have our Kindness Celebration now?”

The format was simple. Here’s what we did:

–Announce the pending Kindness Celebration, suggesting a trip to the store to pick out all the ingredients for custom-made ice cream sundaes. Rousing approval of that notion.

–Spend all of dinner talking about what kind of sundaes everyone was going to have. In between, read the first half of the items on the list, praising the kindness of the do-er in each case. Review our kindness Bible verse: “God our Father is kind; you be kind!” (Luke 6:35, The Message)

–Go to the store, bring the ingredients home, and make the sundaes

–Read the second half of the items on the Kindness Chart aloud, again praising the kindnesses shown.

–Allow each child to share which kindness documented on the list s/he most enjoyed doing. Then allow each child to share which kindness s/he most enjoyed receiving. Finish by having everyone at the table recite the Bible verse together.

It was almost startling to see how exuberant the children were about the party and every little part of it. They adored it. And when we read the recorded kindness that they’d done, they both beamed in turn. And beamed again. And again. Our son, almost 6, actually said at one point: “It made me feel so good when you read that, I think I grew four inches!” (Clearly he got that line from a book. But still, it was adorable, and telling.)

We all know that positive reinforcement is important, and most of us have heard that it takes seven spoken praises to balance out on spoken criticism. But this exercise was an amazing opportunity to remember and specifically call out right actions performed by our children and actually celebrate them. To encourage the good and selfless moments that take place in sibling interactions, seldom though they may be in a given day. It was a chance to reinforce the good my husband and I see in our children, and to make a big deal about it. It was a perfect example of the kind of “building others up” that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:29. Our kids were very built up by our little party and its events. And it gave them a chance to actually experience how good it can feel to do kind things for other people – not just in the doing of the kindnesses, but in the remembering of them.

This project was such a success that I’m contemplating covering several of the fruits of the spirit in this manner. Up next will, I think, be self-control as that is one area that our kids could use a lot of work. Stay tuned for more.

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Helping kids build a good reputation September 12, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Culture,Education — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:33 pm

I was thinking this morning about reputations, and the importance of having a good one. This came to mind for two reasons. First: I’m using a new babysitter this morning for the first time. And second: it’s my son’s first day of (a type of) school. And in both cases, the concept of reputation comes into play in a big way.

This year my son is participating in a Christian homeschool academy called Artios that meets every Monday morning from 8:45 to 12. This morning was his first day of school, and he was excited and nervous, as every kid is on that auspicious occasion. As we were driving up in the car, we talked through the school’s rules again and reviewed the kind of student he needs to be. Attentive, polite, respectful, obedient, etc. “Is it ok to be mean to other kids or to tease people?” I asked him. “What if the teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do?” And the like. Surprisingly, he was very interested in this and wanted to ensure that there were no other rules he needed to know that we hadn’t covered. We talked about the importance of timeliness, and I assured him that I’d see to it that we arrive on time – despite traffic – because yes, being on time matters. When I pick him up afterwards and we debrief the morning, I will ask him about these things as part of the conversation.

A reputation, I was thinking as he and I talked, is built on such things as these. You behave righteously because God calls us to do so, not because you want to impress other people, but the impression you give to other people also matters. Because how you behave reveals the kind of person you are: polite or rude, obedient or defiant, attentive or spacey, timely or late, rowdy or calm, dependable or flaky. Is my kid viewed as a positive influence on people or a negative? The fact is that course of a person’s life is, to a real degree, shaped by the character traits he displays to the world. When a person hears my son’s name, what impression of him will come to mind?  (more…)

 

When practice doesn’t make perfect August 4, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Correction,Sibling interactions — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 3:36 am

I’m a big fan of the ‘do-over’ when it comes to parenting. By which I mean: my kid messed up, so I correct her as necessary, ask her to say she’s sorry for the wrong doing, and then have her do it over. Go back and walk through the scenario in the right way, as it would have been done had the sinful attitude or behavior been absent.

I’ve blogged before, especially in my post Practice makes perfect, about how several of the parenting authors I admire encourage this and clearly spell out the spiritual importance of doing this. In Don’t Make Me Count to Three, Ginger Plowman says:

“It’s important to rebuke our children when they do wrong, but it is equally important, if not more important, to walk them through what is right – to put off as well as to put on (referencing Eph 4:22 – 24)… First, work through what a biblical response would have been.  Second, have the child follow through with it…  When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, we will exasperate them because we are not providing them with a way of escape.  This sort of neglect will provoke them to anger…  Anytime you correct your child for wrong behavior, have him walk through the right behavior… Pull out what is in the heart of your child, work through how your child can replace what is wrong with what is right, and then have your child put what he has learned into practice.”

Fine. All review so far. Here’s the new part: I was recently startled to discover that I was completely overdoing this, especially when it came to sibling conflicts. Example: son takes away daughter’s toy, daughter cries, I correct the situation, ensure that son gives toy back and apologizes, and that daughter verbalizes forgiveness of the transgression and (if she was rude in turn, which often occurs) repents in kind. This type of thing might happen five times in a day; on a bad, bickery kind of day perhaps up to ten. (more…)

 

A mom after God’s own heart: proactive nurture July 2, 2011

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Behaviors,Books,For moms,Mothering role — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:04 pm

Lately one word, in the realm of the home life, has been kicking around in my brain, and it’s this word: “nurture.” According to Dictionary.com it means “to feed and protect; to support and encourage.” A definition of nurturing is “fondly tender.” Nurture, in a sense, is the positive and proactive component in parenting in which we intentionally show love and kindheartedness to our kids.

And I’ve had this realization: I don’t do it enough. I nurture my children on the fly – a goodnight kiss here, a quick after-nap hug for a crank, a fleeting expression of enthusiasm over the latest drawing. A passing slice of tenderness when circumstances demand. Usually, though, I’m too engaged in either 1) trying to diligently run my household, or 2) trying to consistently monitor and train/correct my children in what they’re doing to be proactive in nurture.

It called to mind this passage Elizabeth Kroeger writes in Raising Godly Tomatoes(more…)

 

Changing family dynamics: from overwhelmees to overwhelmers June 14, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,For moms — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 3:43 am

When my husband and I moved to southern California from the northeast three years ago, we had a 2 1/2 year old and a 10-month old. We were also fortunate enough to have two good-friend couples, fellow New Englanders whom we’d known for almost a decade, living within an hour of the house we rent here; our three families meet up for part of a weekend every couple months. They’ve become like family — all the more since our actual families are 3,000 miles away.

There were three kids among the three families when we moved in 2008, two being ours. Today – three years later – we corporately have eight, going on nine children, all under 6. And let’s just say that the dynamics of our gatherings have changed. It used to be simple enough to put our kids to bed and enjoy a good meal that featured in-depth, adults-only conversation while we lingered over a bottle of wine. But those days are behind us.

I was reflecting on this last weekend as we ate a delicious meal at a perfectly set table… next to two kids’ tables and amidst continual interruptions by one kid or another every 60 to 90 seconds. Conversations were engaging… and absurdly fragmented. It’s a different season.

The couple in whose home we were dining have two girls, ages 23 months and 2 months. These cherubs were enthusiastic about the descent of six children on their home, and the toddler shared her toys with grace… but they were a little overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t be? And our crew of four kids were doing, in all fairness, the brunt of the overwhelming. Our two-year old hostess is accustomed to a fairly quiet, contained household and a high level of order; my children are certainly not. And while my husband and I work hard to keep our kids’ level of scrappiness as low as possible – down to a dull roar at best – there’s no escaping the fact that some scrappiness does in fact exist among our brood. With four kids under 6, some level of chaos is inescapable. (more…)

 

Combatting bedlam at bed-time June 8, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Materialism and entitlement,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:54 pm

Six weeks before our new baby arrived this spring, we put our eldest two children – ages 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 – into a bedroom together. We gave them three rules to follow: (1) no getting out of bed; (2) no craziness; and (3) quiet talking only. Things went surprisingly well for a while. The kids were pretty quiet after lights-out, and they fell asleep at a decent hour. And their being together in the early morning seemed to keep them occupied when it was still too early for anyone else to be up. We were pleased.

But then a few weeks after the baby was born, and more than two months after they’d moved into their new room, things started to go downhill. Big time. They were noisy and rowdy in the evenings; they didn’t fall asleep till very late (often more than an hour after bedtime); they came out of their room repeatedly for a host of reasons — to go potty; for a drink; to get “things they needed.” Because my husband and I were distracted by the needs of the new baby and sleep-deprived ourselves, we didn’t notice the situation creeping up on us. We were less likely at the end of the day, too, to be intentional about our parenting standards.

One evening, when I returned home from the grocery store around 8:45 to find our daughter out of her room for what my husband said was the fifth time, I suddenly saw the situation for what it was. Who had our family become? We had a problem here, and it wasn’t going away. It didn’t matter if we reviewed the three rules with the kids at bedtime or if we had them say them back to us; they were not going to abide by them. They just weren’t. Worse, I realized that they’d acclimated themselves to their time together in their room at night being unsupervised time, to the absence of Mom and Dad’s oversight. They could do basically whatever they wanted; it was a free-for-all! The disciplinary measures they were receiving for misbehaving were insufficient to curb the intoxicating pleasures of unmonitored life and general tomfoolery that bedtime brought with it. (more…)

 

Kids and overstimulation March 24, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Books — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:17 am

A couple months ago I read a new book called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. It’s a good and helpful book whose primary message is basically that parents should intentionally simplify life for their children and households for everyone’s good. Fewer toys, less media, intentional rhythms to guide the day, less entertaining of our kids and more time/space for them to entertain themselves. There’s nothing earth-shattering about the recommendations offered by Payne; virtually everything he suggests reminds me of life fundamentals as they existed perhaps 50 years ago. Living in such a way in today’s world, however, is considered unusual if not downright radical, and it takes intentionality and discipline. Living in such a way now suddenly has its own nomenclature: “simplicity parenting.” Crazy world.

One of the things I most appreciated about the book was Payne’s discussion of children and overstimulation. He describes what he calls “the arousing/calming balance” in which parents observe their children and what activities seem to get them overly riled up, and then help them moderate those high levels of stimulation. “The idea is not to steer away from stimulation… ,” he writes. “The purpose of being aware, or recognizing what is arousing and calming to your child, is to avoid the overstimulation that can string them out, or derail them in the same way that a big dose of sugar and caffeine derails them in the short-term.” Payne suggests that parents who observe their children becoming overstimulated consider following “a very active, ‘A’ day” (as he calls it) with a “fairly predictable, more laid-back, calming ‘C’ kind of day.” (more…)