Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

The temperaments God gives us – my daughter and me August 22, 2011

Filed under: Books,For moms — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 1:29 am

When my husband and I did our pre-marriage counseling back in 1999 with our mentor couple – the pastor who married us and his wife – we took a personality test. The results indicated that we were polar opposites, which – with the blind naivete so typical of new love – I entirely disbelieved. We had so many striking similarities, after all. We were cut of the same cloth; soul mates! It didn’t take too long into our married life for me to realize that the test was right and I was wrong; my husband and I are night and day. Opposites did, in our case, attract — and they still do. I am an extrovert with a strategic thinker’s mind, and he is an introverted dreamer. Last year I was introduced to a book called The Temperament God Gave You, and when I read the two-page summary description of the melancholic, I about dropped the book. It was as if somehow had interviewed my husband comprehensively and written a thorough description of his personality and inclinations. The insights I found there were actually very helpful – to me and to him – and we found the book so useful we bought a copy for later reference.

Two weeks ago I was watching my nearly four-year old daughter and the “recital” for her ballet show (quotation marks not gratuitous). As this tutu-clad group of pre-ballet girls wandered vaguely but adorably around the room vaguely following the directions of Teacher Pam, my daughter stood shyly in the back with her hands in her mouth. It took her nearly ten minutes to begin participating in the group, though once she did involve herself she gave herself to it and enjoyed it. When I spoke with Teacher Pam afterwards, she said that she spent a lot of time watching for the first few classes and eventually, though coaxing, warmed up to the group and the activities. My friend, after a week of teaching my daughter’s vacation bible school class earlier in the summer, indicated the same thing: “She tends to hang back a bit and watch everything, taking it all in.” And yet, she was content, behaved appropriately, and had nothing but enthusiastic reports about both experiences (ballet and VBS).

My initial and knee-jerk response to watching the ballet event and talking to Teacher Pam was, I admit it, slight concern. Was she going to be a painfully shy or an overly cautious kid? Would she make friends in life? Would she do OK? It was a silly response, because  I know I have a perfectly lovely, relational, and even highly spirited child in this girl; she’s a fabulous and very competent kid. But suddenly I was faced with how different she is from me; our reactions to situations are completely opposite. And this feels a little unsettling to me, because I don’t totally know how to relate to or encourage her. I’m a get-in-there-and-tackle-things kind of girl who, even to this day, needs to work hard to quell my instincts to be overly talkative and directive. [And I still sometimes fail at this.] She, on the other hand, will sit quietly and watch everything for a long time before she feels comfortable entering the fray and fully participating. (more…)


Assessing anger in kids July 30, 2011

Filed under: Books,Correction,Emotions,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:19 am

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.”  (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about anger, and how to respond when my kids are angry. I deeply appreciated Elizabeth Kroeger’s insights about children’s anger and blogged about it, in relation to toddler temper tantrums. Kroeger’s takes issue with the commonly held idea that there’s nothing a mother can do about a kid throwing a fit except ignore it, wait it out, or require him to do it elsewhere. In Raising Godly Tomatoes she writes:

“I see only evil in the uncurbed display of rage, selfishness, and wilfulness…. I am obligated to step in and curb temper tantrums and any other kind of wrong behavior… I do not allow temper tantrums in my home and so even if my children are frustrated, they do not have them (beyond the first few times they try, anyway). I teach them to ask me for help if they need it, and never to get angry and throw a fit just because they can’t do something. The bad habit of quickly losing their temper can be far more easily overcome (in a toddler) than in any proceeding year… The longer you pacify a child in this area (by comforting, ignoring, or distracting) the worse the situation will become. The longer you let it go on, the harder it will be to stop and the more tantrums you will have to deal with.”

Kroeger then goes on to describe her method for nipping tantrums in the bud, a strategy which has worked well for me on many occasions – including the one I described in my “What’s on the Other Side of that Temper Tantrum?” post.

Her assessment and conclusions on anger are compelling, and they convinced me that I should immediately and thoroughly quell any wrong-headed anger I saw in my children (and the wrong-headed kind, as most moms will likely tell you, constitutes the vast majority). I sought to train them that getting mad and throwing a fit because something didn’t go their way wasn’t acceptable – and to show them that they could harness self-control even when their instinct may be to tantrum. Fine.

Problem was, it didn’t work, at least not like Kroeger describes it. The methods she describes didn’t eradicate our children’s temper tantrums; my son in particular has lately begun throwing more fits (at age 5 – as described here) than perviously, despite my zero tolerance policy for this behavior. Still I continued in ambushing, outlasting, corner time, and the like. “Nothing good can come from his being allowed to hold onto that angry spirit,” I told myself. So I pressed on in the same way, and nothing improved. (more…)


Long parenting in a Christ-ward direction July 17, 2011

Filed under: Books,Parenting,Prayer,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:20 pm

Eugene Peterson has a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, whose basic premise is that becoming a disciple of Jesus is life-long pursuit rather than an instant gratification-style effort. Lately the title has been coming to mind as I pray into some of our parenting efforts for our four kids.

Somehow I had internalized the notion that, if my husband and I persevered in correcting  misbehavior consistently and well, my children’s misbehavior would diminish to virtually nothing, and peace would reign in our household.  Many childrearing books I’ve read indicate that this is exactly what should happen if the parents are consistent, fair, loving, and firm. And there’s truth in this…  Loving and firm parenting is necessary and does produce fruit – in children’s heart and behavior, and in the household overall. But I think it’s only partially true. Some misbehaviors and bad attitudes are tied to character issues that children will possess and struggle with for their whole lives, and extinguishing them – even through the best parenting techniques – just ain’t in the cards.

The effect of believing that issues should become very minimal or disappear if correct parenting techniques are consistently  applied can bring frustration and disillusionment to moms. This was true for me. Because some issues in my kids – some pretty big ones – have endured for a long time with very little improvement. The question, “What am I doing wrong?” has cropped up in my mind dozens of times. If it’s true that my intentional and consistent training toward those challenges should shrink them to near nothing, then I’m failing. (more…)


Examining the entitlement mindset in kids July 10, 2011

Filed under: Books,Correction,Materialism and entitlement,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 9:54 pm

“Pointing to the one character trait that causes more misery in people’s lives than any other would be difficult… Certainly one of the top three or four destructive traits would be having a feeling of entitlement. Entitlement is when someone feels as if people owe him things or special treatment simply because he exists. People with this character trait feel entitled to privileges, special treatment, things other people have, respect, love, or whatever else they want. And when they do not get what they want, they feel that the one who is not giving it to them is ‘wrong’… They carry around a feeling of ‘you should,’ and they are always demanding something from someone.”

I found this definition of entitlement in Boundaries with Kids (Cloud/Townsend) to be extremely helpful; it’s a trait I contemplate frequently but rarely see discussed in much depth. We encounter an entitlement mindset in our son, age 5, fairly frequently and have been combatting it for years (I wrote about its first cropping up here, when he was 3.) He’s our firstborn, and several other mom friends have confirmed that this trait often appears more in their eldest than in other kids. Perhaps because they view themselves as on more similar footing to the resident adults as to the younger children, or perhaps because each was an only child before siblings were born. [I’m not saying that this is always the case, just that it is in our family and several others we know.] (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…)


Kids, behavior, and the law of “sowing and reaping” June 28, 2011

Filed under: Books,Choices,Correction — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:05 am

A couple months ago I was at my wits’ end about my daughter, age 3 1/2, and her aberrant toileting issues.  She’d been potty-trained for 15 months and was as capable as could be of using the potty correctly; it had been over a year since she’d had accidents. But suddenly she started having them weekly, for this reason: she didn’t want to go to the bathroom when I told her to. It was a control issue for her. So this scenario repeated itself regularly: I’d ask her to go; she’d claim she didn’t have to. An hour later she’s suddenly wail that she had to pee, dash to the bathroom, and empty her entire bladder on the bathroom floor right next to the toilet because at that point she was full to bursting and could no longer hold it. It was infuriating.

I was commiserating with my wise next-door neighbor about the situation, expressing my frustration. She suggested I consider making the potty issue “her problem” instead of my problem. “Maybe you should tell her that if she wets her underwear because she waits too long, she has to clean up the whole mess herself and isn’t allowed to change right away out of her wet clothes. That scenario may be sufficiently distasteful to her that she’ll go when you ask her to.” Brilliant suggestion, I thought, and I immediately tried it. It worked amazing well, and the incidences of her waiting too long to pee and having an accident diminished from weekly to virtually never.

Prior to this situation, we intentionally utilized the tool of “consequences”quite  seldom. Oh, we use the quintessential, “You won’t get dessert unless you finish your dinner” deal, which I guess counts as a form of consequences. And also the “You will lose your toys if you don’t clean them up” routine. But beyond these, we generally handle disobedience in a much more straightforward and instantaneous manner than consequences often call for. Because in our culture choices can often be wildly over-offered, as we see it, we’ve been careful not to use them too much. (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…)