Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

The kindness chart July 20, 2011

Filed under: Choices,Sibling interactions,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:25 am

As of early July, we have a kindness chart. What’s a kindness chart, you ask? A big old piece of butcher block paper with the word “Kindness” across the top in block letters, filled in some pretty fantastic coloring-in (courtesy of my 3- and 5-year olds). Then my a simple verse, the Message version of Luke 6:36 which says, “God our Father is kind; you be kind.”  Then below that, a list of kind activities that the children have done, taped up on a kitchen cabinet next to the table. Every night at dinner we ask if they can remember one kind thing they have done (or their favorite thing, if there’s more than one), or if they can remember a kind thing the other one has done. And up it goes. When the whole paper is full of kindnesses, we’ll read them all out loud and have a kindness celebration.

The kids are amazingly into this chart; it’s become a daily highlight for us in the evenings. I’m actually surprised by how much traction this big, not-especially-pretty list has received. I got the idea when I was sitting at the doctor’s office with my infant earlier late last month. She had her two-month appointment, timed to coincide with the removal of forehead stitches for my three-year old (story for another time). I was sitting in the waiting room feeding the baby after the appointments when a woman with six children, all girls, approached me and sat down to chat. She seemed on a mission to encourage me, surrounded by my brood, since her children were all older than mine and she remembered the challenges of the early years. A very woman, and I surmised by the Bible verse memory flashcards I saw one of her girls holding that she was a believer. As they were heading out the door, one of the littlest girls picked up the flashcards her sister had left behind, and her mother said: “Sweetheart! You did a kindness for your sister, without even being asked!” (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…)


Lead them not into temptation… March 6, 2010

Filed under: Choices,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:39 am

One thing I’ve been pondering lately is being mindful of the temptations that our little ones are facing as they grow – in age and (we hope) in character.  Elizabeth Krueger talks about the importance of closely overseeing our children because, when they are very young, their temptation to sin when they’re not in our presence often exceeds their capacity to resist the temptation.  The watchful presence of a benevolent mother functions as a kind of starter conscience for a young child whose own fledgling conscience is not fully operational yet.

When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense.  A young child who feels an urge to whack her brother may well control that impulse if her mom is standing right there, and she knows that her mom will not approve of this urge (and is apt to make this very clear her).  If her mom is not standing there, the urge may get the better of her and she may well act on the base instinct. This reality explains, in large part, why children who are not closely attended by adults behave much more poorly than when they are closely attended.  Their temptations to misbehave exceed the reach of their current character development, and thus they yield to the temptations to sin.  (more…)


Choices and consequences: some thoughts April 8, 2009

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Books,Choices,Communication and speech — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:42 pm

The discussion about offering children choices, the topic of my last post, is often linked to the concept of consequences – specifically, the importance of kids learning from their own mistakes (and parents intentionally giving them the opportunity to do so).  Some parents may offer their children a wide range of choices from infancy specifically for this purpose, thinking,  ‘They’ll best grasp about how life works if I allow them to experience the results of their choices as much as possible.’

One fairly popular childrearing book, Parenting with Love and Logic, explicitly links choices and consequences in a way that strikes me as a bit problematic.   The book advocates a comprehensive parenting method positing that the best way to raise children is to always allow them to make and then live with their own choices.  How it works: “Two choices are given, both of which are acceptable to the parent and can be enforced if the child decides to do nothing… Any consequences come from the child’s decision, not the parent.”  Errant parenting strategies identified are over-loving, excuse-making “helicopter parents” and dictatorial, order-barking “drill sergeant parents.” The third option advocated by the book is a “consultant” parenting strategy: parents offer acceptable choices and then allow the choices’ consequences to silently do the teaching.

Discussing kids’ decisions and consequences with them is deemed “lecturing” and is advised against.  “Keep your mouth shut (after enforcing a consequence).  Allow the consequences to do the teaching….  We allow our kids to mess up, and we dn’t drive home the lesson of their misdeeds with our words; we never actually tell our kids what they have just learned. We believe telling our kids what to think is counterproductive.  Making enforceable statements and giving choices forces that thinking back on them.”



Children and choices April 6, 2009

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Bible,Books,Choices,Culture — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:14 pm

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less is a book that argues convincingly that our society’s “overwhelming abundance of choice” in every arena – from clothes to foods to career to 401Ks – is less helpful than we’d imagine.  “Beware of choice overload,” the back cover summary reads, ” (as) too much of a good thing has proven detrimental to our emotional and pyschological well-being.”  Provocative read; I recommend it.

As I’ve been reflecting on it, I think the same basic concept may well apply with our toddlers and preschoolers. (more…)