Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

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…)


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…)


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…)


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…)


Seeing childishness as God sees it June 23, 2011

Filed under: Correction,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:23 am

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about these words of Paul’s in the epistles: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Paul as a child was… childish. Just like every other human in the world. Nothing revolutionary here.

But I’ve been thinking that I so often balk at the childishness of my children. Their very nature as children can seem problematic to the mother who is seeking to consistently correct. Over time it becomes exasperating to continue to see the same sin emerging time and time again in my son or daughters… Shouldn’t this be trained out of them by now? Why are we still having this issue?

And yet Paul explains that children act like children; it’s part of God’s design. We should expect them to; we should accept this. The definition of childish is: “of, like, or befitting a child.” My children act childish. Yours, no doubt, do too.

After pondering this for a while and reading posts from other like-minded moms (moms who seek to train their children comprehensively and consistently correct sinful behavior) on a message board I follow, God helped me to finally articulate the conflict I’ve been having in my soul regarding my parenting goals. It’s this: I seek to train my children to behave in a godly manner in every situation, parenting with watchfulness and consistency to this end. I believe in high expectations and am intentional in my efforts… and yet simultaneously, my children go on sinning. The net result is that I feel frustrated and disappointed. More so, I think, than I would feel if I were not being quite so watchful and intentional about training and consistency. (more…)


Kids, conscience, and the forgiveness of Christ April 12, 2011

Filed under: Communication and speech,Correction,Prayer,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 9:02 pm

Our 5-year old seems to have begun a new phase: the apparent growth of his conscience. In recent weeks he’s become uncharacteristically concerned about his misbehavior, even to the point of self-condemnation. It’s nothing we’ve ever seen in him before.

Example: he and his 3-year old sister squabble over a toy. He grabs for it, yells at her, and pushes her roughly. I intervene and correct him, and – when he throws himself on the floor in protest over the unfairness of it all – send him to his room for a minute to cool off. When I meet him there he is near tears: “I’m always doing wrong things. I do the most wrong things of anyone in the world!”

The first few times he expressed these types of feelings, I told him that we all do wrong things, explained temptation, and said one key is to pray to God for strength to do something different just as he’s about to sin. “God’s the one who gives us the strength not to do wrong things; He helps us and gives us self-control,” I told him. He accepted this; we prayed together. Similar scenes of him coming undone over his wrong actions occurred. Typically during the misbehavior phase he’d be defiant and naughty; it wasn’t till afterwards that he’d morosely express his sense that he was a boy filled with wrong-doing. (more…)


Responding to defiance: progress January 30, 2011

Filed under: Correction,For moms,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:54 pm

Early this month my sister and her family were in town, and we spent a wonderful week together with our combined five children under age 6.  Her daughters are, like mine, ages 3 and 1 – just slightly younger versions.

Our 3-year old is strong-willed and extremely stubborn. Sometimes she amazes me in her sheer longevity in rebelliousness. I wonder: isn’t she exhausted from all this resistance, kept up for so long? (I know I am.)  The girl is wired to stick to her guns at all costs, even when experience shows that she will not prevail in defiance.

During her visit my sister witnessed several instances in which my daughter was very defiant in an outwardly rude way; two in particular stick out. After the second my sister commented on my response to my daughter’s rather outrageous behavior – that I’d addressed her calmly and not gotten riled up as I worked with her till she relented and apologized.  “I would have been so angry at behavior like that if I were in your shoes!” she said. Her tone was honest, earnest, no hidden message or criticism.

I felt two simultaneous responses, conflicting ones.  One was: I guess I’m making progress if I can calmly work with my daughter through her misbehavior without having it overly inflame my emotions and ruin my day. The second was: wow, she really is that rude and defiant at times, even after having corrected her for months and years on these issues. Shouldn’t she be getting past this by now? Am I doing something wrong in my training – misapplying my methods, perhaps, or lacking consistency or thoroughness in them? (more…)