Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

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…)


Joyful vs. joyless mothering: intentional joy November 23, 2010

Filed under: Emotions,For moms,Mothering role,Parenting — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 6:39 am

My longest-standing client, a guy I’ve worked with for a decade and consider a friend, has this thing about threes.  If you’re going to create a list of points, there have to be three items – kind of like a three-point sermon.  He’s never content if we only come up with two, and even four he doesn’t love. It’s funny… yet it always rings in my head.

Joyful mothering doesn’t boil down to three concepts, not by a long shot. I have a feeling I’m going to be pondering and re-pondering this concept for years, even decades, and there will always be more to learn. Nevertheless, I’ll leave this little series at three posts, at least for now, and move onto other things.

This week is Thanksgiving, and thanksgiving and joy are kindred cousins.  A heart that bubbles over with authentic thanksgiving cannot help but be a joyful heart.  Where there is gratitude and thankfulness, there is joy.  And just as thanksgiving is an intentional act, something we choose to do, so I think is joy. (more…)


Safety, Jesus, and what we’re teaching our kids October 25, 2010

Filed under: Culture,Fear,Parenting,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:24 am

Salon recently put out a thought-provoking article called “The War on Children’s Playgrounds;” definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it.  The byline was: “By trying to make kids’ spaces safe and risk-free, are we taking all the fun out of growing up?”  The article discusses our cultures’ trend toward prioritizing safety above all else, using the lens of playgrounds, and describes the losses our children will ultimately face from this mindset. “What we’re bequeathing our children is a childhood designed by lawyers,” author Lenore Skenazy writes.  Too true.  We’re also implicitly teaching them that the most important thing in life is staying safe.

The problem is that being safe isn’t the number one goal in life; at least it shouldn’t be if we’re following Jesus. We follow a God who was hated by many when He walked this earth as a man, who was murdered by his enemies, and whose followers often came to similar ends.  He was not a man who prioritized earthly safety above all else by any stretch of the imagination. Jesus told his disciples, “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”

Our culture idolizes health, safety, and longevity of life; this is a flawed viewpoint even from a secular perspective.  From the Salon playground article: “‘It’s as if we think that there’s a world in which, if only people did things properly there would be no accidents, ever,’ says Philip Howard, author of Life Without Lawyers.” Howard’s right, and it’s ludicrous.  Accidents and injury are as old as the earth and an unavoidable part of life; more than that, they’re part of our inheritance as humans since our first parents fell.  They come with living in a sin-stained world. (more…)


Parenting with full surrender and trust in God July 18, 2010

Filed under: Fear,For moms,Parenting,Prayer — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:31 pm

There’s a large, vibrant church in our community called Jesus is Reality that I’ve often heard about; you see bumper stickers all over town that simply say: “reality.”  The lead pastor, Britt Merrick, is a 30-something guy from a serious surfing family and apparently an amazing teacher.  Last week I learned from Kendra of Preschoolers and Peace that Britt’s young daughter Daisy has cancer.  A large tumor was discovered last fall; after surgery and six months of chemo she was declared cancer-free; last week a new tumor was discovered.  At Kendra’s recommendation I watched Britt’s sermon from last fall, given six days after Daisy’s tumor was discovered… It was, without exaggeration, one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever listened to.  It spoke into the places of heart-wrestling, at the mother level, that recent months have presented… when my baby’s heartbeat was irregular; when my friend’s son died of SIDS; when my nephew was born 14 weeks premature.  It spoke to me about parenting with a spirit of full surrender and trust in God.  Britt’s sermon, “When my heart is overwhelmed,” was so powerful that I took some notes; I figured I might as well share them here.  Bring me, O Lord, to this same place of parental conviction and peace…

–What I want to talk to you about this morning is, what do you do, as a Christian, when the doctor says to you, “Your 5-year old has cancer”?  How do you deal with that; how do you process that?  As the people of God, who (more…)


Thoughts on being a parenting anomaly July 11, 2010

Filed under: Culture,For moms,Parenting,Prayer — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:55 pm

Sometimes in life you realize you’ve become something of an anomaly, and I’m finding this is just as apt to happen in the parenting world as anywhere else.  Or perhaps more apt to happen.  Three passing examples from the last month:

1. Friends of ours were visiting from out-of-state with their twin three-year-old boys.  Conversation turned to training methods to reinforce a child’s accountability to his parents – specifically in obeying instructions.  I described the success we’ve found in utilizing the outlasting strategy outlined in Elizabeth Krueger’s Raising Godly Tomatoes, role-playing actual scenes in which I’ve used this method with one child or another for them.  Our friends were intrigued and inspired, whereupon one said: “Why have I never seen anything like this used before?”  I could completely relate to his question.  Before I started using the technique after reading the book (three years into motherhood), I’d never once seen it employed either. (more…)


Addressing attitudes: a watershed June 29, 2010

Filed under: Parenting,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:38 am

Last week was a week of revelations, parenting-wise.  In life I find that God tends to reveal truth to us layer by layer as we become ready for more – the old, tired “onion analogy” – and the same seems true in the parenting journey.  Suddenly you see more of the picture, and fuzzy thinking becomes sharpened.

The connection between our daughter’s sneaky behavior and her covert rebellious spirit was illuminating.  Identifying it was a first revelation; a second revelation was seeing how much addressing the rebellious spirit head-on changed the dynamics in our house.  Both got me thinking about attitudes and how they impact behavior.  If a little girl’s defiant spirit (in part) causes her to try out sneaky mischief… then why wouldn’t a little boy’s prideful spirit contribute to his bickering habit with his sister?  Quickly I became aware of the feeble and incomplete nature of my efforts to address my children’s negative attitudes.

I’ve long understood that what we’re after in godly childrearing is the child’s heart, not their behavior.  I get it that the heart, the wellspring of life, needs to be reached and transformed into Christ-likeness for anything truly fruitful to occur in the child. But I ‘ve not actually believed that I could reach my children at the attitude level to any penetrating degree.  I haven’t believed that it’s within my power to get them to fully drop the bad attitudes (selfish, pouty, demanding, etc) and thus have settled for their complying, behavior-wise, with my requests.  Working with actions is finite; success is clear. (more…)


Sneakiness: a study June 25, 2010

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Behaviors,Correction,Parenting,Sibling interactions,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:45 am

We’ve been in a rough patch with our delightful daughter, age 2 3/4.  Six weeks ago she transitioned to a toddler bed, and ever since things haven’t been going well.  She’s a willful child with a serious stubborn streak – now clamoring for independence, wanting to do everything herself.  She’s also a toucher, a kinesthetic learner.  I find myself telling her not to touch things (the chapstick on the counter, the cheerios on her baby sister’s tray) dozens of times a day – and then repeating myself.  I also find that a good portion of my daily energy and effort have gone into little skirmishes and behavior management with her.

Lately a new pattern began emerging: she started to behave in a sneaky way. She took her brother’s dessert donut while he and his dad were in the back yard for a minute, watching a passing plane. She’d draw on his coloring paper  when he left the table, feigning igorance (fooling neither me nor him).  Visiting friends on Tuesday, she climbed a chair and helped herself to a cookie on the dining room table that I had explicitly told her – moments earlier – was off limits till after lunch.  An hour later she was in the bathroom pumping mounds of liquid soap into her hand while everyone else was eating.

I was perplexed.  Sneakiness causes appeared to be: 1) she enjoys doing what she knows she’s not supposed to be doing; 2) her tactile nature and strong temptation to touch things; 3) her blossoming independent, “do it myself” streak.  If I were “this behavior is a normal part of development” type of mom, I’d shrug it off as just an annoyance to be managed and endured till she grows out of it.  But I’m not.  Yet correcting the infractions was bearing little fruit, and I was stumped.  (more…)