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.


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…)


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…)


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…)


Correction within the “Gospel bubble” April 30, 2010

Filed under: Behaviors,Correction,Sibling interactions,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 2:59 am

This morning my kids and I visited a friend and her 4- and 6-year old sons.  For the past week plus, our two oldest (4 1/2 and 2 1/2) have been going through a rough patch- one of those when you wonder, “Is there something in the water?  What the heck is going on here?”  Both have struggled with unusual moodiness, defiance, and difficulty holding it together over even minor issues.  Sometimes kids just hit seasons like this for no clear reason and you just have to work with them patiently and help them ride it out. But it sure can make for taxing, head-scratching, prayerful seasons for the mom!

Before we arrived at my friend’s house, I talked with the kids about how we behave – polite to our hosts, kind to each other, share, etc. Fine. In we went, and within the first 10 minutes both behaved terribly. They fought over the same toy, displaying some of the grabbiest and rudest behavior I’ve seen. Nor were they receptive to my correction or direction to amend their ways. I was sorely vexed. Some of my annoyance no doubt stemmed from the fact that this was our first visit to these friends’ house and my kids’ behavior painted us all in a poor light (a good humility lesson for me); a bigger part was sheer discouragement – feeling like our childrearing efforts were pointless. I mean, why bother pouring into children at home and training them intentionally if they are going to act this way when we go out? Things did improve somewhat and we had a nice time, but other episodes of whining and disobedience occurred and my son left reluctantly in a pouty and less than polite manner. Among outings of this type, it was a low point. (more…)


Kindness: the second frontier January 5, 2010

Filed under: Authority & obedience,Correction,Sibling interactions,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 11:28 pm

Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to sibling interactions.  The sibling squabbling between my four- and two-year-olds ramped up as fall got underway (reflected in my two posts on sharing, here and here), and I did a bit of management work here and there as situations arose.  By Thanksgiving though, the overall bickering level had definitely worsened.  Some days the two played great together; other days they were continually at each other and I felt like all I did was run interference.

A big part of the problem, I see now, was that I lacked a War on Unkindess mentality. To a certain degree I had internalized the societal mindset that sibling bickering is just part of normal family life to be accepted.  I hadn’t fully grasped that a) it’s possible for young children to treat each other in primarily kind ways, b) parents should expect this to happen and consistently enforce it , and c) moms intent on raising their kids in godliness need to embrace relational kindness as a huge training area. (more…)


Sharing reflections, part II September 30, 2009

Filed under: Behaviors,Books,Correction,Sibling interactions — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:21 am

More pondering on sharing since my last post on this topic.  I appreciated Molly’s comment about how squabbling over toys seems to occur more often between her sons when she is distracted.  That definitely resonated with me.  She said: “I wonder how much of their motive when not sharing is selfishness versus acting out for attention from me.”

It’s definitely true that all manner of misbehavior, grabbiness being high on the list, occurs in our house when I am not attending carefully to my children.  Some misbehavior may well be to get my wandering attention;  some of it may be that the lack of close oversight inflames naughtiness. Elizabeth Krueger of Raising Godly Tomatoes asks this of a mother who sees a rise of misbehavior in her children in her ‘Sibling Squabbles’ section: “Are you distracted and not watching them as well as you normally do, thus allowing more temptations than usual?”  I find her link here between maternal oversight and childish temptation insightful.  When a young child isn’t being watched by his mother, he is more tempted to sin than when he is being closely supervised.  She acts, in a way, as a kind of external conscience for him as his own internal conscience is developing. (more…)