Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

In search of the gentle mom September 19, 2011

Filed under: For moms,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 7:25 pm

Last month, a friend and I communicated about her tendencies toward being a pushover and my tendencies toward being, how did she put it?, “overly confident.” Indeed, I have a fairly strong personality, I can be pretty intense, and yes, I can come across as overly confident. In an email I wrote her, I said: “I come by a domineering spirit honestly – all my family members are prone to it in one way or another – and find that gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit I tend to most lack and need to pray for God to grow in me.”

And that’s the truth. I wish I were a more naturally gentle person. And I wish I were more gentle with my children in my mothering. Don’t get me wrong, I have my gentle moments, and there are lovely quiet, warming moments that my kids and I do share. Moments in which I am (as dictionary.com states) “kindly, amiable, not severe or rough.” They just aren’t as plentiful as I’d like, not by any stretch.

Two verses jump to mind when it comes to gentleness: (more…)

 

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.

 

Embracing the scrappy life August 9, 2011

Filed under: For moms,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 4:35 am

There’s a word that comes to my mind probably daily when I survey life in our family at this stage: scrappy. We have snatches of calm, pleasant, smooth life – a half hour here, a few minutes there – but the vast majority of it displays scrappiness of one sort or another. The 4- and 6-year old get into fits of silliness that have them ignoring mom and them fighting with each other, ending in tears and correction. We don’t get home in time for the baby’s nap so she starts to melt down. The toddler has an potty accident or a tantrum or starts throwing food off her tray. Somebody won’t stop whining or interrupting or throwing a fit (or all of the above). The floor was immaculate 19 minutes ago but now the carpet almost can’t be found for the junk strewn all over it. If you have multiple young children yourself, you didn’t need to read through those examples because you could insert five of your own, probably just from today.

It’s just so scrappy – such a scrappy life at this stage. So often there’s nothing smooth-sailing, orderly, or Potty Barn Kids about it. The chaos can (and should) be well-managed and directed, and appropriate structure and correction can provide reprieve and areas of calm and regrouping. And don’t get me wrong, lots of fun can be have in the midst of the scrappiness, so long as the mom has made up her mind that she’s going to plow through it with enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and a thankful spirit. But scrappy it will remain, as long as the children are present, numerous, and young. And all of us are going to have “panic room” moments sometimes in the midst of it. (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…)

 

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…)

 

Combatting bedlam at bed-time June 8, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,Materialism and entitlement,The heart — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 10:54 pm

Six weeks before our new baby arrived this spring, we put our eldest two children – ages 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 – into a bedroom together. We gave them three rules to follow: (1) no getting out of bed; (2) no craziness; and (3) quiet talking only. Things went surprisingly well for a while. The kids were pretty quiet after lights-out, and they fell asleep at a decent hour. And their being together in the early morning seemed to keep them occupied when it was still too early for anyone else to be up. We were pleased.

But then a few weeks after the baby was born, and more than two months after they’d moved into their new room, things started to go downhill. Big time. They were noisy and rowdy in the evenings; they didn’t fall asleep till very late (often more than an hour after bedtime); they came out of their room repeatedly for a host of reasons — to go potty; for a drink; to get “things they needed.” Because my husband and I were distracted by the needs of the new baby and sleep-deprived ourselves, we didn’t notice the situation creeping up on us. We were less likely at the end of the day, too, to be intentional about our parenting standards.

One evening, when I returned home from the grocery store around 8:45 to find our daughter out of her room for what my husband said was the fifth time, I suddenly saw the situation for what it was. Who had our family become? We had a problem here, and it wasn’t going away. It didn’t matter if we reviewed the three rules with the kids at bedtime or if we had them say them back to us; they were not going to abide by them. They just weren’t. Worse, I realized that they’d acclimated themselves to their time together in their room at night being unsupervised time, to the absence of Mom and Dad’s oversight. They could do basically whatever they wanted; it was a free-for-all! The disciplinary measures they were receiving for misbehaving were insufficient to curb the intoxicating pleasures of unmonitored life and general tomfoolery that bedtime brought with it. (more…)