Heart Pondering

The ponderings of one Christ-following mom on raising preschoolers

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…)


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…)


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…)


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…)


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…)


Hospitality training February 10, 2011

Filed under: Behaviors,The heart,Training — Susan @ Christian Mothering @ 5:11 am

William Shakespeare wrote: “Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.”

The writer of Hebrews counseled: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (13:2)

A spirit of welcome; hospitality; entertaining others. Important parts of life, and important thing to model for our children and help them learn to do first-hand. What better way to demonstrate Christlikeness – selflessness and others-focus – than by inviting them into your home? So when my kids asked if we could have a Valentine’s party this year, I said yes.

The party was this morning; my kids anticipated it eagerly, and everyone had a good time amidst the chaos. But during the event, in which twenty children between 0 and 7 years old and ten moms were involved, I realized I’d not done a good job of prepping my children about the meaning of hospitality. Our focus has gone primarily to preparation enthusiasm; making Valentine cards; putting up decorations; baking cookies to be frosted. I’d neglected, though, to hone in on the goal and the purpose that belong to the host: to put guests first in all things. To make sure they are having a good time. To be thoughtful and selfless. I’m not sure how much such dialog would have helped in curbing their rowdy, relatively self-focused, sometimes demanding mindsets as they engaged with more than two dozen people in their home… but it sure couldn’t have hurt.

Chalk it up to lessons learned for next time; important ones…