Friday, July 31, 2009

4 Essential Elements of Parenting [part 2]

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 5:33 PM 0 comments
Often we don’t feel like we’re loving our children when we discipline them because it feels bad. We wish that our children would be perfect or that we could get them to understand through reasoning (which hardly ever works, no matter what age the child is.) Without a doubt we are called to consistently discipline our children. It’s dangerous to rely on our feelings or physical energy in applying discipline. Feelings are fickle. Our strength must come from our relationship with God. Knowing things like the fact that, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” is very helpful as a parent. I never realized that the unpleasantness of discipline also applies to the one who doles it out!

Most people can rectify the ideas of love and discipline as being complimentary in parenting, but consistency and flexibility seem to be obviously incongruous. They, however, like love and discipline, are both essential for effective parenting. The issue of being consistent continues to show up in parenting research and education classes (Sells, 2003; Welchel, 2005.) Children feel most comfortable when there is consistency in their lives. It feels safe when they know what to expect. Children need consistency not only in daily routines, but also in discipline. It completely throws a child off balance when they do the same action but get different results each time. Imagine what it would be like if you used your lunch hour every day to sit at your desk and catch up on some reading. On most days if your boss comes by he stops and chats a minute and then walks on. Then, randomly, he yells at you for eating at your desk. It would make you extremely uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. That’s exactly how our children feel when we let them get away with some behavior until we are “fed up” with it and yell at or punish them; or when we change the rules mid-game. As parents, it’s our job to determine what the rules are, make them clear, and then enforce them. If you don’t have the energy or desire to enforce a rule or boundary, it’s best to not ever make it an issue.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

4 Essential Elements of Parenting [part 1]

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:31 PM 1 comments
I have studied parenting for years, as a student and family counselor, long before becoming a parent myself. Then I became a parent myself and delved into parenting magazines and books. Throughout all of this research and learning, there are four themes that are necessary for effective parenting which have stood out and been repeated time and time again. They are: Love, Discipline, Consistency and Flexibility. It is keeping these characteristics in balance, along with a foundational relationship with God, which will help us be successful parents.

At first glance it may seem that these characteristics of parenting are somewhat contradictory. There are many beliefs about parenting in our world, and some of them believe that if you love your child you should not discipline him. Others promote strict discipline and warn parents not to be too affectionate with their children, lest they become spoiled. Reliable and well-respected research on parenting supports the theory that a balance between love and discipline is the most effective way to parent (Santrock, 1999.) Scripture actually tells us that if we love our children we will discipline them. Proverbs 3:12 states that, “… the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (NIV.) Just as God disciplines us to keep us focused on Him and His plan, He calls on us as parents to use discipline to keep our children on the right path. But even more than that, God’s Word says that “If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you don’t love him; for if you love him you will be prompt to punish him.” (Proverbs 13:24, TLB.)

We don’t discipline out of obligation or because someone (or everyone) says we should. We discipline because we love. That also means that we are to discipline with love. Throughout the Bible there are numerous accounts of God disciplining His children. He tailors each act of discipline according to the infraction and child being chastised. The common factor, however, was that each correction was given in love. We are to follow the examples that God has given us through scripture. According to God’s Word, love is: patient, kind, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.) This is the definition of the kind of love that we are to live out as we discipline our children. Discipline is applied with the best interest of the child in mind. It is meant to protect our children and guide them along the path that God has laid out for them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Top 10 Reasons to Have a Baby

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:48 AM 3 comments
(1) You are getting too much sleep. You’ve really gotten into a bad habit of sleeping 7-8 hours consistently each night. You like a challenge and feel that life would be much more challenging on about 6 hours of sleep that’s been interrupted 2-3 times each night.

(2) You have too much free time. You’re days are spent listlessly and frivolously and need something to fill your hours with. If you have a baby you’ll be taking many more pictures. By the time you work on in your scrapbook and read all of the parenting books and magazines, surely you won’t be quite so bored with life.

(3) You have too much money. Your money is just piling up in a 401K or being thrown away on vacations and clothes that you really don’t need. You feel that your money would be better spent on diapers, clothes for someone else, and a college fund.

(4) You’re spending too much time with your friends. You get to hang out with your friends once, twice, and sometimes even three times a week. You are looking for a legitimate excuse to stay home.

(5) You’re getting tired of eating your meals uninterrupted and with two hands. It would be much more exciting to get to nurse, bottle-feed, or spoon-feed a child while trying to eat yourself.

(6) You only get to wear one outfit a day. Babies get all sorts of things on your clothes, and that will be a great excuse to change clothes two or three times a day.

(7) You take too long of a shower. There’s nothing like a screaming baby, sound of a crash, or worse yet – sudden silence to motivate you to conserve water.

(8) You want to branch out your tv watching. You long to find out who Dora, Calliou, Thomas, and Blue are.

(9) Your house is too neat and clean. You feel the need to add an assortment of baby items (swing, bassinet, bouncy seat, etc), toys, and books to your interior design. Also, you’d like the dust to pile up a little more so that you can really notice when you clean.

(10) You don’t get enough advice from people in your life. You need help to make daily decisions from the people closest to you (your mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, stranger at the grocery store.) You’ll begin to wonder how you ever made it through on your own!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mommy Time

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:32 AM 0 comments
I had something the last two days that I really didn't expect so soon after having baby number 4. I had two afternoons that were quiet and uninterrupted for hours. Hubby was out on the boat with the older kids, so he was happy, and baby and I were at home staying out of the heat. Since both mornings were busy and she didn't get a long nap, she slept for 3-4 hours both afternoons. And I had mommy time!!!

Yesterday I got some writing done and some relaxing done. Today I took a nap and then got a little writing done. It reminded me how much I charish my alone time. It recharges me and helps me be a better mom (and wife) when everyone comes piling through the door. I think all us moms need some mommy time, although what we do with it to get recharched is probably very different. Researching and writing would probably add stress to many moms.

While we all need some mommy time once in a while it is also one of those things that needs to stay in balance. Even though I had about 4 hours to myself, I still wasn't quite ready when it ended. However, I had to embrace how fortunate I was to get that time and remember that now I had time to enjoy my little ones, who will never be who they are today again. I love my time with my little ones, but I'm also very grateful for a little mommy time alone to help keep my life in balance.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two More Hands Please

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 11:01 AM 0 comments
When doing things around the house holding on to one child or another I often have the thought that it would be nice to have a couple more hands. But then I think of all I do with the two I do have and know that I would just get myself completely overwhelmed if I had two more hands to work with. God, in His infinite wisdom, definately knew what He was doing when He limited us to two hands.




However, I do believe that He meant for us moms to have extra hands another way. Throughout scripture we are admonished to love one another. As a mom, that loving of other moms comes through supporting each other and helping each other out. This is often easier said than done since we all have so many responsibilities in our own homes. However, if we make the effort to help each other out, we all benefit. We don't feel like we have to be perfect in front of each other. We build stronger friendships. And we get more done. I'm very grateful for the moms in my life (especially my mom and mil) who are willing to pitch in a be a part of my life in so many tangible ways in addition to just "being" in my life. They are true blessing to me and make me want to be a blessing too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Calm in the Storm

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:47 AM 0 comments
Have you ever had a storm in your house? We've had a real storm. We thought we lived on high ground until Hurricane Isabel caused the river and canal met in our yard. We always wanted waterfront property, but this wasn't what we had in mind. During the storm we anxiously watched the water rise far above where we ever thought it would go. We even began moving furniture upstairs. It was not a very calm day in our house. We survived Isabel and fared much better than many of our neighbors.

There's been many days since that one that it has felt like we were hunkered down in a storm. Although, these storms are generally less destructive than a real hurricane (generally, I said) but much more emotional. These are the storms that come from tired, frustrated, and/or stubborn children. Since young children don't yet have the skills to temper their reactions to things, the smallest upset can turn into a fierce storm in a heatbeat. As a new mom, these storms often took me by surprise and threw me off course like a dinghy in the ocean.

Now I handle these storms much better. I always new that my children needed me to be calm and consistent as they lost it. But knowing and doing are not always the same. So what has helped me stay calm in the storms of mommyhood? Mostly a lot of time with my face on the floor and my eyes looking up. Instead of dwelling in the bad places I learned to throw myself on the floor and beg for strength from God. I also recognized that part of the problem was my short temper, so I did intensive Bible studies on this topic, as well as a few others. Over time, as I studied God's Word and began to rely on Him more, He provided me with the tools I needed to be the mom He designed me to be and that my kids need me to be.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

When Nothing Fits

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 11:14 AM 0 comments
Have you ever noticed that sometimes it's the little things that are super frustrating? Even when bigger things are going on, there are plenty of other things for me to be concerned (not worried) and pray about, I still walk in my closet and get disgusted at the lack of real choices. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty in there. But nothing fits. I always forget how frustrating this time is with my body and clothes. It's what I like to call the 4th trimester.

This is just one of the little frustrations of life that can take over. Although irritating, it's best for my own health and sanity to take it in perspective. The 4th trimester is the result of a small sacrifice (9 months really is a short time, no matter how uncomfortable or exhausting) for a beautiful, healthy addition to my life. A little more time and some hard work to get back into my clothes really aren't a big deal in the scheme of things. As aggravating as it is to find something to wear without repeating the same things dozens of times, I know that I can choose not to let it get to me. Instead, I can remember how many women went through a pregnancy but didn't go home with a healthy baby. I can remember how many people in this world don't have enough clothes to protect them from the elements on a daily basis. And I can remember that part of the reason my clothes don't fit is because I've never had to want for food. When I remember those things, it's not so bad to walk into my closet each morning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where Time Goes

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 8:35 PM 1 comments
Where does the time go? This question gets asked all the time. As I sit to write my daily bit, I can hardly believe that it's almost 9 p.m. It was a good day, but as I reflect on it I wonder what I really got done. I haven't been making my lists lately, so I actually have to reflect on the day. Well, lets see. I fed 4 kids breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I cleaned up after all those meals. I went to the grocery store and the consignment shop (sans kids, thanks to mom!) I washed clothes, but got none folded and put up. I mopped most of the downstairs. I picked some veggies out of the garden. I exercised and did my Bible Study. And I sat down with 2 of the girls for some reading time. Oh, yeah, and I nursed however many times it was that Emily was hungry and held her for however long she needed me to.

Whew. I guess I did get some things accomplished today, even though looking at my house you might not know it. I still see all the piles of things that didn't get done. Sometimes as a mom, and especially as a stay-at-home mom where there's people in the house all day to mess it up, it seems that most of my time keeping my head above water. Sometimes I get to swim a little (doggy pattle at best) and make progress, but mostly just treading water.

But that's just the way it is right now. I can see some calm seas ahead, as each child gets older and more capable of doing things him/herself. One day, I know, they will all be perfectly capable and then I will miss the moments when they were small. Even though sometimes it is crazy busy and sometimes a whole day passes without hardly a thought, moments like this remind me that tomorrow I need to make sure and take time to sit and enjoy being with my children. The toys will get put away and the clothes will get folded, but we will never have today again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Spirit of Self-Discipline

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 9:58 PM 1 comments
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline. Oh my. Do I really have to go there? I guess since I started this, I’ll continue on until the end. I almost forgot. I covered love and power and then got distracted onto consequences. But I’m going to practice allowing the spirit of self-discipline to have control and return to finish this topic.

Self-discipline is a difficult concept. As parents we see that our children don’t have much self-discipline. I almost said none, but I saw an example of it just today. My son earned a time out for breaking a rule and decided to throw a screaming fit while in time out. I’m not sure how he thought this would make things better, but he’s four, so his logical thinking development is long from being fully developed. I let him know that his time out didn’t truly start until the screaming stopped, but this made no impact. He was not exhibiting self-discipline to stop crying. However, one mention of a spanking suddenly helped him access a spirit of self-discipline. The fit stopped immediately.

This was an opportunity for me to help my son experience self-discipline. (It wouldn’t have been if I’d had to actually follow through with my warning.) I find that I have multiple opportunities to exercise self-discipline every day. It may be in relation to making healthy food choices, doing laundry instead of checking email, or speaking in compassion instead of frustration. Giving up the will of my flesh to the will of God and spirit of self-discipline isn’t generally fun for the moment. The rewards, however, are far greater than not.

As I access the spirit of self-discipline I grow as a mom. I am much more peaceful. I am much more content. And the household runs much more smoothly. Within myself I fall short of exercising self-discipline. But with God providing the spirit of self-discipline and me practicing more and more to choose to access that spirit, I can make disciplined choices, reap the rewards of those choices, and better teach my children to access the spirit of self-discipline, which will benefit them in the long run.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Consequences

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 4:24 PM 0 comments
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse-The blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day; And the curse if you will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day to go after other gods, which you have not known. Deuteronomy 11:26-28

As I read these words I am reminded what great parenting wisdom is in the Bible. These words are the basic tenents of consequences. We set rules and expect our children to follow and obey them. If we are doing our job as parents (which is often harder in action than it is in principle) we will hold our children accountable for whether they choose to obey our rules or not. And as much as we beg and plead and repeat ourselves, our job is not complete and done well unless there are consequences to their behavior. We basically set a curse (negative consequences) and a blessing (positive consequences) before them. It's their choice which they want.

When we understand that negative consequences are something that our children choose, it decreases the guilt we feel when we have to withhold or take away something. No parent likes enforcing negative consequences, it's unpleasant. However, it's almost always the only way a child will learn to make good choices. Otherwise they'll grow up with the immature belief that they can do whatever they want and not pay for bad choices; and be shocked one day when they do face severe negative consequences and a string of ruined relationships.

No, we need to focus on the end goal, which is a fruitful and peaceful life, which comes from heading effective, loving discipline. (No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11) And remember that we set rules and boundaries for our children's safety, and if they choose to break rules and disobey (even in small things) they are choosing the negative consequence.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Spirit of Love

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:49 AM 1 comments
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Love. Love is so necessary in life, but most definitely as a mom. Love of a mom is supposed to come naturally. Who couldn’t love a sweet, innocent baby. But feeling love and acting in love consistently to a highly demanding baby (or toddler, or child,or teen) are two different things. And acting in love is not always easy and does not always come naturally.

Some people were never taught loving actions from those who were supposed to love them. Some people are too selfish to give up their wants and desires to fulfill those of another. Some people become trapped in depression and a cycle of negativity and don’t have the mental or physical energy to love. None of us have it within ourselves to consistently act in a loving manner to everyone we come in contact with. Love as a human feeling comes and goes. It is not reliable. God’s love, however, is perfect, and if we fully embrace His spirit of love we can better love others.

This is especially true as a mom. Being a mom is the most demanding job any of us could ever have. It takes everything we have in ourselves and often more. Even though I've never stopped loving my children for a minute, there have been plenty of times I haven't felt like putting the effort into a loving action. Sometimes I'm too tired at night to read, tuck in, and do prayers. Sometimes I really want to get an article or chapter finished and don't want to stop to look at the newest drawn picture. I think as moms we've all had moments of wanting to stay in ourselves and not do whatever the latest "urgent" task is.

In myself, I would more often than not take the selfish and easy route. But with the power and love that comes from Christ, I can rely on His Spirit to making loving choices. I don't always make that choice, but knowing that He's given me His spirit of love is an essential part of making more consistent, loving choices.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Spirit of Power

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:48 AM 1 comments
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Power is essential to moms. Not power over my children. Not power over my circumstances. Not physical power. No, the power I need as a mom is the power of the Holy Spirit. I need power to get up in the middle of the night and deal with a screaming child when I’m exhausted from months of being sleep deprived. I need power when I’m in the middle of something and am asked to stop in order to take care of someone’s needs. I need power when I don’t feel good and still have four children who need me to be a loving mom.

When I rely on my own power, I am inconsistent, temperamental, and often fail to be the mom I want to be. My power as a human waxes and wanes, but the power of God and His Spirit never does. As I examine what kind of mom I am, one question I ask is, “am I relying on myself, or on God?” The answer changes more frequently than I’d care to admit. But the more I ask this question, the more I am reminded to rely on God and His power in my every day life as a mom.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How do I measure?

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 10:47 AM 2 comments
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

As I reflect on what kind of mom I am I must consider where I get the measuring stick I use to determine how I’m doing, how far I’ve come, and what things I need to work on. If I use ever-changing, multiple-perspective worldly measures, I’d never have a settled identity as a mom. I’d never be confident as a mom, not knowing what different recommendation would come next. If I look to the infallible, never-changing Word of God, however, I can continue to grow in my abilities and confidence as a mom.

Paul used many words to encourage a young Timothy, left in charge of a flock of new believers. As Timothy tried to guide these new believers as Paul guided him, he needed to know who he was, not in himself, but in Christ. The spirit that God gives us as believers includes power, love, and self-discipline. As a mom, these characteristics are very important.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mommy Perspectives

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:10 PM 0 comments
Today my fourth and final baby is six weeks old. Yesterday I went back to work for the first time without her. Needless to say, I’ve been very reflective over the last few days. Knowing that this is the last baby I’ll have makes every moment more of a treasure than ever before. And it is so different than the when I had my first baby and was a new mom.

I love being a mom and wouldn’t want my life to be less filled with children. However, when my first baby was six weeks old and I went back to work for the first time it was like I had regained a bit of freedom that had been ripped from my life the day I came home with my new baby. As a naturally independent person, being on call and in demand 24/7 was extraordinarily difficult.

My first, sweet baby girl and I (and daddy) worked through all our adjustments that first year and grew to love our new life together and were soon expecting baby number two. Now that I’m a mom of four little ones I can’t help but to think about how much has changed in those short, fast six years. What kind of mom I was then, and what kind of mom I am now. What I’ve given up, slowly, sadly, gladly. What I’ve gained – endless hugs and kisses and smiles. Grimaces as my little ones became more and more adventurous. Grins and giggles at silly antics and tickle fests. Worlds of growth (not just for them) and major changes in perspectives. Gracious increases in patience (which will hopefully continue.)

I have lived and completely understand the reason people say children in the same have different parents. My oldest and youngest definitely have gotten different moms. And hopefully all of my children will benefit from everything being their mom has taught me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sowing and Reaping

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 12:55 PM 0 comments
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

When gardening the truth of these words play out before your eyes. Each year I've had a garden I've planted a little bit more and a little bit differently. The first year I had several squash and zucchini plants which produced abundantly. My husband was glad not to see a squash for the 9 months in between gardening time after that summer. Even though these verses are amidst discussion about financial gifts to support the work of God's apostles, it applies to any area of life, including parenting.

How much and what I sow in my children's lives will determine what and how much is reaped in their lives. Although there's no direct correlation (as in a garden where some plants do better than others, drought can affect production, and critters can steal and/or destroy plants/veggies) between sowing and reaping, there is a direct relationship. If I sow impatience with my children, they will be impatient. If I sow a love for reading with my children, they will be more likely to enjoy reading. If I sow inconstency with my children, they will not trust me. Just as the type of seeds I plant in my garden determine the types of vegetation I'll reap, the seeds I plant in my children in what I teach them through lessons and through modeling will help determine the types of fruits they will develop in their lives.

As I go about my day, with the abundance of responsibilities and desires pulling at my attention, it is important for me to be mindful and intentional about what I'm sowing in my children's lives. Am I making them feel loved and special? Am I teaching them to love the Lord, themselves, and others? Am I teaching them to be responsible and unselfish? Am I paying attention to their natural abilities and talents? Am I planting and nurturing Godly values in their lives? Little questions with big impact on how they develop.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pulling Weeds

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 5:19 PM 0 comments
One of the most time consuming tasks of maintaining a garden is weed-management. I'm old-fashioned and don't use any chemical weed killer. I pull my weeds. In previous years we've placed grass clippings in between rows to slow weed growth and this year the plan is to use newspapers - our own personal recycling program. Regardless of what we do, however, I still end up spending a lot of time pulling weeds. Part of the reason I won't use weed-killer is that I secretly (not so much now, I guess) enjoy pulling weeds. For one, I've discovered that it's fairly good excercise and helps me maintain healthy sugar levels. Second, it gives me plenty of time to think, reflect, and pray. Third, it's a reminder of how vigilant we have to be about the weeds that grow in our lives.

Weeds in our lives can be any variety of things, including negative thoughts, lack of self-control, anger, lack of faith, and bad habits. Anything that goes against God's perfect plan and will for our lives and keeps us from a faithful, consistent, deep relationship with our Creator is a weed. My garden reminds me how various they are - I have crabgrass, clover, and various vines and other things I don't know the name of. If I were to pick only one type of weed my garden would soon be overrun by the other weeds and my vegetables would be choked out. The same is true in my life. While I often put more energy into fighting a particular "weed" in my life, if I were ever to completely ignore the other weeds, they would quietly take over and choke out the relationships I have with my Lord and those people He's placed in my life.

My garden also reminds me how consistent and diligent I need to be in pulling weeds. They grow fast and increase greatly, no matter how clear I believe a spot is. Just a few days of neglect leads to a wealth of weeds. The same is true of my spiritual life. I must continually utilize my "weeding tools" (Bible reading and study, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians) to keep the weeds out. It only takes short periods of time of neglecting these areas of my life for weeds to creep up and threaten to take over.

My garden also reminds me how harmless many weeds look. I have one particular weed that grows on a vine. It will actually flower if I let it grow long enough. It even looks fairly decent - pretty green rounded leaves and little purple flowers. However, it doesn't belong in my garden and will take over and steal nutrients from my vegetables if I let it grow. There are many things in our lives which also look harmless and sometimes even pleasant, which mean to decieve us into thinking "it's not that bad. It can't be, it's too pretty." However, if God doesn't want it in our life, if it will not produce fruit, or help produce fruit, it doesn't belong and should be eliminated. That way the true fruit (or vegetables) have plenty of room to grow and flourish in our lives.

Friday, July 31, 2009

4 Essential Elements of Parenting [part 2]

Often we don’t feel like we’re loving our children when we discipline them because it feels bad. We wish that our children would be perfect or that we could get them to understand through reasoning (which hardly ever works, no matter what age the child is.) Without a doubt we are called to consistently discipline our children. It’s dangerous to rely on our feelings or physical energy in applying discipline. Feelings are fickle. Our strength must come from our relationship with God. Knowing things like the fact that, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” is very helpful as a parent. I never realized that the unpleasantness of discipline also applies to the one who doles it out!

Most people can rectify the ideas of love and discipline as being complimentary in parenting, but consistency and flexibility seem to be obviously incongruous. They, however, like love and discipline, are both essential for effective parenting. The issue of being consistent continues to show up in parenting research and education classes (Sells, 2003; Welchel, 2005.) Children feel most comfortable when there is consistency in their lives. It feels safe when they know what to expect. Children need consistency not only in daily routines, but also in discipline. It completely throws a child off balance when they do the same action but get different results each time. Imagine what it would be like if you used your lunch hour every day to sit at your desk and catch up on some reading. On most days if your boss comes by he stops and chats a minute and then walks on. Then, randomly, he yells at you for eating at your desk. It would make you extremely uncomfortable and unsure of yourself. That’s exactly how our children feel when we let them get away with some behavior until we are “fed up” with it and yell at or punish them; or when we change the rules mid-game. As parents, it’s our job to determine what the rules are, make them clear, and then enforce them. If you don’t have the energy or desire to enforce a rule or boundary, it’s best to not ever make it an issue.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

4 Essential Elements of Parenting [part 1]

I have studied parenting for years, as a student and family counselor, long before becoming a parent myself. Then I became a parent myself and delved into parenting magazines and books. Throughout all of this research and learning, there are four themes that are necessary for effective parenting which have stood out and been repeated time and time again. They are: Love, Discipline, Consistency and Flexibility. It is keeping these characteristics in balance, along with a foundational relationship with God, which will help us be successful parents.

At first glance it may seem that these characteristics of parenting are somewhat contradictory. There are many beliefs about parenting in our world, and some of them believe that if you love your child you should not discipline him. Others promote strict discipline and warn parents not to be too affectionate with their children, lest they become spoiled. Reliable and well-respected research on parenting supports the theory that a balance between love and discipline is the most effective way to parent (Santrock, 1999.) Scripture actually tells us that if we love our children we will discipline them. Proverbs 3:12 states that, “… the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (NIV.) Just as God disciplines us to keep us focused on Him and His plan, He calls on us as parents to use discipline to keep our children on the right path. But even more than that, God’s Word says that “If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you don’t love him; for if you love him you will be prompt to punish him.” (Proverbs 13:24, TLB.)

We don’t discipline out of obligation or because someone (or everyone) says we should. We discipline because we love. That also means that we are to discipline with love. Throughout the Bible there are numerous accounts of God disciplining His children. He tailors each act of discipline according to the infraction and child being chastised. The common factor, however, was that each correction was given in love. We are to follow the examples that God has given us through scripture. According to God’s Word, love is: patient, kind, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.) This is the definition of the kind of love that we are to live out as we discipline our children. Discipline is applied with the best interest of the child in mind. It is meant to protect our children and guide them along the path that God has laid out for them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Top 10 Reasons to Have a Baby

(1) You are getting too much sleep. You’ve really gotten into a bad habit of sleeping 7-8 hours consistently each night. You like a challenge and feel that life would be much more challenging on about 6 hours of sleep that’s been interrupted 2-3 times each night.

(2) You have too much free time. You’re days are spent listlessly and frivolously and need something to fill your hours with. If you have a baby you’ll be taking many more pictures. By the time you work on in your scrapbook and read all of the parenting books and magazines, surely you won’t be quite so bored with life.

(3) You have too much money. Your money is just piling up in a 401K or being thrown away on vacations and clothes that you really don’t need. You feel that your money would be better spent on diapers, clothes for someone else, and a college fund.

(4) You’re spending too much time with your friends. You get to hang out with your friends once, twice, and sometimes even three times a week. You are looking for a legitimate excuse to stay home.

(5) You’re getting tired of eating your meals uninterrupted and with two hands. It would be much more exciting to get to nurse, bottle-feed, or spoon-feed a child while trying to eat yourself.

(6) You only get to wear one outfit a day. Babies get all sorts of things on your clothes, and that will be a great excuse to change clothes two or three times a day.

(7) You take too long of a shower. There’s nothing like a screaming baby, sound of a crash, or worse yet – sudden silence to motivate you to conserve water.

(8) You want to branch out your tv watching. You long to find out who Dora, Calliou, Thomas, and Blue are.

(9) Your house is too neat and clean. You feel the need to add an assortment of baby items (swing, bassinet, bouncy seat, etc), toys, and books to your interior design. Also, you’d like the dust to pile up a little more so that you can really notice when you clean.

(10) You don’t get enough advice from people in your life. You need help to make daily decisions from the people closest to you (your mother, mother-in-law, sister, friend, stranger at the grocery store.) You’ll begin to wonder how you ever made it through on your own!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mommy Time

I had something the last two days that I really didn't expect so soon after having baby number 4. I had two afternoons that were quiet and uninterrupted for hours. Hubby was out on the boat with the older kids, so he was happy, and baby and I were at home staying out of the heat. Since both mornings were busy and she didn't get a long nap, she slept for 3-4 hours both afternoons. And I had mommy time!!!

Yesterday I got some writing done and some relaxing done. Today I took a nap and then got a little writing done. It reminded me how much I charish my alone time. It recharges me and helps me be a better mom (and wife) when everyone comes piling through the door. I think all us moms need some mommy time, although what we do with it to get recharched is probably very different. Researching and writing would probably add stress to many moms.

While we all need some mommy time once in a while it is also one of those things that needs to stay in balance. Even though I had about 4 hours to myself, I still wasn't quite ready when it ended. However, I had to embrace how fortunate I was to get that time and remember that now I had time to enjoy my little ones, who will never be who they are today again. I love my time with my little ones, but I'm also very grateful for a little mommy time alone to help keep my life in balance.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two More Hands Please

When doing things around the house holding on to one child or another I often have the thought that it would be nice to have a couple more hands. But then I think of all I do with the two I do have and know that I would just get myself completely overwhelmed if I had two more hands to work with. God, in His infinite wisdom, definately knew what He was doing when He limited us to two hands.




However, I do believe that He meant for us moms to have extra hands another way. Throughout scripture we are admonished to love one another. As a mom, that loving of other moms comes through supporting each other and helping each other out. This is often easier said than done since we all have so many responsibilities in our own homes. However, if we make the effort to help each other out, we all benefit. We don't feel like we have to be perfect in front of each other. We build stronger friendships. And we get more done. I'm very grateful for the moms in my life (especially my mom and mil) who are willing to pitch in a be a part of my life in so many tangible ways in addition to just "being" in my life. They are true blessing to me and make me want to be a blessing too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Calm in the Storm

Have you ever had a storm in your house? We've had a real storm. We thought we lived on high ground until Hurricane Isabel caused the river and canal met in our yard. We always wanted waterfront property, but this wasn't what we had in mind. During the storm we anxiously watched the water rise far above where we ever thought it would go. We even began moving furniture upstairs. It was not a very calm day in our house. We survived Isabel and fared much better than many of our neighbors.

There's been many days since that one that it has felt like we were hunkered down in a storm. Although, these storms are generally less destructive than a real hurricane (generally, I said) but much more emotional. These are the storms that come from tired, frustrated, and/or stubborn children. Since young children don't yet have the skills to temper their reactions to things, the smallest upset can turn into a fierce storm in a heatbeat. As a new mom, these storms often took me by surprise and threw me off course like a dinghy in the ocean.

Now I handle these storms much better. I always new that my children needed me to be calm and consistent as they lost it. But knowing and doing are not always the same. So what has helped me stay calm in the storms of mommyhood? Mostly a lot of time with my face on the floor and my eyes looking up. Instead of dwelling in the bad places I learned to throw myself on the floor and beg for strength from God. I also recognized that part of the problem was my short temper, so I did intensive Bible studies on this topic, as well as a few others. Over time, as I studied God's Word and began to rely on Him more, He provided me with the tools I needed to be the mom He designed me to be and that my kids need me to be.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

When Nothing Fits

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it's the little things that are super frustrating? Even when bigger things are going on, there are plenty of other things for me to be concerned (not worried) and pray about, I still walk in my closet and get disgusted at the lack of real choices. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty in there. But nothing fits. I always forget how frustrating this time is with my body and clothes. It's what I like to call the 4th trimester.

This is just one of the little frustrations of life that can take over. Although irritating, it's best for my own health and sanity to take it in perspective. The 4th trimester is the result of a small sacrifice (9 months really is a short time, no matter how uncomfortable or exhausting) for a beautiful, healthy addition to my life. A little more time and some hard work to get back into my clothes really aren't a big deal in the scheme of things. As aggravating as it is to find something to wear without repeating the same things dozens of times, I know that I can choose not to let it get to me. Instead, I can remember how many women went through a pregnancy but didn't go home with a healthy baby. I can remember how many people in this world don't have enough clothes to protect them from the elements on a daily basis. And I can remember that part of the reason my clothes don't fit is because I've never had to want for food. When I remember those things, it's not so bad to walk into my closet each morning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where Time Goes

Where does the time go? This question gets asked all the time. As I sit to write my daily bit, I can hardly believe that it's almost 9 p.m. It was a good day, but as I reflect on it I wonder what I really got done. I haven't been making my lists lately, so I actually have to reflect on the day. Well, lets see. I fed 4 kids breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I cleaned up after all those meals. I went to the grocery store and the consignment shop (sans kids, thanks to mom!) I washed clothes, but got none folded and put up. I mopped most of the downstairs. I picked some veggies out of the garden. I exercised and did my Bible Study. And I sat down with 2 of the girls for some reading time. Oh, yeah, and I nursed however many times it was that Emily was hungry and held her for however long she needed me to.

Whew. I guess I did get some things accomplished today, even though looking at my house you might not know it. I still see all the piles of things that didn't get done. Sometimes as a mom, and especially as a stay-at-home mom where there's people in the house all day to mess it up, it seems that most of my time keeping my head above water. Sometimes I get to swim a little (doggy pattle at best) and make progress, but mostly just treading water.

But that's just the way it is right now. I can see some calm seas ahead, as each child gets older and more capable of doing things him/herself. One day, I know, they will all be perfectly capable and then I will miss the moments when they were small. Even though sometimes it is crazy busy and sometimes a whole day passes without hardly a thought, moments like this remind me that tomorrow I need to make sure and take time to sit and enjoy being with my children. The toys will get put away and the clothes will get folded, but we will never have today again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Spirit of Self-Discipline

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline. Oh my. Do I really have to go there? I guess since I started this, I’ll continue on until the end. I almost forgot. I covered love and power and then got distracted onto consequences. But I’m going to practice allowing the spirit of self-discipline to have control and return to finish this topic.

Self-discipline is a difficult concept. As parents we see that our children don’t have much self-discipline. I almost said none, but I saw an example of it just today. My son earned a time out for breaking a rule and decided to throw a screaming fit while in time out. I’m not sure how he thought this would make things better, but he’s four, so his logical thinking development is long from being fully developed. I let him know that his time out didn’t truly start until the screaming stopped, but this made no impact. He was not exhibiting self-discipline to stop crying. However, one mention of a spanking suddenly helped him access a spirit of self-discipline. The fit stopped immediately.

This was an opportunity for me to help my son experience self-discipline. (It wouldn’t have been if I’d had to actually follow through with my warning.) I find that I have multiple opportunities to exercise self-discipline every day. It may be in relation to making healthy food choices, doing laundry instead of checking email, or speaking in compassion instead of frustration. Giving up the will of my flesh to the will of God and spirit of self-discipline isn’t generally fun for the moment. The rewards, however, are far greater than not.

As I access the spirit of self-discipline I grow as a mom. I am much more peaceful. I am much more content. And the household runs much more smoothly. Within myself I fall short of exercising self-discipline. But with God providing the spirit of self-discipline and me practicing more and more to choose to access that spirit, I can make disciplined choices, reap the rewards of those choices, and better teach my children to access the spirit of self-discipline, which will benefit them in the long run.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Consequences

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse-The blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day; And the curse if you will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day to go after other gods, which you have not known. Deuteronomy 11:26-28

As I read these words I am reminded what great parenting wisdom is in the Bible. These words are the basic tenents of consequences. We set rules and expect our children to follow and obey them. If we are doing our job as parents (which is often harder in action than it is in principle) we will hold our children accountable for whether they choose to obey our rules or not. And as much as we beg and plead and repeat ourselves, our job is not complete and done well unless there are consequences to their behavior. We basically set a curse (negative consequences) and a blessing (positive consequences) before them. It's their choice which they want.

When we understand that negative consequences are something that our children choose, it decreases the guilt we feel when we have to withhold or take away something. No parent likes enforcing negative consequences, it's unpleasant. However, it's almost always the only way a child will learn to make good choices. Otherwise they'll grow up with the immature belief that they can do whatever they want and not pay for bad choices; and be shocked one day when they do face severe negative consequences and a string of ruined relationships.

No, we need to focus on the end goal, which is a fruitful and peaceful life, which comes from heading effective, loving discipline. (No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11) And remember that we set rules and boundaries for our children's safety, and if they choose to break rules and disobey (even in small things) they are choosing the negative consequence.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Spirit of Love

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Love. Love is so necessary in life, but most definitely as a mom. Love of a mom is supposed to come naturally. Who couldn’t love a sweet, innocent baby. But feeling love and acting in love consistently to a highly demanding baby (or toddler, or child,or teen) are two different things. And acting in love is not always easy and does not always come naturally.

Some people were never taught loving actions from those who were supposed to love them. Some people are too selfish to give up their wants and desires to fulfill those of another. Some people become trapped in depression and a cycle of negativity and don’t have the mental or physical energy to love. None of us have it within ourselves to consistently act in a loving manner to everyone we come in contact with. Love as a human feeling comes and goes. It is not reliable. God’s love, however, is perfect, and if we fully embrace His spirit of love we can better love others.

This is especially true as a mom. Being a mom is the most demanding job any of us could ever have. It takes everything we have in ourselves and often more. Even though I've never stopped loving my children for a minute, there have been plenty of times I haven't felt like putting the effort into a loving action. Sometimes I'm too tired at night to read, tuck in, and do prayers. Sometimes I really want to get an article or chapter finished and don't want to stop to look at the newest drawn picture. I think as moms we've all had moments of wanting to stay in ourselves and not do whatever the latest "urgent" task is.

In myself, I would more often than not take the selfish and easy route. But with the power and love that comes from Christ, I can rely on His Spirit to making loving choices. I don't always make that choice, but knowing that He's given me His spirit of love is an essential part of making more consistent, loving choices.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Spirit of Power

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Power is essential to moms. Not power over my children. Not power over my circumstances. Not physical power. No, the power I need as a mom is the power of the Holy Spirit. I need power to get up in the middle of the night and deal with a screaming child when I’m exhausted from months of being sleep deprived. I need power when I’m in the middle of something and am asked to stop in order to take care of someone’s needs. I need power when I don’t feel good and still have four children who need me to be a loving mom.

When I rely on my own power, I am inconsistent, temperamental, and often fail to be the mom I want to be. My power as a human waxes and wanes, but the power of God and His Spirit never does. As I examine what kind of mom I am, one question I ask is, “am I relying on myself, or on God?” The answer changes more frequently than I’d care to admit. But the more I ask this question, the more I am reminded to rely on God and His power in my every day life as a mom.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How do I measure?

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

As I reflect on what kind of mom I am I must consider where I get the measuring stick I use to determine how I’m doing, how far I’ve come, and what things I need to work on. If I use ever-changing, multiple-perspective worldly measures, I’d never have a settled identity as a mom. I’d never be confident as a mom, not knowing what different recommendation would come next. If I look to the infallible, never-changing Word of God, however, I can continue to grow in my abilities and confidence as a mom.

Paul used many words to encourage a young Timothy, left in charge of a flock of new believers. As Timothy tried to guide these new believers as Paul guided him, he needed to know who he was, not in himself, but in Christ. The spirit that God gives us as believers includes power, love, and self-discipline. As a mom, these characteristics are very important.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mommy Perspectives

Today my fourth and final baby is six weeks old. Yesterday I went back to work for the first time without her. Needless to say, I’ve been very reflective over the last few days. Knowing that this is the last baby I’ll have makes every moment more of a treasure than ever before. And it is so different than the when I had my first baby and was a new mom.

I love being a mom and wouldn’t want my life to be less filled with children. However, when my first baby was six weeks old and I went back to work for the first time it was like I had regained a bit of freedom that had been ripped from my life the day I came home with my new baby. As a naturally independent person, being on call and in demand 24/7 was extraordinarily difficult.

My first, sweet baby girl and I (and daddy) worked through all our adjustments that first year and grew to love our new life together and were soon expecting baby number two. Now that I’m a mom of four little ones I can’t help but to think about how much has changed in those short, fast six years. What kind of mom I was then, and what kind of mom I am now. What I’ve given up, slowly, sadly, gladly. What I’ve gained – endless hugs and kisses and smiles. Grimaces as my little ones became more and more adventurous. Grins and giggles at silly antics and tickle fests. Worlds of growth (not just for them) and major changes in perspectives. Gracious increases in patience (which will hopefully continue.)

I have lived and completely understand the reason people say children in the same have different parents. My oldest and youngest definitely have gotten different moms. And hopefully all of my children will benefit from everything being their mom has taught me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sowing and Reaping

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

When gardening the truth of these words play out before your eyes. Each year I've had a garden I've planted a little bit more and a little bit differently. The first year I had several squash and zucchini plants which produced abundantly. My husband was glad not to see a squash for the 9 months in between gardening time after that summer. Even though these verses are amidst discussion about financial gifts to support the work of God's apostles, it applies to any area of life, including parenting.

How much and what I sow in my children's lives will determine what and how much is reaped in their lives. Although there's no direct correlation (as in a garden where some plants do better than others, drought can affect production, and critters can steal and/or destroy plants/veggies) between sowing and reaping, there is a direct relationship. If I sow impatience with my children, they will be impatient. If I sow a love for reading with my children, they will be more likely to enjoy reading. If I sow inconstency with my children, they will not trust me. Just as the type of seeds I plant in my garden determine the types of vegetation I'll reap, the seeds I plant in my children in what I teach them through lessons and through modeling will help determine the types of fruits they will develop in their lives.

As I go about my day, with the abundance of responsibilities and desires pulling at my attention, it is important for me to be mindful and intentional about what I'm sowing in my children's lives. Am I making them feel loved and special? Am I teaching them to love the Lord, themselves, and others? Am I teaching them to be responsible and unselfish? Am I paying attention to their natural abilities and talents? Am I planting and nurturing Godly values in their lives? Little questions with big impact on how they develop.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pulling Weeds

One of the most time consuming tasks of maintaining a garden is weed-management. I'm old-fashioned and don't use any chemical weed killer. I pull my weeds. In previous years we've placed grass clippings in between rows to slow weed growth and this year the plan is to use newspapers - our own personal recycling program. Regardless of what we do, however, I still end up spending a lot of time pulling weeds. Part of the reason I won't use weed-killer is that I secretly (not so much now, I guess) enjoy pulling weeds. For one, I've discovered that it's fairly good excercise and helps me maintain healthy sugar levels. Second, it gives me plenty of time to think, reflect, and pray. Third, it's a reminder of how vigilant we have to be about the weeds that grow in our lives.

Weeds in our lives can be any variety of things, including negative thoughts, lack of self-control, anger, lack of faith, and bad habits. Anything that goes against God's perfect plan and will for our lives and keeps us from a faithful, consistent, deep relationship with our Creator is a weed. My garden reminds me how various they are - I have crabgrass, clover, and various vines and other things I don't know the name of. If I were to pick only one type of weed my garden would soon be overrun by the other weeds and my vegetables would be choked out. The same is true in my life. While I often put more energy into fighting a particular "weed" in my life, if I were ever to completely ignore the other weeds, they would quietly take over and choke out the relationships I have with my Lord and those people He's placed in my life.

My garden also reminds me how consistent and diligent I need to be in pulling weeds. They grow fast and increase greatly, no matter how clear I believe a spot is. Just a few days of neglect leads to a wealth of weeds. The same is true of my spiritual life. I must continually utilize my "weeding tools" (Bible reading and study, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians) to keep the weeds out. It only takes short periods of time of neglecting these areas of my life for weeds to creep up and threaten to take over.

My garden also reminds me how harmless many weeds look. I have one particular weed that grows on a vine. It will actually flower if I let it grow long enough. It even looks fairly decent - pretty green rounded leaves and little purple flowers. However, it doesn't belong in my garden and will take over and steal nutrients from my vegetables if I let it grow. There are many things in our lives which also look harmless and sometimes even pleasant, which mean to decieve us into thinking "it's not that bad. It can't be, it's too pretty." However, if God doesn't want it in our life, if it will not produce fruit, or help produce fruit, it doesn't belong and should be eliminated. That way the true fruit (or vegetables) have plenty of room to grow and flourish in our lives.
 

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