Saturday, February 26, 2011

Guiding and Conduction II

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:43 PM 0 comments
We also need to guide our children in how to deal with challenging and frustrating situations Instead of whining and complaining while standing in line at the grocery store (or asking for every piece of candy on the shelf), try counting the number of other people waiting, or make up a story about what the food does at night when the store’s closed, or review school work, or practice scripture. Instead of hitting someone when they make a child mad, teach them to hit a pillow, or do jumping jacks, or go spend a few minutes alone to calm down. Instead of throwing something when frustrated with a task, teach them to write about their frustration, or jump on a trampoline, or talk about it. There are countless ways to handle difficult situations and express feelings. The goal is to teach appropriate behaviors that will be healthy and effective in handling difficult situations.

He who walks with the wise grows wise. Proverbs 13:20a

I must add, as a personal caveat, it is important that our children experience difficult situations and disappointments. As moms we generally tend to protect our children. After all, that is a large part of our job. However, if we want what’s truly best for our children, we must, must, let them deal with tough situations and decisions. We can, and should, model appropriate behaviors, talk with them about the situations, and guide them through them. But we should also let them struggle and figure things out a little. The only way our children are going to be equipped to hand hard times and choices (which they will face on their own eventually) is if they have practice working through come under our guidance. As painful as it is for a mom to watch her child struggle, it is the only way they will become stronger. We, of course, need to rely on God’s guidance and the instinct He’s given us as moms in deciding when to let them struggle and how much. As with everything there should be balance. We don’t want to leave them to struggle on their own with something they are totally unprepared and mal-equipped to handle. Our goal is to empower our children in small things so that they will be competent to handle the larger things as they come along.

Guiding includes giving a child words to use as well as showing them how to do things and handle things. Just as we desire to communicate effectively with our children, we want to teach them to effectively communicate with us and others. We can guide them in the proper (and pleasant) ways to say things in the same way that we guide them in physical tasks. It’s not “Give me milk.” It’s “Mommy, may I please have some milk.” It’s not “No, I won’t do it.” It’s “I’d rather not.” It’s not “Eww, Yuck.” It’s “I’d prefer not to eat peas.” It’s not “Sammy’s mean.” It’s “Sammy hurt my feelings by snatching my toy.”

Children often get frustrated, angry, violent, and have difficulty with others because they don’t have the tools to handle difficult situations or communicate in beneficial ways. Many of these things our children need our guidance in seem small, and will most likely have to be repeated many times, but put together they enable a child to feel self-confident and have healthy relationships. Like teachable moments to model and talk about appropriate behaviors, opportunities to guide children in replacing negative behaviors and words with positive ones are in great abundance. Each time a child gets frustrated when something’s not working the way they want it to is an opportunity to talk them through the problem calmly and showing them how to try it a different way. Each time a child gets angry is an opportunity to talk them through using their words to express themselves and resolve conflicts. Each time a child gets violent is an opportunity to express that violence isn’t appropriate and to talk through other ways of handling themselves. Each time a child is learning a new task is an opportunity to work along side them.

“By empowering children to accomplish tasks, you can teach them to work and to love work. You can help them develop skills and qualities of character that will benefit them in whatever they do throughout their lives. You can build your relationship with them as you work side by side. You can reinforce their desire and ability to accomplish something meaningful. You can help them learn to contribute to the family and prepare them to better contribute to the world.” Merrill

Guiding, like modeling and verbalizing, is something that becomes natural with practice. And your children will give you lots of opportunities to practice. Although each child is different in how they learn and how fast they learn, none of them learn everything the first time. Repetition is the key to instilling the behaviors you wish to see. And those moments when your child does exactly what you’ve been working so hard to teach them will come – and oh how worth the hard work it will all be!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guiding and Conduction I

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:40 PM 0 comments
The next step in teaching our children is acting as a conductor. Just as a conductor guides an orchestra who has been taught through modeling and verbally teaching, we too are to guide our children. Guiding is showing our children how to do something by working along side with them. Children learn a lot by seeing and hearing, but even more by doing. It’s kind of like teaching a child to ride a bike. They see other people doing it, we explain how to do it, and we put them on the bike and hang on while they work at getting it. We’re right there beside them the whole way.

We should also work and walk along side them as we teach them things like respect, responsibility, integrity, patience, and faith in addition to teaching them things like the value of hard work, taking care of material possessions, and everyday tasks.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my research for this chapter is the importance of working along side of my children. I’m a fairly independent person (yes, despite my knowing the importance of living interdependently) and work hard at raising my children to be self-sufficient. As I read Merrill, the following statement really caught my attention and has changed how I interact with my children when I’m having them complete their chores. Merrill states that children “are generally far more motivated when their parents work with them rather than expecting them to work alone.” And if our children’s motivation isn’t enough, he further adds that as we “labor side by side with a child, (we) have a nearly unparalleled opportunity to model, mentor, listen to, express love for, and relate to that child in meaningful ways.” I don’t know about you, but I most certainly want to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m learning by working hard my children may respect me, but by working along side them they learn that I respect them, and that motivates them to work with me, obey me, and maintain a relationship with me.

It’s easy as moms to get distracted by the responsibilities that we have and forget this step in the process of teaching our children things. However, if we make the decision to intentionally guide them through things, we can accomplish more ourselves in addition to more effectively instill values and teach our children specific tasks. We should guide our children in chores, learning, relationships, spiritual growth, and fun activities. Telling children not to argue lets them know that arguing is unacceptable, but it doesn’t tell them how to handle conflicts. Telling a child to be patient lets them know that patience is valued and expected, but it doesn’t tell them how to wait patiently. Telling a child to clean their room may feel overwhelming unless their shown how to do it and worked with to do it. Telling a child to do their prayers or read their Bible gives values to these spiritual disciplines, but doesn’t let them know how. For a negative behavior to be stopped effectively, it must be replaced with positive behaviors. For positive behaviors to increase and be valued, we need to walk them through the process of those behaviors.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Communicating

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:38 PM 0 comments
Before you get too overwhelmed with the responsibility of representing God to your children, let me move to the second tool in parenting. This tool is chatter. Chatter means keeping the lines of communication open with our children. We are to talk with them about everything, at any time, any place. We are to talk with them when things are going right. We are to talk with them when things are going wrong. We are to talk with them about casual, every day topics. We are to talk with them about deep, intense, difficult topics. We are to talk to them at home, over homework, over a meal, in the car, on the phone, and in their rooms. Notice I said talk with them. Healthy communication is always goes two ways (at least.) And healthy relationships are only built using the building block of healthy communication.

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:19

I observed the importance of communication in relationships between parents and children first as a family counselor. Over and over I was seeing the phenomena of good people who somehow as parents were producing disrespectful, rude, children who didn’t exhibit the values the parents obviously believed in. Some of these parents had fallen short in their ability (or willingness) to discipline their children. But others had consistently set and maintained appropriate boundaries. As I continued to observe these families it became clear that these parents weren’t effectively communicating with their child.

Oh, many of them thought that they were communicating. They were very good at verbalizing their beliefs, values, and rules. As a matter of fact, some of them had it down so well that their child didn’t hear them anymore. What they were doing was talking to their child, not with their child. It was almost like they got stuck in a mode of parenting when their child couldn’t communicate very well and needed constant supervision and reminders.

When children are very young (toddlers, preschoolers) information needs to be repeated. Parents often feel like broken records. During this phase of parenting we need to repeat rules again and again because of the developmental capabilities of a child to understand and remember them from day to day (and sometimes minute to minute.) Just because we have to talk to our children a lot more when they are little doesn’t mean that we can’t also talk with them. Young children notice everything and ask questions about everything. Don’t let yourself get tired of the seemingly-never-ending line of questioning. Instead see them as golden opportunities. Our children naturally create the perfect set up for building mutual communication with us. As we answer their questions we are not only teaching them about us and the world around them, we are also taking advantage of an opportunity to get to know more about our children. Even children who are very young are able (and very willing) to share their opinions and desires with us. We open the lines of communication as we ask them questions and listen to their answers and listen to their questions and provide respectful/relevant answers. When we talk to or lecture our children we are trying to get them to understand us (whether it’s a toddler or a teenager), but that’s not what true communication is all about. As we learn to communicate with our child, we are stacking essential, foundational blocks to our relationship with them.

I really can’t say enough about the importance of healthy, effective communication between parents and children. Again God is the Ultimate Parent. He has communicated with His children in a variety of ways from the beginning of human time. He has walked with us, whispered in our ears, roared through the thunder, called us through the prophets, expressed His love through His Son, given us the written Word, and invited us to dialogue with Him through prayer. In know how to communicate with our children, we can always look to and ask Him for guidance. Just as God communicates with us in many ways, we too can communicate with our children in many ways and for many different purposes. Our opportunities to communicate - in a variety of ways - are endless.

When a child asks about traffic and expresses impatience, it’s a golden opportunity to talk about patience. To tell them that patience isn’t waiting, but how we wait. And since we can’t make the traffic move, let’s do something fun like sing songs. When they comment on how busy you are with chores, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about every one pitching in to help and having a positive attitude while getting the not-so-fun things done. When a child asks about that person at the store that wasn’t very nice, it’s a wonderful time to talk about being kind to people regardless of how they act, and that we never know what’s going on with someone to make them behave in an unkind manner. When a family member dies, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk to about eternity and God’s gift of forgiveness offered through His Son. When a child is scared, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk through their fears and pray with them about their fear. When a child tries really hard, it’s an ideal time to encourage them and praise their efforts. Teachable moments are almost limitless once mommy’s radar is tuned into them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You're a Model for you Children

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:36 PM 0 comments
As we instruct our children through discipline the importance of obedience, there are five main tools that we have as parents. First, our children are copy cats, and they mimic everything we do and say. Even though it may become less noticeable as they become teens, they still integrate what they see at home into who they are. Therefore we should model appropriate behavior and a right heart.

I remember from very early on my children beginning to mimic behavior. From waving bye-bye as a baby to trying to steal Daddy’s kisses to wanting to drive the car and playing house, my children have been a mirror for me. Sometimes what they said or did was just the cutest thing ever. At other times what they said or did brought something to my attention that I needed to change or improve on. For me it has been a great motivator to continue to grow and make positive changes in my actions and speech.

Often, however, parents will either correct the child, taking on the “do as I say and not as I do” mentality. This mentality is dangerous because it causes a child to see his/her parent as a hypocrite and decreased the child’s respect for the parent. Sometimes parents just choose to ignore the behavior in their child so that they can continue to ignore the behavior in themselves. This mentality most certainly doesn’t work to raise a child who is respectful of authority – the parent’s, others’, or God’s.

Modeling appropriate behavior shows a child how to do something. When mom gets caught in traffic and decides to use the time to converse with her child or sing some new songs, she teaches her child to be patient in circumstances out of their control. When mom gets hurt and verbalizes her pain without using obscene language, she teaches her child to express him/herself in difficult situations using appropriate words. When someone is rude or mean to mom and she responds with kindness, she teaches her child that we are to treat others as we wish to be treated, not as they treat us. When mom goes about her chores cheerfully, or at least not grumpily, she teaches her child that she can choose to be in a good mood even when she’s doing something she doesn’t like to do. When mom talks to dad with respectful tones and words, she teaches her child to respect both of her parents. When mom keeps a commitment even though she’d rather be doing something else, she teaches her child responsibility. There are countless opportunities we moms have to model appropriate behavior for our children.

If I haven’t convinced you yet of the importance of modeling a right heart and right actions for your children, let me take it to the next level. As we model a right heart and right actions for our children we are also helping them to form a right view of God. How our children see us is how they will see God. If they see us as harsh, critical, and demanding, that is how they will view God. If they see us as loving, forgiving, and just, that is how they will see God. The responsibility we have as parents really comes into focus and the importance of how we conduct ourselves with our children and in life becomes awesomely clear when we realize the effect we have on our children’s relationship with God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Importance of Obedience

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:32 PM 0 comments
With everything said about discipline having the goal of instructing our children, I must say that I have become convinced that the most important principle that we should instruct them in is obedience – in actions and attitudes.

“If we are going to raise a generation of faithful children to live righteous lives, they must begin by learning to obey their parents.” John MacArthur

One thing that gets said a lot in our house is, “Are you being obedient or disobedient?” As I’ve grown as a parent and a child of God I have come to understand that obedience is key. Experience has taught me that obedience brings rewards and disobedience costs dearly. Throughout the Bible God is constantly instructing His children to be obedient, rewards those who are, and punishes those who aren’t. Some may see this as unfair or unloving, but a clear understanding of God’s law gives us a clear understanding of His requirement for obedience. His law (rules, covenant,) is for our benefit. If we obey His law we can avoid the negative consequences of sin. It doesn’t take long to see that breaking God’s law (specifically the Ten Commandments) hurts relationships, either with God, with others, with ourselves, or all of the above. His law is to protect us and guide us to the rewards of healthy relationships.

As I read through the Bible with my children I get a snapshot look at the main stories and clearly see the theme of positive consequences for obedience and negative consequences for disobedience. We, like God, should love our children too much to let them continue down the wrong paths. God has put us in a position of authority over our children not so that we can rule over them but so that we can shepherd them. As their shepherd, we guide them, help them understand themselves as wonderfully and miraculously made by God, and plant a love of God and His Word in their hearts. Obedience is not something, however, we can command or punish them into. When children obey out of fear, it is only outward. It’s when obedience is rooted in love and trust that right actions come from right motives and with a right heart. Just as our willing obedience to God is a result of a loving relationship with Him, our children should willingly obey us as a result of a loving relationship with us.

Obedience needs to be taught in a loving environment. We do this by lovingly correcting them through allowing natural consequences when appropriate and enforcing logical consequences when natural consequences would be extremely harmful.

Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1, 4

I make it clear to my children that I expect them to obey me, even in the little things, and I explain to them that the reason it’s important to obey because it’s Mommy and Daddy’s job to keep them safe. They must obey in the little things because it makes obedience a habit. If I let my child get away with little instances of disobedience at home, then he’s not likely to listen to me out in public when I want him to hold my hand or stop on command before running out in a parking lot. Letting children know that we expect them to obey because we love them and have their best interest at heart is a part of not exasperating them. Another part of that is how we conduct ourselves when we create boundaries and handle situations when they disobey. In everything we do and in everything we say, our love for them should be conveyed – by our tone, by the expression on our face, and by the words we choose to use.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Instructive Discipline

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:30 PM 0 comments
In order to properly discipline our children, we must have a proper understanding of discipline. When people think about discipline they generally think about correcting or punishing children for wrong behavior. They think about spankings and time-outs and revoking of privileges. However, discipline involves much, much more than correction. It involves discipling our children’s hearts and teaching them everything they need to know for life. Discipline is as much about teaching right behaviors as it is eliminating negative behaviors. In all of our actions as parents we should come from a frame of reference of what is in the child’s best interest. The goals of discipline are to direct a child to make good decisions, develop right thinking, and integrate right motives into their heart. As parents we teach them these skills through words and actions and create boundaries around them as they develop these skills themselves. We provide the outside motivation for making good choices until the child develops internal motivation to make good decisions – which comes in steps and requires love, diligence, and growing with our child.

As I said in the beginning of this chapter, I often fall short in disciplining my children in the right way with the right heart. There are days I’m extremely tired and have a shorter temper. There are times I get upset because one of my children interrupted my schedule. There are times I discipline in anger because I’ve been defied or ignored. But just as our children grow and develop as we correct them and teach them to do right in mind, heart, and body, so also will God work in us. If we let Him lead us and guide us as we lead and guide our children, we will grow as parents. As I seek God to give me the strength, knowledge and wisdom I need to parent my children in the way they need me to, I see myself becoming more patient, longer-tempered, and less selfish. My parenting decisions become less about me and more (truly) about them. I am learning to love them with an agape love, which is always in their best interest, even (and especially) when it’s not the easy way to go.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Your Parenting Partner

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:28 PM 0 comments
In the rest of the posts on parenting you will find the core principles of parenting. But please remember that you and God are partners in this parenting deal. He did not give you your children and then abandon you and wish you the best of luck. He is right in it with you.

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5

We have a great responsibility as parents, but as we meet that responsibility we can rely on, trust in, and lean on God to both help us and work in our children’s hearts. Our job is to seek God’s will for our children and rely on His guidance and strength to follow through on the day-to-day duties of being a mom.

God is the Ultimate Parent and has clearly laid out the principles of parenting through Scripture. The first principle is loving discipline. It’s important that we recognize that everything we do is working towards training our children in love. This includes discipline. God always disciplines us as his children because He loves us and has our best interest at heart and we are to do the same for our children.

For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Psalm 3:12

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Parenting with Purpose

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:13 PM 0 comments
Many parents, however, do not keep these things (the who, what, when, where, why, and how) in mind as they parent their children. Parenting is often done in a fly by the seat of your pants kind of way. Issues are addressed the moment they arise. There’s no main goal or purpose in parenting and there’s no forethought and planning. Parents often seem to be just trying to survive the current stage and make it until their children get old enough to move out. Children in these families are often not disciplined or not disciplined correctly and parents end up feeling burdened and overwhelmed. Parenting is not supposed to be a burden, however. It is supposed to be a joy. That’s not to say that parenting is or should be easy. Quite the contrary, parenting is hard work. But, as with any gift that’s truly worth something, children come with the responsibility to take care of them. It is up to us to embrace parenting with a joyful heart and enjoy the journey of ups and downs.

There are many parenting philosophies out there to help parents be effective in their job, but most of them focus on developing well-behaved children. The focus is on external behavior and on molding independent, self-sufficient, contributing members of society. Although not bad goals, the true “challenge of every Christian parent is to bring up children who love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength; who have a vibrant, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus; and who’s lives will be bright and shining lights, penetrating the darkness around them.” (Bruce Johnson, Family Life Today)

In parenting, “behavior is not the basic issue. The basic issue is always what is going on in the heart.” Tedd Tripp

Parenting isn’t just about raising good children who do good things, but raising adults who have a heart for Christ that manifests itself in outward actions. This has to be done intentionally.

When we teach our children to go potty, we do it intentionally. When we teach our children to read, we do it intentionally. When we teach our children to drive, we do it intentionally. When teaching children these types of lessons there tends to be time set aside, specific instructions, often books read to assist in training, and sometimes even other adults corralled in to help. Although traits such as respect, obedience, taking care of material possessions, patience, responsibility, integrity, and fairness are important, it is often assumed that children will just kind of pick up these traits by osmosis. The same is often true about faith in God. Many parents believe that if they set the right example for their children, their children will make the right decisions. Other parents believe that they can set whatever example they feel like but as long as they tell their children the right thing to do their children will follow the rules (we’ve all heard the biggest lie in parenting – ‘do as I say and not as I do’.) Many parents believe that discipline is the key to good parenting, but miss out on the true purpose of discipline and end up alienating their children. Other parents believe that their children will do the right things if they love them enough and end up with grown children who have no respect for authority or skills for life. There are many mistakes that we can (and will) make in parenting. And in our present culture we have additional challenges than have parents of previous generations. Parenting can seem like a daunting task when we look at it full on, but if we stay focused on our goals as parents and decide to be intentional about the way we parent, with God’s guidance and help, we will be successful.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What to do with Leftover Ham

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 5:05 PM 0 comments
Wondering what to make for dinner? Need something quick and have leftovers? One of our favorite dishes with leftover ham is chicken cordon blue.

Layer baking dish with bread crumbs, flattened chicken tenders or breasts, ham & swiss cheese. Do two sets of layers of meats and put a top layer of bread crumbs. Regular or Italian work. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Tonight, I'm serving with homemade fried potatoes and whatever veggie I find in the freezer.

Another great thing to do with leftover ham is make a ham and brocolli ring. Dice the ham, mix with steamed, chopped brocolli (can be either frozen or fresh), and diced cheese (preferably swiss). Mix in 1/8 cup of each dijon mustard and honey mustard.

Lay out crescent rolls on stone or other baking pan in circle or oblong fashion, top with mixture and pull ends of rolls to cover in criss cross. Bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parenting 101

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:08 PM 0 comments
The who: parenting is about our children. Not about our child’s actions, necessarily, but about what we as moms do that is in the best interest of our children.

The what: parenting is about guiding our children to maturity and a saving faith in Christ Jesus.

The when: parenting is about knowing when children need what. They need love all the time, encouragement for what they do right, discipline for what they do wrong, and for us to gradually let go as they grow.

The where: parenting is about pointing our children to heaven. When we can give them an eternal perspective of life, we gift them with the ability to focus on Christ in everything they do.

The how: parenting is about using the tools given to us directly through God’s Word and indirectly through others’ experiences.

The why: parenting is about taking care of the gift that God has given us in our children. It is the highest calling that we can have.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD; children a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

Friday, February 4, 2011

Parenting on Purpose

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 2:03 PM 0 comments
I must begin this topic by saying that I am the most imperfect parent. Despite the number of parenting books I’ve read, despite the fact that I’ve been trained as a counselor and taught parenting classes, despite knowing the right things to do, I am the most imperfect parent. I don’t always do the right things, say the right things, at the right times, for the right reasons. But I have learned a lot about parenting from other parents and the Ultimate Parent. This chapter, as are all of them, is as much for me as it is for you. Although I have the knowledge, I also need the encouragement and reminders to use that knowledge and stay consistent and focused in my parenting.

One of the things that has developed through my experience as a mom is my focus in parenting. Once I got past the newness of being a mom and shock of what true sleep deprivation is like, I learned that I had to do more than just survive parenting if I wanted my children to do more than just to survive their childhood. I wanted them to thrive and that meant intentionally focusing on my job to guide my children towards maturity – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. My job is to love them and make decisions in their best interest. As a person living in the flesh, I often fall short, but I have learned that by using the resources God gives me and relying on Him to lead me as a mom, I can give my children everything they need as the grow and mature. And even my faults and failures can serve as lessons for them as I admit my shortcomings and sins and continue to seek after God’s will for my life.

As my children and I (and my husband) make progress on our journey towards maturity, there are several principles that I have found to be critical. The first principle is that our main goal in parenting is to lead our children to maturity. The end goal is that they not just grow older (physical maturity) but that they become everything God intended them and created them to be (spiritual, mental, and emotional maturity.)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:14-16

We know our children have reached (relative) maturity when they are internally motivated to seek God and obey Him out of love. To get them to this point we have a lot of work to do and much of this work will come in the form of “motivating our children externally - correcting their flesh, or their actions” (Lisa Welchel) while instilling right heart motives to do the right things. As we do the work of parenting with the end goal in mind we must also keep in mind the who, what, when, where, how, and why of parenting.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just say "No"

Posted by Tracy Wainwright at 1:43 PM 0 comments
Most of us moms remember this anti-drug campaign. I think it's safe to say that it's impact on youth was minimal. Yet, I think it's usefulness in parenting is unlimited.

One of the things I've observed as both a mom and a family counselor is that saying "no" to children is one of the most difficult things for parents to do. Even I (who've been called a real hard-nosed parent) have a hard time occasionally. Why is that?

I think it's because we love our children, want the best for them and want them to be happy. The problem comes in when what they believe will make them happy is not the thing that is best for them. One example of this is letting them eat what they want. They believe that eating sweets all the time, or before meals is what will make them happy. But we know it's not best for them. Another example is letting them hang out with friends of drastically different value systems. They may genuinely love these friends, but their influence may be devastating to our child's decision-making.

The problem and process of saying "no" starts in toddlerhood and doesn't end until --- well, sometimes ever. The problem is that it often hurts us as moms - and causes us to have to give up something - to say "no." We know we'll have to deal with the whining, fussing, and arguing. We don't want to deal with it. The process of saying "no" is knowing what to say it to and being able to back it up. The first part, we can only make the decision personally. What is important enough/necessary to say "no" to. The second part is ultra-important. If you're not going to back it up, don't even think about saying "no."

I've had my share of whininess, fussiness, and arguing. I have one child who screams at the top of her lungs when I say "no" to the 'wrong thing.' But, I've learned, if I simply hand on (sometimes 3 minutes, sometimes 30), it will pass and things will be all right again. I've also learned to discipline the whininess, fussiness, and arguing in and of themselves. If you're doing that when I tell you "no", you're not respecting me nor being obedient, and that's a punishable offence.

It hurts to take away priviledges from our children. It hurts to enforce negative consequences and see them upset. But, the natural consequences of their disobeying become much more dangerous as they get older. So, I'll stick with saying "no" when necessary - and praying for guidance on when to.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Guiding and Conduction II

We also need to guide our children in how to deal with challenging and frustrating situations Instead of whining and complaining while standing in line at the grocery store (or asking for every piece of candy on the shelf), try counting the number of other people waiting, or make up a story about what the food does at night when the store’s closed, or review school work, or practice scripture. Instead of hitting someone when they make a child mad, teach them to hit a pillow, or do jumping jacks, or go spend a few minutes alone to calm down. Instead of throwing something when frustrated with a task, teach them to write about their frustration, or jump on a trampoline, or talk about it. There are countless ways to handle difficult situations and express feelings. The goal is to teach appropriate behaviors that will be healthy and effective in handling difficult situations.

He who walks with the wise grows wise. Proverbs 13:20a

I must add, as a personal caveat, it is important that our children experience difficult situations and disappointments. As moms we generally tend to protect our children. After all, that is a large part of our job. However, if we want what’s truly best for our children, we must, must, let them deal with tough situations and decisions. We can, and should, model appropriate behaviors, talk with them about the situations, and guide them through them. But we should also let them struggle and figure things out a little. The only way our children are going to be equipped to hand hard times and choices (which they will face on their own eventually) is if they have practice working through come under our guidance. As painful as it is for a mom to watch her child struggle, it is the only way they will become stronger. We, of course, need to rely on God’s guidance and the instinct He’s given us as moms in deciding when to let them struggle and how much. As with everything there should be balance. We don’t want to leave them to struggle on their own with something they are totally unprepared and mal-equipped to handle. Our goal is to empower our children in small things so that they will be competent to handle the larger things as they come along.

Guiding includes giving a child words to use as well as showing them how to do things and handle things. Just as we desire to communicate effectively with our children, we want to teach them to effectively communicate with us and others. We can guide them in the proper (and pleasant) ways to say things in the same way that we guide them in physical tasks. It’s not “Give me milk.” It’s “Mommy, may I please have some milk.” It’s not “No, I won’t do it.” It’s “I’d rather not.” It’s not “Eww, Yuck.” It’s “I’d prefer not to eat peas.” It’s not “Sammy’s mean.” It’s “Sammy hurt my feelings by snatching my toy.”

Children often get frustrated, angry, violent, and have difficulty with others because they don’t have the tools to handle difficult situations or communicate in beneficial ways. Many of these things our children need our guidance in seem small, and will most likely have to be repeated many times, but put together they enable a child to feel self-confident and have healthy relationships. Like teachable moments to model and talk about appropriate behaviors, opportunities to guide children in replacing negative behaviors and words with positive ones are in great abundance. Each time a child gets frustrated when something’s not working the way they want it to is an opportunity to talk them through the problem calmly and showing them how to try it a different way. Each time a child gets angry is an opportunity to talk them through using their words to express themselves and resolve conflicts. Each time a child gets violent is an opportunity to express that violence isn’t appropriate and to talk through other ways of handling themselves. Each time a child is learning a new task is an opportunity to work along side them.

“By empowering children to accomplish tasks, you can teach them to work and to love work. You can help them develop skills and qualities of character that will benefit them in whatever they do throughout their lives. You can build your relationship with them as you work side by side. You can reinforce their desire and ability to accomplish something meaningful. You can help them learn to contribute to the family and prepare them to better contribute to the world.” Merrill

Guiding, like modeling and verbalizing, is something that becomes natural with practice. And your children will give you lots of opportunities to practice. Although each child is different in how they learn and how fast they learn, none of them learn everything the first time. Repetition is the key to instilling the behaviors you wish to see. And those moments when your child does exactly what you’ve been working so hard to teach them will come – and oh how worth the hard work it will all be!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guiding and Conduction I

The next step in teaching our children is acting as a conductor. Just as a conductor guides an orchestra who has been taught through modeling and verbally teaching, we too are to guide our children. Guiding is showing our children how to do something by working along side with them. Children learn a lot by seeing and hearing, but even more by doing. It’s kind of like teaching a child to ride a bike. They see other people doing it, we explain how to do it, and we put them on the bike and hang on while they work at getting it. We’re right there beside them the whole way.

We should also work and walk along side them as we teach them things like respect, responsibility, integrity, patience, and faith in addition to teaching them things like the value of hard work, taking care of material possessions, and everyday tasks.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my research for this chapter is the importance of working along side of my children. I’m a fairly independent person (yes, despite my knowing the importance of living interdependently) and work hard at raising my children to be self-sufficient. As I read Merrill, the following statement really caught my attention and has changed how I interact with my children when I’m having them complete their chores. Merrill states that children “are generally far more motivated when their parents work with them rather than expecting them to work alone.” And if our children’s motivation isn’t enough, he further adds that as we “labor side by side with a child, (we) have a nearly unparalleled opportunity to model, mentor, listen to, express love for, and relate to that child in meaningful ways.” I don’t know about you, but I most certainly want to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m learning by working hard my children may respect me, but by working along side them they learn that I respect them, and that motivates them to work with me, obey me, and maintain a relationship with me.

It’s easy as moms to get distracted by the responsibilities that we have and forget this step in the process of teaching our children things. However, if we make the decision to intentionally guide them through things, we can accomplish more ourselves in addition to more effectively instill values and teach our children specific tasks. We should guide our children in chores, learning, relationships, spiritual growth, and fun activities. Telling children not to argue lets them know that arguing is unacceptable, but it doesn’t tell them how to handle conflicts. Telling a child to be patient lets them know that patience is valued and expected, but it doesn’t tell them how to wait patiently. Telling a child to clean their room may feel overwhelming unless their shown how to do it and worked with to do it. Telling a child to do their prayers or read their Bible gives values to these spiritual disciplines, but doesn’t let them know how. For a negative behavior to be stopped effectively, it must be replaced with positive behaviors. For positive behaviors to increase and be valued, we need to walk them through the process of those behaviors.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Communicating

Before you get too overwhelmed with the responsibility of representing God to your children, let me move to the second tool in parenting. This tool is chatter. Chatter means keeping the lines of communication open with our children. We are to talk with them about everything, at any time, any place. We are to talk with them when things are going right. We are to talk with them when things are going wrong. We are to talk with them about casual, every day topics. We are to talk with them about deep, intense, difficult topics. We are to talk to them at home, over homework, over a meal, in the car, on the phone, and in their rooms. Notice I said talk with them. Healthy communication is always goes two ways (at least.) And healthy relationships are only built using the building block of healthy communication.

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:19

I observed the importance of communication in relationships between parents and children first as a family counselor. Over and over I was seeing the phenomena of good people who somehow as parents were producing disrespectful, rude, children who didn’t exhibit the values the parents obviously believed in. Some of these parents had fallen short in their ability (or willingness) to discipline their children. But others had consistently set and maintained appropriate boundaries. As I continued to observe these families it became clear that these parents weren’t effectively communicating with their child.

Oh, many of them thought that they were communicating. They were very good at verbalizing their beliefs, values, and rules. As a matter of fact, some of them had it down so well that their child didn’t hear them anymore. What they were doing was talking to their child, not with their child. It was almost like they got stuck in a mode of parenting when their child couldn’t communicate very well and needed constant supervision and reminders.

When children are very young (toddlers, preschoolers) information needs to be repeated. Parents often feel like broken records. During this phase of parenting we need to repeat rules again and again because of the developmental capabilities of a child to understand and remember them from day to day (and sometimes minute to minute.) Just because we have to talk to our children a lot more when they are little doesn’t mean that we can’t also talk with them. Young children notice everything and ask questions about everything. Don’t let yourself get tired of the seemingly-never-ending line of questioning. Instead see them as golden opportunities. Our children naturally create the perfect set up for building mutual communication with us. As we answer their questions we are not only teaching them about us and the world around them, we are also taking advantage of an opportunity to get to know more about our children. Even children who are very young are able (and very willing) to share their opinions and desires with us. We open the lines of communication as we ask them questions and listen to their answers and listen to their questions and provide respectful/relevant answers. When we talk to or lecture our children we are trying to get them to understand us (whether it’s a toddler or a teenager), but that’s not what true communication is all about. As we learn to communicate with our child, we are stacking essential, foundational blocks to our relationship with them.

I really can’t say enough about the importance of healthy, effective communication between parents and children. Again God is the Ultimate Parent. He has communicated with His children in a variety of ways from the beginning of human time. He has walked with us, whispered in our ears, roared through the thunder, called us through the prophets, expressed His love through His Son, given us the written Word, and invited us to dialogue with Him through prayer. In know how to communicate with our children, we can always look to and ask Him for guidance. Just as God communicates with us in many ways, we too can communicate with our children in many ways and for many different purposes. Our opportunities to communicate - in a variety of ways - are endless.

When a child asks about traffic and expresses impatience, it’s a golden opportunity to talk about patience. To tell them that patience isn’t waiting, but how we wait. And since we can’t make the traffic move, let’s do something fun like sing songs. When they comment on how busy you are with chores, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about every one pitching in to help and having a positive attitude while getting the not-so-fun things done. When a child asks about that person at the store that wasn’t very nice, it’s a wonderful time to talk about being kind to people regardless of how they act, and that we never know what’s going on with someone to make them behave in an unkind manner. When a family member dies, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk to about eternity and God’s gift of forgiveness offered through His Son. When a child is scared, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk through their fears and pray with them about their fear. When a child tries really hard, it’s an ideal time to encourage them and praise their efforts. Teachable moments are almost limitless once mommy’s radar is tuned into them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You're a Model for you Children

As we instruct our children through discipline the importance of obedience, there are five main tools that we have as parents. First, our children are copy cats, and they mimic everything we do and say. Even though it may become less noticeable as they become teens, they still integrate what they see at home into who they are. Therefore we should model appropriate behavior and a right heart.

I remember from very early on my children beginning to mimic behavior. From waving bye-bye as a baby to trying to steal Daddy’s kisses to wanting to drive the car and playing house, my children have been a mirror for me. Sometimes what they said or did was just the cutest thing ever. At other times what they said or did brought something to my attention that I needed to change or improve on. For me it has been a great motivator to continue to grow and make positive changes in my actions and speech.

Often, however, parents will either correct the child, taking on the “do as I say and not as I do” mentality. This mentality is dangerous because it causes a child to see his/her parent as a hypocrite and decreased the child’s respect for the parent. Sometimes parents just choose to ignore the behavior in their child so that they can continue to ignore the behavior in themselves. This mentality most certainly doesn’t work to raise a child who is respectful of authority – the parent’s, others’, or God’s.

Modeling appropriate behavior shows a child how to do something. When mom gets caught in traffic and decides to use the time to converse with her child or sing some new songs, she teaches her child to be patient in circumstances out of their control. When mom gets hurt and verbalizes her pain without using obscene language, she teaches her child to express him/herself in difficult situations using appropriate words. When someone is rude or mean to mom and she responds with kindness, she teaches her child that we are to treat others as we wish to be treated, not as they treat us. When mom goes about her chores cheerfully, or at least not grumpily, she teaches her child that she can choose to be in a good mood even when she’s doing something she doesn’t like to do. When mom talks to dad with respectful tones and words, she teaches her child to respect both of her parents. When mom keeps a commitment even though she’d rather be doing something else, she teaches her child responsibility. There are countless opportunities we moms have to model appropriate behavior for our children.

If I haven’t convinced you yet of the importance of modeling a right heart and right actions for your children, let me take it to the next level. As we model a right heart and right actions for our children we are also helping them to form a right view of God. How our children see us is how they will see God. If they see us as harsh, critical, and demanding, that is how they will view God. If they see us as loving, forgiving, and just, that is how they will see God. The responsibility we have as parents really comes into focus and the importance of how we conduct ourselves with our children and in life becomes awesomely clear when we realize the effect we have on our children’s relationship with God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Importance of Obedience

With everything said about discipline having the goal of instructing our children, I must say that I have become convinced that the most important principle that we should instruct them in is obedience – in actions and attitudes.

“If we are going to raise a generation of faithful children to live righteous lives, they must begin by learning to obey their parents.” John MacArthur

One thing that gets said a lot in our house is, “Are you being obedient or disobedient?” As I’ve grown as a parent and a child of God I have come to understand that obedience is key. Experience has taught me that obedience brings rewards and disobedience costs dearly. Throughout the Bible God is constantly instructing His children to be obedient, rewards those who are, and punishes those who aren’t. Some may see this as unfair or unloving, but a clear understanding of God’s law gives us a clear understanding of His requirement for obedience. His law (rules, covenant,) is for our benefit. If we obey His law we can avoid the negative consequences of sin. It doesn’t take long to see that breaking God’s law (specifically the Ten Commandments) hurts relationships, either with God, with others, with ourselves, or all of the above. His law is to protect us and guide us to the rewards of healthy relationships.

As I read through the Bible with my children I get a snapshot look at the main stories and clearly see the theme of positive consequences for obedience and negative consequences for disobedience. We, like God, should love our children too much to let them continue down the wrong paths. God has put us in a position of authority over our children not so that we can rule over them but so that we can shepherd them. As their shepherd, we guide them, help them understand themselves as wonderfully and miraculously made by God, and plant a love of God and His Word in their hearts. Obedience is not something, however, we can command or punish them into. When children obey out of fear, it is only outward. It’s when obedience is rooted in love and trust that right actions come from right motives and with a right heart. Just as our willing obedience to God is a result of a loving relationship with Him, our children should willingly obey us as a result of a loving relationship with us.

Obedience needs to be taught in a loving environment. We do this by lovingly correcting them through allowing natural consequences when appropriate and enforcing logical consequences when natural consequences would be extremely harmful.

Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1, 4

I make it clear to my children that I expect them to obey me, even in the little things, and I explain to them that the reason it’s important to obey because it’s Mommy and Daddy’s job to keep them safe. They must obey in the little things because it makes obedience a habit. If I let my child get away with little instances of disobedience at home, then he’s not likely to listen to me out in public when I want him to hold my hand or stop on command before running out in a parking lot. Letting children know that we expect them to obey because we love them and have their best interest at heart is a part of not exasperating them. Another part of that is how we conduct ourselves when we create boundaries and handle situations when they disobey. In everything we do and in everything we say, our love for them should be conveyed – by our tone, by the expression on our face, and by the words we choose to use.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Instructive Discipline

In order to properly discipline our children, we must have a proper understanding of discipline. When people think about discipline they generally think about correcting or punishing children for wrong behavior. They think about spankings and time-outs and revoking of privileges. However, discipline involves much, much more than correction. It involves discipling our children’s hearts and teaching them everything they need to know for life. Discipline is as much about teaching right behaviors as it is eliminating negative behaviors. In all of our actions as parents we should come from a frame of reference of what is in the child’s best interest. The goals of discipline are to direct a child to make good decisions, develop right thinking, and integrate right motives into their heart. As parents we teach them these skills through words and actions and create boundaries around them as they develop these skills themselves. We provide the outside motivation for making good choices until the child develops internal motivation to make good decisions – which comes in steps and requires love, diligence, and growing with our child.

As I said in the beginning of this chapter, I often fall short in disciplining my children in the right way with the right heart. There are days I’m extremely tired and have a shorter temper. There are times I get upset because one of my children interrupted my schedule. There are times I discipline in anger because I’ve been defied or ignored. But just as our children grow and develop as we correct them and teach them to do right in mind, heart, and body, so also will God work in us. If we let Him lead us and guide us as we lead and guide our children, we will grow as parents. As I seek God to give me the strength, knowledge and wisdom I need to parent my children in the way they need me to, I see myself becoming more patient, longer-tempered, and less selfish. My parenting decisions become less about me and more (truly) about them. I am learning to love them with an agape love, which is always in their best interest, even (and especially) when it’s not the easy way to go.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Your Parenting Partner

In the rest of the posts on parenting you will find the core principles of parenting. But please remember that you and God are partners in this parenting deal. He did not give you your children and then abandon you and wish you the best of luck. He is right in it with you.

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5

We have a great responsibility as parents, but as we meet that responsibility we can rely on, trust in, and lean on God to both help us and work in our children’s hearts. Our job is to seek God’s will for our children and rely on His guidance and strength to follow through on the day-to-day duties of being a mom.

God is the Ultimate Parent and has clearly laid out the principles of parenting through Scripture. The first principle is loving discipline. It’s important that we recognize that everything we do is working towards training our children in love. This includes discipline. God always disciplines us as his children because He loves us and has our best interest at heart and we are to do the same for our children.

For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Psalm 3:12

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Parenting with Purpose

Many parents, however, do not keep these things (the who, what, when, where, why, and how) in mind as they parent their children. Parenting is often done in a fly by the seat of your pants kind of way. Issues are addressed the moment they arise. There’s no main goal or purpose in parenting and there’s no forethought and planning. Parents often seem to be just trying to survive the current stage and make it until their children get old enough to move out. Children in these families are often not disciplined or not disciplined correctly and parents end up feeling burdened and overwhelmed. Parenting is not supposed to be a burden, however. It is supposed to be a joy. That’s not to say that parenting is or should be easy. Quite the contrary, parenting is hard work. But, as with any gift that’s truly worth something, children come with the responsibility to take care of them. It is up to us to embrace parenting with a joyful heart and enjoy the journey of ups and downs.

There are many parenting philosophies out there to help parents be effective in their job, but most of them focus on developing well-behaved children. The focus is on external behavior and on molding independent, self-sufficient, contributing members of society. Although not bad goals, the true “challenge of every Christian parent is to bring up children who love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength; who have a vibrant, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus; and who’s lives will be bright and shining lights, penetrating the darkness around them.” (Bruce Johnson, Family Life Today)

In parenting, “behavior is not the basic issue. The basic issue is always what is going on in the heart.” Tedd Tripp

Parenting isn’t just about raising good children who do good things, but raising adults who have a heart for Christ that manifests itself in outward actions. This has to be done intentionally.

When we teach our children to go potty, we do it intentionally. When we teach our children to read, we do it intentionally. When we teach our children to drive, we do it intentionally. When teaching children these types of lessons there tends to be time set aside, specific instructions, often books read to assist in training, and sometimes even other adults corralled in to help. Although traits such as respect, obedience, taking care of material possessions, patience, responsibility, integrity, and fairness are important, it is often assumed that children will just kind of pick up these traits by osmosis. The same is often true about faith in God. Many parents believe that if they set the right example for their children, their children will make the right decisions. Other parents believe that they can set whatever example they feel like but as long as they tell their children the right thing to do their children will follow the rules (we’ve all heard the biggest lie in parenting – ‘do as I say and not as I do’.) Many parents believe that discipline is the key to good parenting, but miss out on the true purpose of discipline and end up alienating their children. Other parents believe that their children will do the right things if they love them enough and end up with grown children who have no respect for authority or skills for life. There are many mistakes that we can (and will) make in parenting. And in our present culture we have additional challenges than have parents of previous generations. Parenting can seem like a daunting task when we look at it full on, but if we stay focused on our goals as parents and decide to be intentional about the way we parent, with God’s guidance and help, we will be successful.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What to do with Leftover Ham

Wondering what to make for dinner? Need something quick and have leftovers? One of our favorite dishes with leftover ham is chicken cordon blue.

Layer baking dish with bread crumbs, flattened chicken tenders or breasts, ham & swiss cheese. Do two sets of layers of meats and put a top layer of bread crumbs. Regular or Italian work. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Tonight, I'm serving with homemade fried potatoes and whatever veggie I find in the freezer.

Another great thing to do with leftover ham is make a ham and brocolli ring. Dice the ham, mix with steamed, chopped brocolli (can be either frozen or fresh), and diced cheese (preferably swiss). Mix in 1/8 cup of each dijon mustard and honey mustard.

Lay out crescent rolls on stone or other baking pan in circle or oblong fashion, top with mixture and pull ends of rolls to cover in criss cross. Bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parenting 101

The who: parenting is about our children. Not about our child’s actions, necessarily, but about what we as moms do that is in the best interest of our children.

The what: parenting is about guiding our children to maturity and a saving faith in Christ Jesus.

The when: parenting is about knowing when children need what. They need love all the time, encouragement for what they do right, discipline for what they do wrong, and for us to gradually let go as they grow.

The where: parenting is about pointing our children to heaven. When we can give them an eternal perspective of life, we gift them with the ability to focus on Christ in everything they do.

The how: parenting is about using the tools given to us directly through God’s Word and indirectly through others’ experiences.

The why: parenting is about taking care of the gift that God has given us in our children. It is the highest calling that we can have.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD; children a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

Friday, February 4, 2011

Parenting on Purpose

I must begin this topic by saying that I am the most imperfect parent. Despite the number of parenting books I’ve read, despite the fact that I’ve been trained as a counselor and taught parenting classes, despite knowing the right things to do, I am the most imperfect parent. I don’t always do the right things, say the right things, at the right times, for the right reasons. But I have learned a lot about parenting from other parents and the Ultimate Parent. This chapter, as are all of them, is as much for me as it is for you. Although I have the knowledge, I also need the encouragement and reminders to use that knowledge and stay consistent and focused in my parenting.

One of the things that has developed through my experience as a mom is my focus in parenting. Once I got past the newness of being a mom and shock of what true sleep deprivation is like, I learned that I had to do more than just survive parenting if I wanted my children to do more than just to survive their childhood. I wanted them to thrive and that meant intentionally focusing on my job to guide my children towards maturity – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. My job is to love them and make decisions in their best interest. As a person living in the flesh, I often fall short, but I have learned that by using the resources God gives me and relying on Him to lead me as a mom, I can give my children everything they need as the grow and mature. And even my faults and failures can serve as lessons for them as I admit my shortcomings and sins and continue to seek after God’s will for my life.

As my children and I (and my husband) make progress on our journey towards maturity, there are several principles that I have found to be critical. The first principle is that our main goal in parenting is to lead our children to maturity. The end goal is that they not just grow older (physical maturity) but that they become everything God intended them and created them to be (spiritual, mental, and emotional maturity.)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:14-16

We know our children have reached (relative) maturity when they are internally motivated to seek God and obey Him out of love. To get them to this point we have a lot of work to do and much of this work will come in the form of “motivating our children externally - correcting their flesh, or their actions” (Lisa Welchel) while instilling right heart motives to do the right things. As we do the work of parenting with the end goal in mind we must also keep in mind the who, what, when, where, how, and why of parenting.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just say "No"

Most of us moms remember this anti-drug campaign. I think it's safe to say that it's impact on youth was minimal. Yet, I think it's usefulness in parenting is unlimited.

One of the things I've observed as both a mom and a family counselor is that saying "no" to children is one of the most difficult things for parents to do. Even I (who've been called a real hard-nosed parent) have a hard time occasionally. Why is that?

I think it's because we love our children, want the best for them and want them to be happy. The problem comes in when what they believe will make them happy is not the thing that is best for them. One example of this is letting them eat what they want. They believe that eating sweets all the time, or before meals is what will make them happy. But we know it's not best for them. Another example is letting them hang out with friends of drastically different value systems. They may genuinely love these friends, but their influence may be devastating to our child's decision-making.

The problem and process of saying "no" starts in toddlerhood and doesn't end until --- well, sometimes ever. The problem is that it often hurts us as moms - and causes us to have to give up something - to say "no." We know we'll have to deal with the whining, fussing, and arguing. We don't want to deal with it. The process of saying "no" is knowing what to say it to and being able to back it up. The first part, we can only make the decision personally. What is important enough/necessary to say "no" to. The second part is ultra-important. If you're not going to back it up, don't even think about saying "no."

I've had my share of whininess, fussiness, and arguing. I have one child who screams at the top of her lungs when I say "no" to the 'wrong thing.' But, I've learned, if I simply hand on (sometimes 3 minutes, sometimes 30), it will pass and things will be all right again. I've also learned to discipline the whininess, fussiness, and arguing in and of themselves. If you're doing that when I tell you "no", you're not respecting me nor being obedient, and that's a punishable offence.

It hurts to take away priviledges from our children. It hurts to enforce negative consequences and see them upset. But, the natural consequences of their disobeying become much more dangerous as they get older. So, I'll stick with saying "no" when necessary - and praying for guidance on when to.
 

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