When to win

Dr. James Dobson says in his book, The Strong Willed Child, ”When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively.”  This is a great word of advice but the key is when you are defiantly challenged.  What about when you are not defiantly challenged?  What about those times when there is this issue that keeps coming up over and over and at the root, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Let me explain.  We have coat issues in our house.  My children do not like coats.  They do not like sweatshirts.  Or sweaters, or hats or sweatpants that are fuzzy on the inside.  Apparently I have a different body temperature than they do.  This winter I made a decision: No one is required to wear a coat (well Abbey doesn’t have a choice).  The truth is, we live in North Carolina and they are not going to freeze to death.  (The other truth is I am worried about what others will think about me if my children don’t wear a coat to school.)

Now I must say that I had a really hard time staying true to this.  I started saying, “Now today, I would recommend a jacket, but it is your decision,” and then bite my tongue if they chose not to wear a coat.  I thought when I started this that they would have a couple of cold days on the playground and then they would choose to wear their coats the rest of the winter.  Actually the opposite happened.  The other day, my children were playing outside, barefoot and wearing shorts (it was about 50 degrees) and I had to remember they are not going to freeze to death.

While fighting over coats is not an issue we are going to argue about, changing clothes is.  My children wear uniforms to school and will often ask if they can change clothes when they get home.  This turned into double amounts of laundry and random apparel all over my house for me to pick up.  I will not budge on this.  It took months of saying no before they stopped asking (they still ask about once a week).

The point is you can’t make everything a battle because then your home is just a war zone.  Managing a home requires rules and expectations.  Wisdom is knowing the difference between when what is critical and what is incidental and acting accordingly.


6 ways to help your kids focus on Jesus this Christmas season

Everybody child loves Christmas.  It is so exciting for kids to see a Christmas tree in their living, their neighborhood lit up at night, and Santa everywhere they look. I love all the joy surrounding fun traditions like Santa Claus, Elf on the Shelf and gift giving.  These things are great, and there is no shortage of ways to remember the Santa part of Christmas.  But today I thought I would talk about a few ways to keep Jesus at the center of your children’s Christmas…

1.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.  I have read this book with my kids for the past 3 years.  It is not necessarily a “Christian” book but it has a great message centered around the story of Christmas, and a super funny story.

2.  Teach your children Christmas carols and talk about the meaning.

3.  What God Wants For Christmas by FamilyLife.  This is a little activity our family has enjoyed for the past few years.  (See this old post).  We like to do one or two a night leading up to Christmas.

4.  Have a Happy Jesus Party.  When I was a kid, there were a few Christmases where we would have a cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas day.  You don’t have to have the party on Christmas day but this is a great way to remind your kids why we celebrate Christmas.

5.  Read the Christmas story before Christmas.  Talk about the different characters in the story.

6. The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie.  This is a book about a family who decides they want to give a gift to Jesus for Christmas.  The book is a way to talk to your kids about helping others less fortunate during the Holidays.

Marry the vision, hire the strategy.

One of my favorite teachings that my husband does is called Marry the Vision, Hire the Strategy. He teaches that at our church, the vision is, “So that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ.” That never changes. But our strategy, (how we will accomplish this vision), is always changing. Multi-site campuses, locations, worship styles are just a means to accomplishing the vision.

I was driving down the road the other day thinking about how this applies to parenting. My vision is to raise children who love Jesus and change the world for Him. My strategy is always changing in how I accomplish this (by the grace of God). I will do what ever it takes to raise Godly children and I will not be ashamed if I have to stop dong something that isn’t working.

I will punish, I will reward. I will lecture and I will give the silent treatment (ok, I struggle with silence). I will change our chore/behavior chart a million times if I have to. Because the strategy changes but the vision is the same.

I have several friends who have gone back and forth between homeschooling their kids and then putting them in school, then homeschooling them again. So what? This is not necessarily indecisiveness, it is viewing the stages of your family in seasons.

As parents, we cannot be afraid to use trial and error. What works this week may not work next week and what works for one child may not work of the other. Every child is different and every family goes through seasons of change.

My goal is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and open to change. I cannot fall into the trap of comparing my parenting to my friend’s parenting.

My husband says, “The vision is written in blood. The strategy is written in pencil.” I have to have this attitude if I am going to raise Godly children.

A foundation of obedience

Parenting is not easy.  Ever.  One of the best things I have heard lately concerning parenting is, “Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.”  What a great quote to keep things in perspective for me.   I know that raising young children can be physically exhausting, but raising older kids is emotionally exhausting (or so I have been told).  And even when you have “raised” your kids, it’s probably even worse because you have absolutely no control over their choices.

I, in no way, consider myself an expert in parenting.  I have many days where I am left bewildered.  Today I needed literally 2 things in Harris Teeter.  I took my kids in the store and decided to let them push those little kid carts.  Eeesh!  The pictures are cute, but what the pictures do not show you is the moment where I was literally speaking the name of Jesus under my breath in effort to keep myself from strangling my kids.

Needless to say, I have been turning to some parenting advice here and there lately and have had many conversations with my husband. Currently I am focusing on, OBEDIENCE.  I cannot raise children who do not know how to obey.  Everything rises and falls around obedience.  If my children cannot learn to obey  their mother, who they can see and hear, they will never be able to listen to the Lord, who they cannot see or hear.

All of my lectures are kept to the point, “You did not obey.”  Even with Abbey, it is all about obedience.  It is not, you did not clean your room, it is, you did not obey.  It is not, you should not hit your sister, it is you did not obey.  For Abbey, it is not, you did not come when I called you, it is simple, you did not obey.

Are there other virtues I need to teach my kids, of course.  But if they can get OBEY, they can learn just about anything else.

Brick by brick

Proverbs 14:1
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

I love this verse in Proverbs.  I want to be a wise woman.  A woman who is proactive in building my house, one brick at a time.

I can build into my relationship with my husband.  This means I focus on what I can do to improve our relationship rather than the things I wish he would do.  When I place my efforts in my own change, I have less time to be worried about his.

I can build into my children.  I know that every ounce of effort I put into disciplining them and teaching them to be responsible is worth it, even if I cannot see the results today.

I can build our day by getting up early enough that I do not have to rush out the door.  Or planning ahead of time what we will eat for dinner so we have a healthy meal to eat.  (Boy is this an area where I have lots of room for improvement).

I can build into the emotional atmosphere of our home by making sure my soul is filled with with Word of God so that I am not running on empty, a ticking bomb waiting to explode on someone.

Am I perfect at these things?  No way.  I don’t even come close.  But a healthy, God-centered home is not magically built.  It is put together one brick at a time.  And while some days I lay more bricks than others, my goal is to make sure I am working to build my house, not tear it down.

4 things I struggle with as a mom

When my kids were babies, I thought that the baby stage was the hardest.  I am now living the reality that having kids is hard at every stage.  Some stages require more physical work, other stages are more emotional, and then some stages are both.

Here are 4 things I am struggling through and working on as a mother…

1.  Be with them when I am with them.  Sometimes I am with my kids all day and not really with them.  I am bad about this.  Whether it’s laundry or dinner or email or a phone call.  My kids need me to talk to them and play with them.  Not all day, otherwise we would never eat or have clean clothes, but they deserve a portion of my day.

2.  Expect them to act like children.  Plan for it because, news flash, that is what they are.  Abbey is going to throw a temper-tantrum at some point each day over what she wants to eat.  Of course she wants to eat a chocolate chip granola bar over an apple sauce, they are like candy bars.  But I am the mom and I say what we are having for snack.  And my boys are going to break things, and they are going  to spill things and they are going to fight with each other.  Because they are kids.

3.  Don’t be a fussy mom.  I don’t want my kids to be afraid of me.  Or to like a babysitter better than me.  I want to practice saying yes more.  This is hard.  If I let Graham give his Batman toys a bath, I may have to clean up spilled water in the bathroom, but is that really that big of a deal?

4.  Don’t think every activity has to be a major event.  My kids like to play Uno with me almost as much as they like for me to take them to the park.  Every activity at home does not have to be a major project.  Painting is awesome, but sometimes crayons and tickles mean just as much (and make a lot less mess).

I want to give my kids my best. That means simplifying when I can and embracing the chaos when I can’t.

Either way, I want to be all in.

Parenting Rewind… A Good Host

I love this practical and honest post Holly wrote a few years back about teaching her boys to host. As a mom of 4 girls, this is something I am always trying to teach them. I think that us adults could probably take a lot away from this as well! Enjoy!

Every Thursday morning the boys and I attend a Bible study with several other ladies from Elevation.  Last week we hosted at our house.

In the past my children have really embarrassed me when we have friends over.  I know all kids struggle with sharing and being gracious hosts, but seeing as how everything my boys do is big and showy, you can imagine what happens when they are upset.

So I decided to run some offensive parenting plays before everyone arrived.  I happened to have picked up some superhero pajamas on sale at Children’s Place the day before with the intention of having the boys earn them.  And Thursday was the perfect time.

I sat the boys down and told them what a gracious host is.  (I got the idea from Thriving Family magazine but added a few things of my own about cleaning up).  Here’s what we rehearsed.

A Good Host…

  1. Cleans up before their guest arrives
  2. Lets their guest choose what to play
  3. Lets their guest have first pick of toys
  4. Cleans up after their guest leaves

The magazine article added greets their guest at the door and walks them to the door when they leave.  We’ll work on that next time.

So I told my boys if they were good hosts, they would get their new pj’s, if they were not, there would be punishment.

They were the bests hosts they have ever been.  I was so proud of them.  And we had a great time.

Offensive parenting works so much better than defensive parenting.

Originally Posted May 2009

Changing the chores

If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I am always changing up the way I manage my children’s responsibilities.  Sometimes we have no responsibilities, sometimes we have more.   Sometimes I reward them, sometimes I don’t.  I find it so hard to be consistent with any system I come up with.  And I am becoming ok with that.  Kids like change, right?

Recently I decided for the summer I would try daily chores that were done right after breakfast.  Our mornings are not rushed so why not start the day off with a straight house?  Instead of coming up with some teachery creative way to display this, I just made each of them a list.  I drew pictures for Graham’s (no laughing please).

My kids were so into this.  They loved checking their items off.  Of course Abbey with her bed head had to have a list too.  No one got paid in anything more than a hug or a high five and it felt great.  I don’t know how long it will last but it worked yesterday and we will try it again tomorrow.


Reality Discipline

ImageDr. Kevin Leman is one of my favorite parenting experts.  I love to hear him when he comes on Focus on the Family.  His parenting advice is excellent and funny too.

One of his teachings is called Reality Discipline (he talks about it in his book, Making children mind without losing yours.)  Reality discipline is based on letting your child suffer the natural consequences of their negative behaviors.  For instance, your child doesn't do their homework, you let them go to school without it.  Or, your child does not want to eat the dinner you cooked, you let them go to bed hungry.

Now, while I know Reality Discipline is not the answer to all of my parenting challenges, it is a great tool to have in my arsenal.  To be quite honest, I have been patiently waiting to use it ever since I heard Dr. Leman talk about it.  And last week, the opportunity arose.

It was about 5pm on Tuesday and our playroom was moderately messy.  I pulled the boys in and told them we were going to do a quick clean up (it was seriously a 20 minute job if we all worked together).  30 minutes later, I was the only one who had cleaned up a thing.  My boys were playing with toys, fighting, laying on the floor and doing everything but cleaning up.  I fussed, I threatened, I may or may not have raised my voice.  I was more than mad.  But for some reason, I decided to get creative.  First, I sent them to time out where they had to silently sit and watch me clean up.  I took the liberty to trash and/or give away any items I wanted. 

Then, while I was cleaning, I got an idea.  I decided that the playroom would be closed for a few days since they had chosen not to clean it.  I made sure that their DS' were in there too.  I hung this sign on the door to remind them not to go in there.

The next day, Graham told our babysitter the story.  He said, "…and she didn't spank us, it was worse.  She closed the playroom."  When I heard this, I was so happy.  But today, I was proud, because the boys cleaned up with out very much headache remembering (hopefully) what their mother was capable of doing.

The Great Silly Band Challenge

Photo-5My husband recently went on a long trip.  I knew he was going to be gone for 7 days and I needed a plan for parenting so that I didn't lose my mind (and my voice) fussing at my children left and right every 5 minutes (thank you for allowing me to be honest).

So I came up with The Great Silly Band Challenge.  Here's how it works.  Each day Elijah and Graham get 6 silly bands (I started off with 8 and bumped it down because 8 was too many).  At any point in the day, I could take a silly band for any of the following infractions: arguing, complaining, whining, fighting, disobeying, tattling and being unkind.  At the end of the day, they could redeem their remaining bands for either 10 cents or 2 extra minutes of video game time (for the following day).  If they lose all of their silly bands in one day, they get a spanking.  Earning a silly band back is virtually impossible, and if they ask if they can earn one back, the answer is automatically no.

The system has really worked well.  It especially helped me to stop arguing with my little lawyer, Elijah.  It also really cut down on the fighting between the two boys.

We have been doing The Great Silly Band Challenge for about 10 days.  I plan to suspend the challenge for a few days until my husband's next trip so that it does not lose it's effectiveness. We will probably put it on hold for a while after that (no need to run a good thing into the ground).  I will pull it back out as needed.   Maybe this summer I could come up with a creative way to let them earn the silly bands rather than just start off with them.