Monthly Archives: April 2018

“Momfuddled” — What Works in Parenting (II)

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I have this picture in my mind of those days when my children were little.  My mom friends and I were so full of optimism.  Our generation was going to be different.  We were going to bring up our kids right!  We were excited because our young ones were awesome, and we could see awesome futures for them.

But over the years, we watched many of our beloved children make wrong turns and land in tough places.  It was heart breaking.  Big sigh.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’re proud of who and where our children are today.  God has been writing good endings to their stories and we are faithful that more prayers will be answered.

But my friends, you have to know that the stakes are high.  It’s vastly important that you teach your children clear standards of righteousness.  

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Here’s the coolest thing.  We think it’s a drag that the Bible tells us all this stuff not to do, as if God doesn’t want us to have any fun.  But it’s actually the best blessing ever that God clues us in on what is right and wrong. (Acts 3:26) It helps us avoid the pitfalls.

You see, sins are harmful.  Committing them either hurts us, hurts someone else, or hurts our relationship with God.  God just wants what is best for us.  He’s steering us clear of a train wreck.

So we need his word.  Our children need his word.

But this is where the “momfuddled” part comes in. There’s so much in the Bible, and it makes our head spin to decide what to do with it.

And, sure, we believe in the Bible, but what about all this current research on raising kids?  Sure, we want to apply the scriptures, but doesn’t it depend on the situation?

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So how do we teach clear standards of righteousness?  I’m going to try and keep it simple.

Start by compiling a list of what is right and wrong according to the scriptures.

Begin an investigation of what the New Testament says.  When you find something that is a directive for behavior, write it down.  It may be helpful to ask others what they’ve found.

Here is my advice on what should be on this list:

  • Disobedience (Ephesians 6:1)
  • Disrespect (Ephesians 6:2, Proverbs 6:17)
  • Lying  (John 8:44)
  • Unkindness (Matt 7:12, Ephesians 4:29)
  • Fits of rage (Galatians 5:20, James 1:19-20)
  • Arguing and complaining (Philippians 2:14)

Once you’ve established your list, make it the backbone of your parenting.  Stick to it like glue.  When they’re old enough to read, show your children the scriptures.  Let them know that your rules come from God, and not from your opinion.  You can even have them memorize key verses, so God’s standards will be impressed on their heart.

Then set clear boundaries.

Now that your children know what is right and wrong, it is tremendously important that you spell out to your them exactly where the boundary is.  The Bible tells fathers to not exasperate their children.  (Eph. 6:4)  I believe that setting unclear boundaries exasperates our children.  Sure, they know what they’re doing is wrong.  But they also know that they can get away with it because you’re just giving them a series of warnings. The thing is, at some point you explode.  You feel justified, because you’ve told them over and over.  But they’re frustrated, because they didn’t know when they were expected to start behaving.

One mom told me the key to effective parenting is, “Consistent discipline and expectations- with both parents unified.”

Another said what is most important is, “Laying out your expectations and then following through every time, even when you are tired, sick or when they are sick. It is hard but if done correctly it creates and teaches boundaries, helps your children feel secure and expresses love.”

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Let your children know that they have a choice.

In general, you don’t want to force your child to do what is right.  You want to help them make the right choice.  This is how God operates with us.

So in each situation, explain your child’s choices to them, and the consequences of making the wrong choice.  Then ask them what they choose.  Even a toddler can be told, “You can play nicely with the toy, or you can throw it again and I will take it away.   Which do you choose?”

You’ll find this alleviates so much of your frustration!!

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My mom advisers were a big fan of this approach.  “We talk a lot about how they have a choice just like we as parents and adults have choices,” one mom related to me. “And that the choices we make determine the path that we go on. I even say things to them like, ‘That really stinks and I’m so sad you made that choice.’”

This mom also tries to make sure that there are appropriate consequences.  “If they miss the bus repeatedly we tell them they have to pay gas money for us to take them to school. If they are getting lower grades at school we tell them they have no screen time until they bring the grades up.”

Which brings me to our next point.

Set consequences It is vital that there are consequences for your child if they make a bad choice.   This is the way the world works.  You wouldn’t expect to kill or steal, for instance, without there being repercussions.

Look at these scriptures:

  • “A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.” Prov 19:19
  • “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Gal 6:7
  • “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Prov. 13:24

Make sure the consequence is effective. God knows that discipline needs to be painful.  “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)

The consequence doesn’t have to be physically painful. (Although I believe spanking can be an option if it is done correctly.) Timeouts can feel miserable.  Losing a toy or privilege can seem like it’s the end of the world. My point is that you can’t expect your child’s behavior to change if you just mete out a token consequence.  Yes, there are a few sensitive children for whom this will work.  But for the majority of them, you will have to find something that gets their attention.

Here is the best way to discipline a child.

  1. Tell them that they made the wrong choice. Read the scripture that describes the transgression.
  2. Tell them that because of that choice, they will face a consequence. Assure them that you love them and don’t think that they are bad, but this is the result of their choice.
  3. Mete out the punishment.
  4. Afterwards, hug your child and talk with them about what happened, and why it was wrong. Help them to think through why they made the choice they did, and what they can do in the future.
  5. Have your child pray, and ask God for forgiveness and help with not doing the wrong thing again.

As you see, disciplining should be an event.

Whew!  I know.  It takes a lot of time and energy.  One mom who is addressing a pattern of misbehavior in her child told me, “I realized that it means that I’m going to be late a lot, and the house is going to be messy.”

But doing it right is so worth it.  And that leads into my final point.  The goal is not just that your children do the right thing, but that they desire to do the right thing.  That’s why we take the extra time.

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Make it your life’s work to disciple your child’s heart.  Help them see why something is wrong.  For instance, if they lie, talk about what happens when you lose trust.  Tell them the story of the boy who cried wolf.  Talk about how Satan is the father of lies.  Ask them how they would feel if someone lied to them.

Help them look at their sin in the context of a relationship with God.  “God loves you so much.  It makes him sad when you do this.”

Use everything in life as an opportunity to have a spiritual teaching time. As they got older, my children would tease me, “Here we go, life lesson #101.”

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 6:7)

There’s so much more I could say!  But I’ll leave you with three quick suggestions:

  1. Everything in parenting starts with prayer.  We need God’s help and guidance more than anything else.  (II Chronicles 20:12, Phil. 4:5, Prov. 3:6)
  2. Get advice. We need one another’s help too!  (Proverbs 24:6)
  3. Enable your children to get advice from an adult they feel comfortable with.  As they become teens, if they have a problem with you, be willing to allow them to practice Matthew 18 and bring in someone you both trust to help work it out.

Ah, sister moms, my heart is with you in your days.  Are you feeling what I felt?  Full of hope, but somewhat momfuddled? 

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Let me leave you with a verse that is balm to our souls. It’s also a song.  We used to sing it at every family devotional, and my youngest daughter would always jump up and dance.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 4:22-24

The last effective ingredient in parenting is grace! God’s mercies are new every morning!  Every day, you can take a deep breath and start over again.  Every day, you can renew hope in your children.

Yes, a lot is at stake.  Yes, it will take so much work you will never feel like you do enough.

But don’t live your life weighed down.

Pray.  Know God’s grace is sufficient.  And then delight yourself in the Lord and the blessings he’s given you.

As a couple of my mom friends shared —

  • “All this comes with lots of love, fun, and making wonderful memories!”
  • “You have to laugh a lot.”

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“Momfuddled” — What Works in Parenting?

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Parenting is one of the hardest things ever.

Before you had children you pictured being swept away in the bliss of motherhood.  Aaaaah.

Well, sometimes you find that.

But now you also find that bringing up children is exhausting, confusing, demanding, gut wrenching, unending, and frightening.  You expend yourself until you’re worn to the nub.  You agonize, and worry, and feel inadequate.

I am a far from perfect parent.  When I was bringing up my children, I struggled. Sometimes I felt like I was the worst mom.

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But that’s why I want to write this blog.  I want all of the mothers out there who are struggling to have something to hold to that is true and solid.  In this world of a thousand different messages on how to raise your children, I want to give you the confidence of a few things that work.

In short, what works is reflecting the characteristics of God in your parenting.   God is loving and gracious.  He is also righteous. When you make these things the foundation of how you raise your children, you will feel like you have done the best you could do.

But what does this look like in practical terms?

Let’s start with the good stuff — LOVE.  Effective parenting involves loving your children the way that God loves you.  It’s the daily battle to remember that you are incredibly valued, and then pass this onto your kids.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34

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What is the biggest expression of God’s love?  It’s that Jesus laid down his life.  Our love for our children must also be sacrificial.

Yay!  This is something we moms are good at!  It feels natural to sacrifice for our kids.

But there’s easy sacrifice, and there’s hard sacrifice.  Love is sacrificing for your children in ways that are uncomfortable, and take extra effort.   It’s getting on the floor and playing baby dolls, racecars, Barbies, Legos, Peppa Pig, etc. with them.  It’s doing that thing with them that they love, even though you’ve done it a thousand times before.

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It’s carving out time to read Bible stories with them and have family devotionals.  It’s praying with them at bedtime, and then listening to them talk about their day, even though you’re bone weary.  It’s swimming with them when it’s freezing cold because they love it so much.  It’s singing with them in the car.  It’s taking them on “dates.”   It’s having the talks with them that take forethought and intentionality.

I do want to mention that the goal of this is not to teach your children that the world revolves around them.  You can still set boundaries, so that they are considerate, and so you have some time for yourself.

But here’s the thing, moms.  You’re exhausted, and yet you’re also brimming over with all kinds of plans and dreams.  You want to do something cool, make a difference, change the world, be successful.  You want to fix up your house.  You want to involve your children in all kinds of activities.

It’s going to take a conscious, determined effort to make the important sacrifices, and not let everything else sap away all of your available energy.

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God’s love is also incredibly appreciative of our individual worth.  Jesus saw the leper, the sinful woman, the Samaritan woman, the tax collector.  Each of these was an important person in his eyes.  To him, the whole sum of the law and the prophets was, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”  (Matt 7:12)

Jesus was consideration personified.  He calls us to be the same.

This can be a challenge for us.  We just need our children to behave!

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And obedience is important.  I’ll talk about that in the next blog.  But if we’re going to love like God, we have to seek to listen and understand.  “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  (James 1:19b)

When I surveyed my mom friends, they were vocal that respect is a crucial element of parenting.

  • “Instead of ignoring my daughter because her behavior is undesirable to me, I try to empathize with how she must feel in those moments.”
  • “Take the time to listen. When they are in preschool years ask them to tell you about the picture they brought home.  Talk to them like you’d want to be talked to!  When my son was an older teen he would come in to my side of the bed and talk to me every night when he’d get home.  I can’t help but believe that it’s because I always tried to listen to him.”
  • One empty nester friend told me how she expected her daughter to obey without discussion. She had a “just do it” approach, and didn’t allow her daughter to express what she was feeling. This led to a lot of conflict, and pushed her daughter away.
  • Another friend related how she and her husband treated their youngest child as they did their older ones, without realizing that he was different and needed a different approach. This proved to be very detrimental.

I will caution you, though, that even at 3 or 4 years old, your kid can do a better sales job on you than a used car dealer! Don’t let your child talk you out of what you know is right.  Be sure they know you are listening and that you care.  And then be firm.

The last thing I want to mention about God’s love is that it is positive.  It is so encouraging to me that Jesus named Peter the “Rock.”  He called Nathaniel a “true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.”  Jesus saw the best in people and believed in them.  He reflected the truth that, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Cor 13:7)

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We reflect God’s love for our children by believing in them and having hope for them.  We see the good in them and praise it.

If I could do it over again, I would work harder at being positive with my children.  As moms, we feel the burden of making sure our children turn out right.  We see the terrible consequences of a character flaw. The thing they need to change can become bigger to us than all of the things that are wonderful about them.  That was my tendency.

So we have to be intentional about praising our children.  We have to look for the things we can commend.  Moms, praise your children often! More than you correct them.  It will be as good for your heart as it will for theirs.

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In conclusion, the goal of love is that they will love. 

We love because he first loved us.”  I John 4:19

If there is one thing we can instill in our children, let it be a crazy love for God!  We do want our children to do the right thing.  But even more, we want them to do the right thing because their heart is so filled with inspiration that the obedience comes out of the overflow.

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Crazy love has to be caught as much as it is taught.  They have to see it in you.

But this is good news, because this is something you can do.  You can have a great time falling more in love with God!  Start a gratitude journal. Find the love stories in the Bible.  Work on the doubt, bitterness and fear that hold you back.  Pray to know how much you are adored.

I pray that you would be able to comprehend, along with all the saints, how wide and long and high and deep his love is.” (Eph 3:18)

And then tell your children often how awesome you think the Lord is, and how amazing it is that he loves us.  Help them see him, and his faithfulness.

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As our children grow up, they will find that life is hard.  There will be so many assaults to their self-esteem.  There will be so many times when something goes wrong and they will wonder if God cares.

Teach him that God DOES care, and cares deeply.  Teach them to pray and reach out to the Lord when they are hurting.  Teach them the magical scriptures that are salve to the heart.  Teach them the ways that God has worked in their lives already.

Sister moms, I know, I know.  Parenting is intense.  And everyone keeps telling you something different to do.

But hold to this truth through the craziness: If you’re seeking to love as God loves, you are on the right track.

Love never fails.” (I Cor 13:8a)

Love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8)

(Stay tuned for Part II of “Momfuddled,” coming soon!)

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