10 Days of Heart Parenting – Transfer the Responsibility For Change to the Child

Transfer

I have found that when I need my children to change a behavior that it is best if involved them in strategizing a plan to make things better.  A quiet discussion using simple age appropriate language can work wonders.  Sometimes I discover the solution is an easy one.  Other times I realize that it is going to take much more time and effort.

I liked this quote from The Christian Parenting Handbook  

If you find yourself nagging your child for the same thing over and over again, or yelling out of sheer exasperation because the same problem continually surfaces, it’s definitely time for a different plan. One of the best ways to promote change is to transfer responsibility for change to the child.

We noticed a problem with my 7 year old Noah.  He is homeschooled and though I actually limit his “seat work” every day I noticed some very inconsistent work in him.  I noticed 3 things.  He would either race through everything, barely paying attention to what needed to be done, resulting in LOTS of errors and work that Mommy insisted be redone.  Other days he would dawdle FOREVER making a simple page of math problems that should take him 10 minutes at most go on for HOURS.  We also saw days where he did things just right.  Work went smoothly and he completed everything with excellence.

So what’s the heart issue here?  It’s work ethic in my opinion. I am reminded of Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

I want my children putting forth their best effort NO MATTER WHAT?  I’ve told them this a million times too, or so I feel.  Ha! I probably nag them right?  And apparently that strategy isn’t working.  They should know that Mommy expects their best all of the time.  Even if they get lots wrong but they did their best then I won’t be angry.  What does make me angry is sloppy work or ridiculous mistakes.

Over the last year I’ve made Noah redo his work countless times.  Sometimes this lead to meltdowns and stand-offs with one child huddling under a table and a mother wishing she could too!  We have a reward system too.  If school work is done appropriately, without grief, and with good effort he can earn tickets.  Tickets can be redeemed for screen time (TV shows, computer games, etc.) I’ve tried changing his schedule putting less desirable subjects first or last or in between.  I’ve built in breaks.  I’ve praised and scolded.  We’ve done timeouts and I’ve even piled on EXTRA work when I saw the work was sloppy.  Yes I’ve even begged and pleaded.

I discussed the issue with my husband and we decided that the only way to get our son to always put out his best is if HE wants to.  We needed to change his heart.  The only way to change a person’s heart, in my opinion, is to get THEM on board with the change.  So one afternoon we sat him down and Mommy laid out the problem as I saw it.  He agreed with me that he doesn’t always do his best work even when the work is pretty easy.  Together we set out a plan.

We sat Noah down and we discussed the scripture verse I shared above and what that means in terms of HIS work… in this case his school work.. our discussion included talk about what happens on days that go well.  We had had a successful day just a couple of days before so we thought about that a lot.  It turns out he was up earlier that day and was able to get some play time in before we got school things going.  As a part of our plan Noah asked me to make sure he was out of bed by 7:30 so that he’d always get that time.  I agreed.  It turns out, as I suspected, he will often rush through work to get to playtime.  If he gets some playtime in earlier he says he’ll be less likely to rush.  Sometime when he is older I’ll have him set an alarm clock.  For now, I’ll be happy to get him up.  We also noticed that on his more successful days Mommy was on-hand and in the room to answer questions.  So I agreed to make sure I do make myself more available.  I admit, there are times when I try to get him rolling on his work while I get laundry started or dishes done.  I also made it clear that if I’m not right there that he CAN come find me to ask a question.  He told me he hadn’t thought of that!  I also asked Noah if he ever looks back at the top of the paper, looking at each problem or question to make sure he answered as best he could.  No, he had never done that and he thought that was a good idea.

After our little brainstorm session we wrote down everything we had agreed to do.  As a family we prayed over that plan as well.  The next day we set the plan into motion.  Has it been perfect?  No, absolutely not.  Have things improved?  Yes they most certainly have.  He isn’t rushing through work as much now because, as he pointed out, he is getting play time in before we start.  I do my best to be available and present which helps me nip issues before they escalate.  He doesn’t always remember to check his work but will do so if I remind.  Overall the quality of the work he is handing me has become much more consistent.  Even more important to me is the number of stand-offs we have over schoolwork has greatly decreased.  I’m so glad because my relationship with my son can suffer when we go through periods of time with too many battles over just this issue.

Over all… I’d call this a success.

I like the way The Christian Parenting Handbook describes it.  They say:

One of the benefits is that it moves the parent more toward a coaching mentality with kids.

I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.  That’s exactly the role I now play with my son’s school work and for that I’m glad.  Noah still earns tickets for screen time when he has good days.  He will also lose privileges if we do have a rough day.  I like how the authors of the book close up the chapter because I find it to be absolutely true…

The ability to approach a problem in multiple ways often pays off with more change than one single technique.

We definitely had to tackle this issue in multiple ways.  Once we finally did we saw much faster change than at any time before.  I’m proud of my son and the effort he now puts forth.  It’s his plan and that made a tremendous amount of difference.

10 Days of Heart Parenting – Identifying Character Qualities to Address Problems

ID Character QualMy children tend to go through phases.  It seems we will be cruising along and things are generally just fine.  Sure we have our moments that need correction and even a melt-down here or there but the atmosphere in our home is overall positive.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere everything gets turned around.  With no notice one of my children will suddenly completely flip into this crazy child that I can’t even recognize!  We go from a positive atmosphere to one that isn’t even tolerable any more because I’m yelling and correcting every five seconds.  It isn’t fun and things spiral downward very quickly.

Let me describe a typical day when things have gotten out of hand.  It begins literally from the moment we wake up as the child who is going through a phase comes down the stairs first thing in the morning with a scowl.  He refuses to acknowledge my good morning as he passes into the kitchen.  Once there it is only moments before the wailing begins because it is pretty much guaranteed that whatever we are serving for breakfast isn’t what is desired.  The rest of the day is followed by Mommy reminding the child of EVERYTHING he needs to do and EVERY reminder is followed up by some sort of attitude, screaming fit, or stomping tantrum.  I find myself having put out fire after fire as the bad attitude leads to countless physical or verbal altercations with his siblings.  We throw fits over everything from school work, to cleaning the lunch table, to dressing for karate.  It can literally be nonstop, all day long, through every moment.  It’s exhausting for everyone.

Late at night I crawl into bed and look at my husband with bewilderment.  Where have I gone wrong?  So I resolve to just get more strict!  I’ll take no attitude or back talk and I’ll demand obedience and a good attitude.  I wake up the next morning resolved to whip this child into shape.  But Mommy’s tough resolve usually just makes things worse.  A day later I decide that I’ll just ‘chose my battles’ as they say.  I’ll just push through on what I deem to be important and let the rest slide.  But then, what battles should I choose?  There seem to be so many.  I’m just overwhelmed and doubting everything about my ability to parent.

Group The Negative Behaviors by Character Traits

I think one of the most solid pieces of advice I found in The Christian Parenting Handbook  is really quite simple.  During times like these sit down and write the long list of offenses you feel your child is committing, then group them into categories by positive character traits.  Suddenly, instead of working on 25 different issues all at once you are now more focused on just a few character qualities you’d like to see your child develop.   This makes things much less overwhelming. Plus, now instead of looking at everything your kid is doing wrong you can now refresh your perspective and see lots of opportunity for growth.

 Focus On What They Should Be Doing

Do you feel like your child is acting out so much that you never have anything positive to say to them.  “I told you no!” “Stop it!” “Cut it out!” “What’s the matter with you?”  Oh that’s me!  All day long sometimes!  These words just leave me feeling drained, and tired.  I just want my child to straighten up already so I don’t have to be so mean and negative all of the time!

Now I’m training myself to focus on the positive character quality I’m trying to develop with my child.  The example I’m about to give you is actually addressed very literally in the book.  It is one of the first issues I decided to tackle and The Christian Parenting Handbook helped me so much! We have an issue in this house with interrupting.  My children will just interrupt any conversation at any time.  They also don’t tend to notice when Mommy or Daddy are busy on the phone, reading something, writing etc.  They just burst into the room and start rambling off at a million miles an hour.  My knee jerk reaction to is say something like “Haven’t I told you a million times not to interrupt Mommy when I’m on the phone? How come you never listen to me?”  Ouch huh?  My child was probably just really excited to tell me all about some new Lego creation and I just totally burst their bubble and most likely made them feel like I don’t find what they are excited about exciting too.  They’ll just remember Mommy didn’t want to know about what was important to them.  They probably won’t remember not to interrupt.

I decided I needed to help my children learn to be sensitive to what was happening before they engaged someone in conversation.  In a calm moment I explained to them that before they spoke they needed to take a look at what was happening and listen to what was being said.  If Mommy and Daddy were talking to each other, are on the phone, or if we look like we are concentrating on something then they need to say “Excuse me” and then WAIT quietly.  We practiced this a bunch of different times and in a bunch of different ways.  After that when they interrupted I quickly stopped what I was doing, asked them if they are being sensitive and then told them to try again. Over all, interruptions have become less and less and the correction I need to give has become simpler.  Eventually I just had to say one word… “Sensitive?”  and they would correct themselves.  We are getting to the point now that when the odd interruption does occur I can just raise my eyebrows at them with my “Mommy look.”

I also have taken care to point out the times when they really got it right.  A smile, a hug, a “Thank you for waiting until Mommy could really listen to you.”  These go a long way towards helping our children understand the right way to behave .

Admiration

In The Christian Parenting Handbook the author’s point out something I just know I don’t do enough.  Actually it had never even occurred to me to do this until I saw the words on the page.  The suggest that as children grow and start demonstrating the godly character that we all pray they develop, that you point it out to them.  Let them know you recognize the person they are becoming.  This will help them see the positive character traits in themselves as well.  

I personally think that if you can teach your child to think of themselves as a good kid with godly character then they will generally grow up to be just that.  A good kid with godly character.  That’s pretty much the ultimate goal isn’t it?

I guess I can sum all of this up by saying that it pays to step back and find a way to pull yourself out of the constant negativity. Look at issues as opportunities for growth.  When growth does occur make sure you let your children know that you see it.  With time positive change will occur.

 

10 Days of Heart Parenting – The Relational Side of Parenting

Relational

I always thought the physical demands of parenting would be the things that exhausted me the most.  Things like sleepless nights with sick child, the mountain of laundry that never seems to dwindle, endless trips back and forth to practices and activities, mopping and scrubbing, carrying toddlers on my hip, bending to tie little shoes… and on and on.  There is no doubt, parenting sucks up a significant amounts of physical energy, but there is something that drains me even more… when the atmosphere in my home has turned negative because I am doing so much correcting.  These days leave me without the energy or motivation to even carry myself to my bedroom at the end of the day.

What do I do? My children need to be corrected.  I can’t just let things slide or we will end up with bigger issues on down the line.  However, I hate the negative toll disciplining can take on myself and the atmosphere in our home.  In our quest to help our children behave to the best of their ability it can be easy to loose sight of the love, grace, and appreciation they also deserve.

In the book The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life author Scot Turansky pointed out a key element that I had forgotten to teach and sometimes even model for my children… Empathy.  The use of empathy can be a powerful tool when raising children.  If, as a parent I can show and communicate empathy by validating the feelings my child is experiencing… then I will find it that much easier to move into a place where I can suggest better approaches for my children when they are traversing life in the day-to-day.

Here is how this has shaped our home.  My boys are Lego fanatics.  They can spend hours a day building elaborate creations.  We had one recurrent but I imagine common problem.  One child would be using some Lego guy or piece or figure and then set it aside as he added more to the building.  His brother would then decide he MUST be done with that piece since it was put down and he would then scoff it up.  Arguing would then ensue.  “I want that?” “But I was using it!” “No you weren’t you put it down!”  Sometimes they’d even start slugging each other.  Then Mommy would come in with my words blazing telling this one that and that one this.  Timeouts were distributed, punishments of no more Legos… EVER were tossed out.  In the end… no one was happy.  No one really got what they wanted.  Better behavior wasn’t really learned or discussed. Everyone was mad at eachother. And 10 minutes later they’d be at it AGAIN!

I had two goals in mind here… first, I didn’t want to be the one to always solve my children’s disputes.  I can’t always be there for them.  At some point they will need to figure out how to negotiate an their own.  Second, I came to realize that each child had a very narrow and rigid focus about ownership and property rights with their toys.  Neither was thinking of the other.  Of course, that’s true for children.  They are immature and to think of only one’s self is the very definition of immaturity.  I know that they won’t become mature unless I teach them.

The next time a dispute like this erupted I comforted the offended child first.  I did my very best to display LOTS of empathy.  I said things like “Oh man! You just set that aside so you could put the roof on the house.  It feels AWFUL when your brother swipes Lego pieces away from you like that, doesn’t it. I’d be mad too!”  The other issue I realized is that the offended child would generally just flop in a heap of screaming.  I set about teaching the offended child what words he could use with his brother to get things worked out.  Things like “Noah, I was just putting the roof on my house! I wasnt’ done playing with that.  I’ll give it to you later!”

Later when the tides were turned I went through all of this yet again.  “Remember how it felt when your brother took your Lego pieces before?  That’s how he feels now.  How can we make this better?  Can you ask your brother if he’s done with this before you take it.”

Back and forth and back and forth we went for several days.  Finally…. after slow and pain staking determination I actually hear my boys using my very own words with one another.  The screaming fights have definitely become much fewer and farther in between.  In fact, we put empathy so far ahead on our list of things we wanted to help our children learn that now it isn’t uncommon for all of them to cry when something goes wrong with just one.  It’s heart warming.

It was exhausting covering the same ground with my children over and over again.  Teaching, reteaching, and even asking them to practice the new ways to behave.  But the fruit is being reaped.  Mommy is no longer having to step in and correct them each time an issue like this comes up and the atmosphere in our home has been raised to a much happier level.

An interesting side effect that I must tell you about is how much closer my children and I have come to be with one another.  Each time I paused to show them that I truly understood how they felt helped to open their hearts to me just a bit.  When Mommy let them know that I got it, it also let them know that I love them.  My older son now even comes to me to ask me for advice about how to handle situations with his brother and sister BEFORE it turns into a blood curdling screaming bath.

I love this quote from the The Christian Parenting Handbook, it’s something I think of OFTEN…

When you come to the conclusion that changes need to take place in your child and that it’s time to put your foot down because you just can’t live this way anymore, think relationship first.

Not only do I need to pay attention to the relationships between my children, but also the relationship between myself and each one of them.

 

10 Days of Heart Parenting ~ Consistency and Consequences!

10 Days of Heart Parenting

Be sure to read yesterday’s post where I explain exactly what ‘Heart Parenting’ is.

The very first chapter in  The Christian Parenting Handbook is called… Consistency is Overrated!  THIS got my attention.  I don’t think there is a parent on this planet who hasn’t been told that if they would just consistently handle their child’s behavior everything will get better.  And I think every parent feels like a miserable failure at this consistency thing at one time or another.

The very very very first thing they taught me in college was that the key to changing behavior was consistency.  That was the mantra in every psychology class and every education class.  If behavioral change was desired you had to implement rewards and punishments with deadly, never ever ending consistency.

If a parent or teacher wants to decrease an undesirable behavior… like temper tantrums for example, then the only way to accomplish this is to dole out an exact punishment each and every time a temper tantrum occurred.  If you wanted even faster results then then you had to reward a child each and every time you witnessed him/her choose not to tantrum at a time when they typically would.

Doesn’t that just sound wonderful?  What a great way to nip tantrums in the bud.  A perfect formula. This is really just straight behavior modification which can be fantastic for training pets.  But as the author Scott Turansky points out right at the beginning of the book… God created people different from animals.  He gave each person a spiritual “heart,” and the heart affects the learning process.”  Yes, behavior modification might make a change in the short-term, but it won’t have the long lasting impact that takes place in the heart.

In the end, do I really want my children behaving the right way just to get that reward or avoid that punishment?  Or do I want them doing the right thing because in their heart they know it is the right thing to do?

When I was kid I had a friend who, looking back now I can see had parents who went out of their way to be super consistent as they raised him.  There were consequences for every bad action.  They called it “grounding.”  If he talked back, broke something, neglected chores, brought home bad grades… whatever, he was “grounded.”  That meant his access to video games and TV were cut off.  For more serious offenses he might miss outings or get togethers with friends.  The level of the crime dictated how long he was grounded for.  They started this tactic when he was 7 or 8.  By the time he was 12 or 13 being grounded had absolutely positively NO impact on him at all!  He frustrated his parents to no end because he stopped caring about the consequences.  Their consistency caused him to develop a resistance in his heart to their approach.  Over the years his behavior didn’t improve, it got worse!

In our home I have noticed that sometimes blind consistent consequences serve to only create bigger problems.  Right now my five year old is going through a phase.  He seems to be melting down over everything.  The attitudes he is tossing about leave me with headaches.  My instinct is to send him to bed.  You mouth off to me and you go to bed! That’s it, end of story.  But actually this rarely works.  It really just ups the ante and escalates the situation.  He’s yelling at me and I’m yelling at HIM.  Great example I’m setting here aren’t I?  How do we handle frustrations? We yell!  Not the message I want to send.

What does blindly  sending him to bed in my own fit of frustration going to teach him?  That when Mommy is mad he needs to go away?  That’s not really the message I want to send.  What I want him to learn is that his attitude and meltdowns can hurt other people’s feelings and that there are better and more productive ways to handle frustrations.

Following through blindly to be consistent with consequences is exhausting, it isn’t always doable (how do you put a child into timeout while out the grocery store anyway?), and it often leaves parents feeling exhausted and incapable.  Consistent consequences can even make things worse over the long wrong.

When you choose to focus on the heart in your parenting  what is even more important than consistency is creativity.  Because as the authors point out, children really do learn best through experiences, stories, activity, and modeling.

Today when my five year old had a fit because I wasn’t prepared to the project he wanted so badly to do I did not try to send him to his room.  I didn’t even get in a yelling match with him.  Instead, I called him out on his behavior.  I said “You and I both know you are giving Mommy a tantrum and a bad attitude here. Let’s get control of these and see what we can do to fix this problem.”  After a moment he stopped.  I got down to his level and I took his face in my hands.  I let him know that I knew he was mad at me.  I told him that now was his chance to calmly tell me why.  So he did.

His actions really hurt my feelings and I told him that.  I’ve been sick and I’ve been running around taking the kids to lots of different fieldtrips.  I’m even in the middle of building a coop for them so they can have a Lego class.  I didn’t get a chance to plan the project.  I explained that him.  I told him that his fit over the one thing Mommy didn’t get done really hurt my feelings.  I SHOWED him my hurt feelings on my face.  This got to him.  My little man gave me the biggest bear hug ever and tried to comfort ME!  He was GENUINELY sorry for his fit.  I think that was more powerful than a 5 minute timeout.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not always that easy.  Especially when I first tried parenting this way.  I found it was better to let him lay on the floor yelling and to come back when he had calmed down.  He assumed he was getting punished so he wouldn’t listen to me.

Does he still go to time-out?  Yes but not often anymore.  If he repeatedly does the same thing in the same day or if it’s just so blatantly wrong (like punching his brother in the head – yes it happens).  We do go straight for the bed.  Then once things have calmed down we talk it out and even practice better ways to behave.

Yep, I agree with the authors, Consistency can be highly overrated.  We do just fine applying the consequence only when truly necessary.

 

 

 

10 Days of Heart Parenting… What Exactly Does that Mean?

10 Days of Heart Parenting

Several months back I was given the glorious opportunity to review what turned out to be, in my opinion, the best book on parenting ever written. This book has done many things for me as a mother.  It has taught me many lessons, changed the tone of our home, and helped me take great leaps toward creating the sort of family and homeschool I feel God is calling me to create.  With this book and of course my Bible, I feel like I am finally on the path toward raising children with Godly character. I am no longer simply putting out fires and rigidly disciplining all day long.  I don’t think there is a family on this earth that this book cannot help, no matter your circumstances or special needs.  This is the single best parenting book on the market. It is calledThe Christian Parenting Handbook and you can read my full review here. 

art-the_Christian_Parenting_Handbook

What is Heart Parenting?  Well, to me nailing down my own definition is bit like trying to nail down jello.  Heart Parenting is a style of parenting that aims to reach the child’s heart.  Instead of absolute rigid rules, consequences, and strict discipline that lead to outward obedience but little change in the child’s internal character, the parent’s goal is to help the child change his/her heart which then leads to an outward and long lasting change in behavior.  It is God centered and creative.  Now don’t get me wrong, it certainly does not eliminate consequences and other such typical parenting techniques.  Instead this book teaches you how to use such techniques creatively and at the appropriate times while positively instilling Godly values.  This is certainly a very positive approach to parenting.

I’ll show you how parenting now looks in our home.  Yes, I’ll even give you a peek at some of my own failures.  My parenting journey began almost 2 decades ago when I studied child psychology as a university student.  It was shaped by classes and coursework, studies and journals, and of course by my years as a classroom teacher.  These influences definitely impacted who I became as a parent and homeschooling mother.  Sadly I have discovered that I actually had to unlearn much of what I was taught in order to become the mother God calls me to be.  

I’m inviting you to join me over the next 10 days as I share with you my greatest aha moments from within the pages of The Christian Parenting Handbook.  I will describe for you the techniques, stories, and truthfully common sense Biblical approach that is laid out by the authors has changed me as a child of Christ, a mother, and even a wife.  

I’m not the only parent who has had such a positive experience using this book.  I am being joined in this series by 5 other so make sure you stop by their blogs too as I’m sure they will tease different ideas than I will! I can’t wait to see what insights they’ve pulled from this treasure of a book.

I pray this series blesses you as much as this book has blessed me.

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