Growing in the Word…Curb the Crazy Quarreling!

GrowingInTheWord 2nd Timothy

Am I the only one with kids who argue seemingly ALL OF THE TIME? I can’t be the only Momma out there who wants to bash her head into a brick wall because I’ve said… “STOP THE FIGHTING!”  too many times in one day! Is it a wonder my gray hair is starting to show?  It can be crazier than a circus around here at times.  My 3 children swing wildly from getting along perfectly to screaming at each other over the most trivial things, to ANTAGONIZING one another just to get a reaction.  Sometimes there isn’t enough Tylenol in the world to curb my heachaches after referring yet another ridiculous fallout.

I’ve tried many tactics… separating them (and me), timeout, explaining, ignoring them to let them sort things out themselves and in my desperate moments even begging and pleading with them to KNOCK IT OFF!  While we may are blessed with sometimes week long seasons of calm and togetherness, nothing truly seemed to stick for the long haul.

Where was I going wrong? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks!  I was asking my children to stop what is truly a natural, though unhelpful behavior, all on their own with just their own strength and willpower.  One lesson that I have learned is that changing yourself in that way rarely works… especially is you are still a child.  We needed help!  Thankfully God provides.

I gathered my children and we opened our Child Training Bible to see what God has to say about all of this quarreling.  First we talked about the quarreling and how it made us all feel.  I was amazed as my kids confessed that they really don’t like to fight and it makes them pretty sad.  Then we prayed to God and asked Him to help us figure out how to stop the madness!  Finally we turned to the scriptures.  As I read each one I stopped and asked them to help me figure out what God was trying to tell us and I did my best to provide our real life examples of where we are going wrong according to that scripture.  We brainstormed better ways to deal with the situation and we even acted them out with one another to practice.  Most humbling of all… I shared examples with them of times that I get into quarrels with their Daddy or others.  I’m far from perfect.  I struggle with things like this much as they do.  I believe this makes them feel less condemned and more understood.

My guys are all 8 and under.  They are incredibly fidgety.  That’s ok with me.  I let them flop on the floor, handle little Legos, or even doodle while we chatted.  They really pay attention during these talks, which ALWAYS amazes me.  I do my best to cut it short before they lose attention.

At last we hit upon the scripture that spoke to us all the most.

2ndTimothyQuarrels

They all agreed most of the arguments are foolish and stupid.  Their eyes popped when they learned the Lord says that we must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone.  It was an AH HA moment for them and for Mommy too. We prayed together and asked God to send his helper the Holy Spirit to help us when quarrels erupt.  We declared 2 Timothy 2:23-24 our memory verse for the week.  We copied it down on paper every day and recited it whenever we thought to.

Whenever it seems we need a reminder, we come back to this topic… reread our scriptures and discuss how things are going… where we succeed and where we fall short.  Now, when quarrels flare up I just asked them if this is a foolish argument and inevitably they agree that it is.  Then I ask them what we could do to handle this better.  That is usually the end of it. The level of arguing in our house has decreased significantly.  There is a new peace and calmness that I think everyone enjoys.  I know I certainly do.

I am reminded of Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  My children need God’s help to change as much as I do.  It is my job to point them to Him.

Teaching Preschool Was Once My Life – Why I Believe We Should Abolish It!

Abolish Preschool

Our country’s president delivered his annual state of the union address the other day.  I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t watch.  I guess as my homeschooled children grow up I’ll make a point to do so with them.  I knew I could catch the highlights via social media and news websites the next day.  That is just what I did!

In his address President Obama asked legislatures to invest in early childhood education.  Mr. President believes this will bolster our nations academic standing and build up the economy.  As I read those words all over the web, repeatedly, my mind raced back to a time… not all that long ago, when I would have been on my feet APPLAUDING him for those remarks.  In my life before children, when I served as a special education preschool teacher in public schools, or before that as a daycare provider in private and public daycares, I believed wholeheartedly that high quality preschool was the ticket to solving most of the world’s problems.  I was told in every undergraduate and graduate class that children in high quality preschools fair better in every area of life for the rest of their lives.  This notion was slammed into me like no other.  And I believed it of course.   It made my career path seem like a great and high calling.  I clung to it with all of my heart.  These ideas made a really difficult and emotional job,  one that found me sacrificing my personal life, my marriage, and yes even my sanity at times, profoundly worth it.  I was making a real difference in children’s lives after all.

All the while I noticed something that I never appreciated although I can’t say with absolute that I was always totally innocent of this notion myself.  Daycare workers, fellow public school teachers and administrators, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists… they all looked down on parents.  Almost NO ONE seemed to believe that parents could ever possibly have any positive influence on their children. ANYTHING that was wrong with a child was most likely COMPLETELY blamed on the parents.  The solution was never to support parents in learning new ways, to come along side them to encourage and lift them up, or to give them any assistance or resources what-so-ever.  The solution was to get the kid away from their parents and into school for as many hours a week as could possibly be justified.  The general theme was… “Parents are clueless and will never get it right.  Let the experts take-over!”

In fact, I worked as a consultant for an early childhood organization for a while whose MAIN goal was to educate the community on why preschool is so important.  Behind closed doors I heard professionals, all parents themselves, put down mother’s who stay at home and choose to forgo preschool.  They disparaged families who use relatives such as grandma for daily childcare.  In fact, any child who entered kindergarten without a preschool experience was considered behind, more so if they spent their years with family.  Teachers and administrators would make this determination without ever once laying eyes on the child or their family.  Children without preschool experience enter school at a disadvantage brought on by prejudiced educators.

I have always believed, and I still do, that a high quality early childhood experience is essential for children whose family has absolutely no choice but to send them to a care facility all day for whatever the reason, such as a single parent family or financial hardship that makes a stay-at-home caregiver or other relative absolutely unavailable.  There are terrible preschools and there are fantastic preschools.  All children who absolutely NEED to be away from family all day should have access to a fantastic preschool.

However!  How can children who spend their days in the loving arms of their parents or grandparents ever be considered BEHIND for that reason alone? We as a culture should be applauding families who make the sacrifice to keep children close to home and family, not ripping them apart!  Institutional schooling, now matter how fantastic it might appear, has drawbacks! Requiring young children to spend their day with strange adults and a pack of other children who haven’t yet learned how to be mature and good people serving as your role model is NOT the most ideal situation… EVER!  Learning about love and life and even those oh so important academic skills from a close and caring relative IS ideal.  Why has our culture strayed so far away from what we all most know in our heart is right and true?

We’ve even brainwashed most parents into believing preschool is a MUST or their poor child will be doomed to a life of failure without it!  Admit it my Mommy friends!  Unless you are a homeschooler like I am now most likely you are currently making a mental list of the benefits you believe your child gains in their preschool class.  You are right, they do probably learn some great things and if you have found the right fit for your child they might even be having a good deal of fun.  Stop and think , when your child is 30 or 50 years old what will make the real difference in their life?  How many letters they learned or how much fun they had in preschool or the core relationship they developed with you and carried all of their lives?  There are only 1825 days between a child’s birth and their 5th birthday (the age most children enter kindergarten). If it can be avoided should they spend that time being nurtured by strangers? Or by their carrying and loving family?

I say let’s abolish preschool!  Instead institute maternity leave policies like many other developed nations that encourages mothers and fathers to stay at home for an extended period of time to raise their own children!  Let’s make a shift in our culture that values the stay-at-home mom or dad!  If a child’s family needs support, education, and resources in order to create a better home environment then let us spend the money strengthening that family versus creating institutions for 3 and 4 year olds. Imagine that, lifting up the entire family instead of the child alone.  Which do you think will have a longer lasting impact on our society.  Let’s destroy the high-stakes testing and create a k-12 school environment that is first and foremost DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE so that our schools are a comfortable fit for all children… especially our elementary school students.

The experts and teachers claim preschool is required in order to ensure children enter school “ready to learn.”  Almost all children would enter school ready to learn if schools created developmentally appropriate expectations for children.  When I worked in public school preschool it was my job to determine which children were “ready” to move on to kindergarten.  I was OFTEN stuck between a rock and a hard place with those decisions.  MANY of my students were on par with every single developmental marker there is.  They could sit and pay attention for the appropriate amount of time FOR THEIR AGE.  They had appropriate fine and gross motor skills.  They had age appropriate social skills… etc.  Yet, they weren’t ready for kindergarten.  WHY?  Because kindergarten is no longer developmentally appropriate for kindergarten aged children.  We now see a lack of recess and creative play time, prolonged seat work that requires these precious little people to pay attention, sit still, and WRITE for FAR longer than is appropriate for their age, and a curriculum that is far to advanced for their still developing brains.  To compensate I, the preschool teacher, was under constant pressure to create what should have been a kindergarten (or even FIRST GRADE) program in my preschool classroom.

The constant mantra is…If we just expose them earlier they will do better!  NO! It’ll just frustrate and demoralize the children who just aren’t ready!  We set so many children up for school failure, or at the very least we develop a hatred for learning, in these tiny precious souls.  What a tragedy!

Instead of forcing every child into preschool and slamming “school readiness” down their throats… let’s abolish preschool, raise up the value of parents, and make SCHOOLS ready for our most precious learners.

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials – The Child Training Bible!

Homeschool Essentials CTB

I often get asked by potential homeschooling families what you REALLY need to get started homeschooling.  They are asking about STUFF.  Many see grand dollar signs in their eyes thinking homeschooling will set them back a pretty penny.  You know what, it CAN!  But it doesn’t have to.  This week I’m going to talk about a few great things that you can invest in to make your homeschool a success.  Most are low cost to no cost, others simply make sense because they will save you money, a few you most likely already own.

Let’s get started with the single most important item in our family’s homeschool arsenal.  We are a Christian family so it should be of no surprise to anyone that the most important thing we own is our  Bible.  We use an NIV Bible that I’ve doctored up with the help of the people who created the Child Training Bible (CTB).

The Child Training Bible helps me quickly find scriptures that address the most typical heart and character issues all children (an even adults) struggle with most.  Every day we begin with a family prayer to God.  We ask Him to help us in our day, to show us places where we can grow to be more like Jesus, and to open our hearts to His teaching in His word.  Then we crack open our CTB.

Back in the spring of 2012 when I first got our CTB materials I spent some time assembling our Bible.  I wrote all about how do that and just what you need to get it all done HERE.  As you can see from that old blog post I loved this resource then and I think I love it even more now.

Each day we choose a new topic to study for the day.  Sometimes Mommy has noticed some heart issues in our home and I’ll choose our topic.  Other times the children let me know there is something they really want to hear about.  We just go with whatever we are feeling lead to at the time.  Once the topic is chosen we use the tabs to find the appropriate scriptures and work through 4 or 5.  We read them, discuss them, break them down, recall times when we (including Mommy) have struggled with what that verse is teaching us, we use the verse to discuss what God thinks is the best ways for us to handle problems, and finally we pray together.  Some of our favorite topics include Anger, Complaining, Fear, Jealousy, Lying, Making Excuses, Quarreling, Selfishness, and Tattling.

God’s word works miracles! It never fails, after studying a topic I always noticed the issue at hand decreases greatly or is eliminated altogether… at least until we need to study that one again.  My six year old in particular adores our CTB time.  Sometimes after a long day he’ll even tell me that our reading really helped him that day.  Praise God for that!

There just aren’t enough words for me to tell you how vital our CTB is to our homeschool.  It is our most important Homeschooling Essential.

Come read what other Schoolhouse Crew Team Members think are essential in their homeschools.  Here are a few to get you started.  Click on the image below to read even more

Lisa @ A Rup Life
Jordyn @ Almost Supermom
Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy
Brandi @ Brandi Raae
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness
Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

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. 

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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.

The Christian Parenting Handbook Giveaway — 10 Winners!

Back in May I shared with you an amazing book that has been nothing but a blessing to our home.  It has literally changed everything about how I interact with my children.  It is called The Christian Parenting Handbook and you can read my full review here.
A heart based method to parenting I truly believe can work well with any child.  The more I incorporate the strategies in the book the more I see my children grow into people with a strong character.  I also find that I myself am an more relaxed and happier mom.
I am so thrilled with how this book is changing our family that I have decided to partner with other bloggers and bring you a 10 Day series all about parenting for the heart.
10 Days of Heart Parenting
Other bloggers will be joining me as well so make sure you stop by their blogs too! I can’t wait to see what insights they’ve pulled from this treasure of a book.
The wonderful people at the  National Center for Biblical Parenting heard about our series and generously offered to allow us to giveaway 10 copies of The Christian Parenting Handbook authored by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN.  I’ll be partnering  with Marcy over at Ben and Me to make this giveaway happen!
This biblical parenting book shares 50 heart-based strategies for all the stages of your child’s life.
In this book you’ll learn how to:

Identify character qualities to address problems
Build internal motivation
Transfer responsibility for change to the child
Teach kids to be solvers instead of whiners
Use creativity to teach your kids spiritual truths
Avoid the “boxing ring”
Envision a positive future
And much more!

With these strategies you’ll be able to move from behavior modification to a heart-based approach to parenting. Instead of relying on rewards, incentives, threats, and punishment, you’ll learn how to identify heart lessons to teach your child and implement them in practical ways.
 
I am excited that 10 people will receive a printed copy of The Christian Parenting Handbook
To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below. Entrants should be at least 18 years of age and reside in the United States. Other Terms and Conditions can be found on the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to everyone who enters!  I wish I could give everyone of you a book! And don’t forget to come back here on Monday to read my first post in the Heart Parenting Series! 

The Christian Parenting Handbook Review

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I come from a psychology background.  That’s what I went to college for.  I discovered if I majored in psychology I could apply that degree to obtaining my certificate to teach in public schools.  What I found interesting was learning how children think or learn.  Unfortunately  I’d say the college I attended had a bit of slant on behavior modification.  Rewards and punishments, stickers for desired behavior and time out for bad behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, we learned a whole lot more than that but if I really want to boil it down this is what I learned…. if you aren’t succeeding at improving behavior than you haven’t found the right reward and/or the best punishment yet.  OR, you aren’t being consistent enough!  AGH!  Can I tell you a little secret, the first chapter of the book is titled Consistency Is Overrated.  Obviously these authors get it!  And they realize we parents are only human!  Such a breath of fresh air!

I graduated and moved on to actually teaching little children! In the schools it was ALL about rewards and punishments.  I found myself up to my ears in sticker charts and carrots like Thomas the Tank Engine toys and timeouts galore.  The prevailing classroom management technique across all of the grades even in the regular (non special education) classrooms (and I hear it is still used today) involved public shaming by displaying for the entire class which children were not displaying expected behavior that day.

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I spent my days carrying around little slips of paper making little tick marks for how many times little Johnny did some terrible behavior I was supposed to be measuring.  I spent my lunch time frantically writing down what happened immediately before and after the bad behavior so we could discover what was causing it.  I spent my nights graphing instances of bad behavior and cross referencing all of my data to look for patterns.  Seriously, I was special education preschool teacher… this was my life! Not at all what I dreamed of when I went into teacher. Actually, it was far worse than this but I’m going to save all of that for a someday blog post.  Can I tell you something? None of it felt good in MY heart.  I wasn’t reaching these children and bringing out the best in them, I was training them almost like circus monkeys to display certain behaviors we wanted to see in school.  We might see good results in school, maybe.  Everyone knew for many of these children the improvement was tenuous at best.  What happened to reaching children to better their entire lives.  This b-mod stuff, as I call it, doesn’t do that at all in my opinion.

My classroom wasn’t the sort of nurturing and loving place I always imagined it would be.  No classroom was.  I burned out quickly and jumped shipped as soon as my first son was born.  It didn’t take long before I knew I wouldn’t be sending him to school either.  It wasn’t what I want for ANY child. One thing I knew for sure was I didn’t want my parenting to reflect what my schooling had taught me.

549388_493391314056409_1577221872_nBut if this sort of rewards/punishment/timeout/stickers sort of thing doesn’t work then what on earth does?  Well, I argue with you that the only way to create lasting change in a child or even an adult is to change their heart.  That is exactly what The Christian Parenting Handbook will teach you how to do with your children.  This book is organized into 50 chapters with 50 lessons, each readable in just a few minutes, full of insightful ideas that display true godly wisdom on positive parenting. It’s practical and hands on… not just theory but solid ideas. I love how everything is supported with references to scripture.  This truly is heart parenting.  While reading this book I have grown not only as a parent, but also in my walk with Christ.  I have developed a deeper understanding of how to parent in a manner that will develop not just positive behavior, but wonderful character qualities, internal motivation, and great heart attitudes.

In The Christian Parenting Handbook you’ll learn how to handle a child’s anger, how to be fair, how to teach responsibility, how to pray for your children, about disciplining in public, what to do with bad attitudes, and so much more.  You will learn how to turn your child’s heart around so that the desired behavior that you want to see in learned intrinsically.  They’ll become the children of great character that you want them to be not because you reward them for it, but because they want to.

In our home we consider to Bible to be our true guide to living right on this earth.  This book is your companion to your Bible.  Right now the first two books you’ll see when you open either of my kindles are this one and my Bible. They really work hand and hand.

Are you tired of nagging?  Yeah, me too!  This book will help you get it right?  Are you struggling to help your child take responsibility for themselves?  Yes, that’s a struggle here too!  I think I might actually be able to make change in that area now.  Do you find yourself and your child in a never ending cycle of frustration?  Yes it happens here too.  I plan to fix that now.

5277_513201428742064_89192533_nI highly recommend this parenting handbook.  It’s got to be the best one I’ve ever read!  If you never read another book on parenting this would be the one.   It’s available nationwide today in both  e-reader and paperback versions.  And to make this an even sweeter deal, National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP) is offering a package of free resources valued at more than $400 if you purchase the book between April 29th and May 5th. Just forward your purchase confirmation to Gift@biblicalparenting.org, and they will email you your special product code for the $400 package.  You can read more about this great benefit AND register to win some free goodies… like an iPad Mini right here.

You need this book!  Trust me!  Order one for yourself, one for a friend, one for your church library, and keep one on hand for that baby shower you know you’ll be invited to one day!  My prayer is that this book will change your home the way it is changing mine… for the better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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