Parenting For Eternity

Someone recently posted a blog asking parents how they discipline, train and disciple their children. So many answers, so many opinions, so many philosophies – most totally contradicting one another – my head was swimming! So how do we know what is right? What are the chances of us doing a “good job” in raising children that not only “behave well” but children who choose to do what is right, even when they don’t feel like it, just because it is right. How do we raise children to think of and consider others before themselves? Children who have an undying, personal love for God, the earth and those around them, Children who are passionate and expressive, strong yet compassionate and gentle?

Honestly I don’t know!

But…

I know someone who does! Someone who not only knows all these answers but also knows each of my children personally. For this reason I do believe that the biggest, most important investment I made into parenting my children wasn’t buying the latest jungle gym or saving for a dream holiday but rather seeking my heavenly father for wisdom in raising the little people he has put into our care. Through the years He has gently guided, encouraged, rebuked and corrected our parenting and we have learned so many valuable lessons along the way.

So what I’ll share with you here are a few things we have found to be fundamental to parenting our children…

I remember, when our first child was a baby, hearing someone say that they did not allow fighting in their home. This took made me so a double take. Made me sit up an listen. Made me stop and consider all I knew about family, siblings and raising children. “Not allow it!?” As I processed this information I began to realise that as parents we are given our homes to “have dominion over”, to rule and reign. We have the right to determine the atmosphere, the attitudes, expectations and out play of bevaiour with this space we had been given dominion over. With this in mind we set out to determine what we wanted to have our family and home look like.We set high expectations for our children with regards to their bahaviour and attitudes toward one another. One of these is that our speech is to always be full of grace – love, forgiveness, patience and understanding.

Now setting the expectations and obtaining them were 2 separate things and in different seasons, for different children working towards them has meant different approaches. Ultimately when they are very little it meant removing them from a room, or sitting looking at a wall, till they could chose to talk nicely, chose to be kind or chose to change their attitude. As they became older and now knew the expectations we would ask them to “try again” when they used a harsh tone or were mean to someone else. This also often came hand in hand with role play and practicing how they will behave in a situation.

This set them up with a picture in their head of what was an appropriate response rather than just disciplining or punishing them for “being naughty” – leaving them with no idea on how to rectify their behaviour.

As the years have rolled by many situations have simply been spoken through. With the older children we have discussed how you respond when a friend leaves you out or says something hurtful. How to ensure a new child feels accepted in a group or that the boy who scores his own goal in soccer is not made to feel embarrassed. These discussions have once again set them up with an appropriate, loving response rather than leaving them to figure it out all on their own.

I remember hearing years later of another family who would not allow their children to entertain the idea of being a “teenager” due to the connotations, expectations and liberation this word presented but that they would rather become a “young adult” – an adult in training. This immediately changed the expected behavior and attitude of the child from one of reckless, selfishness to one of responsibility and maturity. With this in mind we started speaking of these things with our young children so that by the time they reach 13 they know what the expectation is of them. They look forward to being embraced into the “adult” world and their behaviour grows into this expectation.

God obviously also plays a vital role in all this as our children look to Him as their guide and as their personal relationship with him grows so does their desire to live in a way that honours him.

So no we don’t have all the answers and don’t always get things right. Yet we have learned, through God’s wisdom and guidance, that parenting is not about discipline but rather exception and then training, discipleship and mentoring a child into becoming all they were made to be.

 

Free to Choose

English: Portrait of a girl from Portugal

What is it that all humans crave, strive for and will die for? Freedom.  Freedom to be ourselves, freedom to make our own choices and to have the right to be who we are. Freedom is a powerful concept and realisation, for one to be able to express ones freewill is the ultimate human experience. To be able to choose, to be able to decide for yourself and do exactly as one wishes gives one not only the feeling of liberty but one of power, integrity and self-worth.

If as parents we tap into this inbuilt desire for one to be able to express our own freewill we are able to make parenting and discipline all that much easier – as the child ends up doing all the work for us. As with all aspects of life one may have the right to express ones freewill, however there is a natural law that sees that every action results in a consequence. Children need to learn that their choices result in natural consequences.

Within the home or school one needs to have boundaries and acceptable conduct. The children then need to be aware of the choices they may choose from and what the consequences may be. It could look something like this: It is decided that within your home you don’t permit hitting. Therefore a child who chooses to hit – experiences a natural consequence – they are removed from all other children and are required to sit alone until such time as they choose to no longer hit. There is no time limit set on their “timeout” as once they choose to apologise and change their behaviour the natural consequence is that they may return. If however they hit again, well they are again removed.

As parents it is our responsibility to let our children know about the choices they have before them and what the consequences of these choices may be. We then leave them to choose and simply ensure that the natural consequences play their roll. If homework is not complete they may miss going to the beach as they need to complete it on Saturday. If they choose to not help tidy their room they may need to miss a movie to do it. This is very different from threatening or punishing a child who does not complete their task.  It is rather a natural result of the choices they have made.

The great part about tapping into the desire for one to express one’s own freewill is that you are able to step back and no longer need to rant and rave and become emotionally involved. As parents we are often too scared to allow our children to make their own choices. Instead we take on the responsibility of deciding for them and so prevent them from feeling the pain of poor choices. The result being not only that the parents are becoming more and more tense and emotionally drained but children are not learning to take responsibility and ownership for the choices they make.

Choices are fantastic, they make parenting so much easier because if a child is offered the choice to obey or share or work in a team and they choose not to it’s their choice and they are in effect “choosing their consequences.” A child may not choose what one thinks is wise or good or right but that is how they learn. Rather they learned the pain and joy of expressing their freewill within the safety of their home than to feel the full pain of making foolish choices later in life.

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Does Timeout Really Work?

Funny you should ask this as when our first child was born I would have answered with a resounding “no – timeout is a waste of time!” However 8 yrs and 5 children later – timeout is now our main form of training we use with our children!

Over the years I’ve learned that the key is not timeout but the how and why of time out. Firstly you need to establish why you are putting your child in time out. Is it as a punishment – in that this is what you get for that behaviour, or is it because you want to change their behaviour. If it’s a punishment they will kick and scream and give you a hard time when they get out. If however it’s a point of training, you’ll soon start seeing a difference.

If you want to train your child to display (and not display) certain behaviour traits you firstly need to choose what you want these to be. For example hurting and shouting at others is not acceptable in our home. If one of our children displays these behaviours they are put in time out. But here’s the key: I don’t put the time out away from the action. I simply turn a chair toward the wall so their back is to the activity. The rule is you stay there till you choose to change your behaviour. No time limit just until they can choose to alter their behaviour. After a while they will stop screaming on the chair and turn to watch the others and want to join in – and here comes the training – they realise if they want to join in they need to choose to alter their behaviour! They then slip off the chair and begin to join in happily and play within the boundaries I’ve set. If they hurt someone before I removed them they are required to apologise before they join in again. We use this for small things such as not helping to tidy up or refusing to excuse oneself from the table as well as bigger issues such as outright disobedience.

Be warned the first time out our one daughter experienced – probably just before she was 2 – she screamed for an hour and kept getting off the chair and trying to play at breakfast time and I kept putting her on (by not shouting but only repeating what was required of her – she needed to sit on her chair at the table and not run around, “sit on your chair to eat.” An hour later she slipped off the chair, climbed up at the table and ate all her food and came skipping down the passage to join us. It was hard work but now timeout only takes 30 seconds till about 2 minutes till they choose to change their behaviour. This taking charge of ones emotions and behaviour is a valuable life skill. There are not many adults who can control their own will. Help your child become one who can!

Why Can’t You Just Be Good?

We love birthdays in our home. It’s a day to bless and honour one specific person and celebrate them being a part of our lives. I encourage each of the children to make gifts instead of buying them and we usually spend the day doing something special. This often involves going somewhere, which the birthday person chooses, for the day.

One other great treat is their birthday breakfast. Usually we stick to oats and mealie meal – as these are nutritious and healthy and give the kids the energy they need for their day. But on birthday morning we’ll often have muffins or scones. This week it was my husband’s birthday and as we were away we had egg for breakfast and then a “party” in the afternoon with some cake, 2 sweets each, a few chips and a biscuit for each of the kids. Well I wish you could have seen the change in their behaviour! Within 15 minutes they were jumping off the furniture, no listening as all, irritating each other and quite beside themselves.

Granny looked at me and said, “I see why you don’t often have cake in your house.” Besides the fact we like to keep sweet foods for treats this is exactly the reason we try avoid preservatives and sugar as much as possible!

How many children are being labelled ADHD and dosed with Ritalin when in fact it’s just all the sugar and preservatives coursing through their bodies that prevent them from being able to listen. Yes, we do live in a world governed by processed sugar and our foods are full of preservatives but as responsible parents, just as we put sun cream on our children to protect their skin, we need to limit their intake of all these products as it can do them such internal, emotional and mental harm.

Read our health posts to hear more ideas on how you can change your way of eating to help your child develop their full potential. Furthermore we need to be aware of what we have fed our children and how this is affecting their behaviour. This is simply because we don’t have the right to shout at our kids and expect them to behave when we’ve filled them with sugar.

Often we need to look at what circumstances are causing our children to behave the way they are. Maybe they are hungry, tired or filled with preservatives and sugar. All these will affect their behaviour and will often prevent them from being able to respond to our demands. A tantrum at the shop may be brought on by the fact that they are in fact hungry or tired. The best way to deal with these is to realise that it’s actually home time. Quickly do what you need to, cut the trip short and meet your child’s needs then you can start to work on the behaviour issues.

The old saying, “you are what you eat,” may in fact hold loads of truth in that what we eat has a huge impact on how we respond to our environment and those in it.

Play Fair

“I had it first!”
“It’s mine!”
“Tell her to give it to meeee!”

Daily these words echo within our home, as I’m sure they do through every home with small children! Throughout the years we have tried so many different ways to control these out bursts. Everything looks so easy on paper but add two, or more, real life, little people filled with passion, anger and irritation and all reasoning goes to the wind!                      

To help calm the storms we have implemented a rule regarding ownership. It’s simply that if an item belongs to a specific child they may choose to share it or not. This develops the character of the child sharing as well as the one wanting the toy. The child wanting it may need to learn to honour the fact that it is not theirs and that they can’t have everything they want. The child who owns the toy may need to learn to share or if they genuinely are concerned about it being broken or such, they need to learn how to tactfully put the toy away – and not flaunt it in the other’s face! It often helps to think how it would feel for us as an adult if someone came up and asked to borrow our car. If it was a friend we may agree – however to a complete stranger we’d defiantly recline their request.

Some people suggest that children should just be left to fight it out but that does not help train them to develop their social skills. As parents, it’s our responsibility to help our children channel their feelings and become compassionate, considerate thoughtful, caring citizens.

Just as adults, we wouldn’t want to spend time with people who insulted us, screamed in our faces and if someone hit us over the head we’d report it as a criminal offence. We just wouldn’t accept others treating us this way and yet we often expect children to have to deal with it. Just as in the adult world relationships require trust and friendship to blossom so each child needs to earn the right to play with other children – even their siblings. If however they can’t play within the expected social norms they need to learn that they won’t be able to join in!

This may sound really complicated but it works simply like this: Even when children are irritated and upset with each other they need to talk and act respectably to one another. Failing which, they no longer have the right to spend time with those they are upsetting. This is achieved by them needing to sit on a chair till they choose to behave in an acceptable way. If they continue their anti-social behaviour, they are banned from playing with the others for a length of time such as an hour or the morning. Not until this happens do they realise how much they actually want to be with their siblings and they soon learn to calm their tempers. If they do get off the chairs and continue fighting I put the toy in the cupboard and replace them on the chairs so that when they are ready to practice self-control they have to think of something entirely different to do. 

We’ve used this technique with children as young as 2 years old and they quickly learn how they need to honour each other in order to be allowed to be a part of family activities. It is hard work and requires vigilant parenting but to see your children playing together happily is worth all the effort!

 

 

 

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