Raising Little – Big People

What a privilege it is to be a Mommy and be able to daily watch our little people grow from scrunched bundles of pink to dirty toddlers into lanky teenagers and beyond….. As we navigate this uncharted territory with each individual child I repeatedly remember someone once telling me that, “We are not raising children but adults.” In our homes we don’t have before us a future Big Kid but instead a little Mommy or Daddy, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a farmer, a dancer, an artist, a friend, a home maker, a designer. All these things and so many more are all packaged up – often not so neatly – into these little bundles set before us. So as we discipline and train and mentor our children as much as it feel tedious and that I’m doing this to just have some quiet or order in my day today – we are in fact missing the whole point. All our hard work parenting isn’t about the here and now or today but rather about the “..ever after.” And yet what we do today can deeply impact that to become a “happy” or “disastrous” ever after story.

As I hear my son speak sharply, using harsh, barking commands with his sisters everything within me wants to give him a piece if my mind and send him into a timeout – till he can be nice! Yet what will this gain? How will he know “how to be nice” if I never equip him with the gentler tones to replace those bossy ones that come so naturally to a born leader? I once again gently draw him aside reminding him how you use your voice matters and how it effects  people. We talk about what our home would be like if his daddy spoke to me like he spoke to his sisters. We talk about him being a Daddy and a business owner and how he thinks his family and employees would like to be spoken to. Because the reality is the way he talks to his siblings will overflow into the way he talks to his wife and those around him in his adult life.

Beyond just managing the way our children talk to one another we have an awesome opportunity to use our daily lives to equip them with business, family, home making, people, leadership and many, many more skills that they can draw from in their adult lives. I send an older child to fetch a younger sibling off the trampoline, ask a 8 year old to make biscuits, request an older sibling to bath, dress and make a bottle for the baby, I require one to call the library to renew the books or another to phone the take away to order dinner. By the age of 10 every child needs to know how to run the home for a day – do and hang the washing, cook 3 meals, look after the younger siblings and such. A challenge each of our children have risen too and been so proud to achieve.

So as I lie on the grass in the park and watch my 13 year old stroll off with his 2 baby sisters in tow – seeing him playing with them and taking such joy in them as well as taking the initiative to take their hands and care for them my heart swells with pride as I see not before my eyes a clumsy, lanky 13 year old but instead a little Daddy. A small man-child growing in his role of leader, provider, carer and protector of those placed within his care.

As I hear my 9 year old ensure that everyone is doing their part to clear and clean the kitchen after dinner I see before me growing a leader and CEO who understands a job well done. As I need to yet again remind an 8 year old to put her clothes in the washing or cupboard I am seeing to the training of a homemaker. As we discuss money spending and saving principles in an aisle in Spar I am witnessing the training of business men and women. When I once again train a tone or attitude used in jest or nastiness toward a sibling we are building good friends and citizens of the world. Don’t be fooled by their size – nothing is ever lost on these little people of ours.

Let us not underestimate these “little people” who right before our eyes have the capacity to change the future through the way they will one day love their families, run their businesses and share their talents with the world around them. So keep on keeping on. Your efforts will reap many a reward in the years to come.

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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