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.

 

Seize the Day

This adventure called parenting is one that is constantly challenging, changing and one that keeps us learning. The irony being that more often than not it is the children teaching us not only about where they need their boundaries or security to fall or what stimulation they require but they teach us about life too. And just when we think we have it all together once again they open our eyes to a whole new realm.

It is easy as a parent to become caught up in the discipline, parenting and ensuring that all our child’s educational needs are met that we do in fact lose out on the very marrow of parenthood. Parenting is a hard job and a huge responsibility. It is however just as important to take time out with our children. We need to laugh, to play, to dance and explore this amazing earth with them. It is so easy for us to become caught up in our “mature” adult world that we are no longer capable of drawing ourselves away to simply be with, and enjoy being with, our children. When last did we sit with our child and simply watch a dragon fly dance across the water? Have we recently squashed our toes in mud? Did we take the time to colour a picture? Or dance in the kitchen? Yes these are all interruptions within our busy schedule and they do draw us away from all we need to do. But I am learning day by day that they do instead draw us into the company of our children which draws us into their lives and as they grow into their confidence. We are then able to see the world through their eyes, their understanding, and their hearts.

Just this last week I was yet once again pulled back to the essence of being Mom. It had been a long day and I had asked the twins – aged 4 – to yet again get out the bath, dressed and tidy their room. After a period of time mother instinct kicked in and I knew nothing was happening. I threw down the peeler and marched to their room – ready to deal out the wrath of Tired Mommy. On reaching their room I could see no one, only a lump under one duvet. Pulling back the blanket, ready to reel out my list of consequences, I was greeted by two, barely clad, squirming cherubs. They held within their hands a torch and were giggling incessantly.  “You found us. We hid. The torch… Giggle, giggle.” Instantly my parenting wanted to discipline, wanted to see to it that I remained the one in control, that they learned they needed to obey. Yet a small voice inside me began to ring louder, a voice saying, “this is actually really funny and you too need a good laugh.” Digging deep I managed to push past all the serious parenting, discipline, and training roles and for that moment in time just be Giddy Mommy. We tickled and giggled and squirmed. With that the stress of the day melted away and I could return to peeling the carrots rejuvenated and refreshed. My children then too jumped to their tasks and were soon dressed and had a tidy room.

So yes we are called to a high, noble and difficult position of training and education these little beings. But we are also called to a humble place: a place of simply being, a place of learning to stop, and relish the simple moments that these wonderful little people bring into our lives.

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Creativity Feeds Off Life Experience

One of the most frustrating experiences, as an educator is when you are trying to encourage creativity and imagination and the children are simply not engaging with you. The first few times one goes home and relooks at the lesson plan. Was it too boring? Was it above their heads? Did I expect too much of them?

However when one stops and reworks the lesson, going through it step by step, scrutinising why the creativity simply did not flow one realises that the failure did not lie in the lesson planning but rather within the child’s life experience.

More times than not a child will be asked to describe something interesting that happened to them recently and their response is, “I did go to the mall.” On further prompting and questioning they may add, “We did eat there.” One can keep digging and ask them to explain what they heard, tasted, saw and such and so try to make more of the experience. However most have been there so often for so many weekends doing the same thing over and over that they cannot in fact remember anything very specific as it all merges into the rest of their weekend memories.

A teacher is able to take items to a classroom and ask a child to feel them and write about it or the class may visit a farm and record the experience. However this is very limiting and a child cannot rely on someone always providing a structured, scheduled experience from which they will gain their creativity juices.

As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that our children are exposed to a vast array of situations, places, people and experiences. As they interact with a variety of age groups and visit many places the child is absorbing and processing vast amounts of information. They are experiencing physically and emotionally all sorts of new feelings with which they are now able to connect their creativity.

Our time with our children is so precious and short that we need to specifically choose to partake in activities that will not only form lasting memories but ones that will ignite a passion and fire within their souls. As passion that will overflow into their creativity.

It is obviously much easier to spend our spare time with our children at the mall or letting the children play computer games all weekend. The reality however is that parenting is not easy and often we need to make a conscious choice to choose to do something we may not naturally be inclined to do. However when we choose to stomp through a forest on a rainy day or go catch tadpoles, take a trip to the old age home, play a soccer game in the back yard we are not only keeping our children busy but we are reaching their hearts. This is fundamental, not only in the building of our relationship with them but to connect their emotions and hearts to a world beyond themselves and their needs. As our children reach out and engage with the world, other places and other people they form emotional connections that light the creative spark within. Suddenly they find they do have an opinion, they do have story to tell and they want to contribute to the world of creativity.

So let’s all take up the challenge and ensure that at least once a week our children are made aware of something around them that causes them to question, makes them wonder, thrills them to the core or simply engages their senses in a new and invigorating way. In so doing we are priming our children to create.

 

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Good Family literacy value helps children find their voice.

So often we hear adults conversing and during a single conversation they will change their viewpoint every few minutes to align themselves with whoever is speaking. Even though, every person has views and opinions many are never voiced, simply because people haven’t been encouraged and inspired to share their standpoint. As parents we can assist our children, in developing the skills to share their voice, from when they are still tiny tots.

Until a child goes to school the home provides the primary influence within their life.  What the child sees and hears happening at home is what they’ll imitate.  Unfortunately the saying “do as I say and not what I do,” has no meaning for little people.  Children are created to imitate, it’s the way they were programmed to learn about the world and how they should respond to it. Have you ever wondered why a child has good or bad manners, or where they learned the vocabulary they use?  How often have they dressed in mom or dads clothes and said, “Look, me Dad.”  The same goes towards their intellectual development and attitudes.

If parents and later teachers value books, learning and excellence a child will value these too.  We often scoff at the “whys” of a two year old and yet he is often truly searching.  As they look around the home they make connections and satisfy their “whys” of daily life. As they get older however their minds desire to stretch and pull out further. This is often beyond the walls of the home and the streets of their town. Their “why” draws them out across field and mountain, shore and sea even right into the heart of the universe. From here they desire to step deeper into understanding life, fear, ecstasy, pride, victory and failure. Many of these stretch beyond his immediate experience so it’s through the reading of great books that they can dive into another place time and meet new people. This in turn will stretch and grow their person. Don’t however stop here, throw before them the histories, arts, music, handcrafts and long nature walks. Then you’ll see that even the young child has deep powers of attention, retention, assimilation and curiosity that will help them draw from these meaning and a deeper understanding about life.  As we feed our children this “mind stuff” they begin to take up their journey into self-education.

By adults making their speech colourful and full of life, using big words when talking to a child, talking slowly and stopping between ideas we are training a child to think carefully before he speaks. To choose his words carefully, to have breaks between topics and clearly construct his thoughts encourages a child to consider what they are saying and to say it well.

Yes this does begin upon the mother’s knee as the young child is read to often during their early years. To know a world lies beyond those silent pages, the child soon begins desiring to acquire the gift of reading for themself.  As they charter and explore these new lands deep rooted personal views and opinions begin to grow. As we mirror good speech patterns, encourage great books and curiosity and we value our children and their opinions from a young age, they are well on their way to developing opinions and a voice that they will uphold and will be clearly heard in life.

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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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Being Mom Redefined

A mother holds up her child.

When I stepped into maternity leave with our first child I boldly claimed I knew what Being Mom was all about: Discipline, education and preparing a child for their future and their place in the world. I valued outstanding report cards, first team positions and social recognition. Being Mom was something that required time spent developing a child into all you saw they were meant to become.

Today however Being Mom entailed watching my 9 year old son skip properly for the first time. To see the concentration etched upon his face. Then as he suddenly surprised himself by skipping with two feet together his face broke into pure glee but as he reached the 7th skip the rope tangled around his feet and he almost went flying and together we laughed and laughed. Turning around my five year old son tugged at my sleeve, “Mommy, look I build all the numbers.” There using maths cards he’d discovered that 55 was not merely a 5 and a 5 but rather a 50 and a 5. He proudly bounced around the kitchen as he pointed out all the different number he had built. My 14 year old then bounded into the kitchen begging us to listen to the piano piece she’s figured out all on her own. There with cords and notes floating around us I settled down with my 5 year old and he began reading one of his first sentences. So far today has been good.

The afternoon hurried past in a mixture of music and art lessons. One son played the xylophone for the first time whilst the other painted the most exquisite clay birds he had made – never mind he can’t stand touching paint. The three year old twins discovered that dice have dots representing numbers and that by throwing it alternatively and moving chess pieces around you can create the most glorious game – to which I still see no patterns or rules, but the screaks of delight confirmed that none were required.

Insisting on candles for dinner, making their carrot pieces and potatoes into mice upon their plates and arguing over who was to pray first was what Being Mom was all about today.

No one came first, or won a prize. I didn’t settle a business deal or even make any great meals but Being Mom today has allowed me to tuck in and kiss 5 little people goodnight with a heart so full and proud that I may as well have conquered the world.

Why Do We Keep Doing This?

If we stop and take a look at what being Mommy is really all about and what financial payment we receive we should conclude that it’s totally ludicrous for us to keep this post.

However day in and day out we keep Mommying. Why when everything gets too tough, we haven’t slept in weeks, the demands keep getting higher and there is no sign of a break do we not just throw in the towel or just leaves? What is it that makes us stay and not throw in the towel as we would with any other job?

I’ve given this a great deal of thought and no I don’t have the perfect answer but I have a few thoughts.

The one being the idea of running as a hobby. I tried it once it and although I can never truly understand why people keep doing it – the feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment of finishing well at the race end does make it all worth while. So I believe it is with being Mommy – we know deep down that if we just keep at it we’ll eventually finish well.

I daily watch my own little girls play baby with their toy rabbits and dolls as well as how they naturally nurture each other and any one slightly younger than them. This is not something they have only learned but rather something they were born with. Just as every human is born with a God shaped hole that only Christ can fill so girls are born with a Mommying hole. Society sometimes talks girls out of this role or maybe some are naturally more nurturing than others but as them to look deep inside and they will admit they too desire to be apart of a relationship committed to marriage and raising the next generation.

So even though the going can get tough we seem supremely programmed to love and nurture these little bundles.

Finally I’ve also found that I can never do this alone but need to rely on my heavenly father and his wisdom to deal with all that Mommying requires of me. As I daily lean on him and his guidance I know that he would never throw the towel in with me and walk away. He daily puts up with my humanness and still loves me – for no payment what so ever. Knowing this – even though it is often really hard – how could I ever give my children any less than my all?

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