Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

We have all heard the saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” However, in this last couple of weeks, God has been bringing me into a new understanding of this saying. First of all, does this saying have a negative connotation or is this saying indeed implying a blessing? I am beginning to switch my paradigm from the first to the latter, and I’m so grateful God is still working on my heart and mind.

My kids (six and three) were playing in the living room while I was packing one morning last week. My son, being older, was not happy with the way his sister was playing and started to “recite” the Ten Commandments. Now to be completely honest with you, up to this point in our lives, I have had to struggle to spend time with the kids and speak of Christ in every situation. My husband has had to work long hours just to make ends meet, and I have often had to take on side work just to be able to feed everyone. My kids do not know the Ten Commandments, but we listen to them as often as I remember to play them. I couldn’t help but chuckle in this instance. I don’t remember what Elijah was unhappy about; however, I do remember him saying, “The commandments say, you shouldn’t lie, so you need to stop doing [whatever it was she was doing].

I had to laugh (to myself of course), because what she was doing had nothing to do with lying, but to him, he felt like saying that would pack more punch to solving her behavior than if he didn’t. (I saw the “I’m better than you” attitude of pride come out and that is a struggle for me, but at that moment, Christ came in and whispered in my ear. “You know ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’? Let me teach you about the Rod.”

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Proverbs 13:24.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him,” Proverbs 22:15.

“For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatsoever passes under the Rod, the tenth one shall be holy unto the Lord,” Leviticus 27:32.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” Psalm 23:4.

So we see the rod being both comfort and also correction. Can we correct and discipline our kids in a way that they will feel comforted and yet still change their ways?

I have to study it more; however, I want to pose to you this question and this challenge.

“This know also, that in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient, to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more then lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, ed away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs was. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, affiliations, which came unto me at Antioch, at lconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things, which thou hast learned; and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” 2 Timothy 3.

May I make the suggestion that the Rod in scripture can be replaced with the Word of Scripture. When we see the areas in which our children are struggling with sin, and we teach them how to claim promises, stand on scripture, and memorize scriptures having to do with the specific area that they are struggling in, not only do we give them the tools for dealing with and overcoming sin, but we give them a foundation for what they believe in that can never be shaken.

My prayer in this next month is that Christ will give all of us the strength, time, and wisdom to discern the faults in our children, and that He will lead us to the verses that will allow our children to overcome.

 

Homeschool Activities From a Connection Perspective: Removing the Power Struggle

In my professional work I encounter parents and children who are sad, frustrated, resentful, and feeling hopeless about a positive and fulfilling relationship with their child. “Parents are the bad guys” or “I’m not supposed to be my child’s friend” are often phrases I hear. When it comes to managing children’s behaviors, the focus is often on the compliance of the child, regardless of the emotional or relational cost.

It seems that parenting comes down to a battle of the wills: “You will do what I say.”

When I dig in my heels and refuse to collaborate with my child on desired expectations, we both lose. The child feels marginalized, unheard, and angry. The parents feel ineffective, frustrated, and like they are failing as a parent. Dr. Dan Siegel talks extensively about the research associated with the brain and development in his book, The Whole Brain Child. We as parents are the mirrors from which our children learn how to act appropriately. If their mistakes are met with criticism, anger, and blame, they will react with anger, mistrust, and defensiveness. The approach he recommends is the idea that children need us to help make meaning for them out of their daily activities.

When I think about how I approach the process of educating my child at home, I recognize that children cannot learn or retain information if they are living in chaotic environments, worried about their next meal, or dealing with other detrimental environmental factors. When I apply this to the home setting, it would seem that my child cannot engage in growing and learning if they do not feel accepted or cared for, or if they are worried about parental reactions/punishment. This doesn’t mean indulgence or lack of discipline, however; nor does it mean the parent isn’t in charge. It simply places the relationship in a position of cooperation vs. dominance. As a parent I am on a continual quest for balance between connection and correction. If my child feels connected and I am in tune with their needs, then they will naturally want to please me more than if I am acting or reacting with anger and punishments.

Here are three things I’ve found helpful in addressing my child’s behavior:

  • Modeling grace: If I make a mistake I say so, I own it and say “uh oh,” and clean up the mess or apologize.
  • Meeting anger with understanding: If my child is upset and emotional, I acknowledge that whatever they are feeling is valid and hard for them (even if its seems silly that they can’t find the right shoes).
  • Redirect with whimsy instead of demands: Singing instead of talking, making a game out of the expectation, and assuming they will follow through by helping them start the task — all are positive encouragements.

Tools that Work

happychildren

Over the course of the last several months, I have started a journey that in the middle may seem uncertain; however, the destination is certainly worth the struggle. It’s leading my family to the gates of Heaven. Each day is a struggle and I get frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes even depressed, but I also understand it is growing me, fitting me, and moulding me into His character, and that is the greatest gift I can ever wish to have. Not only is it moulding me, but it’s molding my children and husband as well.

This last weekend I attended a parenting class with Cinda Osterman. If any of you ever get a chance, I totally recommend it. It was so helpful. I’m hoping to give you a quick overview of the things I have been learning that have made a difference in my interaction with my children.

I have always been excited about having kids. I was always stealing people’s babies or kids in church, and couldn’t wait until I had kids of my own. I used to think of the fun things I was going to do, and of being the fun mom I wanted to be who was always doing awesome projects, etc., with the kids, always had a clean house, and always was able to do anything and everything fun and loving for my husband. And then…reality hit. It’s been such a challenge just to keep the house walk-through-able, let alone have time for the fun arts and crafts, etc., that I had pictured we would do together.

The stuff I am sharing in this last blog is kind of a compilation of what I have compiled over the years. If you have questions or need further information, please let me know. I will be happy to share what I am learning, and although I may not have the answers, I know someone who does. 😉

I am learning first and foremost that order is a huge key to my stress level. Having less stuff is so much easier to manage and really helps with stress levels in all of us, due to my having to constantly clean a messy house. Not that it stays clean all the time now. It just isn’t that hard to clean it all up. If you struggle with getting order in your house, then please pick up the book, Oh No, It’s Sabbath Again. And I’m Not Ready, by Yara Cerna Young. Empowered Living Ministries just republished it. (If you buy it on Amazon, it will cost over $100, so I recommend the $10 from ELM.)

I also have been watching Cinda Osterman’s parenting videos. There are two different programs online. If you type her name into Vimeo it brings up four sermons. They are all very good. Also, Amazing Facts does a two-part series with her at this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuQ31Y1mjqM&t=1s The second one should come up at the side of Youtube under the “play next” tab. They are titled and subtitled in Spanish (or Portuguese — not sure which exactly), but they are spoken in English.

I have learned so much stuff from those DVDs, and God has been blessing in so many ways. I have found the last couple of weeks that the Spirit of God is moving upon His people in a mighty way, in ways I never expected Him to work.

I have been reading the chapter, “The Victory,” in the Desire of Ages for my devotions the last couple of days. I encourage you to read it yourself. It has been amazing!!! By inspiration God lines out how we ourselves are to have victory in our lives and to be able to overcome the devil. Here are some keys I have been learning.

1. We need faith. Faith is something that we have to have. For years I have struggled with the difference between faith and presumption. I have never known the difference, but God made it so clear for me in that chapter. “But faith is in no sense allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has it’s foundation in the promises and provisions of the scriptures.” It wasn’t until I believed that God would answer my prayers and followed what He told me to do that I started seeing a difference in my children. And, to be honest, the first two weeks I determined to follow because He said He would bless, the devil really tested me to see if I was serious. I struggled for two and a half weeks with my kids. I was in tears almost every day and totally overwhelmed. But, I kept persisting and I prayed earnestly, and patiently endured the trials while looking for ways to encourage my kids to obey. I had no clue what I was doing on that path, but I knew I had to follow.

2. We need to ask. “We should not present our petitions to God to prove whether He will fulfill His word, but because He will fulfill it; not to prove that He loves us but because He loves us. Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him,” Desire of Ages, pg. 126. I am learning how to ask because He will give it to us, instead of asking to prove that He loves us. I also am learning to ask what I need because it helps me to know my vulnerability and where I need God.

3. We need to submit. What does it really mean to submit to Christ? I have always struggled as I have never known how to submit to Christ, even though I have always had an intense desire to submit to Him. Through Cinda’s meetings, I have learned some good methods to help me understand, and He is giving me the victories through these methods. Plus, it’s awesome as it totally works with kids too. There is a book called Those Juniors, by Eric B. Hare. I want a copy as I haven’t read it myself, but there is a game that He wrote that helps kids to make good decisions and to put their higher powers back into control over their minds. (I am learning even at my age how to make choices, and this game is really helping me.) There are three judges: 1) Reason (who decides good or bad); 2) Conscience (who decides right or wrong); 3) Heart’s Desire (who agrees, disagrees, or isn’t sure if he agrees with Reason and Conscience).  And then, there is King Will. King Will follows Heart’s Desire. So, if Heart’s Desire is happy with the decisions that Reason and Conscience are making, then he will go along with that. If he’s not, he won’t. If he isn’t sure, then King Will isn’t sure. So, lets say we have a situation with smoking. Reason would say smoking is bad, Conscience would decide it was wrong, Heart’s Desire (HD) would consider it wrong, and therefore King Will would go along with the decision. If we say, however, that HD disagrees with Conscience and Reason, then King Will will make the decision to smoke. When we start feeling upset or threatened and we work through this in our own lives, then we are able to recognize when we need to submit to Christ.

Submission is started by recognizing we want something different then we know God wants for us. Then we pray, and ask Him to take our heart. As we ask Him for the heart change, we believe He will preform a miracle in our lives (even if we don’t always see the results quickly, just keep believing), and we ask Him to give us His heart. Then He places grace in our hearts and gives our hearts back with the power to overcome. Sometimes it takes a while of praying before my feelings and desires change, but if I sing, pray, and claim promises, the feeling I’m struggling with will go away. At first it takes quite a bit of time. To be honest, it was 2-2 1/2 hours for me. Then, as my faith grew and I learned how to use it (I am still really new and am growing so we have good times and bad), it’s starting to take quite a bit less time. This morning when my son and I were battling, it was only a 15-minute battle, and that really helps encourage me to keep going. Each battle makes the next one a little easier and so on.

4. Submission is needed for all in the home. On this process it takes patience and loving kindness with each other. A direct yet loving approach to issues that come up is greatly needed. I have started letting my kids tell me when I am struggling to be like Christ. Yesterday my husband was at home. He didn’t realize he was struggling, and I told him very lovingly that in a matter of two hours he had undone everything I was working for that week in regard to the kids. I asked him to go and battle, and I prayed while he took some time for the Lord. He came out with a different attitude, and it helped change our family atmosphere back to where it had been earlier that morning. In order to have a family that runs the way Christ wants it to, we must each first have Christ on the throne in our hearts. You see, each time that someone has an “I” problem, that instantly brings division into the home. When everyone is submitted to Christ on a daily basis, and the I’s don’t come up, there is peace in the home. When we are free to let each other know when “I” problems surface, then the person struggling can deal with it and know that the rest of the family is praying for them. This gives the sense of being a team as everyone is moving toward the same goal of Heaven, and the family is all helping each other on their walk to the Kingdom. God works miracles and the atmosphere in our home is becoming sweeter each day.

5. We must require obedience. As Christians there is no other alternative. However in the previous generations we have lost the skill to do this in a loving Christlike manner. Narcissism is on the rise no matter where you are, and it will only continue to get worse. There is a hierarchy that God has designed in our families; it’s a law that if we unknowingly break, ignore, or disobey, we can not have the power of a Christian family witness. However, that doesn’t mean that we are to intimidate, shame, challenge, or demean our children. He must be first, parents next, kids are to submit to the parents, and the parents are not to anger their children. In fact, I go so far as to say that if we do not require obedience, our children can not be happy. Happiness only comes from obedience, whether it’s us to God or our children to us. I used to think they would willingly submit if they were shown enough love. But, that isn’t the case. We must demand their obedience. How do we do this in a loving way?

We have chosen to use the rod, rather than spanking in anger. It is something very different then a spanking. In fact may I suggest that spankings are the devil’s counterfeit for the rod? It also, once introduced, rarely needs to be used. The rod is used when rebellion is expressed. If a child refuses to do something you ask, if a child has a haughty spirit, refuses a punishment, or is in open rebellion, the rod is in order, but in a prayerful manner. I follow specific guidelines for when and how to use this method, and am happy to share further if contacted.

Children need to be taught to submit. It is very hard to demand obedience, but God blesses when we do this. It is extremely tiring and unfortunately it can be very spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, but it is well worth the effort. And if we teach our children to submit at this early age, I believe it will take away most of the struggles that they have in their teens. As we gain control and lovingly demand the obedience of our children, they become more secure, helpful, sweeter, more confident in the skills they acquire, and more patient. Without this obedience they will not learn to submit, and they will not learn to self govern and be able to make wise decisions.

6. We need standards. Standards are very important; as God has standards with us, we need to have standards with them. When setting up standards they need to be clear and easy to understand. They need to have a positive reward for keeping the standard and a negative reward for not doing the standard. For instance, for being obedient, my child gets two marbles to put into his jar. For each six marbles he gets (one for each year of age), he can do two things. He can either choose to do one small thing (examples of ours: Mommy does his chores the next day, special time with Mommy or Daddy, choosing that night’s meal, getting a toy out of toy jail, etc.); or, he can put a sticker on the poster board with the standards we are working on, and each sticker counts for six marbles for bigger tickets like a new toy. So if he isn’t obedient (prompt, perfect, and happy) he gets the rod; if he is obedient, he gets two marbles. We only have at most four standards we are working on at a time. When starting the process I would suggest obedience being your only standard as it’s pretty overwhelming just to practice that, but well worth all of the effort. If at any time in your training you see a lack of obedience coming back in, then you will need to start back at obedience again and work that until they have conquered that again. When implementing a new standard be sure to practice the standard several times, and practice the positive and negative consequences.

7. Don’t start with the same standards every day; start each day out with new choices. If you are always starting the standards out each day, the kids never get to practice character growth. They know the standards, but they have new choices every day to decide to obey or to rebel against them that day. You can make a picture of two roads and one having a picture of heaven at the end and one with the picture of destruction. make magnets of the kid’s faces and move them along the road throughout the day. If they are battling then take them and show them they have a choice to make. Let them see that the consequences of their actions, no matter how small, always have heavier consequences than what we see at the time. Through all of these steps above, our children learn reverence for authority and ultimately reverence for God. They also understand the consequences of sin in a much more powerful way.

8. We need to be thankful. Even before we see the results of what we have asked for and believe He will do for us. We should thank Him for it. Another great chapter in the Desire of Ages is “A Touch of Faith.” It is one of my favorites. Christ wants to richly bless us, but we have to be willing to see and thank Him for what He is and has done. There was a quote stating that, “It is by thanking God for what He has done and is doing is how we build our faith in Him.” That’s amazing! But, it also helps us to have the joy of the Christian experience.

In closing, I am so thankful for you guys letting me share my journey with you and for encouraging me. I pray that I will be able through these to share some helpful tips for you guys as parenting is a challenge and one of the greatest gifts we are able to receive. My prayers go out for all of you and your families. I look forward to Christ’s soon second coming where we will all be able to meet up there on the sea of glass — finally in our Savior’s presence!

 

 

 

Train Up A Child

homeschooler to entrepreneur

One of the most well-known verses on raising children is Proverbs 22:6. It is used as a source of comfort for many parents who have had children leave the church. Recently, I was doing a Bible study with someone and this verse came up. He told me that it is actually misinterpreted. I got online and started researching and reading. What I found was surprising since it actually pertains to educating a child. As a veteran homeschooler, I have long suggested that parents focus on educating their child using their interests and abilities. This verse here actually discusses this perspective.

The term “train up” comes from the Hebrew word chanac. In addition to training up a child, it also means to dedicate or consecrate a child. So, we are to dedicate our child to God as we tend to nurturing and disciplining him. God gave us this child to our care. Part of this raising in the Lord is for the parent to teach and demonstrate, but also the child is to actively assimilate the body of knowledge into their lives. We all know there is a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge.

The term “in the way he should go” is often thought of training the child in God’s way of righteousness. This actually means “according to the tenor of his way.” This means we are to train this child in a way that matches his disposition, natural abilities, and personal character/personality.

We are to learn about our children. What makes them tick? What special talents and interests did God give them? We are to use this as a pathway to training them in God’s way. This point right here puts waste to the idea of a one-size-fits-all education model. Our child’s temperament needs to be considered with the training so that any adapting can be done so the child can achieve their God-given potential.

Now to the next phrase that offers so much hope to parents. Unfortunately, it is not about the “returning to the fold” belief that many hold. What it means is, if the child has been trained or raised up according to the natural talents/character in the pathway of truth, then he will not leave that teaching as he grows. The reason is that this lifestyle has become second nature.

Earlier I talked about the importance of the child assimilating the information into his life. This is how it becomes second nature. Very rarely do people leave their faith when it is second nature to how they live.

In Ellen White’s writings we are counseled to use nature to teach in the early years. We are to keep God’s lessons ever before their mind. She counsels to give children activities that will interest them. We are to help them channel their abilities into useful channels. This is how the principles of God are taken into our children’s lives and made second nature. It is the little things we do each day, using the natural talents and abilities to teach our children, that will help each child become a life-long follower of God who is fulfilling their specific purpose in life.

Ten Tips for Reprioritizing Life

busymom

As I start this week, I am a little baffled as to how to make it through, but I know that I have a Savior who can work all things out for good. In this next week, I will be completely rearranging my life. You see, I am a get-things-done, have-to-have-things-in-order, and put-too-much-on-my-plate type of woman. I go crazy — when I don’t have things to do, I create them. I work hard, don’t take time to rest or relax, and most of all, as much as I want to have my kids be top priority in my life, the things  that “have to be done” crowd my kids out. So, why is it in normal everyday life it’s so easy to leave our kids behind, when they should really be top priority?

Each day that goes by, I am realizing what a precious gift I have been given with my extended family, husband, and kids. It’s becoming more and more ingrained in my mind that the only thing we will be able to bring to Heaven with us is our relationships. So, let’s stop a minute and look at why Christ died for us.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” “The joy” is the chance of having that relationship with us. Wow! What a powerful thought. Jesus died for me, just to have the chance of having a relationship with me. That puts a huge emphasis on relationships. With that said, how much emphasis do I put on relationships? Am I really making my relationships the main focus in my life? I don’t spend much time investing in my relationships, and I really want to make that a priority in my life.

As I have been pondering this for the last couple of weeks, I have been learning and thinking about ways to build my relationships, not only with everyone I normally interact with, but with the ones that matter most — my kids. You see, parents have a huge impact on their kids. The kids learn how to have relationships, how to focus on what matters in life, and how to organize themselves by watching their parents. They also get their self-worth, their courage, and their willingness to serve from us. Out of all of that, I want to be sure to pass on to my children that relationships are the most important thing that can be focused on.

Growing up, my mom was really busy. I don’t remember a lot about my early childhood. Most of my memories at that age are more of my dad. I know my mom was pretty young when she had me. My dad and mom got married when my mom was exactly one month from turning 18. They had known each other from ages four and seven. Dad was best friends with my mom’s older brother, and mom was good friends with dad’s younger sister. She had me when she was 20. Dad was laid off quite often, due to the young industry of stainless steel, and Mom ended up going to work in order to help all of us financially. When I was four she was going to school full time (in nursing), working as a CNA, and studying and cleaning when she was at home. I remember that she used to get sick, and I would help with the house work while she sat down and told me how to do the job. What I learned from her example is to focus on the tasks at hand. My parents did the best that they could in every way in order to raise us, but while kids are good at perception, they are really bad at interpreting the perceptions that they get, and I mistakenly interpreted the instruction I had received. I unknowingly took on the mindset that tasks need to be done before play can begin.

The first thing I learned about relationships is they are either growing or dying; there is no in-between. So, how do we keep them growing? We keep them growing by using a “love” banking system. In this system there are positive and negative deposits. If you are making more positive deposits than negative deposits, your relationships will be growing. If you make more negative deposits than positive ones, your relationship will start dying. Start keeping track of how many positive and negative experiences you have with each other. My goal is to have double the positive experiences as negative experiences. It is a goal we are working toward in our family.

Second, put more encouragement into life. This life on earth is really hard. It is challenging not only to be adults in the world as it is today, but to be children. It is so hard these days to truly see the path to walk in being a Christian. The devil has become so sneaky with how he deceives, tempts, etc., us, and it’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can see his temptations in our lives. As each day goes by, we need to encourage each other in our walk. The more I have been applying encouragement to interactions with my kids, the more I find them encouraging me.

My favorite author once penned this quote, and it is one of my favorites: “Give the young and struggling a word of encouragement when you can. You would not leave those plants in your window boxes without water, nor refuse to open the shutters that the sunlight might fall upon them; but you would leave some human flower to suffer from want of appreciation or the sunlight of encouragement. There are a few hardy souls that can struggle along on stony soil, shrubs that can wait for the dews and sunbeams, vines that climb without kindly training; but only a few. Utter the kind word when you can see that it is deserved. The thought that ‘no one cares and no one knows’ blights many a bud of promise. Be it the young artist at his easel, the young preacher at his pulpit, the workman at his bench, the boy at his mathematical problems, or your little girl at the piano, give what praise you can,” Signs magazine, Sept. 14, 1882.

Praise is different than encouragement, and I think that we need to be sure to clarify the meaning of each. Praise builds ego, and encouragement builds behavior. I want my kids to have self-worth by knowing they have skills to do what they need to do, but I don’t want to have my kids puffed up or prideful. I want them to be humble, loving, and kind. Praise is focused on the person. “You’re so smart” or “You this, you that…” Encouragement focuses on an action. “I like the way that you are ____________.” “I appreciate the hard work you are doing ____________.” “Please keep up the good work doing ___________.” With that said, we also need to be sure that our kids know that they in themselves are important, and are special for just being them. They need to know that God made them special.

Third, practice “The Pause.” Before responding always pause a few seconds to let your brain catch up with the conversation. It gives you an advantage by assessing and being able to give a reasonable answer. It also allows us to calm ourselves down if we are having a frustrating interaction with someone we love. James says to control our tongue, and using the pause makes that much easier.

Fourth, “live in the moment.” When I’m busy around the house and I am doing chores or whatever I have to do that day, I am learning to put things down when my kids come running to me excited about something. I am learning to take that moment and spend it with them — get excited about what they are doing. Often I have found that a quick stop in the chores sends a little ray of sunshine through the rest of their day. It’s not about getting things done as much as it’s about sharing most of the little moments with them and being excited about what they are learning and playing. They want more then anything to get our approval. I am learning this even with my hard-to-handle, hyper, five-year-old son. He does so much better with me encouraging what is right versus me correcting what is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to correct the incorrect, but we need to do it in a loving way.

Fifth, we need to be gentle not only with our children, but with ourselves as well. The more gentleness we possess, the easier it is for people around us to listen to what we have to say, and the easier it is to correct each other. Gentleness makes it easier for our children to come to us when they have made mistakes or have sinned. There are always things that need to be corrected in us. We are all human and we all fall. The base word to discipline is to disciple. We are not to discipline (in harsh training or in roughness), but to disciple them, to train them and teach them how to grow up into Christ. “Love wins love.” It is our gentleness with mistakes, with each other, and with ourselves that reaches people. (I really need help with this as it requires an empathy and patience that I don’t have.)

Sixth, work on communication. Communication is the biggest key to relationships. Without it there is no relationship. Some friends can go years without talking to each other and then pick right back up when bumping into each other, but does that mean that they had a good quality of relationship the years they didn’t talk? No, most of the time they got along really well when they had a friendship, and it just took off again when they saw each other.

I sure have had instances where I have wanted to ring my hands and say, “I give up on you son. What are you thinking? What is wrong with you?” But, in those times I practice James’ advice and hold my tongue. Just a slight pause, and then I calmly ask, “Son, I’m not understanding why you would do that. Do you mind explaining that to me, because its not making sense as to why you would think that is okay to do.” Most of the times when he explains it, I am shocked as to his conclusions, but they actually make some sense. As he explains it I don’t feel quite so upset about it because I can find the flaws, and then I can correct the flaws in his thinking, which then corrects the behavior.

Seventh, teach our children to identify the issues in their hearts. Teach them to identify the cause behind their behavior. What is the heart issue that is causing them to behave the way they are, as behavior is a heart issue? And, the more we identify the real issue and we bring our children to Christ and teach them to submit and to repent, the more we will see their behavior change.

Eighth, take play time with each other. We need to take the time to teach our children the ways that we want them to act, to speak, to work, and most of all to witness. But, we should also take time to play. We all need some time to play and be able to relax and rest. It is often in these times that most kids really learn to connect to others. Play is so important for kids. They often learn their life lessons through their play, and as they play it allows them to process what they are being taught. It also allows us to see the issues in their hearts that we need to work on. My son gets angry, and when he plays, as much as we have tried hard to prevent it, he is fascinated by guns. I guess it’s just a boy thing, but it just doesn’t go away. If he doesn’t know how to deal with a certain situation, he starts “shooting.” As I have been changing my parenting skills and giving the kids more respect and love, I see in my son’s play more love and respect toward not only his playmates but also us. I am also seeing a dramatic decrease in his shooting. Praise the Lord!!! It’s been a burden in my heart I have been praying about. Our children look up to us (even though they may speak the opposite), and they really do want to please us in spite of their protests. Also, often when we take breaks with our children, we actually find that they are picking up on the lessons we are teaching them and applying them in their lives. And then, as we see them practicing, we can encourage them in those skills. If you are like me, I get so busy with life that I really don’t even see anything that they are learning.

Ninth, find hobbies that you can do as a family. It is very important to have individual hobbies, but it is also very important to have family hobbies. Our God is a God who delights in our individuality. He is not a God who demands that we are consumed by only Him. He gave us a job in the Garden of Eden, and that was to garden. He didn’t demand that everything is “Him and Him only.” Yes, He desires our worship, and because we have an “enemy that is walking around like a roaring lion, seeking those who he may destroy,” we are forced to have Christ as our constant companion and to constantly be in prayer and communion with Christ, but that was not in His perfect plan for our lives. He came to visit Adam and Eve, and left them to do their job. In this world our job is to witness to others, but He still wants us to grow our talents, and that is something that takes time.

Tenth, sacrifice. There is a saying “You only love as much as you are willing to sacrifice.” In every relationship there is sacrifice involved. Often times it is very hard but it is a necessary part of our christian experience. It is a real challenge as I tend to always sacrifice and no one seems to notice or appreciate my sacrificing. Be encouraged, even if no one on this earth sees the sacrifice, God does, and that is what matters. One day your children, husband and others will appreciate all of the sacrifice you did and then you will be glad that you could do it.

So many blessings in this upcoming week, as we all learn to apply these principles into our lives!