How Do You Leave the Playground

Kids need to get out of the house. Out, to the park or playground.  Out, to get all their energy out.  Out.  It’s nice to get out.

Except, most of the time, it’s not enough.  They want more swing, more slide, more playground.  Slide again, please.  No, stay.

Once in possession of a playground or friend’s house or pool, what does not make sense in a child’s mind is the pressing need to leave said amazing place.  Why would you ever leave a fun place? And this is grounds enough of course, if no one else is doing anything about it, to make a scene, to “throw a fit”.

Why aren’t our children happy to pick up and leave when we say it’s time?

The problem lies with us and them – there’s shared blame here.

Children are people, and people have big problems with contentment.  Blaise Pascal wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Now, the innocence of a child’s thirst for the abiding sense of glory and adventure that seemingly only a playground can provide – this is good!  But we are not in Eden.  We have to wait for things.  We have to grow up.  We have to learn patience and contentment with homes and beds and errands away from slides and swings.  If we are discontent aright, it is because our souls desire that which this world cannot provide.  But we must wait for the Lord, and this should begin in childhood.

Leaving the playground is a time for learning.  Here’s some examples of good character-informing exchanges between parent and child upon playground departure:

– “I’m going to leave you here”

– “ok, goodbye!” (as they walk away, pretending to leave the child there)

– “we are never going to this place again if…”

– “for once in your life, listen!”

– “i’m counting to three…one, two, three” (no action following this)

– “common, honey, it’s time to go…” (not actually leaving)

These words lack efficacy, most obviously because they fail to result in a playground departure in less than ten minutes!

These words lack integrity, because one – you aren’t actually going to abandon them on the playground, and two – nothing is going to happen after you count to three.

The words come from our mouths when we lack the strength, wisdom, and honesty to give our kids the privilege of straight and dependable expectations.  This destroys young character.

But I understand first-hand how difficult playground departure can be!  We feel desperate, and in our desperation we say some pretty awful things and do pretty much nothing.

So how do we do it? How do we act?

Here are three steps to successful playground departure:

1. Give warning before you take action. However you want to do this, give your kids a warning that it will be time to go soon.  You can give them a number of minutes, set a timer that goes off so they know it indeed has been 5 minutes, or discuss the other things on their agenda for that day.  This way your child can be prepared for the cold, hard fact of imminent departure before you actually have to go. They can fit in all the stuff they want to do before leaving and not feel panicked or surprised.

2. Tell your child directly that YOU BOTH are leaving now. Do not sound unsure and do not phrase this as a question. One of our biggest mistake as parents is phrasing expectations or requirements as questions. “Are you ready to go now?” is what we say. What we mean is – “we have to leave now”. What do our kids hear? Well, they hear what we say. And they respond with, “no.” And then we think, well, shoot. What do I do now?

Do not put yourself in this position. Tell your child it is time to go now, and they need to come quickly and obey. Obedience, or listening to what your parents tell you and responding with appropriate action, should be quick and cheerful. I know this isn’t always true, but this is what we should be striving for in our children. And it’s easier to obey as a son or daughter, when you know what your mom means/wants and when she is loving you as she tells you what she expects.

You are in charge and what you say goes. That does not mean refuse extension of grace or that we do not listen to our babies’ feelings. It’s difficult for a little one to stop doing what they love. Sympathize and explain the reasoning, but do not shy away from what you have said.

3. Leave! sounds simple, right? Sack up!  Okay, it’s not that simple.  But this third step is crucial. Obviously. You have somewhere to be; do what you have said you will do. Ask your child to come, in a calm, loving, but authoritative voice so they know you are not angry, but that you are also not joking. This can manifest itself in many different ways, dependent on your child and the day.  No matter what reaction you receive, you must leave with them. Your child may run away from you, they may scream at you, they may hide, they may beg and plead to go down the slide one more time.  The possibilities of evading capture are endless. You need to prepare yourself to be true to your word no matter the cost. Disciplinary action may be required, or you may need to just pick up your child and carry him to the car crying the whole way. That’s OK. As you show him again and again that you are serious about leaving, they will pick up on it and be apt to expectations for departure in the future.

Side note – giving our kids some wiggle-room or grace is always helpful. I think as parents we want to help our kids out.  Sometimes this means we spoil them and sometimes it means we are quick to look the other way when they are disobeying. We don’t want that, but it is a beautiful thing to be the biggest advocate for your child.

I loved to let my kiddos (the kids I have nannied for) have little victories at the playscape. For example, I’d tell my sweet boy that it was time to leave in 5 minutes. After five minutes I’d say, OK it’s just about time to go. But would you like to go down the slide one more time?! And his face would light up, thrilled that he had one more chance to do something fun before we left. After that I was very careful to get him and take him home immediately, and he rarely ever threw a fit about leaving.

Sometimes just hugging your kid before you go and talking with them about what a fun time that was is enough. I would whisper in my charge’s ear, “do you want to come to this playground another day?!” And he would be giddy about the possibility of having fun again.

So whether you are at a playdate or a playground, remember to stick to what you say when it’s time to go. Giving a little grace is awesome, but letting your child be the boss of your schedule is not.

God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us. He pardons all our sins and renews his mercy towards us every morning. God tells us the truth, but never makes false threats. God disciplines yet never abuses or harms with words. He clearly shows us his expectations for us and never goes back on his promises. He is fair.

May we all treat our children a little bit more each day the way that God treats us.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”  C. S. Lewis

The Five Ethics of Parenting – Part 5 (B)

So, how can we all practice giving our children and ourselves some independent play (or in our case work or rest) time?

1. DO the four other parenting principles I’ve written about:  Fill them up with your love, demonstrate your concern for their character with discipline, comfort and forgive them in intimacy, and have fun with them, engaging in play on their level.  When we are loving our children well, it is much easier to foster a successful environment of alone time.

2. Place yourself in a different room.  When they are old enough to be left unattended for a while, set them up with toys or a movie or a puzzle (whatever the heck you want!) and go get yourself into another room. The physical distance lets you focus on your task and lets them “focus” on playing. My 18-month-old will often play in his room or in the living room for over 30 minutes! I’ll be in the kitchen cooking or in my own room doing laundry, and I’ll look in on him stealthily every once in a while to see him happily playing with stuffed animals or pulling out all his pants in the bottom drawer.

3. No nap?  If you child skips their nap or if they don’t take naps anymore, setup room time in your daily schedule. If they are small, like my son, then put them in their crib. Give them toys or stuffed animals or books and let them be independent for 15 or 20 minutes (longer for older kiddos).

4. Share media time.  When Josiah watches his affectionately dubbed, “SZHOOW!”, I check Instagram and respond to emails with him in my lap. We both get to take a break from active engaging with one another, but we are relaxing together.

5. Force independence even when it hurts.  Homes aren’t always happy places.  We’re all whiners at the end of the day, dependent on food and sleep for our strong, mature virtues.

Between 4 and 6pm (the witching hour for moms), Josiah usually stomps in the kitchen, whining and pulling on my pants, and hitting my legs, screaming “Momma!” I’ve given him a snack, I’ve set him up with a TV show, I’ve just spent 30 minutes playing blocks with him – why can I never make dinner?

I think that even when it doesn’t look like it’s working, I still need to enforce the independent time.  I tell him, “Josiah, I love you but I have to cook these eggs right now. I’m sorry I cannot hold you.” And he almost always screams louder and doesn’t leave. Having a husband is something I am extremely grateful for in these times. When mine is home, he will take Josiah outside or upstairs. But when it’s just me and my demanding tot, sometimes we have an unpleasant 20 minutes of Josiah crying and me looking like a bad mom who is ignoring his “needs”.

The good news – the more I have done this, the more quickly Josiah is understanding that his needs aren’t always met immediately, and that he should entertain himself with something else for a while during those times. I help Josiah out a bit by giving him some spoons and a pot to “cook” with while I cook. Or I let him splash in the sink for a bit while I wash dishes.

I think the goal is to really try to have a balance of all of these five parenting ethics throughout each and every day you spend with your child: love, discipline, intimacy, play, and space. Most days, I’m great at one or two of these things because it comes naturally for me. But all people (kids are people too!) need a healthy, steady intake of all five relationship ideals.  What do I want for my kid?  I want him to have good character.  I want him to love God and love people well.  I want him to have joy.  If I strive for that kind of character in my son, he will be on the right road to joy and maturity in every other area of life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

The Five Ethics of Parenting – Part 5 (A)

Kid Clingyness: To cling and whine is what it means to be a toddler. To grab legs, scream momma, pull faces, weasel their way into laps – this is the essence of toddlerhood. At some point, a toddler will graduate himself into being a “big kid”, and will desperately, persistently grab at your affirmation of their self-proclamation – for every single amazing thing they accomplish, for every new-thought-up game. They want you in on it.

We need to be realistic about our little ones. These are the kinds of creatures we are trying to love, and that it’s hard to do sometimes. It’s hard because they are terrible and adorable and exhausting! We devote our hearts to them in discipline, in intimacy, and in play – because of our hope for them to change and grow from winey little punks into mature, beautiful people.

The clingy nature of our toddlers is a good thing, for it means you are his or her go-to person. We all have go-to people. Mine is my husband. I tell him my stupid dreams about being a super hot super hero, about the random people I meet in the grocery store, and about how I am feeling when I wake up from too-short of a nap – because I know he cares enough about me to listen. Even if it’s boring.

But, even as adults, we have to fight being too clingy with our go-to people. Over-attachment isn’t a healthy thing. The solution for this human tendency, for a toddler and many of us adults, is “alone time”.

Alone Time for Them: The previous posts were about intimacy and play-time. This post is about independence. A loving family will work to teach children about this balance, this “interdependence”, that characterizes all good relationships. This will require expectations being placed on them. This will require that they come to the realization that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

Putting this guideline of “alone time” into practice won’t guarantee a consistently happier kiddo. In any case, that’s not really the goal. We know what the goal is because we know that life can be lived well or not well, that relationships can be good or bad. The goal is better character and better relationships.

Children are precious and loved. The best way you can love them is to occasionally demonstrate that life goes on without your constant attention. Their needs are important, and you are their caretaker and provider. They should feel secure in that, yet also know that you have a life outside of meeting their needs. It’s not that your lives are separate – mom, wife (or husband), work, etc. – it’s that they all co-exist and you cannot be all of them with all of your attention all the time. A healthy practice of the principles outlined in the four previous posts will ensure that your children understand this.

Overbearing, coddling tendencies in parents are subconscious compensations for neglect in other areas (discipline, intimacy, play). If so, it is not going to be enough and will likely be counterproductive. Giving your children the impression that each and every desire will be met instantly sets them up for failure later in life. In school they will have to raise their hand with patience. At work they may be the one that gets coffee for everybody else. And that has to be okay. Don’t give them false impressions of what the world is like or what their place is in it.

Our children need the opportunity for contentment before they can practice it. When I am alone at home, I may really want a Coke from the fridge. But I’m on the couch on my computer and I don’t especially want to get up. I’ll usually just forget about the Coke and keep on working. Sometimes I’m craving it so badly that i’ll stop my work, get up, and get the coke that’s just 7 feet away from me.  Now, if Jordan is home and already in the kitchen, i’ll just ask him to get me a coke. And maybe some pretzels from the panty. And how about a little bowl of spicy mustard? Oh, while you’re up, could you make my coke into a coke float?

See what I mean? With our constant presence, our children will constantly look to us to meet every “need-thought” that goes through their heads. What you need to do as a parent is…leave them alone (sometimes). Give them opportunities to learn how to be a person. They’re smart and resilient people; don’t sell your little ones short!

Another opportunity that arises when you’re alone is learning how to be secure in your identity. A baby’s first experience with this is learning how to “self-soothe” – how to cry at night and realize that her parents really aren’t going to come to the rescue for now, so she puts herself back to sleep.

Our kids need to be okay in and of themselves. Leaning on others is not always an option, or even the best option (e.g. in the case of bad company). I want for my boy to be able to get up after he trips without needing to nurse, to be held, or to be cried with for ten minutes. And when he doesn’t think I’m watching, he gets up, brushes off his hands, and keeps on running for the swings.

Alone Time for Us: Parents need alone time too.  I think we need this to be sane, full-time parents. Many working moms have told me, “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t do it all the time”.  Well, they’re right. Some parenting styles make it impossible to do it all the time. If you never discipline, there’s no way you could stay home with your child – too frustrating. Living in a house where the 2-year-old is boss of the family is intolerable. Likewise, if you never give your children the space they need (although they don’t know they need it), your end will be insanity.

There is a way to love what you do at home with your child: to enjoy times for play and times for affection; to take advantage of the alone times in order to get work done; and to experience with your child the pain of swift discipline and the restoration, peace, and joy that follows.

Parents often get into patterns of obsession with their children’s lives – to the point where they no longer have their own hobbies, friends, or passions. Eventually, upon rejection, graduating from high school and/or moving away, or sometimes only with great tragedy – this type of living through their children will come to an end. The consequences of this kind of life are damaging and ironic. For example, when a mother pushes the relationship she has with her husband, her previously vowed best friend for life, into a little corner of her brain at the expense of energy focused on her child or children. This destroys marital relationships. It destroys the life of a family, and will destroy the little one that you find most precious.

My next and final post on the five ethics of parenting will be the “how-to” or “guidelines/suggestions” on how to practice giving your children and yourself alone time.

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent…Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it…The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 15:4, 5, 17, 16:9

The Five Ethics of Parenting – Part 4

Play – this is the fourth of my five “parenting ethics”.  First comes “love”, the catch-all, the foundation for the rest of our series.  Then comes “discipline”, which must be present in any true, loving relationship. Then comes “intimacy”, and now we arrive at “play”.  Remember that we are trying to answer the question – how do I best love my children?

Play is friendship:  The whole of parenting doesn’t easily distill into one concrete role or another.  We are not only doting nor only stern.  We are what our children can rely on for authority when authority is needed, for comfort when it is needed.  This is, in essence, a type of friendship.  There must be a deep sense in which we make ourselves ‘friends’ to our children.

And in a child’s mind, there’s one super important aspect to all of their friendships – play time.

Every kid wants to play…that’s just what they do. Play is all about joy. This is the way that children enjoy life – it’s the way they enjoy themselves, others, and the world around them. Play is what develops into hobbies, interests, and passions, talents, careers, and ministries.

“Play” involves actual interaction between you and your child.  So, if you’re at the park, on your iPhone, and you’re wondering why the kid is whining and nagging about everything – it might be because you’re not playing well.  Understand that your kid learns how to play from you.  If you’re crazy about your iPhone, your kids will be too!  If you’re able to be joyful and creative with your own family on the slide or for a game of chase – little son and/or daughter will follow suit.

Special mission:  One of my favorite things to do with my son and with the slew of kids I’ve babysat is to play “special mission.”  Mission #1 = Go find all the big leaves you can and then come show them to me.

‘Missions’ like these build patience and determination.  Every child I’ve played this with works with serious determination to accomplish the given mission.  It seems silly, but they do this for YOU. They want to impress you, to have you delight in their work, to have you think they are wonderful.  I recently heard on the radio that a common response among professional athletes as to how they excelled in their career was because their parents told them every day –  “I love to watch you play.”

Exceptions:  I would like to note that a constant play companion is not what our kids ultimately need from a parent.  We parents have our own lives too, and this is important.  Our roles are extensive.  Currently, my life spans the occupational gamut of:  mom, cook, maid, gardener, personal shopper, meal planner, blogger, scheduler, chauffeur, mechanic, and community volunteer.

Taking a break from these roles every so often keeps me sane.  Spending time alone makes me a better parent. Our kids are no exception to this rule; they need alone time too (this will be talked about in detail in my next post).

Friends with kids are one of the biggest blessings you get as a parent.  Being able to go on a playdate allows your kid the “play” time they need with others and allows you some basic adult/human interaction as well, which you need for sanity and to keep from talking to your husband like you talk to two-year-olds.  I pray that God provides those relationships for us as our children are growing up.

Play outside home, work inside home:  So, how do we balance play time with our kids? It seems like they are always demanding our full attention. The two to four-year-old stage is the hardest for me – listening to “watch me! look at this! mommy! look! look!” makes me want to purchase a robot, put a wig on it and program it to respond, “Wow! That’s amazing!”…all day long.

I believe that there is something simple we can do to help our kids and ourselves be just a little bit happier. What we need to do is switch when we engage, or “play” with our kids. I try to play more with my son while we are out and then I don’t need to play with him as much at home.

Usually when we’re out we think, “Hey, i’m doing something awesome for you.  I took you to the playground. So – be happy!  Do your own thing!”  Starving our kids for interaction at the playground will encourage them to seek it in a more desperate way when they return home.  If this happens, the chances of ‘independent play-time’ greatly diminishes.

If I really play with Josiah (my sweet 1 ½ year-old) at the park, and race all the way home, and tickle on the couch once we’ve gotten back, and laugh about how stinky his feet are after taking off his tennis shoes – he is SO ready to have alone time.  If it’s nap time, he falls fast asleep in a second. If it’s not nap time, he will happily eat a snack, or play in his room, or wander around the house banging on the ground with his “broom” (he’s a real helper, this one).

And I can do dishes! And I can make lunch in relative peace. And I can sit down for a second and relax. It’s a beautiful thing to see your child so filled up with loving affection that they actually crave and enjoy their independent time.

If you’re bad at it: One last point to be made – it’s perfectly OK if you are bad at playing/imagining. If you’re terrible at playing dress-up or pretty princess, or you can’t make a convincing “I’m gonna getcha” scary voice, or you’re completely un-imaginative, take heart!  Your child probably has enough imagination for the two of you. And if you sound stupid, at least they can laugh at you, which is pretty darn fun for them.  Most kiddos I’ve known are pretty opinionated about what they’d like to do (especially toddlers). This is a great area of life for them to have a little piece of control over.  It’s tough to be the little guy who has no control over anything.  And while this is a good, humbling thing for them to learn, it is so so kind and gracious to give them control over something. It makes them feel good, and they can learn how to be a good leader.

Example from a friend: One of the cutest pictures of this comes to mind from my friend Brooke and her adorable and very determined three-year-old daughter.  She has an incredibly hard time not being the boss of everything in life.  She actually reminds me of myself.

Discipline is a constant struggle for Brooke right now.  But sometimes, if the day has been long, or my wise friend has the ability to predict a tough day, she will let her daughter do her hair.  Brooke will sit on the tiled floor of her shower and give her daughter full reign over her neatly organized “hair” box.  Sweet, stubborn daughter is thrilled at this – she spends an hour brushing her mom’s hair and putting ridiculous clips all over the place.

Authority over one small thing, as in imaginative play, can change a whole day for a child.  Well, let’s just say maybe an hour.

I hope you are able to use some of these ideas in your daily life with your kiddo. I pray we all remember to engage with our kids on their level. For that is what Christ did for us – he became man so that we could understand and know him. He understands our suffering, he delights in our passions, and he rejoices with us in our choice to come and live.

Philippians 2:1-11

The Five Ethics of Parenting – Part 3

The third parenting ethic – intimacy – is made possible by the first two.  A growing, intimate relationship between you and your child is nurtured in the soil of love and discipline.

Quick review: 

Love— this is what we by nature feel for our children.  We are hardwired as mothers and fathers to love and be loved by our children.  Love is the ‘umbrella-ethic’ above all other parenting ideals, and these exist to help us know the “how” question.  How can we love in the very best way – in a way that it can be received, in a way that does justice the natural affection we have for our kids.

Discipline— this is what popular parenting culture shuns, and it is one of the single best things you can do for your child.  It doesn’t always feel that way, for your child or for you, but wisdom is vindicated by all her children.  We parents must teach what is right and wrong. How to treat ourselves and others. Our children are humans and, like us, they will resist good. For good isn’t natural: it is the opposite of “survival of the fittest”.  If we truly love our kids, we will discipline them towards the goal of self awareness and heart change.  

When walking down the road of disciplining your kids, don’t feel alone and in the dark! God knows what it’s like to love someone so completely yet be spit at in the face. God knows what it’s like to be humbled by his children in public. God knows how to be a patient judge, enduring hatred and acts of defiance while never giving up on his beloved people.

Intimacy comes next. 

If someone walked up to you and told you to stop what you were doing and follow them to their car, NOW, you would run away as fast as you could. Or if someone saw you looking at a book in a bookstore and told you, “No!” and grabbed the book away from you you’d think, “who the heck are you? you can’t tell me what to do!” That’s because these are strangers – you do not know them and therefore you do not allow them to have authority over you.

Intimacy is a place where your kids can find rest.  It is closeness, understanding, comfort, honesty, commitment, and happy forgiveness.  Intimacy begets security, and secure kids are well-behaved because there is a deep, stable love at home that goes all the way down to their bones.

We have one parent whose name is Love.  He understands and empathizes, comforts in painful and scary situations, approaches with an aim to discipline sin and purify our hearts.  He is 100% committed to his children, he will never leave or forsake us, and his love always contains enough power to truly put our sins behind us.  We can trust that he is for us.  We can draw near.

God is the only right and true model of parenting.  So I want to always take my cues from Him.

God became Jesus in the flesh in order to know us better.  Because of this, we must know, really know our children.  And every kid is different.

By nature, we starve for intimacy.  When it can’t be found easily, we’ll go looking for it.  If we don’t know exactly what it is we’re looking for, we’ll mistake ‘intimacy’ for something else entirely that will at best disappoint us, and at worst, destroy us. May God help us give our children the intimacy they need to sustain themselves, and later on in life – others.

Closeness requires an assurance of forgiveness and understanding.  Children need to know what forgiveness is; they need to experience it.  They need to know that their feelings, thought-life, and judgments are perceived and understood. And are also totally forgiven!

Now – just because their feelings are understood with respect to how much they want those cookies in the pantry – that doesn’t mean they are going to get the cookies.  But we must know what they want in order to talk about it, to demonstrate love even when they can’t get the cookie right now.

 

I like lists – a lot. I make them for myself all over the house: on dry erase boards, on little notepads, and even on my son’s IKEA chalkboard. Here’s a list that I run through in my mind: it gives me practical ideas of how to actually grow in intimacy with my kid. I hope it does the same for you.

1. Talk to them – about everything! About yourself, about their interests, about your expectations, about what makes you happy and unhappy, and about what makes them happy or unhappy.  Talk to them about things that matter, about God and their hearts and minds.  Talk to them about being tired or hungry.  Talk to them about what God provides for us.  Talk to them with a loving, patient tone…always. It can be stern, it can be playful. It can be serious or it can be light-hearted – but it must be loving and patient. Yup, it’s pretty impossible to do this all the time, with anyone, but that’s what God expects of us.  If we expect anything from our kids, we must first humble ourselves under God’s expectations.

2. Spend time with them – you can’t make up for not being around by buying them something expensive or sending them to some cool activity with the babysitter. Yes, you have to work. And yes, you need to spend time with your husband. And yes, you are your own person! But your child, whom you helped make and whom you love, craves your attention and your time. Give them some of it! Being in the same room doesn’t cut it, nor does watching TV together. Kids are smart; they know the difference between a true listener and a smile-and-nodder.  Wonder why our kids are so obsessed with technology? Because we are.

3. Touch them – every child needs to be reassured of your love through physical touch. Kids that seem to be uninterested have probably already developed distrust or are just not used to it.  Granted, there are different personality types.  Some are like myself – where i’m pretty much good when it comes to touch, i’d rather not be, but i’d LOVE it if someone wanted to hear me rant for an hour (hm…guess that’s why i have a blog). I want to be listened to more than I want to be held. But I’d never pass up a massage!  So, touch may not be their primary love language, but it’s still a need.

 

So far we’ve covered love, discipline, and intimacy. There is a reason why ‘Intimacy’ comes after ‘discipline’.  When you discipline, it is vital to be intimate immediately afterward.  If you give your child a stern warning or “no”, if you put them in time-out, if you give them room-time, if you spank them…you must must initiate and set the expectation for intimacy to follow.  Their apology should be worked on together. Their understanding of what went wrong (how they disobeyed and why that matters) should be discussed.  And you should hug, or kiss, or hold, or rock, or whatever! Just show physical affection so they know you hold them dearly despite their sin! You forgive any transgression. Always.

The reason why God is ready and willing to forgive, accept, and embrace us upon repentance of sin is because he has already forgiven us.  He’s established an unconditional acceptance of us on the basis of our status as his sons and daughters, on the basis of the blood he spilled (the means by which we become sons and daughters), and on the basis of his love (the reason why he spilled his blood). 

The Five Ethics of Parenting – Part 2

The Lord disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6). May we do this for our children, too: because of our love and our desire for them to please God and men; for their sin and their repentance.

Discipline is a tricky area to discuss. It always has been. The pendulum swings back and forth from family to family, from harsh to lenient, never finding it’s resting place in the center: the peaceful coexistence of love and discipline.

It’s not difficult to see the consequences of swinging inappropriately far in either direction.

My mom was raised to sit still at the dinner table, look adults in the eye and answer them when they spoke to her, to clean up after herself and, God forbid, do chores around the house! She did all of these things most of the time, but she was also afraid of her parents.

Many moms today are hesitant to give their children any rules or expectations in order to demonstrate understanding and friendship. Unfortunately this parenting produces horrible, horrible children.  They do not respond to adults (cue smiling mom – “she’s just shy!”) because it’s not expected. They cannot sit still (cue trip to the doctor for meds). They hit and scream at their exhausted parents’ faces. They boss their parents around (cue son telling mom to stop talking and mom saying, “OK, sweetie”).

It’s not that we’re mistaken when we say that this is just “kids being kids” – it’s that instead of making excuses for our children, we ought to compassionately discipline inappropriate behavior. You can be strict without being calloused and angry. You can be sympathetic without turning a blind eye to disobedience.

The reigning pop parenting philosophy on discipline (based on EXTENSIVE research in child psychology) can be found in Baby 411 and Toddler 411.  The main ideas there are all about “redirection”.  In any area he/she struggles to listen and obey – redirect, redirect, redirect.  If that doesn’t work, the advice is to “ignore” bad behavior altogether. I’m not a fan of the disciplinary advice given in these books, along with many others found on the shelves today.

Redirection can be a loving way to help your kid walk away from sin, but only as a supplement to disciplinary action.

Example: Josiah – you are not allowed to touch the computer. No touch. Come play with this toy! (Josiah will either take the bait or chose to touch the computer again. If/when he touches the computer again, he must receive a punishment for choosing to disobey.

Ignoring disobedience only causes hurt and frustration, and extremely damaging amounts of confusion if you choose to punish them for their bad behavior at some other time. They desire attention, which is what Toddler 411 will tell you, but that desire should be met. We should give our children loving attention: affirmation when they behave well, affection just because, and reprimands when they misbehave.

Out of all the children I have babysat, nannied, and parented, not one has disobeyed without looking at me first (if I was in the same room). Kids want to know what will happen if they do “X”. They want you to love them, and that doesn’t mean ignore or distract.

Our children cry out for discipline because of what it assures them of:  order, consistency, authority.  This is part of what it means to be human.  We obey; that’s part of what we do in life.  It is a travesty to ignore your child’s need for this developmentally; it will not equip them well for a life attuned to authority occupationally, socially, or morally.

May we discipline our children consistently, swiftly, and without anger.  May we ask for forgiveness from God and from our kids when we get it wrong. But let us at least try – for,

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Proverbs 13:24

 

 

The Five Ethics of Parenting – Part 1

I’ve summarized the ‘ethics of parenting’ as having five basic components:  love, discipline, intimacy, play, and independence.  These are the things your child needs from you to grow and flourish.  They represent what is actually the very best you can give your child (notably absent from the list: education, financial stability, safety – because these are ‘smaller’ virtues).

Love is nothing less than doing what is best for your child.  But, what is that, exactly?  Is it immediately obvious to us how to parent in the most loving way?

Love is the framework for my four following posts, and all subordinate parenting styles. The latter four ideals are simply methods for demonstrating your love effectively.  They are the unique things a child’s heart is hungry for.  Without loving our children in a way that they can understand, their hearts don’t receive the signals we’re sending.

Love is full of wisdom on how to make itself completely known.  Love seeks out and discovers; it is active.  Love comes from the Holy Spirit and it flows out into others (Galatians 5:22-23). It is inviting, and its purpose is life and joy and peace.  

Love is affection, affirmation, and patience. It is time spent with your child and it is physical touch. Love grants your child security and comfort. As God’s unchanging, never-failing, constant love comforts us, so our love gives comfort to our children.  

Love is compassionate.  Your little one wakes up a dried up plant each morning, just waiting to be watered! Shower them with hugs, kisses, cuddles, and wrestling (in the case of my son, lots and lots of wrestling).

Children are fragile, uncontrollable, and as much as we hope to be in control of who they become and what choices they make along the way – they are still individuals. At the same time, every single thing we do as parents affects our children on their journey to adulthood, for better or for worse.

In the next four posts, I’ll discuss why I believe that loving our kids well means giving them a balance of comfort, intimacy, discipline, and space.

 

“‘The fruit of the Spirit is love.’ Why? Because nothing but love can expel and conquer our selfishness. Self is the great curse…[but] there is deliverance…deliverance from self-life means to be a vessel overflowing with love to everybody all the day. I bring you the glorious promise of Christ that He is able to fill our hearts with love.” – Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender 

 

Parenting Mini-Series: The Five Ethics of Parenting – Introduction

I was folding laundry yesterday, and instead of watching one of my four television shows (shocking! I begrudgingly limit my media intake), I set my thoughts on the main components of parenthood.  AH!  Having “something to say” about parenting – condensing the whole wide world of ideals on what it means to be a good parent – is, at the end of the day, humbling.

I firmly believe that raising a child is the most important job in the world. Every facet of a flourishing society hinges upon it.  Children are “the future” – as they say. And we can’t expect them to just magically turn into adults full of good character.

Many of us have thought a great deal about our parenting-style, our specific set of goals, our carefully considered method of how to do it right. How do we act, talk, discipline, and operate in general as a mom (or a dad)? What do we want our home-life to look like?

We want our children to feel loved and we want peace in our homes.  No parent intends otherwise.  If we then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts… why are our homes filled with anger, frustration, and pain?  Why do our children experience that?

 —

Our parenting style is a result of the way we were parented. We either become our parents, or we strive to oppose them.  The road toward becoming more or less like our parents is sometimes out of our control, and more often than not, brings us to a place we did not expect.

Becoming our parents can be a wonderful thing… if we had good parents. But that’s not usually the case, at least to our standards – wanting to do “even better” for our children.

We who become like our parents may experience the hopelessness of damaging family patterns, genetic or otherwise – the consequence of sin visited upon generations third, fourth, fifth – will there be any salvation from it?  To those of us who say – “Well, I’m treating you a whole heck of a lot better than my Dad treated me” – though that may be true, it is a bad infection.  God help us.

The alternative is like the car in a ditch, spinning tires angrily, only for them to catch and send the car into another, different ditch.  So it is with parenting.  We go a little overboard sometimes.

My mom was so furious with her mother for forcing her and her three siblings to eat strange vegetables growing up that she never purchased or cooked unusual food for me and my two siblings…ever.  Now I get made fun of for my lack of culture.

And, oh! Here’s one we can all relate to.  Pretty much every woman I know has experienced some tension with her mother over wedding planning.  Either the mother controls each and every thing, or she has her husband write a check and leaves her daughter feeling overwhelmed, abandoned, and unloved on a very special day in her life. This happens because of our reactionary tendencies, and our inability to balance them.

But there is balance to be had.  Life is not so many options floating around in the atmosphere of “that may work for you, but not for me”. There are real, helpful, true ethics for family life. Whatever upbringing we come out of, there is a ‘right’ way to treat your kid.

We know this because God treats us in these ways, and God is the perfect parent.

So, let’s begin with five ethics that I think sum up what it means to parent your kid well:  love, discipline, intimacy, play, & independence.  We’ll start with #1 next week…or whenever I have a break from chasing my little monster around long enough to write for a bit.

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“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone [offspring included]…”  Hebrews 12:11-14a

my first-ever blog post; my “mission statement”, if you will

I have been itching to write about a topic I feel extremely passionate about and am completely invested in (along with most of the world): the hugely complex, largely written-on, highly divisive topic of PARENTING.  I do not profess to be an expert and I know I will make mistakes as I write about this supremely important job.  But in writing down my thoughts, experiences, and desires in this area, I aspire to simply share the wisdom God has given me, the knowledge I have gained from incredible friends and hilarious experiences, the mistakes I make and will continue to make, and the hope there is for all of us to become better parents to our children. 

To introduce myself: 

My name is Kayla and I am mom to Josiah – my ridiculous, constantly enthusiastic, and stubborn 15-month-old son.  I am married to my middle school nemesis, high school crush segway to boyfriend, and college husband: Jordan.  We are believers in Christ and practicers of Christian living in love.  We live in east austin and ADORE IT!  I am a stay-at-home-mom.  I am the maid, decent-ish cook, mother, terrible groundskeeper, and wife. I am a homemaker (that’s my favorite one).

And I absolutely LOVE what I do.  I know some people want to blow their brains out at the thought of staying home with their children.  And that is totally fine.  You may change your mind, or you may discover that working outside the home is right for your family.  May God give you wisdom as you strive to do what’s best.  I will surely have thoughts/posts on this topic in due time. 

I was a nanny for 2 years before my son graced the world with his quirky presence, and I babysat my entire life prior to my long-standing, amazing nanny job.  My first and favorite doll growing up was the pregnant doll.  Yes, they had a creepily awesome pregnant doll with a pregnant, removable belly that held a tiny baby inside.  The belly could just miraculously and painlessly be lifted to reveal the baby inside! No wonder we girls were all so confused and horrified when we found out how babies really come out! eek. So, you can see that I have been a lover of babies since I was a baby myself. 

And to address the tag-line of my blog – yup, I’m a pretty small person.  I am 5’2″ (my loving husband continually reminds me that 5’4″ is the average height of women so I’m really not that short!) and I look like a baby.  I am currently 24 and just last month was rudely asked by a flight attendant to move out of the emergency exit row – because only passengers over 15 years of age were permitted to sit there.  I’m not exaggerating.  Look at my picture!  So I have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be a small person.  To look like a kid.  To feel like a kid (as I often still do).  And I just love our kids.  I can’t wait to have more and to see the look on people’s faces as my younger-than-15-looking self struts through the grocery store with 4 children in tow.  “Oh Charles, don’t you feel sorry for that teenage drop-out? My my…”  May God continue to humble me and grow character in me because of my youthful appearance.

I have wanted to be a mom my entire life. I started writing a book in high-school about parenting (wrought with errors I am sure). But don’t let my life-long enthusiasm intimidate you! I have many friends that felt the way many of you do: avoid children at all costs! They poop, barf, drool, bite, hit, scream, and pretty much terrorize every person and thing within a mile radius of their tiny person.  But these friends are now moms too – and they love what they do.  In short, I think every mom and dad can love what they do (raising their child) if they know how to interact with their offspring correctly.  Everyone really can be happy!  

I hope, in my posts on this blog, to share thoughts about parenting as well as practical ways you can actually love and parent your child well. 

And I hope I will be graceful and humble on issues that are subjective and style-based, yet bold and confident in the direction I find in the bible on issues that demand a black-and-white, smack-down answer.  

That’s all for now! In just a few minutes I will hear my son waking up from his nap with either “woof woof! tweet! moooo…da! momma!” sounds or impressive screaming.  It really just depends on the day. 

 

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  James 3:17-18