Sabbath

It’s Sabbath here. Handsome started teaching again this week. He feels very tired and very fulfilled. I feel a bit empty, because I want to be back in the classroom too. The girls and I packed the week with fun things. Hit up the fair, hung out with friends, watched Handy Manny, memorized a Ten Commandments poem, played with our animals.

Sometimes I think Sabbath is the hardest part of being an Adventist parent. It’s a great blessing and wonder, but man, all I want to do is take a nap. But the littles in our lives don’t allow that. ;) So for years we’ve been figuring out what to do. Usually a nap wins.  But this Sabbath, dh took the youngest on a nature walk while the oldest snuggled in to me for a nap. Growing is hard work for almost-five year old! While she was settling down for a nap, I put white noise on Spotify and started searching Pinterest for Sabbath ideas for families. It’s called “Sabbath Cans“. She has a free printable for things to print on sticker sheets, put in a can and on Sabbath, a family member draws an activity from the can and the family does it. I think I’ll have to modify some of them to fit our needs for where we live and what our family “cans” are.

Here’s to a better Sabbath for us.

Sabbath

 

 

 

Laughter IS Necessary

It’s been a long time since I last posted. So much has happened. So many ups and downs and all arounds and discouragement and happiness.

And one of the main things I discovered this week was how much laughter helps me be a better, more grace-filled parent. I think I understand a bit  more about why God created some of the things He did. I get it a bit more about how a merry doeth good like medicine. Because for me, being able to laugh until I cry about something just releases a lot of  tension I didn’t know I had. 

In some ways, I think I need to take the time to build in laughter to my day. A little less stressing about needing to feed the villagers and little more time to see the funny.

At What Age Do Children Start Choosing to Sin?

Recently, I was asked at what I thought that children could choose to sin. I wrote a response back and decided I should add it here too.

We are all sinners. We have all sinned. It’s not up to me to determine when my kids can start choosing to sin—that’s God’s job. It’s my job to love God, love them, have appropriate boundaries, give them tools for facing life, see that they learn from the natural/logical consequences of the choices they have made, and extend grace, which is not cheap.

As dh and I have been in the classroom and interacting with our girls, one of the things we’ve noticed is that when we focus on punishment/consequences, the student/child spends more time dwelling on those then on learning the lesson God has for them. Removing pain as an imposed consequence actually helps them retain their lesson so that they choose to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because otherwise they’ll get punished.

Furthermore, punishment can’t take away their sins. Christ died because of our sins; He bore the punishment we all deserved. So if punishment doesn’t take away sin and punishment can detract from learning the lesson, why rely on it as a major tool in my parenting toolbox?

I’ve been doing some reading on control and relationships. One of the interesting things the author pointed out was that, in the Bible, whenever someone tried to control someone else, it always, always, always ended badly. And God Himself doesn’t control us or manipulate us. He points out the natural consequences and the logical consequences, but He doesn’t force or punish us into following Him.

I love the way Ellen White put it (which, did you know that she didn’t ever spank and that she said that spanking, if used, was to be a one-time event for something super-major? Adventist Home, page 250, I believe).

“The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; he desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened.” (Reflecting Christ 23:3.)

“Minds are constituted differently; while force may secure outward submission, the results with many children is a more determined rebellion of the heart. Even should the parent or teacher succeed in gaining the control he seeks, the outcome may be no less harmful to the child…” (CG 201.3)

“Children cannot be brought to the Lord by force. They can be led, not driven. ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me,” Christ declares. He did not say, “My sheep hear my voice, and are forced in the path of obedience.” (R&H, January 29, 1901, para. 8)

So  a baby that is crying or not wanting a diaper changed or exploring gravity by dropping food isn’t being rebellious. Just because *I* don’t like it or it inconveniences me, doesn’t mean that it is rebellion. I do teach about God and His law. Rather than punish them for breaking it, I help them learn how to keep it.

One of the things I love the most about God is that HE determines what is sin, when it begins, and when it is forgiven. And what is most awesome is that He is the one that punishes. Vengeance is His, He tells us. So this frees me as a parent to not have to determine the underlying motivation for why my child does things. To go back to your original question, it doesn’t matter what age children can choose to sin. Knowing that punishment belongs to God to give, this allows me to work with God to teach tools. It allows me to make boundaries, make mistakes, apologize, and extend grace. Rather than child errs—I punish—I teach what to do, it looks like child errs—I teach what the right thing is to do; I leave any punishing to God.

Now, there are natural and logical consequences. Child doesn’t want to wear a coat outside when it’s cold, they get cold.  Child is having epic meltdowns at home, child doesn’t get to go to library with me. Children can’t stop fighting over a toy, toy goes in closet. Child tries to hit people, child is removed from situation.

What I see God is asking parents to do is not punish, but rather He is calling us to walk alongside our children and help them put the word of God into their hearts and their minds.  I see God calling us to train up children in the way they should go.  18“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.20Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors. Deuteronomy 11: 18-21

I enjoy Ellen White’s take on it: “Solomon says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This language is positive. The training which

Solomon enjoins us to direct, educate, and develop. In order for parents to do this work, they must themselves understand the way the child should go. This embraces more than merely having a knowledge of books. It takes in everything that is good, virtuous, righteous, and holy. It comprehends the practice of temperance, Godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to God and to one another.

In order to attain this object, the physical, mental, moral, and religious education of children must have attention.” {B E c ho, May 1, 1893 par. 3}

Our girls know right from wrong, in age-appropriate ways. We talk about God and Who He is and ways He works in our lives. They learn Scripture—hide it in their hearts. We talk about how people are different and the same, about the cool ways God made us all.

I cannot make my children love God. I cannot make them want to have a relationship with God.  I can show my children Who God is and invest in my relationship with God. I can teach them about God and help them memorize Scripture. I can pray and plead with God to work in their lives. But if I don’t have a relationship with my children, none of that will happen. Out of relationship comes obedience and compliance and respect. Though there are consequences, punishment we inflict doesn’t have to be part of our lives ever again.

 

It’s a New Day, Right?

Because this his has been a very-not-fun week.

Sweetness has entered into the thicket of 3.5 disequilibrium and wow! I think she read the manual and memorized it.

Thursday was a doozy! She had about 8 meltdowns, of which 3 lasted for 10 or more minutes, at the top of her lungs. About what? Oh, not getting a treat she wanted, me making her eat some peanut butter to get her blood sugar up so she wouldn’t be so crazy-making, her sister looked at her wrong. You know, the usual 3.5 stuff. But I did NOT want to be around her, as she was pushing every single button I had and some I didn’t even know existed.

Friday was slightly better, but man! More meltdowns about what seemed to be nothing.  Dh read my body language right and sent me off for a massage. I came back home, a little better off. We had an early supper, checked out a possible new place to live, and got the littles ready for bed.

As we were reading our story and winding down, dh and I noticed Sweetness’s cheeks were red. That, combined with the runny nose, finally alerted me to the fact that she might have something going on. But the living room and dining room and kitchen were (mostly) clean and I was exhausted–so exhausted that I fell asleep before 9 and didn’t get up until after 8.

Flash forward to this morning. Dh gets ready for church. I get the girls’ clothes and get myself ready. I come upstairs and Sweetness looks at me and says, “I’m sick. I can’t go to church.”

And the light came on. People that feel bad, act bad.

Yes, 3.5 disequilibrium is not fun. Add in starting to get sick (probably with muscle aches and such) and my poor little girl was lacking tools in a big-time way to deal with her feelings.

And here I was. I’m supposed to be the adult and yet I don’t pick up the clues that my daughter wasn’t feeling good.  Aiyiyi.

Next time, I’ll know. And I will choose to not react with anger at the button pushing. (because I KNOW there will be a next time ;) )

Obedience~part 2

I was recently presented with the scenario (paraphrased): I bake cookies that my child wants. I tell my child to not eat them, as I made them for supper. I leave the room for five mintues and when I come back, the cookies are all gone. I ask my child  if she ate the cookies and she tells me “No”.

Now my child has committed willful disobedience and lied to me to avoid punishment, because we’re all born sinners with a desire to please our earthly bodies. This means that I discipline my child for disobeying and lying and explain why I did it.

***

As an Adventist, I believe we are born sinful in a sin-filled world. I agree that children are not born with an innate desire to do right. I also see time and again in the Bible and in my own life the truth of the verse, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV).

Do I believe that God leads us into temptation? No. That is Satan’s province. God promise is to help us through temptations. God does not set us up to fail.

Ron & Karen Flowers said it well, “The responsibilities of the parent, if natural consequences are to be effective, include (1) making the child aware of the consequences, (2) allowing the child the freedom of choice, and (3) guarding against the child being placed in situations where the choices are too weighty for him, or where a wrong choice would affect the child’s safety or unduly harm his health.”

One of the areas where I think I differ from others is in the interpretations of the word “discipline”. At our house, discipline is not a one-time event.

***Discipline does NOT equal punishment.***

Rather, discipline is a lifelong process that started when we knew we were going to be parents of this particular child. It is setting them up for success and being by their side when they fail. It is understanding where they are so that we can disciple them. We are not punitive, we are not permissive. We have very clear boundaries and we help our children learn and follow through on things. We love our kids unconditionally and do a lot of goyb parenting.

And at our house, obedience is not a matter unquestioning, first time, all the time, with a happy heart doing what we ask. That is a formula drummed up in churchianity. Obedience is choosing to do what has been asked of you, because of the ongoing respect in the relationship. Sometimes my kids can do that on their own and sometimes they need help.

***But needing help obeying does NOT equal disobedience.***

If I have a child for whom I know that having a cookie is a temptation for them and I deliberately leave that child in the room with cookies for an extended period of time, I have caused temptation to occur.

But if I want to be like God says He is, then I will help my child. I know that cookies are a temptation, so I will set them out of the way or bring the child with me. I will help them through that temptation. I will help them obey.

If I know that my child has done something wrong, I’m not going to waste my time asking if they did it. Again, that is setting them up for failure. I’m going to say, “You ate the cookie when Mommy told you not to. That means you don’t get a cookie after supper, when the rest of have them.”

Then we would talk about obedience and after supper, the child would experience again the consequence of eating a cookie beforehand.

As adults, we can for the most part understand the reasons behind things. We get that if we continue lying, we’ll get caught. We’ve had enough life experience that we can see that if A leads F, that B and C will probably lead to F too. Kids don’t have that experience. Kids are in the process of learning that.

What I am amazed about over and over again is the type of logic that children have. And what people would consider willful disobedience is often an outworking of that logic. For example, last week my youngest (21 months old) protested me putting her shirt on. She kept on taking it off and crying through the whole process. The first it happened, we HAD to get somewhere, so I just put it on, regardless of the protests. Same thing happened the second day. The third day, I remembered that she’s 21 months old and that means she’s ready to enter into clothes independence. So I offered her a choice of shirts. She picked one and happily put it on. Since I started doing that, no protests. I could have said, “She’s being disobedient and needs to be punished.” But since I understood normal child developmental stages, I was able to pinpoint a possible reason for the “disobedience” and come up with a solution where I honored her needs, she could obey me and our relationship was preserved.

Or my friend’s two-year old that suddenly started not listening and obeying and didn’t nap or sleep in his own bed despite all the spankings, time-outs and CIO his parents did. Two weeks later, they found out he had a very bad double ear infection. He hadn’t been willfully disobedient—he didn’t hear them and had been in severe pain when he lay down to sleep.

I refuse to spend my time trying to decide if my child is being deliberately disobedient or willful or any of those other things. It’s not my job to decide their heart’s motivation and then punish/reward as necessary. That is God’s job. He is the only one that truly knows and understands motivations. It is not my job to compel them to love God—I cannot make them love God. It is NOT my job to make my children God-followers—that is their decision.

 But it is my job to disciple my children and lead them, as they are able, to want to make the best decisions. It is my job to help them obey. It is my job to live a life in passionate love with God and model that for my children so that they want to live in relationship with God. It is my job to present God and lead my children to Him. But it is my children’s job to make that final decision.

That is why, for our family, it is important to work with God in loving and discipling our kids AND understand basic developmental stages. How can I truly serve and understand my children if I don’t know where they’re at developmentally? “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” rings true for us.

As our kids get older, they will have more opportunities to learn. They’ll be able to reason through things better and make choices that are good. And they’ll know they can come to us when they have failed and we will still love them as they learn through the natural (not imposed) consequences. Over and over and over I have this happen with my kids.

What they can do now, the ways they obey now, is a reflection of their maturity level increasing, not a result of punishment/reward. They are building on the Godly foundation we are providing, day in and day out. It’s pretty awesome to see the ways God is taking my husband and I’s fumbles and lessons and love and turning that into helping our kids develop into His kids. God is pretty awesome that way.

Obedience

I’m pleased to bring a guest post from a friend. She has been on a journey through parenting too and I enjoy her thoughts on things.This is a two-part series.

One of my favorite thoughts  from Ellen White is from “Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing”. She talks about how every commandment has the implicit promise that God will help us fulfill them. And that’s what I bring to the concept of obedience. Churchianity has corrupted the word to mean that children need to obey the first time, all the time and with a happy heart. I’ve yet to find those concepts in the Bible as necessary for salvation.

But knowing that obedience is something God helps me do, I see how obedience is something I help my children do. Me helping them obey does NOT equal disobedience. That means that I ask them to do what I can help them do. I don’t sit on the couch and expect the 3 yo to obey me 100% of the time. I have to get off my butt and help her obey. It’s a pain, but it’s a great life skill.

I don’t want my children to obey authority merely because they are authority. That is setting them up for abuse–spiritual, mental, emotional, physical. My girls are learning the tone of voice Mama uses when something needs to be done RIGHT NOW. But again, I’m still there to help them comply. But later on, they are welcome to question “Why?”. It’s been a big paradigm shift for me, but I love not worrying about power struggle.

One of the great things I’ve learned through studying normal child development in the light of grace-based discipline is that there are certain stages where children will comply more than others. And it’s not my job to sort out my child’s motivations. But it is my job to disciple my children.

A rabbi friend put it this way, “If you study the development of the mind at all you know that children don’t develop logic until ten (pre-logic begins at age eight) and reason doesn’t even come until fourteen, so the idea that a toddler or very young child is willfully disobeying doesn’t fit–they lack the mental capacity to do that. It’s also important to note that in both Greek and Hebrew the concept of “obey” is based on the assumption that the one being obeyed has earned the trust of the one obeying–it’s a voluntary variation of normal response. In other words, disobedience is the normal human response when there is no trust. When there is trust, relationship, and discipleship– then there is obedience. You can demand compliance, but not obedience. Obedience must be earned. When a parent is demanding obedience from a young child and considering any lack of obedience to be willful they simply lack understanding of how God made children.”

God helps me obey–not shaming or condemning or threatening me into obedience. And with His help, I’m learning to do that with my kids too.

 

The Will and the Child

This morning, I was reading through “Child Guidance” and marveling at things in there, especially in light of grace-based discipline versus punitive parenting.

In pages 209-213, she talks about not breaking the will of a child. Parents and teachers need to study their children and see what they are like and mold and guide the will, NOT break it. A child who has no will of his or her own (think of children who are told to be submissive in all things at all times to parents and adults) don’t understand why they do things, but just do them. While that may seem really, really nice in the short-term, it just doesn’t pay off in the long run, spiritually speaking. “Children who are thus educated will ever be deficient in energy and individual responsibility. They have not been taught to move from reason and principle; their wills have been controlled by another…”

So, as I practice modeling and redirecting and talking things through and out with my children, they are learning how to make good decisions.

When I spend my time saying, “Oh, you made a mess. Let’s clean it up!” and getting a towel and helping my child clean up…

…instead of yelling at them for making a mistake and spanking them…

When dh tells the girls to clean up their toys and get downs with them and directs their cleaning up, even using the 5 Steps when necessary…

…instead of telling them over and over and getting upset that the toys are still out…

When I call them to come and they don’t come immediately and I goyb parent and get up and help them to come over to me…

…instead of getting upset that they’re not instantly obeying me…

I am not breaking their will. I am planting the seeds for good habits. I’m directing my child’s mind to think of solutions and to see cause and effect. I’m teaching them that I mean business. And all of this without spanking, without time-outs, without shaming.

My husband and I most definitely do not have this parenting thing down. Our children and our God are teaching us more every day. I know I stumble and fall and have to ask forgiveness from my kids and seek for help from God. I wish that happened only daily, but it happens hourly or every minute some days.

But to know that I don’t need to punitively parent in order to meet God’s standards is such a relief. And when I read what Ellen White actually says about spanking, I was blown away! Totally against what the Hohnbergers and other child trainers outline in their books.

On Obedience and Biking

On Friday, I read through Crystal’s article on Kindness vs. Obedience. I thought it was a good article and filed it away in my “Things to remember” memory part of life.

Cue this last Sabbath afternoon.

The girls and I went to the park while Daddy was otherwise occupied. Sweetness rode her bike and I pushed Light in her stroller. The park was a blast as always. Lots and lots of lots of time on the swings and the slide. Light is really loving the park nowadays and quite the daredevil for being one year old. ;)

Before meltdown city could start to occur, we said good-bye to the park and started off. At least, I tried to do that. Sweetness had gotten on her tricycle and was taking off while I was still trying to round up Light and convince her that it was time to jet.

“Sweetnees, stop.”

She looked back at me.

“Stop now!”

Mild panic because she’s getting to the end of the block and Lightness and I are right by the road so I can’t abandon her to chase down the 2 year-old.

Super-stern voice. “Sweetness, stop now!”

She got to the shade and stopped. My heart skipped a few beats and I ran and caught up with her.

“Honey, when Mommy says stop, you need to stop now.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

We got to the corner and checked to see if there were any cars coming. No cars, so we crossed the road. I got slightly ahead of Sweetness as she stopped to take in the sight of a running squirrel.

“Mommy, stop! Stop and wait for me!”

“Okay honey, I will. I’ll stop.” And I kept on going until I hit the shade, which was just a few feet away. I looked back to see Sweetness frantically pedaling to catch up with me and yelling, “Mommy, stop and wait!”

Then it hit me. My daughter wasn’t being bad earlier. She was just doing to me what I had done to her. On our walks, I had constantly told her I’d stop and then keep going if she hadn’t caught up to me fairly quickly.

How could I expect her to be obedient and respectful when I didn’t comply with her urgent requests? She didn’t realize the danger she could be in and why I wanted her to stop. I didn’t realize how desperate she was that I wait and be a companion to her on her rides.

Man, I really need to work on this. I need to respect her so that she will respect me. How can I do any less, when she really will do what I do, not what I say?

I found “The Adventist Home”

We are in the midst of packing to move. Ugh. I do love packing, but not moving, if that makes sense. There’s something exciting about going through all the stuff and getting rid of stuff and sorting. But then, there’s all the cleaning that goes along with it. And packing + cleaning + parenting 2 littles + cooking + being a spouse does NOT equal fun times for me. :)

When we prepare to move, the first thing I do is pack up our books. We have a lot of them. “blush At last count, about 500 books, not including the girls’ books. So when we figured out where we were going, I gathered up boxes and packed up most of the books. I left out about 20, but two weeks ago, in a fit of cleaning frenzy, I packed those up too (and yes, after I packed up our books, I did get books from the used book store and PaperBackSwap, because that’s the way I roll ;] ).

All that to say that I packed up the Hohnberger’s book, so I haven’t written anything more on their book. But last night I decided to go through the boxes and dig out that book so that I could write some more on it. But wait! I thought. I haven’t read through The Adventist Home in awhile. Perhaps I should drench myself in truth before critiquing more parenting books.

So after about 5 minutes of digging last night, I found The Adventist Home in box # 12. Or maybe it was #7? I put it on the kitchen table so that I could grab it as we were running out of the house on a major errand this morning. And wow! So glad that I did so.

I’ve been reading tidbits to my husband and thought I’d pull out my computer and write down one of the passages that struck both of us the most this afternoon.

It’s from page 192 (f you want to look it up yourself) and originally drawn from MH 394. ;)

Let parents become acquainted with their children, seeking to understand their tastes and dispositions, entering into their feelings, and drawing out what is in their hearts.

Parents, let your children see that you love them and will do all in your power to make them happy. If you do so, your necessary restrictions will have far greater weight in their young minds.

Wow! Did you read that? Letting your kids see that you love them and you are doing what you can to make them happy gives your boundaries far greater weight than being distant and/or not working for their happiness. And happiness comes from understanding your children’s tastes, personalities and feelings.

What a call to balance this is. Not swinging permissive, not swinging punitive, but having that balance of relationship. THAT is what helps our children remember what the boundaries are.

Grace-based discipline calls us to be relationship-focused. Grace-based discipline has clear boundaries and love, lots of love. Grace-based discipline asks us to remember our children’s happiness is important. Grace-based children says to know your children for WHO they are, not who you want them to be.

Wow. What an awesome way to parent. He understands WHO we are and accepts us that way. God sends the good things of life on the just and unjust. He doesn’t withhold the rain from the unjust. He doesn’t send rainbows to only the just. He loves each and every one of us and seeks for our happiness within His boundaries. Can I do any less for the wee ones He placed into our family?

Why Time Out?

As people back away from spanking as a tool, they implement time outs. While I believe that time outs are a better tool than spanking, they are still not a go-to tool for our family.

The way I have seen time outs implemented go something like this.

It’s supper time and almost 2-year-old Andrew is sitting in his chair. He throws some food down for the dog.

“Andrew, don’t throw your food.”

Food is thrown.

“Andrews, I said, don’t throw your food.”

Food is thrown.

“Andrew, this is your last warning. Don’t. Throw. Food.”

Andrew giggles, looks around to see if anyone else is laughing, and in the process, knocks over his glass of water and is sent/taken to his room for a time out.

But why a time out? What is a time out teaching Andrew? Let’s look at the encounter above and see what he’s learned.

Well, he’s learned what not to do to avoid going into time out.

But for dh and I, we want our girls to learn what TO do. And time outs don’t teach what to do. Most likely, at our house, the supper scenario would have (and has!) gone this way.

“Sweetness, food goes in our mouths. If you’re done, tell Mommy.”

Food is thrown. “Food goes in our mouth.”

Removed from booster seat, given a towel. “When we drop things, we clean them up.” And she would have wiped up the food, with help as needed.

Well, actually, first I would have HALTSed her. HALTS stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sick.

It’s the end of the day, she’s tired and kids don’t eat as much at the end of the day as they do at lunch or snack. That’s why we try to avoid giving a new food at supper–she’s much more likely to refuse food at the end of the day.

Is she upset about something? Did she and her sister get an equal amount of servings of food XYZ?

Is she lonely? Have we filled up her love tank today? Sweetness thrives on touch–have we spent time cuddling and reading?

Shortly after supper, it’s bedtime for the girls. So is she tired and ready to sleep? How many hours has she been up?

And last, is she sick?

It sounds like a lot to run through and remember, but we’ve been HALTsing for so long, it’s second nature.

We are NOT trying to find an excuse for unwanted behavior. We are seeking to understand what is keeping her from wanting to act nicely.

So, instead of time out, we’d do an internal HALTS check and have her help clean up.

Does this work? Yes, yes it does.

When her little sister spilled water the other day, Sweetness snatched the towel out of my hand and thoroughly mopped it all up, while saying. “When we spill, we clean it up!”

Thatta girl!

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