DECREASE FOOLISHNESS

DECREASE FOOLISHNESS

Going to the library with four little ones was no small task, but I was determined. I discovered this glorious thing called “Toddler Story Time,” which to me meant someone else could take the lead, at least for a few minutes anyway. I was mortified at what my eyes saw. The senior librarian welcomed the children, but not one person in the room responded. She sat down to read the book, and chaos broke out. Kids were running all over the room as loud as they could be. No one seemed to care that she was trying to read to them. My shock morphed into judgment when a child began to play tug of war with the book that the librarian was trying desperately to read, and the mother did not feel led to assist the librarian in getting her book back. Before I knew it, my four joined the circus. I vowed I would never come back again. A week later, we were at the movie theater, and the same thing happened with kids running all over the place, making it impossible to actually watch the movie. Suddenly I realized what Proverbs 22:15 meant when it says, “A child’s heart has a tendency to do wrong, but the rod of discipline removes it far away from him.” Many of us know the ‘spanking’ part of this verse, and we get lost in the debate if children should be spanked. We need to zoom out of that debate and see the bigger picture. Children are foolish by nature. They are selfish by nature. They are immature by nature. Their brains aren’t even fully developed by nature. My job as a parent is to lead them in the direction of honor, respect, kindness, and self-control. This is not a post on spanking, but it IS a post on parents guiding their child’s behavior as a shepherd cares for their flock with their rod. When a sheep is wandering outside of the safety zone, a shepherd uses his rod to guide him back and lead them where they should go. The heart of this verse is about helping our children move away from foolishness through corrections and guidance. If you want to decrease their foolishness, you have to increase your teaching.

PUTTING THE DISCOMFORT BACK ON THEM

Once past the elementary years, a great parenting tool has been to simply partner with Holy Spirit to see how the discomfort can be placed on the child, not me. A child will step up to the plate when they feel the pressure and discomfort of their choices. When my kids transitioned from homeschool to formal school, I showered them with grace as they were learning so many new things involving lockers, tests, new classroom rules, eating lunch in a certain time frame, and so on. Months into it, I still found myself asking in the morning, “Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Did you…?” My mind was going to explode as I tried not only to get myself ready and out the door but to remember who did and didn’t do what! I sat on the kitchen counter lamenting to Holy Spirit that I felt like I was going to lose it. The kids came down only to confirm they had not done what was expected, and back up they went. I stayed on the counter, trying to keep my cool. This continued for nearly 20 minutes. We finally got in the car, when I calmly said, “Thanks for choosing to get all of your stuff done this morning. Great job. I just want you to know that the bell rang 20 minutes ago.” They begged me with tears not to make them go to school late, but I had to be tough to let them feel the discomfort of their choices. Upon entering the school office, I was asked the purpose of the tardy. I simply said, “My kids were learning to take responsibility this morning.” The office clerk winked at me and told the kids it would be unexcused and handed them their slips to enter their classrooms… late. Guess how many times they failed to do their morning routine after that?

**Toddlers need the training established so that you can use tools like this down the road. I would not attempt to do this with a toddler who is still learning right/wrong.

CHARACTER MATTERS

Character matters because it matters to God. Children without character can’t sustain the gifts and assignments God wants to give them. It is much easier, by God’s design, to learn character IN childhood from parents who love and care for them. In this eBooklet, I will walk you through defining godly character (not legalism) and how to cultivate a lifestyle of character. Additionally, I will provide you with fun, creative activities to teach your children.

Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

CALLING CHILDREN HIGHER

This is a great write-up from my friend who is an outstanding mother raising solid children. I agree that we cannot force our children to do anything, but we absolutely are called to create a lifestyle where we expect love, respect, and kindness from our children. It is taught, reinforced, and intentionally gone after by parents who value the process of character training.

“During this holiday season: My kids will be required to be warm and loving to all of their relatives, whether they see them often or see them a few times a year. They will be expected to behave, and though I can’t force them to *love* anything, they will be expected to appreciate every friend and family event we attend (hello, 6 Christmases). They will be given the knowledge that they are so lucky to have so many friends and family to celebrate with. They will say thank you and be grateful for every single gift that is given to them, regardless if it’s something they would choose for themselves. They will once again be taught that someone took time out of their busy life to think of them and used their hard-earned money to purchase them something and that – regardless of what is in the present – the act behind getting it is more than enough to be thankful for. As their parent, I will remember this too. Our guests can overstay, overshare, give us advice, come bearing gifts or come just as themselves with no gift at all, tell my girls they are beautiful without bringing up that they are also intelligent and immensely capable of anything they put their minds to – and even if ALL of it is ‘unwanted,’ we will smile and be grateful that we have people who care enough to do so. I keep seeing these posts about kids not being required to show love (which can be shown in more ways than just hugging) to relatives they don’t see often. They don’t have to behave at or love the events they attend. I see posts about not giving parents unwanted advice or warning about guests overstaying their welcome. I see posts about what kinds of gifts are considered acceptable, posts about how we shouldn’t call young girls pretty and should replace it with different words, and all it makes me think is, my goodness (!!). When did all of these things – compliments, gifts, friendly visits, advice, showing love towards a child, family spending time with family… things more often motivated by love than not – become things we need to put so many rules on? My kids will be taught that people show love in different and sometimes funny ways but to always look behind the gesture and see that, more often than not, it is love. As for me and my family, we will give the benefit of the doubt. 

Sincerely, The odd mom out?”

LAYING THE FOUNDATION

FIRST – When an issue comes up, you must ask yourself, “Have I taught, trained, and equipped them in this area?” That means, have you proactively taught them how to handle disappointments, the difference between right and wrong, how to handle when someone else wants your toy, or how to respond when someone is being unloving before the conflict? These things require intentional parenting in times of peace. This is where you get to cuddle, connect, go on dates, have family meetings, etc. You get to fill up their love tanks by connecting through intentional teaching with Mom and Dad. Much of the early toddler years are spent doing this very thing – some days without ceasing! It is the heart that says, “Hey, son/daughter, I have something to show (or teach) you.”

SECOND – Look for opportunities in real life to apply the thing you are trying to teach. This is where the training part comes in. You practice, practice, practice with real-life situations. Will a 2-year-old master self-control in the first week? Nope! You will be an intentional parent for 18 years and will need to teach and train them in the area of self-control in every stage of their life. Perhaps with a 2-year-old, your training subject will not be getting the toy they desire. When they are 10, it will be about completing their homework each night, and perhaps when they are 18, it will be having self-control with the opposite sex. These character traits should be something we build upon as they get older.

THIRD – You now have a foundation upon which you can build. Say you have already laid the first and second part of the foundation in the area of self-control. Now, when you take them to a meeting where they need to sit quietly, you can pull out that teaching and training to prepare them for what you expect from them. You can begin role-playing in certain situations. I would often park the van at the grocery store parking lot to do a quick family huddle about what was expected and how we could proactively use the skills I had just taught them. Here’s what it would sound like: “Hey guys, who wants dinner tonight? Okay, we are going to go into the grocery store for food, not toys. Hudson, will you get the door for us? Lauren, do you want to push the cart? Emma, will you be my big helper and put the food in the cart for me?” I am now leaning into the skills that I have taught them and cashing in on them. I am building us all up for a successful shopping trip. We are all doing our part while we are connected and creating fun family memories versus an unfruitful and frustrating experience for all.

LAST – When a foundation has been established, THEN you can add discipline, such as time-outs, consequences, removing privileges, etc. Can you see how confusing it would be to a child when parents keep disciplining them for the ‘NO’ behaviors but never spend time teaching them what IS acceptable? You could say it looks like this:

  • An issue arises that you want to see a change in (every family will be different on this).
  • Proactively teach during times of peace, using it as a connecting time to get to their heart. 
  • Now coach them by role-playing that issue in real-life situations. 
  • Look for opportunities where they can proactively apply that skill.
  • Discipline is now appropriate if the child chooses not to use the training you have established for them. 

Here’s another real-life example: Let’s say you are shopping, and your kids are touching everything, running crazy, and having a meltdown for a new toy. You have a few options. You can: #1. Conclude your children aren’t old enough for an outing to the store, and thus put the burden on yourself to either pay for a sitter or go late after they are in bed. #2. Get mad, yell, scream, and then feel awful! OR #3. Teach and train your children what it looks like to have self-control at the store. I heard a story of a mom who was so fed up with her grocery trips that she sat her kids down and explained to them what was required. Then every single day for an entire week, they would go to the store, not to buy anything, just to walk up and down the aisles so the kids could practice! That mom is now reaping the tasty fruit of grocery shopping in peace. Oh, did you hear that? What was the Kingdom of God again? Righteousness, peace, and joy! What is a specific area you need to intentionally go after in teaching and training your child?

SELF-CONTROL AT THE LIBRARY

This is how I taught my four toddlers how to grow in self-control during story time at the library. I figured it was an excellent place to train them because no one would notice either way. I sat them down at home and talked about the librarian. I asked Lauren to stand up and share the story of her birthday party. As she was talking, I began to interrupt, wave my hands, hang on her, and be super silly. Then I asked Emma to stand up and share what she had for lunch, and I did the same thing. Yes, we were all laughing hard, but we talked about how awkward it is to be trying to share and have people be disrespectful and rude. I role-played being the librarian reading a book. I taught them how to fold their hands and zip their lips. We talked about how we can be crazy loud monkeys at the park, but a library is a place where we use self-control and show respect. I was armed with training and ready to test it out. Before getting out of the van, I reminded them of the rules and what I expected. I praised them ahead of time, letting them know I believed in them. We entered, and chaos broke out as expected. A couple of times, they began to get up, and I would fold my own hands to model for them what I expected. If they were talking, I would motion to zip my lips, point to my ears, and then intently listen to the librarian. If they attempted to get up, I would give a firm no-no motion with my head. If one ran away, I would go after her and pick her up and set her back down. I would whisper that we are listening to the story. It took us three weeks before my children fully understood but let me tell you, the JOY they brought to the room was priceless. I noticed other moms trying to get their children to start listening, too. They got to enjoy the story because they were taught how to pay attention and show respect. I also had them go up to the librarian at the end of each story time and thank her for reading to them. The first time she had a tear in her eye and said, “I dread story time each week. It is the worst part of my job. Thank you for noticing my effort.” I don’t know about you, but as a mom, that isn’t okay with me. By the time school started, they were way ahead of the game because we had already gone after knowing when to be still and quiet and how to listen when adults are teaching/reading. It is training like this at an early age that sets them up for success down the road.

“NO ONE LIKES ME”

Has your child ever come home from school, youth group, or a friend’s house and declared that their peers do not like them? It is hard to hear, isn’t it? Let me empower you on how to help your child walk through it. It is brutal to feel like you don’t belong because God created us with wiring TO belong. Belonging was one of the things stolen in the Garden. When a child experiences belonging, they start becoming who they are called to be. When a child experiences a lack of acceptance, they shrink back and partner with timidity and smallness, which robs those around them of who they were created to be. There are reasons why children experience a lack of belonging with their peers. Sometimes they do not fit in because there is something within them that needs to be matured or revealed. Humility and intentional parenting are required to help them overcome. Let me give you an example.

Years ago, I was a nanny for one of the wealthiest families in Minnesota. The six-year-old girl loved opening soda cans and pouring out all of the sweet sugar. The bees loved it too. The family’s full-time caretaker asked her many times to please stop. She looked at him and said, “My name is Anna ___. I can do whatever I want.” Her parents almost lost two employees that day. My first thought was, “How sad that where your parents failed to teach you, your peers will.” That attitude won’t fly with peers; they could care less about how much money your daddy has or how spoiled you have been at home. You can’t do whatever you want just because you feel like it and have been falsely empowered to do so at home. In this case, the response from peers, while it wouldn’t feel good, is a gift to help you see where you may need to come into greater maturity. One of my goals in parenting has been to accurately discern my child’s weaknesses and help empower them with tools for success and growth so that they don’t have to learn it the hard way through the rejection of peers. But there are times when nothing about the child warrants pushback from peers, but it happens anyway. I want to open your view of what is happening. Satan hates unity. There is strength in numbers, and his goal is to separate and devour. When there is love and unity among us, God’s Kingdom advances. There is an assignment against your child in this area specifically, and none of them are exempt from having to walk through this. Something happens, say three girls are hanging out and one girl feels left out of the conversation, which feels uncomfortable, but then the enemy comes and whispers, “You are all alone. No one likes you,” and it may FEEL true at that moment. A child partners with it, and now the lie is a part of their belief system.

Another example is that a child makes a foolish comment that lacks maturity (which happens all the time and should be expected of a child who has not yet become a full adult), and the receiver owns the comment as truth. They must be taught that not all comments, even from the popular kids, are true and accurate. Another example might be when the teacher calls on a student, and they don’t know the answer. This is common and normal in a classroom setting where everyone is learning and growing. The child feels embarrassed, and the enemy whispers shame and smears their intelligence with lies. They then shrink back in shame with their peers. When a child is partnering with shame and rejection as their identity, other children can feel it, even if their minds don’t understand it. It is like they have a sign on their back that says, “I am rejected.” Sometimes when a child reports over and over how others are treating them, it is wise to ask Jesus to reveal what lies they are believing about themselves (and therefore projecting). The next time your child declares no one likes them, ask Jesus to show you if this is a lack of character on their part that requires additional parenting help or if it is an attack of the enemy on their identity.

EXCUSE ME

Do you have kids who like to interrupt you? I taught the kids in the time of peace what I expected, and then we role-played, practiced, and got good at the technique before we were in ‘need’ of it. I explained that they are SOOO important, but so am I. When I am in the middle of something with someone ELSE, I need the respect of not having someone demanding my attention elsewhere. We had FUN role-playing what a demanding child looks like when Mama is talking to someone else or on the phone. We talked about WHY interrupting wasn’t okay and how it made others feel. The bottom line it is a self-control issue. I instructed them to put their hand on my arm, which signaled, “Mom, I need you.” It is important then for the adult to put their hand over their hand, which means, “I see you.” Then, when the timing was appropriate, I would say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, could you hold for a moment?” and would direct my attention to them. If they came barging into the room or demanding my attention, I would simply say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, could you hold on for a moment?” And then I would say out loud to my child, “You are so important, but so is Mrs. Smith. I need you to wait until I am done,” and then when I got off the phone, we would role-play and practice again. My kids use this tool to this day, and it is golden to have respectful kids who know how to wait their turn.

CHILDHOOD = TRAINING GROUND

Your child should have some weak character- it’s called being a child and not yet maturing. Childhood is not the season to expect perfection. Instead, it’s the training ground to give them life skills and character traits to be successful for the rest of their lives.

TECHNOLOGY

I realize we are all first-generation parents stewarding the world of technology with our children. We will hit some home runs, and we will make some mistakes along the way. One day my son asked if he could take his phone with him on our family outing. I usually have them leave them at home because it is our time to connect, but I allowed it. He was playing a Spanish app and engrossed in it and barely said a word. I had to run to Walmart, and he asked if he could keep playing on it while I was shopping. I agreed to make an exception. The trip was chaotic. He was always a few feet behind us and not paying attention as he bumped into others due to looking down on his phone. I was in a bit of a hurry and was trying to find something for Ellie. I asked him to stay by the cart while I ran down the other aisle, and he absent-mindedly walked away, leaving my cart and purse unattended. I asked him to go back to the cart. A few moments later, Ellie came to me upset because Hudson was snapping at her. He was attempting to push the cart but ran into something because his eyes were on his phone. A few minutes later, I asked him to help me with something, and he had an attitude with me for ‘interrupting’ him. It was so chaotic and stressful. I went to him and held out my hand, asking for his phone. We finished and when we got into the car, I reminded him that I had raised him to be a helper, to see others, to be kind, to jump in where needed, to be a gentleman, to serve, be aware of his surroundings and to be a blessing. I did not raise a son whose eyes were locked looking down on a screen, walking around aimlessly without seeing a single person or contributing to the task. Every parent needs to make their own choice about technology, but for me, when they were younger, going to the store was our training ground for character, and I was not going to let a phone undo all that work. I care more about his development than his entertainment. I care more about the man he is becoming than his comfort. I care more about him seeing others than what he is watching for himself. The phone is not your friend if it is breaking connection with those around you.

GREATEST INVESTMENT

Parenting is an investment, and whatever you put into it, you will get out of it. You will reap what you have sown. What you go after and invest in when they are one, you will reap when they are two. What you go after and invest in when they are two, you will reap when they are three. What you go after and invest in when they are three, you will reap when they are four. Going after their heart and character and honoring God TODAY will reap fruit tomorrow.