THAT’S A LIE

THAT’S A LIE

Fearing we will harm our children if we cause their discomfort can actually harm them more!

CHARACTER MATTERS

We have been to plenty of hotels where the children above us raced the floors, keeping us up at night. I have used it as a time not to judge but to explain to the kids that their choices do affect others. One night, Ellie (then 9) was bouncing a small ball against the stairs in our hotel room, playing by herself. Thirty minutes later, the front desk called, saying the people below us complained about the noise. I called her over, explained the situation, and asked how she would like to handle it. She said she would stop immediately and asked if she could write them a note apologizing. What I loved about her response is that she had the awareness she had affected them and was eager to not only stop but make it right with them. There is a difference between caring about what people think and caring about the way we affect those around us.

PLAYDATES ARE YOUR TRAINING GROUND

Toddlers are not socially aware of cultivating meaningful friendships, but this is a rich season where parents can go after character training so that children are set up for success with peers down the road. I would often set up a playdate with another mom with the intention of paying close attention to how my children interacted with their peers. Did they hit when they didn’t get what they wanted? Did they yank the toy out of someone’s hands? Did they wait patiently when wanting something? Did they interrupt me using the hand technique? Were they a joy to be around? Are they the type of children others would want to invite back or were happy to have us leave? Did they say “Thank you” when given something? OF COURSE, they did not ace all of these areas. They were toddlers full of fleshly desires and selfishness. My goal was never perfection but rather seeing where I needed to parent them. I would take a mental inventory of the areas they needed to grow in, and we would spend the week working on it. I would set up another playdate and test it out. Example: If I saw my child hit another child because they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. I would address it on the spot, but when we got home, I would teach them how to handle that situation differently in times of peace. We would role-play, I would tell them what I expected (no, no hit), and we would look for ways at home they could apply that teaching with their siblings. I was intentionally teaching them how to be better friends. The heart of this cannot be legalism or performance. Children are going to be foolish, act out, throw fits and be selfish. There has to be grace for their development. But I was always on the lookout for ways they could increase their capacity in an area and go after it through connection and joy. 90% of my parenting in the toddler years was going after things in the time of peace and setting them up for success instead of constantly reacting to their negative behavior. Some of the main focus points for toddlers are: learning to wait patiently for something that they want, saying “please and thank you,” understanding right/wrong, knowing sowing/reaping (consequences), using manners (kind words), and using their words (not strength), respecting the word NO, listening and obeying right away, practicing gentleness, having self-control, and being content by themselves at times.

**My eBooklet Character Counts gives you oodles of creative activities to do with young children to instill character. You do not have to do this all in one day but rather have a mental awareness that between today and the time they enter formal school, they should have the character to play well with their peers. Order your copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

REAPING AND SOWING

I am getting better and better at letting my kids feel the aftermath of their choices instead of taking it on myself. The other day, I asked one of the kids to take out the trash, and as we pulled out of the driveway to go to school, I noticed two fully loaded trash bags sitting against the fence. I immediately pulled back into the driveway and put the trash in the bin myself in a bit of a huff. In the process, I stepped in the mud with my new shoes on, and it was not a fun ride to school. I sensed Holy Spirit saying to me, “Why did you do that?” and I began to think of what would happen if I hadn’t put the trash in the bin myself. Oh my – it would have been a disaster. Surely the neighbor dogs would have found the chicken bones, and there would have been trash all over the yard. And gee, the neighbors would probably think less of me if my yard was littered with trash. Then I heard it again, “Why did YOU do that?” and I began to picture my son coming home from school to find trash – the trash HE left out – all over the place and how uncomfortable HE would have been in cleaning it all up. While it would have cost me embarrassment with my neighbors, it would have been a price to pay for my child to learn ownership of completing tasks fully. God has set before us a Kingdom principle of reaping and sowing. Our children need to learn how to reap what they are sowing and not always have a parent who steps in to reap what they have sown. 

RIGHT AND WRONG

One day, Emma came to me all upset about something her brother did. I could tell she needed some help working it out, so I called Hudson to join us. The first question I asked him was, “Do you know why you are here?” and he immediately said, “Yeah, I am going to get disciplined.” He was making my job very easy! So, I asked him for what, and he said, “Being a boy!” Hmm. Apparently, he was taking his bow and arrow and shooting it in the living room, where the girls were watching a movie. I had to explain to Emma that he wasn’t doing anything wrong – that boys are like that and that it was just his way of playing. However, I then needed to explain to Hudson that while he did not do anything wrong, he failed to see WHY shooting a bow and arrow around the girls was upsetting to them. It made Emma feel threatened and unsafe to have the arrows whizzing by. It is so important, especially as children get older, that they don’t just see the rules but the heart behind them. The arrow was not the issue; Emma’s heart was. I want my children to be sensitive to the hearts around them, even if it means laying down what is fun and okay for them.

HONEY VS. HORSERADISH

Do a teaching with your children on our mouth and taste buds. Explain that our tongue tastes things that are bitter and sweet. Next, blindfold the children and lead them into the kitchen for a science experiment. Place a tiny dab of horseradish on their tongues and ask them what they think and then place a drop of honey on their tongues. They will probably beg for more. Share with them Proverbs 16:24 and discuss how our words need to be like sweet honey, not bitter horseradish. Practice role-playing some scenarios: What would words full of honey sound like when someone takes your toy? Is in your space? Has hurt you? How can you use words of honey to encourage others? Show honor to your parents and teachers? The goal is not the absence of negative feelings or reactions but to respond in love despite being upset or hurt. You can also take the opportunity to teach them how to be intentionally ‘sweet’ with their words as opportunities arise to bless others. In the days ahead, when you hear harsh tones and unloving words, call out, “Oh, that sounds like horseradish to my ears!” When you hear them speaking kindly, you can say, “Oh, I love the honey coming out of your mouth!”

This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

FULLY AND COMPLETELY

Empowering children to obey fully and completely the first time (Deuteronomy 28:1). Expose your child to horses, whether that be taking a field trip to a horse farm, simply pulling off the side of the road near one, getting a video from the library, or finding them on the Internet. They are so beautiful and powerful. Talk about how a horse is powerful on their own, but when the bridle is in its mouth, they are trained to obey the rider right away. All the rider needs to do is gently move the reigns to the left or right, and the horse automatically goes in that direction. They are not stubborn or demanding of their own way; they simply follow the rider’s commands. Explain to your child that God wants us to respond this way to His instructions. He doesn’t just want us to obey in the end but wants us to do so fully and completely right away.

In the days ahead, when you need your child to follow your instructions, remind them of the character of a horse. Often when my children were younger and not following the instructions I had given them, I would simply say, “Mama needs you to be a horse right now,” and they all knew that meant they were behaving in a way that was the opposite of what I had instructed. It was an excellent tool for when we were in public as it spared them the embarrassment of being called out in front of others.

SYSTEM UPGRADES

As a mom of four, I had my grocery trips down to a science. I had my toddler in the front, my baby in the carrier of the cart, and my four-year-old twins holding onto each side of the cart. There was peace and joy when we went to the store. Until the day they all outgrew their places, and they were running around playing tag while I attempted to shop. I rationalized that they were fine because they were being joyful, but the joy broke out into the next aisle, where they zoomed up and down the rows of food. Finally, they rounded the corner and nearly plowed over an elderly lady with a walker! I realized my previous system was no longer effective. I had to go home and call another family meeting where I taught them what going to the store looked like in this new stage. This is the process of building them with age-appropriate character throughout their childhood years.

CHORES

What makes chores an actual ‘chore’ to a child is when we have taught them that they do not need to help out or be an active part of the family. If they are taught that it is Mom’s job to do everything, then, of course, they will resist when you ask them to pitch in or do something. It becomes an inconvenience for them to help you. Teaching them that tasks around the house are vital to keeping a home running and soliciting their help empowers them to belong to something greater than themselves. Empowering them when they are young is key but be encouraged that it is never too late to instill the character of serving, helping, and being a blessing.

ANTI-BULLY

Bullying is an imbalanced use of power that operates out of intimidation and control. Bullying starts in the home, not on the playground. Before you call a family meeting, do an Internet search on the characteristics of bullying. Ask your children what bullying means and what it looks like to bully someone. Role-play different situations and talk about how each person may feel if that happened to him or her. Now talk about what it could look like in the home, how it would make siblings feel, and discuss creative ways things like sharing and communicating could be done to show respect for others. Why are the weapons of fear, intimidation, and control not healthy options? Create an anti-bully pledge card and ask if they would be willing to make an agreement to abstain from bullying their siblings. In the days ahead, when you hear sharp tones or see aggressive or inappropriate demands between siblings, go to them and, in a respectful tone, remind them of their pledge not to partner with intimidation and control. Ask them how they could handle the situation differently.

As a family, write out pledge cards like this: I will not bully others. I will not leave anyone out. I will help others who are being bullied. If I can’t stop a bully, I will tell an adult. I care. I can help. I can make a change! I will stand up for what is right. The end of bullying starts with me! I, _____, pledge not to be bully. Signed _____ (me), Signed _____ (Mom & Dad). Let’s send our children back to school with a wider understanding of how to be kind to those who are different. 

This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

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.