I was chatting with a mom the other night about her son getting out of bed 101 times. She went through the list and said, “Spanking doesn’t work,” “timeouts don’t work,” “withholding toys don’t work,” “getting mad doesn’t work,” and after the fifth example of what doesn’t work, I realized that SHE is the one who wasn’t working. I asked her why she thought it wasn’t working, and she said that her son kept doing the behavior despite her dealing with him. I asked how long she went after it, and she responded that she didn’t want to be the mean parent as she grew up with a lot of fear and intimidation. BAM! That was the key right there. She hasn’t yet fully reconciled her own experience, which was influencing her ability to parent her strong-willed son. She realized she didn’t want to use fear and intimidation, which is good, but she needed to keep going in her process. Does being firm mean intimidation? Is exercising parental authority going to induce fear over the child? If we don’t reconcile our parent’s parenting, we will swing so far to the other side, making both generations out of balance. We need to come into alignment with how God runs His family. No to fear and intimidation, yes to parental authority, and being firm.
WORN OUT MOM
- Character Training, Testimonies
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.
We walked through some very refining seasons, and little made sense to me at the time. I was following Him to the best of my ability, and few understood. Not everyone around me was able to stand with me in my journey. I know it was heavy and hard at times, and sometimes we have to endure the reality that no one else can fully understand our world except Him. Some suggested maybe we weren’t to move to Colorado because the journey was so long. Others let me know that the hardship on the kids wasn’t good. I am not sure anything frightens a mother’s heart more than knowing her children are ‘suffering.’ Nothing makes a single mom feel more vulnerable than knowing she is the sole parent making decisions that radically affect her children. This was the hardest, most excruciating part of the process. I went before the Lord and asked Him (repeatedly) if I was missing something that was causing undue hardship to my kids. He said, “Lisa, yes, your children are indeed going through a very challenging season (on top of what everyone else is enduring), but your children will see the breakthrough, the provision, and the outcome. Your children will witness My hand move on their behalf.” Suddenly my countless tears turned into glory and praise to a God who continues to woo and wow His children.
As a mother, what I long for the most is for my children to see the hand of their Father. Psalms 107 speaks of tossing around the waves of hardship and how God brings us through the storm into our safe haven. I was never looking for a house. I was looking for His peace, and we found it!
Random acts of kindness are when people go out in the name of Jesus and do good, kind, helpful things for others. While this is indeed praiseworthy and profitable Christian behavior, we need to be asking Him the who, what and where in order to be abundant in our harvest. Let me give you an example: One day, I was having a really hard day. I decided to get my eyes off myself and asked God what we should do with our day. I heard Him say to go be a blessing and rake leaves. I jumped into action. Logical thinking concluded that going to the poorest part of town and blessing the souls there would be best. I loaded up the van with kids and rakes and waved to my neighbor as we took off searching for the family that needed to be blessed. After forty-five minutes of driving around endlessly looking for a single family that had not yet raked, I was growing frustrated. What was supposed to help my day ended up making my day even worse. Defeated and somewhat mad, I made the trek back home. Upon entering our community, I heard the words, “What? You don’t think your rich neighbors need Me?” and instantly, I knew God gave me the WHAT (raking), but I ran with it before I asked the WHO or WHERE. I repented. Immediately upon parking in the driveway, the kids flung open the van door and ran across the street to the neighbor’s house (yes, the one we waved to on the way out) and raked all of the leaves. But the story doesn’t end there. Days later, I received a letter from the single elderly lady with a check saying she was so overwhelmed by all the work that needed to be done and was crying out to the Lord about her needs AS we were driving by waving at her. She finally had to leave the house with the yard work not done, and when she came back, she found ten bags full of raked leaves.
That is a perfect example of the harvest being ABUNDANT. God is a perfect economist. While one woman needed to take her eyes off her circumstances, another woman needed an extra set of helping hands. We can’t just DO in the name of Jesus. We need to ask Him the who, what, and where, too! And this requires communication – both talking and listening.
Serve the children banana or apple slices and then leave some out on the counter for a few hours. Gather the children in the family room and have them bring their journals and Bible. Ask them to read to themselves Galatians 5:22-23 outlining the fruit of the Spirit. See if they can remember the fruit listed (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Talk about each one and give an example of kindness, self-control, joy, etc. Share what kindness looks like at the dinner table. What does joy look like when Mom says no? Ask them if they enjoyed the banana or apple you served earlier. Wasn’t it delicious and tasty? Bring out the plate of food you set out hours earlier and attempt to give them a bite. A wilted mushy brown banana. YUM… NOT! Talk about the opposite of love, joy, peace, etc. Help them to see specific examples of peace vs. chaos, love vs. rejection, etc. We do not just ‘obey’ to behave like the fruit of the Spirit. We are helping them understand that choosing not to is partnering with the enemy to bring his kingdom into our homes, relationships, and cities. We choose to partner with God and His Kingdom because we believe in Him and want the fruit of His Kingdom for ourselves and those around us. There is a real war in the spirit realm to bring about chaos, isolation, hurt, lawlessness, and offense. How do we counter this? By going after the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.
NOT IN MY HOME – Explain to your children that there is a real rebellion in the world today against being kind and loving to others and that while it may be what ‘everyone else is doing,’ our home honors and obeys the Lord. Ask each child to draw a picture of each of the fruits of the Spirit. When all of them are illustrated, put them on the side of the room and have them sit in a circle. Ask them if they WANT a house of love or rejection. If they say love, pick one person to get the ‘love fruit’ and carry it back to the family circle, placing it in the middle. After each fruit has been brought to the center of the family, tell them they can either bring LOVE to the family circle or throw it out.
In the days ahead, I would be extra aware of the hours and days ahead to call out and make a big deal when you see someone displaying the fruit of the Spirit. “Johnny, that was SO loving,” “Susie, that was so kind of you to _____.” “Sarah, look at the self-control you had in that store.” You are empowering them that their choices make a difference, and they are significant contributors to the Kingdom of God. When you see your child choosing the opposite fruit, ask if they remember the banana slices. Ask them, “Which fruit do you think you are partnering with right now?” After kids have a grid for this, all you have to say is, “I am not sure that is a very tasty fruit,” which helps them see how they can choose different fruit.
ON A MISSION – I encourage you to gather the children, remind them of this lesson, and pick ONE of the fruits together. Let’s say you choose KINDNESS. Come up with a list of ways you can show kindness to others as a family. Maybe it is buying someone coffee, bringing a warm meal to a homeless person, babysitting to give the parents a date, sending notes to friends, or dropping off a balloon at someone’s door. Go on a MISSION to release that fruit. This will help build your child’s muscles in the joy of His ways. Often before we walk into a store, I will pick one and say, “Okay, let’s all be on the lookout for ways we can practice SELF-CONTROL in this store.” or “When you go to Ms. Johnson’s house, I want you to all look for ways you can be LOVING,” and then we talk about it afterward.
When I stand before Him, I want to be able to say, “Lord, I cared about the fruit of Your Spirit and did my best to teach my children to know, understand, partner with, and display the fruit of Your Spirit.” TAKE BACK GROUND BY GRABBING AHOLD OF HIS FRUIT!
I have an above-average sensitivity to whining. It grates on me deeply. I taught my children from the toddler years that if they whine, they lose. I even typed it up and framed it on the wall in our kitchen on their level (along with other house rules). I first taught them in the time of peace what I did want from them, and we role-played what whiny and peaceful words looked like. Then the first time they whined to get their way, I got on their level and said, “When you are ready to use your big girl words, let me know,” and I would walk away. It took a matter of seconds before they came chasing me and changed their tone. Whining is a lack of self-control and orphan. I want my children to speak to me with confidence and self-control. I laid the foundation, and this was something that brought a lot of peace in our homes.
We had just moved into our new home in California when I had the strangest dream about a yappy dog outside my patio. He wasn’t annoying me but trying to tell me something. It was so real. I woke up and sensed God telling me to turn the outside light on. I didn’t partner with fear but heard Him say, “Do not look outside. Just turn on the light.” I ended up staying up after that and never felt afraid as I knew God had my back but knew something was happening outside my patio door. It was the strangest thing. There is power in TURNING ON THE LIGHT!
How do you tell a strong-willed two-year-old no? Just like that, “NO.” When Lauren was still in her highchair, she would throw her Cheerios on the floor and then laugh watching me pick it up. She thought it was a game. How many of you know that getting mad at a clueless child is completely ineffective in creating change? If the behavior does not bring honor, respect, or peace, then I need to parent (verb) her in that area to HELP HER know what is and is not acceptable. Do I want her to go to a friend’s house and do that? Is it cute to throw food on the floor when she is four? This has little to do with food and everything to do with self-control and respect. I said in a loving, but firm tone, “Lauren, no-no throwing food on the floor.” If she did it again, I would repeat myself but squeeze her hand. It was done in an effort to get her attention, not create punishment or pain. No means no, and she is learning she does not have the freedom to do whatever she wants whenever she wants. She did it again, and I realized she needed more help. I cleaned up breakfast and then moved her booster seat to the floor and asked her to sit in it. I connected with her by laughing. I was not scolding, punishing, or upset with her. I was teaching a toddler how to be successful at the table. I put a Cheerio on her tray and role-played me picking it up and throwing it on the floor pretending to be her, but then said in a loving but firm tone, “No-no throwing food on the floor,” and I got her out of the booster and told her to pick it up. When she did, I praised her silly with a hug and positive reinforcement. The next time I sat her in the highchair, I said in a firm but loving tone, “No-no food on the floor” as a reminder and put a small amount of food on her tray. She decided to test how serious I was, so I immediately took off her tray, got her down and lovingly, but firmly told her to hand me the Cheerios. It only took two times for her to realize it is SO NOT FUN having to get down and pick them up. Before she had no concept of the reality of someone having to pick them up, but she learned and never did it again.
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.
I told God, lying on my hospital bed, that I wanted to be a poster child of His power. A week later, I was supernaturally healed of both my kidney and liver failure. Twenty-seven years later, He continues to display His power throughout my life. When I am going through something, I seem to REALLY go through things. I feel, embrace, endure, process, and ponder. I just have this knowing that what God is doing IN me, He will eventually want to do THROUGH me. I sometimes laugh at the depth in which God takes me when He seems to take others faster. Part of it is through my process; He is allowing me to give language for it, along with powerful tools of heaven, knowing that I will share it with others. My life is not my own, but His for His use for His purposes.
When the kids were little, they always wanted to go to the park after nap time, but I was exhausted from cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. I felt like my day was a perpetual cycle of complete and repeat. The thought ran through my mind that if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have to do all of this work. I hated that thought because I loved being a mom and my children. I rebuked that thought and remember the Lord leading me to EMPOWER my children to be a part of the family, not just takers. I sat them down and told them that I wanted to take them to the park too, but that part of living in a family is running a family that includes picking up after ourselves, cleaning, and managing our home. We came up with four areas that needed attention every day – floors, dishes, laundry, and garbage. From that day on, I haven’t touched a single one in nearly ten years. Each week we rotate chores and run the family together. When they were tiny, they didn’t do it perfectly, nor did I expect them to. But I used it as a time to go after character, self-control, honor, and faithfulness. When one fails to take out the garbage, it affects the family. When we rush and put clothes where they don’t belong, it affects the family. When dishes don’t get done, it affects the family. When they had attitudes, I went after their heart. I wasn’t training them in the area of perfection but in having the CHARACTER behind a chore or task. This is one of the best choices I made as a mom years ago, and I am reaping the fruit of four children who own the wealth, health, and success of our family unit. They were taught from an early age how to care for their family, and it started with chores. What have you empowered your children to do to help run the family?