The Continuing Saga

In jr. high, my faith first became my own and I chose to follow Jesus, not just go to church or do what I thought was right (though, I did continue to do those things too.) It was also in jr. high, that I was challenged to start reading the Bible on my own. Read it daily, think about what you read, write down some thoughts and then live out what I was learning. I always excelled when given an assignment, this was no exception. The goal was measurable, achievable, and I was held accountable. There was a small blank for number of days in a row, that I filled in every day for almost a year before I missed one, and that was only because I went to an amusement park and didn’t get home until the next day. I didn’t stop then though, I was hooked on reading the Bible and getting to know God and His ways. I can’t imagine how I would’ve survived as a teen without that. It is through God’s word that I came to truly believe in Jesus as my Savior and Lord.

I was discipled by ladies in the church, who taught me how to study God’s Word and patiently answered my questions and asked me hard questions about choices I was making. In high school, I went on trips to various places in the US and abroad to serve and sing and share the gospel. These things were growing in me a desire to travel the world and live any and everywhere, serving and living for Jesus, so that others might know Him too. One of the trips that I did was a mock-missionary camp. We went to the jungle and lived a rustic existence far from modern civilization. At JAARS, Jungle Aviation And Radio Service, a support branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators, I learned about the great need for people to go and translate the Bible into thousands of languages that did not have the Bible in a language that they could read or understand. They might not even have a written alphabet at all. This was very interesting to me, someone who took all the language classes offered at her high school (include computer ones!) I came home from this trip sweaty and stinky, but excited about the mission field.

As I was deciding where to go to college and what to do with the rest of my life, I attended a huge missions conference, Urbana, and was challenged and encouraged by so many options and ways to share the good news of Jesus around the world. Also, the great need, especially in the 10/40 window, was impressed upon me. It was here, that I first got hold of a book that I’ve used ever since, Operation World. This is a book that details the nations and needs for prayer around the world. Now, I get a daily email reminding me to pray. At Urbana, I connected with some folks at Wycliffe again and also with some other missions agencies. I felt pretty certain that God was calling me into full-time missions, but needed to get educated first. So, I started applying to colleges and intended to study something international. I applied for received a scholarship from our church for students who would go into missions after university.

When my first international course of study, business, was a complete failure for me, I transferred to the University of Michigan to pursue a degree in Linguistics (Language Science). I became involved with the campus ministry now known as Cru. Through this ministry, I was discipled and learned to disciple others. When I studied abroad in the south of France, I met two girls who were doing a year internship with Cru and we partnered together in ministry there. I traveled with them and several others to Tunisia where we prayed and met with staff at the universities in Tunis. During my time in France and at U of M, God taught me to love and teach women and children, especially those of Muslim background, to study His word and to know Him through the Bible. It was also during the time in France, away from my long-time boyfriend and best friend, Brian, that we grew certain we wanted to get married.

As we spent our senior year of college, engaged to be married, we had a lot of talks about our future together. The couple who mentored us made us hash out a lot of our dreams and expectations before we got married. So, it was discussed that, at some time in the not too distant future, we would go into full-time missions overseas, or at least we were willing to go.


Parenting Advice?

As a mom of three kids and someone who likes to tell others what to do, I often get asked about what parenting techniques and strategies I use with my kids. I get lots of requests for recommendations for what works, what books I recommend, what practical advice can I share. Moms often share their stories and examples from everyday life, looking for help, sympathy or just to share with someone who might understand. I recently read a post at Practical Theology for Women that I agree with completely, including the book recommendations and secular parenting logic.


Book Review: Don’t Swear With Your Mouth Full

Here’s another parenting book that I found useful in many ways. First, and maybe most importantly, I was delighted and encouraged to find out that I am doing something right. The punishment that I use most often is the approach advocated by Dr. Cary Chugh in this book for “when conventional discipline fails unconventional kids.” He calls it “behavior-limited discipline” and I call it “taking a break until you are ready to do/make it right.” I don’t know that I have unconventional children, but I do know that I prefer unconventional methods of parenting, namely gentle (in Christian circles, grace-based) discipline.

I would’ve liked this book a lot more if it hadn’t started with a whole chapter devoted to telling me what the book was going to say (and detailing what each chapter would cover again at the beginning of said chapter). I have lots of idiosyncrasies and one of my very biggest pet peeves is when authors tell you what they are going to tell you instead of just telling you! So, skip the introduction and get right into the research about punishments and what works in “normal” families and with most kids, but doesn’t work for the “difficult” children or if you are really short on time and think that you have a good grasp of what constitutes regular punishments in most families, skip all the way to chapter 5.

This book is great in its design for parents to use as a tool. It has neat summaries of the main points for each chapter in gray boxes along with important arguments and conclusions throughout the chapters. I will definitely be able to pull the book out again and quickly refresh on any ideas presented here, which is essential in parenting books. The final chapter has several gray boxes with all the pertinent info in one handy place along with a wonderful “cheat sheet” questionnaire so parents are ready for whatever disciplinary action might be required.

Another feature of this book is that it is a quick read and easily organized. I could’ve (and would’ve if I weren’t reviewing the book) the chapter on school-related problems and solutions since I don’t have school-aged kids. I found that chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 would’ve been sufficient for me especially with the summary points at the end of each chapter. The author integrates a bit of light humor and keeps a the book somewhat playful despite the serious nature of the topic. However, for me, this was a bit confusing/annoying as I didn’t understand all of the jokes and alternate chapter titles and I found that they took away from the general air of authority and know-how that Dr. Chugh establishes.

I really appreciated the practical examples and ideas throughout the book. Dr. Chugh presents several dialogues where he further explains how to implement behavior-limited discipline as well as verbal rehearsal or planning or priming (basically all the same things), which in essence are discussions with kids about how to behave reminding them that their choices have consequences and they have the power to choose.


Mommy Guilt

When I read She’s Gonna Blow, I remember thinking that all the stuff about Mommy guilt wasn’t really my issue. I feel loads of guilt when I screw up, but I usually try to right the situation as quickly as possible and deal with the guilt so that it isn’t lingering and becoming part of a cycle of behavior. I do see that changing a bit as I am still struggling with eliminating angry outbursts. I just read a NY Times article Shouting is the New Spanking and found it very interesting and sadly very true in my personal experience and with many of my friends. I know that I yell when I get frustrated and run out of other ideas, especially when I am tired or hungry. They say that knowing is half the battle, so the other half is… fighting?


Continuum Concept

A friend of mine recently emailed me this link and asked for my take on it. I generally adhere to this sort of parenting philosophy that some would call Attachment Parenting for the beginning of life, but for the toddler/preschool years I like to think I have a parenting strategy, but really I’m just trying to make it through each day while showing and teaching love and responsibility.

The continuum concept basically seems to say that we are social beings who evolved to meet the expectations placed on us and we thrive when in loving relationships. I whole-heartedly agree that humans are social and designed for relationships, but by the Creator’s plan not evolutionary adaptation. I believe that God made us to be social beings who need physical contact from birth with immediate response to signals of needs in babies (ie. nursing on demand, co-sleeping, being in arms most of the time for the first 6 months). I also believe that humans are rotten to the core (in theological terms we are sinful from birth – that is total depravity).

So, the continuum concept asserts that the reason children fight and are selfish and demanding is because we are a child-centered culture. While this may be a confounding issue I do not see it being the sole reason nor do I think that by simply going about our adult responsibilities with kids watching that we will not have any of these attitude or behavior problems. That said, I do see that when my kids are secure in the knowledge that I am confident in my roles and responsibilities there are less battles – some of that I attribute to the fact that when I am doubting myself and insecure my kids (as social beings and wanting to meet the expectations of those caring for them) pick up on that.

All this rambling basically to say that I hope that parents will be in a loving relationship with their Creator and from Him draw strength and wisdom to love their kids and care for them – meeting their needs and shaping them into loving and responsible people. God’s grace and love are limitless to cover the limitless mistakes made. I guess that is my parenting philosophy: God-centered.

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Discipline in Action

Just in case, you haven’t had enough of my thoughts on discipline, I thought I’d describe a few very typical scenarios in our house.

In the mornings when we need to get somewhere in a timely matter, it can be a little bit of a struggle if the children and I are not working towards the same goal (namely for me: getting ready and leaving on time; and usually for them: have fun & possibly also eat). Pro-actively, I will attempt to make our getting ready as much fun as possible. We might play a game of who can get dressed fastest or make a silly face while getting dressed. We might also sing a song about cleaning up or putting on shoes. In deciding what to wear, warnings and choices are of utmost with Eila. I’ll usually tell her: “We need to get ready for preschool, so in two minutes we are going to go to the bathroom and then get dressed. Would you like to wear pants or a dress?” She almost always chooses dress, so then we head to the closet and I pick out two and say: “Would you like the dog dress or the circle dress?” or she will immediately tell me which one she prefers, and I rarely care. If I want her to wear pants; I will specify why and give her the pick of the drawer. She is much more likely to be agreeable and cooperate with my goal in this way. The GBD 5 Steps are a great tool for when choices aren’t working. Step 4 is to help her and so I do. I’ll get out her clothes and help her put them on so that we can leave when we need to – hopefully, not in a mean way, but because she isn’t able to do it herself, just like I help Josiah.

Another troublesome issue for many folks is eating. I really like the idea that I control when and where my child eats and s/he controls how much. I choose what s/he can eat and she chooses what (from what’s in front of her) s/he does eat. For Eila, this works great because she likes to eat and is almost always hungry. She enjoys a wide variety of foods and is willing to try one bite (which is sort of a rule) of anything and almost always wants more after that first bite, but if not that’s fine. Josiah, on the other hand, does not eat well. So for him, I offer the same wide variety that the rest of us eat with at least one food that I know he likes each day. I offer him foods whenever he asks and it’s reasonable (this is the same for Eila), which is usually every 2 hours. If he wants to eat, he must do so at the table, but since sitting for more than 30 seconds is beyond his ability at this time, he can come and go as often as he likes until I put the food away (usually when Eila is done eating.) As for attempting to break the eating protocol, it’s very simply taking food away. In most cases, the kids are done eating anyway and if not, they can try again by sitting at the table and behaving appropriately and get their food back without much ado. It works very well. I tend not to stress about messes while eating, but if they are goofing off, they are done because I don’t like to clean unnecessarily (or really at all.) We try to act in the way that we want the kids to act and they want to act like us, so it works out.

When the kids don’t listen and don’t obey, when they hit each other, climb on dressers, throw hard & pointy objects and put valuables in the dirty toilet, when they whine, cry, yell, or act disrespectfully and unlovingly (is this even a word – you know what I mean), what happens?
Often there are several phases in the process.

Recently, Josiah has been going through a bit of a challenging stage – testing limits over and over again. He is climbing up the dresser and standing on top, looking out the window or just admiring the new perspective. At first I took him down and clearly told him “NO! You may not climb on the dresser. You can climb on the couch or on the bed.” Then, when he did it again, we repeated this with several “NO”s and put him in his crib for a bit. When he did it again, we repeated the admonition and he stood in the corner for a brief time out. When he did it again (the third time in just 6 waking hours), he went in his crib for a full minute with a simple “No!”. He now says “No, No, No” after he climbs up, which shows me that he at least knows that this is not okay, but isn’t able to stop himself, so if he does it again, I’ll move the dresser. I hope I won’t have to.

Now, Eila is an exceptionally whiny child when she is tired. Most of the time, she is extremely well-spoken for a preschooler, but when tired, she barely manages 2-3 words together and uses either a baby voice or a whiny voice, neither of which I have much patience for. As she has gotten older and I’ve gotten a little bit wiser, things have changed… I used to get really annoyed and just lose it. Now, it takes a bit longer for me to lose it, and before I do, I usually will do a few things to help her cope. First, I offer food or sleep or potty. If she doesn’t choose, I might choose for her by saying: “Do you need to go potty? (wait for answer) Let’s have a little snack or would you like to go back to sleep. If you can’t decide or ask nicely, I’ll just tuck you back in bed.” In the event that she is still cranky after a bowl of cereal- her favorite snack, I offer a little cuddle with Mama (which is often what she really wants, but can’t voice it). When Eila is whining at a store or friend’s house, I’ll simply talk to her calmly (sometimes) with two choices: speak with a nice voice and clearly say what she wants or play/sit/walk quietly. If that doesn’t work, we wrap up and head home as soon as possible because she needs to sleep! When we get home, I’ll put her in her room and let her change into pajamas if she wants (and she always does), then say: “You can read books quietly in your bed or sleep in your bed – I’d like you to sleep, but whichever you do is fine. We all need to take a break for a bit.”

Finally, the sticky issue of other people’s kids… I like the policy of each person taking care of their own kid. When someone hurts my kid, though, it’s really hard not to want to “help” the other parent. I have to resist because I know that each mom knows her kid best and what works with him/her, and plus, I need to take care of my own hurt kid. If I’m watching someone else’s kids, they are have the same rules and respect that my kids do – with a little more grace. The golden rule “Treat others as you want to be treated” works with parenting too.

Basically, where there is love, grace abounds and so do limits that have to be enforced. The more I learn, the more I have to adjust my expectations and know that I have more to learn!


Practicalities of Discipline

I’m finally following up the rest of my thoughts on disciplining, and these are my findings so far, based on my flawed usage and my kids.

What works (in my order of preference and use):
GBD 5 Steps
Love & Logic, Conscious Discipline 1 and Conscious Discipline 2 (Choices with natural or logical consequences)
Giving Time to Adjust to Change

What doesn’t work:
Telling them what to do and then punishing (time outs, loss of priviledges)
Asking them to do something and telling the consequence of not complying – Eila will almost always choose the consequence no matter what it is!

I’ve found that having too many rules or too much info, doesn’t work, but Eila needs to know what to expect and what’s coming up. Josiah is starting to want that as well, as he gets to the point where he can understand that there are some things he can do and some things he cannot do.

Yee House Rules:
Treat others with love and respect. (We do not hit or push or kick other people at any time for any reason.)
Listen and obey.
When we’re done playing, we clean-up.
We go to our room when we can’t behave appropriately.
No climbing on moving things (like ride-on trucks) or big furniture (like dressers or tables).
No eating or wearing shoes (princess shoes included) while jumping. (This rule changes with the season – it was previously: Only throw soft balls.)
Only play on the computer with Mama or Papa.
Ask before you take (especially for food, but also applies to toys & taking turns).

There are always consequences for not following the rules. The most common one is no more jumping. Followed closely by “We can play with that after we clean up this.”

Finally, the most important rules (which are the silly rules):
No Smiling.
No Laughing.
No Having Fun.

As our kids get a little older, I’d like to implement “Our 24 Family Ways” from the Clarkson family, which I discovered in the back of Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood.

So, for some real life examples, you’ll have to await another day.

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Theory of Discipline

There are untold numbers of books on the subject of discipline and no end to the variety of opinions. As for me, in theory, I am completely against spanking of any kind (even hitting on the hand, which I have done a few times) and all for raising kids with grace. This does not mean that I am permissive, but it basically follows the thought that I am under the new covenant in Christ’s blood (not under law) where God lavishes His grace on me in love. So, in turn I love those around me and treat them – including my children – with the grace that overflows from God.

Therefore, in theory, I respectfully offer reasonable choices to my kids that are appropriate to their level (as God does to me) and when they make a poor decision or blatantly disobey one of the house rules (to come in another post), I allow the natural consequences (when safe, even if upsetting) or logical consequences (appropriate to the problem) to teach the lesson (just as God does for me).

At times, I will have to discipline, in love, for my children’s best – even though it may be inconvenient or difficult or painful for me. I cannot see how spanking would be for my children’s best, as it wouldn’t teach them what is right only punish them for what was wrong. With grace as the foundation, Christ already died for my sins and theirs, so punishment is not needed – He took it all on the cross.

Training in righteousness, ie. helping my children learn to choose what is right in all situations at all times, whether that be sharing toys with others or speaking with respect or not having fits of rage when things don’t go as they hoped, also teaching what behaviors are socially acceptable, like wearing shirt and shoes in the store or having good manners, or protecting their safety are the goals in discipling my children. Along those lines, the Bible is useful for training in righteousness and teaching and correcting, so memorizing verses with signs and songs or just on their own is probably my first priority.

Also, being proactive is essential with grace. I can’t just wait until things get out of hand, I have to anticipate what might happen and try to keep the environment safe and secure for my kids. I need to think about what I say and when there is a problem on the horizon, I need to stop and immediately address it before the problem happens. This doesn’t mean that I don’t allow my children to solve their own problems, but that I am paying attention and when they are headed for something beyond their abilities, I help just enough. I really believe that it is important for kids to learn from the experiences, just like we adults do, so that sometimes means getting disappointed or failing. What I’m talking about would be times when discipline might be necessary and gently stepping in to help prevent that.

Here’s an example of Active or Proactive Parenting: Eila is taking cushions off so she can jump on the couch (which is a common and acceptable practice in our house), but Josiah is eating and starts getting down with his food. So, I quickly stop him and tell him that he can eat at the table or he can jump on the couch. He puts his food down and scurries away to safely jump on the couch. Discipline (being taken off the couch) was averted because he wasn’t jumping on the couch with food.

I could go on and on, obviously as this post is already far too long! Basically, I really like the grace-based approach to discipline. If you’d like to read more, here are some good resources that I’ve found:
Arm of Love family fellowship has a lot of great articles and has been really helpful for me.
I loved the book Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel and Clay Clarkson’s book Heartfelt Discipline is next on my list to read.
Gentle Christian Mothers

I’ll try to follow up with more practical info, but the whole theory of grace-based parenting is that we, as parents, are living each moment in the grace of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, so He will give us the wisdom and know-how as we seek Him for it!

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I have been reading a lot lately hoping to get some insight into how to make parenting two little ones easier. What I’ve come to understand is that it will be hard and that it’s supposed to be that way!

The strategies that I’ve employed include: offering choices, making demands, bribery and rewards, timeouts (for kids and mommy), lecturing, yelling, getting really annoyed and frustrated, and of course, threatening. I’ve even started to smack little hands occasionally, but I’m still not a fan and don’t want that to be a part of my repertoire as I would also like to remove yelling and all of those sorts of techniques.

Natural consequences and practicing good behaviors are new in my bag of tricks and are proving to be very useful as well as effective for Eila. She has learned that her feet get cold when she doesn’t wear socks or shoes outside and that it’s important to wear her seatbelt at all times in the car (we practiced this one, as it’s not loving in any way to risk death or injury by allowing natural consequences). At 15 months, Josiah is just not able to make the connections necessary yet. Although, after his spill down the stairs, he consistently turns around rather than trying the face first approach he goofed with that time!

I’m still having a lot trouble coming up with suitable “punishments” for certain crimes. For example, earlier this week, Eila opened all the drawers in her dresser and climbed up them to the top and opened the blinds on the window. She has done this before and knows that it is not allowed. But, what would help her really get it and how dangerous it is (especially with Josiah watching and taking notes at the bottom drawer)?

For whining, I’m so inconsistent. It really annoys me and so I often give in, which is not effective, but it stops the extremely aggravating sound emanating from my kids… I guess my thinking is sort of along the lines of: “This strategy isn’t stopping that noise, what else can I do?”

I’m always open to those with the answers. 🙂

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I don’t like changes. I am coming to realize that when things change it can be hard, and there are lots of changes happening all around me all the time. Some changes are good and yet they can still be very difficult, like, for instance, a marriage or new baby. Some changes are good for some and not others, like a friend moving away. Some changes seem bad all around, like an illness or loss.

I am dealing with all of these types of changes. Josiah is a great baby, but adjusting to have two kids is still work and I’m not always sure what to do or how to manage. I, believe it or not, have lost my cool a few times and don’t like to not be in control and perfect. One of my closest friend is almost definitely moving to Boulder in a very short time. I know that our relationship won’t be the same. We’ll keep in touch, but it is never the same as when you meet together in person regularly. That’s really sad to me. I’m still trying to adjust to my sister moving across the country… Change is hard, but usually exactly what we need. Who would want to live a life that’s the same all the time? It’s great to make new friends and move on in what God has next for us. Obedience is better than security or comfort.

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