Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 11: Parent--The Teacher, Part 1

(Click HERE to catch up with the rest of this series!)
A parent is many things: nurturer, provider, cuddler, dish-washer, cook, snot-keeper, chauffeur, vomit-cleaner, maid, laundry-washer....

Yes, a parent is many things.

But at the heart of it all, a parent is a TEACHER.

Now, teaching comes naturally for some people, but it may not come naturally for you. :) Perhaps you don't even like to teach. You may find it easier to just give your teaching responsibilities to other people: school teachers, daycare workers, church leaders, coaches, music teachers, or even other parents...

Whether you desire to be a teacher or not, God's Word teaches us in Deuteronomy 6 that PARENTS are to be TEACHING their children:

"And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

These verses show us three things:

*1.Parents are to be teaching their children what they have already LEARNED.

You cannot teach if you are not an expert in that field. No one would call me and ask me to do a lecture at the local university on Physics because I am clearly not an expert in physics. :)

If you're trying to parent with a "Do as I say, not as I do" attitude, you're setting yourself up for complete failure. The passage in Deuteronomy addresses the parents first for a reason:

You cannot teach what you have not already learned and applied in your own life.

If you do not love the LORD passionately, sacrificially, whole-heartedly, and without hypocrisy (that is, you're not living for yourself all week and then showing up for church on Sunday and faking your relationship with the LORD), you are not fooling your children, and you can not and will not teach them to love the LORD.
You cannot teach what you have not already learned.

If you do not forgive those who have hurt you (no matter how deep the hurt!), love those who have offended you, show mercy on those who gossip about you, and attempt restoration 70 times 7, do not expect your children to forgive others.

You cannot teach what you have not already learned.

If you are selfish by nature, wanting your own way, putting your own needs above all else, and idolizing your "me-time", do not expect your children to think outside of themselves.

You cannot teach what you have not already learned.

If you are harsh with your children and excessively physical in your discipline, do not expect them to be gentle with their siblings. If you expect perfection from them all of the time, do not be surprised when they struggle with forgiving YOU when you fail them. If you are slow to show mercy yet quick to show anger, do not expect them to show anything less to the lost and hurting world around them.

You see, You cannot teach what you have not already learned.

---Often the best parent is the one who daily sits at Jesus' feet and then, like a mother bird feeding her tiny chicks, offers the morsels of righteousness to the children in their care.

Commit to studying, learning, applying, and then TEACHING your children.

*2.Parents should be teaching their children with a purpose: DILIGENTLY.

The passage in Deuteronomy I quoted above says, "teach them DILIGENTLY to thy children", that is, that parents should be teaching their children with a purpose.

If a young person wants to be a nurse, a lawyer, a school teacher, a scientist, a musician, a journalist, etc, that they must get a lengthy, thorough education before even attempting to begin their career.

Yet there is no college degree, no apprenticeship, no thorough education offered for the most difficult (and most important!) job on earth: PARENTHOOD. You can conceive a baby, give birth, and raise it to adulthood without having a single CLUE as to what you're doing. (Sadly, we see the results of half-hearted parenting all around us.)

God's Word teaches us that parents are to be teaching their children diligently.

To be truly diligent at anything takes T.I.M.E. It takes planning. It takes effort, drive, determination, dedication, and some stinkin' HARD WORK!

Have you purposed in your heart to teach your children diligently? Are you willing to put in the T.I.M.E. it takes to do a thorough job at your parenting career? Or have you been struggling to survive whatever stage your child is in, sliding through by the skin of your teeth, hoping the next stage will finally bring some relief?

Commit to teaching your children DILIGENTLY.

*Parents are to be teaching their children OFTEN.

God meant for Godly parenthood to be a full-time career. "...and shalt talk of them (TEACH) when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

When you're sitting together, when you're walking together, when you're going to bed at night, and when you're getting up in the morning---You are to be teaching your children OFTEN.

You cannot teach your children often if you do not spend ample time together.

You cannot teach your children often if are too busy with your own career to focus on their needs.

You cannot teach your children often if the television is teaching them for you.

You cannot teach your children often if you're too busy talking on the phone or surfing the Internet.

You cannot teach your children often if they are with their school, their church, their sports, and their friends more than they are WITH YOU.

Commit to teaching your children OFTEN.


We are to be diligently and frequently teaching our children the things that we have already learned.

Whether you want to be a teacher or not, if you are a parent, you ARE teaching. :)

Tomorrow we'll look at three areas in which parents can--and should--be teaching their children.

Blessings, dear friends. May you find JOY in your parenting journey!


Friday, January 25, 2013

From My Heart

My apologies for the delay in the 30 Days of Grace Parenting Tips series.

I'll be completely honest and say that the amount of time necessary to write, edit, and post these every day is too much for me with the current demands on my time.

My husband has asked me to post a little less frequently (so we can spend more time together in the evenings!), so as I continue to work through this series, it may take a couple of days for each new post.

We are excited to be working behind-the-scenes on some big orphan ministry opportunities. This is also taking much of my "extra" time. (that's almost an oxy-moron, lol) I'll share more about that soon, too. I would appreciate prayer as we make some very major decisions in the next couple of months.

I've loved all of the feedback I've received regarding the blog. You all are too sweet. My prayer is simply that I can encourage other Mommas to enjoy the journey. I have already sketched out the remainder of this particular series, but remember--if you have a specific question or parenting scenario you'd like to see discussed here, either post it in the comments below or email me privately at .

Blessings to you all. I'll be back as soon as time allows. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day 10: Playful Parenting

(Click HERE to read the rest of the Grace-Parenting series!)
The more connected we are to GOD, to our spouse, to our family, and to our dearest friends, the more at peace we feel and the better we respond to the pressures of life.
This is just a simple fact that is true for all of humanity, even for the youngest of our race. :)
Beginning at birth, when a newborn immediately craves its mother's warm and loving embrace, and continuing throughout all of life, we all crave connection with those we love.
A connected child feels--and therefore, acts---better.

On Day 3 we talked about the incredible power of touch in parenting.
Touch is certainly one of the most important ways to build connection.
Today we're going to talk about another way to build that necessary connection with our children:
Like it's name suggests, playful parenting is the act of engaging our children in a non-threatening, playful way.
Playful parenting can be used not only to connect with your child, but also to encourage obedience and make learning fun.
1. Use Playful Parenting to Connect with your Child.
Parents naturally play with their little babies.
Once children get a little older, some adults find it difficult to relate to their children in a playful manner. (Three hours of Candyland, anyone??)
Yet, children are playful little creatures and they LOVE to play with us! Most children would rather play with their Mommy or Daddy than do just about anything else. :)
Don't believe me?
Stop reading this right now.
Go over to your child, get eye-contact, and say, "Mommy has a few minutes of free time and I would like to PLAY with YOU! Do you want to play tag? Hide-and-seek? Have a pillow fight on my bed? Race your cars? Dress up and play tea party?"
What is your child's response? Complete, utter delight. :)
Children LOVE to play and be played WITH.
Often, Mommies are SO busy with the day-to-day necessary tasks of life---the laundry, dishes, cooking, schooling, diaper-changes, cleaning, grocery shopping. etc, etc---that they get too busy to remember to playfully interact with their children!
It becomes more about getting through the day and so much less about enjoying the moment.
When is the last time you crawled around on the floor, pretending to be a Momma lion chasing after her cubs?
When is the last time you had a good-old-fashioned family pillow fight?
How long has it been since you've tickled your 10 year old?
I'll be very honest and say that this is an area I sometimes struggle with myself. I'm thankful for a husband who thrives in the area of enjoying the moment and who has taught me much about Playful Parenting.
For example, I can potty, undress, bathe, dry, and re-dress all three toddlers in about 10 minutes.
Brent, on the other hand, takes about an hour to do the same exact job.
The difference?
He is having fun and I'm just getting it done.
He makes a water fountain out of cups, he chases little naked bottoms, he plays hide-and-seek with the towel, and he tickles bellies as he dresses them.
We both get bath time "done", but one of is is more connected when it's over.
The lesson here is simple: Take the time to connect with your child through playful parenting!
2. Use Playful Parenting to Encourage Obedience.
As you probably know by now, I believe in teaching and training for obedience.
Not only is obedience important for family structure, it is vital as a life-skill.

Authority will always be a part of our lives. :)
Take a minute now, and think back to your favorite childhood teacher---it doesn't have to be a school teacher, it could be a music teacher, a church teacher, a sports coach, any authority you spent time with as a child.
Did you strive to do your best for your favorite teacher because they held a big stick over your head and threatened to hit you with it if you did anything less than your very best? Did you love this teacher and do your best for them because they embarrassed you in front of your friends? Did you love this teacher because they spoke to you in a degrading, sarcastic, or disrespectful tone of voice?
I think not.
My point is this----this adult became your favorite for reasons other than "strict" discipline.
YES, structure and rules and following authority are a necessary and important part of all learning.
But everyone obeys easier when they feel connected and enjoy being with their authority.
The same is true for our precious children. YES, they need to obey us (and hopefully I'm giving you tools to help with teaching them that). But we can make it so much easier on the child if we do our best to make obedience FUN.
Here are just a few of the ways you can use Playful Parenting to encourage obedience.
*When it's time to pick up a messy room full of toys, instead of barking out, "Everybody clean up this mess RIGHT NOW or else!", try saying  (with a giant smile and an enthusiastic tone) "All right, everyone---we're going to clean up this mess as fast as we can! I bet I can pick up more toys than you can! Ready. Set. GO!" :)
*The next time you feel overwhelmed at the mess, the noise, the disobedience, and the chaos that is your life, instead of complaining or yelling, turn on some upbeat music (we use the Maple Leaf Rag, lol) and twirl your little ones around the living room. Jump, tickle, play, laugh, and let the stress melt away as you playfully connect with your children.
*If your toddler is starting to fuss or get grumpy, instead of pulling out a discipline tool, break out into a silly song. Having fun is contagious and hard to resist and before you know it, you'll both be smiling. :)
*Play "rock, paper, scissors" to decide who gets to pick their favorite chore.
*Don't always use the "I mean business" voice. (You know which one I mean.) Instead, use an engaging, sweet, loving, fun tone of voice.
*Make up a pretend character for yourself (NO, I will never demonstrate mine to my blog friends, lol. Leave me with some respect, thank you very much. :)) and use her to teach your children. (Or, in my case, make them laugh hysterically.) Change your voice and mannerisms and watch your children light up in excitement. (I use this when I am not succeeding at getting everyone's attention. I slide my glasses down to the tip of my nose and tuck my lips around my teeth to look like an old lady. I always start with, "Listen here, young people...." and Brent's arms turn into "Bubba" and "Zippy" when he plays with our children. :)
*When it's time for bed, tell your little ones that you're going to, "Count to three and then the crocodile is going to come eat you!" (In our house, Brent is the crocodile.) :) The children will take off running and laughing, obeying without confrontation.
*Make "large" tasks more fun and manageable by racing each other. Examples: Folding laundry, schoolwork, yardwork, cleaning out the family car, picking up legos, etc....
Use your imagination and make obedience FUN by connecting to your children through Playful Parenting. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 9: The Outlasting Technique

(Click HERE to read the rest of the Grace-Parenting series.)

The outlasting technique is my version of isolation/time-out/time-in that I use for two reasons:

lack of emotional control or an unwillingness to cooperate.

The first reason we might use this technique is for emotional outbursts. I'm not talking about a small "I don't want to!" response---an immediate re-do will usually work to suffiently gain obedience in that instance.

Sometimes, though, little ones lose control of their emotions, out of frustration, or anger from not getting their own way.

---BABIES and OUTLASTING: 9 to 18 months

At the beginning of a baby's life, WANT equals NEED, so we don't discipline for fussing, crying, or screaming. Babies need a voice to communicate their needs. :)

Around 9 months, however, I begin teaching some emotional control---gently and consistently. When my little ones begin to arch their back and scream to get down, or scream in anger because I'm changing their diaper, etc, I make eye-contact and say "No temper! Shhh."

I will also script their emotions for them, like this: "I know you are upset because you want to play! You may play when Mommy is done. No temper." I may or may not offer a little distraction, like singing a song or tickling their toes to encourage a pleasant mood. :)

Sometimes this is enough to calm the little one down.

Sometimes it isn't. :)

When I sense that my little one is just screaming from an emotional outburst (carefully discern if the little one just needs to nurse or sleep, etc), I will OUTLAST them.

I do this by putting them in their bed and saying, "NO temper. Mommy will pick you up when you stop screaming." and walking out of the room.

I come back in about 1 or 2 minutes (even if they are still screaming), smile at the baby, and say, "Are you ready to obey Mommy now?" I pick them up and repeat, "No temper" if they are still screaming. I comfort and snuggle for a second, helping them gain emotional control if they're ready.

If they continue to scream at that point, I say, "No temper" and put them back in the crib. I repeat the process until the baby calms down willingly and stops screaming. The first couple of times it may take more time, but after that, the little one knows what I want them to do and will either stop screaming the first time I say "No temper!" or shortly after being put in their bed. :)

**A couple of words of caution:

----Some babies need help calming down and do better with an "in-arms" outlasting. This works the same way as the "in bed" technique---you just hold the little one firmly in your arms, quietly repeating "No temper. Shhh." until they stop screaming or "fighting" you.

For many children, however, the "in-arms" makes them MORE angry and they calm down much quicker in their own bed. Out of my three toddlers, two responded wonderfully to the in-bed technique and would calm down on their own and be ready to obey very quickly. The third one (adopted) cannot ever calm down when left alone so we pick her up and hold her while she gains control of her emotions. Use wisdom to not let the situation escalate unnecessarily.

----I do NOT recommend using the "in-bed" technique with newly-adopted children, as your attachment is not established enough for it to be effective and it could seem like abandonment to the child. Wait until they are older and/or home with you longer--or try the "in-arms" or "in the same room" outlasting.

---TODDLERS and OUTLASTING: 18 months to 4 years

Some toddlers still respond well to the "in-bed" outlasting, but because little ones of this age are usually quite mobile, you might find that they don't stay in their bed. (or your child just responds better to being with you.)

In this case, you can use this technique by keeping them close to you, but outlasting the unwanted behavior with some "time-in".  The behaviors I'm talking about include screaming, tantrums, or complete unwillingness to do what they are asked to do. (I usually try a re-do or gentle teaching first, but when it is clear they are not going to obey, I use this technique.)

Let me give you a sample scenario to explain how this technique works:

I tell my toddler to do something and they respond with a whiny voice. I answer back, "We don't talk to Mommy like that. Use your nice words and try that again." Instead, the whining has gotten louder, they have refused the redo and are getting more upset about what I'm wanting them to do. I get on their level (either by bending down or picking them up) and say very firmly, "You may not scream at Mommy. I know you don't want to do X, but you need to stop screaming and or you will need to sit until you're ready to obey."

If they continue to scream, fuss, etc, I put them down in the same room (either on a chair or on the floor) and calmly (Mommy needs to be in control, too!) say, "Sit here. You may get up when you tell Mommy you are ready to obey." I turn away, giving them some privacy to gain control of their emotions (ever needed to get away from people in order to calm down?), but keeping them in my point of view in case they were to try to get up. I do NOT allow them to get up. :) As soon as they say, "Mommy, I'm ready to obey!", I pick them up. We have hugs and kisses, make sure all is calm, then I repeat the original command. When they have obeyed, I usually ROLE-PLAY the way the situation should have gone. We laugh and smile, and we walk away from the discipline CONNECTED.

**How is this different from a "traditional" time-out?

---It is not a punishment for wrong behavior. It is giving your child time to gain control of their emotions without giving in to their disobedience, teaching that screaming or tantruming is not acceptable.

---There is no "set" amount of time until the outlasting is over. If the child is ready to obey in 10 seconds----great! Consequence is OVER. :) If it takes 10 minutes, that is okay, too.

**Words of Caution:

---Remember that some children need help calming down and it is okay to pick them up and love on them if it helps! If they are not ready to say, "I'm ready to obey, Mommy", I put them back down and repeat the steps.

---If you are at all angry DO NOT USE THIS TECHNIQUE. It is positively useless to try to teach emotional control when you don't have any.

---The goal is not punishment, but restoration. You can show the child that you are not going to give in to the screaming without getting angry. Parental anger is unnecessary with OUTLASTING.


By the time most little ones are 4, tantrums or emotional outbursts are rare, especially if they've been futile in the past. :)

"Older" little ones still do occasionally have emotional moments where outlasting is an effective technique, though.

I can give a "real life" example of this as we used the technique this morning with our Noah (he's just turned 6).

Noah came into the kitchen and said, "I'm hungry, Mommy." I told him we were getting ready to leave to go to town, but that he could have a banana. He replied, "I don't care for bananas. I want a granola bar or some goldfish."

I calmly said, "No, Noah, you may not have a different snack this time. You may have a banana or nothing, because we are leaving in just a minute." He said, "But I don't care for bananas!"

I picked him up and put him on the kitchen counter. I calmly said, "Noah, I know you don't care for bananas. They're not your favorite, but we are leaving soon and Mommy wants you to have a healthy snack if you're going to eat. You may have the banana or nothing."

He continued to argue with me. (This is actually not one of my children prone to arguing at all.) Brent came in the room at this point and said, "Noah, you will not argue with Mommy. Go sit on your bed until you're ready to obey." He went. He fussed in his bed for about 5 minutes.

Then Brent and I both went into his room, pulled him on our laps and said, "Buddy, you cannot fuss and argue with Mommy. Bananas are not your favorite, but they are good for you and you need to eat them." Because he was calm and apologetic at this point, we rewarded his efforts with a compromise: "If you eat half of the banana, you may have some goldfish after lunch."

(We don't always offer the compromise, but he truly was hungry and we feel it is important to meet the needs while teaching. :))

We snuggled, he apologized, we role-played how he should have acted, and off he went with a smile.


Outlasting also works well when a child of most any age is being defiant and just won't listen. It may not mean putting them in a chair or their bed---it may just be the actual act of outlasting that is necessary.

Outlast (which means don't give in until the child is ready to obey) the following behaviors:

--Refusal to clean or do a job. (Often I will offer help but a grumpy child will need to finish the job alone.)

--Refusal to finish schoolwork. (Again, I will offer help if it is asked for respectfully.)

--Open, repeated refusal to apologize to a brother wronged, or use respectful words. (I start with a re-do, but open refusal is outlasted.)

The child's entire world comes to a halt until they are ready to obey. I don't mind waiting---and nothing fun will happen until they obey. :)

Sometimes an older child will earn further consequences for prolonged defiance. (Post on "creative consequences" coming soon!)

**Outlasting is a wonderful technique for training and discipling an older adopted child. It often looks like a "time-in" in the sense that the child is in "control" of when the discipline is over---all they have to do is say, "I'm ready to obey."

I hesitated at first to use this with Johanna, but she responds WONDERFULLY to this technique! She can be openly defiant, but when I make her sit until she's "ready to obey" she will almost always say, "I'm ready!" within a minute or two. These children often have no concept of discipline and haven't ever been "made" to comply without manipulating, lying, screaming, etc to get out of it. Outlasting the negative behavior (along with reasonable compromises, constant re-dos, extensive role-playing, and lots of nurturing!) goes a long way in teaching them that they need to listen and obey.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to outlast Johanna, right from the very beginning. I might say, "Tell Ellie you're sorry." and she would shake her head, NO. I would repeat it. Over and over. I'd sit right next to her and not let her do anything else until she apologized. Rinse. Repeat. Redo. I'm happy to say that saying "I'm sorry!" comes completely natural to her now, but boy, did it take some serious work in the beginning, lol.

Outlasting is the process of waiting for the child to yield.

It is a highly effective way to teach even small children that manipulative crying, screaming, or defiance are not profittable.

It is, however, completely useless if the parent is angry, frustrated, sarcastic, demeaning, or out-of-control.

(Remember---Outlasting is only ONE tool in your parenting toolbox. It is not the ONLY tool. :) Don't overuse it, and don't reach for it when a simpler response is appropiate.)

Blessings to you, dear friends, on this beautiful parenting journey. :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 8: The Consistency Factor and "Get Up" Parenting

(Click HERE if you've missed any of the other posts in the 30 Days of Grace Parenting Tips series.)

If parents have a toolbox FULL of helpful parenting tips, ideas, truths, and strategies, but fail to be consistent in getting up and making them happen, it's worse than having an empty toolbox!

Children are overwhelmed, frustrated, and downright confused by inconsistent parenting.

Say What You Mean.

Think carefully before you speak a command to your children. If you will not (or can not) follow through completely, do not give the instruction. Do not give quick commands or respond with angry consequences that you have to later retract when more time has passed and you're thinking more rationally. Instead, think carefully before you speak and make your instructions very clear.

Mean What You Say.

Now that you've given an age-appropiate command to one of your children, prepare to get up and make it happen if necessary. It's not "cute" when little ones ignore their parents, run the other way, throw themselves down on the floor in anger, defiantly say "NO!", or do anything besides obey the instruction given to them.

Once you've given clear direction to your child, don't excuse their disobedience. They're not "tired", "hungry","didn't sleep well three nights ago", "not feeling well", "grumpy", "in a phase", "cutting teeth", etc, etc--they're disobeying! (Of course, these things DO play into how a child is feeling, and a wise parent will not expect quite as much if they sense the little one is more needy. But a reasonable, simple command should still be followed.)

Take the time (and it does take time) to stop whatever you are doing and help the obedience happen.

I am not advocating for harsh treatment of little ones---quite the contrary---so let me be very clear:

You can gain sweet obedience by using many of the gentle techniques I'm sharing in this series---but none of them will work if you are not consistent.

What I am saying is this: If you have no intention of helping the obedience happen after the request is made, then DO NOT GIVE THE INSTRUCTION. And once you have given the instruction, make sure it happens.

It is quite entertaining to go to play areas at fast-food restaurants and watch parents try to get their children to leave when it's time to go. They beg, they plead, they bribe ("do you want ICE CREAM?"), they get angry, they wait, they threaten to take away their birthday presents, they tell them that Santa won't come to their house.....the list goes on and on and on.

The problem isn't an unusually stubborn child.

The problem lies with an inconsistent parent.

All children will misbehave at times, but if in general, your child will not listen to you...

Check your consistency factor.

Are you giving reasonable requests, taking into consideration the child's age, maturity, hunger, etc?

Are you making sure your child is looking at you and hearing you clearly?

Are you getting up and immediately helping the obedience happen?

If a consequence is appropiate, did you communicate and teach that beforehand so the child knows what to expect?

Are you changing consequences on a whim because you're too lazy to be consistent?

If your child KNOWS that you will consistently stop what you are doing in order to follow through with whatever you asked your child to do, THEY WILL LISTEN when you speak. :)


Don't sit around on your backside, lazily, haphazardly giving commands and expecting them to happen.


Here's a list of "action" commands that work wonderfully with "Get Up" parenting:

Come to Mommy, Go to Daddy, Stay in your seat, Sit down on your bottom, Put down the markers, Turn off the T.V., Put on your seatbelt, No feet on the couch, Drinks stay on the table, Stay on your blanket, Pick up your toys, Stay in your bed, Put your head down on Mommy's shoulder (for training a younger baby), Do not climb on the table, Sit down in the bathtub, etc, etc, etc

These are action commands because they are not in any way relative----you can say it once, and then get up and help it happen immediately.

(I have another technique for some of the more relative commands.)

Just a note---with little children under about 2, most of the time I say the active command AND help it happen simultaneously. I will say, "Johnny, sit down for snack time." while sitting him down on his bottom. Or I will say "Sarah, it's time for naptime." while laying her down in her bed. You can say, "Michael, go to Daddy!" while holding his hand and walking him over to Daddy, or "Jane, pick up your toys." while handing the toy to her to drop in the toy box. In this way, you are actively reinforcing your commands with the obedience. It is non-threatening, and little ones learn to obey your words because they have always had to. :)


Just for fun, let's go back to the restaurant scenario. I'll share how I handle this situation. :)

First, teach, train, and disciple.

Before you get out of the car to go into the restaurant, get eye-contact with your little ones and explain your expectations clearly.

"We are going to eat all of our food before we play in the play-area. Then you can play and have fun! You may NOT hit any of the other children that are playing, even if they are not being nice to you. Tell Mommy if they are not kind and I will help you. If you hit anyone, you will be all done playing. Now, when it is time to go home, I will call you. What do you need to say to Mommy when I call you?"

"Yes, Ma'am!"

"That's right! When we get into the van, I have gum for everyone who listens and obeys. If you do not obey Mommy, when we get home you will have to stay in the kitchen with me while the other children watch a video. But I know you are all going to obey! So let's go have fun!"

When it is time to go home, give a 2 minute warning to the children.

Then announce that it is time to go home. I usually say, "Bergey Bunch, it's time to load up!" ;)

Praise each child that comes quickly. Once they are all buckled into the car, give a treat to each child that obeyed. Follow through with a consequence for any child that did not come.

NOW, even with all of these steps, some little ones will not want to stop playing. Especially 1, 2, and sometimes even 3 year olds. If you already know your little one will probably not come when you call them out of the play area, DO NOT CALL THEM.

Why? Because you shouldn't give a command unless you can and will follow through with it! If you don't plan on climbing up the slide to pull them out of the play area, don't even give the command. :))

Instead, when it is time to go, watch for your little one to down from the play area. Calmly and quietly walk over to them and, with a hand on them, say quietly in their ear, "Little buddy, it's time to go home now. Let's get your shoes on!" and see if they will willingly come. If they start to fuss or run, you are within arms' reach to follow through with getting them to the car. You are still teaching them that you mean what you say and that when you say it's time to leave, it really IS time to leave. :)

If there are any obedience issues, go home and ROLE-PLAY over and over again, until you are ready to go back to the play area and try again. :)


The key is to be completely consistent---Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, and Get Up and Help It Happen.

Every day.

All the time.

Both parents.

Even when you're tired.

Especially when you're on the Internet.

And when you're talking on the phone.

And even when you have followed through for the 100th time today---do it one more time! :)

Be consistent always.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to share "The Outlasting Technique" with you. It's very helpful when "Get Up"approach isn't appropriate or doesn't work. :)

Blessings, dear friends, on your parenting journey!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 7: The Toolbox Approach

(Click HERE to read the entire 30 Days of Grace Parenting Tips series!)

There is no "one-size-fits-all" tool for successful parenting. (If there was, somebody would get rich quick on that book!)

Even the "best" parenting opinions have exceptions, unusual circumstances, or unique problems to take into consideration. :)

For example, you might say that breastfeeding is "always BEST" until you are talking to a woman with breast cancer who had a double mastectomy.

Maybe you're completely anti-vaccines until you adopt a child with a contagious infectious disease and need to protect your other children.

Co-sleeping may be the "only" way for some (I prefer it myself.) but co-sleeping with triplets is pretty.much.impossible. LOL. (I should know!)

Now, we live in a "quick fix" society--We want to push a button and have a machine give us a solution NOW!!

So not only do we like the "one-size-fits-all" solution----WE ALSO WANT IT NOW.

How does all of this relate to Grace Parenting?

The law is black and white. All absolutes. "Break" this law, and you face "this" consequence. It is a "one-size-fits-all", quick fix to problems.

GRACE looks to change behavior by reaching the heart.

Most "Christian" parenting books offer a "this will work for all children" solution to parenting dilemmas. This appeals to desperate parents looking for that "quick fix".

I remember reading one such book when I was pregnant with Ellie. It described the typical toddler tantrum, gave a solution---and then promised that if you followed their "method", you would NEVER see a tantrum again.

I was hooked. I followed their method. I was one-hundred percent consistent.

And I'm here to tell you that 12 years of parenting later---I'm still occasionally dealing with a typical toddler tantrum! :)

I'll say it again---There is NO "one-size-fits-all" tool for successful parenting!

With this thought in mind, we have a Toolbox Approach to parenting our children.

(I'm excited to share that Brent has a couple of guest posts planned for this series---one dealing with the "toolbox"---as we thought it would be helpful to get a man/father's perspective on Grace Parenting.)

Anyway, we don't have ONE go-to technique that works perfectly with every child every time. This is because each child is a unique blend of personality, strengths, and weaknesses. They respond differently to the same discipline.

A wise parent (especially with more than one child) will quickly realize that children are indeed unique---even if born to the same two parents and raised the exact same way!

The firstborn in a family has different struggles than the baby of the family does.

Boys are wired completely different than girls.

Some children clam up under stress, bottling their feelings deep within them.

Still others will wear their feelings on their shirtsleeves, expressing themselves a little too well at times. :)

If you approach each discipline situation with a "quick fix" mentality, you will not be reaching the heart of your child.

If you parent with a "one-size-fits-all" mentality (parenting each child the exact same way), you will not be reaching the heart of that individual child.

It is best to learn each child's learning style, natural bent, motivators, and nature, and tailor your toolbox accordingly.

As we work our way through the remainder of this series, I'll be offering more ideas for your parenting Toolbox.

Each technique may or may not be the most effective disciplining tool for each child.

Just because it works for me doesn't mean it's best for you.

I have found, however, that as my toolbox of parenting strategies grows, the easier it becomes to quickly find the "right" solution for the daily situations I'm faced with. :)

Take an honest look at your toolbox today.

Have you gotten lazy and neglected to add enough tools to be successful at training your little ones?

Are you overwhelmed and scrambling along through your journey with an empty toolbox?

Perhaps you've been resorting to only using ONE tool.

I've faced all of these problems, too. :)

My goal now is to have a toolbox full of strategies, ideas, connecting methods, discipline techniques, teaching tips, Biblical truths, and character building thoughts.

Blessings, dear mothers, as you seek to fill your toolbox in a way that brings glory to the Lord and GRACE to your home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Today was a busy day and my girls needed some extra snuggle time at bedtime, so I'm not getting Day 7 posted tonight.

I've got some great things planned for the rest of this series, though, so please come back tomorrow. :)


Monday, January 14, 2013

Day 6: Mouth Trouble, Revisited

On Day 5, we talked about Mouth Trouble and I introduced the FIRST of two good options for teaching children to use respectful words. (Click HERE to read Day 5 or Click HERE to catch up on the entire series.)

So, let's just jump right into today's tip, a second very effective way to "combat" MOUTH TROUBLES (back-talk, whining, fussing, tattling, complaining, etc).


My husband has worked as a business sales rep for years. One of the things they use to train people to be successful salespeople also works as an AMAZING child-training tool---Role-play! Who knew??!!

Role-play is acting out the behavior you are striving for at a non-confrontational time.

It is, quite literally, training for obedience.

Role-play is planned, non-disciplinary, and FUN! :)

I'll give you a couple of scenarios that apply to today's topic (Mouth Trouble), and then I will give some example of ways that role-playing can work with a variety ages and situations.

---Teaching Respectful Words to Toddlers Through Role-Play (whenever they are talking clearly, usually about 18 to 24 months is a good time to start)

---If your little one already obeys you verbally most of the time, you will not need to use treats for this scenario. If, however, you are feeling that they do NOT listen most of the time, you may need to use the treats as an added incentive. :)---

Pick  time of day when your toddler is not hungry or tired. Be happy, playful, and non-confrontational. "Johnny, let's practice obeying! Would you like a treat? (I use Jelly Beans or something small like raisins.) You would? Say 'Yes, Ma'am!'" Put the treat in your hand an hold it out to your little one. Smile big. :) The little one responds with "Yes, Ma'am" and you say, "GOOD JOB, sweetheart! You used nice words!" and hand them the treat. Then you can say, "Let's practice using our manners now. Would you like another treat? Can you say, 'May I have a treat please, Mommy?'" Toddler uses his manners and you hand them another treat. "I love it when you use your manners. Those are such NICE words." Tickle baby, smile, play a little. Then say something like, "Can you tell Mommy the "no-no" words?" Prompt them to say whatever words you do not care for them to say. (This will vary by age, but might include "NO!", "I don't want to!", "Mine!", etc.) Exaggerate the "no-no" words with them and act out a scenario in which they might use them. Then say, "Are those NICE words? No! Those are "no-no" words! Now, can you help Mommy think of your NICE words?" and prompt again. ("please", "thank you", "may I have a turn, please?", "yes, you may have a turn", etc.) Praise the little one for the use of their "manners" or "nice words" and then send them off to play. This whole training session shouldn't take more than about 3 minutes.

The next time they use one of the "no-no" words you just practiced, you follow the steps for a RE-DO, prompting them to choose to use a NICE word instead.

---Teaching Older Children Respectful Words Through Role-Play (about 4 and up)

This kind of training is more than just "talking", it's actually role-playing with acting! It's a natural, fun environment for children to learn in, and they really love it if you have a positive attitude. :)

For example, we wanted to teach our children to say, "Thank you for dinner, Mommy. May I be excused, please?" after each meal (and before they get up from the table). This is a GREAT kind of skill to learn through repetition and role-play! I would teach something like this by calling all of the children together and saying, "Okay, guys, let's practice our table manners. Everybody run to the table as fast as you can---GO!" They all start laughing and running, even the little ones. Once they're sitting down, I teach the importance of being thankful at meals, and using respect when we are asking to be excused, etc. Then I would say, "Let's practice using our manners and asking to be excused. Everybody pretend to eat their dinner now!" They overexaggerate chewing and swallowing and we're all having fun. Then I choose someone to ask to be excused. "Nathaniel, you go first. Thank Mommy for lunch and ask politely to be excused." Everyone watches him use his manners, and then we clap for him and he sits back down. One by one, I ask each child to "use their manners" and even the little ones LOVE to have a turn. This is a non-disciplinary, pleasant learning environment in which repetition is the key.

When Brent comes home from work, I call everyone back together to "show Daddy what you worked on today!" and he offers more praise and enthusiasm.

I would continue practicing this "new" skill until all of the children (age-appropiately) follow through without reminders. If we get lazy and stop doing it, I play the "obey game" again for a few days until they are doing it without being prompted.

Role-playing, keeping our expectations very clear, and frequent reminders (like a Re-do) go a long way in teaching our children appropiate and respectful communication skills.

ROLE-PLAY can be used frequently to practice any behavior skill you're working on, not just for respectful words. We have used it when teaching our children to:

--Take turns
--Resolove conflicts appropiately
--Come or Stop when called
--Sit quietly
--Clean up messes
--Say, "Yes, Ma'am" or "Yes, Sir"
--Offer (or accept) an apology to/from a brother offended
--Sit quietly at restaurants
--Not touch at grocery stores
--Calmly accept consequences to wrong behavior
--Treat siblings kindly
--Look at adults and shake their hand when offered

(Now, they don't have all of these things mastered perfectly, but we are consistently working on them and seeing continual growth, which is all I expect. :))

We also role-play before any social situation (church, dinner out, guests over, etc) as a quick reminder of what we expect....Brent and I will exaggerate rude or wrong behaviors, remind them to obey, and specify the consequence if they choose not to obey.

In review, ROLE-PLAY is a fun, hands-on way to repetitively teach appropiate behaviors to your children.

In essence, it is Proactive Training vs. Reactive Discipline.

Teach more. Discipline less. :)

Blessings, dear ones, on your parenting journey!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 5: Mouth Trouble

Do any of your children ever struggle with not responding respectfully when you speak to them?

I didn't think so. Neither do mine. :)

Of course, the truth is, all children struggle at times with their MOUTH. (If we're really telling the truth, adults do, too!)

Disrespecting, back-talking, sassing, complaining, grumbling, fussing, whining, tattling......there are many ways for little ones to respond inappropriately with their mouths.

I want to share with you all two gentle, graceful ways to respond to our children AND teach them to use their mouths in age-appropiate, thoughtful, respectful ways. (I will split this post into two days.)


Proverbs 24:16, "A just man falleth SEVEN times, and riseth yet again....."

Matthew 18:21, 22, "Then Peter came to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

We serve a God of second-chances!

Now, we do not want to allow disrespectful or unkind words from our children to be ignored.

But, depending on the situation, it can be very helpful to immediately request a "re-do"; in other words---give them a second chance.

In our home, it would look something like this:

Let's say I call Noah (6) over to me and say, "Noah, I need you to pick up all of the toys in the living room, please." He responds with, "But Mo-oom! I didn't even play with those toys!" in a whiny tone of voice. I stop him, get eye-contact and say, "Noah, stop right now. Try again with RESPECT, please." Because he knows I will listen if he uses respect, he tries again, sweetly this time. "Mommy, I didn't play in the living room." I give him a quick hug and say, "I know you didn't, buddy. But I still need you to clean it up for me. What should you say to Mommy now?" He grins a bit sheepishly and replies, "Yes, Ma'am!" and off he runs.

Now, I know some of you are thinking----She just let him ARGUE with her!  I know you're thinking that, because there was a time when I thought the very same thing.:)

I have realized over the years, however, that my children are not ROBOTS. They do not exist to robotically move throughout the day, obeying my every whim and command. They are miniature people, with all of the same thoughts, feelings, and emotions that adults have---and with not nearly the same ability to process or control them.

Unless you have completely mastered the art of ALWAYS submitting to all authority without ever giving your opinion or asking for an appeal.......then do not expect your tiny little ones to be able to do so, either. Have high goals----but realistic expectations.

YES, they absolutely should obey your authority. And YES, there are many ways to teach them to do so! I am not encouraging you to let your children tell you what to do or control you. :)

What I AM encouraging you to do is to teach your children that you will be glad to listen to respectful words. (Sometimes that just equates to "Yes, Ma'am".) But then you really must take the time to listen to them when they talk. :)

You can SCRIPT the correct words for little ones by offering a "re-do" anytime they respond inappropriately.

There are FOUR STEPS to a really effective RE-DO.

1. Stop the child immediately. ("Lyssie, stop. Those are yucky words.")

2. Get good eye-contact. ("Look at Mommy.")

3. Ask them to try again with  respect. (With younger children, you may need to "script" the words for them, like this, "Lyssie, I need you to talk nicely to Mommy. Say, 'yes, Mommy'".)

4. Praise them! (No need to make a huge deal, but a simple "good words, sweetheart!" or "nice job of using respect!" can really bring a smile to your child's face. Don't underestimate the power of positive praise.)

You can use a re-do when a child argues, when they whine, when they say "NO", when they use the right words but the wrong tone, whenever they are struggling with making good choices with their MOUTH.

There are times when a re-do is all it takes to guide, teach, and correct your child. Don't take it to the "next level" if you don't need to.

Later in this series, I will explain what I do when a child does NOT respond to the re-do.

And tomorrow, I will share the SECOND gentle way to teach our children to respond appropriately with their mouths.

P.S. This technique is VERY helpful when dealing with older adopted children, especially when there is a language barrier. Learning English PLUS godly ways of responding to authority takes a long time and requires alot of re-do moments. I recommend making it a permanent tool in your "parenting tool box". :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Day 4: Think on THESE Things---Your Thoughts Matter!

(Click here if you've missed the other posts in this series.)

30 Days of Practical Grace-Parenting Tips
Day 4: How Does God Want Us To Think (And Talk) About Our Children? 

Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Many dedicated Christians are guilty of applying Philippians 4:8 to everybody and everything...except those they know best: their family. 

Some wives will complain about their husbands, in a flippant way, to other women (when he's not around to defend himself). 

(I'm sure many men complain about their wives, but I'm not usually around to hear any of I'll leave that one to the men's blogs.) :)

What I want to address today, however, is the way many mothers will think, act, and talk negatively about their children.

I'm sure it's not a conscious decision mothers make, to tear down their children. 

It's just acceptable in our society.

After all, children are such an inconvenience, such a bother, such a hindrance to our lifestyles.

So much so, that we abort them at alarming rates. 

Now you're probably thinking, wait just a minute, Selina!  I'm a Christian! I would never condone the murder of innocent children!

Probably not.

But do you have a spirit of abortion in your home?

Do you treat your children as if they are a bother? 

Have you ever said NO to the Lord's prompting for more children because it might change your current lifestyle? 

Do you complain about your children to your husband, your sister, or your best friend? 

Are you wishing away their childhood so you can finally "have some time to yourself"?

Are you flippant about your children ("my kid" this or "the little brat" that)?

Maybe you don't openly talk negatively about your children.

Maybe the problem lies deep within your heart, in your thought life.

They're too "needy". Too "stubborn". Too "strong-willed".  Or maybe there's just "too many of them". 

You wake up dreading the day, knowing how much you will have to give to your children.

Before you defend yourself :) (something we all like to do, myself included)........take some time to really think.

Are you dwelling on the "pure", "lovely", "praise-worthy" attributes of your children?

Or are you swapping "Let me tell you about my kids!" stories at the local play date?

Do you FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE aspects of motherhood, and your children in particular---or are you dwelling on the negative, hard, challenging, difficult parts? 

Because God's Word is clear.....we are to be thinking (and therefore talking!) about the good.

I'll be honest, this is a topic that bothers me sometimes. Maybe it stems from years of infertility, maybe it comes from holding unwanted, abandoned, neglected children in my arms......I don't know.

I just know that I'm exhausted of the way Christians are talking about--and therefore treating---their children. 

Most of the time it wouldn't inspire anyone to desire to have what "they've" got. 

I don't care if they're not sleeping through the night. It doesn't matter if they're getting into everything. The Bible doesn't become null and void because they've reached the "terrible-two's" or adolescence.

"Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His REWARD."

God calls children a heritage. A reward. A blessing. 

Your children are hand-picked by GOD Himself---and He makes no mistakes. 

You see, the Bible also says, "As a man thinkest in His heart, so IS HE." 

Our thoughts MATTER because our actions will follow our thoughts!

Have you ever found that the more you complain about something, the more you are annoyed by the situation?

It's that way with our children, too. If we are thinking of them as blessings and talking of them as a heritage, we will soon be acting as if mothering our children was one of the greatest rewards on earth.

Because it is. :)

The more we CHOOSE to see the "good" in each situation, the more GOOD there will be! :)

True joy in motherhood comes from within. It is not affected by the circumstances, the trials, the valleys of the journey, because its peace is found in knowing that what we are doing matters. It's important. It's valuable. 

Mothering your children in a way that points them to Jesus is the absolute most important thing you will ever do in this life. 

Yes, it's exhausting. Self-sacrificing. And surely under-appreciated in our generation.

And YES, it's tempting to complain about it, to groan under the weight of it all. 

Jesus said the world will know we are Christians by our LOVE. 

And LOVE "thinketh no evil". 

Would anyone ask you about your faith in God, simply by watching you parent (or listening to you talk about) your children?

The next time you're tempted to think a negative thought about one of your children, let God "take every thought captive" and think about one of their positive aspects instead. 

Determine to share something sweet, something funny, something creative, something amazing about your child with others.

Focus on the positive.

If you're having trouble dwelling on the negative, wait until they're asleep, and then crawl into bed with them. 

Listen to them breathe. 

Smell their soft little head.

Remember what it was like the first time you held them in your arms, the first time they said, "Mama!", the first time they took a step....

Let Jesus fill you with a love so deep, so unconditional, so compassionate, so FULL OF GRACE that it could only be from HIM.

And then "think on THESE things".

Blessings, sweet friends, on your parenting journey! (and thank you for the overwhelming feedback regarding this series!)


I just wanted to let you all know that the last 10 days of this 30 Days of Practical Grace-Parenting Tips series will be answers to questions I've received from my readers.

I've already answered several of these privately, but am willing to do so publicly as well.

SO, if you have a real-life scenario you'd like to see addressed during the last 10 days of this series, please feel free to comment below, PM me on Facebook, or email me at

You can remain anonymous if you wish. :)

If I don't have a good answer, perhaps my readers can offer some good advice.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day 3: The Power of Touch in Grace Discipline

(Click here to read the other posts in the 30 Days of Practical Grace-Parenting Tips series!)

There is great power in the human touch.

Babies die without it.

Marriages fail when there isn't enough of it.

And children crave it.

A hug.

A quick cuddle before bed.

A pat on the head that says, "You're mine."

A touch to the back that says, "You can do it!"

A single fingertip, gently caressing a little cheek.

An Eskimo kiss.

A tickle fight.

Arms to hold a grieving heart.

A hand-in-hand walk that shows you belong together.

Yes, there is great power in the human touch.

I'd like to offer a way in which the powerful touch between parent and child can effectively help with discipline.

I remember a time when I thought I couldn't or shouldn't touch (ie, comfort, snuggle, etc) my child when they were misbehaving. I needed to show them strict authority. After all, they were choosing to disobey and therefore our "fellowship" was hindered until they yielded, right?


I was so, so very wrong.

I remember the first time I used the power of touch to help with the discipline of one of my children. The child was about 5 at the time, and had done something they clearly knew was wrong....something they had been repeatedly struggling with for some time.

I sent the child to my room to allow us both some time to think.

I prayed, "Lord, I want to reach the HEART of this precious child! I don't just want to see the outward behavior changed. I want to see genuine repentance. It seems like everything I try causes this child to just become angry. I'm at a loss, Lord. Please show me what to do."

I was shocked at His answer:

Hold this child. 

What??!! (my very submissive reply to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Ouch!)

Nevertheless, I was willing to try anything.

I opened the door to my room, walked over to this tiny gift-from-the-Lord, and gently scooped the child up in my arms. I held the child close to my heart and as I rubbed their back and stroked their hair, I began to softly teach.

"Sweetheart, you know what you did was wrong." (The tears began to fall.) "I know how hard it can be to obey. You know why? Because Mommy disobeys alot, too." (Little sobs now.) "But you know what else? God helps me obey. And God gave you a Daddy and Mommy to help you obey. You are so very precious to us and to Him. I know you're going to choose to obey Mommy now, aren't you?" (Tear-filled eyes looked up at me and a little head nodded, "yes".) "That's wonderful! I love you SO SO much! Why don't we pray right now and talk to God about how you're feeling and what you're struggling with. Then we can go try again to do right, okay?"

We prayed. This precious child who, just a few minutes earlier was defiant and seemingly not able to be reached was now repentant and willing to try again.

There were several things that played into this discipline scenario, some of which I'll touch on later in this series.

But the thing I feel was initially most effective is that the walls came down quickly when the child felt the warmth of Mommy's embrace.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized how alike this child and I were. I, too, long to be touched when I am hurting. Even if I am very upset about something, Brent knows that the quickest way to help me calm down is to give me a hug. :)

Why would our little children be any different?

We are tempted to show love when they meet our expectations and then just as quickly withdraw that love when they misbehave.

No matter what "law" they've broken, no matter how "defiant" the behavior, children need to feel comfort, security, and whole-hearted acceptance in the arms of their parents. 

"We love Him because He first loved us." 

God loved us FIRST and demonstrated His unconditional love to us, even in the midst of our willful, awful, sinful choices.

We should do no less for our children.

A HUG is actually one of the most effective grace-filled discipline tools we use in our home. 

I want to encourage you to try this if you haven't already: The next time one of your children is openly struggling with obedience, take them into a private room, scoop them up onto your lap, love all over them with affirming words as you begin to teach them. Go back to the situation and try again to do better. 

Then come back here and let me know how it goes.

I'm betting (except I don't!) the results will surprise you.

P.S. This works on teenagers, too! :)

Blessings, sweet friends, on your parenting journey!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 2: Hope for the Frustrated Momma

(You can find Day 1 and other Grace-Parenting posts here. )

 Have you ever found yourself completely frustrated at your children's behaviors?

Ever have one of those moments when the baby wakes early from her nap with a stinky diaper, your toddler refuses to take a nap, you catch your 2nd grader in a lie, your older children are bickering and tattling, and there's a knock at the door right as the phone rings? You close your eyes and take a deep breath because you feel like you could literally scream in frustration?

I have. :)

(and I bet you have, too.)

I used to give my poor husband an earful of gossip about our children when he got home after one of "those" days.

In truth, I wanted to enjoy my children all the time!

The Lord showed me a little lesson about my frustration that I'm going to share with you, my dear friends, today:

If I am frustrated at my children, my children are not the problem.

---I AM.---

You weren't expecting that, were you?

Surely it's the child's fault.

After all, he's "strong-willed", "defiant", "mouthy", "disobedient", "stubborn", "difficult", "challenging", "harder to break", or "in the 'terrible-two's' (or threes or fives or whatever age fits the statement at the time)".

The Lord whispered to my heart years ago the answer to my Momma frustrations:

Change myself.

You see, it is my responsibility to raise children I enjoy being around. 

Left to themselves, children will not choose godliness. They will not automatically choose good.

As a Christian, I'm not supposed to sit around defeated all the time in my parenting because I'm so frustrated with my children.

Yes, we all feel frustrated at our children's behavior at times.

But here are two options for the Frustrated Momma:

Teach, Train, and Disciple

This first option may seem kind of self-explanatory, but many Mommas would rather complain about or avoid their children rather than teaching the child better behaviors.

Sit down with a notebook and your spouse. Write down the things about your child that are causing you to not enjoy parenting them.

Pray, communicate, brainstorm, and make a plan with your spouse for how and what you're going to change in order to teach your child more efficiently.

Stop complaining. Stop dwelling on the negative aspects of your child's personality. (Would you like someone to list all the ways you disobey the Lord? Or all the annoying aspects of your personality? I know I wouldn't!)

And STOP walking around frustrated! :)

Instead, find a way to teach your children those Biblical characteristics that will help you both enjoy each other better.

Lower Your Expectations

The second option for the frustrated Momma is to lower your expectations.

Early on in my parenting journey, I refused to lower any of my expectations for my children.

This cause much frustration for both me and my sweet (and very young!) little ones.

I have since found it to be very helpful to lower my expectation at times. ;)

If you expect less in a given situation, you will NOT be frustrated when things don't go like you had hoped.

Your children do not have to live up to the Jones' family. They do not (and definitely WILL NOT!) be perfect. You will not, no matter how hard you try, find the one "Godly way" of raising all children that will then eliminate your frustrations forever. :)

And it is okay to lower your expectations, even for a short time, in order to relieve your frustrations and find joy in your journey, especially if you're dealing with more than one problem and more than one child.

You can always go back to step one later and work again on the desired character traits.

Practical Illustrations:

I promised you practical application in this series, so here is a "real life" situation for both options above. :)

1. We enjoy eating out occasionally as a family. Our family went from 4 to 7 children almost overnight and we were in survival mode for several months, so when we returned back to regular "life" and regular eating out (even if it IS just the dollar menu, lol), we quickly got frustrated. Trying to manage three 2 year olds, an older daughter with NO public social skills, and three other children, all while trying to order food and eat it in peace.....quickly became overwhelming. :) Chaos might be a better word. LOL

We kept trying. And we kept getting frustrated.

So we made a plan. I would work on the table skills at home: manners, sitting quietly at the table, politely asking to be excused, eating what they're given without complaining, etc. We communicated our expectations clearly over and over again. We set up "table buddies" so Brent and I could order food together. We choose the food ahead of time, before we got out of the car. We trained two of our children to get the drinks responsibly. I put bibs and baby wipes permanently in the car. And we practiced sitting very, very quietly until the food comes. We rewarded the children who behaved and gave consequences to those who did not.

We taught, trained, and disciplined and now we can ENJOY eating out as a family again. :)

2. A couple of months ago, we moved Ethan (now 3) into a "big boy" bed. At first, he did fine with staying in bed, but after a couple of months, he discovered how delightfully fun freedom at bedtime could be. Inevitably, we would get all of the children to bed and just sit down on the couch to enjoy the quiet when we'd hear the pitter-patter of little feet and a sweet, tiny blonde head would peek around the corner. Of course, the cuteness wore off pretty quickly :) and soon we were finding ourselves frustrated at his refusal to stay in bed. He would get up over and over again, crying for Mommy to snuggle him

Once again, we made a plan. Initially, we tried the first option. We taught, we trained, we disciplined. He would STILL get out of bed! (Our other 6 do not.) We talked and decided on a different plan of action. We thought through our goals for bedtime: To have everyone feel loved and get good sleep in as calm a manner as possible. Perhaps Ethan was being willful, but perhaps he was feeling the affects of the major changes our family was going through and just needed some extra snuggles and time.

At any rate, we lowered our expectations. You see, if we no longer expected him to stay in bed the first time, we were no longer frustrated! :) Our practical solution was to take turns sitting in the boys' room at night while they get good and sleepy. It usually only take 5 minutes or so for Ethan  to fall asleep with Daddy or Mommy close by.

He is getting good sleep and we are no longer frustrated. 

Blessings to you, frustrated Momma, on the beautiful journey of Motherhood! Seek the Lord, make a plan, and CHANGE! :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day 1: Start at the Beginning

Do not wait until your little one is 2 years old to begin to teach obedience. The first 2 years offer many opportunities to teach and train your baby to obey Daddy and Mommy.

 It's always best to start at the beginning. :)

Little babies are just that---BABIES!---and should be cuddled and cared for with infinite gentleness.

I am not advocating harsh discipline of these little ones, only gentle, consistent training.

I believe in a strong, intimate attachment between parent and child that is encouraged by breastfeeding (when possible), responding quickly to baby's needs, a healthy daily routine, and the give and take of gentle discipline.

Between 6 and 12 months, you can start to teach your baby to:

---Look at you when you need them to listen. Gently turn their head to your voice and say, "Look at Mommy!" Even if they don't understand exactly "what" you're saying, they can start to learn to make eye contact with you. Parents teach "patty-cake" and "peek-a-boo", "so big" and "the wheels on the bus" the same way, you can teach "Look at Mommy!" by making it fun, repetitive, and a simple part of daily life. :)

---Sit on your lap without arching their back to get down. Of course, sometimes a nonverbal little one will communicate by trying to slide out of your arms, and if you're not needing them to sit at that time, you could let them down, but you can also teach them "no-no, sweetie, sit on Mommy's lap". Don't expect long periods of time just yet, but they should be able to sit through a short children's book or a simple meal without screaming or squirming to get down. :) (If they DO scream, outlast them. Do not let them get down until they are quietly sitting on your lap. An unwavering hold and a firm voice quietly saying, "sit with Mommy" will help the little one yield.) Begin now to teach your little one to sit on your lap. You will be able to sit at nice restaurants, doctors appointments, and such, without your baby screaming to get down and explore.

---Understand the meaning of the word NO. We use "No touch" or "not for 'baby'". Young babies need to explore their environments, but there will always be a few things in their reach that are not for them to touch. Redirection is certainly appropiate at this age, but don't forget to teach while you're distracting them. For example, baby crawls over to the t.v.. You can say, "Baby, look at Mommy's eyes. No touch. That's not for baby. Here is a toy just for you!" with a smile and a redirection, all while still teaching simple obedience, beginning listening skills, and eye contact.

---Use basic signs to communicate their needs. Baby sign language relieves frustration in nonverbal babies! Teach them "please" and "more", "drink" and "eat", etc by using the sign while you say the word. Once your baby demonstrates that they are fully capable of using the sign for what they want (different age for each child), require them to use the sign. (Use wisdom here---if the baby is tired or really hungry, don't use that as a training time. :)) But if they start fussing for "more", don't give them more until they sign for it. Don't get angry or even frustrated. Just don't get them what they want until they obey. This will make training them to use "please", "thank you", and "yes ma'am" much easier later on. :)

Between 12 and 24 months, besides the above skills you can teach your little one to:

---"Come" and "Stop". We usually wait until our littles are walking steadily before teaching them to come when called or stop on command. Obviously, these are safety obedience skills, and while we teach and expect our children to obey, protect them from situations where their disobedience would result in harm. You can teach "come" and "stop" with a young child by making it a game. We even offer a reward (one jelly bean) for toddlers playing the "come" or "stop" game. Practice it daily. What about the toddler who has learned to come but then doesn't listen? At this young age, helping them obey is very effective. Call the child's name. Watch to see if they come. If not, go straight to them, get eye contact and say, "Mommy told you to 'come'. You need to 'come' right away when Mommy calls you!" Then take them by the hand and walk them to wherever you were when you called. Praise them, "Good job! You came to Mommy!" and then go about your day. This is not an area of discipline so much as teaching beginning listening skills. Many reminders will be necessary. :)

---Stay within boundaries you create. Blanket time, playpen time, highchair time, etc. These are not for discipline, but for training. Besides, if you make it fun by having a fantastic attitude, your little ones will think they are getting to do something really special. :) If your little one will not stay where you tell them to stay, back-track and teach them to sit on your lap without fussing or screaming. Outlast the temper with a firm, "No. You will not get up until you obey Mommy. Sit quietly." Wait patiently until they are willing to sit quietly. Don't bribe them with toys or distractions when they're being willfull, but when they do yield, give them a small toy or book to look at on your lap. Practice this daily, then you can move on to blanket time, etc.

(On a side note, we love to keep our babies near us. Teaching them a little self-control allows us to take them everywhere and enjoy having them close by. I also love to incorporate my babies and toddlers in my day...if I'm vacuuming, they're on the bed watching. If I'm taking a shower (and they're awake) they're on a blanket with toys on the bathroom floor. :) When I'm cooking, they're in a highchair with puzzles and toys, close enough to be a part of daily family life. At church, they're on my lap or in a sling. When I'm folding laundry, they're playing at my feet or sitting on top of the washing machine. Mommy/baby togetherness is important for attachment and a baby/toddler that obeys simple instructions is much easier to keep nearby at all times. :))

Once your baby has learned to look at you, to listen to your voice, and to respect that you are not going to give in to screaming, you have the basics of obedience.