Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

3 Life-Changing Things My Mother Taught Me

Me and My Mom - cropped from a family picture (that apparently was dragging on too long for me!)

Here it is the week before Mother’s Day and it’s gotten me to thinking about my mother. Very often I have, unfortunately, used her as an example of what not to do in my marriage relationship.  After all, I didn’t look to my dad to figure out how to be a wife and mother! For good or ill, my mother was my inspiration for all array of women’s ways.

So, as I reflect on her life and its impact on me, I have to give credit to her for the many ways she showed me how to be a better mom than I would have been on my own.

Here are some of the best things my mom taught me:

1.  How to open up and share the deepest feelings I have inside with trusted friends and family

I know this is a special gift that God wanted me to have through my mother. I see it being used now in my life and ministry every day. And although my own sons are like most boys who don’t want to talk about “feelings,” I have to hope that my candor with and in front of them will help them to be better husband’s and father’s someday.

2.  How to depend on God as if my life depended on it!

That’s because my life does depend on it, but I don’t think I would have known that if my mother hadn’t patiently mentored me in my faith. God became real to me in those times when she pulled up a chair and talked with me about the hurts I was experiencing in life—always using the Bible as her guide. Her compassion gave me a glimpse into the compassion of God, my heavenly Father.

3.  How to be committed

If there is one thing that both of my parents modeled well, it was commitment—to each other and to God. They were willing to weather the hard times together, always striving for that unifying focus in their Lord and Savior. If God asked them to do something, like work through the pain and misery of a wounded marriage, then they were willing to do it. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m so committed to helping messy married couples too.

It’s your turn now, . . .

What positive things has your mother taught you?

And if she’s still alive, why don’t you tell her! That may just be the best Mother’s Day gift she will ever receive!

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5 Reasons Parents Need to be United

1. Avoids the “Divide and Conquer” Game

If you and your spouse disagree about a parenting decision in front of your children, you’re only setting up a dangerous dynamic that pits one parent against the other. When this happens, one parent comes off looking like the “good parent,” while the other appears to be the “bad guy.”  This divides you and your spouse emotionally and teaches your children to be manipulative.

In order to avoid this scenario, you need to be committed to backing up one another in front of the children, even if you disagree. You need to say to your child, “Your dad and I need to talk about this before we can give you a decision.” Then take the time to discuss the matter with your spouse behind closed doors until you come to an agreement.

2. Provides Consistency and Avoids Confusion

Children thrive when there’s consistency, because there’s no confusion about what’s expected of them. When your child feels like she can determine what the outcome of her behavior will be, then she can make clearer choices and her trust level will improve with each consistent response you provide.

3. Gives Your Child a Sense of Security

With consistency comes a sense that mom and dad are in control and care about their child.  Most children who are neglected tend to behave negatively to gain their parent’s attention. It may not be apparent on a conscious level, but children want their parents to intervene, because to intervene means that the parents care about them.  On the other hand, if children see that their parents consistently care about them, then not only do they have a sense of security, but they also gain healthy and positive self-esteem.

4. Strengthens the Parent’s Authority

There’s strength in numbers. When children realize that both parents are together and aren’t going to back down, they will yield much more easily to the command or expectation. This certainly lessens the tension or stress that the parents feel when the confrontation occurs. And we could all use a little less stress!

5. Strengthens the Foundation of the Family—The Parent’s Marriage

Yes, as the parents, you are the foundation of your family. That means that you must nurture and protect your marriage. Your children need to see that you honor and respect your spouse—even if you don’t always agree with everything he or she does. They need to see this mutual respect because to neglect this undermines your own authority and respect with your child.

The way to ensure that this foundation is strong is to not only make your marriage the foundation, but also the priorityeven over your children.  You and your spouse need to have a strong and loving relationship before you can offer a strong and loving relationship to your child. It simply doesn’t work the other way around. If you put your kids before your spouse, I can almost guarantee you that you won’t simply be looking for parenting advice, but help for your marriage, as well.

*If you are divorced and the “love” is long gone, you still need to demonstrate respect for your ex-spouse at all times, especially in front of your children.

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Little Critters that Grow into Monster Problems

There’s a verse in Song of Solomon, “Our vineyards are in blossom; we must catch the little foxes that destroy the vineyards” (2:15, CEV), that reminds me of a principle that we need to remember. Little things don’t stay little.  If they are negative, they grow into “monsters” that can wreak havoc in our lives. I’ve compiled a list of potential negative consequences of a “little critter” on a child, and then later as it grows into a “monster” attitude in adulthood. Of course, I’m not saying that every “little critter” becomes a “monster.” I simply want to point out the progression that can occur if we are not vigilant to identify and deal with the “little critters” in our own lives and in the lives of those we influence or raise.

Little Critter –

A dad who doesn’t like conflict with his child, let’s the child play loudly and recklessly in all private and/or public settings

Monster in Training –

  • A child who never learns socially acceptable behavior
  • A child who cannot tolerate healthy boundaries
  • A child who feels insecure and unsure in social situations
  • A child who ends up physically hurting herself or others
  • A child who irritates those she is around—even her peers

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who cannot respect authority
  • A teen or adult who avoids conflict at the cost of healthy relationships
  • A teen or adult who cannot figure out why she never fits in
  • An adult who hops from marriage to marriage when trouble strikes
  • An adult who eventually gets fired from almost every job

Little Critter –

An angry mom and dad who have extreme fights that never get resolved

Monster in Training –

  • A child who is afraid of conflict
  • A child who is argumentative
  • A child who is insecure and fearful of relationships
  • A child who is full of self-hatred
  • A child who doesn’t know how to communicate effectively
  • A child who is a bully or is often picked on by bullies

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who fears intimacy
  • A teen or adult who is emotionally volatile
  • A teen or adult who is insecure and tries to find illegitimate ways to escape pain
  • A teen or adult who is drawn to the wrong crowd or people
  • An adult who has constant and extreme marriage problems
  • An adult who is angry with people
  • An adult who is angry with God

Little Critter –

Parents who do not make God their priority

Monster in Training –

  • A child who doesn’t value church, the Bible, or God
  • A child who doesn’t hunger for God’s truth
  • A child who develops his own subjective, and often faulty, moral compass
  • A child who feels insecure
  • A child who has no sense of hope or direction

Snaggletooth, Fire-Breathing Monster –

  • A teen or adult who finds God boring
  • A teen or adult who allows circumstances to dictate his actions and feelings
  • A teen or adult who looks to the world or money to fill the void
  • A teen or adult who grows hard-hearted toward God
  • An adult who feels like something is always missing in his life
  • An adult who faces eternity without God

Bottom Line –

Think through the consequences of everything you are about to do or not do, because it can make a MONSTER-SIZE difference in your life and the lives of others.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

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Mother’s Day Gift – Recipe for Dealing with a Lying Child

Recently I received a comment on a post I wrote called, “The Remedy for Lying,” from a mom who’s frustrated with her four year old’s lying ways.  Apparently, the mom has not been able to catch her child in the act, but strongly believes lying is involved.  I promised to post my advice and decided that “Mother’s Day,” was the perfect day to do just that.

I’ve always liked practical suggestions that are easy to remember.  So I came up with a quick way to remember how to deal with the issue of lying with children–it’s as simple as A, B, C, D.

You need to:

  1. Advertise the rules
  2. Be a soft place to fall
  3. Create an honest culture
  4. Do some detective work

Most of the time children, as well as adults for that matter, lie out of fear. They fear their parent’s anger or disapproval.  They fear the pain or loss the consequences bring.  And they fear the unknown—not knowing what type of consequence they may receive.  So it’s important to: Advertise the rules. In other words, set up and post in a high traffic area a specific “Rules and Consequences Chart.”  If you do this, you will need to explain the chart to your child (maybe using pictures for a child who is unable to read yet) and then refer to it occasionally to remind him or her of the rules and consequences.  Also, be sure to enforce the rules and consequences or the idea will be lost to ambiguity.

We did this when our boys were younger and it really helped with the “wiggle room” so many offenses seemed to have before the list was posted.  So, for example, if our little Graham broke a vase, he knew what the punishment was for destroying property.  If he accidentally broke the vase and there was evidence to support this, the consequence was as simple as cleaning up the broken vase. This system works because the child has an assurance of what is to come, and if the parents follow through consistently, the child will become comfortable, even accepting, of the system.

As I said before, fear is probably the biggest reason children lie.  So if you’ve had a track record of being extremely angry or hostile when your child misbehaves, then you may see a greater tendency on the part of your child to hide his or her misdeeds with lying or omission of details.  This brings into play the second suggestion: Be a soft place to fallI’m not saying let your child off the hook—just don’t go ballistic every time they do something wrong! If you stay calm and caring, your child will be more willing to reveal wrongdoing.  In fact, remind your child that whatever wrongdoing they’ve done can be either made worse by lying about it or better by telling the truth.  You could say, “If you tell me the truth about breaking the vase, then you will only be punished for breaking the vase, and not for lying.” You can also do the converse.  You could say, “If I find out that you lied about breaking the vase, then your consequence will not just be for breaking the vase, but for lying, as well.”

Sometimes children lie simply because they are picking up on your own dishonest dealings.  And this can be easily missed by a parent who may never outright lie, but who hides his or her feelings, avoids confronting but quickly shifts to a bad mood, or rewards a child for “swallowing his or her angry or sad feelings” with the bribe of a cookie or other prize.  All of these examples give the child the message that truth is not acceptable or good all the time. This message was shouted loud and clear in my family of origin, yet ironically, never really spoken.  It didn’t take a genius to pick up on it and learn to mishandle the truth.  The fix for this kind of mixed message is: Create an honest culture.  This suggestion may require the most from the parent, since the parent will have to learn a whole new way of relating.  Opening up about how we really feel is not a skill easily learned in adulthood, so make sure your child learns it early!

Finally, if your child has a habit of lying and somehow manages to avoid being caught red-handed, then you may need to resort to using my next suggestion: Do some detective work.  Although you may not be able to catch a child in the act, you need to be aware of all the evidence that may be available to you.  For example, pay attention to the time that the act was committed.  If the child was the only child home at a certain time, or the only child awake at the specific time that the crime was committed, then you have more evidence that points to that particular child.  If there are items that were involved in the particular crime, look for evidences of those items being left in the child’s room or personal space.  You really need to be like a forensic detective, looking for clues to the crime.  Once you’ve gathered all of your evidence, present it to the guilty party, reminding him or her that they will have one less consequence if he or she tells the truth.  Perhaps it will be enough to persuade your little suspect into confessing.  (One word of caution, do not have an attitude that communicates you “want” to prove your child wrong.  This will counteract any attempt you make at instilling honesty.)

If all the above fail to convince your child that “it is better to admit— then you must acquit! In other words, you need to trust that your child is telling you the truth, even though you may feel in your bones that they are not. It’s important for your child to feel that you believe the best about him or her.  Otherwise, he or she may feel discouraged, giving up on the need to please or honor you with the truth in the future (since you won’t believe him or her anyway).

Lying is probably one of the toughest parenting issues out there, and yet it is so crucial to healthy and strong relationships.  Hang in there, all you mother’s-day-moms, (oh, and you too – dads) who are struggling with this sticky issue.  Speaking of sticky, I think dealing with lying often feels like nailing Jello to the wall! Thankfully, we have a God who knows all and sees all.  Ask Him for wisdom, and I promise in time, the truth will be revealed.

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Dear Beth-E – October 2009: “Hopeless and Frustrated Mom”

Anonymous wrote:
I am very frustrated by my preteen daughter. She challenges me and my husband on just about everything. She’s beginning to say very hateful things to me and blames me the most. She doesn’t want to take responsibility for her actions even if she is caught red handed! She’s starting to lie and get in trouble at school and a lot of the kids she hangs with are not very good influencse. I feel like I am at my wits end. Her attitude is starting to rub off on her younger sisters. Even my husband and I are arguing more and can’t seem to agree on how to handle her constant bad attitude. I’ve tried going to counseling with her, but she wasn’t honest with the counselor either, so there wasn’t any real improvment. I just want to know if there are some things I can do to help our situation. I’m feeling very hopeless and frustrated.

Dear “Hopeless and Frustrated:”

I can sense your tiredness and desperation for an answer, but the reality is that this may take some time to see the fruits of your efforts.

First of all, since you did not mention if you’ve sought God’s help on this issue, that would be the place that I would start.  If you and your husband are not plugged into a healthy Bible believing church, then that would be the first order of business.  And I’m not talking about going just on Sundays, but finding a small group Bible study where you can experience biblical community and the opportunity to be loved, supported and challenged on a personal level.  If you are already doing that, then my next question would be are you continually turning this over to God and asking Him to intervene in your situation?  And this not only means praying daily, but praying moment by moment, and asking God to reveal to you the ways you hold back from trusting Him in the situation.

A general rule of thumb I follow is: whenever I am facing a struggle in life, I enlist the help of others to provide additional support.  If I were you, I would look for healthy Christian friends who can pray for you, with you, and help you to sort through your feelings and concerns.  Maybe you could meet with that friend(s) on a regular basis until the frustrating situation subsides.

My next suggestion would be to work out the differences you and your husband have.  It might be better for the two of you to go to counseling to sort through those issues with a neutral third party who can also provide fresh ideas for handling the situation.  And then always, always, always present a united front when dealing with your daughter.  If you disagree with something your husband says or does, then talk to him about it later in private and come to some agreement about it when your daughter is not in earshot.  If she senses that the two of you are not united, she will use that as a tactic to manipulate you–divide and conquer!

Another suggestion would be to spend time with your daughter.  You and your husband could take her out together and/or  individually at least once a week.  Maybe you could meet with her one week and your husband the other.  Make this time a fun time.  Do things she would enjoy and do things that involve talking.  You might want to start to do this with all of your children, so she doesn’t feel singled out–besides it sounds as if your other daughters need more attention from you right now, as well. If talking is difficult, maybe you could go to a movie and out to eat afterward, then start by asking some questions about the movie you just saw.  Or play games as a family that involve sharing. Or begin doing short devotions together at dinner time, then ask questions about the devo.  You can even buy a book of questions, (they have many versions at your local book store).  These books often start with non-threatening questions that prime the pump for deeper questions later on.  The point is to take a positive interest in her.  Find ways to affirm her when she is doing well.  And above all else, listen, listen, listen whenever she opens up.

Also, consider what might be triggering her rebellious behavior.  Is there something going on in your family that is causing her to feel insecure or angry?  Evaluate that, and if you find something that is out of balance or causing a problem for her, then work on what you can to help that situation.

Finally, when you catch yourself in a power struggle or argument, ask questions instead of telling your daughter your thoughts.  The more you can engage her thoughts in the process, the more she will drop her defenses and take ownership for her thinking and choices.  In fact, you might want to ask questions when dealing with her in discipline, as well.  For example, if she is clearly disrespectful or disobedient and you need to discipline her, then ask her, “How do you think we should discipline you?”  If she has no suggestions, then provide some for her, “Would you rather be grounded or have your cell phone taken away for a certain amount of time?”  The more she is allowed to participate in the process, the more she will feel respected and heard which will help to lessen her defensiveness and resistance.

Again, remember this takes a lot of prayer, time and effort before you will see the results.  It may take you years before you will feel you are out of the woods.  But I think you will agree, your daughter’s life and sense of well-being are very much worth it!

My prayers are with you!

A Mother’s Sacrificial Love

I am participating in a blog tour for the book, A Slow Burn by Mary DeMuth.  I, along with many other bloggers, have been asked to write about someone whom we feel has exemplified sacrificial love.  One of the first persons to come to my mind was my good friend Tori, who has demonstrated tireless devotion to her autistic son, Eli.

From the day that Tori learned of Eli’s autism, she did not waste one moment feeling sorry for herself or the dreams she might have had for her young son.  She immediately set about to find the best ways to care for him. She researched the disorder, as well as the methods and treatments available to her son.   She’s learned how to cook special meals for him, eliminating gluten, casein and limiting sugar.  She’s sought the assistance and expertise of an internist who has helped her to develop a treatment plan that has resulted in steady and encouraging improvements over the years.

A few years back, when a local Elk’s lodge found out about Eli’s disability, they wanted to provide for some portion of his treatment.  Tori realized that Eli could really benefit from a Far Infrared Sauna which would help him to sweat out impurities that his body cannot release effectively otherwise.  The Elk’s Lodge graciously paid for the $900 sauna.  And although Tori is grateful to the Elk’s Lodge, she gives all the credit to God for bringing her son to their attention.

Just this past spring, Tori learned about the promising effects of hyperberic chamber treatments with autism.  Like most experimental treatments, her insurance would not cover the cost.  So Tori did more research and found a reasonably priced treatment center in a remote part of North Carolina.  Even though this treatment center was reasonably priced compared to many similar centers, it still cost over $4000 for all 40 treatments.  Again, this did not deter Tori and her husband Drake, from moving forward to meet the need of their son.  Tori and Drake organized a Trivia Night where more than 200 people came to support them in their efforts to raise the funds.  To make a long story short, Tori and her son were able to travel to North Carolina for the treatments this past summer with the expenses being completely covered by the funds raised at the Trivia Night.

When I think of all the wonderful and selfless acts that Tori has done for Eli throughout his brief 8 years of life, I am more than moved by them–I am convicted by them! I only hope her story is as inspiring and motivating to you as it has been to me!  Tori, if you read this, know that you truly are a great and sacrificial mom who makes me want to be a better mom too!

If you are interested in learning more about Mary DeMuth’s book, A Slow Burn, check out this link: amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0310278376And if you’d like to check out Mary’s blog you can go to: marydemuth.com/If you are interested in writing for a blog tour to come, follow this link: blogtourspot.com/writing/ One more thing–if you’re interested in reading other stories about sacrificial love or reviews on Mary’s book, A Slow Burn go to: blogtourspot.com/slowburn-tour/slowburn-tour-stops

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