Discipling our children: Engage their schooling

(This is the continuation of the series on Discipling Our Children.)

You may think I’m crazy, but I read all my children’s textbooks and literature books.  It beats watching TV, and I am feeling a lot smarter!  I get to learn, once again, about Lewis and Clark, the figures of speech of Edgar Allen Poe, and components of the cell.

Reading my children’s textbooks is one of the best investments of time that I’ve made in discipling my children.

Apart from working my brain, there are several other benefits:

1. A springboard for conversation.

Have you ever asked your children, “What are you learning in school?” Have you ever received an enthusiastic response?? So try asking instead, after reading their science book, “Which part of the cell do you think is the most amazing?” Discuss with your 8th or 9th graders over dinner about the works of Steinbeck and Dickens that they are reading in school.

2. Supplement with Christian values.

Whether your children attend public or private school, it is not the school’s responsibility to integrate Christian values with academics, it’s the parent’s job. When they study the American Revolution, tell them about the Christian values found in the Declaration of Independence. Knowing what your children read allows you to counter any humanistic/secular theology that permeates their learning.

3. Walk in their world.

Kids often say parents don’t understand them. And they are right, we don’t know the daily challenges they face, how they are processing their development of growing up today’s world. Since school is a big part of their life – at least 6 hours out of their day – reading what they have to read for school gives us a glimpse into their world, and let’s them know we are walking alongside them.

Next post: Discipling our children: Engage their doubts

 

 

Discipling our children: Engaging technology

(Continuation from Part 3 in the discipleship series)

So what can we do to disciple our children? I can suggest a million things, but I’m sure no one wants to read all that. I’ll talk about the most practical ones that I’ve done with my own children and you can pick and choose which applies most to your situation with your children. Discipleship is not one-size-fits-all, so it’s not the specifics but the idea that matters, and you can tweak them to what works for you.

1. Engage technology

I love technology because it levels the playing field between generations and closes the gap between us and our children.

There are many things in our children’s world that we cannot understand because we cannot be there. The lack of understanding drives us apart.  But technology is one thing that young and old can participate on even footing.  I cannot go snowboarding with the kids, but I can play computer games.

In order to disciple our children, we need to walk alongside them, and knowing what our kids are into with technology is one major way to build connection.  I can guarantee you that the digital mode will increase in influencing our children; smart phones and the Internet are not going away. If you have not already done so, make sure you are engaging in social media, the latest computer games, the trending topics, the top apps, and the most viewed YouTube videos.

Engaging in technology serves three purposes.

One, it helps you understand your children so that you can speak into their lives effectively where they are at.

Two, it lets your children know that you are not old-fashioned and irrelevant, to be relegated to the Dark Ages, gaining you a level of respect.

Three, you can help your children navigate some of the dangers of technology since you will see firsthand the temptations they face.

Let me add one more: There are many digital tools and resources you can find to help you disciple your children.

Next post: Engage your children’s learning

 

 

Discipling our children, part 3

Continuing from part two in the series, the second general principle of discipling our children is:

2. Discipleship happens within a relationship.

Have you ever wondered why “sinners” such as tax collectors and prostitutes love Jesus?  Do you think it’s because he preaches to them about God?  I am pretty sure that they can stand being being in the same room with a perfect man who is such a contrast to them is that Jesus exudes genuine care for them – unconditionally. He knows, everyone knows, what they are on the outside.  But he loves them for who they are because he – himself is God – made them. Imagine what Jesus sees when he looks at his creation, the compassion he must have for them. And it is within this love that Jesus is able to disciple the worst of sinners.

As it is commonly said, “People don’t know care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Parents often don’t communicate how much they care, and they just want to “mold” that child to be the image of perfection. When our children do not meet our standards, or perhaps sometimes it may even merely be childhood immaturity that does not meet our adult expectations, we inadvertently communicate a lack of genuine love.  Children, even the young ones, are very smart. They know what you are thinking. They can tell when you do not truly love them unconditionally.

Children will often times test your love, purposely disobeying you on a very obvious matter, and see what you will do.  This is especially common when there are siblings, and one child thinks you are showing favoritism.  “I’m going to take my sister’s favorite teddy bear and see what mom will do. I bet she’s going to punish me, then I’ll know for sure that she hates me and  loves my sister more.” Kids want to know that despite their outward behavior, that you still genuinely love them.  However, us parents are not so smart.  We fail that test when we reprimand their outward behavior without communicating our love.

Discipleship breaks down when the relationship breaks down.

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Discipleship series continues next post.

Discipling our children, part 2

I started a series on discipling our children in preparation for a workshop that I will be doing on this topic.

There are a couple of major principles about discipling that is different from discipline.

1. Don’t expect immediate or quick results.

One of my favorite author is Kevin Leman.  He has a book titled Have a New Kid by Friday. As you can see by the title of the book, it attracts the attention of every parent who wants to have a  “better” child, now!  While I’ve read and love the book, the book has great principles about discipline, not discipleship; discipleship is not all that fast. Discipline can lead to discipleship, as I think Leman’s principles will do, but discipleship is a life-long process, not a week-long one. You can change a child’s behavior through the discipline of punishments and rewards within a defined period of time, but discipleship does not end there. Consider how long it takes for God to teach us a lesson, and how often we fail and have to be taught again, and again, and again – the same lesson over and over again.  I still am learning about patience, can I expect my child to have perfect patience to sit quietly on a long car ride merely from a few lectures from me?  I’m still learning about being generous, so why am I surprised when my child is not willing to share after umpteenth time of me telling him to?

Let’s begin with the understanding that as parents we should not be surprised to see failure in our children at not having learned what we hoped they would learn.  Discipling does not say obvious things like “I’ve told you a thousand times already…” or “Do I have to tell you again to…” Of course, we have to repeat.  Because discipleship is a long-term process.

2. Read it in the next post.

More on living with my mother-in-law

In my previous post on living with my mother-in-law, several of the comments indicate the sentiment that they wish they did not have to live with their in-laws.  They want to get out of that situation, but have no choice.

Not many of us, if any, marry our spouses wanting to invite the in-laws to live with us.  When we got married, we may have had an idea that “someday” when the parents get old, there is a possibility that we would have to take care of them, but we were naïve, and had no idea what that would be like.  But now here we are…

Having my MIL living with us is definitely not my ideal family life. I had imagined a cozy little cottage with a vegetable garden, my husband and I and our perfect children picking flowers while walking our dog…chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

Is life ever exactly what we want it to be??

How do we deal with other curve balls of life? We handle it, we make the best of it, we adjust to it, and we grow from it. We don’t like it, but we accept it.  For some reason when it comes to in-laws, we have the idea that we are entitled to have our way rather than helping family. I know it’s disrupting, I know it seems like forever, and there is no glory in it.  The only thing is, it’s the human thing to do.

I am not saying that you should not try to change things up if possible.  You should definitely do everything that you can to have boundaries, cooperation, and full support from your spouse. Enlist other family members to help, etc.

But after all that’s said and done, the change ultimately comes from you.

I look at it this way: if I was my MIL, would I want to be in this situation where I have to live with my daughter-in-law? My answer would be no, and I am sure my MIL’s answer would be the same.  I’m sure she wishes her husband was still alive.  I’m sure this is not where she thought she would end up.  I’m sure she would rather retire in Hawaii or traveling the world on a cruise.  Instead she has to live with me. Whoopee.

I’m not the only one suffering here.  Life has thrown her a few curve balls too.  I need to have some compassion.  At least I still have options.  I picked up more hobbies to distract myself. I go out more rather than hanging around the house. And sometimes I just stay in my room and read. Yes, I have to make adjustments, and yes, I wish I didn’t have to.  But I do know that I’m doing the right thing to have my MIL living with us.  And when you live in obedience to God, He will not forget you. The kindness you are showing will not be wasted.

As with every negative situation, you have to think of the positives to get you through.  Attitude is everything.

The important thing here is not to keep bucking against it.  As my pastor used to say, lean into the pain.  Accept it for what it is and you will be a better person for it.

Now let me talk about a few survival skills:

1. Don’t expect too much of yourself.  I don’t try to be my MIL’s best friend. I don’t think I can be, nor want to be.  I keep a bit of distance so that I can be polite to her as I would a friend.  I think that if we get too comfortable, it would be a case of familiarity breeds contempt. This is just my personality, but some of you may be able to have a close relationship with your MIL, and I applaud you.

2. Don’t punish your husband for what his mother does, unless you want a divorce. It’s not fair to him or to you. He is on your side, so don’t make him the enemy.

3. Don’t let things fester. If your MIL does something that bothers you and you know it is within her control to stop it, you need to ask her to. For example, giving advice on child raising is a big one. I don’t like anyone giving me unsolicited advice, my MIL or anyone else. If you think she is overstepping her bounds, tell her that you are the mother and will make the decisions concerning your kids. She’s already had her chance raising her kids, now it’s your turn to have the fun.

4. Do take advantage of whatever your MIL likes to do and let her do it. My MIL likes to cook, so I let her do it. Sure, I like to cook too, but rather than jockeying for position, I can use my time to experiment the fun stuff, like french desserts :) With my MIL at home with my kids, I take advantage of it and go out more with my husband. Win-win all around.

That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll add more later, after I have a chance to practice them!

Discipling our children, part 1

In a couple of weeks, I will be presenting a short workshop for parents on discipling our children. It’s hard to narrow down into one hour what is most important to share on this huge topic. But then, I am a firm believer that less is more, so one hour is certainly sufficient to pack in some important concepts, and it forces me to laser beam my approach.

In the next few posts, I will write about this topic of discipling children, as a way to flesh out some of my thoughts.

First, I want to make a distinction between discipline and discipleship.

Discipline, as defined in dictionary.com means “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.” It has to do with molding the outward behavior.

Discipleship, or becoming a disciple means to be a follower e.g. to be follower of Jesus. It has to do with molding the inward heart.

Often times we confuse or mix the two.  If our children behave well, we are happy, and we assume they are good disciples.  But that is not always true, is it?  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, not because they were doing wrong things, in fact they followed all the rules to the letter. But they were not doing it with the right heart. They were missing the spirit of the law, which was to focus on God, the giver of the law.

We tend to be more concerned about outward behavior because that is the immediate need.  We want to have a conflict-free home with children who will do as they are told.  That would make our jobs as parents so much easier! Having well behaved children is a source our pride as well. We are embarrassed when our children misbehave in public.  We see it as a reflection of us, so we are quick to discipline.

When we think about disciplining our children to behave well, we need to have the bigger picture in front of us. Discipline with the view that we are discipling and molding their heart, not just the behavior.  Disciplining is not an end in itself, it is merely a means to an end of directing our children to God.

Using a Postcard app

I used Postcard On The Run on my iPhone to send a picture of the family to my daughter at college, hoping she’ll tack it up on her bulletin board and not forgot us. :)
The app is easy to use, it works great, and the postcard got to her within a week and a half. This is especially useful when sending pictures to friends and family when you’re on vacation. But you can use it to send a postcard any time, just for fun. It’s always nice to receive something in the mailbox – the physical mailbox, not just your e-mail box. Postcard On The Run makes it easy with printing and postcard all included.

Disclosure: I received one free postcard in order to write this review. The opinions are my own.

7 Blindspots of Homeschooling

Reb Bradley of Family Ministries wrote a very convicting article titled “Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling – Exposing the 7 Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers”.

This article is not just for homeschoolers, but for every parent who is serious about bringing their children up in the Christian faith. I saw myself making many of the mistakes that Bradley points out.  As a well-meaning parent trying to do our best, we often miss the blindspots in this article helps to point those out.

Here are just a few quotes that hit me. It’s a rather long article, but well worth the read. And take your time reading it, and watch how it exposes the blindspots in your parenting.

Blindspot #1 – Self-centered dreams

“It is only natural for parents to have high hopes and dreams for the children.  However, when we begin to see our children as a reflection or validation of us, we become the center of our dreams, and the children become our source of significance.”

Blindspot #2 – Family as an idol

“An idol is anything other than God in which we seek security and fulfillment… As those who are devoted to our families, and therefore invest a great deal of time, energy, and heart, it is easy to elevate the family too high.”

Blindspot #3 – Emphasis on outward form

“In the homeschool community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming, respectful manners, music style, or an attitude of sober reverence and worship.  Some even take their children down a country path of humble fashions, raising food, and breaking bread.  Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful – we can model for our children out with changes and easily fall into moving their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts.  In some circles emphasis on the outward is epidemic.”

That’s just a taste of the first 3 blindspots, there are 4 more even more convicting blindspots that Bradley points out.

Since there is no URL to the article, let me point you to the website familyministries.com, click on FREE at the top, scroll down to the Family Life section, click on the article titled, “Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling.”

Please read it and let me know what to think.

How to stop siblings from fighting

If you have more than one child, chances are they fight.

Well-meaning parents sometimes do more to aggravate the situation rather than help the children come to a solution.

Babysitters.net offers the following “10 Solutions to Constantly Fighting Siblings.”  Try these out and see if your kids will keep the fighting to a minimum.

Sibling rivalry has been around since the beginning of time, literally. It can stem from jealousy or even just age difference. It is our responsibility as adults to help kids work through their differences, in a calm and respectful manner. Listed below are ten solutions to constantly fighting siblings.

  1. Don’t Take Sides. If a child notices an adult taking sides or favoring their sibling, they may start to resent both parties. Remember to be impartial, and look at both sides of the situation.
  2. Cooperation. Have the kids do activities that require them to work together, rather than against each other. Focus on cooperative games and not competitive ones.
  3. No Whining. Coach the children, and teach them to use a normal tone of voice when asking for something. If they start to whine, even when talking to a sibling, have them start over and ask again. They are much more likely to share with the other sibling, if their tone of voice is not shrieking or demanding.
  4. Alone Time. Make sure that each child has an adequate amount of time that they get to spend by themselves. Having a younger sibling that always tags along can get irritating, so make sure that you attempt to provide them time on their own too.
  5. One-on–One Time. Not only do kids need to have time to themselves, they also need some one-on-one time with their parents and caregivers. Make sure that you are giving each child some undivided attention on a regular basis.
  6. Negotiate. Negotiating is a valuable skill that will come in handy later in life. Work with the children to learn to share their toys. During the negotiations, have them each express how they feel. This will help the other to see both sides.
  7. Hold Them Accountable. Avoid letting the “he started it” to set in, and help them to see that it takes two to have an argument. Show them how their actions are not improving the situation.
  8. Get Them Involved. Start a dialog to help the children see the other person’s point of view. Ask them what they would have done, ask them if what they did was right and ask them how it should have been done differently.
  9. Role Play. Once they have figured out how the problem should have been handled, have them act it out. After practicing the right way to handle a situation, they will be better equipped if it comes up again.
  10. Set a Better Example. Take some time to think of how you react to stressful situations. Do you fly off the handle and yell or throw things? If so, how can you expect the children to behave differently? We need to be good role models for kids, and lead by example.

The fact is, siblings will not always get along, and it is the job of their caregivers to help ease them through conflicts. Keep a calm head. Try some of the techniques above, and you will be well on your way to teaching them great conflict resolution skills.

(Article used with permission)

Slow Family and a few other good reads

Here are a few good articles I read recently:

- Is your family too busy leaving little time to just be with each other?  Read “‘Slow family’ movement focuses on fewer outside activities”

“When we ask people what they want their family to look like 10 or 20 years from now, pretty much across the board people say they want there to be communication, connections and a tight relationship,” Noll said. “But the thing is, you need to be building that relationship now, when everybody’s under the same roof, so that 20 years down the road, you can have that sustainable connection.”

- This will put perspective in your relationship with your children. Read “Notes from a Dragon Mom.”

“…my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder.”

- Are you dealing with your child’s behavior and not reaching his heart? ReadGetting to the Heart of Your Child’s Behavior.

“Your child’s needs are far more profound than his aberrant behavior. Remember, his behavior does not just spring forth uncaused. His behavior—the things he says and does—reflects his heart. If you are to really help him, you must be concerned with the attitudes of heart that drive his behavior.”