Nobody’s Perfect

Nobody's perfect.

 

Most of the time I like to think that I’m doing okay as a mom. But sometimes? Well sometimes life isn’t so prim and proper and pin-worthy.

 

And maybe it’ll all be okay anyway. I’m confessing some not so stellar parenting moments today over at The MOB Society. To read, click on the link below.

 

Nobody’s Perfect

 

Jessica

Faithful Parenting – Jenny Lee Sulpizio

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

I yell.

 

Sometimes I scream.

 

Often times, I shriek.

 

And yes, there have been plenty of times where I’ve even spanked (Sigh).

 

Yet somehow, I’m never able to fully get my point across to my children.  Somehow those moments where I’m attempting to “discipline,” turn into moments that I wish I could take back, do over, and just plain forget. They are moments that serve as a reminder that my method of behavior modification? Well, it’s just not working.  Even worse, it’s also confirming those pesky fears of mine that I am in fact, blowing it (big time) as a mom. I’m allowing my children’s issues with disobedience, defiance, and lack of self-control take over.

 

I’m becoming the mommy I never wanted to be.

It's time to parent in empathy.

 

And the reason I’m confessing all of this? Well, I guess it’s because I’m tired. I’m simply worn out from the way I’ve been parenting.  I’ve grown weary from the arguing, the fighting, and the way I’ve responded to my children in the midst thereof. I’ve reached the point where it’s time to replace that irritation I’m feeling with empathy instead. I want to rid myself of my temper in exchange for the compassion I itch to embody.  And finally, I want to take away my need for yelling and swap it with words of encouragement…the words my children long to hear.

 

I want to parent more gently.

 

Breathe. Pray.

But what does this really mean? Well, for a new kid on the block like me, it means breathing through the frustration, praying through the commotion, and tapping into my heart a little more (and my anger a lot less). It means not reacting to poor behavior but disciplining in a way that my children will respond to…a way that I can feel good about. It’s about yelling less and listening more.

 

Hey, we all know how hard motherhood can be, but I want the legacy I leave my children to be so much more than just their memories of the way I disciplined them. Because my kids are my world. They are my blessings. And along with the love I have for my Savior, they literally consume my whole heart.

 

Friends, I know I will undoubtedly stumble on this journey I’m trekking . I know I will have moments where I fail and fall back into my old way of doing things. I know that there will still be times where my patience will be exhausted, and I’ll end up saying things I wish I hadn’t. But I’m making it my goal to try.

 

And I know I am not the only out there with this same desire-you know, to love our children and discipline them in such a way that brings no shame, to promote unconditional love, and to learn to communicate with one another effectively.

 

Because I don’t want to scream.

 

I don’t want to shriek.

 

And I certainly don’t want to spank my kids.

 

Anymore.

 

 

 

Jenny's Book ImageAs a self-proclaimed (and slightly crazed) Wonder Woman Wannabe herself, Jenny Lee Sulpizio is a Christian wife and mother to three amazing kiddos living in the great state of Idaho.  After hanging up her star-spangled bloomers (and that restrictive red corset) a few years back, Jenny now spends most of her “spare” time dishing out the latest in tips, hints, and practical advice when it comes to guiding other mommies through the trenches of motherhood. And when she isn’t cooking, cleaning, starting her latest load of laundry, or attempting to raise her kids right (as in manner-possessing, respectful, God-loving little tikes), Jenny can usually be found writing about it instead. Through her children’s books, personal website, articles, blogs, and as a contributing writer for the online supersite(s), The MOB Society and Moms Together, there’s always plenty of information to relate to, and a whole lot of comic relief to go around.

 

Jenny is also set to release her debut book, Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe, this September from Leafwood Publishers.

 

To follow Jenny, read her blog, or to learn more about her projects, please visit http://www.jennyleesulpizio.com.

 

Links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennyleesulpizio.author

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jennysulpizio/boards/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JennySulpizio

 

 

 

Faithful Parenting – Jessica McGuire – Part 2

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

Find Part 1 Here: Trickle Down Parenting

 

Do as I do.

I want to woo my kids. I want to lavish extravagant love on their hearts. I have no desire to squash them, yet my reactions in fatigue, anger, haste, impatience or whatever does not come close to lavish love. It is undisciplined parenting to rant and rave, or be a Grabby Gus. You cannot expect to raise children who are self-controlled and gentle when you are not. Are your children mirroring with one another what you do to them? That can be a painful question to answer.

 

So how can a mother who does not find gentleness to be her best character trait create an environment of peace… a place where her children thrive, a place where she thrives and where lavish love is abundant? It takes intentionality and awareness on your part. It takes honesty. It is going to take hours of facedown in the carpet prayers to move beyond the “Darth Vader” mom.

 

A few ideas to help you tame that inner beast…

 

  • - Prayer – start a prayer journal or an image/art journal
    - Turn on the music – when I was growing up my mother would often turn on music that she called the “taming the savage beast” music. I did not understand this until I became a mother and had my own space. Music is calming…
    - The biggest thing for me: Getting rid of distractions – no tv during the day. No phone. No cell phone. Limit the internet or turn it off. I know I sound like a “killjoy” here, but be honest about what makes you explode. Is it because you are not paying attention, because you have been on the phone or internet all day? Get real about what is happening to disturb the peace. You may be the biggest culprit to a home in chaos not your kids.

 

Create an environment that is beautiful… nothing stresses me out more than an out of control house.

 

  • - Order – clean clutter, find a schedule that works and stick to it, utilize positive reinforcement and behavior management charts to tame your children’s behavior (maybe you need one too?). I write with dry erase marker on our refrigerator my own list for the day, a verse, things I am working on that my kids and hubby can see… they bear witness to my progress and stumbling. I also tape their charts right there with mine. We work side by side on our attitudes and home.
  • - Light candles
  • - Make chore charts to get little hands helping – it is never too early to start having little ones help you around the house. When one of my boys drags mud all over the powder room floor I patiently grab him a rag and ask him to wipe it up. No blame. No drama. And because he made the mess he is more than willing to help me clean it up. Don’t rant and rave about the messes encourage them to do their part in keeping things clean.

 

Open your life to things that make your heart leap…

 

  • - Find a hobby that inspires your heart – start a blog, take up photography, knit, quilt, paint, play music, sing, etc. whatever brings out your creative juices and tames stress
  • - Take a vacation – travel, explore an art gallery, get out of the house and into the woods, play in creek beds and mud puddles… don’t be afraid of messes.
  • - Take a walk – exercise daily
  • - Find honest women to love you – we need each other.
  • - Take a rest – find time daily to get quiet time. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep. When you have babies that are not sleeping through the night, give yourself slack. When we had four littles under 5 (I can’t even remember most of those days it is a blur) some things are not going to get done. You are going to be a bear. Take one day at a time. I am not a good mom without sleep so I did whatever I needed to do to get the rest necessary to be a good mom.

 

We can do better.

At the end of the day, when I look at their little faces I remember I have to wear love. “…regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it” (Colossians 3:14). That means I apologize when I am wrong. I ask them for their forgiveness and they give it – willingly. I don’t take myself too seriously. I don’t remind them of what they did last week or yesterday, we start each day fresh. I pray like crazy – seriously one time I found myself on my hands and knees, with my face in the dirty laundry in the middle of the basement. Love is every action we take towards one another in unity and peace. Love is bigger than lectures. It is more than words.

 

Love is intentional. Love is opening my heart to them and guarding their hearts with all of me. Love does not stop with just my kids… it will live on:

 

“Every child carries generations of children inside. Every child is like nestled dolls, all these generations nestled within – and mothering is a holy trust of whole entire eras. Every day, every mother, she mothers thousands – all the children yet still to come.” (Ann Voskamp)

 

 

Jessica McGuire

 

 

Jessica is a wife, blogger, and homeschool mother of four. You can find her writing at http://jezamama.com.

Faithful Parenting – Jessica McGuire

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message).

 

It is Mother’s Day morning. I lay in bed listening to giggles on the stairs and commotion in the kitchen. Someone sneaks into the bedroom peeking their little face over the edge of the mattress. It is these moments with giggles ringing throughout the house and conspiracy planning happening in the kitchen that I lay still beneath the covers being aware – intentionally aware of life.

 

Because all of life is a gift and sometimes I am guilty of missing it.

 

These types of days force me to evaluate my parenting: stepping back to look at what types of parenting I have known (the great and the not so great), what I utilize as a mother, where I am going, and how it all holds up in the light of that extravagant love God demonstrates to us. It is very easy to be hard on yourself when you let your anger or haste get the best of you, but this is not the moment for the “poor, poor pitifuls.” If I am seeking to be intentional and aware about my truth as a mother then I have to deal with my messy places. This is not the time for hiding, masking, or denying.

 

Your children desperately need you to NOT be a poser. Getting real about how you parent is the first step to living a life of love. So let’s pop that pretentious bubble for one moment: the truth is that sometimes it feels like I have been more of an expert at the “trickle down” parenting effect then being known as the “gentle mother.”

 

“Trickle down” parenting looks like this:

  • I holler – they holler
  • I swat – they swat
  • I grab – they grab
  • I react in haste – they react in haste
  • I allow my anger to get the best of me;
  • I allow my fatigue, my preoccupation, my selfishness to have the final say…
  • And my kids do the same darn thing.

 

Isn’t it funny sad how that happens?

 

None of these tactics in my “selfish parenting arsenal” work. Actually they do work; they do a great job at producing weeds and rotten fruit in our home. If my goal as a mother is to alienate, induce fear, silence my children’s voices, or create an environment of chaos then the “selfish parenting arsenal” is the way to go. But I honestly do not want any of those things in this space.

 

We all thrive and desire an environment of peace.

 

But a home of peace does not come easily for everyone. Some women – mothers are not known for their gentleness. We have a way of dealing in the world and in our home that does not come across as gentle. Just as patience, peace, self-control, and joy are things that some women find elusive, there are mothers in our midst who find a lack of consistent gentleness to be our biggest challenge. We have a difficult time not over-reacting & blaming. We have a difficult time consistently and intentionally choosing calm.

 

A little one is flitting at the breakfast table again and the milk goes spilling all over the place, in between the cracks, and onto the floor. He holds his breath waiting for mom to explode. Mom makes a choice: she can use her words or use her hands to make a mountain out of a mole hill, exploding in anger and blame OR she can grab the towel and wipe the spill offering gentleness, reassurance, and peace. Every parent at some point is guilty of making the wrong choice with our hands and/or with our words.

There are more creative, gentle ways to discipline a child.

 

“Negative Trickle down” parenting that is hands-on, forceful, loud, verbally condemning, and/or not respectful of a child’s personal space does not breed a healthy, lavishly loving environment. I don’t care how many “rod” scripture verses or rainbow words you throw at it. Am I respecting my child’s body, heart, and soul when I react in anger and place my hands on them in my haste? Is my first over-reaction the best place to start in discipline? Or would I make a different choice beyond my initial anger? Would I offer a more creative solution to their disobedience if I stepped back and took a breath? There are more creative ways to discipline, instruct a child’s heart, and woo them that have nothing to do with anger, hands, or ugly, loud words.

 

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 and some grace-filled, creative alternatives to creating a more peaceful home.

 

Jessica McGuire

 

 

Jessica is a wife, blogger, and homeschool mother of four. You can find her writing at http://jezamama.com.

Faithful Parenting – Megan Tietz

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

“Sometimes God just has to snatch us up and drag us out to the woodshed. Am I right?”

All around me in the packed sanctuary, men and women are nodding their heads and smiling.

Mmmm-hmmm, agree the women.

Amen, come the baritone choir of the men.

“How many of you can recall a time when God had to take you to the woodshed?”

People are turning to those next to them in the pew and nodding and smiling.

“And aren’t we the better for it?” The preacher thunders from the pulpit.

Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child.

 

I heard that sermon years before my oldest child was born, and nothing within me disagreed. Growing up in Bible Belt evangelical church culture meant that the euphemisms for spanking were native tongue to me, as was the idea that because He is a good and loving Father, God has to give His naughty children a spanking every now and again.

And aren’t we the better for it?

When my oldest child toddled into her second year, I was surprised to discover that I needed to make some boots-on-the-ground parenting decisions. I had read in parenting books of the affronts of “willful disobedience” and the importance of training children in “first time obedience,” but I never dreamed that my brown-eyed baby girl would ever do anything but respond to my instructions with sweetness and light.

Ahem.

And so I went down that path so familiar to me, the one chosen by my parents, my extended family, my friends, and the community at large in which we dwelled. When she showed those signs of willful disobedience, I popped her on the diaper.

And felt absolutely sick over it.

For the next several years, I was all over the place with discipline. Spanking is absolutely the norm in the part of the country I live in as well as in the theological circles I once traveled. There was never anything but positive reinforcement for me as I joined the ranks of parents determined to do whatever was necessary to keep from raising spoiled brats. And underneath it all was the understanding that in choosing spanking as a tool of parenting, I was honoring the word of God.

But I never could shake that sick feeling, that utter lack of comfort and peace that I’ve long since learned to listen to better than I did back then.

Finally, my conflicted mama heart couldn’t take it anymore, and I decided to dive deep into the depths of research and study. I had to figure out for myself whether or not spanking was part of God’s mission for parents who are called according to His Name.

No one was more surprised than I was to discover that spanking isn’t so much a parenting issue as it is a theological one.

Like the preacher in the pulpit had put words to in his sermon, I had long believed that God punished His children in their wrong-doing. There are plenty of passages of Scripture which seem to indicate He does exactly that. But the more I dug around in His Word, the more I started to question that premise.

What I discovered rocked my spiritual beliefs to the core.

 

A Gentler Way To Discipline.

 

I found a group of gently mothering Christian women online, and I allowed myself to be challenged in my beliefs. Does God drag His misbehaving children to the woodshed or doesn’t He?

I thought about all the instances that I would have pinned down on the map of my life as moments or seasons of God’s punishment. My new mothering mentors pressed on those – was it truly a time of arbitrary punishment?

On the surface, those moments that I thought I had spent in the woodshed with God sure looked like punishment directly from His Hand. Further examination, however, revealed that the painful moments and difficult seasons I endured were merely the natural consequences of the sin I had committed.

There is a grace and difference between punishment and consequences.

This discovery knocked me off of my feet.

Could it be true? Could it be possible that Christ bore the true punishment for all of our sin on the cross? Could it be possible that with punishment off the table, our good and loving Father chooses to allow us to experience the consequences of our choices?

I surfaced from all of my research with a renewed and humbled awe of the God we serve. Who is more empowered than He is to exact painful punishment as a way to teach the children He loves? And yet He refrains, knowing that much more meaningful learning comes when we have to face up to the (often stinging and painful) consequence of our wrong-doing.

I let go of my vision of a God who drags His children, kicking and crying, to the woodshed to make them sorry for what they’d done. I traded it for a vision of a God who loves us through our wrong-doing, loves us enough to allow us to experience the effects of our sin, and loves us enough to give us grace as we endure the pain of consequence.

Oh, the freedom I found in this theological awakening! And what beautiful freedom I found in parenting, as well. No longer bound to the cultural norms of my geography or my church, I put the spanking tool back in my toolbox and reached for much more effective ones, the ways of a Perfect Father who diligently teaches me.

When I turned and walked away from my belief in a punitive God, I was able to turn my back on punitive parenting as well. I left it all out there in the woodshed, and I haven’t once looked back.

 

megan300x300

 

For over seven years, Megan Tietz has discussed faith, family, and natural living at SortaCrunchy.

She and her husband make their home in Oklahoma City with their two beautiful daughters and brand new baby boy twins.

Gentle Parenting – Kathi Denfeld

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

It is five in the morning in the dark of winter when I sense motion somewhere in my otherwise comatose house. I begin to roll over dismissively, but notice my 10 year-old daughter standing over me in full on second-to-oldest mode, ready to give her report; she had just gotten up to use the restroom and found her little brother getting into the gifts that I had stayed up too late wrapping the night before.

I motion her back to bed and in an uncoordinated display of motherhood, lift my disproportionately weighted head off my pillow. Swinging my legs over the side of the mattress, I give my feet a few seconds to discover the floor before ping-ponging down the unlit hall.

My boy is nowhere to be found. 

Alerted by his sister’s presence, he has fled the scene of the crime and is already in hiding. Twelve years of parenting tells me that this is probably not a good sign, but since the twinkling glow of the tree does not reveal shreds of wrapping paper littering the living room floor, as I had imagined it would, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

I conclude that he too had probably gotten up to go to the bathroom and been lured by the presents’ greatly anticipated first showing. More than likely, he had simply moved in for a closer look and, letting his fingers trace and weigh the shapes of the packages, ripped an end or poked a finger through in the process.

It would be a quick fix– I would be back under my fuzzy blanket before it had time to miss me.

The problem comes when I can’t find my tape.

I know that I had buried it down into the ribbon box because I had done so intentionally–or did I?

In an act of determination, I empty and re-stuff the container more times than what is reasonable before abandoning the act all together. Somewhat perplexed and defeated, I plop myself down onto the couch, and that is when I notice it waving at me from under the tree.

Pssst. Over here, by the scissors.

I. did. not. put. those. there.

Lowering myself down onto all fours and crawling over to the tree for the rescue, the full extent of the damage becomes evident to me.

Each and every package looks as though it has been clawed at by a small but fierce animal. The child has used up every last inch of the tape in an unsuccessful attempt at covering his tracks.

It is a grace for both of us that my son has put himself back to bed, because now I am genuinely bristling, and have some things I need to do to preserve the relationship:

 

Put some space between us: 

(Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”) 

The bible does not say not to get angry, it says not to allow our anger to lead to sin. Sometimes in order to facilitate this it is necessary to give ourselves space. If my son had not already gone to his room I would have admitted to him that in the moment I was angry and needed time to calm down.

Likewise, I have a daughter who often gets caught up with her emotions and tends to forget that it is okay to ask for space. With her, I often ask if she is ready to talk or if she needs time to herself before we talk things over. Allowing this margin decreases the chances that we’ll say things we might regret later and gives us time to evaluate our emotions.

 

Evaluate my own emotions:

(Proverbs 16:21 “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.”)

Before you act against your child, examine you're own emotions.

Emotions reflect to us what is happening in our heart. My anger in this moment grew out of disappointment. Unemployment had left things tight for us financially and to be able to provide the few gifts we had, felt like a miracle. I had spent time thoughtfully selecting and wrapping each child’s present and was looking forward to their excitement on Christmas morning. The tension that had been building burst in that moment, but it was not entirely my son’s fault; his actions only pushed existing emotions to the surface and it would have been unfair of me to put all that weight on him.

Before we act, it is important to ask ourselves where our emotions are coming from, and what we might be placing on others that was never theirs to carry.



Address his actions:

(1 Corinthians 13:11When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put the ways of childhood behind me.”) 

It’s true, he should have never opened the presents, but he is a child and child-ish behavior is to be expected from children. This incident was actually a manifestation of an ongoing issue that we had already been working to address (touching other’s things without asking) and I should have anticipated it.

I could have preempted the entire situation with a reminder the night before. A simple “There will be presents under the tree in the morning. You are free to look at them, but we will open them together on Christmas Day.” would have likely done the trick.

He is in the process of learning and I should not have expected perfection. I should have set him up to succeed.

His consequences were natural ones: He did not get to enjoy the surprise that comes with Christmas morning, and he had to keep what he saw a secret from his siblings.

 

Pave the Way Back:

(1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”)

I noticed that the rest of the family had woken, and when my little guy still had not come out of his room, I knew that I would have to pave a way back for him.

Two hours had passed and the poor kid was still under his covers, hiding!

My other children knew what had happened, and before I fetched their brother we had a brief discussion about forgiveness and how God allows us to start with a clean slate when we make poor choices, and no one brought it up afterwards.

***

We are not a perfect family, and that is the point. Without shame, each of us is free to accept the gift of God’s grace in tattered packages.

 

 

Kathi Denfield

Kathi lives in Central Oregon with her motorcycle-riding husband and their five wily children. A relaxed homeschooling mom, she spends her days shoulder-to-shoulder with her kids, and her nights working with adolescents in a residential therapeutic setting. During the in-between time you can find her chewing ice or playing with words.

 

She blogs her story at lol•ly•gag.com (http://www.lol-ly-gag.com)

 

False Dichotomies in Life and Parenting

 

Spare the rod, spoil the child.

 

If you’ve been in the arena of advocating for gentle parenting long, you’ve heard the tired offensive lines more times than you’d ever want to. It’s like homeschoolers and the “socialization” question. Anyone with any hands-on experience knows that the question itself is based on a false dichotomy. It, literally, has no relevance, is based on false assumptions, and has been disproved countless times. But, sadly, the asker doesn’t know any of that (and often isn’t interested in learning).

 

If you speak against hitting children as a form of correction, many people immediately stamp a label on your forehead.

Not spanking does not a permissive parent make.

 

Permissive Parenting

 

It’s an unfair label based on a myriad of assumptions and bad information. It’s part of a larger problem that the world is just slap-overrun with – black and white thinking.

 

Oh, you’re not a Democrat? So you’re a Republican.

Oh, you’re not a Calvinist? So you’re an Arminian.

Oh, you’re not punitive? So you’re permissive.

 

The world is so much bigger than two boxes, two possible categories of thinking.

 

Don’t label people. Listen to people.

 

You might learn something.

 

-Jessica

 

 

Faithful Parenting – Jennifer McGrail

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

Parenting in Jesus’ Footsteps

 

Before I had kids, I never thought about what kind of parent I would be. It seems almost inconceivable to me now, given what a defining role that motherhood would come to play in my life, but it’s true. It simply never entered my mind. Until the very moment my first son was born, I remained embarrassingly, and happily, ignorant.

 

As it turns out, my lack of preparedness didn’t hurt me. When it came to parenting, I quickly realized that it wasn’t something I could really plan out anyway. In fact, it wasn’t something that I could flesh out on an intellectual level at all. Parenting for me was far more primal than that, driven by a part of me that until I actually became a mother, had not even existed. I read all the parenting books, but nothing even remotely resonated until I picked up writings by Dr Sears and Alfie Kohn and Naomi Aldort.

 

 

Jesus and parenting.

The common thread between the three? Besides reaffirming the God-given instinct that was already guiding my decisions, they all advocated for treating children as what they truly are: their own individually and uniquely created little people, deserving above all else of kindness, gentleness and respect. It’s that compassionate human element that was so sorely missing from all the mainstream parenting advice . . . advice that would have you believe that if you just prescribe a certain method, a specific and impersonal recipe for child-rearing, that your child would “turn out okay.”

 

The problem with that philosophy – or one of them, anyway – is that it fails to take into account the fact that every child is an individual, and should be treated as such. It fails to understand that human beings – just like any living being – don’t learn best through control, punishment and intimidation; but through love, connection, and compassion. It fails to recognize that a book written thousands of years ago tells us everything we ever need to know about parenting.

 

Jesus and Children

 

It took me a little longer than I care to admit to ask myself the question, “What does the Bible, and specifically Jesus, have to say about parenting?” But ask I finally did, and it was there. It was there all along.

 

Jesus LOVED children. He welcomed children. He opened up his arms to children. In Mark 10:13-16 it says: “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” I love the imagery of this passage. I picture Jesus sitting on the ground, arms out like an eager grandma. The disciples tried to stop the children, but Jesus was all, “No, no, it’s okay! Let them come! I want them to come!” He accepted them, exactly as they were, and he admonished the people that they all needed to accept the kingdom of God with the faith of a child.

 

Jesus wants us to become like children. Matthew 18:3-5: “He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Pretty telling, don’t you think? He wants us to become like children, to humble ourselves like children, and to welcome children in his name. Would it make any kind of logical sense to think that welcoming a child in Jesus’s name would include treating said child harshly, or with punishment, or with strict control? Would it make any kind of sense to think that He’d want us to treat children any way other than with gentleness and kindness? Child-like qualities such as openness, curiousity, humbleness, innocence, and exuberance are things he wants us to be celebrating and actually emulating in our children, not driving out of them.

 

We’re instructed not to provoke, or exasperate our children. Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not provoke (some translations say exasperate) your children, so they will not become discouraged (some translations say disheartened.)” I can think of no way of exasperating our children more quickly than by parenting with coercion and control, rather than with love and partnership.

 

But what about all those old testament “rod” verses? What about Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train up a child in the way he must go, and when he is old he won’t depart from it?” First, I think it’s important to remember that as Christians we are under the new law brought by Jesus, not the old law. Second, the “rod” referred to in the Bible was, by most accounts, the shepherd’s rod which was used to guide and protect sheep, not hit them. And third, if you want to talk rods… please look up Psalm 23:4. As for “training up” our children: as anyone who’s a parent can tell you, there is no more effective way to train your children – whether for good or bad – than by modeling. If you’re modeling grace, kindness, and love . . . they will learn grace, kindness, and love. They will learn it, and they won’t depart from it.

 

I have made mistakes as a parent, to be sure. I will continue to make mistakes. But when I’m there in that moment, on my knees, at the end of my proverbial parenting rope, the answer is there: More patience. More compassion. More kindness. More mercy. More Jesus. The Bible is, at its a core, a book about love, redemption, and grace. Love and redemption and grace so deep and so wide that we will likely spend our entire lives trying to understand it. The only way we can even begin to understand it is by living it. And there is no better place to start than with our own families, and with our own children.

 

jen

 

Jennifer is a full-time unschooling mom, a yoga teacher, and a part-time writer. She lives in Phoenix with her husband, four kids, and an ever-growing variety of winged, scaled, and furry pets. She loves exploring in the desert, baking cupcakes, and a really good cup of coffee. She blogs (semi) regularly at The Path Less Taken.

Faithful Parenting – Luke and Jill Harms

Faithful Parenting - A gentle parenting series from a Christian perspective.

 

We are not perfect parents. In fact, I think by some people’s standards, we’re probably borderline failures. Our boys are not the perfectly-behaved automatons that some folks see as the ideal, but for us, that actually feels more like success than failure.

 

But we’re weird like that.

 

For us, I think that’s where we begin our discussions of parenting: at the end. We ask ourselves what we want them to get out of this whole process (as opposed to asking what we want to get out of it) and we wonder aloud what the real purpose of discipline is in our family. Is it to teach or to ensure compliance? Is it to correct, or is it to prove to them that we’re correct? Is it to make them better, or is it to make our lives easier?

 

Now, if we’re being honest, on any given day of the week, the honest answers to these questions might be radically different, which is why we have conversations in the quiet spaces, during the lull of the battle when they’re resting and we’re still awake and alert enough to actually form coherent thoughts. The hope is that if we can give some serious thought to these questions at some point before the moment at which the hitting/snatching/yelling/not listening takes place, perhaps we will be better prepared to handle those situations gracefully, with a certain amount of perspective.

 

But best laid plans, and all that. This is hard stuff.

 

So we stumble on, doing the best we know how to do to try to create a culture in our home and in our family that encourages them to make the right decisions for the simple fact that they are the right decisions to make, not because they’re scared of punishment (whether from us, or God, or the cops).

 

That means we’re in this for the long haul.

 

It means there might be some (translation: A LOT) of sacrifices along the way for us, where we give up some control/power/satisfaction/sanity/etc in the short term in order to (hopefully) see the effects on their character in the long run. It means that we’re not necessarily concerned about making sure that they measure up to a specific checklist of behavioral expectations at every stage of life, but we are very concerned about the trajectories they’re on and how we can offer gentle course-corrections to keep them headed in the right direction.

 

It also means that traditional forms of discipline that are more inclined toward behavior modification and more focused on punishment, are simply not an option for our family.

 

We strive to be non-violent in the way that we communicate and the way that we discipline. We were a military family, and we saw the damage that violence can do. We saw how both perpetrator and victim walked away with scars. We saw how the emotional and psychological wounds were still raw and open long after the physical wounds had healed. Really though, the question for us is whether we want to raise children who see violence as an appropriate response in situations where they are perhaps not getting their way. If violence is an appropriate response for us in discipline, what are we telling them about the appropriateness of violence in resolving conflict later on down the line?

 

And truly, “down the line” is what we’re really concerned about.

Perfect love drives out fear.

 

 

We’re ok with having kids that aren’t afraid of us now if it means they won’t be afraid of us when they really need help. We’re ok with them asking (a reasonable number of) questions now, if it means they grow up confident enough to think for themselves. We listen to the seemingly nonstop ramblings of a four-year old because we want him to know that he’s heard, and that what he says matters. We hold the gigantic 18 month old almost constantly, because separation was hard for us, so we can’t imagine how hard it is on his fragile little psyche, and we want him, above all else, to be absolutely sure that he is loved.

 

We don’t yell, we don’t spank, we don’t threaten, because the end result of those things is fear, and a wise man once said that perfect love casts out fear.

 

So whether it was a perfect day of independent play and spontaneous sharing, or a nightmarish slog through the nine circles of toddler mayhem, it ends the same way. There’s a bath and there are books and lullabies and time with mom and dad and hugs and kisses and whispers that send them to sleep knowing that above all and in spite of everything else, they are loved. We usually collapse into bed not long after, two imperfect people trying their best to figure out what that perfect love looks like for our family, and praying that His love in and through us is enough to cast out fear for good.

 

jill and luke

 

 

You can find Luke blogging at Living In The Tension and Jill at Line Up The Dolls.

Super Easy Healthy Snack For Kids

Homemade Lara Balls

I’m over at Raising Hearty Boys today sharing the easiest, healthiest snack ever. Looking for a raw snack that kids will eat?

 

Lucky you.

 

Click the link below to hop on over for the recipe.

 

Easy homemade lara bar recipe.