Training VS. Controlling

This is probably the most challenging lesson I am learning in motherhood.

It was like I was looking into a mirror when my six-year-old daughter, frustrated to the point of tears could not get her three-year-old brother to be quiet. She wanted to prepare the room like a “movie theater,” and with the lights dimmed, she instructed all her brothers to be quiet. Well, one wouldn’t. He made a goofy little sound after each shush, and she. could not. handle it.

Is that what I act like, I wondered? Her desperation and tears seemed all too familiar to me, particularly when I’m trying to control my children. Where did this poor soul learn to be so controlling? She was freaking out over something that’s so small! Oh, dear. What am I teaching her? Instead of my, “Stop freaking out, it’s not a big deal, response,” I compassionately pulled her close. I knew I was to blame.

Too often I get irritable, snappy, and exasperated trying to control my children’s behavior and responses. I’m constantly reminding myself: Loosen up. Don’t be so uptight. Enjoy the moment. Have a grateful heart. And delight in your children. Here are a few things I’ve noticed about training and being controlling. Do you struggle with being controlling?

Training: proactively sets an example and leads by it.
Controlling: reactively snaps at annoying behavior.

Training: gently corrects bad behavior, and nudges them back on the path of good behavior.
Controlling: permits one small spectrum of behavior, and tolerates no other.

Training: consistently and patiently teaches good habits.
Controlling: consistently disappointed and frustrated with current habits and failures.

Training: expects the consistent training of today to reap good behavior in the future.
Controlling: expects sporadic correction to yield perfect behavior now.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Decoding Your Infant’s Cry

20140402-070406.jpgOne of the worst things ever is having a crying baby and being clueless on how to fix it. It’s terribly stressful! Now that I’m on my 5th bout of caring for a baby, I’ve come to notice a method I’ve developed for figuring out what’s wrong. Here are some of the clues I consider when I’m consoling my little ones.

1. Are they hungry? This is usually an easy one to figure out. They start rooting. They’ll turn their chin towards their shoulder and try to find something to suck on. Often times their crying is interrupted by an anxious gluttural stop. This is hard to explain, but imagine the non-verbal sound a toddler makes when he’s extending his hand, trying to reach something he wants. Kind of a repeated, “Ah-ah-ah.” Another test is to see how they react when you insert your finger or pacifier in their mouth. If they start sucking excitedly, then they’re probably hungry.

2. Are they sleepy? Yawning and heavy eyelids are easy tell-tale signs of tiredness. Try comforting them and swaddling them before you lay them down for a nap. If I see my baby having a hard time getting settled in his crib, especially if his arms are flailing around while he cries, I know he probably wants feel more secure. Re-swaddle. Re-swaddle almost like a straight-jacket. Put his arms down at his side, and wrap tightly so he can’t bring his arms up. Babies like feeling secure and being held tight- especially when they are trying to sleep. (Although, this usually only works for babies under 6 months who haven’t learned to crawl yet.) If your baby still does not settle down, pick him up, and let him be comforted by simply looking into your smiling face for a while. It’s amazing how a little focused attention can be calming for a baby.

3. Do they need a diaper change? Usually if the first two don’t seem to be the problem, it could be that they are uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be sitting in their own… you-know-what. If they have a diaper rash, they might be crying rather angrily. Dry up and soothe that poor bum with some baby powder and zinc oxide. If it’s really bad, you might want to give them a warm bath, and let their rashy bum air out while you hold them in a towel.

4. Are they gassy? Usually gassy babies will cry, grunt, then cry, then grunt some more. They’ll stiffen up their bodies- especially their legs. Their discomfort also makes their cries sound pretty angry. Try running their legs while they’re lying on their back on your lap. It will be like massaging their tummy with their knees. This helps get that gas out and provide them some comfort. You can also lie them tummy-down on your lap while you gently bounce your legs. This will help relieve their gassy discomfort.

5. Are they tired and hungry at the same time? This is a tricky one because they can be too sleepy to eat, but too hungry to sleep. It’s what I call “The Perfect Storm.” These babies are nearly inconsolable, and their parents are stressed out! I always suggest that the babies get their sleep first if they can. Rock them, wear them, do whatever to help them sleep. Then as soon as they wake up, give them their meal. They’ll be awake enough to get a full tummy. And try to never let those two needs cross paths again! A book that has helped me understand my baby’s needs and taught me how to have a happy, content baby is Babywise by Gary Ezzo. Check it out!

5. Do they just want to be held? I’ll notice that sometimes my babies just want to be held- especially 30 minutes or so before a nap. They’re not tired enough to sleep, but they’re not content enough to lie there by themselves. Baby-carrying is really great for this part of the day.

6. Are they hurt? This cry is easy to decode since it’s usually a sudden, loud, high-pitched scream. The baby will sound alarmed. Maybe another child dropped a toy on them, or they got bit by a bug. It could be any number of things. Look them over to see if they’re injured.

Good luck with your baby!

How To Not Freak Out

20130829-113208.jpgOh, the guilt after losing our temper with our children. We may have said some harsh words, grabbed a little arm too tightly, muttered a threat between clenched teeth, or spanked in anger. Whatever you did to cause your mean-mommy-guilt, there’s hope through repentance and forgiveness. 

I really appreciate Michelle Duggar’s (mother of 19) advice on not losing it as a parent. Here’s a little video she did on how to not freak out on your kids. 

I always encourage parents never to hesitate to apologize to your kids if you’ve sinned against them. Nothing heals that relationship like a parent humbly asking their child for forgiveness.

 

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.     Colossians 3:8

The Compliant Sibling

Kit's iphone 001 (5)I love gleaning from older, married couples who have adult children who still respect their parents. Occasionally, I’ll have the privilege of meeting a family where an obvious significant investment has been made, and Grandma & Grandpa are being paid the dividends of children and grandchildren who just adore being around them.

Today, I was making mental notes as this particular older and wiser man offered nuggets of wisdom: Don’t give the extra work to the more compliant child just because their sibling is harder to work with.

We’ve all noticed that our children have uniquely different personalities, and could probably identify right now which child is the more compliant one. He’s the one who just does it. He wants to please you, doesn’t feel the need to argue, and does the job the way we like it to be done. Then there’s the hard-to-put-a-saddle-on-child who has a tendency to complain and argue about the job that you know could easily be knocked out in five minutes by the compliant one.

Don’t give the headstrong child’s chores to the compliant child because it’s less of a fight.

If you run the easy route, and have the compliant child do his sibling’s chore because I just want it to get done! then you will be doing both personalities a disservice. The headstrong child will figure out, If I push back hard enough or perform poorly, I won’t have to do it. Their laziness will be rewarded, and they’ll grow up learning that “someone else will do it.” The compliant child will unintentionally be punished for being a better worker. He may grow frustrated or embittered for having to carry the weight for the majority of the work.

Instead, put your gloves on and zone in on your headstrong child. Discipline, teach, train, set an example, develop a warmer relationship; do whatever needs to be done to instill a better work ethic and a willingness to help out. Both personalities will be blessed by your effort to maintain fairness in the home.

Do all things without complaining and disputing…   Philippians 2:14

Nip It In The Bud

20130829-113142.jpgI’d like to take this posts’s space to stress the importance of training your children while they’re young. Teaching kids not to hit, grab, scream, and throw tantrums should begin as soon as you see it. Usually you start to see them begin to demand their own will around 1 year old.

Don’t be fooled by the powerlessness of your toddler. It might come across cute or the at the very least amusing when they’re this tiny chubby person impotently demanding their own way. In about 5 minutes, they’ll be in elementary school with the same attitude, but with a lot more strength and a larger vocabulary, doing their best to get you to do what they want… unless they learned previously not to act that way.

It’s a lot easier to nip bad behavior in the bud than to try to undo it when the kid older. My son used to hate having his play interrupted for a diaper change. At 11 months old, he would slam his legs down on the changing table in defiance. I would then give him a stinging swat on the bum. The purpose being that I want him to learn as early as possible the attitude that drives us to swing and hit, hurting ourselves or damaging things is never acceptable.

“If I discipline my kids for this stuff early, does that mean they won’t throw tantrums, hit, grab or scream when they’re older?” No. I wish! But the idea that those things are wrong will have already been planted deep in their hearts, and that in and of itself will make life a lot easier. Instead of trying to drive a car that’s out of control, you’ll be constantly and consistently nudging them back on the course that they already know is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The Message You Send

Boise Trip-HQ-11If [the father’s] verbal and nonverbal language is saying, “Get away from me,” “Don’t bother me,” “I prefer the companionship of adults,” “I don’t have time for you,” “I think you’re stupid,” “I don’t particularly like you,” “You’re a nuisance,” “I won’t consider your views or feelings,” he will alienate himself from his children and force them to search elsewhere for the comfort and support they need.

Josh McDowell, The Father Connection

Cut Out Whining; Use A Timer

20130905-091125.jpgYou know that loud, whiny protest you hear when you announce to your kids that it’s time to clean up? Or when it’s time to leave? Or when it’s time to turn off a video game?

Oh, I do.

The anticipation of the crying, “Noooo’s” and “I don’t want to’s” are enough to make a mom want to lock herself in the bathroom surfing Pinterest on her phone instead of having to deal with disrupting the kids by telling them something they don’t want to hear.

One helpful tool for avoiding the dissent of your children is a timer. My iPhone’s timer works great. Give your children a fair warning before it’s time to change gears by announcing, “In ten minutes it’s time to clean up our toys!” I often spell it out for them so there’s no confusion: “As soon as you hear the bell go off, that means you have to stop playing, and start putting your toys in the box!”

You might be surprised how a little countdown followed up by a bell curbs your kids’ whiny objections!

And here’s a little bonus timer-tip for free: Use the timer to motivate children who are dragging in cleaning up a room. Tell them, “Okay, I’m going to set the timer for 7 minutes, and when I come back all the toys should be put away! See if you can finish before the timer goes off! Ready? GO!”

Encouraging Sexual Purity

“I really believe that hugs between fathers and teen sons and daughters could do more to encourage the development of sexual purity in teens than any other single factor… There is awesome power in a simple thing like a hug, a wink, and a whispered or pantomimed, “I love you!”

-Josh McDowell
The Father Connection

Respect The Little Guy

2012-12-02 15.11.05

Here, Jane’s “great idea” was constructing a disguise with paper and glue.

He didn’t want to go to Sunday School. “I don’t like the teachers because they talk to me like a baby,” said my friend’s 3-year old. My friend treats her kids ages 3, 1, and 6 months with more respect than I’ve seen almost any mother treat her children. She doesn’t brush them off, or baby-talk to them all day. She treats them like young people who have something interesting to say. Her 3-year old son was perceptive enough to notice when he wasn’t being treated with the respect he was used to.

Did you know that our kids need our respect? We live in a culture that doesn’t value children all that much. They’re kind of annoying, inconvenient, messy little people. Why give them our undivided attention when half the time they don’t even make sense?

These little people may have indiscernable accents, a small vocabulary, and know very little about life, but they are still people. They can sense being brushed off, being mocked, or treated like they know nothing. Treat them like they have nothing valuable to say, and they will grow up to be very insecure adults. Or, treat them like equals who have something intelligent to say, and watch their confidence grow.

Here are a few ways we can treat our children with respect:

1. Don’t mock them. As Mark Driscoll once noted, “They have little ears, but they’re functional.” A 2 or 3-year old can sense being made fun of (and can have their spirits crushed by it). Don’t laugh at their expense; you may be doing more damage than you realize. Treat them the way you like to be treated.

2. Praise their efforts. Every time you praise them for cleaning up or doing a math problem, you are giving them a token of motivation that they will be able to use in the future. If you’re stingy with your praise, your children will lack the motivation to attempt new challenges. They need affirmation as much as you do.

3. Listen to the whole story. Sometimes kids’ stories seem to go on forever. Give them the attention you’d like to have when you don’t quite have the words. Stay focused to the end.

4. Expect them to understand. They won’t always, but put the bar up there, so they can rise up to it. Use words they’re unfamiliar with on purpose. Talk to them like little adults, so they can get used to interacting with people in a mature way.

5. Engage their ideas. Our 6-year old daughter is often declaring to us that she has “a great idea!” Listen to their ideas and run with them. It may not be physically possible every time, but don’t shut down their ideas so often that they stop having them. Show them you value their creativity by employing their ideas.

Then little children were brought to Him that He might put [His] hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”    Matthew 19:14-15