Cheerful Discipline

Boise Trip-HQ-11“Cheerful” isn’t usually the word most people use to describe when disciplining their children. A lot of the time we tend to think of discipline as stern and angry correction. And at times it rightly is. But because raising kids is largely training, we don’t need to be coming down so hard on them as often as we do.

Kids are still learning how to do life. They don’t know that what they are doing is unacceptable (okay, sometimes they do). Pulling your kid aside, and saying, “Hey, I know blowing bubbles in your milk is fascinating, but we don’t really do that because it makes a huge mess” will be more readily absorbed than barking at them, “Hey, stop that!”

Let’s say they do something that’s outright defiant. They respond to you by angrily chucking a toy and screaming, “NO!” That kind of behavior is unacceptable, and definitely merits a consequence. But we can correct them without losing it. Calmly take them aside, explain what they did wrong, then lovingly explain what their consequence will be, and swiftly carry it out. You might hold their hand, or affectionately have an arm around them as you explain to them, “Hey, throwing toys and screaming ‘no’ at Mommy is not okay. Every time you do that, XYZ is going to happen okay?” Your patient and loving tone will go a long way because it communicates that even though you won’t tolerate their defiant behavior, you believe in them, and are aiming to teach them–not get back at them.

…that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance      Romans 2:8

I Don’t Want An Epidural– Okay, Yes, I Do!

2014-02-24 02.30.06 HDR-1I had my very first baby at home. Halfway through the birth process, I thought to myself, “What in the world was I thinking doing this without drugs?!” In between contractions, I hoped that my husband would be okay with just one child because I was presently making the decision to never give birth again.

Having my first kid was brutal (as first births usually are). Forget everything I learned in my birthing class. I was just hanging on for dear life praying that it would be over soon. If there had been a doctor in the room offering me an epidural that night, I would have eagerly accepted.

Since then, I’ve had 4 more kids at home. (Having kids is a little addicting I suppose.) And I learned something from my first birth  that changed the way I labored for the last 4. If you’re a future-mama who’s hoping to give birth drug-free, here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Be a Limp Noodle. My mistake with birth #1, was that I braced myself for every contraction. Just like they tell you to relax your arm before a shot, you’ve got to relax your entire body when you feel a contraction coming on. Lie there like a limp noodle. They say if you can keep from clenching the muscles in your face, you’re probably doing good with keeping the rest of your body limp.

2. Embrace the Pain. With birth #1, I tried to white-knuckle it through the pain. I thought I would be tough enough and grit my teeth till it was over. Yeah, I don’t recommend that mode of operation. At birth #2, I decided to embrace the pain. I didn’t mentally reject it; I welcomed the pain, submitted to it, and allowed it to take over. Let the pain do it’s thing, and before you know it, fierceness of that contraction will be done, and you’ll be ready for the next.

3. Don’t Rush It. At birth #4, I personally believe I was too anxious to get the kid out, and bore down too early (that’s when you decide to start pushing the kid downwards). If you do this before you’re at 10cm, it can result in your cervix protesting, getting inflamed, and keeping the kid inside even longer. Take the cues from your body. You feel like you wanna change positions? Do it. You feel like you wanna stay on your hands and knees? Do it. You feel like you wanna push? Do it. Follow your instincts. They’re there for a reason.

4. A Doula. You can hire a doula, or ask a friend. In my opinion, the presence of a sympathetic, experienced natural-birther does a lot for your psyche. Having the support of someone who has been through it before and made it to the other side is very motivating.

5. Do Your Homework. Education=Confidence. Take a birthing class. Read lots of birthing books. Even after I had 4 kids, I felt I needed a confidence booster. So I did all kinds of reading, researching, and relearning to be mentally prepared. Learn all you can about the birthing process, positions, and techniques to help facilitate giving birth. Education will give you the confidence you need.

What advice would you give to a future mama that wanted to give birth naturally? What helped you get through your natural birth?

“Not The Choice We Want Americans To Make”

2014-07-19 10.42.10Our president offended millions of women all over America the other day. In an effort to further equality for women, he noted that mom is usually the one who leaves the workplace to stay at home with the kids. “And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make,” he stated. (Read all his remarks here.)

He justifies his statement by pointing out that staying home with the kids leaves mom earning a lower wage for the rest of her life. And he assumes that the only reason she would even consider staying home with her children rather than getting back to work is because she can’t find a good preschool.

To remedy the problem of moms having to stay home with young children, the government aims to provide high-quality preschools for us. Because according to the president, sending mom to work, and sending the kids to day care is “good for the children” and “good for the family.”

I’m not so much offended as I am infuriated at his statement because he is perpetuating the lie that staying home with children is of little value. The atmosphere of our culture tells us that children are a burden, thus doing all the mundane work of caring for them is kind of like a dishwasher’s job. Someone’s got to do it, but the most intelligent and gifted among us rise to greater things.

But women need to know that their job of training and taking care of their child is the most important job in the world. No preschool teacher can replace the impact you are going to make on your child’s life.

Let me tell you something. The first handful of years of your child’s life are foundational for cultivating the soil from which your child’s character grows. The time to begin teaching self-discipline, respect, diligence, generosity–all the tokens of a healthy economy–is from the very beginning of a child’s life. You will make a difference in America. And it will be measured by the adults that your children grow to be.

So if you can, stay home with your kids. Be relieved from the pressure to “get a career, get a career, get a career.” Pouring your time, energy, and talents into your children is the most profitable, most worthwhile, most rewarding thing you can do with your time. No higher wage can hold a candle to the value of being with your children during the little years. Having mom available at home is what is good for children and good for the family.

Going Out With Little Ones

San Diego Zoo Vacation Day 1 & 2 022b (2)Going out with little ones can be a challenge. They want to do all the things they’re not supposed to do! They want to touch everything in the store and jump on the furniture in the restaurant. There are also practical challenges, like making sure they don’t get lost in public, and staying safe around cars. I have a handful of little ones myself. Here’s how I keep my little ducklings in a row:

  1. Hold hands. If you have at least a couple kids, employing the buddy system can be a real help. My 4 walkers are paired off with their own buddy. Each older one is matched up with a younger one. They help buckle/unbuckle the seat belt of the younger sibling. They hold hands to and from the car. They hold hands during shopping trips in stores. Giving the older kids the responsibility of caring for their siblings give them a sense of value, while it keeps the younger ones safe.
  2. Hold on to the cart. On shopping trips, many problems are solved by instructing the kids to hold on to the shopping cart. If you can’t get the one kiddie car-shaped cart that seats like four kids at your grocery store, you’ll have to come up with a plan B for not losing a little guy. Holding onto the cart  helps keep the kids from grabbing things they shouldn’t, it helps them not to lag behind, and it helps you keep an eye on them.
  3. Bring a snack. Kids get crazy if they get too hungry. If you anticipate a long shopping trip, bring a bag of dry snacks such as animal cookies or saltine crackers. Hand them out while you praise patience and good behavior in the kids to buy yourself some more time. The kids will love it.
  4. Stay in their world. The most common scenario for losing control over my kids is when I mentally check out. Maybe I’m calculating the value of an item I want to buy, or uploading a picture to Instagram when our outing deteriorates into chaos. Stay attentive to what the kids are doing. Keep up conversation. Ask them questions about themselves, or play “I Spy With My Little Eye” while you’re waiting in the grocery line or waiting for your food at a restaurant.

What’s your best strategy for sanity when you go out with your little ones?

He shall die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.     Proverbs 5:23

Lying

Every kid tries out lying at some point. Some learn it’s wrong and stop. Others find it handy and perfect their deception. Here’s how I train my children to be truth-tellers.

1. Catch it young. Once kids start to learn language, they can learn to lie. A child as young as 1 or 2 can perceive that admitting he threw a toy at his sibling’s head is going to get him into trouble. And he doesn’t want trouble, so he lies. Catch it now, and tell him that lying is wrong.

2. Truth-train. “We always tell the truth, even if it gets us into trouble,” is a common saying around here. Usually, I preface interrogating the guilty child with reminding them importance of telling the truth. Stress the importance of telling the truth: telling the truth is right; lying is wrong. It seems simple, but it will reinforce their God-given conscience.

3. Firm consequence. Even a well-trained child may choose to still lie. A time-out, spanking, or loss of privilege may be an appropriate consequence for lying. Enforcing a consequence will help them exercise self-discipline next time they are tempted to lie.

4. Set an example. Give them a reason to believe all your talk about telling the truth. If they see you tell the truth when it’s hard, they will do it, too.

5. Tell them why. Tell them why telling the truth is important. I love what Josh McDowell said in The Father Connection, “I want my children to understand that God is true– that whatever is like God is good. Whatever is unlike him is evil.” Go beyond “Telling the truth is right, lying is wrong.” Plant a desire in your children to discover morality by discovering who God is.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”      John 14:6

The Public Restroom Dilemma

20140723-141624-51384332.jpgMy kids are terrified of automatic toilets. It all started with my first child. The noisy crash of water swirling and splashing about sent her into sheer panic. Her toilet-terror must have been hereditary because all her potty-trained siblings followed suit. If they peeked into the stall and saw there was no handle, I’d immediately have little ones clinging to my legs, begging me to not make them go. Every trip to Target and the zoo included one of these dramatic episodes. I tried being stern, silly, and nonchalant about it, but rarely could I convince them to go.

Amazingly, my husband came up with a solution. It was pure genius. Cover the motion sensor with a piece of toilet paper. Now they can tinkle in the potty with care-free finesse.

Do you ever have trouble getting your kids to use public restrooms?

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