A Poem For Uptight Mothers Like Me


If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love- I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.
If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love- my children learn of cleanliness, not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints in a newly cleaned window.
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.
Love is present through trials.
Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.
As a mother there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is… LOVE.

A Love That Multiplies, by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar

The Opportunity To Sin

IMG_3323One of the most effective strategies of training my children to behave is by allowing them the opportunity to sin.

Especially when I’m busy, I find myself correcting my children, and then taking away their opportunity to sin. “Don’t touch this!” I say, then I take it away and set it on top of the shelf where they couldn’t touch it if they wanted to. It’s immediately convenient for me because I don’t want to have to deal with their disobedience. However, I’m also taking away their opportunity to practice obedience.

When I’m focused on getting stuff done, I remove my children from situations where they can get into mischief. When I’m focused on training them to obey, I let the opportunity for mischief stare them in the face. Because an opportunity to sin is an opportunity to obey. 

As my toddler attempts to topple my pile of freshly folded laundry, I tell him, “Don’t touch…” I don’t redirect his attention. And I don’t remove his temptation to destroy my hard work. I leave it all there right in front of him and wait to see what he will do. He ignores my warning and grabs the pile. He then receives the reproof- a spank on the  hand. I remind him, “Don’t touch…” and I wait. I wait to see if he’ll obey. He goes for my folded pile again, and I spank his hand a second time- a little harder. I’m ready to discipline disobedience, and ready to praise obedience. Each time he grabs the forbidden pile of laundry, he gets spanked. It’s not even about keeping my stuff orderly or completing my tasks anymore. This moment is all about training him to be a good boy, so even if it all ends with laundry strewn about, it’s worth it. Finally, he submits. He sits back in his new-found self-discipline, and leaves my laundry alone. Whew! 

There was no anger. No drama. Just training. Training them to obey by allowing them opportunities to sin.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16

The Goal Is Reconciliation

005-6.jpgIn correcting and disciplining our children, it’s important to remember the goal: Reconciliation.  Whether our child is being corrected for hitting, being selfish, being rude, etc., make it your goal to reconcile them to the person offended, and ultimately to God.  Avoid being simply corrective: “Stop that!” “That was his first, give it back!” “Don’t talk to me like that!”  It’s easy to adopt the attitude of, “Stop sinning because it’s irritating me.” There’s no reconciliation in that. Our privilege as parents is to train them to be kind, compassionate, responsible people for their own good. The byproduct is that we parents are also blessed by their good behavior.  A child who is never given the opportunity to reconcile their wrongs is likely to feel angry and insecure.

Think of the way God confronts us. He causes us to recognize our sin. We repent, and He forgives us. We can follow this example by pointing out our child’s sin, giving them the opportunity to apologize to the offended, encouraging the victim to verbally forgive them.  You don’t even need to make your child apologize most of the time. Showing them your disapproval of their behavior is usually enough to make them feel remorse for their actions. Appeal to their conscience. Appeal to God’s laws and biblical truth. By doing this you are teaching them to respect authority.  When they apologize, make sure they say what they’re sorry for. This helps them to own their sin, rather than mumbling out an insincere apology.  Whether you’re the victim of their crime, or another child is, follow through with the reconciliation process by insisting on genuine forgiveness. After we declare that the offender is forgiven, we don’t need to remind them of our disappointment, disapproval, or irritation. Pay close attention to your facial expression! If you still have irritation in your eyes, be confident that they will notice! Smile lovingly, and encourage them to have fun as they return to their play.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… 2 Cor. 5:18


IMG_4170[1]Yesterday my one-year old son took a brave swing at a 30-year old man. It wasn’t a cute “Oops, I was just playing, and I didn’t know hitting was wrong.” It was a definite, “You took my laundry basket, and now I will get my revenge by physically assaulting you.”

Occasionally hitting can happen out of curiosity, or by accident. But usually it’s because the child is angry and wants to hurt someone for wronging him. It’s easy to overlook when the blow you endure is delivered by a tiny chubby arm, and hardly felt past the fabric of your pants. But what will take root in his little heart when he gets away with vengeful hitting is violent selfishness, and violent revenge. If allowed to grow, that weed will ruin his life. Just consider any adult you know with those negative characteristics.

We follow this model whenever we see our kids hitting:

  1. Immediate Correction.
  2. Prompt Discipline.
  3. Opportunity for Reconciliation.

As soon as I caught my one-year old attack our house guest, I scooped him up and took him to a private place. There, I firmly corrected him, “We do not hit!” He then received his discipline, a spanking. (There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to spanking, so let me just say that it needs to be hard enough that he feels a quick sting. But not so hard that you’re being mean.) And then came his opportunity for reconciliation. I reaffirm my love and forgiveness for him by hugging and kissing him. After all, it was my rule he was breaking. Then we approach his victim, and I encourage him to apologize for hitting. His vocabulary is limited, so his apology is not much more than offering a hug. But that’s okay because repentance comes from the heart. Not just words.

If you think this whole thing is going a little overboard with a one-year old, consider the social skills, spiritual disciplines, and ability to deal with conflict that you are teaching him at a young age. So young, that he will probably be unable to remember a time where he wasn’t practicing repentance, forgiveness, and self-control.

His trouble shall return upon his own head, And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.   Psalm 7:16

When [Jesus] was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed [Himself] to Him who judges righteously…   1 Peter 2:23

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

Give Them Choices

148One piece of advice stood out to me when reading Parenting by the Book by Rosemond:

The parent’s job is to train their children to make good choices. 

I’ve learned to give them an array of mini-choices in their pre-school ages. I’ll give them two options, “You can wear this or that, it’s your choice.” But before I set them free to choose, I offer my advice: “If you wear this, it won’t really match, and it will look a little weird. But if you wear this, it will look very cute.” In a more serious situation, it may sound like this: “You can choose to share or not, but if you choose not to, tomorrow no one will be allowed to share with you.”

There’s limits to this freedom, of course. On picture day, I’m going to override my daughter’s privilege to choose to wear a baggy red t-shirt, pink skirt, and snow boots. But in general, feeding my children bits of age-appropriate freedom has kept them from biting at the bit, and fighting me on all my rules. It helps them realize that they are responsible for their actions, and causes them to come to us for help, which is exactly what we are hoping for.

If we can inspire them to make good choices now, then we can look forward to watching them make good choices when they are grown.

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

Dealing With Tantrums

IMG_0702I saw a poor woman yesterday in the grocery store. It’s the same woman we all see and pity. Her child is on the floor. Defiant. Screaming. She’s embarrassed. Trying to maintain an appearance of control, she impotently orders her child to get up. “Stop it. Let’s go. I mean it. Stop it right now. Get up. I’m going to leave. Fine, I’m leaving now. Bye. I’m leaving! Stop crying. Get up!” But her child’s behavior reveals who has the control.

Tantrums. You have got to get on this one early. They’ll start at age one, and you have to stay on top of it for years. The best thing I believe you can do is tonot allow them. That’s not to say they won’t happen. But your children should know what will happen each and every time they attempt to throw a tantrum.

My one year old screams when his siblings take his toy away. And he doesn’t stop until he gets it back. He may have been wronged, but if I don’t deal with his reaction now, he will learn it’s perfectly acceptable to throw a fit every time he finds something unpleasurable.

The issue in his heart is selfishness. He wants what he wants, and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going find a way to make me give it to him. It’s the selfishness that you want to teach him to control. His selfish reaction maybe annoying now, but it will grow with him. By time he’s 18, if I haven’t taught him how to deal with his selfish heart, he’s going to be a very hurtful, destructive man.

The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Prov. 29:15

Children are like cars with a brick on the gas. If someone doesn’t crawl in the car and grab the wheel, they are going to destroy themselves and others.

You won’t get far explaining selfishness to a one year old, but he’ll get the idea if you deal with him swiftly. As soon as I see him begin to scream, I calmly tell him in his ear (because he won’t hear me over his own screams otherwise) not to scream or he’ll get a spanking. He continues screaming, so I take him into a private place, and give one spanking. I then tell him what to do instead of throwing a tantrum. If you don’t instruct along with discipline, your kids will keep screwing up because they will always know what they are doing wrong, but never know what to do right.

“Don’t scream,” I tell him. “Say, ‘Can I have that back please?’” He does his best to parrot what I instructed him, and I reward him by granting his request. I praise him for responding calmly and unselfishly. “Good job! That’s right! That’s a nice way to react!” Make a big deal about his obedience; give him a hug and tell him you’re proud of him.

As their comprehension grows, you can actually teach them what selfishness is. My older children understand it as “not sharing.” We’re steadily moving from that concept to “not throwing a fit when we don’t get what we want.” Give them alternatives to freaking out. Instead of crying, talk normally. Instead of screaming, ask politely. Instead of hitting, go find an adult.

Keeping children from throwing tantrums is a 24/7 job! I will reiterate my point from earlier. You have to correct them every time they throw a tantrum. Let them know every time that it is unacceptable. If you ignore it, because it’s too unpleasant or inconvenient to correct them, I assure you that they will become increasingly demanding before bedtime. If you go days or weeks without correcting tantrums, you will find yourself dreading taking your kids into public. If you go years, your child will be on You Tube as an adolescent throwing a tantrum because his video games got taken away.

One last powerful point is to appeal to authority. Tell them, “We don’t throw tantrums because Jesus wants us to be thankful. It dishonors Him when we are selfish. If we love Him, then we want to obey Him. Being thankful is saying ‘Thank you’ to Jesus for everything you have.”

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalms 100:4

Telling Them “No”

2012-09-29-14-51-51.jpgDo you ever find yourself turning your kids’ requests down? Then come the inevitable appeals of whining, crying, arguing, tantrums… You dread everyday situations where you have to tell your children “no.” You simply don’t have the energy to fight the battle you will face when you have to tell them they’re not getting what they want.

I deal with this in a few ways. I try to say “yes.” I explain the reason. And I do not permit crying (this includes tantrums) when they don’t get what they want.

I try to say “yes” whenever I can. This means I will sometimes alter their requests so that  I can say “yes.”

“No, you cannot have anything else to eat before bed, but when you wake up, we can have pancakes!”

“No, you cannot wear your Spiderman costume to church, but as soon as we come home, you can put it on.”

“No, you can’t have any candy before dinner, but if you help clean up afterwards, I’ll give you one piece.”

Having this attitude of wanting to grant their requests teaches them that you want to bless them. Sometimes their requests are unreasonable. And if we say “no” to everything, they can get discouraged. Developing an attitude of wanting to grant their requests is a good alternative to snapping at them, “No, you can’t!” It is also representative of God’s character, who humbly blesses us with every good gift.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.      James 1:17

I also try to explain to them the reasons for declining their petition. Try to help them to understand what’s best for them.

“The reason we can’t eat too much candy is because it isn’t good for us, and can make us sick. Do you want to be sick?”

“The reason you can’t step into the street is because cars drive there, and you can get very hurt if you get hit by one.”

“The reason you can’t watch another TV show is because when you watch too much TV you get a bad attitude. I don’t want you to get a bad attitude, so let’s turn it off and find something else to do.”

Explaining our reasoning to our children helps them know that we aren’t just trying to rain on their parade. We train them to think the same way we do, so that they start making these same decisions without us constantly having to get on them.

Finally, I don’t put up with crying when they don’t get what they want. Even if I’ve tried to be positive about what they can do, and I’ve explained reasonably why I must decline their request, they may cry, whine, argue, or throw tantrums. They do this because, just like me, they are selfish human beings who want what they want. For any of these actions, they receive discipline and a consequence. The idea is to help them recognize their selfishness, and encourage them to respond respectfully. Even as early as 2 years of age, it’s important for them to begin learning that it’s unacceptable to cry when they don’t get what they want. The sooner you instill this in their hearts, they more you will enjoy your children as they grow!

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Mt 7:11