Coaching Respectful Talk

IMG_4169[1]One of the most important things I’ve learned to do with my children is to coach them on their speech. I’ve oftentimes disapproved of their speech without teaching them what to do instead. It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of barking rebukes at them:

“Don’t talk to me like that!”

“Stop fighting!”

Or my one year old sits on the floor and screams while I silently and obediently get him some milk.

In all those cases my one goal is to stop the peace-arresting noise of conflict and displeasure. Instead, my goal should be to teach my kids how to communicate kindly, graciously, and effectively. 

My kids’ problem is that they’re just responding in ways that are natural for them. They won’t know how to act any different unless someone shows them. I need to get down on their level and  communicate gently that their current response is unacceptable, and demonstrate with my words and tone what is. 

“That way you talked to me is very disrespectful, and that’s not allowed in this house. Why don’t you say, ‘Mom, may I please watch the end of this show, and then I’ll clean up?'”

“Hey, let’s not fight. Don’t scream and grab. Say, ‘Can I play with that toy, please?'”

And to my one-year old, “No, we don’t need to scream’. Say, ‘Mommy… I… want… milk… please…'”

Now we’re giving our children something to replace their bad behavior with. We are giving them their best chance to learn to talk respectfully and kindly if we take the time to coach them on it, word by word.

Let your speech always be with grace…    Colossians 4:6

Picky Eating

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It can be frustrating when a child refuses to eat their food. I’m particularly prone to bitterness when I’ve worked hard on a healthy meal, and the response I hear from tiny little voices is, “I don’t want that!”

Most of us are blessed enough to be able to eat 3 meals a day, plus snacks. Meat is an everyday event; cereal, chips, and baked goods overflow. It used to be that only royalty had the means to obtain a pineapple, and they had to send ships halfway across the world to get it! We are overly blessed to have an abundance of food at our disposal, and my kids have no idea.

I know I have to make a concerted effort to instill thankfulness in their hearts. And oftentimes lack is what produces hearty thankfulness. So when I hear, “I don’t want that!” I don’t play the, well-what-do-you-want game. The rule in our house is, you don’t have to eat it, but there are no substitutes, and no snacks until the next meal. If they choose to go hungry, by the next mealtime they are ready to be thankful for what’s served them! Hungry kids aren’t picky!

We talk quite a bit about being thankful for our food around here. All the kids know that the best way to show that we’re thankful for our food is by eating it!

…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    1 Thessalonians 5:18

A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.   Proverbs 27:7

Selfish Children

076Other people’s selfish children can be annoying. But when it’s your own child being selfish, it can be downright disheartening. It’s embarrassing to see your child shamelessly display incredible self-centeredness in public.

I believe the best way to teach your children generosity is by example. Jesus is the ultimate example of generosity, and if you are not following His example, probably your children aren’t either. Do your children hear you calling them, “Hey guys, come here! I have a treat to share with you!” Or are they used to, “No! Get away from that! That’s mine, don’t touch it!” Does your home teach your children the joy of generosity, or the burdensome task carefully guarding your stuff for yourself?

Secondly, children need to have the freedom to be selfish if they are to learn genuine generosity. If they are being forced to share their stuff with others, then they are not really learning to do so. They will likely spring back to selfishness as soon as the authority figure leaves the room. They need to know their stuff is theirs. Theirs to keep. Theirs to give.  

When selfish hearts get vocal at our house, the envied toy automatically goes to the person to whom it belongs. The other child may then politely ask for permission to play with it. The owner of the toy gets to make the ultimate decision whether to share or not, but they are strongly encouraged to do so. Here are some questions I often ask to get them thinking about generosity:

  • “Do you like it when I share my ice cream [or other item you’ve recently shared] with you?” (Of course the answer is, “Yes.”) “Then you should also share your stuff with your brother.”
  • “I think it would really bless your brother if you let him play with it. Would you like to bless him by letting him play with it for a little while?”
  • “You can say ‘no’ if you want to, but that’s called ‘selfishness.’ It’s wrong to be selfish, and it makes Jesus sad when we’re selfish. Would you rather share like Jesus shares?”
  • “Jesus is very kind to us, isn’t He? He always shares His stuff with us, and He says that we should be like Him and share our stuff with others.”

When children are given the freedom to share and the freedom to be selfish, they will better own their decision. As you point to Jesus’ example of generosity and imitate it yourself, you will likely see your children follow in your footsteps.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us… Ephesians 5:2

Six Tips on Potty Training

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After potty training 3 times, here are some pointers I’ve collected along the way.

1. Toilet seat lips. The cute character-themed toilet seat lips are not worth the trouble. They trap urine in the crevasses, and have to be cleaned constantly to avoid making your bathroom smell like urine. You’re continually taking them off for the adults, and putting them back on for the kid. Also, where do you store those things? Mine was an eye sore in my bathroom. Storing it on the side of the toilet was usually what I did, but it was bulky and awkward. I was always worried that it was secretly dripping urine on my floor. Turns out, my 2 year old can balance perfectly on a adult-sized toilet without falling in! Skipping the toilet lip saved me a lot of hassle and messes this last time around!

2. Incentive. A little treat each time they go to the restroom will help with motivation. I think a small edible reward is a good little prize for going on the potty. I like to hand out something like Goldfish Crackers. It’s not as unhealthy as candy, but fun enough to get them excited. It’s small enough that you won’t mind giving them one each time they potty on the toilet.

3. Bare bottoms. Toddlers are more aware of their plumbing when they’re bare (or mostly bare). They will be more likely to notice the sensation of needing to use the bathroom if they don’t have diapers, or layers of clothes “padding” them from the consequences. If you go hard on this method for a few days, you could potentially have your toddler potty trained in a weekend.

4. Salty snacks and favorite drinks. Let them go crazy on their favorite salty snack. Popcorn is good, because it’s so light, and they can eat more of it. Then pump them full of fluids. Get them excited about getting their favorite drink in their favorite cup. You can do juice, milk, chocolate milk, tea; however, I never advocate kids drinking a lot of soda which lends nothing to their nutrition. Doing this is especially helpful if you are trying to potty train in a short amount of time, and you want to increase their trips to the bathroom.

5. Diapers over Pull-ups. Pull-ups are fun and cute, and a little more convenient, but they are pricey and not completely necessary. You can get the same use out of your diapers, just by fastening them slightly looser than normal. That way you can pull them up and down with ease. You can use up the rest of your diapers and save a little money by bypassing the Pull-ups.

6. The casual method. The more casual method of potty training may look like taking your toddler to the toilet whenever you have the chance, not really worrying about accidents. You keep them in their diaper all day, praising and rewarding them when they actually drop something in the toilet. This method takes longer, but is more convenient if you don’t have the opportunity to stay glued to your toddler’s side, watching him like a hawk for several days.

What are some potty-training tricks that made your potty-training experience successful?

Stop Repeating Yourself A Gazillion Times

20130421-233827.jpgWe’re usually blowing a head gasket before we realize we’ve been repeating ourselves for the last hour. It creeps up on you. You may be giving out a task to your children as you go about your business, but you don’t realize it hasn’t been completed until you pass by your child- still idle. You remind your child of the task again… and again, only to find out it’s still not accomplished. Eventually, your blood pressure rises and you find yourself asking, “WHY ARE THERE STILL TOYS ON THE FLOOR!?!”

1. Make sure your voice isn’t background noise. Put your hand on their shoulder, squat down, and look them in the eye. Once they are looking back at you, then give them direction.

2. Go for the awkward silence. After making eye contact and giving them their chore, keep looking at them and wait for them to start. They will realize that you are waiting for them to get on it, and begin to move.

3. “Yes Sir/Ma’am” Chart. I got this idea from the Duggars. That fantastic family of 19 well-behaved children. Each child gets a blank chart, and every time they respond with a “Yes, Ma’am!” or “Yes, Sir!” they get to mark an “X.” If they fill up all their boxes, they get to choose a prize out of our “prize bucket” (which I fill with dollar store treasures). This has two great effects. First, it teaches your child that beautiful phrase, “Yes, Ma’am/Sir,” and secondly, it encourages cheerful obedience.

4. Check their work. Create a habit of following up on their work. The more often you check to see if they did it right (or at all), the more often they will follow through correctly.

5. Mean what you say. Let’s admit it. We say a lot of things that we don’t really mean. Ask yourself, do you really care if they follow through or not? If it’s not that big of a deal that they pick their blanket up off the floor, communicate it that way. “I don’t really like looking at your blanket, would you mind putting it away?” But if it’s essential, choose your words differently. Use your “Please go do this now” tone sparingly. If your serious tone is overused, then it won’t be taken seriously.

6. Enforce. Name a consequence that will be given if the chore is disobeyed or ignored. Maybe a spanking, or a removal of privileges. If they don’t complete the task in the allotted amount of time, follow through with the consequence. (But remember, don’t threaten if you don’t intend to follow through!)

7. Praise generously. Nothing will motivate them to want to work hard for you like making a big deal out of their obedience. Hoop and holler, give out hugs, kisses, high fives, and loud “Well Done’s!” They will learn to take pride in their work if you are proud of their work.

Spanking Doesn’t Work With My Child

I appreciate Tedd Tripp’s perspective concerning children who don’t seem to respond to spanking. Here’s his wise and insightful advice for those who would say, “Spanking doesn’t work with my child.”

“This objection requires further examination of a parent’s specific practice. Years of pastoral experience have persuaded me that cases of the rod not working can be summarized as follows:

  1. Inconsistent use of the rod. The child never knew what would elicit a spanking. Therefore, he was always testing the parent.
  2. Failure to persist. Some folks never try anything long enough for it to work. They give the rod a couple of days. Their children are not transformed overnight. They give up in discouragement.
  3. Failure to be effective. I have witnessed spankings ministered through a double layer of diapers to a child who never stopped moving long enough to know he had been spanked. The spanking was ineffective because the parents never made the rod felt.
  4. Doing it in anger. I have always been amazed at the innate sense of justice in a child. children will not yield to correction administered in unholy anger. They inwardly resist submitting their hearts to a parent who bullies them.”

From Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

Parenting Advice From Grandpa

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WWII Veteran Melvin Lagoon with his youngest great-grandson, Enoch. 2012

Here’s some sweet and simple advice from an 89-year old WWII Veteran, and father of four:

“Love ‘em. There’s no need to yell at ’em all the time like they’re a bunch of dumb animals.”

I will use this post as a small tribute to my grandfather. He is a WWII Veteran, a paratrooper, and by God’s grace, a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. Recently, he was able to travel back to Belgium where he fought for our freedom, representing the men of the 17th Airborne Division.

I have been delighted to tears to see how he has been honored these last couple weeks. You can read all about it on my uncle’s blog who has documented this once-in-a-life-time opportunity. Here’s a ten-minute news clip that tells the story.

My Grandpa’s story challenges me to evaluate the legacy I am leaving for my children. And their children. And their children. The way I choose to live my life today will no doubt affect the people of my family for generations to come.

Will they look back on my life and be blessed by the way I raised their grandpa or grandma? Am I living a life worth emulating 3 generations from now? Am I creating an honorable legacy to pass on to my great-grandchildren?

I think I speak for all of us Lagoon’s when I say I am privileged to be a part of Melvin Lagoon’s family. His service in fighting for America’s freedom, and his dedication to be a good husband and father has enriched my life. And I’m so grateful.

What Do You Allow?

Yellowstone 2011 - Anthony's Pics (31)I often get frustrated and think, “Why are my kids doing this?!” Like when they talk back or argue, talk disrespectfully, or even just jump on the couch. “Don’t they know what they’re doing is not allowed?!” The simple answer is, I’ve allowed it. I let them do it once, or a few times. I’ve allowed it. I let them do it with no consequence whatsoever. In my mind it’s definitely against the rules, but according to my actions, it’s totally permissible.

Before I freak out, I need to reign it in, and think through if I’ve actually taught them not to do that. If I haven’t taken the time to discipline that sort of behavior, then now’s the time to begin.

If I silently disapprove of a behavior for too long, eventually I will explode, resulting in mean-mommy guilt, and a confused and hurt child. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of our children’s behavior. Stay engaged and on top of the situation at hand. Manage the misbehavior as it comes, so that you can constantly be at peace with your child, or presently working towards it.

Apologizing To Your Kids

IMG_2950You were a total jerk to your kids. Even though they were getting out of hand, you lost your temper and took it out on them. No wait- that was me. Who knew I had such a problem with anger? Like Jim Bob Duggar says, “I never had an anger problem before I had kids!”

When you find yourself suffering from mean mommy guilt, the best thing to do is go and apologize to your kids. Take the chance that they might not learn their lesson. They just might learn an even more important one from hearing you apologize: repentance.

We first repent to God, and then the victim of our sin- our children. It takes humility to apologize to such small people who are under our authority. But your apology is powerful. It can heal, and win their little hearts. And that’s what we want, isn’t it? We want to win their hearts so our influence carries weight.

Repentance is the basic building of block of Christianity. Martin Luther believed that the entire life of the Christian should be one of repentance. Tim Kellar states, “It is the way we make progress in the Christian life.” Your kids already know you’re not perfect. So don’t worry about losing ground that you never really had. Show them how to deal with failure by submitting to Jesus, and embracing forgiveness. I pray you hear similar words that I often hear from my little Jane, “Mommy, I will always forgive you!”

For godly sorrow produces repentance [leading] to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10