Showing posts with label Parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parenting. Show all posts

Nov 17, 2017

How to Teach Toddlers and Preschoolers to Put on Their Own Jackets

Teach Little Kids to Put on Their Own Coat
It's been a while since my kids were toddlers or preschoolers (sniff!), but there was a trick I used to teach them to put on their own coats and jackets that I don't see elsewhere on the Internet or in magazines. I LOVED teaching my kids this trick because:

* It saved me time and hassle
* and it made my kids feel more independent. (What toddler or preschooler doesn't love doing it all by herself?)

When my mother saw me use this trick with my first born, she said, "Why not just teach her to put on her jacket the normal way?" Well, because toddlers and preschoolers, generally speaking, can't do it the way an adult or bigger kid does. But they absolutely can put on their own jacket by following these simple steps:

1. Place the jacket on the floor, the right side facing down. At first, you'll probably need to do this for your child, but it won't be long before he figures out how to "do it myself!"

2. Have your child stand at the head of the jacket and place his arms inside the sleeves. It will look like he's about to put on his jacket backward and upside down. (See photos.)

3. Have your child flip the jacket over his head. Viola! It's on correctly and you or your child can now zip it up.

This post is an updated version of one that originally appeared in October of 2009.

Oct 24, 2017

What Fills Your Day? An Easy Experiment for Kids

Easy Experiment for Children
Years ago, my firstborn and I conducted a preschool experiment that, given the culture we live in, ought to be required for people of all ages. Not only does it illustrate how easy it is to fill our lives with less important things, it also shows there's always room for Jesus, every single day.

To prepare, I cut up some inexpensive sponges, dug out an empty glass jar (see-through plastic works, too), and filled a pitcher with water.

I laid the sponges and the jar on the table and asked my daughter to name some things that fill her day. She came up with many things, from brushing her teeth and hair to doing school work and playing with her toys. For each thing she named, I asked her to place one piece of sponge in the jar.

Soon I said, "It doesn't seem like there's room for anything else, does there?" We then took a few minutes to discuss whether she had filled her jar with time wasters, less important things, or truly important things. "If we remove some of the less important sponges - like maybe watching cartoons - will you have room for more important things, like visiting with friends?" I asked. She readily agreed.

Then I touched the pitcher of water. "Jesus is like this water," I said, as I slowly poured the liquid into the jar. She wasn't sure she understood, so I explained: "It seemed there was room for nothing else in the jar, didn't it? But there was plenty of room left for this water. Sometimes our lives seem so busy - much too full for us to spend time with God. But there is always time for Him. And what do you notice about the sponges now?"

She said they were bigger. "Yes, the sponges grew, didn't they?" I said. "That's what Jesus does to us. When we make time for him, he fills us up with lots of good things."

It's a lesson she never forgot.

This post was originally published in a slightly different form on 10/9/09.

Aug 10, 2017

A Proverb 31 Woman's Priorities

There is a lot of pressure in the Christian community for everyone to "have a ministry." What are you doing for the church? What are you, specifically, doing for God? However, if you're the mother of young children, this is problematic.

Every mom learns pretty quickly that if she wants her family to have a great home life, she has to juggle many things. She needs to not only care for her children's physical needs, but also spend time with them so their emotional and spiritual needs are met. She wants to keep a reasonably clean house and serve healthy meals. She needs to keep the laundry pile under control. To increase her family's health and self sufficiency, she might also want to do things like garden, preserve, and sew. She might also home school. And then there is her husband: She needs to maintain a good relationship with him, which also requires times and effort. That's a lot for one person to do! And then a Christian friend actually asks "What is your ministry?"

The Proverbs 31 Woman did many things, but she kept them in some semblance of balance. She didn't teach a women's Bible study but let her house turn into a scene from Hoarders. She didn't donate time to the local shelter but neglect to spend time with her husband. She didn't keep a blog to encourage other women but leave her children feeling like they never got much time from mom.

Balance is only possible if you have priorities. So, biblically speaking, what are the right priorities for a mother?

1. A relationship with God. Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." And in Mark 12:30, Jesus says the most important commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Remember, too, how Jesus told the ever-busy-housekeeping Martha that her sister Mary had "chosen what is better" by seeking God first. For the modern Proverbs 31 Woman, this means seeking God's will, and reading the Bible daily and praying continuously throughout the day.

2. Husband. It's not politically correct, but yes, our husbands are next in line. 1 Corinthians 7:34 hints at this by saying one of a married woman's top concerns is pleasing her husband. The reason for this is pretty simple: First, God created woman to be her husband's (not her childrens') helpmeet. Second, husbands and wives should set an example for their children - an example of how to live godly lives, which certainly doesn't include neglecting our spouse. (1 Thes. 2:11-12; Prov. 22:6) Finally, once the children are grown and out of the house, you'll want and need a solid relationship with your husband; that won't happen if you neglect your husband now.

3. Children. God tells us to create "godly offspring" (Mal. 2:15) and in Timothy, we learn that a woman's ministry is "bringing up children." In Deuteronomy, God says parents (not teachers) must teach children the ways of the Lord. God gave you children to to care for. They grow so quickly; don't busy yourself with other things and neglect the important ministry - your children - that God has put squarely before you. Remember, when they are older, you'll have more time for other ministries - but why would God entrust you with those if you neglect the ministry of your children?

4. Home. Like it or not, the Bible says one of the signs of a godly woman is that she cares for her home. This doesn't mean she should be Martha Stewart-esque or that she is a slave to housework. It's simply a recognition that if we live in sloth and ugliness, our attitudes and personalities will be affected negatively. If our homes are reasonably clean and comfortable, however, the entire family benefits. Husband, children, and wife can take refuge at home, feeling less stress and more peace. Proverbs 31:27 says a godly woman "watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." 1 Timothy 5:14 says young unmarried women do well to marry and "to manage their homes..." And in Titus, we are told it's good for women to "love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands..."

Those four priorities are huge. Honestly, it's the rare woman who can successfully add more and keep a decent balance in her life. In fact, it's interesting to note the Bible never mentions mothers with young children doing anything else - no other job, no other ministry. Nowhere does Jesus or anyone else in the early church ask moms, "What is your ministry?" Because their ministry is being a wife and mother. And that is a full time job.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

Jan 12, 2017

Parenting for the Future, Not for the Right Now

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So often in parenting, we parent for the right now. We need them to behave...right now. We need them to obey, be quiet, do their school work, do their chores...right now. But how often does the future come into play as we parent each day?

Recently, I've been reading Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson and Chrys Howard, and one small section really grabbed me:

"[God] created Adam and Eve as grown adults. He saw His creation in its adult form, and then He worked backward. We must be able to see our children as adults if we are to start putting the traits in them today that we deem important for tomorrow...You can apply this method in a couple of different ways. One is visualizing how you would like for them to be as adults and then prioritizing and teaching them those behaviors."

Prioritizing the behaviors you most want to see in your adult children? This is parenting for the future, for sure.

How might that play out in real life?

Well, I have one child who is stubborn and strong willed. This doesn't necessarily have to be a negative thing. How can I teach her to use her strong willed personality in a way that's pleasing to God? I can teach her about Christian martyrs, for sure. (The Torchlighters DVDs are an excellent resource for that, by the way.) I can teach her the difference between being true to God and being worldly. I can teach her to stand up for others. I can teach her to be stubborn for God. In fact, recently I've been telling her, "Be stubborn about doing what's right."

When I visualize the man I hope my youngest child will become, one thing that comes to mind first is that he be willing to work hard - for his family, for God, for what's good and right. Right now, he can honestly be a bit lazy. So if I want him to grow into a hard working man, I need to start training him to embrace work now.

What about your kids? What kind of people would you like them to become? How can you start training them to be those people today?

Sep 27, 2016

Sex Ed: Some Recommendations for the Christian Parent

When I was about 12 years old, my mother handed me a sex ed book our family doctor had recommended. She'd never talked about sex or puberty before, so I thought it as kind of weird. Still, I read the book. The saddest part was, it didn't teach me anything I hadn't already learned from my friends and acquaintances. What a shame.

A shame, because my parents lost the opportunity to teach me the truth about sexuality.

That was in the 1980s. Now imagine your child today learning about sex from her friends and acquaintances. And, since we've become such a sex-crazed society, the media, too.

Because make no mistake about it, if you don't teach your child about sex, she will learn about it elsewhere. And the messages the world sends about sex today is twisted and untruthful and hurtful.

Did you know that some researchers believe the average age American boys first see porn is 8? (Other experts say "before the age of 18.") Or that each year one in four teens get a sexually transmitted disease? That by age 18, most American teens have had extra-marital sex? That teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have STDs as any other teen? That the average American teen has been exposed to 0.93 hours of sexuality in movies? (This seems a low estimate to me!) And that for each hour of exposure to sexual content in films, the risk of initiating sex at each age increased by more than five times? Did you know that 7 percent of high school kids have had sex before the age of 13? And that by 9th grade, a third of students have become sexually active (and by 12th grade, two thirds are sexually active)? And 60% of teens overall regret they started having sex? And while I have no stats to prove it, I believe the age of sexual activity is lowering rapidly. This is based on anecdotal evidence, such as someone telling me their 9 year old son attended a "rainbow party" where all the girls wear a different color lipstick and the boy with the most colors on his penis "wins."

Undoubtedly, most parents need to start talking to their children about sex earlier than they think they need to.

But how does a Christian parent go about this? First and foremost, I encourage you not to have one big, informational-dump "talk." Not only can this be overwhelming for your child, but it doesn't encourage children to come to you with their "embarrassing" questions. More than anything else, you should strive to become the human source your child comes to when he has questions about sexuality. (Actually, the human source when your child has questions about anything.) The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to talk to your child regularly about sexual matters, starting from a young age.

How young, you may ask? As soon as they start asking questions about private parts - and maybe sooner. My recommendation is preschool. I know that seems very, very young. But my recollection from preschool is that children were already showing each other their private parts - and more. How much more likely are they to do that today?

For this mama, the rule is: Answer all their questions honestly, in an age appropriate way. 

This doesn't mean going into nitty gritty details when they are very young. Usually, simple (but honest!) answers are enough to satisfy young kids. An example: If your preschooler asks you why Tommy's bottom looks different from hers, a good explanation might be: "Because God made boys and girls to look different down there. But we keep those parts private most of the time and share them only at certain times: When a doctor needs to look, or Mommy or Daddy need to help you with the potty or maybe some medicine, or, once you're grown up and married, when you're with your husband."

In addition to making these talks a regular part of your lives, I can also recommend using a few Christian sex ed books. I really like what we've read of the God's Design for Sex series. I began reading The Story of Me, which gives the basics of where babies come from, to my kids when they were about preschool age. When they were in the first or second grade, I began reading the second book in the series, Before I Was Born. However, I omitted certain phrases (one in particular), which I explain in detail here.

There are books for older kids in the series, too, but I haven't yet read them to my kids. (You can see reviews for some of them, plus other Christian sex ed books, on my old blog Christian Children's Book Review.) In addition, when I wanted to teach my daughter about menstruation, I read her The Care and Keeping of You. This American Girl book does a good job of explaining the changes that happen during puberty. My only complaint is that it assumes girls don't want to talk to their parents about this topic. Since I read the book aloud to my daughter, I was able to omit that part of the text.

One other recommendation: Don't be wishy washy.

When explaining matters of sexuality, teach from God's Word with confidence.

Don't let worldliness taint the conversation. For example, don't say, "Wait to have sex until your married...but if you decide to have sex before then, use a condom." This is such a mixed message! It makes sex outside of marriage seem permissible, and worse, it makes God's Word sound like something you can ignore or change! I understand the desire to protect our children from STDs and per-marital pregnancy, but the world is already pushing condoms onto our kids. Stand firm in God's Word.

Finally, do your best not to preach. Remember, you're not telling your children how to follow your opinions about sexuality; you're explaining to them God's design for sex.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Jun 12, 2015

His Grace is Revealed through Parenting

The morning was like many recent mornings. My daughter seemed too tired to listen to my brief instructions about what she needed to do before we started school work. I had to repeat them at least six times. Then she took an hour to dress and brush her teeth and hair. Then, instead of doing school work, she chose to stare out the window, daydreaming. 
When I told my 6 year it was time to start school, he said "No!," then tried to run away from me. (Why did we ever move into a house with a circular floor plan??) When I finally caught him, disciplined him, and got him seated at the kitchen table, I marked the rows of handwriting practice I wanted him to do. He purposefully chose to do rows I didn't mark. When I made him come back to the table and do the rows I marked, he argued with me, saying, "You hate me! You're the worst Mommy ever!"

That was it. I broke into tears. Here I was trying to do right by my children, and all they could do was fight me and make everything more difficult.

My son's heart instantly softened and he gave me a big hug as I reminded him, "I do the things I do, and ask the things I ask of you, because I love you."

He patted my back and I wiped away my tears of frustration and hurt. Then he turned around and did the work I had asked him to do, this time without complaint.

Parenting isn't for the faint of heart, and there's nothing wrong with having one of those days when all you want to do is cry. In fact, crying makes you feel a wee bit better. And if you don't hide those tears from your children, wet cheeks can suddenly put things in perspective for them.

As for me, while my children took new interest in doing their school work, I took up some housework and prayed.

"God, thank you for reminding me how I look in your eyes. I know I often don't listen to you as well as I should. I often take too long to do the things you ask me to do. Sometimes my heart rebels and I say "No!" Sometimes I wonder how a God who loves me can let certain things happen. I am a sinner, Lord. Thank you for showing me grace. And please help me to teach my children about your amazing grace, too."


...He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.

Mar 9, 2015

It's Okay to be a Clueless Christian Parent

Like most people, before I had children I had strong ideas on how to raise them. Parenting seemed pretty simple to me. What was the problem with those unruly kids in the grocery store? Clearly, their mothers didn't know the first thing about parenting. (Oy, what a jerk I was.)

Then I had children. I held to the parenting ideas I'd formed pre-kid...and they worked pretty well until my daughter turned three. Then she began asserting her will. I did all the "right" things to shape her behavior, but as the years moved forward, I began to realize my parenting techniques weren't working. I was utterly exhausted. My body was sick. My mind was frazzled. I was so unhappy. My child was unruly. I was a failure as a mom.

But here's the thing: I believe God brought me to that broken point - feeling like an utter failure - so I could finally get this through my thick head: I had no idea how to be a Christian parent. My parents weren't (aren't) Christians. I never had an example of Christian parenting to follow. I was clueless.

Maybe you're like me: A Christian parent without an example to follow. Or maybe, despite a great example set before you, you still feel like a failure as a mom. If so, there is hope:

Pray Without Ceasing

I probably spend more time praying for my children and my parenting skills than I do praying for anything else. Prayer is my life preserver - because most days I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Most days, I'm sure I will drown in a sea of exhaustion....taking the kids - and perhaps the whole neighborhood - with me.

Pray for wisdom, because God promises he will grant it.

Pray for guidance in how to discipline, because not disciplining is not a choice Christian parents can make.

Pray for opportunities and ways to shape your children's character.

Pray for ways to help guide your children to Christ.

Pray that God will guide them toward Christ.

Pray for a way to get through the day!

And while you're at it, let your kids see you pray. Whether you're praying a quick, "Jesus, help me!" or are flat on your face before the Lord, don't make a big show of it, but leave your bedroom door open a crack so your children can see who you turn to.

Be in the Word

I really do know know how hard it is to read the Bible when you have young children. But it's really not negotiable. Christians must know God's word. They must read it every day. Period.

Besides, there are a lot of parenting techniques in there. (For tips on finding Bible time, click here.)

Talk to Christian Friends Who are Parents

How are they parenting? I'm certainly not suggesting you mimic their every move, but sometimes they'll mention something - or you'll simply observe something - that hits your heart and you know you need to bring into your own home.

Talk to Your Spouse

Did he come from a Christian home? Does he feel his family was a good example of what Christian parenting should be? What worked and didn't work in his family? Try to get on the same page as your husband...and if this is difficult, pray about it. Without ceasing.

You Are Not In Control

You are not in control. Let's repeat that again: You are not in control! And, really, that's a good thing! God commands the ship and he can certainly manage your children.

Ultimately, God will shape your children as he sees fit. Only the Father can change our children's hearts. Give God that burden - because, in reality, it's not yours!

Have hope. Keep going. Turn to God in everything. He has a plan. Trust him.

Related Posts:

When You Just Want to Quit
When You Feel Like a Failure as a Mom
The Confidence to Discipline

Feb 3, 2015

An Important Role in the Household - What Your Child Needs to Know

Last weekend, my 9 year old daughter's behavior was hindering me. I can't even recall what she was doing. I just know I was utterly exhausted and trying to get a little housework done. And then it hit me. We'd never talked about her role in the household. So I set aside the dishes and cuddled up beside her.

We're in the middle of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, one of our favorite books in the series. It fit in perfectly with what I wanted to say. "Think about Almanzo [the main character in the book]. He had a very specific role in his family. What was it?"

"Chores," my daughter replied.

"Yes, but be more specific. Who was he doing chores for? Wasn't he doing chores to help his father?"

She agreed this was correct.

"What about Almanzo's sisters? What was there role in the family?" I asked.

"They work in the kitchen and stuff and help their mother," she said.

"Exactly. Their role in the family was to help their mother with her work. Now, what is your role in our family?"

She shrugged. And why wouldn't she? Nobody had ever explained to her what her role in our family is. So I clarified; her role is to be a helper - primarily for me, but also to help and serve others in the household. That's part of her job as a daughter in the Seleshanko household.

My daughter's face lit up. She'd never considered that she had an important role in our household - a role that really matters. She just knew she had to do chores she didn't much like. She couldn't see the purpose behind those chose and why her involvement in them helped the whole family. Suddenly, she felt pride that she could help everyone in the family by doing very obtainable things.

I think this is something most modern day children are lacking. In Almanzo's day, children knew if they didn't perform their role for the family, it could have serious consequences. If they didn't help plant the fields, there might be no food to eat the following year. Today, children are rarely told that their role in the household is important.

But as my daughter really stepped things up and not only began doing her chores more quickly and willingly, but offered to do more to help me around the house, I realized that children need to know not so much that they are Important with a capital I - an overstatement that has lead to a self-centered generation - but that what they do is important.

How dare I deprive her of this vital knowledge? Well, no longer.

Jan 21, 2015

How to Make a Child Safety Kit

Every once in a while, our insurance company gives us child safety kits - brochures, really, designed to give to police in case our children get lost or stolen. This is not something any parent likes to think about, and such ID kits are not something we're likely ever to need. But...if the need did arrive, we'd never forgive ourselves for not having the information handy.

So last weekend, I finally got my act together and filled them out for the first time. I didn't tell my children what the kits were for; I just told them I was going to take their fingerprints - a statement that was met with happy squeals. I jokingly called the photos I took specifically for the kits "mug shots." And the kids loved comparing their weight and height, too. A fun time was had by all, and in just a few minutes, I had a complete kit for each child.

Where to Get Child ID Kits

If you don't have a current child safety kit for each of your kids, it really is worth the little bit of time it takes to complete them. If your insurance company doesn't give them away for free, you may feel uncomfortable about ordering kits online. (You might think: "How do I know this is legit and not some weirdo collecting info on children with families?) So the FBI recommends getting kits from the National Child Identification Program - although there is a fee for kits from this source. (I do love, however, that churches can order bunches of these kits to give every child in their congregation or community.) The Polly Klaas Foundation (named after a famously abducted child) offers kits absolutely free, and is a known and legit organization.

But wherever you get your child safety kit, it should include:
  • A place to put fingerprints (along with instructions and ink)
  • A place for a current photo
  • A place to record, periodically, your child's weight and height
  • A place to record birth marks and other identifying features
  • A place for recording basic contact information (such as address and phone number). 
 Some kits may even include a place for a DNA sample.

Some Other Important Safety Measures

In addition to having a child safety kit, it's an excellent idea to always have a recent, clear, headshot-style photo of each child in your purse/wallet or on your cell phone. This way, if your child does get lost, security or police have instant access to an identifying photo.

Your child should also play a part in his or her own safety. For a complete list of things you should teach every child from the time they are toddlers - with a refresher every few months, click here.

Oct 20, 2014

When You Just Want to Quit

It's no secret that being a stay at home mom is not for wimps. In fact, very probably, it's the toughest job ever. I'm the first one to admit that some days I just want to quit - run away from home and let someone else deal with the children and the housework. I'm sure you've been there, too. But a Proverbs 31 Woman knows she can't just give up. So what should she do when she just can't take it any more?

1. Pray. Stop everything and go find a quiet place to pray. I know that's easier said than done (!), but as the Nike ads used to say, "Just do it." If the kids are likely to hurt each other or themselves, separate them in their own rooms, or put some safely outside in the yard and some in their rooms. Or, stand in the midst of the chaos and pray aloud. You need Jesus. Right. Now. Pray for help, certainly. Pray for a new perspective, too. But also just dwell in God's presence and focus on the blessings he's given you.

2. Examine your self talk. Our thoughts about our situation and ourselves are often downright mean.Our self talk can also be accusing, which means it's directly from Satan, not God. But when we're stressed and exhausted and the kids are making us crazy, we need to stop and THINK about what we're thinking. Acknowledge parts of your self talk that aren't from God, drop them, and meditate on what God really says about your situation.

3. Focus on others. If we're feeling sorry for ourselves, we are too self focused. If we are mad at others, we are probably too self focused, too. The Bible tells us to have the heart of a servant. This isn't easy, but we can train ourselves - with God's help - to think of others before ourselves.

4. Focus on serving God. This is the ultimate goal of a Proverbs 31 Woman - and, thank goodness, God doesn't expect perfection.

5. Immerse yourself in God's word. This can be really tough if your children are little, but it's vital to being a good mommy, wife, and daughter of God.  Click here for tips on finding time to read the Bible; also be sure to read this post about a Proverb 31 Woman's priorities.

6. Ask for help. If you're like me, it's really, really hard to ask other people to help you. But it's just flat a myth than women can "do it all." Lean on your friends; that is part of why they are in your life. Ask your parents or in-laws for help. Ask the church for help. Ask for a few hours of alone time to sleep, pray, have peace. Ask for help cleaning your house. Ask for help because you are depressed. Help. Is. Out. There. Take advantage of it.

What do YOU do when you just want to quit?

Oct 1, 2014

Teaching Children to Tie Shoelaces - a Neat Trick

In our modern society, with it's oh-so-easy Velcro shoes and hurried pace, a lot of children are learning to tie their shoes at an older age than they used to. At our house, my just-turned 9 year old was having a terrible time consistently tying her shoes. She's a smart girl, but learning to tie shoe laces isn't all that easy. And no doubt I contributed to her problem by saying things like, "Hurry up! We'll be late! Just throw on your flip flops!"

So recently, I searched the Internet for shoe tying ideas. There are tons of them. But the simplest one I found - and the one that WORKED - was the one in the video below. If your child can cross his or her shoe laces and create the "knot" that is the basis for bows, they can master this method of shoe tying in about 1 minute!


Jun 18, 2014

Teaching Kids Gratitude

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

A few weeks ago, I noticed my children were suddenly full of the wants. When we went shopping, they wanted me to buy things for them. When they were playing with their toys, they talked about toys they "really, really wanted." When we put them to bed at night, they went on and on about stuff they didn't own but longed for. Um, yeah. They needed to focus on being thankful.

Happily, it didn't take much to redirect their thoughts away from stuff they want. If your kids seem to want and want and want, try these ideas I use for teaching my children thankfulness.

* Pray. First and foremost, pray privately for God to show you how to teach your children that more isn't better, that they already have what they need, and that more stuff doesn't bring happiness - in fact, often it brings the opposite.

* Set the Example. If you are busy chasing after stuff, always coveting what others have, or wishing for more, so will your kids. Pay close attention to your actions, words, and attitudes, to ensure you aren't setting a bad example.

* Research. Show your children how less fortunate kids live. Explore this in as many ways as you can. For example, together look at these photos from Where Children Sleep, search for National Geographic photos of children around the world, and read books like God Provides Homes Around the World.

* Make Thankful Lists. You can do this in many ways. For example, every night at the dinner table, every member of the family might mention 1 - 3 things they are thankful for. Or, the children could make a paper chain and every day add a new thing they are thankful for. Older kids can keep a gratitude journal.

* Make 'Em Pay. Provide a way for your children to pay for things themselves. I'm not talking necessities here - only wants. Even very young children can do chores - things that are above and beyond the chores you'd normally expect of them - to earn a small amount of money. (I never pay over $1 to my children, ages 8 and 5. Usually their payment is 5 - 75 cents.) Or, if your child wants a particular thing, have him do something special for it for a length of time before you buy it for him. For example, my 5 year old just earned a toy he'd been pining for by picking up ALL the toys in the house every day (without me nagging him) for two weeks. Working for things, or paying for them, helps children understand that those things come with a price beyond dollars.

* The Ol' Switcheroo. Whenever your kids start talking self-centered desires, gently lead her to think about others instead. For example, if your child goes on and on about a thing she wants, ask her what others may be wanting or needing.

* Gratitude in Prayer. Teach your children to start every prayer by thanking God for as much as they can think of. Then teach them to pray for others before they pray for themselves. Model this type of prayer whenever you pray aloud with your kids.

* Have Them Give. Visit a charity website like Heifer International. Help your children understand the need, then encourage them to give to the charity. If they are doing extra chores for money, have them set aside not only a tithe for church, but also a portion for those in need. Help them find ways to serve others without using money, too. For example, could your child help in a soup kitchen? Or show kindness to an elderly neighbor?

How do you encourage gratitude in your children?

Oct 23, 2013

Children Obey Your Parents in the Lord...

The Bible tells us that children who honor and obey their parents will be blessed and live long lives (Eph.6:1-3). Honoring and obeying parents is one very big way children can also honor and obey God. Unfortunately, our society isn't much into obeying or honoring anyone. So this is a lesson parents need to teach - and teach repeatedly. Here is one way to introduce your children to the concept.

Begin with the Bible & The Circle of Protection

Read Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:20, and Ephesians 6:1-3, out loud, from your Bible. Talk about what it means to honor someone - how actions and words can either honor or disrespect. Give examples, including those that include tone of voice and body language.

In Shepherding Your Child's Heart (a book every Christian parent should read - more on that in a future post), Ted Tripp explains "the circle of protection," which is a helpful way for children to understand biblical promises about children obeying their parents. The child is within the "circle of protection" as long as she honors and obeys her parents - and therefore honors and obeys God. But as soon as the child is disrespectful or disobedient, she is outside that circle of protection and can expect the opposite of what Ephesians 6 promises.

To illustrate this, draw a large circle (at least 19 or 20 inches in diameter) with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Have your child stand it in, then use a hose or squirt gun to spray water around - but not on - your child. Say, "As long as you're in the circle of protection, you won't get wet." But as soon as your child steps outside the circle, give him a fun spray of water. Say, "Ah! You stepped outside the circle. What happens when you do that?"

The Keys to Obedience
There are actually several import parts of being obedient. Every child should understand that being obedient means:

* Doing what's asked of him immediately.
* Doing what's asked of him cheerfully.
* Doing what's asked of him completely.
* Doing what's asked of him without complaining.

Sometimes I also give my children of examples of how true obedience looks and can thwart bad things from happening to them. For example, when we watch The Sound of Music, I always point out how the littlest VonTrapp child is told to be quiet when they are hiding from the Nazis. She obeys perfectly. I ask, "What might the consequences have been if she'd disobeyed? Or complained? Or asked 'Why?'"

A good way to help your kids remember aspects of obedience is to make paper keys with each step listed on them. You'll find complete instructions for doing this at The Better Mom.

Who's In Charge?

It's very important for children to understand that obeying you is obeying God. It's also important for them to know you are in charge (and the disciplinarian) because God gives you that responsibility - and punishes you if you neglect it. (See also 1 Samuel 3:13.)

First, explain who's the boss: God. Then explain that God put Daddy in charge of your household. Mommy and the children need to obey him, because that's what God says, and we want to honor and obey God. Next in line is Mommy; the children must obey her, as well as Daddy.

Then you can either create a family mobile, showing everyone's position, or you can simply draw some circles on a piece of paper and have your children draw a cross (or some other symbol of God) in the circle at the top of the page; then a portrait of Daddy in the circle just below that; then a portrait of Mommy in the circle just below that. Finally, have circles for portraits of each child at the bottom of the page.

Your children also need to know they can make an appeal - as long as they do it respectfully. If your child wants to make an appeal, he must:

1. Obey immediately, cheerfully, and without complaint.
2. Ask respectfully if something else is acceptable.

For example, if I ask my child to go clean his room, he should say, "Okay, Mama" and head toward his room. On his way there, however, he could respectfully say, "Mama, I thought you said earlier that we were going to the park this afternoon. Can we do that before I clean my room?"

These activities are a great introduction to the concept of obedience, but you shouldn't talk to your children about this just once. Bring it up in daily or weekly conversation. Let your children see you submitting to your husband, and your husband submitting to God. Whenever you discipline your kids, remind them God commands you to correct their actions - and for their soul's sake's. Remind them that by disobeying you, they are disobeying God.

Our society delights in disobedience. Even influences as seemingly innocent as Disney fairy tales thrive on the notion of children disobeying their parents - and adults doing whatever they think best. But this is contrary to what God says is best for us. Remember:

"There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death."

Jul 10, 2013

Teaching Kids Not to Covet

Coveting, or wanting what others have, is a huge problem in our society. It's what fuels occupy protestors. It's behind the cry for higher taxes. It's the basis of most television commercials. 

I think we all fall into the trap of coveting at least once in a while. Have you ever thoughtL "I wish my husband helped with the kids like her's does" or "It must be great to have a husband who helps with the housework. Wish mine did." Oops. That's coveting. And how many times have I heard other mothers say things like, "I wish we were able to take a yearly vacation like the Smith family." Or, given the right tone of voice, "It must be nice to have a grandma who watches the kids for you once a week." Oops again; that's coveting.

But as mothers, we are concerned not just with our personal sin, but about modeling correct thinking and behavior for our children. I feel pretty certain none of us wants our kids to grow up thinking everything should be given to them, or that if they want something somebody else has to get it for them. But with coveting being such a major feeling these days, how can we prevent them from growing up this way?

* Model good work ethic. 

* Avoid speaking covetous thoughts aloud. But if you slip, by all means, let your kids hear you ask God for forgiveness. You might also use such an occasion as a way to start a conversation about what coveting is and how the Ten Commandments show us it's wrong.

* Give your kids chores to do - no matter their age. Even toddlers can learn to work to make the home run more smoothly. (For ideas for age-appropriate chores, click here.)

* Let your kids work for stuff. For example, if your daughter really wants a new toy, suggest that she earn money to buy it herself. Not only does this help improve a child's work ethic, but it helps her learn not to be wasteful by not taking proper care of things. (And no, she doesn't have to go get a job at a local business, or even with a neighbor. It's just fine to give her extra chores around the house and then pay her for them.)

* Encourage your children to give to those in need. Help them to see that it's their personal responsibility to help the needy.

* Volunteer at a shelter or travel to a third world country (even if only via the Internet). Help your kids see how much they truly have.

* Encourage thankfulness. Every day, have your child thank God for at least one thing. Once in a while, have each child write (in words or pictures) things they are thankful for. When times are tough for your child and he is struggling with covetness, ask him to name a few things he is especially grateful for.

* Read 1 Kings 21. In this story, a king's covetness leads to murder. It's an extreme example, but see if you and your child can think of other stories where jealousy and covetness lead to bad things.

* Help your child think things through. If she is upset because she doesn't have the latest video game, ask, "If you had it, would you really be any happier? What if your friend got 10 new games - would you still feel as happy?" Encourage your child to come to the conclusion that things you can't buy are what truly make us happy.

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

"No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough." Proverbs 13:4

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." I Thessalonians 4:11-12

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..." Colossians 3:23

" For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10 

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8 

"[Let them do] something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." Ephesians 4:28

Apr 12, 2013

When You Feel Like a Failure as a Mom

Confession: My kids aren’t “little angels.” In fact, in a room full of children, my youngest is likely the one throwing a temper tantrum over something seemingly insignificant and my oldest is surely the one willfully disobeying or acting hysterical.

On Easter weekend, as I was about to drop both kids off at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a week long stay, I found myself apologizing profusely: “I’m sorry my kids are so ill-behaved. I’m sorry they can be such brats. I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve read all the books. I’ve tried every technique. Nothing seems to work.”

What I didn’t tell my in-laws, but told my husband through tears later that night was: “I’m a failure as a mother! A. Complete. Failure!”

First thing next morning, I spent nearly an hour in prayer. It ended with me prostrate on the floor before God, begging him to forgive me for being such a lousy mom, and asking him to make me more patient, more wise, more strong. God answered me in an unexpected way – through a little ebook that had been sitting in my Kindle for months.

That ebook, Hope for the Weary Mom by by Brooke McGlothlin and Stacey Thacker, was a breath of fresh air. First, the authors confessed they are utterly exhausted at the end of every day – and they are younger than me! But more importantly, they described feeling just like I did – that no matter how they tried to lead their children down the narrow path, their kids continued to be something other than “little angels.”

Here’s the deal, ladies. Yes, as mothers it’s our job to train up our children the way they should go, BUT WE CANNOT CHANGE OUR CHILDREN’S HEARTS. We can and should teach them about God, and show them what a godly life is like, but we can’t take the place of God in their lives. The Holy Spirit is the one who calls our children, and God is the one who ultimately shapes them.

What a huge weight that removes from our shoulders!

I’m sure some people look at my children and think what I’m a bad mom (though, I suspect, it’s fewer than we moms might think). But I can rest, knowing as I attempt to shepherd my children God’s direction, he is at work in my children’s hearts.

Hope for the Weary Mom is also available as a paperback

Jan 9, 2013

Teaching Children Fantasy vs. Reality

Maria Montessori, creator of the now-famous Montessori teaching method, believed children should only be exposed to nonfiction books. She felt reading fiction only confused children - and taught them not to trust adults. While I would never prevent my children from listening to or reading fiction (since it's often a fun and effective way to teach facts and morals), I understand where Montessori was coming from.

As Christian parents, we need to be mindful to help our child wade through the mix of real and unreal they encounter every day: The Easter Bunny is pretend, Jesus is not. It's confusing stuff! 

Here's how I tackle this difficulty in our home:

1. From the moment I started telling or reading stories to my children, I labeled the story pretend or real. For example, whenever I pick up a storybook Bible to read to my kids, I say something like, "Now we're going to read some true stories about Jesus."

When children are quite young, it doesn't matter if they don't know the difference between "true" and "pretend." Now and then, I explain this to them briefly, but never expect them to fully comprehend. Instead, I just focus on labeling the story appropriately.

When we're done with the story, I also sometimes label it again: "Wasn't that a neat story about Jesus? And it's all true!"

2. I'm not afraid to have conversations about what's real and what's pretend. I'm always honest. If my child asks if the Tooth Fairy is real, I smile and say gently, "The Tooth Fairy is pretend. But it's fun to pretend, isn't it? Who do you think really puts coins under your pillow? What do you think the Tooth Fairy does with all that money?"

3. I taught my children, right from the start, about common childhood fantasy characters. For example, both my children knew from the time they were babies that Santa Clause is pretend. We read books about the man who inspired the myth of Santa (St. Nicholas) and we always said, "Santa is just for fun. He's pretend." This is NO WAY reduced the wonder and joy of Christmas for my children! Both my kids sit on Santa's lap. Both of them talk about how he leaves gifts in their stockings. Neither child finds this confusing - although my 4 year old sometimes forgets Santa is pretend. And that's okay! Young children have impressive powers of fantasy; God made them that way for a reason. But the Bible teaches that lying is sinful - so I simply won't lie to my kids. When my son is a bit older, he will know the fact that Santa is pretend - and will be able to combine it with a mature understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality.

By the time your child is around 7 years of age, he or she will usually have a good grasp on what is real and what is not. This not only is an important life skill, but it deepens your child's spiritual life. I can talk to my kids about angels - or God - never fearing they believe either are pretend.

I know many modern parents fear they are somehow robbing their kids of childhood by being honest about these things - but I repeat: My children's world is packed full of wonder, including fun things like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Kids, you see, have much stronger powers of pretend than their parents. Just the way God intended.

Dec 17, 2012

How Much Should We Shelter Children?

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes
and as innocent as doves."

Last Friday, as the news of the massacre in Connecticut was streaming in, I struggled with how much to tell my children. Once upon a time, I probably wouldn't have said a word. But that was before. Before I'd read that teenagers had no idea who Osama bin Laden was. Before I saw painful videos of teens not really being able to say what 9/11 was about. Clearly, these kids were sheltered too much.

I also believe there is a huge difference between sheltering our children on such matters as debauchery and sheltering them about the evil they can expect to face as their lives progress. Not preparing our children to live in a world that, as the Bible predicts, will only become more evil is not only cruel, but may cause their faith to fail when they need it most.

So, when my 7 year old caught me crying as I read the news, and when she asked me why, I discussed it with her. I think there are several keys to making this work:

* Be straightforward, but don't offer up more information than the child needs. Don't go into details - especially gory ones.

* One or two sentences is usually all that's necessary.

* Ask your child what she thinks about what you've just told her. If needed, guide her to what the Bible says on the matter.

* Ask her if she has questions. Answer them as simply as possible, again, not giving more details than necessary.

* End with a prayer.

I should note I did not talk to my 4 year old about the news. He's not yet mature enough to even begin to understand. But we must be careful not to wait too long, friends, or we may suddenly find they are adults and we have neglected our duty to prepare them.

Dec 5, 2012

Using Scripture for Correction

It's never too early to read the Bible to your children. But there also comes a time when Proverbs 31 Women must start using the Bible as a tool for correcting her children.

I do not claim to be an expert on this topic. I have but two children, both still young. I have no seminary training. But I do know God admonishes me to correct and discipline my children. (See God's reaction when Eli doesn't discipline his sons, for example. See also 1 Samuel 3:13, Proverbs 29:15-17, Proverbs 3:12, Ephesians 6:4; and much more.) 

One of the most loving and biblical ways we can do this is by using Scripture.

Positive or Negative?

It is perhaps easiest to use Bible verses admonishing our children not to do something. For example: "You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15) or "the Lord hates...a lying tongue" (Proverbs 6:16-17). These are important parts of scripture and should certainly be known by everyone - parents and kids, included. 

However, I feel it's important to temper these more negative verses with positive ones. So if, for example, your child has a problem with a sassy mouth, you might teach her Ephesians 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths..." But I also encourage you to include a verse phrased in a positive way, such as Proverbs 16:24: "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." 

I also strongly believe these verses, whether positive or negative, should not be your child's only exposure to Scripture. That could result in a very slanted view of the Bible. So make sure you are reading the Bible to your child every day; be sure to talk about what you read, too.

Not only can verses be positive or negative, but so can you. If you read your child a Scripture with an angry tone of voice, or an attitude that is disrespectful or belittling, you will fail. You might make your child obey for the moment, but in the end, her attitude about the Bible and God will be greatly damaged.

Finding Scripture

There are a few books out there that help parents target Scripture to their child's behavior. Instruction for Righteousness comes to mind, as does The Child Training Bible. And any Bible concordance will help, too. But honestly, I find the easiest tool is Google. Just type in "Bible says about" plus the topic of interest. For example, I recently Googled: "Bible says about mouth" and a number of sites came up listing Scripture on our mouths and speaking. I find this works with most any topic.

Methods of Correction


When your child is not yet able to read or write, I think the best way to use Scripture for correction is to simply read a Bible verse to them, then talk about it. I recommend you read directly from your Bible (rather than just reciting a verse or reading it from some other source) so your child has a visual reminder of where the Bible verse comes from. Be sure to explain any difficult words or concepts. Ask if your child has questions. Then read the Bible verse one more time. 

This sort of correction can be used alone for minor offenses, or alongside other correction (such as a time out) for repeated or more serious offenses. Whether you choose to read and discuss the Scripture before or after the additional correction depends upon your child. Consider when he or she will be most receptive. Try it both ways to see which works better.

Young Children Who Read:

Once your child can read and write reasonably well (usually by first grade), you can select age appropriate/reading-level appropriate verses for him to read by himself or with help. (I highly recommend using NIV, NAS, NLV, or NiRV versions of the Bible so as not to confuse children with difficult language.) Then I suggest you either:

1. Have your child write the verse repeatedly, making sure she reads back what she writes.

2. Have your child memorize the verse.

Either will help your child to remember the lesson being taught. Other ideas:

* Have your child write a paragraph or two about how the verse can be applied to the child's life.
* Have your child act on the verse right away. For example, let's say your child just called his sibling something mean. You might read him Ephesians 4:29, then have him say several uplifting things to his sibling.
* Have your child make a list of things to do/say that relate to the verse. Again, going back to Ephesians 4:29, your child could make a list of words of encouragement he could give to whomever he offended in the first place.
* Do an art project related to the verse. There's no reason this can't be fun! The idea is to help the Scripture stick in your child's mind.

Remember to continue explaining more difficult parts of the verse to your child, and be sure to ask your child if she has any questions about the verse.

Tweens and Teens:

By the time you child is in her tweens, you can ask her to find appropriate Bible verses on her own. Continue to discuss the Scripture with your child, and consider some of the options under #2 (above) to help cement them. Focus not only on helping your child learn about the Bible and what God wants from her, but also on teaching her how to use the Bible as a tool. She should learn how to easily find references on any topic in the Bible, for example.

How do you use Scripture to correct your children?