Know Your Sheep: Parenting Our Children as Individuals

Know Your Sheep:  Parenting Our Children as IndividualsI have been so encouraged by Rachel Jankovic’s new book “Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches“.  It’s a short, easy-to-read, bite-sized book with BIG inspiration and practical how-to’s for a mom with lots of littles. You’re likely to hear a lot from what I’ve been reading over the next few days.

She brought up one of the most challenging thoughts I’ve had as a mother of many:  Do I “blame” my children for our large family?  Or do I parent them individually, treating them as children rather than “an organizational problem”? Rachel speaks of “knowing your sheep” and parenting our children with a “pastoral perspective”:

“…cleaning and sorting makes you look and maybe even feel like you have your act together, even if you seriously don’t.  What you are doing is finding a way to contain your children, control them, and keep their sin from making you look bad….Look to each of their souls and their needs.  If you are focused on upkeep of the house and the schedule, as long as your child is not interrupting that, you don’t worry about it.  If you are being a parent who is pastorally minded, you will stop whatever it is that you are doing to go see how your daughter is up in her bedroom.”

She explains that it is so easy to place organization and order above their real needs as children.  We can make things look orderly, but if there are emotional and spiritual issues being neglected, or character alerts being ignored, we will soon have a big, unmistakable mess on our hands.

“While your children are little, cultivate an attitude of sacrifice.  Sacrifice your peace for their fun, your clean kitchen floor for their help cracking eggs, your quiet moment for their long retelling of a dream….Prioritize your children above the other work you need to get done.  They are the only part of your work that really matters.”

(I think it’s worth clarifying, she was certainly not saying we shouldn’t strive for order and organization!  But it was a warning that perfectly marching children doesn’t equal a successful home.  Order is fine, but we cannot neglect the deeper needs of our children.)

She told a story that made me see her point clearly.  When 4 or 5 little people drag chairs up to the kitchen counter to watch/help me cook, it can be overstimulating and easy to feel frustrated.  It is certainly easier to make pancakes without 10 extra little helping hands in the bowl! But if it was just one child who wanted to help, I would be more likely to see it as a sweet, curious opportunity.  Just because it’s 5 of them doesn’t make them, as individuals, any less sweet and curious, and that needs to be embraced.  It is my JOB to figure out how to make it work.  I need to adapt.

“It is not their problem.  Individually they are being precious and curious and excited.  As their mother, I am responsible to see them individually, even when they are presenting themselves to me en masse.”

Father, let me know my sheep–these sheep You have given me.  Let me respond to them, with their individual needs, even among the numbers.  Let me not love order and organization to the detriment of their little souls.  Help me remember that the dirty floors are constant, but these children are ever changing, and I have but a few years to pour myself into them for the Kingdom’s sake.  Amen.


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37 Responses to “Know Your Sheep: Parenting Our Children as Individuals”

  1. Stephanie says:

    Amen, Thank you Kelly. I needed this, my three littles are a blessing. I read the sample on amazon and this is the kind of encouagement I needed. Thank you for being one of the best “internet friends” I have, you are always a blessing. May the Lord refine us both to His Glory.

  2. ladyscott says:

    I’ll have to look into this book. I only have 3 littles at this time, and one can’t even sit up on his own yet. But, I live in a small house, a SMALL house and am personally easily over stimulated by crowds, noise and clutter. It gets especially hard when space is limited and my older two fight over what little space there is at the counter to help mommy. I sometimes do have to shoo them away because it isn’t safe to carry a pot of boiling water and pasta around and over children in my small, narrow kitchen to the sink to be dumped. This is a great reminder at needing to adapt. Thankfully, as Christians we can ask the Lord for wisdom

  3. Great post!! Sounds like a book I need to read…

  4. Mrs. Q says:

    Wow that sounds like a good book! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Tiana Krenz says:

    I think you’ve just given me another book for the 2011 reading list. Thanks!

  6. Danielle says:

    That book needs to go on my wish list! Overstimulated mom… never thought of it that way before but it is so very true! Those are some really good points. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! This is really powerful… I think I need to find this book. Thanks for sharing, Kelly.

  8. Beth West says:

    I wrote the information down. This book sounds like it was written for me! I hope to get a copy soon for myself (6 children at home including curious 2 and 4 yo’s) and my daughter who has a 3 yo, 2yo and 9 ms old. I think we need to read this.

  9. Kendal says:

    Beautifully written! And a great reminder!
    http://www.thefatherknowsbest.com

  10. wannabegodly says:

    I’m definitely going to have to look into this book more than I have. I thought it was mostly about little tiny children, but it sounds like it speaks even to those who have a 20-year-old. And I like the use of the word “overstimulated” – that puts it graciously when I’m feeling downright harried. :)

  11. Terri says:

    While I agree with this in theory, practically speaking I cannot live life on a daily basis this way. I have 9 and have found what works best is making schedules (with flexibility) and having individual time with each. Monday cooking with one or two, Tuesday errands with one, etc… When I try to do pancakes, for instance, with all 4 littles I am basically doing crowd control the whole time, not enjoying, talking, etc… Just me, maybe, the way I’m wired. I don’t think this is wrong to segregate time out because we have lots of family time. Just my two cents.

  12. Chelsey says:

    Needed this today Kelly. As I am entering in the new year, I am struggling to figure out my morning times with my littles. From after breakfast to lunch time. Praying the Lord will give me wisdom and direction! :) Thank you for this today Kelly!

  13. Taryn says:

    I like what the Duggars do-like an assembly line. Some children wash the cans before opening( cans are dusty) then the next few dry the cans-then the older ones open the cans(I like my old, manual “Swing-A-Way” can opener).

  14. Amanda says:

    “It is not their problem.”
    Wow-yes. I’m dealing with this issue of how to maintain order (I cannot function in a messy house) yet love, guide, and teach my children.

    Just this morning my 3yr old son dumped a box of baby powder on the floor of his sister’s room, smearing it around and playing in it before I even knew what was up! Now I’m contending with the mess powder makes in our very SMALL house–It spreads everywhere!!!!

    This maybe off topic, but how do you deal with discerning what is age-appropriate knowledge versus childishness? (i.e. in the above example, I don’t think I’ve ever specifically told my 3yr old to not dump baby powder all over the floor, but when he saw my face, he knew it was wrong.)

    • Word Warrior says:

      Amanda,

      Powder smeared everywhere??!! Oh, you mean like this?
      LOL!

      I know exactly what you mean. I’ve heard myself say to my 3 year old, “OK, I know I’ve never specifically said ‘don’t pour all the shampoo into the toilet’, but c’mon! You know better!”

      It may help to say to them, “If you’re thinking about doing something and it might make a mess and you’re not sure if it would be OK with Mommy, I want you to come ask me before you do it”. Or, “Listen, I can’t give you every rule about what you can and can’t do. But if you are doing something that makes a big mess, Mommy probably doesn’t want you to do that, so try to think before you do it”…something like that.

      All in all, messes will be made and you’d be better off taking a deep breath, trying to laugh, grabbing a camera and gently explaining what is and what’s not acceptable. It’s like pulling weeds from a garden. Expect it, but don’t let them pile up–be diligent to keep pulling.

      • Amanda says:

        haha yes! I’m just thankful the baby was in her highchair and couldn’t join in!

        “It’s like pulling weeds from a garden. Expect it, but don’t let them pile up–be diligent to keep pulling.”
        Yes totally. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Amy B. says:

      Had to chime in on this one…I wish I had a picture like Kelly does, but sadly, I didn’t think to take one back then. But my now 12 year old son, when he was 3 1/2 unloaded a whole bottle of baby powder in his room, when we were living at my parents house for a few months. It. Was. EVERYWHERE! Thankfully it was contained in his room, but on him, it was everywhere. His eyelashes were coated white, looking back, it was a cute moment when he got busted, with those long, curly white eyelashes batting against his gorgeous blue/green eyes. He truthfully didn’t know he was doing something bad. Definitely fell in the ‘childishness’ category. However, we did a lot of clarifying and reminding of the unspecified rules after that event. Over the years, the most frustrating messes have been the result of my children having too much unstructered, loosely supervised free time. Coming up with productive, yet ‘free time’ activities has been something that I still need to work on.

  15. Sarah Arrell says:

    I got this book for Christmas and would definately recommend. It is a fantastic help and encouragment to those at home with little ones. a very worth while read!

  16. Leah says:

    Ohhh, I’ve been waiting for the book to finally be released! I’m so glad you’re reviewing this and sharing.
    This little-years season is SO challenging for me, especially because a)I have no previous experience with kids (I did not babysit much as a teen) and b)I am full of ambition to do other stuff (read, write, compose music, write a book, organize, etc, etc.)…. I continually feel DISTRACTED, as though I’m just passing the time throughout the day, feeding/clothing kids, so I can finally get to do what I want to do. And I struggle with bad attitudes every time there’s a big spill, something gets broken or just trying to put on all the shoes and coats so we can get into the van ….. and I’m totally sweating and practically cursing under my breath…… I’ve always just wanted to see how it’s supposed to be done. Because frankly, there’s just too many days I’m not coping. I’m totally stressed out.
    I have a very hard time with the books out there that say you have to sacrifice EVERYTHING you want to do and just be a mom. Okay, well what am I supposed to do with my “gifts” that the Bible calls me to use?
    Some would write that I need to give those up until the kids are older.
    But I can’t. I would feel inhuman. And merely using my gifts inside the home isn’t enough because that’s not actually using them.
    That would be like this Generation Cedar blog never getting published to the web, just staying stagnant on a computer, no one ever reading it. That would not be fulfilling, nor would it really be using the gift of writing.

    Anyway, I should probably read the book! I sure could use the encouragement. I also just bought the “Large Family Logistics” book too ….. I think a lot of my stress comes from lack of FLOW in the day. Not getting stuff done GETS to me! And as much as women are saying “neglect the chores for the children temporarily” – in my world that is entirely impractical. Sorry, but the dishes have to get done or else we can’t eat on anything. The laundry has to get done or else we’ll be running a nudist colony.

    Forgive me for the rant. I really should read that book.

    Looking forward to hearing more about it!

    God Bless

    • Amy B. says:

      Leah, just wanted to say that I feel your struggle. I’m gonna be praying for you. I just ordered the book Large Family Logistics last week and can’t wait to dig into it. For me, the bright side of the struggle is that it’s evidence that God is using these things to sanctify me, and fit me for Heaven. It’s comforting to know that God is commited to bringing forth fruit in my life and He uses the hard things to eliminate the things that are keeping that fruit from flourishing. Sometimes, when I’m feeling like I might pop, in addition to breathing prayer for strength and grace, I will put on a playlist of music that I created for different needs. Just filling the air with sounds that help me put my mind on things above has really helped at times. For instance, I have a ‘Honey Lovin’ playlist for times when I find myself getting a little too easily irritatd with the hubs. And a ‘Movin’ Music’ playlist when I have ‘the don’t’s’, as my mother calls it, and need some motivation to get things done. I have a ‘Lullaby’ playlist that I use, coupled with turning the lights low and using a slow, quiet voice when things are a little to wound up at night. And I have a ‘Joyful Momma’ playlist that has music from Serene and Pearl (Above Rubies). What a tremendous gift and tool the Lord has given us in music. :-)

      Sorry to ramble, but Leah, you’re not alone. Praying for you!

    • Brandi says:

      Amen. Neglecting the chores is a recipe for disaster around here.
      :-)

  17. Amy B. says:

    This is a timely reminder for me this week, as I am using this week as a culling/organizing/planning week before we jump back into the normal swing of things with school and schedule next week. I tend to justify my putting them off while I’m organizing, or the like, with the end product of “It will be much more peaceful and productive when all this organizing is done. Then I will be able to be more attentive to their needs.” Yikes! Thanks for helping me keep what matters most in the front of my mind.

  18. Kristen says:

    What a great post. Sometimes it is so easy for me to see the kids as a group (even though I only have 3) I must manage instead of D who is “all boy” and J who needs a little more sensitivity and loving, and then A (my daughter) who sometimes feels a little left out.

  19. Katrina says:

    Wow – an excellent reminder that I really needed right now, thanks. I’ve added the book to my “want to read” list.

  20. Sarah L says:

    Thanks for sharing! This spoke to me!!!

  21. Tonya says:

    Thanks for posting this, Kelly. I loved it. I can relate to all the little hands in the kitchen. Even the 18 month old wants to help -and she wants to wear her own teeny tiny apron (made by Grandma) while she does it. It’s adorable but really messy:). Thanks for the encouragement!

  22. This was so good (and I’m ordering that book with my Swagbucks!). We have 3 little ones and I find that large family strategies help to combat the stress/chaos of working outside the home and have 3 little ones. My stress isn’t more kids, per se, it’s less time at home.

    This hit home. I CAN NOT treat my kids as if THEY are the problem/frustration/stress! The problem is my time outside the home, my lack of organization/diligence with my housework…at the heart of it is a lack of love and patience. It was a change of heart more than a change in operations for me. Developing a calm, loving, patient attitude has made a world of difference. Now that I’m actually doing things WITH them (and I mean just about everything around our house), I have found so many precious extra minutes with them every day. So many teaching moments. I see their individual little hearts and personalities so much more clearly. I was desperate for time with them, but didn’t realize I was throwing away in my rush to get the house clean/dinner cooked/laundry done and THEN have family time.

  23. Ginger says:

    Wah!!! :((
    Made this Type A mom bawl.

  24. Hi Kelly –
    Thanks for the plug (and the invite to come over here and see it). I am glad you are liking the book!
    Rachel

  25. Very nice post! I don’t often read here anymore, but I’m glad I stopped by today. Many blessings to you, sister!

  26. What fantastic advice! Addressing heart issues is so much more important than making sure everyone is in order and the house is clean. It’s so hard to find that balance. I am adding this book to my reading list! Thank you for sharing it!

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  27. Tina says:

    Absolutely love this post! Thank you so much. I needed the reminder. (So often I’m aware of things coming at me but miss these precious people whom I love that are at the other end. I notice it when I remember something that was said but forget which of my girls said it.) Thank for you the wonderful reminder of these individuals God has blessed us with.
    In His love,
    Tina

  28. Diana Kapala says:

    I’m reading this book right now as well and with 4 children, 4 years old and under, it has been a great encouragement. Even the first two chapters had me laughing, nodding, and feeling encouragement!

  29. Bethany says:

    I just bought this book and have only read a small amount so far, but its already been such an encouragement to me! We have three kids, 6, 20 months and 3 months. I love how practical this book is. Some of the things she says, I just have to laugh, nod and think “been there!” I know other mom’s are going through the exact same thing I do, but its nice to know for sure. lol

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  32. […] Know your sheep and parent your children as individuals. […]

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