Category: family/parenting

Training Children: The Importance of Self-Government

Training Children The Importance of Self-Government

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Welsh minister and doctor, once said:

“The whole future of civilization, it seems to me, rests upon this: f the West goes down and is defeated, it will be for one reason only: internal rot…If we continue to spend our lives in jollification, doing less and lesswork, demanding more and more money, more and more pleasure and so-called happiness, more and more indulgence of the lusts of the flesh, with a refusal to accept our responsibilities, there is but one inevitable result–complete and abject failure….the fall of Rome came because of the spirit of indulgence that had invaded the Roman world…And the really alarming fact today is that we are witnessing a similar declension in this and most other Western countries….This is the essential problem, this sheer absence of discipline and of order and of true notions of government!” (From A Theology of the Family)

Sadly, in our culture we do see a tremendous inclination toward shirking responsibility and failure to self-govern.

I submit that as parents, one of the most important things we will ever do for our children is teach them how to take responsibility for their actions and how to self-govern their passions and desires.

I could pick out any tragic news story from bankruptcy to murder and almost always find at its root, the inability to self-govern.

So how to teach it?

Start early. A toddler just learning to eat may throw the food he doesn’t want on the floor. Cute as it may be (or not), it is an opportunity to help him begin to govern his emotions. The basic lesson he needs to learn is, “We can’t just act out every desire we have.” And that lesson will need to be applied consistently until he is an adult able to say to himself, “I can’t just buy x because I want it” or, “I can’t punch my boss because I feel like it” or, a thousand other things.

Direct his responses. For a small child who is told his response is not acceptable, he needs to know which one is. If a child is whining/crying for his cup, you can simply correct him and tell him the proper way to ask. And older child who lashes out in frustration needs to hear what words and tone are a better substitute.

It’s time-consuming and tedious, as is most of parenting. But the outcome is well-worth the effort, and where the effort isn’t given, the consequences will follow a parent to his death as he deals with the aftermath of his failure to help his children govern themselves.

(Obviously, a disclaimer could be inserted here that sometimes a diligent parent will have a child who rejects the faithful work of his parents. But just like the Proverbs, generalities apply.)

Tell stories. Proverbs is full of vignettes depicting what happens to the one who doesn’t live responsibly or govern his emotions and actions. Take the opportunity to make the Proverbs come to life for your children, tying the stories to real life.

Conversely, look for stories that demonstrate heroic character of men and women who have chosen to govern themselves and live responsibly. Praise those traits and encourage your children to emulate them.

Model it. We can’t expect to raise self-governing children unless we practice it ourselves. (I know, ouch.) They will absorb the way we live life, so we need to remind ourselves to demonstrate taking responsibility for our actions, not blaming others, and finding gratitude wherever we are.

Training Children: How to Mother More Patiently (Part 3)

Training Children How to Mother More Patiently

Almost every mom struggles with maintaining her patience while parenting, especially if she’s with her children all day. Whining, strife, or even a barrage of innocent questions, added to the list of things she must think about and get done, can be very distressing. Ask me how I know.

But not only is parenting without patience or having reactionary responses damaging over time, it also undermines our authority in the home.

Reading through the books I mentioned in part 2, 5 Keys to a Christian Home, I’m reminded of some important ways to counteract my tendency to react the wrong way.

  • Take my thoughts captive. Most of our behavior begins in the mind. I must keep my thoughts focused on my purpose as a mother–to nurture my children in the Lord. After my husband’s needs, they are my top priority.
  • Eliminate distractions. With our too-busy technologically charged atmosphere, it’s easy to get irritated at a little one who is “interrupting.” Certainly there are times we need to give our attention elsewhere and they must learn to wait, but if we’re snapping at a child because we’re trying to finish our facebook status, we need to realign our priorities.
  • Enforce obedience. Sound simple? I wish it were. Moms have the tedious job of balancing mercy and understanding with her not-there-yet children. Yet, she must enforce her authority in the home and teach them obedience by her responses instead of allowing them to argue and disobey unchecked. I believe this is the biggest source of irritation in most homes. I’ve noticed my tendency to grow impatient is worst when I fail to enforce the rules of our home, and instead try to “reason” with my children. When the rules are clear, as are the consequences for breaking them, we need to be diligent to follow through. Life gets so much easier when we do.

Example: I told my daughter her room needed to be swept (and it was really in need), but she replied that she had just swept it. I said it clearly needed to be swept again, regardless of when she last swept it and that if she had just swept it, she had not done a thorough job. She then “reasoned” that it didn’t matter because she didn’t spend much time in her room anyway. This conversation shouldn’t have gotten this far (and consequently, I became frustrated). I gave simple instructions: “sweep your room.” What followed was arguing and a temporary resistance to obey. A simple way to train this sort of response out is to apply a consequence at the first argument.

  • Make room for life. If our schedules are too busy, we will be tempted to stay in a state of rushing and consequently, irritation at every “problem.” Life with children is full of meeting needs and when we don’t make time for them, the needs feel like burdens. Motherhood is what God gives us time for.

And if you need more encouragement, there’s this: even though I wrote When Motherhood Feels Too Hard, I’m so thrilled to see how the Lord is consistently using it to change the hearts of mothers everywhere. Last week a woman bought 30 of them (with the bulk bundle discount) because she was so eager to share them with other women she knew.

This comment came yesterday:

“Your devotional has been a balm to my weary soul!! I cannot read it without tears and I cannot put it down! Every page brings an eternal perspective.” -Rainah

My deepest heart’s desire is to encourage you.

Part 1: Training Children: It Starts With Love (The Duties of Parents, J.C. Ryle)

Part 2: Training Children: 5 Keys to a Christian Home

Training Children: 5 Keys to a Christian Home (Part 2)

Training Children 5 Keys to a Christian Home

  • Love. In part 1 of this series is the first essential key of child training: all must be wrapped in love. A child must be drawn by affection, knowing he is fully loved, before he will follow the Lord through his parents with a pure heart. It is the essence of raising them in the nurture of the Lord. Some of the following “keys” could be quickly turned to cruelty by a lack of love.
  • Know Whose They Are.

“The first thing implied in educating children for God is a realizing, heartfelt conviction that they are

His property, His children, rather than ours. He commits them for a time to our care…However carefully we may educate children, yet we cannot be said to educate them for God unless we believe that they are His.” -Edward Payson, A Theology of the Family

This reality motivates us differently. If they are His, given to us much as the talents were given to the servants by the Master, all our energies are put to directing them to live for His glory. That chief end is the force that drives us and supplies us with endurance.

  • Train Them in the right way. This point will be fleshed out in future parts, but its primary point is that children are inclined toward sin (Prov. 22:15) and we have been given the job of training them in the way they should go, not in the way they would go.
  • Expect and enforce respect and obedience. A seemingly simple and unneeded reminder, yet unfortunately lost in many homes. If a child would learn to survive in the world at all, he must learn how to submit to authorities in his life. I’ve seen the trend that villainizes parental authority. I would say it is not a “trend” but a rebellion couched in compassionate (deceitful) language. The Bible says that a parent hates his child who does not undertake to discipline him in love, requiring obedience as God has commanded. (Prov. 13:24)
  • Read the Bible & pray with them. It cannot be underestimated the power God’s Word has on our lives. It is living and breathing and able to transform. Make them thoroughly familiar, from a young age, with the Gospel. Talk of sin, our need of a Savior, the glorious story of our Redemption and the gratitude and love that should overflow from it. Let them see you pray and encourage them to pray as well. We should model the privilege of being able to commune, with reverence and yet affection, with the Creator of the universe.

As I study The Theology of the Family (edited by Scott Brown and Jeff Pollard) and The Duties of Parents, I am encouraged, convicted, but mostly renewed and strengthened to keep about this task of parenting. It is wonderful and it is hard and it is worth it.

Personal disclaimer:

I know from experience, that too often others looking in, reading a blog where ideals are presented, can easily perceive the author has arrived and therefore she does everything right and her children are perfectly behaved. I need you to know this is not the case here. I fail as a parent on a regular basis. sometimes my children argue, sometimes they disobey, and some have struggles too hard to mention here for the sake of privacy. These ideals are for all of us, as we walk together, praying for our children, asking God to sustain us through some very hard days, and trusting His infinite mercy and sovereignty in it all. That’s me, being real.

Training Children: It Starts With Love (The Duties of Parents, J.C. Ryle) Part 1

Am I the only mom who wonders if she’s doing it right, reads one author’s parenting method and second guesses everything she’s ever done? There are “new and better” ways right?

Yes, I have days where I feel like the older I get, the less I know about anything. But do you want me to tell you what I have learned as I’ve gotten older? Simply this:

Hang on to the timeless truths. If we will look closely at a teaching or ideology, we can see whether it follows sound doctrine, the tenets of God’s Word. Where it doesn’t, we should be wary. Where it does, we should listen.

(Disclaimer: I have gleaned many insightful and wonderful things from non-Christian sources regarding raising children. But we should be astute enough to be able to see where a teaching strays from biblical doctrine.)

Recently I ordered “The Duties of Parents” by J.C. Ryle. You should too.

It was such a clear, fresh voice in the often-cacophony of parenting advice flying around. It went back to some basics I know and gave me clarity and inspiration to essentially reboot.

I thought I’d offer a summary in series over the next few days. There’s another great book I’ll be pulling from as well. I hope it encourages you!

Love

“Train up your children with all tenderness, affection, and patience.”

“I do not mean that you are to spoil him…” Ryle continues.

But he reminds that a child cannot be taught, cannot have truths and values imparted to him unless it is done by affection that first draws his heart to yours. You can command a child by fear and intimidation, but you will only get his outward obedience, if you get that. You will not effect genuine respect and love for you or for His Creator.

A child disciplined in love is one who grows to understand his mother despises causing him tears, and is yet willing to suffer over his grief for his own sake.

We must carefully teach them “line upon line, precept upon precept”, which requires patience and long-term vision.

Are you feeling convicted at this point because you have been angry and frustrated at your children? Because you have parented impatiently? I have too. Far more times than I can count. And I’ll tell you like I tell me: “We cannot lament the past except where it helps us to improve in the future.” Got it? Good.

When motherhood feels too hard, I try to take a deep breath and remember it is the cord of kindness, gentleness and sympathy that will most easily lead our children to follow us. We should share with them a friendship, yet remain distinguished by respect, wisdom and our place as parents.

They should know our love for them by the attention we give to their childish wonder, the time we take to teach them a lesson, or to simply be with them. We need to enjoy them. Part of our enjoyment will depend on our diligence to train them, but still they must know that our deep love for them drives everything we do.

As you’ll see in the next few parts, Ryle distinguishes between love and indulgence, and makes it clear that love demands we expect certain things.

It is possible, then, to train our children in the nurture of the Lord, requiring what He has laid out, but doing so without exasperation. That is our duty.

“Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet and pamper and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to, and this life the only season for happiness–to do this is not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast of the earth, which has but on world to look to, and nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth, which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy,–that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul and to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” J.C. Ryle

 

Is it Right to Shelter Our Children? (A Litmus Test)

A friend of mine and I were discussing how to teach our children about the sins and dangers of the world we live in without harming them in the process. We disagreed some about the way to go about it. She talked about being glad her children, who are at public school, are seeing the “real world”, even though some of the tough questions they ask concern her. (She has to define adult terms just to be able to have conversations about what her children learn.)

This argument bolsters many parents’ opinion that homeschooling is bad for children, believing they should learn to deal with the negative influences now because they will face them later.

I refer to the alternative in the title as “sheltering” simply because that’s the catch phrase for it.

One misconception I’ve learned about this debate: none of our children are isolated from “the world” or its ways. There really isn’t a “sheltering.” They are simply exposed from different angles. And that makes all the difference.

One effective way I have found to approach an ethical/moral dilemma is to think of it with an exaggerated hypothesis. In this scenario, I thought of how I want my kids to learn to deal with pornography.

Pornography is packaged beautifully. It is marketed to be full of pleasure and fun and excitement. We’re never shown the broken homes and hearts that lie in the wake of its path. It’s typical of sin: it lies.

For that reason, I want them to learn about it differently than the producers would teach them. And at the appropriate time. It would be foolish to try to have a conversation with my 4 year-old about words and images he doesn’t need to know. But it’s not wise to try to pretend, indefinitely, that pornography doesn’t exist.

Based on my friend’s opinion, taking this exaggerated example (though I’m not sure “exaggerated” is the right term since it is a reality), we might leave a stack of pornographic magazines in his bedroom to peruse at his leisure. We might even tell him “they’re bad”, but still give him access to process it on his own. To do that would be to let the lying marketers teach my children about this poison.

Not many parents would agree with this approach.

Because the truth is, I can teach my children about the sin and damage of pornography without willingly exposing them. Does that mean they won’t be exposed at some later time? No. Does my unwillingness to expose them now make them ill-prepared to deal with it later? I don’t think so.

What our job as parents should be is teaching what is right to our children, securing their moorings to God’s Word as they grow up, giving them the moral compass they need to evaluate any number of situations in the future.

Will a child be “shocked” as an adult to see pornography for the first time? I hope so. Does that make him less suited to deal with it? I can’t imagine how. This idea that if our children aren’t submerged in all the darkness of the culture they will somehow be unequipped to handle darkness is not a concept I find to be Scriptural.

The wise father in Proverbs pleaded with his son to “enter not into the path of the wicked.” Does that reconcile with the idea that parents who prefer to not immerse their children in depravity are too guarded and sheltering?

By the way, depravity resides in us all. There is certainly no such thing as shielding our kids from sin when we live in sin-wrapped flesh. There is a difference, though, in being redeemed by His blood, and seeking to “eschew evil” and do what is right. Our job isn’t to pretend the world around us isn’t depraved, but to examine it through a filter of truth.

I think we are responsible for teaching our children about sin, the same way Jesus taught his (adult) disciples about sin. It’s not a hiding away and shielding their eyes, neither is it a releasing them into territory before they are fully discipled. But as we walk with them, giving them a right lens through which to see, cultivating a right heart with which to discern.

 

Practical Ways to Live With (Realistic) Purpose in the New Year

You know that end of the year energy–cleaning out, getting rid of stuff, organizing–it’s short lived, but it gives us a much-needed boost for the new year.

I suffer from too many expectations and I have to constantly keep a reality check. Going into the new year I want to live purposefully. But I want to live realistically.

I want a tidy house and I have ideas to streamline our routine. But, I have 11 people who live here all day. I must make allowances for that reality. (Did you know that if your children get into the habit of leaving their things lying around, even after you’ve nagged them to death about putting them away, that if you start throwing the things in the garbage they will miraculously start putting them away?  You’re welcome.)

It’s easy to let a day full of physical demands crowd out the more meaningful goals of living. But if we get deliberate, we can command our time.

I want to see my children grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord, but I have to remember they are still growing, and their maturity will come slowly. I can challenge them, but I need to be patient and realize how much growing I still have yet to do. The reality is, I want them to be light years ahead of me. So I tend, and trust the Lord for increase. We have struggles just like you. I get frustrated and wish my children were more (fill in the blank). But I am committed to pouring all I have into them, knowing they belong to the Father. I’ll do my part, He will have to do His. And I will rest in that.

These are some random things I plan to be more deliberate about:

Reading great books with the family. This is one of the most important things that inspire us to live deliberately.

We do this already, but maybe not enough. We began reading Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men as a family and I tell you I think every family should read this book. So. Awesome. I also think our generation does not spend enough time reading about the lives of the great heroes of the faith. We don’t have the same spiritual tenacity and it would serve us well to be reminded of what faith looks like when it’s tried by fire.

I encourage my children that if they want to grow and mature in the faith, they have to take steps toward that. Reading great books is one way we can all become more passionate followers of Christ.

Here are a few (not complete)  we are adding to our list:

Playing with my littles. Make believe. Stories. Cooking. Creating. Simple stuff. I want to live beside my children, building memories, enjoying these fleeting moments. We, in our busy world, too-much underestimate the importance of this monumental task of mothering in the moments. I don’t want Facebook to rob my children of their mom.

Breathing vision into my older children. There is so much for a mother to impart to her children over time. But those lessons, that vision, is really imparted in small ways every day. I want them to be wise, to grow in maturity, to understand what God’s Word teaches them about how to be men and women, about what really matters in life. I want them to be productive and strong, positive and confident, humble and kind. Such action starts with modeling the behavior we desire to see crafted in their lives. And I’ll admit, that’s  the hardest. It’s easy to read books and do studies (which are important) but I must become the person I desire to see my children become and that involves my growing and seeking the Lord with an impassioned heart.

Adjusting to my new normal. I have married a daughter and it is splendid. Just tonight, it hit me for the first time, and the tidal wave of tears came. I just miss her. And yet, I truly am SO happy for her that it is beyond words. She is peaceful, full of joy and completely in her element as a wife. Her husband is the most gentle thing I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the way the Lord worked it all out. And I still miss her until it hurts. But I will adjust and so will she (she misses us terribly, too, amid all her new joys.).

But I still have a bustling family here and I am excited about having a little more energy to pour into these challenges.

I want to inspire excellence, and still remember they are children.

I want to expect much, and give much grace for their humanity, as I expect them to do for me.

I want to lead by example, loving Jesus in a way that makes them long for Him.

I want to become my husband’s best friend so their childhood is marked by a beautiful, steady, safe-haven of mother and father.

I want to live fully, remembering my frailty and not getting too upset with myself for an ordinary day. They happen. In fact, I don’t want to despise the ordinary day at all, but to recognize that living fully is precisely making the most of ordinary.

The new year, a new start, new  purpose and new goals. I pray we are all inspired to move forward and see the big picture–that we are all parts in this glorious display of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, and the way we live every day matters in that picture.

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