showing all articles for the category "intentional"

Mind Your Own Motherhood

July 24, 2019

You may have heard Kristina Kuzmic say "mind your own motherhood" in some of her humorous parenting videos on YouTube. If you haven't, when you've finished reading this you should go and check her out.


What does it mean to "mind your own motherhood?"

Basically this: Don't judge other moms for momming differently than you! 

Focus more on your parenting styles, and less on everyone else's. 


Just because you have strong feelings and convictions regarding certain decisions concerning your children, doesn't mean you have the exclusive rights to train other moms. They might also have strong feelings and convictions to raise their children completely different from you. That doesn't make them a bad mom, it just means they have a different style. Good kids come from many different parenting styles, and that's OK. That's what we want in our diverse culture! 

Mom on mom shaming is when moms judge each other and offer unsolicited advice on parenting issues such as breastfeeding, vaccinations, screen time, nap/bedtime routines, meal times, clothes, and the list goes on and on. Parenting is no easy task, but when we constantly wear each other down with our nagging opinions and judgmental stares it only gets harder! It is truly no one else's business how you decide to parent, except of course your husband - with whom you should be co-parenting. And it is none of your business how your friend, sister, or cousin parents, either.

If a child is being abused or having their basic needs left unmet, that's a whole 'nother issue. This is not usually the case, though. It is not neglect to allow a child to wear mismatched or hand-me-down clothes to school. It is not abuse to feed your child processed store bought snacks instead of gluten free, vegan, organic kale bites. Brains won't melt out of a child's head if they play a video game for 3 hours straight (although I'm guilty of telling my boys this). A child will not drop dead if they don't get breast milk or if they are vaccinated - in fact, many vaccinated formula fed babies have grown into perfectly healthy adults. And frankly, mom cards don't get revoked for wearing pajamas in the drop-off line at school.

Of course, I have opinions on what good parenting is. I know where I stand on all of the issues I mentioned above, and I'll even write a blog post or two explaining my opinion and why I choose to do what I do. And I'm sure you have opinions as well. But that doesn't give either of us the right to judge or criticize each other for it. If you are asked what your stance is on certain topics or how you handle specific parenting issues, offer it up! Discussion is good, sharing opinions and thoughts is good, even debate is good, too. But mom shaming (gossiping, fighting, criticizing, judging) is not. I'm talking to myself here, too - more often than not, unsolicited advice is unwanted advice, offensive advice, demeaning advice, self-righteous advice, etc. 

There is no such thing as perfect parenting. There is nothing that can be done to become a perfect mom, but there are many different ways to be a good mom. Focus less on what you think other parents are doing wrong, and focus more on what you think is right for your family.


Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Why you should keep dating your spouse after having kids

July 08, 2019

Just because you are married doesn't mean you should stop dating. In fact, you should date more now that you are married!

Marriage is hard. And once kids enter the equation, finding time to be with one another and grow in intimacy gets complicated. Unfortunately for many, dating stops once parenting begins. This is sad and potentially dangerous. If you do not keep the intimacy and passion in your relationship alive and thriving, your marriage could die. So many people are stuck in a stagnant marriage with no passion and are together for the kids and convenience, coasting through life on autopilot. It's fairly common, but shouldn't be considered normal.

So be intentional. Go on dates regularly. Make plans for once a week, once a month at the longest. Keep a routine and make it a priority. Schedule regular date nights and don't cancel them. In your home, the most important relationship is you and your spouse (second only to God, of course). Your kids come third. If you and your spouse are not a team, working together with a like mind, communicating and connected to the core, how can you expect to co-parent effectively? Children need the input of both parents - that's how it was designed - a mom and dad together. It's very confusing for a child to live in a house where the parents' marriage isn't the priority. They will learn that it is normal to be unhappy in marriage and to not be in love with your spouse; and will most likely end up in a similar situation when they grow up. Don't let this happen.

Work with your spouse and decide what day or times works best for you both. Consider your work schedules and family time. For example, the best time for my husband and I to get in our date is during the weekdays while our boys are in school. We both work from home and that's just what works for us. It will be different for everyone. If you have friends or family members in a similar season of life, consider making a kid swap schedule where you take their kids for a few hours once a month, and they'll take yours on a different day. That way, you get your date night and childcare is covered. Plus you get to help out another couple as well. Or perhaps your church's youth group has a few responsible high-schoolers looking for a side gig? Either way, you will figure it out if you really want to.

Date Night doesn't have to be super fancy or expensive. But it could be, if that's your style and it fits in your budget. Don't be afraid to invest now in the long term stability of your marriage. That is always a good investment. Put your whole heart into it and don't hold back. Never feel guilty about taking time away from the kids to focus just on each other. Trust me, this is the best benefit a child can get from there parents. 

Maybe your budget is strict and you don't live near family and don't really have a sitter option? That's no excuse. You still need date night. In fact, you may need it more than anyone. It just may look a little different. Stay in and rent a movie or binge watch Netflix after the kids go to sleep. Go for a family walk and let the kids play at a park while you sit together on a bench and talk. Cook dinner together and experiment with a unique new recipe. Play cards or a board game as a family and choose to be on each others teams. Steal away small windows of time to focus on each other and don't be afraid to flirt in front of the kids. All the while, keeping it in mind that eventually you will find a sitter and you will go out together. 

Don't let the most precious human relationship you have be placed onto the back burner. Show your children what a healthy, loving, and Godly marriage relationship looks like. Show your spouse how important they are to you by making and keeping them your priority.

Sibling Rivalry

November 03, 2018

My sons are best friends, but they act like mortal enemies sometimes.

It's usually not long before a playful wrestling match goes from laughing so hard they can barely breathe to screaming at each other and crying because "he hurt me!" This is almost a daily occurrence at my house. I mean come on, you're wrestling, haven't you learned by now that when you wrestle you might get hurt?

Or sometimes during a game of Minecraft they'll be laughing, having fun, building together, and then next thing you know they're screaming at each other and hitting or throwing things because "he burned down my house and killed all my dogs!"

It's times like these that make my blood boil. I am not a naturally patient mom, but I am working on it.

I am trying this new thing (new for me, at least) - waiting quietly and listening. I used to jump in yelling right at the start, I would separate them and start dishing out punishments immediately. But often times I didn't have the whole story and ended up looking more like a rage monster than a critical thinking mom who was raising problem solving men.

When my boys fight, it brings out the worst in me. It's not their fault, it's mine, and I'll own that. But it is my job and responsibility as their mother to point them in the right direction, show them the way to act, so that when they grow up they won't be lost (Proverbs 22:6). This isn't an easy task though. It takes intention and consistency. (read my article Intentional Parenting)

I started with a conversation. During a time of peace and not strife, I told my boys that I want them to figure things out on their own; to solve their own problems and work on making peace together rather than making war. I also told them not to act in a way that resembles a toddlers temper tantrum when their brother doesn't do what they want him to do. My boys are old enough to understand that tantrums are embarrassing and inappropriate. And they agreed that they didn't want to act that way and they would try and be better.

But when the moment comes, they are sure quick to scream, and kick, and throw that tantrum.

And that moment seems to always come.

In that moment, if it starts while I am not in the room, I just wait and listen. Sometimes it's just screaming, other times it's crying. I just wait. I have learned to discern the different cries and screams of my boys. There's the frustrated cry, the hurt cry, the sad cry. And the rage scream, the hurt scream, and the control scream. If I hear slapping, punching, or banging, I always jump in and intervene right away. I want them to know how serious that violence and physical aggression is and that it's never tolerated in our home.

Sometimes, while I wait and listen, I can hear them talking it out. They get over it and the offense is quickly forgotten.

But not always.

Sometimes it only escalates. I wait and listen close, but out of view. I don't want their words or actions to be influenced by my presence. I want to see how they handle it when they are on their own. This gives me the fuel I need to properly correct, teach, and guide them later on, during our follow up conversation about the situation (read my article Redemptive Discipline). If it continues to escalate with no sign of appropriate resolution, I step in.

"Hey guys, I noticed you're having a hard time communicating. What's going on?"

I get both sides of the story, each boy gets to tell me what happened without their brother interrupting. This is the best way to get the whole story told from two different perspectives (plus I was listening in without their knowledge and have a more broad understanding). Usually they are both to blame for the escalation, but it always starts with one ill-willed comment or action.

Once we get down to the bottom of it, to where it all started, we start the apologies. The offender goes first, then the offended apologizes for their inappropriate reactions as well.

I'm hoping that once they learn how to determine when and how a fight gets started, they will be better at either stopping it from escalating, or preventing it all together. I want them to be motivated by love and respect for each other, not selfishness and pride.

I will help them word their apology if they need help (I am teaching them after all).

"I am sorry that I (insert offense here). You are my brother and I love you. I don't want to hurt you or make you feel unloved."

Sometimes, if there was a name calling involved - "I know that you aren't (stupid, annoying, dumb), I said that because (I was mad, you cheated on the game, you kicked me, etc). I am sorry."

During an apology, I have my boys stand face to face and use a sincere tone of voice. I want them to learn to mean it and take it seriously.

I have trained my boys not to just say "it's OK" in response to an apology, because sometimes it's not OK.

If someone hits you or calls you a name, but then apologizes, that doesn't make "it" "OK" to name call or hit. "It" referring to the offense and "OK" meaning acceptable or reasonable. To forgive someone is right, but you don't have to say "it's OK." That's sort of like saying "your offense against me was reasonable."

Instead of saying "it's OK," I have trained them to respond with something like "I forgive you, but it's not OK, please don't ever do that again. I don't like being treated like that."

That way, they are standing up for themselves, letting the people around them know how they want to be treated, and being kind at the same time.

They need to learn how to resolve conflict on their own. As parents, we won't be there to solve all of their arguments and disputes in the real world. It's our job as parents to make the here and now a safe learning environment.

Intentional Parenting

August 09, 2018

I believe that the best way to love your kids is to be an intentional parent.

There is no such thing as perfect parenting.

In fact, the only perfect Father is our Heavenly Father, and the only perfect Son is Jesus Christ. They share a perfect Father and Son relationship.

As human parents, we make mistakes and that's ok.

God's design for us as parents was never to be perfect or to have all the right answers all the time. We aren't supposed to know exactly what we're doing or even why we're doing it all the time. But we are meant to lean on and trust God for all of the unknowns.

I believe that God uses our children as tools to teach us lessons and grow our faith and trust in Him. My boys are hard to handle sometimes, and God uses these tough situations as a tool to sharpen me and make me look and act more like Christ. He does this for all of us because He loves us.

As parents, we are supposed to train our children to love God and love others.

Parenting is not easy.

If you think being a parent is easy you are most likely doing it wrong. It is not easy raising good and productive members of society. Parenting is so much more than just taking care of your children and making sure they survive each day. Yes, that is a part of it, but that's not where it ends.

Parenting, at least intentional parenting, is about raising your children to walk with Jesus. To become thoughtful, compassionate, kind, forgiving, productive, and respectable adults who love fully and selflessly.

You cannot raise a child like this if you are your child's "friend." You should be their authority figure, their parent.

If your child likes you 100% of the time, you're most likely raising a spoiled brat. If they always get what they want and know how to push all the right buttons to get it, you're failing as a parent.

This doesn't mean you can't have fun together or be friendly, it just means that you should be a parent first, friend second.

Your child should know that you are in charge - this doesn't mean they will never challenge you, it just means that they know you will stand your ground in battle.

They should know that you are there to love them, take care of them, teach them, and protect them, not to just clean up after them, buy things for them, and make sure they're always "happy."

There is so much more to parenting than just getting your kids to obey you or respect you.

Intentional parenting is all about teaching and training your children how to be Godly adults.

 

Lead by example.

  • Show your kids how to walk with Jesus.
  • Love them through all life's seasons.
  • Teach them how to act and live so when they grow up they won't be lost (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Communicate with them, be quick to listen and slow to speak, and even slower to get angry (James 1:19).
  • Be consistent and authentic.

 

I have not mastered intentional parenting, but here are a few practical tips I have found along the way:


-         Redemptive Discipline teaches children that they are sinners in need of a savior. It teaches them that they are loved no matter what they do, by God and by mom and dad. But sometimes, our attitudes and actions need to be checked and changed. Children disobey and need discipline, not punishment, discipline. (see my article on redemptive discipline).


-         The tone of voice you use when you communicate with your children is crucial. We teach our kids so much without knowing it. Too often I hear my children speaking to each other with a nasty tone that's all too familiar - my own. Before you're tempted to raise your voice and shoot off a malicious tone, remember - your children were created in the image of God, truly cherished and deserving of love and respect. You can be stern AND kind.


-         Practicing patience is new to me. I am not a naturally patient person and I tend to assume my young children should just automatically know better. But sometimes they don't - they need to be taught. I learned the hard way that I wound them deeply when I react out of frustration and impatience, rather than respond with wisdom and love. Take a Holy Pause - take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, and say a quick prayer before responding to tough behavioral situations.


Redemptive discipline, patience, and tone of voice all need to work together when dealing with disciplinary issues.

Tough situations are guaranteed to come up, they're a normal part of life. But always remember the God you serve and His plans for you and your children.

God gives us children so we can teach and guide them. That's our role - to teach and guide, and of course, to love.

Redemptive Discipline

August 07, 2018

I attend a Bible Study Fellowship group and have recently learned about redemptive discipline. This is an amazing Christian tool all parents should have in their back pocket. It is all about reaching into your child's heart. 

When they misbehave, sure it's easy to lose patience, yell and throw out punishments, but what are you teaching them? That mommy is mean? At any point in the day mommy could just blow up? Nothing they do or say will be safe. They will begin to think that mom's love and happiness with them is dependent on their behavior (first of all, if that is true - mommy needs more of Jesus).

In order to understand redemptive discipline and appropriately apply it, you must first accept that your child is a sinner, no matter their age. Straight out of the womb, a born sinner. We all are. Your job as a parent is to guide your child into adulthood. To teach them how to live, to lead them by example. God has provided an instruction manual, we call it the Holy Bible. It is always relevant. All scripture is useful for correction and teaching.

When using redemptive discipline, you are addressing the heart of the behavior issue: your child's sinful human nature. For example, if they have toys all over the floor and refuse to obey your request to clean it up, what sin are they committing? Being disobedient to your parents is a sin. It is not wrong to tell your child that they are sinning. Too often parents sugar coat things for their kids, and therefore unintentionally turn their children into adults who aren't able to cope with failure, rejection, constructive criticism and who feel like everyone else is the problem. Don't be those parents. Don't be afraid to parent your child in a way that produces fruit in the future.

To continue the above example, say your child is disobeying your request to clean up their toys. You should only have to ask once. Consistency  is key. Once, no more. As soon as they make the choice to disobey, send out a quick prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words. Then you should immediately pull them aside and have a conversation with them. Get onto their level, never stand over and look down on them and never do this from across the room with a loud voice. You should be face to face, at eye level, preferably close enough to touch, using a gentle but stern voice. Ask them if they know what they did wrong.

"Honey, do you know what you did wrong?"

Let them answer. Sometimes they'll know exactly what they did wrong, sometimes they won't, but that's ok because they are learning. If they know, and they tell you, praise God. If they don't know, tell them.

"You disobeyed mommy. When I asked you to clean up your toys, you said no."

Then teach them about sin.

"Do you know that God commands us to obey our parents? It is a sin to disobey your parents. A sin is when we do what we want to do, and not what God wants us to do."

Right now would be a great opportunity to open your bible and show them Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-3, even if they can't read (this will teach them that their mommy treats God's Word with respect and takes it seriously). Allow them to respond, if they want. Then continue.

"When you disobey mommy, you are sinning against God. God does not like sin, but He loves you so much. Everyone sins, even mommy and daddy. But God still loves us, too. That's why He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. You have been freed from the power of sin, that means you don't have to sin! You have a choice. You can choose to obey! Isn't that cool?"

Give them a chance to offer a response but don't expect one. Remember, learning is a process.

Ask them to pray with you. It is never too early or too late to start praying out loud with your child. If they want to say the prayer, let them! And then praise God for it. If they will let you, pray out loud with them afterwards, if they don't let you, do NOT force them. We don't want to make any of this feel like a punishment. Prayer is a gift from the Holy Spirit and He will never push himself onto us if we are unwilling, so offer that same courtesy to your child. After you pray together, give them a big hug and a kiss. Let them know you love them and that you expect them to be obedient. And then (good luck) ask them to clean up their toys again (everyone deserves a second chance ;)

This example is assuming that your child is a believer and will sit still for this conversation. But what if they aren't, and what if they don't? Redemptive discipline is still the best route. You can modify this technique to fit your specific family dynamic, but don't stray too much from the main goal: winning your child's heart to God. Relay facts that you can back up biblically. Share the gospel with them, teach them that they are a sinner in need of a savior. Let them know how much their Creator and Heavenly Father loves them.

This technique won't be effective for behavior modification without heart change, that is not our main goal anyway. Do not try to scare them into obedience. That is not God's way, there's no gospel in that message.

Never imply that when they disobey, you or God doesn't love them. We don't want them to come away from the conversation with the idea that they need to work for your love or for God's love. The love of God is unconditional, He wants our hearts first, not our behavior. A child can understand this, they just need to be taught.

 

Read Romans 8 and thank God.

Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:5-10, 1 John 2:1-2 are about sin.

Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 29:17, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 are verses about raising children.