showing all articles for the category "parenting"

it's OK to be out of control, mama

September 24, 2019

Here's a question I struggle with sometimes, and the following is really a letter to myself. 


How much control do you really have in your household? 

Sure, you can control what you cook for dinner and how clean you keep your house... at least to a certain point. But can you make your children obey you? Can you make them eat all their veggies, clean their room, or do their homework? Without having to ask or bribe? Can you make your husband help you out around the house or make him choose what to do with his time?

Short answer: No


What you are able to control is your actions; your reactions; your responses; your thoughts; your emotions.

No matter what you do or how hard you try, you cannot make anyone do anything. You don't control anyone but yourself.

Even God doesn't "control" people.

Yes, He has control over every one and every thing and is ultimately in control, but He doesn't actually force anyone to do anything.

God created each and every person with their own free will, that includes your husband and your children. And what they do with that free will - well, is entirely up to them. Sure, you can strongly encourage or even manipulate someone into doing something you want them to do, but ultimately it is their choice. 

As a wife and mother, God has given you much responsibility. Although you are not responsible for the choices your family make, you are responsible for loving them well and keeping the home a safe place full of love and focus on God.

You are called by God to help, submit to, and support your husband; to teach and guide your children. What they do with your help, support, teaching, and guidance is up to them. You won't always get the results you want, and that may drive you crazy. But again, that reaction is yours to control.

Knowing and submitting to God's design for free will should make it easier to manage situations in your home with your spouse and children. 

And really, you should respect their free will as you have that same free will! You may disagree with what they do with their free will, however that's between them and God (so but out). Just keep doing what you know you are supposed to do. Make the next right choice and pray they do as well.

Thank God He didn't give you the ability to control anyone because that would mean that someone else could have the ability to control you!

Let this truth encourage you and allow you to relax a little. Trying to control people is an endless loosing battle that you don't have time to fight.

It's OK to be out of control, mama. Rest in knowing that God is in control and He sees you and knows what you need to be able to do the work He has called you to in your home. Ask Him to remove your "need for control" over your husband and children.

Let go and let God fill you with peace as you do the work He has called you to do in the home and with the family He has so graciously given you.


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

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding - meal time jobs for the parents and child

July 01, 2019

If you are anything like me, you've probably tried to force or even bribe your child to eat their dinner on many, many occasions. It just doesn't work. Not only that, you can end up damaging their relationship with food in the long run. Years ago, I came across this handy little flyer for the division of responsibility in feeding and I have kept it and loosely referred to it on occasion. If only I had truly emphasized it's importance and actually followed it earlier!

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding is simply this: at mealtime, the parents have specific jobs only they should do, and the child has specific jobs only they could do. Notice the difference in should and could. You cannot force your child to do anything, let alone eat their food - let that be their job. Don't allow these responsibilities to sway back and forth between parent and child, that could make for a nasty power struggle. Only you should be the one to do your job as the parent, and only your child could do their job:


It is the parent's job to decide 
  • what  is being served at each meal, 
  • when  the meal takes place, and 
  • where  the meal will be eaten. 
It is the child's job to decide 
  • if  they will eat what has be served, and 
  • how much  of it they will eat.

If you allow your child to make the decisions on what is being served for mealtime, you could be putting their health at risk. That may sound dramatic, but they're just not mature enough for that job. Children don't typically make healthy meal choices on their own. (I don't know about you, but if I let my boys choose what they ate for each meal they would eat nothing but pancakes and noodles) That's too much responsibility for a child anyway. Besides, do you really want to be making separate meals for your them every day for the unforeseeable future? That's a habit that is hard to break. Children should grow up eating what their parents eat. What you should do is teach your little ones why they can't just eat pancakes and noodles (for example) and what they should choose instead. Don't be afraid to talk science. Discuss vitamin and minerals and nutrients with your littles, they understand more than you think. Maybe even have your elementary age kids help with the meal plan and work together to find meals that everyone likes, but are still well balanced and healthful.

Also, more than that, if you allow them free reign as to when and where meal times are taking place, you are now no longer in control of meals and chaos will ensue. That dynamic doesn't make for healthy eating habits in the long run and definitely not a healthy parent child relationship. You can allow their input, but ultimately it's your decision, momma. Children need and crave structure and boundaries, even though they may not know it. Plus, how much fun is it to clean food out of the carpet and couch? Do you like walking through the house barefoot, collecting oats and seeds on your feet the whole way and ending up with a granola bar on your foot by the time you get to the kitchen? Meal time should be at the table. It's a reasonable request.

Diving in further to the parental responsibilities during meal time - it is also up to you to make sure that meal time is structured and supportive. You are providing your children with opportunities to 1) try new foods, 2) learn how to be responsible over their own health and nutrition, and 3) make good choices regarding their behavior at the dinner table. If they see that you are healthy and satisfied with your meals, they will be more likely to try new things. They learn by following your example, so behave in a manner suitable of imitating and show your children how much you enjoy eating your food. Families should all sit down together, eat together, and help clean up afterwards (according to their abilities, of course).

In order to make the most out of meal times, snacks should be limited. Don't allow your child to have unbridled access to the fridge or pantry between designated meal and snack times. This could lead to a habit of continually grazing and them not being hungry enough to eat the meals you serve. There are exceptions to this rule, for example, if your child is underweight and the doctor is encouraging them to cram in all the calories they can (which is where we are at with my oldest). But for the average child, they typically graze because they are bored. Parents should set healthy boundaries around snacks and teach their kiddos why those boundaries are there. Children will not learn how to do this if their parents never teach them. They also cannot learn how to take responsibility for their own bodies if they're never taught.  

There is so much in the life of a child that they do not get to control, and eating the food given to them is one thing they do get to control. Don't take that away from them. It took me a long while to learn this lesson with my own boys, But I should have realized it before I became a mom. My parents forced me to eat all my dinner when I was a child. I wasn't allowed to leave the dinner table until my plate was empty, even if it took hours. It would be cold and stale and I would be crying but that didn't matter, I had to eat it. I believe this caused me to develop an unhealthy relationship with food (which I have since dealt with) and I was having flashbacks each time I would try and force my oldest to eat all of his dinner.

As the parent, if you do your job with feeding, your child will do their job with eating.

Photo by Rustic Vegan on Unsplash

Is having cereal for dinner bad parenting?

June 17, 2019

I have a confession to make: Sometimes I let my family eat cereal for dinner. 

In my household, my husband and I have decided that it is my responsibility to lead the meal planning, do all the shopping, almost all of the cooking, and most of the dishes and clean up afterwards. Usually, I plan meals that consists of chopping and measuring multiple ingredients, using two to four pots or pans, and even implementing different cooking methods; baking part of the meal, steaming another, sauteing the rest, etc. Sometimes that job gets tedious and on some days I feel overwhelmed with other "mom/wife" responsibilities. I have, on occasion, thrown out the plan for the night and said "we're having cereal instead!" 

Is that bad parenting? No, and here's why:

For us, those days are few and far between. Plus, there's nothing wrong with adding a little excitement to the day with an unexpected twist of events in an otherwise well structured week. If your family is like mine, cereal is a very welcomed surprise that makes us feel like we're bending all the rules. And the cool thing is, no one gets hurt! This little bit of spontaneity is a message to my boys that mom is still fun and cool and likes to treat them. The meal plan structure for the rest of the week shows them that they are cared for by a responsible mom who values their health. 

Sometimes moms are too hard on themselves and put way too much expectations on their own shoulders. Throwing out the plan on those days where you are just exhausted and dreading preparing what you've planned is like telling yourself (and your family) that YOU are more important than saving face. YOU matter, mom: your feelings, your body, your time. It is OK to give yourself a break and just get some food into your family the easiest way you can think of. Being a mom is hard, there's no reason you should make it harder than it already is by forcing yourself to cook a meal just because you made a plan. Simply move that plan to another day and don't feel bad about it!

Of course, there is a fine line between what I am talking about here and being just plain lazy. If you find yourself in a pattern of "serving" cereal for dinner three nights a week, you're going to need to get to the root of the problem. Are you depressed? Unhappy in your role? Feeling inadequate or have no idea what to meal plan? Or maybe your kids just want cereal and it's easier not to fight them? Whatever the reason, you should make sure that as the mom you are taking responsibility for your family's health. You should include your kids' and husband's input while making the meal plan, but ultimately, it is the parent's job to serve healthy meals at the appropriate times, and what is served is your decision. If I let my boys make the entire meal plan we would have nothing but plain noodles and pancakes all week, without a vegetable in sight!

The bottom line is this, parenting is more than just a sum of good or bad decisions. It's hard work to take care of a family. If anyone tells you parenting is easy- they are lying, or are just a terrible parent- don't listen to them. To be responsible for the lives and health of other people is no small task and it should be taken seriously. But you cannot do this effectively if you are stressed out or spread too thin. So go easy on yourself and have cereal for dinner sometimes. No one will get sick, no one will die, and you will not ruin your children, either. 

Good parenting consists of this: Loving your children, helping them to grow and find who God created them to be, focusing more on their heart and mind and less on their behavior, trusting God with all of the little in-between stuff, and not being afraid to have cereal for dinner every once in a while.


Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

Win your child's heart to God through nurturing love, a tool of redemptive discipline

February 13, 2019

It can be difficult to show Christlike love in the midst of dealing with discipline issues with your children. Sometimes, children with the most unlovable behaviors are the ones most in need of nurturing love. The goal of redemptive discipline is to encourage growth in a child's relationship with God.


Nurturing love can be used as a tool for redemptive discipline to:
  1. Develop your child's faith in God
  2. Deepen and sweeten the parent/child relationship
  3. And simultaneously train them in obedience

It is unloving and unkind to allow a child to continue in negative behaviors. They should be reassured that you love them and that their behaviors and actions cannot change that. 

But just like God is firm with us sometimes, it is OK to be firm with your child. They need to learn what is and is not acceptable behavior. You can do this while also being kind and loving.

We know that our sin cannot separate us from our Father's love (Romans 8:38), our kiddos need that same assurance.

If your child knows that you love and care about them as a person, and not just about their behavior, they will be more ready to respond appropriately to correction.

A child who experiences love at home will find it easier to believe that God loves them. 

You can properly CARE for a child and show them nurturing love by following these few basic principles. 

  • Cheer for and comfort your child with gentle and kind words. Use a tone of voice that is loving and welcoming.
  • Appreciate your child's God-given uniqueness and gifts. Recognize that they are a treasured creation whom is truly valued by the Most High God.
  • Reach into their heart. Ask them about what interests and concerns them, and listen to what they have to say.
  • Edify and encourage your child with truths about God. Tell them how good and creative our God is, and that He created them special and unique on purpose.

Nurturing love requires abiding in the Holy Spirit. Continued prayer and dependence on Him is absolutely necessary in order to love our children the way we should.

Pray for God to help you guide and redirect negative behaviors in your child with love, gentleness, and grace. And pray that God will show you in specific ways how He is working in your child's heart already.

If we choose not to pray about specific issues or circumstances, we are admitting that we don't need or want God's help. It's like saying that we know better or prefer our way over His. The only way we can win our children's hearts to God is through His way, not ours.


1 John 4:11 and Hebrews 12:11 are great verses to keep in mind when dealing with tough situations with your kiddos. 

Remember, God is love, and He can help us to love our children like He does.




This post is inspired by training I have received from Bible Study Fellowship's Children's Program.

teaching your children how to properly and respectfully interrupt adults

January 31, 2019

Most moms know the struggle of being constantly interrupted by their children. Whether you're in the middle of a conversation with a friend, on an important phone call, or maybe working on the computer, it's only a matter of time until your child wants your attention. I don't know of any mom who enjoys being interrupted every few minutes by their child. It's hard to concentrate on your own thoughts or listen to others while your little one is incessantly tugging on you saying "mom, mom, mom." Even if you appease them for a moment, they will only come back a few minutes later for more.


My husband and I have "trained" our boys not to yell for us from across the house. That's just downright annoying and completely unnecessary. Unless of course there's an emergency. If your child is bleeding to death or they are trying to tell you that someone else is seriously injured and in need of help, let them yell and interrupt! I'm sure all of that goes without saying. But what we are talking about here is the daily life scenarios where children just don't know how rude it is to assert themselves into a conversation or situation they weren't invited to.

When I learned the interrupt rule, it changed our lives! I am not even exaggerating. 

Here's how the interrupt rule works:

-If your child needs to get your attention while you are busy, they are to quietly approach you and lay a hand on your shoulder or arm. 

-You should immediately acknowledge them, with eye contact or your hand on top of theirs. That way, they know that you know that they need you. But they don't say a word, yet.

-Then they wait. Once there is a natural break in your conversation or you are done with what you are doing, you can turn to them and give them your undivided attention. 

It's that simple! 

My boys have applied the interrupt rule to all the adults in their lives whom they ever may need to interrupt, completely unprompted. They just like it, I guess. They even use it on each other which is so stinkin' sweet. It is quite fun explaining to unsuspecting family members or friends why my child is just standing next to them with their hand on their shoulder. Usually the adult is surprised and impressed at how mature they are acting and want to implement it in their own homes with their kids. 

In training kids up this way, they learn self control, patience, and respect for their elders time and space. 

And I don't have to be interrupted anymore! Parenting tip for the win.

caring without wearing

January 26, 2019

I am a homemaker, or as some say, a stay at home mom.

My job is one I don't get paid for, in a financial sense. 

My payment comes in the form of hugs, smiles, cuddles, messes, and stress. 

I love my job, but sometimes I get tired of it. This is just me being completely honest and transparent.

I realize now that I am not the only one. This homemaker thing is not easy, I don't know if it ever has been.

But over time, it seems to get harder  -  I believe it is because I put taking care of everyone and everything above taking care of myself.

I used to think that taking care of myself first was the selfish thing to do.

I don't have time to take care of myself, my family needs me.

After many hours in desperate prayer for peace and patience, God has opened my eyes.

I cannot effectively care for my family unless I am first cared for. 

It's the same mentality behind the oxygen mask in an airplane, place your mask first and then help those around you. 

I won't be much help to my loved ones if I pass out on the floor. 


So... now I am learning the difference between knowing and doing.

I know I need to take care of myself, but how do I do that?

I've been asked before, "What do you like to do?"

Wow. 

It's depressing that I don't really have a good answer. 

I like to watch TV (lame), I like to go on long walks (a little less lame), I like to ...

I got nothin'...


So this year, I am going to try out a few new things.

I will relax!

I plan to do a lot more blogging, with that comes research (which I guess I also like to do).

I am going to read. And not just to gain knowledge or for research. I want to read fiction.

I want to try meditation or maybe even yoga.

I will start a prayer journal.

And I am not going to be ashamed to tell my family that I need me time.

Even if that just means a 20 minute bath while the dirty dishes wait in the sink - and I will choose not to let that bother me.

I will learn how to care for my family without wearing myself out, one day at a time.

Should you really be limiting screen time for your kids?

January 19, 2019

There is so much debate and controversy over screen times for children out there that it's almost enough to just give up caring. 


Is it harmful? Is it helpful? Who really knows for sure? 

How much is too much screen time? Is there a magic number of hours that is definitive for every family? Besides, what all counts as screen time? My kids use laptops every day at school to do their work, and at home for homework. My husband's business and our livelihood is dependent on technology and he's constantly in front of a screen either writing code or doing research. With this blog, I am now often in front of my own computer screen. So it seems like no matter how you look at it, harsh limits on screen time as a general rule just seems unrealistic for us.

I have seen so much online about limiting screen time for kids and parents, and I would agree with a lot of the principles and reasons why that would be a good idea. But the world is different than it used to be, we should embrace the technology we have, rather than demonize it. We live in a tech driven world and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem comes when kids or adults become addicted and can't function without it. 

There are multiple things that our screens offer us and many of them are very beneficial and helpful. So when I read articles talking about hard limits on screen time for kids without much context as to what activity is actually being limited, it can cause a lot of confusion and we may begin to demonize the actual screen itself or technology as a whole. I am definitely guilty of this but have given up the fight and just submitted to the fact that I will be surrounded by tech and screens for the rest of my life. 

Are video games inherently bad? No, of course not. And they don't create violence or turn innocent children into psychopaths. But there are some video games that definitely normalize violence and desensitize young minds to it, which may help influence violent fantasies to become a reality. The issue isn't the "screen time" but the content. In my house, we play a lot of games. Pokemon, Minecraft, Little Big Planet, Bloxels, and other games that make you think, discover, work toward specific goals, and build or create. These are attributes I would like to foster in my kiddos.

Are YouTube videos inherently bad? Definitely not. Take the photo at the top of this page, for example. This is my younger son, Jonah, watching a Nerdy Nummies video on YouTube. He has a passion for baking that just grows with every video he watches. This is good content, which I will not be limiting. On the other hand, I have walked in on my boys watching a video on YouTube Kids that had extremely inappropriate language and images. On YouTube KIDS! So now we make sure we know what our kids are watching, and as long as we know the content creators are good clean family fun, why limit it just for limitings sake?

That's not to say that kids should have free reign on all things tech, we all know that's not true, but I have come to realize that it is just downright unrealistic to put specific time restraints on something so integral to our culture and future. There is a balance, though. Every family just needs to decide what that healthy balance is for them. Focus on the content of the screen time, and not just how much time they are spending on a screen.

One thing I have realized I was doing that I won't be doing anymore is using screen time as a reward. Having our kids "earn screen time" by doing specific chores may be teaching them how to work towards a goal, but in my house it was just putting the screens on a pedestal. They were thinking of screen time as a prized and coveted reward. I want to move them away from this kind of thinking and move them more to a mindset motivated by a desire to help out around the house and take care of their own responsibilities. This isn't the same as using screen time as a reward, it is a simple lesson in taking care of responsibilities before you get to "play." Adults know this, so we need to teach our kids. But we also know that all work and no play makes for a lousy existence. So we just try not to stress about it anymore.

It is our job as parents to teach our children good habits, ideally through modeling them, but also through good ol' conversation. 
Screens should enhance our lives, not take away from them. I always tell my boys, make sure you're loving people more than you're loving the screen.

So, should you really be limiting screen time for your kids? I don't think I can give a definitive yes or no. What I have decided for my family is that it shouldn't be so much about limiting the screen time as it should be about quality control. The amount of time we spend on screens (kids AND parents) is not nearly as important as what we are doing on the screens.


Why we don't do Birthday or Christmas presents (in the traditional sense)

December 03, 2018

Every year, at least twice a year - Birthdays and Christmas, there was an opportunity for my boys to receive toys as gifts. And since we weren't necessarily getting rid of old ones to make room for the new ones, they really started stacking up. They had all the Avengers costumes and accessories, multiple super hero action figures and the bad guys to go with them, Lego's, Hot Wheels, Beyblades, trinket toys from Peter Piper Pizza, claw machine stuffed animals and so on. It would take my boys forever to clean their room, and when they would finally start making progress, it would be bed time! Or they would just pass out of sheer boredom on the floor atop a pile of toys.

It came to my attention that my children had too many toys, too much stuff. I decided we would spend a Saturday going through them together and make a keep pile, a trash pile, and a donate pile. My boys were very cooperative, but when we actually got to it, they were putting way too much stuff in the keep pile. The sad thing is, it was like every toy that was on the hot spot (or chopping block) was being rediscovered for the first time in years! The toy was never gone, it was just hidden underneath all of the other stuff. Some toys had sentimental meaning or very good reasons to keep in a special box, but most of them were just "filler" toys from birthday parties or Christmas. 

Anyway, the materialistic attachment I saw in my boys' eyes and the sporadic fits whilst trying to convince them to donate some toys was, in a way, angering. I wasn't angry with them, but with myself. Obviously I know that children are naturally selfish, they are human beings with human nature after all. I shouldn't expect anything different. But how could I let it get this bad?

It's our culture - your child is one year older and they're all the sudden supposed to have all of their friends and family come over with presents and toys galore? Why?

I understand that some people genuinely love to give gifts, it is a love language. There is a difference between giving a gift out of love, and giving a gift out of obligation. I do not think it is loving to unintentionally encourage and foster a selfish and materialistic mindset. The "me, me, me, mine, mine, mine" attitude is ugly on everyone, young and old. So I made the bold decision to include on every birthday party invitation here on out a note: Please NO Gifts. I also told my family and close friends that we were no longer going to take part in Christmas present exchanges and to please refrain from purchasing toys or "junk things" (trinkets, etc) as gifts for my boys' birthdays or for Christmas. The materialistic mindset was becoming a distraction to the reason for the celebration. I know this sounds extreme, harsh even, but sometimes it takes drastic measures to undo all of the unhealthy learned behaviors and thought processes.

Some family members and friends still bring a gift to my boys' birthday parties or give them presents for Christmas. And that's OK. A gift from the heart is one thing, but I am not fond of that part of the birthday or Christmas party where everyone stands around and watches as a child frantically opens all of their gifts. Call me cynical if you want, but I can't help but think of the mindset and the heart condition being fostered in that child. Sure, it's cute watching a little kid get all excited opening a present, but it's not cute watching an adult freak out because they didn't get what they thought they deserved. See, I think spoiling children with gifts of a plethora of toys on their birthday or Christmas is contributing to the rise in spoiled and entitled teens and adults. If your child needs anything, it ain't "stuff". They need love, relationships and togetherness, structure, boundaries, and discipline.

We do occasionally buy fun things for our boys, but we usually try and get things we can all do together, like board games, and keep it to a minimum. If they want something specific, like Lego's, video games, Pokemon cards, etc. we have that good old conversation about earning and saving up money so they can buy it themselves. We aren't an anti-fun house, we are just trying to be a family who values people more than things.

Fair, Not Equal

November 13, 2018

An issue that comes up a lot in my house is the idea that "it's not fair that he gets to (fill in the blank) and I don't."

This usually comes up when one boy is "grounded" while the other one is not.

Should I not allow the ungrounded son to play video games or have friends over because it might hurt the grounded son's feelings?

I teach my boys that treating everyone equally is extremely unfair. 

It may sound strange, but really think about that.

I am not saying that people are not equals, they are - created equal in God's image - deserving of dignity and kindness. I am saying that to treat everyone the same and give them all equal treatment (consequences and rewards) is unfair.

Let me explain.

Say you have two children, and you ask them both to clean their room. One child immediately obeys and starts to clean, while the other throws himself on the floor whining and crying about how he doesn't want to clean.

If I were to treat them equally, how unfair would that be?

Would they both be reprimanded for disobedience and fit throwing? Or perhaps they should both be rewarded and praised for being quick to obey and responsible?

No, neither.

Both children still deserve love and kindness and dignity, but they don't deserve the same reward or consequence. 

This applies to adults as well. 

If you are an employee who works hard, always shows up on time and uses your work day to be a very productive and respectable worker, you should be rewarded and compensated. But should the slacker be rewarded and compensated too, just because you are? 

No. That's not fair. He didn't earn it.  

Again, both the hard worker and the slacker deserve dignity and kindness, but they don't both deserve a promotion or Employee of the Month. 

Because their actions and attitudes are different, they deserve different but fair treatment. Not equal.

I am not just taking care of kids here, I am raising men. They will one day be adults and they need to know that they should not expect equal treatment. They need to be responsible for their actions and take the consequences that come with those actions. Good or bad. Regardless of what happens to someone else.




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.

Halloween - Its origins and what it means for Christians

October 30, 2018

The family friendly children's version of Halloween where we embrace trick or treating, playful imagination, and make believe is thought to be fun and innocent. The darker truth behind Halloween is full of unintentional (and sometimes intentional) pagan demon worship and the glorification and celebration of death, gore, torture, sexual immorality, and all things evil. I know this sounds harsh, but it's the truth. Modern Halloween in America is a mix of secular and religious elements and traditions.

The Origin and Evolution of Halloween and its Traditions

Modern day Halloween has evolved from a collection of traditions from the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced Saou Win) and the Catholic holiday All Saints Day, along with many others. Samhain and All Saints Day are strictly religious holidays, observed intentionally for religious purposes, while Halloween is known as a widely and publicly celebrated secular holiday.

Celebrated by BC Celtic Ireland on November 1, Samhain (Celtic for summer's moon or the end of summer) marked the beginning of winter. The night before Samhain was thought to be a time when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was thinnest. The Celtic Priests, called Druids, taught that the spirits of the dead, demons, and gods would rise from the grave and roam amongst the living on October 31, and either wreak havoc or bring blessing. Since not all spirits were thought to be kind, in order to appease the unkind spirits, they would leave food and gifts on their doorsteps and wear masks if they left the house. They would also light bonfires and disguise themselves as ghosts and ghouls to repel and confuse the spirits. The eve of Samhain was The Festival of the Dead led by a band of ruthless Druids who ruled Northern Ireland for centuries through occult terror and human sacrifices.

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory the third established All Hallows Day to discourage pagan practice of Samhain. November 1st became a Catholic holiday, All Hallow's Day (or All Saints Day), and its purpose was to honor all Christian saints and martyrs, known and unknown. This new holiday was accepted by the Celts, but they still insisted on carrying their own rituals and tradition of celebrating Samhain. The day before Samhain soon came to be known as All Hallow's Eve (later shortened to Halloween).

Old Celtic traditions were revived in 19th century America by Irish and Scottish immigrants. During a potato famine, over a million hungry Irish people and their folklore came to America. Their traditions began to change even more.

Halloween costumes are thought to have evolved from the Celts demonic or "harmful spirit" disguises during Samhain.

Jack-O-Lanterns began as an Irish tradition of bringing home an ember from the Samhain bonfire in a carved out turnip, using it as a lantern. This evolved over time and they started carving faces on the lanterns to honor their deceased ancestors and an Irish folk hero named Stingy Jack. After the move to America, when they saw that the pumpkin was more abundant, they used them instead.

Bobbing for apples was a Celtic vestigial divination ritual. The apple was associated with the female goddess of love. Young single people would try to bite the apple hanging from a string. This is similar to a bouquet toss at a wedding. The first person to bite the apple would be the next to marry. It was their way of attempting to see into the future through demonic help.

Trick or Treating is thought to have evolved from souling and guising (which originated in medieval Britain). Souling is where people would go door to door and offer prayer for dead relatives in exchange for treats. Guising is where young people would wear costumes and sing, recite poetry, tell jokes, or perform another trick in order to collect a treat, usually money or food. Trick or treating may have also started as the ancient Celtic tradition of leaving food on doorsteps to keep the wandering ghosts at bay. During 1930's America, trick or treating was more about the tricks than about the treats. People would play pranks on unsuspecting victims, usually vandalism or violence, unless they provided them with a treat. I will "trick" you if you don't give me a "treat." So basically, extortion. In the 1950's trick or treating became more family friendly and less violent.

Before Halloween was the family friendly, child/candy/costume centered secular holiday we know today, it was a strange combination of Pagan religious rituals, a Catholic attempt to prevent the Pagan worship, and other foreign traditions more focused on playing tricks on people, trying to tell the future through invoking the devil's help, and honoring and communicating to the dead.

Is Halloween a Satanists Holiday? Halloween has been celebrated long before Anton LaVey founded "the church of Satan" in 1966. Satanists only recently adopted Halloween as one of their holidays. So Halloween isn't Satanic in origin, but it is considered a Satanic holiday when referencing it being celebrated by Satanists for obvious reasons, being a day when demons, witches, and devils are glorified. LaVey has even said "I'm glad Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one night out of the year. Welcome to Halloween." 


Should Christians celebrate the modern, family friendly, Americanized version of Halloween? 

God makes it very clear how He feels about certain Pagan practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-14. In this passage He lists detestable actions and rituals and commands His people to never imitate them. This passage is a pretty inclusive list of activities and beliefs that Halloween was originally founded on. In fact, it was for these beliefs, activities, and rituals that the Pagans were driven out of the Promised Land God gave to His people. As a Christian, in light of this passage, Halloween now repulses me.

We as Christians are to live IN the world, not be OF the world. We are Christians every day of the year, we shouldn't compromise our morals just because everyone else is. We should allow God's word to guide us. On Halloween, death and torture and gore are glorified. God has overcome the grave, we should celebrate God, not the grave. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says "for you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not children of the night or of darkness." We are called to reject the darkness and represent Jesus well. Especially when everyone else is not. Prayerfully consider treating Halloween like an evangelism opportunity. Like opposite door to door missionaries. People come to YOUR door. Be friendly, represent Christ, preach the Gospel, hand out bible tracts, etc.

Death in and of itself is not "evil" by human definition. It is a natural part of the circle of life. Everyone experiences it, no one is immune to it. Some definitions of "evil" are: profoundly immoral and malevolent, embodying or associated with the forces of the devil, harmful or tending to harm, something extremely unpleasant, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force, a manifestation of this especially in people's actions, something that is harmful or undesirable. Some antonyms of "evil" are: good, beneficial, pleasant, virtuous.

So death is not evil, it is normal. But celebrating and glorifying death, torture, gore, horror, and the paranormal through costume, decor, and other choices that normalize these things can cause spiritual harm and are definitely not considered good, beneficial, pleasant, or virtuous.

Is it truly innocent to allow your children to dress up and go door to door asking for candy from strangers? I believe it is not. Even if you are present and keeping them safe physically, you are teaching them it is OK to celebrate and cooperate in a holiday that was originally founded on someone else's religious beliefs; Beliefs that directly contradict the Gospel and go against a direct command from God in Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

All that being said, I do not judge or look down on my brothers and sisters in Christ who choose to celebrate Halloween with their children. Not everyone is convicted by the Holy Spirit in the same way, and we all have our own walk with Christ. I do not believe it is an inherent sin to let your kiddo dress up and take them trick or treating. I do believe, however, it would be sin if the Holy Spirit places it on your heart not to, and you disobey. 

But as for me and my household... we will not celebrate Halloween.

See my article on Intentional Parenting.

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.