Category: parenting

How to Make Personalized Back-to-School Photos

Families around the country have been snapping pictures of their kids on the first day of school for years. 90% of these photos seem to happen on the home’s front stoop.

In our family, it’s no different. Fifteen minutes before departure time, we line the kids up and snap pictures of their sweet faces in front of our door.

How to Make (easy) Amazing Back-to-School Photos

Each year, I like to add a little extra information to help me remember what they were into (and what they weren’t). For fun I even sometimes make one for my husband who is a PhD student ;). 

To create these great memories, I use the free online editing tool- PicMonkey.

1. I upload the photo by going to “edit” and then “computer.”

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 7.35.37 PM

2. After choosing the photo I want to edit, I’m ready to add some text. (more…)

Parenting as an Art (and sometimes art gets messy)

Make your own-3

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an update on our Year of Positive Parenting.

To be honest, it’s been really hard.

There’s nothing more I want in life than to get this parenting thing “right”. And of course, the reality of parenting is that there is no “right”. Math problems have right answers. Jeopardy questions have right answers. Parenting does not have right answers. (more…)

February Positive Parenting Challenge: No Yelling

No Yelling

I have a teensy bit of a confession.

When pushed towards familial chaos, my instinct is to start hollering.

And while I know why my first reaction is to do this, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I figure out ways to take a deep breath, count to 10, and with respect and firmness, speak calmly to my children.

Always.

And while I know we won’t be batting 100% on this one, that’s the goal. Because it really, truly matters that our home is a place of love and respect. And yelling quickly drains a home of those two things.

Does this mean we’ll never fight? No.

Does it mean we won’t have to ask forgiveness, sometimes multiple times a day? Nope.

Does it mean we’ll be all rainbows and roses and laughter? Ha!

It just means that we’re all aiming towards kindness and respect and love.  (more…)

2016: The Year of Positive Parenting

positive parenting

 

We’ve had a rough year or two with parenting.

Jake and I started out parenting with a whole lot of energy. Sure we were stressed at different points and made poor choices at others, but overall, we had more than enough patience, compassion, and stamina to parent our kids well.

We were committed to spending a lot of quality time with them, listening, asking good questions, looking behind the behavior into the heart, calmly redirecting and being generally playful.

Somewhere along the way things began to shift.

We got tired.

We got distracted.

We got tired some more.

Our patience grew thin and our words got lazy.

(more…)

Practicing the Spiritual Disciplines with Kids (+Free Printable)

Spiritual disciplines are fantastic and frightening.

They are fantastic because they are often a really great way to help me connect with God. Whether it be through prayer, reading the Scriptures, practicing generosity, journaling, walking a labyrinth, WHATEVER, these are places and times when I’m being intentional about slowing down and focusing on what God is doing around me and inside of me. It’s a time for me to listen and/or to enter into the Kingdom of God living that I might not naturally do on my own.

Spiritual disciplines are also frightening because when I engage in them, I’m giving up control. While I can decide when and what to do, I can’t decide what God’s going to say, how He’s going to move, or even if I’m going to sense His presence at all. Especially at the beginning, it’s sometimes frightening to be vulnerable, even when it’s with our Abba.

When I became a parent, I settled it in my mind that I would help my kids practice developmentally appropriate spiritual disciplines early. By practicing and learning how to connect with God on their own, I’m hoping that these disciplines will give space for God to create markers in their faith where the kids “know that they know they have heard from God.”

A good friend of mine is the teaching pastor at Catalyst Community Church in Rowlett, Texas, and he recently invited me to help make a spiritual disciplines guide for kids. What can we do as parents to help our kids practice the disciplines? 

Spiritual Disciplines with Kids

The result of this collaborative project is this helpful sheet that we’re sharing with you. Feel free to download it, print it, share it, whatever!

 

When Your Child Asks Hard Questions about the Bible

Just the other day, the kids and I were eating dinner when the topic of the destination of the unevangelized came up. Of course, it didn’t come up in those words, but more like, “Mom, what happens to people who haven’t heard of God or Jesus before missionaries come to tell them God’s good news?”

If this topic hasn’t come up around your dinner table or while snuggled close to your kids at bedtime, then another one has. What happens to the baby that was miscarried? Why did the earthquake happen and kill so many people? Why does God allow people to do bad things to people because of the color of their skin? What will heaven be like?

As parents, we expect these questions to come, yet often feel the sense of surprise when they do. We have some general idea of how we answer the questions for ourselves, but when talking to our child about it, the ideas sometimes seem foggy, or the explanations “not enough”. We long for our child to have assurance of God’s great love for them, and also know that cutting off those questions, and that precious dialogue, may eventually be hurtful to their faith journey.

All that to be said, parenting is hard. Wading through tough questions about faith is hard. We need wise resources from people who have walked through it before us.

bible story handbook

One book that I’m reading through right now is called The Bible Story Handbook, written by Dr. John and Kim Walton. Married for many years and having raised three children themselves, John and Kim offer a theological sound, critical way at looking at the Scriptures that will allow us to teach our kids the intended messages of the Scriptures.

It’s tempting to read a passage of Scripture and then immediately figure out a way to connect it to our life. I mean, isn’t that what the Bible is for?

Well… maybe not exactly.

If a preacher or teacher is going to do a “leadership study”, you can pretty much guess what book of the Bible she or he is going to use… Nehemiah. But, the Waltons argue, leadership is not what Scripture is teaching in this passage. It’s not what the text is intending to teach, and “only the things that Scripture intends to teach carry the authority of the text.”

So, then, when we teach about Noah and the ark with all of the animals, what is the intended message of the Scriptures in that story? What do we teach our children about the story of Abraham? of David’s life? the creation of the world?

We are definitely good intentioned; at least I am. I want my children to find themselves in the Scriptures- to connect to them, to feel like the Bible is “applicable to their lives”. But all too often we pop the Scriptures of of their redemptive historical context only to make it into a nice packaged story with a good takeaway for our kids. The should be honest, obey, feed the poor,  be humble– things like that.

So if we’re not to just dive into the Scriptures to figure out how we should live, what should we do with them? The Waltons recommend first and foremost being careful to ask ourselves- what is the intended message of this passage of Scripture? What was the author trying to convey? Most of the time, it’s teaching about WHO GOD IS, not what we should do. They go on to say, “We want our students to be conformed to the image of Christ and their behavior to have been embraced as a way to imitate God. We accomplish this by helping them know God better, not by telling them that they should obey because Abraham obeyed.”

So, after this and much more (the introduction in itself is worth getting the book; I feel like I’m not really doing it justice), the Waltons go through the entire Bible and lay out lesson guidelines for parents or teachers to use when teaching on the various passages of Scriptures. They include:

  • a lesson focus
  • a lesson application
  • a short paragraph on the biblical context
  • interpretational issues in the story (this part is EXCELLENT. It will help with some of those tough questions that will come up if a child is thinking closely about the text)
  • Background information: Information about different parts of the story or words/images used that will help in gaining a fuller understanding of the message of the author
  • Mistakes to Avoid: a list of ways in which the passage of scripture is perhaps inaccurately taught to kids.

Another interesting thing that Waltons bring up is that it’s better to not teach your child a passage of Scripture than teach them the wrong thing about it. For example, one day their son came home from church and talked about how he learned about Cain and Abel in his class. Interested, they asked a few questions and learned that the lesson learned that day was “God created our bodies”. And while no one is going to argue that that is not a true statement, it’s not at all what the story of Cain and Abel teaches (acceptable and unacceptable sacrifices, murder of a brother, etc.). Most likely the teachers didn’t know how to teach this difficult passage to preschool children, so just tried to grasp at straws. There are passages of Scriptures that are inappropriate for young children to read. Skip them. Come back to them when they are older and you can teach them about it in an honest way.

Not only is this book helpful when teaching children, but it’s helpful to us as adults too. If we’ve grown up in the Church World, it can be hard to tease out the difference between what the Scripture says and what we may have been inaccurately taught about it.

Of course, as with any book, you read it and test it, but so far it appears to be an excellent resource. I HIGHLY recommend it to all parents!

 

Thanks to Crossway for a review ecopy of this book!!

Review: Motivate Your Child

I have a love/hate relationship with parenting books.

I love them because they are often comforting in one sense- someone in this big world has figured out an answer that I’m desperately searching for. hallelujah.

I hate them because the answers are often pretty rigid and don’t always work out as promised.

Expectation, disappointment. Expectation, disappointment. I fall for it again and again, because I have hope that there are SOME good parenting books out there.

There are, really. Here’s one of them.

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Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told

The title is a little long and perhaps oversells the book a little. 🙂 But, that’s pretty much the worst thing about the book. This is the second book I’ve read by these authors (Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN). The first one I also reviewed here and I LOVED it. So, I had cautiously high expectations for this one too.

What I really appreciated:

  • The emphasis on the fact that every family is different. Every child is different. There is no “one way”. Parenting means a lot of trial and error, and we can’t control our kids. It’s up to them to make the decisions. We can only provide a healthy, helpful environment in which they can grow.
  • BUT, there are a lot of things that parents should have in their parenting toolbox to use. This book carefully lays out some of those tools in a clear, thoughtful way, informed by both Scripture and psychology.
  • The authors uses many illustrations, seemingly from his own counseling practice, and the names represent a variety of ethnicities.

The book is divided into 2 parts. The first has to do with the Moral Development in Children. How are children wired? How does the conscious form? What can we do to help our children choose to do the right thing even when we’re not around? The authors talk about the value of making mistakes, integrity, compassion, and initiative. One chapter is just titled, Consequences, and in it the authors discuss the difference between punishment and discipline, and how punishment really isn’t effective in changing kids’ behavior in the long-term. Instead, parents need a wide range of parenting tools to help them encourage, support, and guide their children’s understanding of themselves, of the world, and of how they can live rightly. Various types of discipline include: natural consequences, logical consequences, loss of privilege, more parental control, and practicing the right thing. While these are not new ideas, the authors do a great job of putting them altogether, and helping parents understand which ones are most helpful for certain types of situations. They recognize that all of these are needed, and that some kids will respond better to a different set of consequences than others.

The second part of the book focuses on Spiritual Development of the Child. This section focuses on the importance of sharing your own faith with your kids, teaching them Scripture, as well as the necessity of building relationships with your children. It also focuses quite a bit of time on the idea of Family Time, which is basically a time set aside each week for intentional time learning from the Scriptures and relationship building.

One realization I had when finishing up this book is that parenting and disciplining kids really is a long-term project. I often read books or blog posts talking about how we can curb entitlement and selfishness and disrespect in 3 easy steps, and I just assume that if I do those, then of course my children should change, right? Well, not really. Discipline (training or coaching your children) takes time and repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Of course there are a few lovely kids who do what they’re told the first time, but for most of them (for most of us!) that’s not really the case, nor is it necessarily an appropriate expectation to put on them. They’re figuring life out, and what seems as cut and dry to us may not always seem to be to them. Also, just like us, kids aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t expect them to be. All we can do is continue to train and coach them along the way, mixed with a whole lot of prayer! 🙂

 Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review!

Modern Parenting Under Fire

Note: I realize that my perspective is from that of a mom in a small city whose temple is Whole Foods and whose neighborhood roads are all Ivy League College names. Rural town moms probably have a completely different perspective. Get that. So take my opinion for what it’s worth. 

By now, I think we’ve all probably read Jen Hatmaker’s post on the Today Show’s parent’s blog entitled, What Would My Mom Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside). I haven’t heard one negative thing about it so far- only lots of shares and “yes, this” (myself included).

But, I was thinking… I don’t think that we really would like parenting like Jen’s momma did, at least not today. Just a 2.0 version of it.

So maybe we love the idea of letting our kids roam free and eat bologna sandwiches on white bread and then coming home when the sun goes down. I personally love this idea because then I’d have the whole day to do whatever my little heart desired. And I do have fond memories of summers outside for long periods of time, playing with all my neighborhood friends.

But, let’s pretend that this kind of parent existed today in your neighborhood. You know, the parent who lets their 6 year old kid roam the neighborhood. In fact, you may know a parent kinda like this. I know a few. But you know what I hear about these kind of parents? Not flattering things. Because what if I really let my two older kids- almost 6 (in a few days) and 7 play in your neighborhood. Just roam around. All day. Would you feel concerned? Would you wonder where their parents are? Would you call someone about it? What would you do or think about me when they started arguing/yelling at one another? How would you feel about helping them clean their knee if they fell outside your house? How would you feel about feeding them if they happened to be playing in your yard during lunchtime? How would you feel about disciplining them if they hit your kid, or yelled at them or something (because we all know this happened a lot when we were living our roaming childhoods)?

And what if your child came to my house and I fed them processed bologna on white bread and gave them sugar-filled kook-aid to drink. Everyday during a summer. Would you think that’s totally fine and who cares? Or would you cringe?

I honestly think that many of us really wouldn’t feel completely comfortable with this kind of parenting, and we don’t REALLY support other parents who parent like this. And you know what, my guess is that Jen didn’t parent exactly like this either. 

Why?

Because she has pictures of her kids’ dangerous stunts. Playground swinging, trampoline jumping, tree skateboarding. My parents don’t have pictures of me playing outside with my friends, roaming the neighborhood, walking across busy roads to the 7-11 to get a giant 44 oz slurpy, flattening pennies and rocks on the railroad tracks, visiting the old guy at the end of the block and going inside his pigeon coop to pet his pigeons (only looking back does it seem odd, but I swear, he was just a nice older lonely guy who loved kids!), biking to the library even though I wasn’t supposed to (because it was a whole mile away from my house!)….because they weren’t with me. In fact, if they did see some of the dangerous things I did as an elementary kid (kindergarten-4th grade), then they wouldn’t have approved. I would have gotten in serious trouble!

So, while I think we like the idea of Jen’s version of the “magical childhood” (because it really is just that), I’m not sure we’re willing to pay the price to get it. And maybe we don’t necessarily have to parent like that to be the kind of family we want to be. Maybe Jen’s call to throwback parenting isn’t the “best way” either.

From conversations I’ve had with friends, we parent a little differently than our parents did because we weren’t 100% happy with how our parents did it. Many of us grew up with parents who worked a lot or drank too much or who really didn’t know us at all. Modern parenting didn’t just pop up. It exists for a reason. Has it gone too far in some cases? Sure. But does that mean we do away with it and go back to the “good ‘ol days”? Eh. I’m not sure that’s really what we’re looking for either.

Perhaps what we’re all really wanting is permission to ease up. To give our kids some freedom. To step away from the window. 

You have permission to let your child outside without watching him or her. I won’t judge.

You have permission to let your 6 year old walk to school by himself/herself. I’ll keep an eye out for them while they walk past my house.

You have permission to let your kid eat cafeteria food because you don’t have time to pack a lunch. Mine will be eating that food too.

You have permission to delete your pinterest account. I don’t actually care what your kids’ parties look like. I just love that they get to hang out with their friends and I get a couple hours to myself.

You have permission to let your kids be bored. I’ll send my kids over and they can be bored together.

You have permission to not enroll your kids in any camp or extracurricular activity. I promise they will not be any less smart or ready for college. In fact, probably no one will even know or care.

You have permission to let your kids make their own lunch. My kids will be so jealous that they packed fruit snacks, some cheetos and a cheesestick that maybe they’ll want to start making their own lunch too.

You have permission to not know what they are doing every minute of the day. I’m sure they’re fine. If not, they’ll eventually let you know.

But you know what? You also have permission to parent like you want. If you really like your kids, you have permission to hang out with them.

If you want to make them a time capsule for their 18th birthday, totally do it! I have my own version of a time capsule which looks like a giant box with old papers, toys, clothes, etc, from over the span of my childhood. I bet you all do too.

If you want to throw them a magical birthday party, do it. Have fun! I bet your kids will love it! Just be sure to invite my kids too! 😉

If you want to do science experiments, art projects, teach them how to read, storytell with them, learn a foreign language with them, whatever- great! Your kid will love it. Can my kid some over to join you sometime?

Ultimately, we have permission to let go of the lie that what we do or don’t do with our kids makes or breaks their future. While we have influence over our kids, we don’t determine their personality, their actions, their attitudes, their future opportunities, or their success or happiness in life. It’s up to them, and the sooner we realize that in our parenting journey, the sooner we will be able to ease up, relax, and just enjoy our children.

 

 

 

 

Review: Simplicity Parenting

 

simplicityparentingSimplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids has been on my books to read for well over a year. I’m always drawn to anything with “simple” in the tag line, especially when it comes to parenting, because I’m in constant need of the reminder that less really is more. We as parents can step back, give our kids some breathing room, and that hectic schedules filled with good things typically isn’t the best thing for our kids. Repeat repeat repeat.

Simplicity Parenting, now on my list of must-read books, is written by Kim John Payne who was a school counselor for 18 years and is now a private family counselor in New York. He’s of the Waldorf persuasion, and believes that kids need to play, to be bored, and to be kids (not mini adults) as long as possible. He is convinced that working on simplifying is incredibly important as a first step to this kind of childhood: “By simplifying, we protect the environment for childhood’s slow, essential unfolding of self” (6).

Payne identifies 4 main areas in which we can work on simplifying for our kids:

1. The environment: We can declutter and get rid of many of our kids’  toys, books, clothes, etc. so that they can actually enjoy what they have in the mountain of “stuff” accumulating in closets, on the shelves and under the bed.

2. Rhythm: “Increasing the rhythm of your home life is one of the most powerful ways of simplifying your children’s lives.” When kids are familiar with what comes next, they are more likely to be at ease and focus more energy on the work of childhood. Rhythms can be made at waking-up, breakfast, going out the door, the window between school and dinner, and bedtime. Think about your day from your child’s point of view. What’s predictable? What’s not?

3. Schedules: I love that he talks about balancing busy days with quiet days. We do try to do this at our house- if we have a busy week, we’ll make sure that Saturday and maybe Sunday has nothing planned so that we can be at home, play, and enjoy the boringness of life. It really helps the kids to unwind emotionally and get some restful time so that they can reenergize for the upcoming school week. He warns that always packing our kids’ schedule with stuff to do can create an addition to busyness in our kids that many of us are desperately trying to deconstruct as adults.

4. Filtering Out the Adult World: Many of us want to have smart, educated kids who are knowledgeable about the world and what’s going on in it. However, what if the adult information we are sharing with them (or that they are overhearing in our dinner conversations, on the phone, on the news or on the radio in the car) is actually causing stress to them? Payne hosts a conversation about the innocence of childhood, and the importance of our kids’ needing to feel safe in their formative years, as they build their sense of self and the world. Too much information too young can cause anxiety and then behavior issues.

I appreciated Payne’s mindfulness and willingness to push back against the culture of go-go-go and “start getting these kids ready for college when they are in 1st grade”. Parenting and childhood has become a competition in our culture, at the expense of our kids. We can turn the tide if we’re willing to be mindful and make thoughtful decisions about the life of our family!