Category: parenting

Open House Drama

While kids were excitedly running around the hallways with their parents in tow, I was trying to find a quiet place to almost drag my limp-because-i’m-angry 5 year old to a quiet corner to get her under control.

Open House. The night when kids and parents are visiting classrooms, getting to know their child’s teacher and classroom and other parents. Oh they got to know us alright.

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To be fair, the night started out well. We visited the Kindergarten class and it was fine. She showed us her book box, everyday jobs, sang a couple songs, and happily helped me choose what to bring for future class parties. Next we visited the 2nd grade class and she quietly looked around the room and listened as Asante explained his various notebooks and what they work on in each. After we left, they both insisted we go see the special rooms. Although little sister was having some tummy trouble, we decided to make a quick stop.

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Some little girl was pounding on the piano in the music room, which of course made Aly want to do it too. It didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to be doing for that little girl, so I told Aly she couldn’t either. And explained why. She was mad, felt like it was an unfair answer, but left the room decently when it was time to go. Not awesome, but at this point, we know how things COULD be and she was trying.

Upstairs as we rounded the corner to start down the hallway that leads outside, Aly spied kids in the gym. With jump ropes. She rushed in, grabbed a jump rope and started jumping. Jumping. Jumping. Not forwards, but backwards. Whatever. I can let her do this, I thought, just for a few minutes. “Just for a few minutes,” I hollered over the noise of the crowd as she jumped away. After a couple minutes, I gave a one minute warning. Then a “3 more jumps and then we go, my sister.”

Rage erupted on that little girls face.

The yells began as we were exiting the gym. “Bad!” she yelled, which she often does when she’s mad, but trying to hold it back.

As we stream into the hallway she begins to unravel. She’s raising her voice. Getting attitude. Doesn’t want me to touch her because “she’s fine” when in reality she’s spinning out of control. I need to get her attention. Parents make room as we move down the hallway. I’m desperately looking for the bathroom that I know is ahead up on the right. Before we get there, she goes limp, I guess in attempts to get me to acquiesce with the grip I have on her. I carry her as best I can to the social safety of the bathroom. I feel embarrassed but I try not to allow that emotion to influence my words to her. I know myself. When I get embarrassed I can say things that would be better left in my head.

We talk. I look into her eyes, hoping that she will see me so that she can snap herself out of the tailspin that just happened. I get her enough under control that we leave the bathroom. She runs ahead of me and out the doors to Jake and the other kids. As we quickly stroll down the sidewalk away from the school, she yells, cries, and refuses to hear us talk to her about her behavior. She covers her ears, saying “I KNOW!” Maybe she does know what we’re going to say. Because this happens more often than it should. Fits. Tantrums. Yelling. Out of control.

I let Jake and the girls go ahead in the stroller and hang back with Asante. The kid who quietly goes along with everything, watching, observing, thinking. I apologize to him- “Sorry buddy, if Aly’s behavior embarrassed you. It embarrassed me.” “It’s okay,” he quickly replied. It’s always okay. He loves his sister so deeply.

We walk home. The moon is full, the sky is growing dark, and the cool wind blows against my face. I breathe deep, trying to process my emotions and get some air. The streets and bike paths are empty, so I relax. No one to impress or to fakely smile for as they judge my daughter or my parenting skills. Asante starts jabbering about the difference between a millimeter, centimeter and inch, and i’m half listening, “mmhmm-ing” at the right parts, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about Aly and her way-bigger-than-anyone-can-handle emotions. The books I’ve read. The hours of online research. The sensory play we’ve done. The many ways of discipline. The motivation charts. Her sadness for losing control and not figuring out how to tame the storm inside. It’s a lot and thinking about it all often overwhelms me because I feel so helpless.IMG_5056

So I pray. I pray a lot of things. Probably some of them are totally inappropriate and would make parenting gurus and child development experts gasp. But most of them have something to do with begging God to help me parent this beautiful, creative, gifted child. Help me to understand her. Help me to see it from her perspective. Help me to love her well.

 

 

 

Review: Exploring and Engaging Spirituality for Today’s Children

Discipling our kids is easy, in a way. Discipleship happens all day, everyday. Our mini-mes are watching us and picking up on what things are important and valuable to us, as well as discerning what being a follower of Jesus looks like. It’s happening whether we’re trying or not.

Discipling our kids is also really hard. Because we mess up. Or have habitual sins that we can’t shake but are so glaringly ugly. Often we want better for our kids than we do for ourselves. And we are keenly aware that at times, our behaviors, attitudes, words, etc. are certainly not ones that we wish for our children. Do as I say, not as I do.

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Because discipleship is easy and because it is also hard, I am on a constant lookout for resources that will help me be more intentional with them. One such resource I’ve had the pleasure of reading is Exploring and Engaging Spirituality for Today’s Children: A Holistic Approach. This great collection of articles is written by a variety of authors and it is a truly thoughtful, interesting work! The scholars and practiioners who wrote the articles were also presenters at the Children’s Spirituality Conference in 2012 at Concordia University in Chicago.

The book is divided up into 4 sections. The first part explores the historical and theological foundation of ministering to children. The topics have a broad range, but they all fall into the scope of how children’s spirituality and ministry in the church sits in history or in Scripture. One of my favorite articles from this section is an article, “Beyond Sunday School: How Child-Centered Studies of Religion are Transforming Our Understandings of Children and Their Traditions.” In it, author Susan B. Ridgely observes: …”virtually all churches discuss children as ‘the next generation’ of believers. Thus congregations position young people as future, rather than current, practitioners of their traditions even as they actively engage in Sunday school and services, even if it is just to protest their forced presence in these places” (p. 68). Isn’t that the truth? How can we as parents and we as the bigger church view kids and treat kids as young people who are seeking God and an active part of the current church?

In the second section, scholars discuss how churches can equip parents and their congregations to participate in the active discipleship of the children in the church. I learned something from each article in this section, and it took me forever to get through them all because I felt like I had to stop after each article to think on the information and suggestions they shared. From introducing the church calendar into family life to helping kids learn Scripture in a deep way to helping children recognize the experience of God in their daily lives, these articles are filled with important information for parents and churches. How can the church equip parents to disciple their children at all ages and stages? Research has found that most parents know it’s important but don’t know what to do or just don’t do anything. These scholars want to help churches fill that gap.

The third section explores various methods of ministering to children. They write on a variety of subjects: the importance of physical movement in the spiritual development of a child, learning how kids learn and how that affects their spiritual development, even adapting some of the Ignatian spiritual exercises to kids.

The final section zooms in on ministering to justice issues surrounding children and what that means for the church- at-risk youth, child pornography, social justice, sex education, and intercultural contexts. My favorite article in this section was the one on how our culture affects how we help form children spiritually. Do we have them memorize prayers or pray spontaneously? Do they participate in the corporate worship service or are they taught in a different room? What expectations do we bring to the table in a church and how might other families from different cultures expect different things? Sadly I guess most churches in America don’t have this problem because they tend to be monocultural. BUT, when we do (I have hope!) what are some conversations that we’ll need to have?

And last, but not least, I’ve discovered no less than 30 more books that I’d like to read sometime (one of my favorite things about reading scholarly articles- the references at the end of them)! This books makes me wish I would have taken more spiritual development of the family classes as Asbury… :).

 

Thanks to the publisher, Wipf and Stock for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. 

 

 

Review: Your Core + Book Giveaway!

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Graham Blanchard Publishers just released an important new books called Your Core. In it, kids learn that PEOPLE have cores, just like apples, balls, and the earth, and that these cores all have a purpose. It is in our core (or soul) that God resides. The soul is a super tricky thing to explain to kids, and I think that this book offers a really simple illustration that will help kids to begin to form an understanding of their “inside life.” It ends with Ephesians 3:16-17:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

The illustrations are super sweet and include diverse characters which I really value in a kid picture book. As always, this book gets a strong recommendation from me!

Learn more about Graham Blanchard at www.grahamblanchard.com.

AND, because I just love these books, I’m giving away a couple on the blog today!

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Enter to win by just leaving a comment below :).

Edit: Congrats to Tracy as the winner of this book set! 

Review: The sticky faith guide for your family

When we find out that we’re pregnant, or we apply to adopt, many of us begin reading. Whether it’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting or The Whole Life Adoption Book, we start reaching out for any information that is going to help make this life transition a bit easier. We are eager to plan our baby or child’s room, decide who is going to take care of them after they are born and maternity leave comes to an end, and we even have some ideas about activities we can do to help them successfully meet the important developmental milestones.

But what do we do to prepare ourselves for our child’s spiritual health? Sadly, there aren’t as many books about that. Many of our churches are helpful in that they provide a good curriculum for kids to do on Sundays, but what about the rest of the 166.5 hours in the week?

Most of us care deeply about our spiritual development as well as that of our children. We pray for them, we fill their bookshelves and nightstands with Bibles and books that point them towards God. We probably pray at meals and bedtime, and maybe before we send them off to school (or start the school day at home). We talk about the moral compass, and encourage them to “be good”.

While all of this is good, there’s a lot more to their spiritual life than that. While God is absolutely the one who makes the garden of their hearts grow, He certainly uses family to plant seeds, provide some water, and weed :).

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The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family: Over 100 Practical and Tested Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Kids gets that, which is why Dr. Kara Powell wrote this book. She and a team of researchers and practitioners at the Fuller Youth Institute have been researching families and the spiritual development of kids (from birth on through college) for many years now. While their first book, Sticky Faith, shares a lot of what they found in their research, this Sticky Faith Guide for Family gives some more practical tools for helping families evaluate where they are at, what their next step is, and lots of ways of how to get there. They get that families are very different, and that sometimes no matter how hard we try, our kids are going to make the ultimate decision about their spiritual  journey. I know that for me, even though this is true, I’m going to do everything that I can to help create an environment that is nurturing of their spiritual development. I definitely don’t want to look back and realize that I could have done so much more.

In this book, Powell talks about very common issues- mistakes/forgiveness, creating close family relationships, connecting with teenagers, building a Christ-centered community that our kids are a part of, communication, serving others, transitions, etc. While this book is probably geared best towards families with elementary-high school kids, I can’t really think of a reason why parents of younger kids wouldn’t want to start thinking about this. The reality is, faith formation starts at birth, and many of these thoughts could ideally be started in the toddler and preschool years.

I’m a huge fan of the Fuller Youth Institute. They have done some really careful research that doesn’t care about making news with numbers as much as they do with presenting the problem as clearly as they can, and then offering suggestions (not solutions) that are helpful and that have helped families and children who have come before us in this parenting journey.

While I typically say that books shouldn’t be bought, but instead should be borrowed, this is one that is a good one for the bookshelf. Libraries don’t like their books to be underlined, highlighted, and dog-eared :).

Thanks so much to Booklook Bloggers for providing the excellent book in exchange for an honest review. 

Please note that some links are affiliate links.

Super Christian Parenting Myths

No matter which way you slice it, parenting is hard. For those of us who are parents and are also an active part of a Christian community, you would think it’d be easier. We have a village to help us raise our children.We have the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom. We have a constant stream of advice and encouragement as we make the tough decisions in discipline. While this is the case for some of us, the Christian subculture also comes with its own set of additional challenges. One of those are what I’m calling the Super Christian Parenting Myths.

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Over at Graham Blanchard, the Mom Mentors are sharing what they think are the biggest myths that we as parents have to deal with. Here’s my contribution to the conversation:

The biggest myth about Christian parenting is that if we “do it correctly”, we’ll have good kids who respect us and love God. If our kids are not “good” kids, then it must be something we as parents are doing wrong.

However, I see in scripture, throughout history, and in my everyday life that there are a lot of people who reject or disobey God. Does their disobedience and lack of respect mean that God didn’t parent them well? Does it mean that He did something wrong? Of course not! So then, why do I think that I can do better at parenting than He, the Perfect Parent?

Once I really understood that, I began to ease up on myself. I still parent my kids with all the prayer, love, respect, and consistency that I can muster and while I certainly get discouraged when they choose to disobey me, I also know that at the end of the day, I’ve done the best that I know how to do.

How about you? What do you think is the biggest Christian parenting myth that you have to face on a regular basis?

 

 

How do you cope with tough days?

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That’s what we’re talking about over at the Mom Mentor page this month. Tough days are kinda my thing, so I was totally able to share my brilliant response, right? Here’s to the community of mommas! (as I raise my spoonful of ice cream in a toasting gesture)

Parenting 4 kids, ages 6 and under, leaves this momma weary and tired nearly every day! After the kids are all angelically sleeping, snuggled deep into their covers, I plop down in front of my computer with a bowl of Hyvee Brownie batter ice cream and see who is on Facebook. Not only is this evening routine delicious, but it’s also life-giving to me.

I check in with a friend from Missouri to see how she’s doing and how nursing is going with her brand new baby boy. My not-so-cryptic status update regarding my rough day and need for prayer leads to an exchange of text messages and then a 30-minute phone call from a good friend in Pennsylvania.  Right before I log off for the evening, a friend from across town messages me to share a funny parenting quote and then asks if I want to meet up with her tomorrow at the park.

It’s the community of other mommas- both near and far- who encourage my tired, weary heart– their kind, gentle words and their life-giving prayers that offer the truth and love of God that my heart so desperately needs to hear.

I’m curious– what do you do to make it through those tough days?

How Can We Help Make the Scripture Come Alive to our Kids?

Over on the Graham Blanchard Mentor Mom’s page, we’re talking about how we help make the Scriptures come alive to our kids. Here’s my contribution:

One of the great things about kids is that they love stories…and they like to read the same stories again and again… and again. There are a lot of Bibles for kids out on the market, and not all are created equally in the storytelling department. We’ve found a few staples that are beautifully written for the various ages and stages of our children. Choosing the right kid Bible is a huge part of making the Scriptures come alive to our kids.

If we need a little extra something, we like to act out the story we are reading, adding our own props, voices, and details. We talk about what we think the weather was like during the story, the everyday lives of the characters, what it smelled like, etc. Days after we act out the story, I sometimes find the kids using parts of the story in their everyday play. It’s then that I know they are trying to make sense of what we’re reading and learning in the Scriptures.

There are a ton more ideas… so head on over to check it out!

Easter: Parental slacking and God’s grace

I have a confession.

Jake and I didn’t really do much to prepare the kids for Easter this year. We had the best intentions.

No resurrection eggs, even though we have them sitting by the couch downstairs.

No consistent devotionals (only the ones I did for Play Eat Grow here and here), even though I bought this cool looking one from ohamanda.

It was bedtime on Good Friday when Jake and I looked at each other and realized we needed to do something. So we just opened up the Jesus Storybook Bible and read the story of the cross. It started out real innocent– a “nice” bedtime story before tucking the kids into their cozy beds. As I was reading, I got all choked up. Asante said he had to look away from Jesus’ face; it was making him too sad. After finishing, the kids wanted to talk about it. Ask a few questions. And then talked about it on Saturday again. And even again today. God used our smallest, spur-of-the-moment effort and multiplied it; I’m relieved and thankful.

This morning I woke up late (7:45, in case anyone is wondering what late is in our house- ha!), and came down to Asante writing Bible verses on scraps of paper. I asked what he was doing- he said that he had an idea of making a scavenger hunt– he would write ten verses of a passage from Luke and then hide them all over the house. After we found them, we would piece together the resurrection story together. While Asante was doing that, Aly was digging through our craft closet to find a piece of cardboard, some popsicle sticks and a few other supplies because she thought it’d be great to create a picture of the cross, and then the empty tomb. The kids also decided independently that this story needs to be told to someone (that’s what the people did in the story!), so they wanted to find someone to tell the story of the resurrection to. At dinner tonight, Asante told us that he prayed this morning after he woke up- he asked God to help us to have a good Easter celebration.

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All of this happened before I even woke up. My heart swelled inside of me with so much happiness that they are owning this thing. It’s becoming theirs, if even in a small way! I also felt a bit bad- they were creating their own activities because I didn’t create any for them. But, I realized that God was picking up my slack in this one– he has been stirring their hearts and filling it with love for Him.

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Book Review: Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

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What is this book about?

Grace-based Parenting is a way to parent children that is gospel-centered instead of morality-centered. Tim Kimmel wisely and gently guides parents to a better way of parenting through personal stories of compassion, grace, love, and perspective. While some may wonder if a parenting based in grace would be too lenient, Kimmel shows that that is absolutely not the case. However, he does challenge some of the parenting frameworks that have been passed down to modern day parents, particularly the ones that lean towards the extremes, but also that rely on behavior modification and fear of others’ opinions or imagined dangers all around. He makes a case that the three gifts that children must receive from us are love, purpose, and hope, and those only come through an environment of grace that is set by parents.

Why did I choose to review this?

I very much desire my parenting to reflect the love and grace of God to my kids. But I don’t know how to do that. It’s not my automatic response to give grace. What does that look like when raising kids? How do you give grace and keep standards? I go back and forth between wondering if I’m too strict and being convinced I’m not strict enough. I’ve read many parenting books on making kids obey, but not about creating environments of grace.

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My takeaway:

Jake and I are rereading this book together this summer because it’s that good. Despite this book being about grace, I felt convicted through reading this book of some changes that need to happen in our parenting. One key quote that sums up it all:

God has given parents the responsibility to be the gatekeepers of His grace.

Questions I’m now asking:

1. What does it look like to offer grace to my kids? And my husband too, while I’m at it?

2. Why am I so afraid to offer grace to my kids, but find grace to be as important as oxygen for myself?

Where you can go to find more: 

You can find out more about Tim Kimmel at his website, Family Matters: Building Grace-Based Relationships. It looks like he has a blog that his staff blogs at on a daily basis as well.  The organization is on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.