Guest Post: Remaining Connected With Children As God Does With Us By Amanda Hughes

Note: Amanda is a very good friend of mine.  I was saddened that the Facebook group in which she originally posted this kicked her out for promoting gentle, Christ-like parenting. The Church is very broken indeed.

I posted this on a Christian homeschooling page and it got lots of likes in response to a few common parenting challenges. I got a few likes so I figure I would share just my own words here:

I think a lot of it has to do with perspective of children and God.

I have been asked before about what I do with talking back…And I wonder if my kids have ever done it. I just never thought about it or viewed what my children say as talking back. I think it is communication. So maybe they have, but I just don’t view discussion as talking back. I don’t expect first time obedience because at the age of 41.999999 I am not first time obedient to my Lord. So I “talk back” to Him. I go kicking and screaming sometimes to what God tells me to do. Yes, I talk back to him, I communicate and let Him know what my priorities are and what my hoped outcomes are. He never silences me. He is always so patient. He understands that I am just human and I often consider my wishes. But as I mature I talk to God about working His will in my life, but yes I still share my concerns. He is Abba. He loves me. He wants to hear my thoughts.

Yelling is hard because I think it is normal for children. They want to be heard. And it drives me crazy sometimes. So I start whispering to them. They think I am crazy. Maybe they yelled so much I went crazy. But *I* set the tone…*I* lead the home. So I cannot yell and then expect them not to. And I am not a yeller, I just need to be heard as my words are a priority as the mother. I am in charge. So then I start whispering and ask different kids about something that interests them. I give them attention so they know they are heard. And I think it is hard sometimes for our kids to be heard, particularly when we have many large familes like mine. So we need to hear them just when they speak, or whisper and acknowledge what they are saying. They don’t need to yell to be heard.

I have a son I had such a hard time with until I figured him out. I remember we went to Target and I just needed a birthday card. But he wanted to look at toys. He threw a fit!!! We had to get to the birthday party though. So finally I spoke with him face to face. I said I so much loved looking at toys with him, even when it is just to look. I enjoy seeing what he likes and it was always special time with him. I wanted to be clear with him that I heard him, I understood him, I agreed with him, I loved him – but this one time we could not make time for it. I hoped next time we would have more time to just look at the toy section together and we could see really cool things. Just like that, perfectly calm and compliant. He has a need to be heard and understood.

So I could do the “Because I said so..” route. Or I could connect, hear and acknowledge. And yes it took some time, but it went so much better without ruining relationship. Ruining relationship wasn’t the goal of my quick Target trip.

Disobeying is back to the idea that it is not realistic. Obedience cannot be achieved until a person has accepted Chirst and has been gifted the Fruits of the Spirit. If they do not have self control, they cannot obey. The Holy Spirit works within them, maturing them into a more Christlike being where the spirit of Self Control can overcome a child’s egotistical nature. If a child doesn’t feel like their needs are met, their wants are heard – they cannot consider what others are asking of them.

So I compare it to the mission field. We are in the mission field as homeschooling mothers. When missionaries are trained they are not directed to FORCE tribal people to maintain their moral code or else. They are told to go and meet the needs of the people, learn their culture and language. They work on clean water, medical needs, building a school, etc. They help them before they witness to them. And they need to accept Christ before they can be “expected” to maintain the Christian moral code. It isn’t that the missionaries put tribal people in time out or spank them if they do not meet their standards. No, they meet their needs.

Through the process of relationship building. Teaching that each person’s needs matter. And being the authority because you meet all the needs, keep them safe, teach them (discipleship), feed them, etc – they know you are the one in charge and what you say is to be followed.  They trust you!

My kids do not want to disappoint me. They know through my servant leadership, grace, mercy and forgiveness – that is not only how people are treated because that is all they have ever known. They know that I love them, and they do not want to let me down, because I have never let them down. It is all about relationship. And even though I do not focus on obedience, my kids are obedient. Obedience is a heart issue, not a physical – follow what I say or else – God works on their hearts and they are becoming more Christ like. I focus them on God not me. He is high and holy and I am not. The result is obedient kids.

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Presents Are To Show LOVE!

We’re just a couple of days from Christmas and once again Facebook is full of posts about threatening to take children’s Christmas presents away if they misbehave or pretend to burn them if the children misbehave.

Then there’s the horrible elf on the shelf meme that says that they didn’t have elf on the shelf but rather a belt hanging on a hook to make them behave.

Why must we use Christmas to manipulate and threaten children to behave?  If you do Santa, fine. But please don’t seriously make children believe that they won’t get any presents from him if they are “bad.”  There are many poor children who won’t get any presents. Let’s not teach children that they were “bad.”

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I love this article about doing Santa in a way that encourages kindness and doesn’t have to disappoint them when they are older.

I strongly believe presents are given out of unconditional love, not because children  “deserve” them. After all, Jesus gave us the unconditional gift of forgiveness and love and mercy and grace when *we* didn’t deserve it!

Our children are only young once. Let’s do our best to keep Christmas magical for them as well as use it as an opportunity to teach them about unconditional love, the Bible calls it “agape love,” kindness, and giving!

Merry Christmas!

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Peace On Earth

The following commercial from Pampers diapers always makes me cry every year at Christmas time.

These precious, innocent babies are the pinnacle of God’s creation and I always wonder how anyone in their right mind could believe that they are “sinful” or “manipulative.” 

These babies are beautiful human beings; people think it’s perfectly fine, and even “godly,” to treat them harshly in order to “train” them to be peaceful, godly people.  It breaks my heart every time, especially this time of year when we are celebrating God coming down as a baby to save us all!  Check out this post about God being a baby.

Jesus lifted children’s status in the world, and called us to be more like them and treat them with respect and kindness.  And yet, “Christians” still advocate for letting them cry-it-out, for spanking/hitting them, and for using other harsh punishment on them.  But that isn’t how Jesus was when He came to Earth.  He brought real peace.

He treated everyone with love and discipled them.  He corrected people through His Words, not through violence.  Then when it was time, He died a violent death for all of us!

Even with satan, He used His Word to stop him.  In the Temple when He got angry at the people taking advantage of the poor in His Father’s House, He did not hit anyone with the whip.  He simply wanted them out immediately.

We want peace on Earth but we are not willing to follow after Jesus’s example.  Jesus would never leave a baby to cry-it-out, spank/hit a child, or send a child away to “think” about what he/she has done.  

No, Jesus would comfort, disciple, love, guide, protect, teach, correct, forgive, and offer mercy and grace to the little ones.  After all, the Kingdom of God belongs to the little ones.

“But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16, NASB).

And here is what the prophet Isaiah called Jesus:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, KJV).

If we truly want peace on Earth this Christmas, may we strive to parent our beautiful children the way the Prince of Peace, Our AWESOME Lord and Savior would parent them.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:8-14, KJV).

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Another Tattoo, Cerebral Palsy, And The Ongoing NeedTo Prove Myself

A week ago I got another tattoo for my mother-in-law. Again, due to how I have been treated throughout my life because people always underestimate me and have even put me down, I felt the need to prove that I could handle a much more detailed tattoo. See here to read about my first tattoo.

Thankfully, some of my family, including my mom and my husband, have always been supportive of me.  My mom wanted to be here to help with my second tattoo, but she lives in Kansas.  I missed having her there as she is a tattoo person too.

I am beyond happy!  I did even better than last time. My tattoo artist began easy by retouching my Mickey. Then she gave me 3 fonts to choose from for the “big hug” that I added to my grandpa tattoo, and I immediately picked the middle font. We decided to put it at the top of the grandpa tattoo!  That went so well!  We were a bit worried about doing font with me due to my startle reflex that I have no control over.  The significance of adding “big hug” is that from the time of AOL instant messenger, my grandpa and I chatted every week if at all possible since it’s very hard to understand me over the phone as my speech is very slurred because of my severe cerebral palsy. So at the end of EVERY chat, we’d say, “Big hug! I got mine! Here’s one back.” It satisfied us until we got to see each other again and get the real hug!  Oh my, I’m crying again.  Now “big hug” is forever on me and I will NEVER forget that very special thing between us until I see him again and finally get many big hugs for eternity! I love you, Grandpa!  So now my grandpa tattoo is complete!

Then it was onto my tattoo for my beloved mother-in-law. The cardinal is my sign from her in Heaven. She was like my second mom and accepted me into her family! We were very, very close. Her birthday is on Halloween so my husband came up with the jack-o-lantern idea. Then my artist  added the harvest moon and hazy clouds. I was nervous about the details, but it went better than I could have ever imagined!!

Eventually my startle reflex quit.  I took the same medications as last time to slow down my spasms.  My husband strapped me all up in my wheelchair, including my arms since we didn’t have my mom there to help as we did last time. My husband sat on the floor and held my leg.  I can’t believe how well it all went.

To me, the shading hurts less than the outline. And my artist and my husband talked the whole time and I talked some, but I didn’t want to move too much. She said that I really did a great job!  I only took one break to get a drink of orange juice. Everyone loved it at the shop!  I am so proud of myself for doing so well with the pain, but I ended up getting used to it. And the conversation was so cool and interesting that it kept me distracted.

I’m always second guessing myself in everything that I do.  The voices that told me throughout my life that I would never amount to much are always somewhere in my head despite my, thankfully, strong will.  This is why I hate that many Christians believe that they must break their children’s wills. They are really doing a great deal of harm to their children because it often takes a strong will to do what is right in God’s eyes and not what others think is “good.”

I again hugged me tattoo artist afterwards!   My tattoos are the most beautiful things ever!  It was sore like a sunburn but it was worth everything!  It all took 2 hours!   I was tired but so excited!   Another huge accomplishment for me!  Thank You, Jesus!  It felt so good walking out into the cool air when we left the tattoo shop because I was hot from all that!

I sat here at home for a while with my sweatpants down and just looked at it!!  I cried!  There is so much symbolism behind these tattoos.  Symbols of love and acceptance by family members.  Symbols of remembrance and the hope of being reunited with them some day thanks to Jesus’s amazing gift of grace and forgiveness!  Symbols of being able to overcome, with God’s help, the negative messages that were put into my head from the time that I was a small child.

My next tattoo is January 27th to get my first kitty, Sara. I’m doing it on the 10 year anniversary of her going Home!  I’ve wanted tattoos for so long and never thought it would work with me but I proved that wrong!!  I feel like I can now get through this horrible grief because I got through the tattoos with flying colors!!  Thank You, Jesus!

Children need to be taught how to believe in themselves and to trust God. Only through gentle discipline is achieved. I will probably always struggle with believing in myself and totally trusting God no matter how much I continue to overcome. I wish all children could have what I didn’t growing up.

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My grandpa tattoo and my mom-in-law tattoo.

God’s Amazing Forgiveness!

Note: This was originally written on November 22, 2016. I always have my husband edit my posts.

God is good!  So many Christians believe that He punishes us when we sin. He definitely corrects us which isn’t pleasant, but He doesn’t spank, hurt, or smite us down or I really shouldn’t be here as I have been really sinning in my anger lately. Today is an example of God’s love.

We went grocery shopping today and got stuff for Thanksgiving. With everything we’ve been going through with grief, our cat being in the beginning stages of kidney disease, and other stresses, my husband asked me this morning if he could just make turkey and his mom’s amazing oyster dressing, and mashed potatoes because he just wasn’t into making the whole feast with sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. Of course, I said that was fine because we’re both at our limits. Maybe Christmas we’ll have the whole feast. We’ll see.

So we get everything at the store and come to the van. My husband puts me in the van and I started freaking out. I cussed. My Sara ring, the ring he bought me on the first birthday without my beloved first kitty Sara, was GONE!   I didn’t feel or hear it fall off. I was so upset and sick to my stomach. My husband looked ALL over. It was nowhere to be found.

On the way home, I had a meltdown. I yelled at God.  I said some very hateful things, and called Him names I’m ashamed of.   My angry outburst was not as intense as the other night when I said some even more horrible things to God due to fear and anger about the possibility of losing our cat after having lost my mother-in-law and my grandpa all in the same year, but still, it was very nasty and I felt Him being sad. But I was so angry that I didn’t care at the moment.  I got defiant and said that I would just go buy a new ring. I just really let Him have it.

When we got home, my husband looked again for the ring. Gone. I felt sick. I couldn’t cry. I just felt sick. He called the store to let them know that I had lost my ring. But I had no hope. It’s gone.

After putting stuff away, he takes me to the bathroom. As he was getting me up, I saw the ring in my underwear. I couldn’t verbally get it out that my ring was in my underwear due to having to focus on standing and holding on to my husband. It fell out and I said, “my ring, my ring!” He thought I was talking about another ring.

So he gets me back in my wheelchair where he can understand me easier and I told him that it was my Sara ring. It was in my underwear and fell by my “potty chair.” He went in the bathroom, and sure enough, there was my Sara ring!  We both thanked Jesus!

Then I got on my iPad and checked my messages and my tattoo artist asked if I wanted to get tattooed next week. She broke her ankle right before my appointment in October to get my memorial tattoo for my mother-in-law and couldn’t do it, so I have been waiting and praying for her. I was concerned that she might not be up to it until after Christmas.  I had gotten my first tattoo in honor of my grandpa the day after my birthday, and I wanted both tattoos before the holidays to keep my grandpa and mother-in-law close to me as the holidays will be tough again this year.  See here to read all about my first tattoo.   I was going to ask next week to see what she thought, but I will be getting tattooed on Tuesday!!  Yay!  Thank You, Jesus.

Finally, I received a message from Safe Families, a local Christian organization that helps children and their families during crisis situations, and they said that want to see if they can figure out how to partner with me for parent coaching. Thank You, Jesus!

After being so awful to Him again, He blesses me and let’s us know that He is here!  He forgives. And maybe He disciplines us in a manner that truly humbles us through blessing because I didn’t deserve any blessings at all!

And perhaps, we should be mindful of the way He disciplines and forgives us as we discipline our children.   He definitely loves us no matter what and fathers us gently! 

Just re-reading this brings me to tears. I don’t deserve His love.

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Teaching Children To Be Thankful

Once again Thanksgiving is upon us and many families will be gathering together soon to enjoy a feast. On Thanksgiving, we often take a moment to tell each other what we are thankful for.  Children usually enjoy getting in on the fun.

But being thankful should be a year-round thing. The Bible says:

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, ESV).

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV).

It is very important to be thankful even when life is going wrong. Believe me, I know all too well that this is not always easy. I fall short of being thankful when the world around me seems to be caving in.  But our children need to see us being thankful everyday of the year. Many parents try to force thankfulness onto their children, but thankfulness comes from the heart. Just because we make our children say “thank you,” doesn’t mean that they are truly thankful.

I believe that the best way to teach children to be thankful is for us to be intentional about showing thankfulness.  Here are six ways to teach thankfulness to children:

1. Every day make a list of what you’re thankful for and share it with your children. Ask them to list some of the things that they are thankful for.

2. Say “Thank you!”  This may sound simple, but many times throughout the day we don’t thank the people around us for the little things.  Thank your spouse for doing something you asked. Thank the bagger at the grocery store.  Thank the lady who lets you take her place. Just say “thank you” every chance you get.

3. Write a “thank you” note. My husband and I are old-fashioned when it comes to writing “thank you” notes. In today’s technological age, it’s become common to thank people via text messages, emails, and Facebook posts. Children need to know how to make a good old-fashioned “thank you” card. It brings a smile to the giver’s face.

4. Say “Thank you” to your children when they cooperate. Many people get in the habit of saying, “Good job” to their children, which becomes empty praise. Children, including infants, enjoy hearing that you are grateful for their cooperation. It makes them feel good.  Also, tell them every day why you appreciate them for being them!  This will make them want to do things for you!

5. Don’t force children to say, “thank you,” but rather, say it for them until they see how important thankfulness is. We want children to mean what they say!  Don’t worry, all of the children I know who weren’t forced into saying “thank you,” but had it modeled to them on a daily basis, didn’t take long to begin saying it themselves.

6. Thank the LORD every day!  Your children will quickly do the same!

May everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!  See this post on how to make it enjoyable for your children.

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Co-Sleeping Clarified

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that infants sleep in their parents’ room for at least six months to a year in order to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  I was very happy about this as the research done by advocates of co-sleeping show that it reduces the risk of SIDS.

The reason why co-sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS, when done safely, is because being near the parents helps infants to regulate their body temperatures, heart rates, and breathing.  And they don’t sleep quite as deeply and can even sync their sleep patterns with their parents, which may help them awaken easier to prevent them from dying.

In fact, for countries where co-sleeping is the norm, SIDS is virtually non-existent.  Most mothers in these countries have never even heard of SIDS.  That should say a lot about the benefits of co-sleeping!

Also, cry-it-out raises the infants’ heart rates and causes them to shut down eventually which can lead to a very deep, unhealthy sleep because it’s unnatural.

Yet, despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics is finally acknowledging the research showing the benefits of co-sleeping, when I shared this on my Facebook pages, many assumed that it meant bed sharing only and rejected it.  So I want to clarify what co-sleeping is in the hopes that parents will follow this advice and find the right sleep situation for their family. After all, it could just save infants’ lives!

Therefore, let me clarify that co-sleeping is having the children sleep nearby.  It can include bed sharing, but many parents use co-sleepers that attach to the side of the bed, a crib next to the bed, a playpen near the bed, a bassinet near the bed, or a cradle by the bed. You don’t have to bed share to co-sleep.  I am a big proponent of co-sleeping because, not only does it save lives, but it also makes nighttime parenting easier because the baby is right there.

Co-sleeping also aides in attachment. Being near their parents makes infants feel safe and secure.  They usually don’t have to work themselves up into a full-blown cry when they awaken in the night because Mommy and Daddy are right there to comfort them and meet their needs.

If you’re worried that they will never move out of your bedroom if you allow them to sleep with you, how many teenagers do you know who still sleep with their parents every night?  Yeah, none!  When you and the child are ready, you can transition him/her to his/her own room.

Please co-sleep with your babies in a manner that works for you.  It may save their lives!

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Setting And Enforcing Realistic Limis With Young Children

It is very important to set realistic limits with children, but most parents don’t understand what a realistic limit is for a young child.  I start with three main rules from which all limits should be derived.  The rules are the following:

  1.  Respect for others.
  2. Respect for ourselves.
  3. Respect for property.

These rules are the basis for all relationships to thrive.  The reason why we should only have three basic rules on which to base limits and boundaries is that giving children too many rules to follow, especially at a young age, will only frustrate and overwhelm them. These basic rules are easy to understand and will make sense to children, though young children will require much guidance and reminders to help them cooperate with these basic rules.

It is important that while boundaries and limits are a bit flexible, that they are also consistent and hold firm. Some parents may set boundaries and limits based on the three basic rules, but then they allow their children to break right through them.

We must remember when setting limits and boundaries with our children is to make sure the limits and boundaries are logical and reasonable. If the limit does not make any sense to the child, he or she is more likely to fight the limit. Most children will cooperate with the limit, though they may test us at times even if they understand the reason for the limit. An example of giving a reason for a limit would be, “Please walk in the house so you don’t trip and fall.”

How many of us heard our parents say, “Because I said so,” when we wanted to know why they were either making us do something or not allowing us to do something as children?  Did it make us want to cooperate?  For me, it didn’t make me want to cooperate.  It just made me angry.  I believe that mutual respect dictates that we provide a simple reason for our limits.

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Many times, we as parents, get into the habit of saying, “no,” “don’t,” and “stop,” so much that our children begin to tune us out. I mean, who wants to constantly be told what they can’t do?  This doesn’t help young children learn how to interact appropriately with others. I have found that saying, “Be gentle with your baby brother,” is often more effective than saying, “Don’t hit.” Another example is saying, “Walking feet,” instead of saying, “Don’t run.”

Even if we have no choice but to phrase something negatively, it is very important to follow it with something positive that they can do. For example, say, “You may not draw on the wall, but you may draw on this piece of paper.”

More examples of setting realistic limits are:

“You may have a cookie after supper.”

“Please pick up your toys so nobody trips over them.”

“I need you to finish up so we can get ready to go.”

“Please sit on your bottom so you don’t fall.”

“You may not hit Jack, but you may hit the pillow.”

“I need you to use your words.”

“I need you to poop in the toilet.” (Not in the closet.) 😊

Many parents say, “You need to…” but the child is probably thinking, “No, I don’t need to brush my teeth and go to bed,” so it’s better to say that we need them to do things.  Another thing is that it’s easy to give the limit in the form of a question.  For example, “Do you want to get ready for bed?”  Most young children will say, “No!”  Therefore, if it isn’t a choice, then it’s better to say, “It’s time for bed.”  Or, “I need you to get ready for bed.”

Also, giving children lead times will help make it easier for them to cooperate. Say, for example, “In five minutes it will be time to clean up and get ready for bed.” Be sure to get on the child’s level and say this. In fact, getting on children’s level whenever a limit or boundary is being set will help the child feel respected, making cooperation more likely.

If possible, when setting limits, give children choices such as “Would you like your Hello Kitty pajamas or your Mickey Mouse pajamas?”  Or, “Do you want to walk to the bathroom or would you like me to carry you?”  “Do you want to race to clean up with me?”  Anything that gives children some control over the situation is a good thing.

Now, what if you set a limit and the child won’t cooperate?  Simply say, “I see you’re having a hard time cooperating, so I will help you.”  Giving help or making a choice when the child isn’t able to make up his/her mind isn’t punishment.  Children need to learn that there are times when we must do things that we don’t want to do.  Just be sure to validate their feelings when they get upset about the limit.  Please see here for posts about validating feelings.

There’s never a reason to punish a child for not cooperating as he/she will experience the natural consequences of his/her behavior.  See here for tips on using natural consequences.

I will be writing a post about using time-IN instead of time-out soon.

It’s important for me to point out again as I close, children are NOT “little sinners” that need the “devil beat out of them” as so many Christians continue to believe. They’re beautiful human beings that God created that need our help to navigate this world. Jesus drove demons out verbally. He befriended and corrected sinners. Then, amazingly, our Almighty God chose to suffer and die on the cross for all of humanity’s sins. He was sinless. Grace, mercy, gentleness is for children too. Jesus even held children up as an example for *us.* So may we discipline children in the way that Jesus disciplines us through setting realistic limits.

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