What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Monday, April 12, 2010

Raising Abel, part 3

For previous parts in this series, go here:
Raising Abel, Part 1
Raising Abel, Part 2


In the last Raising Abel post, I told you what I consider the four "KEYS" to godly, Christian child-rearing, or discipline. They are:

We need to direct our children to God, in all things.
We need to model excellence to our children.
We need to expect excellence from our children.
We need to set them up for success.

We have already discussed the first two (in part 2), now let's talk about Key #3 and Key #4...


We need to expect excellence from our children.

The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor (Proverbs 12:26) The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable (Proverbs 10:32)

Despite what the media tells us, children acting like monsters ISN’T normal. I hate watching movies and TV shows because IF there are children, they are portrayed as awful little hellions or rude, obnoxious teenagers. (Don't believe me? Check out this commercial. ) The message is very clear and effective: I wouldn’t want children either, if I didn’t know that there is something better than what is portrayed.

Expecting excellence from our children means not comparing them to the world and being content to find them common and average. Rather, it means having children set apart.

We are to be Salt in the world, right? That means, we are to give good flavor to the world~to preserve the world. How can we do this if we are on the same level as the world? Teenage girls should act/look different and have different goals in life….better than their worldly peers. Young men must be raised to be just that, instead of the immature “gamers” of the day. Tweens ought to be concerned less about boys and more about helping out their Mama or pursuing their own hobbies/interests. Godly children need to be less materialistic and less demanding than their cultural counterparts and yes, even babies, ought to be set apart.

What is it NOT?

Expecting excellence is not making excuses for your children like “He is just tired…” or “She is so wound up and excited…” when they are being awful. It is not putting up with the tantrums of your stubborn and demanding two year old because he is, after all, in “the terrible twos”. It is not rationalizing bad behavior with the prevalent issues of the day (Aspergers, ADD, being slow, ADHD and the like). Not that these may not be real issues in your childs’ life, but even the most difficult disabilities still require good discipline~what it DOESN’T need is accommodation and rationalization. (Look at the Keller family, the smothering done and the resulting MONSTER named Helen. Being deaf, blind and mute, her situation was more grim than any ADHD or aspergers of today. But it took the hard-nosed, no-excuses (yet loving) teacher to make Helen not only behave, but BLOSSOM.)

Expecting excellence in our children, I am afraid, requires more from US than them, usually. You see, our children were born in sin and as a result struggle, DAILY, with their own sinful tendencies. They WILL fall short. To expect that not to happen is to have your head in the clouds. To lead them and guide them, and HELP those tendencies to become a weaker force in their lives, we need to give MORE of ourselves. DAILY. WHEN they are struggling, BEFORE they are struggling, and AFTER they have struggled. This requires incredible diligence on our part. I firmly believe, child discipline is more about disciplined parents than anything else.

Some very important strategies for expecting excellence:

Discipline only works if it is done in a consistent way. Notice I said “DISCIPLINE”. That means not JUST punishment (although punishment times demand it as well) but every-day/ all-day child training. If you always expect respect, you will eventually always GET respect. If you always expect the truth, there will come a time when you will always get it. In the same way, if you only expect truth when you are not tired or only expect respect when you are not already too busy to address the issue, then you will get occasional respect and occasional truth. If we are not consistent, then all the work we have done thus far was for naught.

Consistency can be very difficult for me. Sometimes by the end of the day you are so TIRED; sometimes you are just physically tired or emotionally tired, or you can be distracted, sometimes it would just be EASIER to just overlook it, sometimes you were right in the middle of some special, fun times with your child andto discipline will spoil the moment, sometimes the last thing you want to do is interrupt what you are doing for the fourth (fifth, sixth) time… There are so many temptations to not be consistent. Bringing up your children (especially those stubborn ones!) can be utterly exhausting (as is most worthwhile, time-consuming work) but the Lord says

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

This is extremely important because if you “let it slide”, even just once or twice, then all the work of the punishment before was futile. They have learned that SOMETIMES it isn’t a big deal to disobey (or backtalk, or lie, etc.) And guess what? YOU were the one who taught it to them.

Be ye encouraged~if you are consistent, the rule will soon be stuck in their heads and obeying it will be second nature to them.

Set them Up for Success~
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.(1 Thess. 5:11) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.(Hebrews 3:13)

It is the loving and wise parent, who considers her childs’ frame and takes these considerations to heart when dealing with him/her. Doug and Nancy Wilson have used the illustration of a tank of gas. When your heart (the tank) is full of love, time, adoration and you are feeling very satisfied, it is easy to keep chugging along down the right road. When you are running on “fumes”, your journey is going to be a bumpy one and will eventually be cut short.

Feeling burdened and weakened, for whatever reason, only intensifies our own weaknesses and makes them harder to master. We need to be sure our childrens’ tanks are FULL before we can expect a picturesque route on his/her road to adulthood.

Considering our childrens’ frames takes many different forms. Let’s look at some of them.

Remember how I said “Don’t make excuses for your childrens’ misbehavior?”
The almost INSTANT response of a parent whose child is naughty in front of other parents is “Johnny is just tired. He didn’t get his nap.” (Or something of the like.) It is almost laughable how often I hear it. I have even been known to say it, and I always shutter once it escapes my lips, because while it may be TRUE that they are acting out because they are tired, *I* was the one that allowed them to stay up too late and I was the ADULT who could have made a better decision to avoid the situation.

I get extra emotional when I am tired. So it makes sense that my children can go from being little darlings to little RAMBOs if they get that “second wind” after exhaustion has hit. As parents, we KNOW these things and have the authority and responsibility to ACT on them. The solution is simple really~ if our children get crazy when they are sleep deprived~ make sure they get enough sleep! It’s that simple! Saturday nights we make sure the children get to bed early, because our church service is several hours long and can be hard for children to sit through, therefore, we make sure they are rested for the day, to make it a joy and not a burden.

If your son or daughter gets upset easily when they have to leave fun places (as most children do) prepare them ahead of time. A simple “we are going to leave in five minutes” helps children to adjust to the fact happily, and avoid a meltdown. As adults, we appreciate knowing things are going to be happening ahead of time, children who have less control over their situations appreciate it even more.

Do not compare your children with one another. “If you were more like Johnny…” It is hard to be compared to ANY child, it is all the more devastating when you are comparing one sibling to another. This can break the spirit of your child and may even pit one sibling against another.

A teenagers’ frame needs to be considered too, possibly even more so than the younger childs. Remember the feelings you had when you were too old to be a kid and too young to be a grown up? Those were HARD times. Teenagers have the wonderful capability, unlike their younger counterparts, of actually verbalizing how they feel and letting you in…provided you ask (and HEAR). Understand their crazy hormones and give them the support and encouragement they need.

Another very sad manifestation of our own sin is when we harbor bitterness against our children and use it to wound them. We do this when we say spiteful things about them within earshot “Pamela has been failing math-but what do you EXPECT when you text instead of doing homework!?” Worse yet, do not tear down your children with their past shortcomings. “Yes, well, you BROKE my favorite rocking chair last year and now you are doing THIS…” Don’t hold things over their heads. Or remind them of their shortcomings. To truly forgive means you must be DONE with it. Don’t keep score.

These actions are only reflecting our OWN sinful weaknesses. They are not helping Pamela become focused on her Math. Rather, they are pushing Pamela even further AWAY from you.

On the flip side, here is something that EVERY parent could do a better job of:
PRAISING your children for a job well done. This is where the heart-tank FILL UPs happen. Always correcting and never praising is like a boss who always demands but never appreciates. No one, anywhere, any age wants to work under authority like that.

You catch more flies with HONEY than vinegar.

If they do well in school, praise them. (WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED. For example: Sarah shows off a B+ on her last science exam. DO NOT SAY “WELL WELL! Good job on your science. Now, if only you would work so hard in HISTORY.” Do you see how this could shatter the small inkling of hope they have, especially for those children who find school difficult?)
If they obey immediately, without arguing, PRAISE them. Tell them how wonderful it was to see.
If they have told the truth for a long spell, tell them how wonderful it is to be able to not have to question their truthfulness.
If they do something without being asked, give them the positive feedback they deserve!

The effects of praising can not be underestimated. Let’s try not to just be the big, mean law-enforcing parents here, but give them some sugar too.

I hear it makes the medicine go down!


alyssa spring said...

I enjoyed that! thank you so much for writing. My biggest struggle is that my son DOES have a sensory disorder so we do MAKE him obey but it is definitley very hard and a huge struggle since he is also more sensitive then a lot of kids (including my other ones!)

Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying this series too. Thank you for putting your time in to it. Maybe I missed this somewhere else but are there any books on parenting that you would recommend? Besides the Bible. :)

Bonnie said...

Good Good Good! I can vouch for the ADHD, etc. etc., my cousin has some only-diagnosed-in-one-other-person-somewhere-in-Asia, thing. She can be one tough nut sometimes. BUT my aunt has worked very hard with her, and she is functioning far beyond what anyone thought she ever would, and while she does have her bad days, and is very OCD, as you said, even disabilities can be worked through, if the parents stick to it. For someone you're not always certain understands things, she is amazing!
(great example with Helen Keller BTW.)

Also, I can't say enough about how praise changes things! I have been working on a very stubborn person at our house about having a good attitude when told to do something they don't want to. And Finally, these last 2 weeks, I am seeing the fruit of my labors. Instead of "Fiiiinnne", I am getting the cheerful "Yes Mama, I will!" and this one catches them-self too, when starting out with "Fiii- Yes Mama, I will!" Praise the good attitude! "You did what I asked right away without arguing, I am so happy! And you did it with a cheerful attitude!"

Anyway my $.02 worth, I am now off to do the supper dishes, I won't tell you what time it is, or how long ago we ate, only that it is appalling.

P.S. B. refers to you as "Rebecca from Reconnaissance" He is always asking if I've told you that yet, so consider your self told. ;0P

Riahli said...

I love where you are coming from. Beautiful.

Rebecca said...

Marriedtothefarm~ stay tuned! The last post on the series is going to be devoted to "other resources" and such. ;-)

Unknown said...

Great stuff, Rebecca! I needed to be reminder about the "sugar" part! THANKS! :)

PS-You are a very good writer, just so you know!!! :)

Allison said...

Thank you for inviting me back to your blog! This has been a very encouraging and hopeful series to me, especially this particular post.

I see many of the mistakes we have made in the past few years (inconsistency, letting things slide, etc.) and especially giving excuses for our oldest.

(Like others above, he does seem to have sensory issues and be OCD at times, though I've never had him diagnosed. But when he refuses to step on the grass or has to get in the car just this certain way, I'm realizing more and more than I need to TEACH and discipline him patiently, without getting frustrated at his quirks.)

One thing I would add that I have learned about parenting in my short time is that one of the keys to all this is to BE PREPARED. It's the boy scout motto for a reason. I don't know if you discuss this later, but really planning ahead (like with sleep, etc.) and having activities for the little ones to do when out and about really helps. I feel like I can't do it all the time, but I'm trying and getting better every week at planning out our days when we need to disrupt schedules.

Again, thank you for this series! I wish I could sew -- your "shower curtain" Easter outfits were just fabulously cute.