Friday, June 27, 2008

How to Navigate the Parenting Jungle

After the birth of my first child, I experienced a catastrophic realization. I had labored under the illusion that, upon birth, amazing wisdom would descend on me, and I would be imbued with some magical mother-power that would allow me to handle every situation better even than Dear Abby. Much to my dismay I discovered that this was not to be the case. This left me in a rather desperate situation. I had to find a way to successfully navigate this mysterious parenting jungle. What I needed was a guidebook to show me the way.
Along my travels, I discovered the original guidebook, the Bible. Psalm 119:105 tells us that Your (God’s) word is lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. All the answers we need are contained within its pages, and we have only to seek the truth, speak the truth, and apply the truth to succeed on our journey.
The path of any parenting journey is never straight and easy. Most recently, my youngest daughter, Layne, has decided to try bursting into screaming sobs every time her plans are thwarted. The other day, she was playing a game with my big girls in their room. The game had clear rules, and she had agreed to abide by them, but somewhere along the way, she’d decided she wanted a little something extra to play with, which didn’t belong to her, and was clearly against the rules. When she didn’t get it, she began to sob and wail as though she’d been injured. After some questioning, during which she enlightened me on the details of what had transpired, we discussed what God’s word has to say on this matter. Her behavior was not in keeping with either the rules of our home, or God’s word, so I had to seek the truth of what the Bible teaches about this situation. What I unearthed was Philippians 2: 3, which says, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
The next step was to speak the truth to Layne in a way that she could understand. I reminded her that we needed to see what God’s word says about this kind of behavior, and I read the verse to her. We then discussed whether or not she had been thinking more highly of the others than of herself, at which point she recognized that she had been acting selfishly and not honoring her sisters.
We then arrived at the point where we needed to apply the truth. She agreed that she needed to ask their forgiveness, which she did. She also acknowledged that if she still wanted to play, she should abide by the rules, even when she didn’t like them, which was the best way in this case for her not to be selfish, but to esteem the others better than herself.
The word of God is the guide book which will help us successfully navigate the parenting jungle. It can seem overwhelming, though, to find and identify the particular verses that apply, so in order to make it easier, I like to use a list of scriptures arranged by topic, which can be purchased in book form**, or just a self-complied list***. However we access it, God’s Word is there for us to illuminate the path we walk as parents. We have only to read it and apply what we learn. We can then take a deep breath and rest in the knowledge that we’re heading in the right direction and look forward to a deepening joy in our relationships with our children.

**Recommended Resources: Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman
Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman
Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo

***A Sample of My Scripture List:


Speech- Unkind Words, Ugly Words, Whining, Coarse Joking, Teasing
Verse- Ephesians 4:29
Don’t… 29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
Do…but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Lying- Being dishonest, even if they call it “kidding”
Verse: Ephesians 4:25
Don’t… 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood
Do… …and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

Disobedience: Anything not done in obedience, which is characterized by being done “all the way, right away, and with a cheerful attitude.”
Verse: Ephesians 6: 1-3
Don’t… Disobey
Do… 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

Selfishness: Trying to get their own way, arguing, pushing, trying to be first, whining, tattling, etc.
Verse: Philippians 2: 3-4
Don’t… 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,…
Do… …but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Defiance: Deliberate disobedience
Verse: Proverbs 13: 13 & Proverbs 10: 8
Don’t… 13 He who scorns instruction will pay for it, ( Do…but he who respects a command is rewarded.)
Do… 8 The wise in heart accept commands, (Don’t… but a chattering fool comes to ruin.)

Complaining: Pouting, arguing, whining, dragging feet, etc.
Verse: Philippians 2:14
Don’t…argue & complain
Do… 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quality Time; It’s What Your Family Deserves

Quality time; it’s what your family deserves. Picture a family standing in a circle, facing each other, holding hands; a father, a mother, and their children. Our goal is to be like this family; connected, both physically and emotionally. There are three simple steps we can take to achieve our goal. We must pray together, we must pay together, and we must play together.

Praying together is an incredible way to unify a family. We have prayed with our kids for years. We’ve made every mistake in the books, which has allowed us plentiful opportunities to learn and improve. The system we’ve developed uses 3x5 index cards, upon which are written the names of friends and loved ones for whom we pray. We pass out the cards in random order, and take turns praying through one card at time, moving in a circle, until we’ve prayed for everyone. We recently realized that we were praying for everyone but our core family, so we tweaked our system, and added a card for each of us. We all requested prayer for one character quality, and one current issue of concern in our daily life. This has yielded beautiful fruit. It is such a blessing to see our children praying for specific areas in the others’ lives. They are learning to intercede for each other, and bear one another’s burdens, thus beginning the shift to facing inward.

After we pray together, we must also learn to pay together. By this I mean that there is no substitute for working side by side. Our family accomplishes this by dividing the week into assigned days. Each child has two days of the week that “belong” to them. On their day, they have both privileges and responsibilities. This is the day they get to answer the phone, sit in the coveted seat, get the baby out of bed, etc. It is also the day they do dishwasher duty, help with meal preparation, and kitchen clean-up. There are many hidden blessings in working together. Most importantly, we’re instilling character into our children that they won’t learn any other way, and this moves our relationship to an even deeper level as we share the work it takes to be a family.

When the day comes to a close, we need to take time to play together. In our family, my husband reads aloud to us from a good book. He’s a great sport, reading Huckleberry Finn in dialect, much to our amusement! This is our favorite evening activity. We look forward to relaxing in the family room, sprawled all over the furniture and the floor. This is the height of enjoyment for us, but a family game of Rummy-Cube or Rack-O runs a close second! The interaction of playing together creates many amusing memories we will always share.

The picture of a family joined in a circle, facing each other, can be yours. The amazing chemistry of praying together, paying together, and playing together will yield a rich harvest of quality time, which, after all, is what your family deserves.