children

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I know I finished my 31-Days of Parenting posts on Friday, but the evening before that last post went live, our community was touched with tragedy.

As I dropped my kids off at school that morning, with a heavy heart, this song came on my iPod. It is from the upcoming album by Garth Brooks.

Send ‘Em On Down The Road”


He didn’t ask
He didn’t pry
He just held the ice that covered my black eye
And when that girl
She broke my heart
We just threw that baseball back and forth ‘till dark
And when I started playing guitar
And didn’t have a clue
He wanted to protect me
But somehow my father knew, that

You can cry for ‘em
Live and die for ‘em
You can help them find their wings but you can’t fly for ‘em
‘Cause if they’re not free to fall, than they’re not free at all
And though you just can’t bear the thought of letting go
You pick ‘em up
You dust ‘em off
And send ‘em on down the road

A little kiss
On a skinned up knee
From playing soccer, riding bikes and climbing trees
When bad dreams
Filled their heads
I chased the monsters out from underneath their beds
I guess I always knew those days would end
But the hardest thing I’ve ever learned has been, that

You can cry for ‘em
Live and die for ‘em
You can help them find their wings but you can’t fly for ‘em
‘Cause if they’re not free to fall, than they’re not free at all
And though you just can’t bear the thought of letting go
You pick ‘em up
You dust ‘em off
And you send ‘em on down the road

You can cry for ‘em
Live and die for ‘em
And even though it’s gonna break your heart, you let ‘em go
You pick ‘em up
You dust ‘em off
You pull them close
And you pray to God
To send ‘em on down the road
Down the road
Down the road

Our kids will hurt. They will lose family members, friends, and acquaintances. We may even lose our children. Letting go is hard, because what we want to do is hold them tight and never let go. But we have to let go, and let God take care of them.
Our prayers go out to those in our community impacted by the tragedy of Thursday evening.
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Inspiration

Parenting is hard. It is constant work. You can’t let it slide. You can’t assume it is happening. You have to work to be on your toes and aware of what is happening with your kids.

And we all fall short of that ideal. Often.

Some days we are lucky if we get them out of bed and off to school, never mind making sure homework is done, they have had a healthy breakfast and they remembered to brush their teeth.

But the purpose in me blogging for 31 Days this month isn’t to make it seem like I have it all together when it comes to parenting. It isn’t that I have all the answers. It isn’t that I think I am doing a fabulous job in every possible area. It is really that I want to share my experiences and hopefully inspire someone to take that extra step, put in that extra work, and in the process, that I will also be inspired to be better and do better.

This is how it is in every area of my life that I put out there on my blog.

I talk about depression in hopes that someone else can get the help that they need.

I talk about health and fitness so others can find encouragement to get healthy.

I talk about giving to others, so that someone might be inspired to give of themselves.

I talk about music because of its ability to lift us up and move us forward.

I talk about faith because it is the ultimate inspiration in my life.

I truly want to inspire YOU to be the best YOU, the one created and loved by God.

Put in the work, be inspired by others, and be the best parent you can possibly be to the children that God has given to you.

You can do it. I believe in you.

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Talking to your kids aboutS - E - X

You know you are getting close to the end of things to talk about for your 31-Days of Parenting blog posts when you resort to writing about sex.

But this is another one of those important things that we have to do as parents. We have to teach our children about their bodies. We have to teach them about sex. We have to teach them what it means to honor God with their bodies. We have to teach them these things because if we don’t, someone else will, and we might not like what they learn from someone else.

This is a tough subject to bring up. It is hard to talk about shaving legs, periods, breasts, erections, and wet dreams. it is uncomfortable to talk about how exactly it works for babies to be made and born and then realize that now your children know that their parents have sex.

But, as with everything, when you can talk with your children openly about these things and not let them see your discomfort, then you are making it so they will be comfortable to come talk with you about questions that arise.

So how exactly do you do it? How do you have that talk about the birds and the bees?

Start early. By the time they are going to kindergarten, they can begin understanding the difference between boys and girls.

As they grow older, you add pieces and more detail. This isn’t a one-time conversation. It has to be ongoing.

When something comes up on television or the radio that needs explaining, explain it in age-appropriate terms.

Don’t gloss over things. Don’t pretend that if you don’t talk about it, it won’t matter. It does matter. And I think too often, parents have avoided this topic which has made sex a taboo and “wrong” thing rather than the beautiful thing that God created.

I have used some books in The New Learning About Sex Series (see resources below) as a jumping off point. The books that I have used have been well written and are written for a variety of age-levels. If you need some direction, these books would be a great resource.

Find what works for you. Open the door to honest conversation with your kids. It will open the door for them to have honest conversation with you as well.

____________

Resources

The New Learning About Sex Series

 

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Encourage Independence

When your baby becomes a toddler, you are so excited for what comes next. Crawling. Walking. Talking. Playing independently.

But when they become pre-teens and teenagers, it becomes harder and harder to watch them become independent.

Why is that?

For me, I think some of it is fear. Fear of them getting hurt. Fear of them getting in trouble. Fear of them making wrong choices. Fear of them growing up and leaving me behind. Fear of what life will be like when they have left home. Fear that I haven’t done a good enough job as a mom.

But the problem with giving in to the fears is this: by holding on too tightly, we are actually making it harder for them to succeed as adults. As parents, we must give them the tools to grow up and become independent of us. And then we have to let them try those tools out and see how they work.

I will never forget the first time I let my kids walk to the public library without me. It is five blocks from our house. And we live in a small community. I made Anne text me when she left our house, text me again when they arrived at the library, text again when leaving the library and finally text when they returned home. I was a nervous wreck the entire time. And this was just a little over a year ago. (Overprotective much?)

I have some trouble letting go. I like my kids. I used to get a hard time from some of our friends because we would rarely get a sitter when they were younger. We just like being with our children. That is why we had children, to love on them and be a family.

But I also know that I have to let them grow and learn, which means I have to learn to let go and encourage them to step out independently. I have to be aware of where they are at and when they are ready for the next step toward independence and encourage that.

That means letting them fail sometimes. That means my heart hurts sometimes. That means beaming with pride when they rise to the occasion. That means giving them an “atta boy” or “atta girl” when they show growth in some area where previously I may have wondered if they would ever grow.

That means that I cannot hold them too tightly.

Let go. Encourage. And watch them thrive.

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Take them by the Hand

Ephesians 6:1-4, NIV

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, [parents] do not exasperate your children [by coming down hard on them]; instead, bring them up [take them by the hand and lead them] in the training and instruction of the Lord [the way of the master].

[brackets mine adapted from The Message]

We often focus on the first part of this passage, the part where our kids have a command to obey and honor us, as their parents. But I want us to look at the second part today. The part that says that we, as parents, have a role to play in this, too.

We are not to exasperate our children. We are not to come down hard on them. We are not to irritate intensely and infuriate them. Instead, we are to take them by the hand and lead them. And we aren’t to just lead them anywhere we choose, but we are to lead them in the ways of the Lord. We are to train them in His instruction.

When we are doing this the Lord’s way, then our children are going to honor and obey us. When we give them what they need, they give us what is needed from them. We set the example. We give the training. They don’t automatically know how to obey. They must be taught how. By us.

I love this picture of taking them by the hand. It is not a picture of standing over them with our fingers pointed and our voices raised. It is not us walking ahead and assuming that they are following. It is us, walking together along a path, holding hands, and guiding.

This is the Lord’s way of leading us, and the way we need to be parenting the children that He has given to us.

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Leave a Legacy

Leaving a legacy. Something that we all want to do. But what kind of legacy are we leaving? What are we teaching our children?

Are we teaching them the simple things? Like how to crochet and knit the way our moms and grandmas did?

Are we teaching them to cook healthy meals for their families?

Are we teaching them to be able to clean house, do home repair, simple car repair, and more?

Are we teaching them to love Jesus and to be His disciples?

Are we teaching them to love others as they love themselves?

Legacy
Nichole Nordeman

I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all who’s who and so-n-so’s that used to be the best
At such ‘n ‘such, it wouldn’t matter much.
I won’t lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an ‘Atta boy’ or ‘Atta girl’
In the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world.

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
Blessed Your Name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy.

I don’t have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
It’s an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy.

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
Blessed Your Name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy.

Not well traveled, not well read,
Not well-to-do or well bred
Just want to hear instead,
“Well Done” good and faithful one.

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?

I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me.

You can purchase this song here.

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It Takes a Village

We have all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but the question is, in this day and age, is that really happening?

I have always felt that it is imperative to raise our children in community. If my kids do something that needs to be corrected when I am not around, I am terribly hopeful that someone will care enough to correct them. And I am not scared to do the same for others children. It is important that kids learn respect for other adults, and are willing to take correction from them when needed.

It is also important for our children to learn from people whose backgrounds differ from ours; whether that be culturally, generationally, or whatever. When they are only influenced by their immediate family, they don’t get the opportunity to learn diversity and understanding.

In previous generations, this happened more readily because community was built in neighborhoods and churches. But with the busyness of life, two-income homes, sports and other things that take families away from their neighborhoods and church activities, it makes it harder to build real community.

But we have to make it happen.

We need it. Our children need it. Our world needs it.

We must battle against the individuality that shuns community. Yes, our children are individuals, but they don’t live in a vacuum. They live in a world filled with other people, whom they can learn much from, if they are taught to do so. And we weren’t created to be on our own. Rather, we were created to live with one another, to love one another, to encourage and learn from one another. And this only happens when we live together in community; when we learn what it means to deal with people who aren’t like us. And sometimes who we don’t like. But all of this works together to help us grow into the people we are meant to become.

Do yourself, your kids, and the world a favor, raise them in community. Expose them to other people who can help them grow in all areas of their lives.

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It Can Wait!

Today’s post will be short and sweet.

I am sharing with you the best piece of parenting advice I have ever gotten.

As an OCD, Type A personality, I bet you can imagine how much I like order and cleanliness.

I want the dishes to be done. I want the floors to be clean. I hate clutter.

One day, when my children were small, I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to keep my house in order with little ones. What one woman said to me next changed my whole perspective.

What she said was, “It can wait.”

She told me to sit down on my dirty floor, ignore the dirty dishes, and play with my children. They are only small once, she said, and you don’t want to spend their entire lives worrying about how clean the house is instead of playing with them and enjoying them while you have the chance. You can wash dishes when they go to bed. You can do a quick pick up while they play in the tub. Don’t let their memories of you be all about your obsession with keeping the house clean. Rather, help them build memories of you playing together.

Now, you could take this to the extreme and never, ever clean your house, but that is not what I am suggesting.

You could also take this to the extreme and never, ever teach your children to clean up the house, but that is not what I am suggesting.

I am just saying that sometimes, it is okay, even good, to let things go. Dirty dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and dusting will always need to be done. But our children will not always be little and need a playmate. They will not always be teenagers who need our listening ear. One day they will grow up and (hopefully) move out. And they need to know that they are more important to us than a perfectly clean home.

It can wait.

(And when the day comes that my children move out, I will be so glad to have a clean house that stays that way for more than five minutes, but in the meantime, I will enjoy having them around and seeing a house that is well lived in!)

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Confession time. Again.

I wrote yesterday’s blog post and was feeling pretty okay about how we have chosen to handle discipline with our children.

And then in the night, just 6 hours before the blog post was scheduled to go live, I once again found myself face to face with one of my children about an issue that I thought we had taken care of previously.

In case you were wondering, that was at approximately 2:03 a.m.

I then laid there for the next who knows how long wondering what exactly I am doing wrong in parenting this child and why what we are doing isn’t working.

It was in those moments that one word came to me: grace.

Yes, I have to give grace to my children, the same way that God gives grace to me, but more importantly I have to give grace to myself.

Parents, we have to give ourselves grace.

A friend of mine defines grace this way:

Grace is when we get what we don’t deserve.

Another definition is:

the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

In other words, giving ourselves grace is letting things go and not punishing ourselves like we think we deserve.

We are not going to be perfect parents. We aren’t even going to come close.

We are going to mess up. We are going to snap. We are going to have moments that we think will likely send our children straight into counseling for their entire adult lives.

The minute we think we have the parenting thing down-pat, there will be an event that makes us question our ability to keep ourselves sane and alive, much less raise children.

In these moments, we have to remember that we aren’t called to do this parenting thing all on our own. We have a God who is right there, ready and willing to help us as soon as we ask. A God of grace.

Rest in that.

Keep doing your best, with God’s help, and allow yourself grace when you think your parenting skills are lacking.

 

 

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Correction

Discipline. Such a tricky topic.

Proverbs 13:24 (NIV) says:

Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Many people tend to get hung up on the “spare the rod” part of this verse. Some because they believe spanking is a necessary part of discipline, and some because they do not think spanking is a good idea. The Message says it this way:

A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
    love your children by disciplining them.

Rather than thinking in terms of corporal punishment, it is better to think in terms of correction and discipline, and what our stance on correction and discipline says about us to our children.

From a very young age, it has been important to my husband and I to make sure that we handled discipline for our children well. Discipline is necessary if we are going to teach our children responsibility. Discipline is necessary to show children that there are consequences for their actions. We are living in a world where no one wants to take responsibility for their actions and live with their consequences. I think that this is tied directly to the fact that as children, many weren’t taught to be responsible for their actions and understand the concept of consequences.

In addition, children will never learn obedience to God if they have never learned obedience to their parents.

One of the key pieces in discipline for me has been getting my children to understand what they did wrong, why it was wrong, and why discipline and consequences are necessary. Or in a shorter way, getting to the heart of my children.

The interesting thing is that all children are different and it takes different methods to get to their heart. One of my children is very repentant and it doesn’t take much to get confession and repentance. The other one takes a bit longer to get there. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which.)

There have been some constants in the way our family approaches discipline:

  • The bathroom is the “neutral” zone of the house and where we meet to talk. This way the location isn’t a bedroom or common family area, and we can go back to regular life in the rest of the house.
  • If spanking was warranted, we used a wooden spoon, rather than our hands, and explained that the spoon was a tool we were using for discipline, rather than our own self. We had a 3-swat maximum. And that was only for the worst offense, which in our house is lying.
  • Before spanking or handing out consequences, there is always a discussion time where the child has to tell us what they did wrong, why it was wrong, and ask for forgiveness. Then the parent talks with them about the offense, explains why discipline is necessary from a Biblical standpoint and a relational standpoint (both between us and the child and God and the child).
  • Then the swat(s) or consequences come.
  • After that is a (long) time of loving on the child, voicing forgiveness, telling that from that point on that they are forgiven and we were moving forward.
  • Then we leave the bathroom and are done with it, hopefully with some heart change on the part of the child so that we didn’t have to come back to the bathroom for the same issue.

(Note: Now that our children are 11 and nearly 14, spanking is not the discipline of choice, and even before that, spanking was used rarely; likely because discipline was happening all day every day as we taught them right and wrong, so we often didn’t get to that point.)

But not every child or every offense is so cut-and-dry. That’s where you have to get creative. That’s where you have to understand your child and what makes them tick. That is where you have to call out to God for guidance because frankly, sometimes, you have NO FREAKING CLUE how to get to the heart of your child.

Some children respond well to grounding. Some don’t. Some children need a challenge to work for rather than consequences to avoid. Some children need to talk it out. Some children don’t. Some children respond well to discussion and are immediately repentant. Some children get angry and need some time to cool off and think before they are able to be repentant.

The only constant about discipline is that it is necessary. We must provide discipline and correction for our children. It is required.

But everything else about how you do it has to be somewhat flexible based on the child, the offense, and the parent.

If you know you have a tendency to get out of control angry at your child, spanking is probably not a good form of discipline for you to use.

If you know that you have a tendency to talk things to death and your child zones out about 10 seconds into your talk, then perhaps you need to adjust the way you discipline them.

If you keep having to discipline your child for the same offense over and over and you aren’t getting anywhere, then the consequences probably need to change, as well as the way you are handling the discipline.

Like I said at the beginning, this is a tough subject. But it is a necessary one. Because we are molding our children’s hearts, not just their behavior. And heart change is lasting change.

Resources that have helped me in the area of discipline:

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