Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thoughtful Parenting

Recently I read Henry Clay Trumbull's Hints on Child Training {which you can read, totally for free via Google Books- just click on the link!}. H.C. Trumbull was Elisabeth Elliot's great-grandfather, and he comes highly recommended by Clay and Sally Clarkson.

The first thing that you should know is that the book is 126 years old. Sometimes I thought a word meant one thing until I read it in context and realized it meant something entirely different in 1890. Which was good and mind stretching. It's just something to be aware of.

Trumbull really made me think. The way he worded things at times confused me- is he really saying this, or does he mean that? Do I agree with him on this? Why or why not? I found myself doing some mental gymnastics... which is never a bad thing. He also made me think about aspects of child training I'd never previously considered {amusements before the era of screens? fascinating. the sorrows of children, the imaginations of children, etc.}.

Mostly, this book encouraged me to be a deeper thinker when it comes to parenting the little souls God has entrusted to me. The issues are complex, and every child is unique. Mothering requires a whole lot of thoughtfulness; wisdom and patience to slow down and think things through. Which can be hard when you are busy busy busy and short on sleep. Still, a worthwhile pursuit!

It's good to be a thoughtful parent! I want to be a thoughtful parent. This is going to be a book I come back to, take notes from, and continue to think through. In the spirit of thoughtfulness, here are the big ideas that have been influencing me in my interactions with my children since finishing Hints:

1. Be extra sweet and patient at bedtime. What is it about bedtime? Children are extra cranky, more likely to misbehave, or just to ask 8,000 times to go to the bathroom, have more water, etc. Parents aren't any better! We are exhausted, eager to be done with child related responsibilities, anxious to just plop on the couch and relax.

But the condition of a child's heart as they drift off to sleep is important. Their dreams and their feelings upon waking the next morning can be drastically effected by our treatment of them the night before. Were we patient, kind, and tender? Or irritable, rude, even harsh?

I've been biting my tongue more, taking lots of deep breaths, and trying to be extra patient and extra kind as I tuck my kids in at night. Even though it takes way longer than I want it to at the end of a long day. I'm still trying to be firm- "one cup of water is plenty before bed," or "you've taken care of all your bathroom needs already, so I don't believe you really need to get up again," for example. But I'm trying to keep a level and loving tone instead of losing my temper.

2. Consider carefully before answering. When I first saw there was a chapter about "teasing," I assumed it was about teaching your child not to torment other children. Not even close! Apparently "teasing" is to pester a parent for a "yes" after they've already said "no". If your children do this {mine do all the time} it's a good indicator that your "no" doesn't mean "no". Kids ask again and again because they know you sometimes {often? frequently?} change your mind.

A parent whose "no" is meaningless is an undisciplined parent. They answer carelessly, without thinking {guilty}. Instead of carefully thinking through the issue, asking appropriate questions, and understanding what their child wants and why they want it, they blurt out whatever comes into their head {guilty again}.

Oftentimes I throw my kids a "no" because I don't feel like making "yes" happen, misjudge their motives in wanting something, or don't necessarily see the positives in what they are asking. When I take a minute to consider, I frequently find the request to be a reasonable one.

I want my kids to know that I only say what I mean, whether it's yes or no. That means I need to develop discipline in thoughtful speech! I'm trying to remember to pause and think through their questions. I'm also trying to stick by my guns and not change my mind once I've given them an answer. They still "tease" me a lot... but this bad habit has been ingrained in them, and it's going to take time and diligent consistency on my part for them to see that things are different now.

3. Take real joy in what brings my children joy. One of the greatest ways to earn relationship credit with my kids is to sympathize with them. To enter genuinely into their joys, interests, and sorrows. If my daughter is super excited about her play dough creation and wants to tell me all about it, and I listen with disinterest or blow her off, I've showed her that what matters to her doesn't matter to me.

If my son has scraped his knee and I unsympathetically tell him to get up and shake it off, or if I tune out his cries, he knows that mom isn't the one to come to with his troubles. Not the message I want either of my children picking up!

Instead I want to earnestly look them in the eyes, listen, and communicate sympathetic understanding. Through sympathetic actions I want to communicate to them that I love what they love {even if its only because they love it}, I'm saddened by what saddens them, and I want to walk with them through whatever it is they are experiencing.

4. Train my children to consider others first. Usually before and during a play date I tell my kids to share and be kind. But Trumbull urges parents to go further; pour concerted effort into training them to always consider others first {it's a Biblical concept; check out Philippians 2} and as more important than themselves.

He recommends teaching your children to always ask his friends what they want to do first, and to generously go with the friend's inclination even if it's not their personal favorite game. He then says that you need to check in with your kids after interactions and see how they did, commending considerate behavior and gently correcting whatever is inconsiderate.

This takes a lot of time, and is no easy task! My kids are selfish sinners just like I am. Thinking in a Christ-like way is an impossible task in our own strength. But by the grace of God I want to encourage my children in this direction. Instead of being self-serving, I want them to servant others.

5. Make it as easy as possible for my children to choose obedience. The goal in our training is of course, obedience. We want our children to obey us so that they know how to obey God and other authorities. We want our children to obey us so they can be safe, healthy, and happy. We believe obedience is the path to blessing.

There are methods of asking for obedience that encourage it, and methods that encourage rebellion.
Honey catches more flies than vinegar. If I am kind, patient, and lovingly firm, I make it easier for my children to obey me. If I am distracted, impatient, or overly authoritarian, their sinful hearts will naturally buck up and rebel against that. I want my kids to want to obey me! When they disobey, I need to discern if they are rebelling against the command, or against my method of deploying it.

I'm trying to thoughtfully word my commands, and to only make commands when they are worthwhile and necessary. When I feel a metaphorical butting of heads between me and a child, I want it to be a check in my spirit- is this clash a result of my child's sinful willfulness, or my sinful methods {bossiness, scolding, barking orders}?

Five years into this parenting gig, I've developed plenty of bad habits that are hard to shake- for both me and my children. Thanks to this book and the Holy Spirit's help, I'm trying to be more thoughtful in the ways I interact with my kids. It's a work in progress, for sure.

I'm working my way through one parenting book each month, in order to finish my list of 12 parenting books I'd like to read this year. So far I've read Withhold Not CorrectionThe Faithful Parent, and The Mission of Motherhood.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Making Over My Evenings {Day 1}

The links below are affiliate links- which means that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thanks for supporting The Purposeful Wife!

I'm working my way through Crystal Paine's new course, Makeover Your Evenings- 14 days of videos, reading, and projects designed to bring more order, rest, and productivity into your life. If you'd like to grab the course and work through it right along with me, you can do so here. Each weekday night I'll be posting my takeaway from the day's coursework. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it and how you are making over your own evenings!

So why would anyone want to make over their evenings? What's the draw to this course?

I can sure tell you why I want to change my evenings! All year I've been desperately longing to change my life by simply going to bed consistently at 10 each night... and yet I'm still struggling to actually do it. The deliciousness of child free hours, the temptation of Netflix, and that pernicious second wind all seem to be conspiring against my best efforts.

I know that going to bed at ten will make a world of difference to me. The one night I did it last week illustrated that for me, as the following morning I had the easiest time I can remember in awhile actually, willingly, getting out of bed. 

In her introduction, Crystal says, "I want this course to provide the inspiration, motivation, and practical hand-holding (because we all need a little of that!) to revamp your evenings."

Yes, and amen. Please hold my hand Crystal! Because I desperately need a good shove in the right direction.

Accountability is a very effective strategy for me. I think that's probably one of the biggest reasons I'm having a hard time making this change; I haven't set up any real consistent, outside accountability. Case in point: one night last week a friend got on my case about not following through on my bed time... and the following night was the one blissful evening that I actually went to bed on time. 

So folks, I'm getting it out there right now: you are my accountability. Making myself responsible for blogging through this course is my attempt at better accountability in the going-to-bed-on-time department. 

Crystal recommends picking your time for going through the coursework each day, and sticking with that time as an appointment every day. Every week day I am going to spend the first 15 minutes of nap time on the course, and post my daily blog about it here as soon as my kids go to bed each night.

My "why" for completing this course?

I want to develop a consistent bedtime so that I can feel refreshed and motivated to live my days well.

What's your why?

Paying Special Attention to Those in My Circle

"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who by accidents of time or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you." Augustine

Sex-trafficking victims. Orphans. The homeless. Tsunami and earthquake survivors. Tribal folks without the Bible in their own language. The illiterate, the hungry, the lost. There are so very many people in the world, with so very many needs. 

As God's people we {ought to} feel compassion and concern, and the desire to help... but even the more "vanilla" trials and tragedies right next door of cancer, divorce, unemployment, and death leave us with more needs to  meet than we could ever possibly hope to in this lifetime. 

Then add the fact that your hands feel tied; limited resources, time the most pronounced. You feed your family three meals a day, keep their clothes clean, care for your home, and spend many a sleepless night....

How do we begin to make a dent in the needs? How can we radiate the love of Christ and make some small difference in the world for His Kingdom?

These words from Augustine of Hippo give me hope. 

I cannot do good to all- at least, not in the most literal sense.

But everyday the Lord, by divine appointment, puts me into direct contact with other people. Most frequently, my husband and children. But also neighbors, clerks in the grocery store, other moms and kids at the park, the elderly woman sitting in front of us at church.

If I focus in on the opportunity right in front of me, I can meet a need and show the love of Christ here and now. Faithfulness in the little things, in the little things right in front of our noses, is usually where we can best serve.

Let's not despise the day of little things.

You may not be able to write a big check, travel across the world, or devote your waking moments to the widows and orphans...

...but you could perhaps make a meal for the hurting woman down the street, offer to drive that elderly man to his doctor appointment, and faithfully care for the family God has given you. And maybe even send smaller checks to feed the hungry, rescue the trafficked, and shelter the homeless.

It feels a bit cliche, even trite. Truly, though- all we really can do is walk humbly and in obedience to our God, right here, right now. This is what that looks like for most of us.

Definitely you can pray. God has commanded it of us, and our awareness of the world's needs ought to drive us to our knees every day.

In the mean time, let's make a special effort to notice the people who God brings into closer connection with us. Let's be faithful to meet their needs as the Lord enables us, and to do good to all of those He's brought into our circle.

I'm beginning {almost} every Monday morning of 2016 with words from a "great mind"- encouraging quotes from believers who have finished the course before us, running well to the end. My prayer is that they will give both you and me the boost we need to start our week both hopeful and fixed on Jesus.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Bible Reading Plan for Little Ones {Minding our Mouths}

It's that time again- a new month is upon us, so I've got a new Bible reading plan for you to print and share with your family. This month we are focusing on our mouths and the words that they speak. I've culled 20 short passages from the Old and New Testaments {some are only a verse or two}, all about our mouths- what they are for and aren't for, how we can use them to glorify God, and how God helps us with this task.

These short readings are perfect for family worship time with small children {mine are 4, 2, and 6 months}. We like to read them over meals- keeping little hands and mouths busy so that it is easier for them to listen.

Some of the principles to focus on and discuss with your kids as you read include:

  • God made our mouths, and He can help us to use them rightly!
  • Our speech can and should glorify God
  • Our words come from our hearts, so change in speech begins with change in heart
  • Words can hurt
  • Words can help
  • Be slow to speak, and don't talk too much

If you use one of my plans with your family, I'd love to hear what you thought of it! Preparing these plans takes a good chunk of time each month, and I'm really wanting to improve their quality. I want them to be as user-friendly and as much of a blessing as possible! Shoot me an email at thepurposefulwife@gmail.com. Or a comment is fine too.

If you're interested in one of our past topics, here's the list with links to former printable plans:

The Love of God
The Death and Resurrection of Christ
The Attributes of God

The format has changed over time, the passages have gotten more concise as our actual experience in reading it with our kids has changed our approach. But I hope they can still be of use!

You can access this month's plan right here.

You might also be interested in Tips for Reading the Bible to Small Children.

Happy Bible Reading!

Friday, April 29, 2016

A New Laundry System for Us

The links below are affiliate links- which means that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thanks for supporting The Purposeful Wife!

For my entire married life, I've had a laundry day. One day each week in which I did it all. Of course when my first daughter came along she had this little projectile vomiting habit that meant I did random loads of laundry as necessity demanded... but still, the bulk happened all in one day. We added our son two years later, and still laundry day held fast.

This worked swimmingly until baby number three cane along. For some unknown reason my nice tidy laundry day became unmanageable. I had endless overflowing baskets of clean laundry sitting wrinkled around the house. We would fish for sundry clothing items as we needed them, strewing piles of once clean laundry across the floor.

Next week's laundry day would come all too quick and I'd still have a pile of wrinkly unfolded clean clothes from last week.

I don't know what it was about that third baby, but it was the straw that broke this laundry woman's back.

My old stand by system just wasn't working for me, and I needed something that did work. Because drowning in piles of clean wrinkly laundry isn't the way I want to go.

I remember Fly Lady saying "a load a day keeps Mt. Washmore at bay," and so I decided to give it a try. Praise the Lord, it works marvelously for me!

I bought a laundry sorter that holds four loads- one for whites, one for lights, one for colors, one for darks, and I use our old hamper for towels and jeans. As dirty clothes are shed, I sort them accordingly.

Now each morning, usually as close to first thing as possible, I pick whichever bag is the fullest and throw it in the wash. Ideally I have the load washed, dried, folded and put away by lunch time... but sometimes I only get to folding and putting away after the kids are in bed for the night.

It's a beautiful thing.

I don't know how long it will work for me. But I'm no longer drowning in piles. We have clean laundry exactly where it should be when we need it {usually...}. And it requires very little thought or effort on my part.

What works for you when it comes to laundry? Has your system changed over the seasons of life?