Thursday, February 14, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 6 - Follow through

follow through, consistency in parenting, parenting truths, childhood

How many times have you been at an outdoor event, like a concert in the park, or a street fair and wondered about the children you encounter? Some of them are so well mannered and polite, while others run around like holy terrors. Ever wonder what the difference was? I have a hunch it relates to today’s #parentingtruth: follow through, or, in one word: consistency.

Oh, I can hear some of you moaning already, and trust me, I feel your pain - but I am here today to tell you that this one #parentingtruth is the biggest thing short of Jesus that is going to change your family’s day to day life!

What exactly is follow through? It is you, deciding each and every hour of every day that you are going to show up for your job as a parent. Follow through equals consistency, and that brings peace. Consistency in the house rules, consistency in discipline when needed, and consistency in love and forgiveness. 

Someone is going to be running and ruling your household - it can be you - or it can be your kids. I vote for you!

Consistency means expecting the same (good) behavior from your children every day. It starts when they are just infants, and it lasts a long as they live in your house. It requires you, as the parent, to follow through with unpleasant consequences each and every time they willfully misbehave. This is not about being strict, it is about being consistent. Your kids really need you to be consistent. They will test the boundaries often, but they are doing that because home is a safe place - or it should be - and they want to know that you are still there, and that you still care.

I know it can be hard to be consistent with consequences when yo are already oh-so-tired. A long day at work after a longer night spent caring for a sick or scared child makes it even harder to be consistent… but little eyes and ears are watching and listening… so keep on keeping on! Do not make idle threats to your children when they misbehave - show them the consequences of their behavior, and they will realize that you are willing to follow through, even when you’re tired, it is inconvenient, or you need to excuse yourself and that child from the public eye while you address the issue. I have seen too many families fall into chaos when the older kids hit the teen years because dad and mom were not consistent when the kids were littler. Do you want an adolescent living in your house, or a rebellious teenager? Your follow through, or lack of it, decides which you will end up with.

Loving, gracious parents know that children need discipline. Loving, kind parents extend grace, but still require their children to face the consequences of sin. My husband and I have made lots of mistakes along the way in this parenthood journey, but we have always tried to be consistent with follow through. The results of consistent follow through mean that one day yours will be the well behaved children. It is worth the effort!

Training good behavior is like starting any other good habit - it takes time. While you can probably train the habit of daily tooth brushing to your children in about a month, it is going to take longer for for training their behavior - because you are training their hearts. We train our children to obey by setting our own example of obedience to God. We are not perfect, and our children are not either, so it will take time. Be patient with yourself, and with them. Sometimes the consequences of their misbehavior are going to cause them, and you, to miss out on something fun you’ve planned. This is the stinky part of parenting, but it is necessary. It allows you to teach the lesson that sin hurts others, not just ourselves.

Sometimes our children misbehave because we’ve forgotten to teach them what is expected of them. Watch yourself closely to make sure they are not being punished because you forgot to set the groundwork for the event. Whether you are going to a concert, a birthday party, or even over to Grandma’s house, take a few minutes first and let those 5 and older know what ups expect of them at the event: hold hands while crossing the street, don’t push, wait your turn , and so on. For those littler ones, you are going to have to walk through each new event with them and help them know what to do. Their retention is shorter, and they will need your guidance often. If they have a difficult time with something, you can work on it at home as well. I’ve heard of parents sitting their littler ones down in the living room and practicing being quiet in church. Instead of a sermon, just use a read aloud book. :)

A big part of consistency is requiring your children to go back and re-do the thing they did wrong the correct way. This modeling of the correct behavior leaves a lasting impression.  Our girls were very little when they learned that it is NOT ok to grab at Mama’s glasses. That same lesson can be taught for necklaces car keys, etc.

It takes much less time to establish good habits than to break bad ones. So start as young as you can - and practice follow through on a daily basis.

Take heart mom and dad - you can do this! I’m cheering for you. I’ve seen what great rewards await on the other side of your daily struggle to follow through with your parenting choices. It’s worth it!

follow through, consistency in parenting, parenting truths, childhood

Thursday, February 7, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 5 - A little dirt is good for you

parenting, truths, childhood, dirt, childhood is messy

Today’s #parentingtruth is this: a little dirt won’t hurt.When I was a child we usually played outdoors and we got dirty often. My brother’s best friend lived on a small farm and we would often play in their yard or barn when we weren’t in our own back yard.

Don’t be afraid to let your kids get dirty. Childhood is a wonderful time to be messy: to play in the sandbox, to make mud pies, to ride bicycles and to use finger paints. Kids are extremely washable! I am so thankful that my parents sent us outdoors to explore and have fun at a young age. It was habit that has lasted a lifetime. I had a wonderful childhood, and it led me to want something grand for our own daughters’ childhoods.

Now before you get upset and tell me that the world is a different place today than when I was  child and you cannot let your kids outside by themselves, stop and listen. I am going to tell you the same thing I tell the readers of my newspaper columns: go outside with your kids! I know the world is a scary place, and I know you want your kids to stay safe. I also know that childhood should be lived outdoors as much as possible - so go outside with your children.

Along the way, your kids are going to end up eating some dirt, or sand, or drinking some pool water. These things an inevitable, but not necessarily bad. When Arlene was almost a year old, we repeatedly found her eating dirt. She would scoot over to the table where I had my vegetable seedlings growing and reach up and pull out the popsicle stick markers and lick the dirt off of them. For three days in a row, while Emily was helping me plant the garden we caught Arlene with a muddy face and a chunk of dirt in her hand. Instead of it freaking me out, like it would a lot of modern parents, it made me laugh. I ran inside on the third day to grab the camera and took the above picture of her cute muddy face. No harm, no foul, it was just some dirt. We didn’t use pesticides or fertilizers on the yard, so there was nothing to be afraid of.

Interestingly enough, I read an article about a year later where researchers were studying whether the good bacteria in our soil could be used to help treat people’s gut issues. While the research on Homestatic Soil Organisms (HSOs) ended with mixed results, I will tell you that our dirt and sand eating redheaded child was rarely sick.

Maybe it was the dirt, maybe it was the Vitamin D from all the time she spent out in the sunshine, but either way, Arlene had a healthy childhood that I credit to eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and spending time outdoors. Her sister was always calmed as a baby by going outside or at least opening a window and letting the fresh air in. Even today, one of Emily’s favorite scents is the smell of wet dirt after a spring rain.

There’s another important part to today’s #parentingtruth about getting dirty: it helps you appreciate being clean. When we let our young children get well and truly dirty, we create natural teachable moments about cleaning up after ourselves and taking a bath. Your kids might be dirty from making cookies in the kitchen, digging for worms in the garden or helping dad with a project in the garage. When kids are really dirty after a full day of work and play, they learn how to scrub well to get clean before bedtime!

Being a kid is a messy endeavor, but it is also a once in a lifetime opportunity!  Find ways to enjoy this adventure a second (bonus) time with your own kids. A little dirt won’t hurt. :)

parenting, truths, childhood, dirt, childhood is messy