Thursday, March 14, 2019

#parentingtruth - Spring Break

This week I'm taking a Spring Break from the #parentingtruth series. Don't worry, I'll be back next week. This week our 20 year old has Spring Break from her college courses. While we will not be making a trip to Florida (bummer) this week, I think it is important to spend time this week with her and her younger sister, just having fun.

That in and of itself should give you a #parentingtruth to mull over this week. Life travels by quickly, and soon, those little kids will be adults, and you'll be wondering how many more times you can spend time with them before they move out. So today, this week, I'm choosing to hang out with my kids, instead of typing.

If you have the chance to spend time with your children this week - take it! Hug them now, and they'll still want to hang out with you when they're grown. :)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Hebrews 5:14

Scripture Writing, hand lettering, Bible verses

Where I've been for two months... thoughts from Carol

This is a post you won't find pinned on my Pinterest page or shared on Facebook. Today I'm sharing a little about the life behind the writing you see here on Home Sweet Life. So this is just for you faithful readers, as a thank you for sticking around and reading what God gives me to say.

Life is a ever-changing journey

We see that change when babies are born, when our grandparents die, and every day in between - if we are looking.

Our lives here at home have been changing a lot here in the past few months. After almost 16 years, we ended our homeschool adventure when our youngest daughter graduated in December. That was a wonderful chapter - okay - book - in this story of our lives.

But with that change came all sorts of other opportunities and adjustments. 

I read a quote recently that said "We walk past 1000 stories every day, a writer sees at least 50 of them." I could have written you fifty stories every day about the things that were changing, if I had the time. :) Instead, I decided that it was more important to be involved in the stories than to tell them, so I have been writing less here on the blog for the past two months or so. Thanks for being patient with me.

In the past year, God has been impressing some important truths upon me. But before I share those, let me back up a little bit. For 2018 God told me my word for the year was going to be LOVE. Oh, some days that was easy, but other days it was really hard. When it came time to think and pray and see if there was a new word for this year, the answer was no, I still have much more to learn and experience with the word love, so the word of the year continues.

Many of you know that my Mother-in-law passed from this life into the next at the end of October. The end of last year was spent serving my family in a deeper and different way, as I tried to ease their grief in the only way I know how, by being the hands and feet of Jesus. This was yet another lesson in how to love others and accept love in return.

As last year rolled into this one, I knew there were things that God was telling me to write, but I was struggling to set aside the time to get them down on paper, or typed into the computer, and out of my head. So I stuck with my commitments to my newspaper column, a couple of guest posts and the weekly #parentingtruth post here on the blog.

I'm not trying to re-invent myself, as I know a lot of recently-retired-from-homeschooling moms do, because I have a fairly good idea of who God wants me to be right now - today, and when He is ready to change that, I know He will tell me. 

So, as I embrace this new season in my life, and in the lives of my family members, I have found a freedom to choose to put some of those thoughts about those particular truths God has been showing me aside for sharing at a later date. I have notes, oh so many notes, and ideas, and random thoughts that still need mulled over. They will mostly get shared here, I'm just not sure when. So I will underpromise and hopefully overdeliver and they will come as they come. I might even just decide to take a week off for a Spring break - if Spring ever arrives - LOL!

As I've been thinking about what truths to share with you, here is the one that keeps coming to the front, so I will share it with you today. If you think a friend needs to hear it, you can share, and if not, then you readers will be the only ones who read it.


Marriages need cultivation.

In the past year I have seen multiple marriages fail within my larger circle of acquaintances. These thoughts are not a judgement of those failings, just some personal observations I want to share, and hopefully some encouragement for you to think about your own marriages, and how you might choose to cultivate them this year.

This year Kurt and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.

Just so you know, he hates it when I talk about him here on the blog, so I won't. :) I'll talk about me.

Marriage has been almost nothing at all like I thought it would be when I was a teenager. Parenting hasn't been anything like I thought it would be either - just in case you're wondering. That's why I started the #parentingtruth series.

Marriage is not about give and take, it is about giving, and growing, and sacrifice, and being strong when you need to and giving way to the other's wishes when needed. Marriage is not 50-50, it's about 125% from each person. Our marriage has never been perfect, no one's is. But it is always worth fighting for!

One thing marriage has taught me? God still has a lot of refining to do in me. When problems arise in our marriage it is never 100% my fault, but is never 0% my fault either. God has shown me that a quiet answer does turn away wrath, and that iron sharpens iron. There are other things He has shown me, but those what you need to hear today.

You might think you have a wonderful marriage, but you still need to cultivate it. Likewise, even if you have a terrible marriage, you still need to cultivate it. I think ours falls somewhere in the middle - like most of the marriages of our friends - and it needs cultivated, daily.

So for the past two months, I have been making extra efforts to cultivate our marriage. At this time of year that mostly means going birdwatching with Kurt. Something I usually enjoy, but can struggle with in the winter, because frankly, I do not like being cold.

Yesterday we went on a birdwatching expedition, and then we went grocery shopping. It was a short birdwatching trip, only about 3 hours, because the wind was cold and biting, and we were trying to beat the rain.

So what did we cultivate?




Agreeing to sometimes disagree

Do those sound like things you need to cultivate in your marriage?

We talked, about all sorts of things, some of them life changing, some of them mundane, but we talked. After 16 years of homeschooling, sometimes all I want is a quiet place with no words, no expectations, and no books. Shocking, right?

But because I know my marriage needs cultivated to grow, or to even survive, I went birdwatching instead of locking myself in a quiet room.

How were we rewarded for cultivating our marriage?

Maybe our marriage will survive, or even thrive the year. But more importantly, we can know that we were obedient to God's call for husbands and wives to love each other. Nothing is guaranteed in this life, so I am choosing to be thankful for all of the small things in our lives, instead of stressing out about the big things. 

And just in case you are wondering, we did talk about setting aside time each week so I can get back to this writing God has called me to. :)

For all of you other birders out there, here is just a short snippet about  our expedition today...

When we arrived at our destination, I asked Kurt if we could stop at the bathroom first, because I knew it was going to be brutal windy once I got out of the car. He finally acquiesced, and after four tries of bathrooms that were all still locked for the season, we found a just-cleaned port-a-pot. Kurt was a little dismayed because he wanted to go to the eagle's nest first, and the bathroom was in the opposite direction. 

After I was done, we turned around and headed back into the park, and almost immediately spied one of the resident eagles, not near their nest, but in the trees by one of the locked bathrooms. LOL! So you see, sometimes it pays to humor your wife. :)

After watching and photographing the eagle for a while, we got back in the car and set off to find some ducks. Now, I will admit I am not good at identifying ducks. That's okay, because Kurt has been working on ID-ing all of the ones he has seen already this year, and so he told me what they were. Since it is time for ducks to migrate through Indiana, we saw several kinds that were new to me, including Redheads, Lesser Scaup, Gadwell, Ring-necked duck, and some female Bufflehead.

Then, after I was way too cold, we headed back to the car to warm up and eat our provisions (snacks). Of course I ate the pudding first and my healthy snacks last - haha, must have been my frozen brain. 

Finally, Kurt drove us towards where the eagle's nest is, and along the way we saw a lovely blue heron, and lots more ducks. On the frozen surface of the lake near the nest, we got to watch on of the eagles eat a HUGE fish. 

After that we went grocery shopping. Maybe not the glamorous end you expected from our birdwatching date, but still fun, because it is something we rarely do together. On our way home it began to rain, but my spirit was not dampened. I had spent time cultivating my marriage to the man I love, and I saw some new birds too.

What might you discover if instead of ignoring your marriage today you cultivate it?

Love my friends, it needs to be our word for every day, not just a year.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 9 - Learning to Read

parenting truths, learning to read, read aloud time

Somewhere along the way an expert decided that all children should be able to learn to read well between the ages of five and seven. Today’s #parentingtruth is just me - dispelling that myth.

Most children in America learn to read between the ages of five and nine. The idea that a child is behind if they are not a proficient reader by age seven is a new one. Forty years ago when I went to Kindergarten, we were all learning our ABC’s together. Yes, there were a few kids who had gone to Preschool and already knew their letters, but I lived nearest the country elementary school, and not one of the city ones, so most of us had spent the previous year playing in our backyards and swinging at the park, not focusing on letters.

Sometime the summer before I started school, my parents, or at least my Mom, had gone to the school and our soon to be teacher suggested that they help us work on trying to learn our ABC’s before school started. You see, there is a HUGE world of difference between the 1970’s version of “try to learn” and the 2010’s version of “must know.” Did you know that there are school today where you cannot enter Kindergarten if you have not already mastered your letters, numbers and colors? Then what is the point of Kindergarten? Somebody stop that Merry-go-round now because it surely does not sound like a fun ride to be on!

So here I am today, telling all of you parents, that it is okay if your child has not become a fluent reader by age seven, or nine,… or even eleven. Each child is different, and it is up to you to decide if your child is meeting their potential. It is not up to a random standardized test to decide of their reading fluency is acceptable.

I think we all hope our children will learn to read at an early age, but that does not always happen. With our second daughter, it took a lot longer to learn to read, and then even more time for her to consider herself a good reader, than it did with her older sister. Reading is a subject where it is perfectly fine to be about average, but also okay tone slower than average. Your child will learn to read when they are ready. So stop pushing reading and get back to encouraging them to have fun as kids.

Here is the exception to the no pushing rule: if your child is being lazy or rebellious about reading, just to be a pain in the backside, then get to the heart of the matter with their attitude. Once that is dealt with, learning to read will be easier on both of you.

Now, about those encouraging activities. Read aloud to your children. Often! You can take them to the library and let them look at the covers of picture books and choose some to have you read to them. You can choose a few more books that look like they would be fun to read: silly stories like The Was an Old Lady, or stories about talking animals. You can choose some books that will challenge you as you read them aloud, like Dr Seuss. You can even choose a few books that you think might be a bit advanced for your children to listen to and appreciate, because you never know what subject might encourage them to listen well.

You can lead a child to a book, but you cannot make him read. So choose books about topics that interest him or her: dogs, spiders, cartoons, legos, unicorns, etc. Having a variety of books to use for read-alouds is the key to prevent yourself from getting stuck reading the same book every single day. :)

When your child does seem ready to learn to read, remember that there are a lot of different methods to choose from. Their school may focus on phonics, or they might focus on sight words. If what they try the first time isn’t working well for them, consider trying a different approach at home. If you are homeschooling, be willing to invest in more than one curriculum until you find what works.

Here are two last things to remember when your children are learning to read. 
1- English is the exception to the rule, so don’t expect them to become fluent readers overnight. Think about ch/ck, i/y, or s/c, these are complicated for almost all new readers, so be patient.
2- If your child just doesn’t get reading, even if they say they want to learn how to read, just take a short break. You can try again in six months.

One last thing: read-aloud time should not end just because your child can read. Keep reading to them, so they understand that you enjoy spending time with them, and that ultimately your relationship as parent/ child is more import ran than their reading proficiency.

Happy Reading!

parenting truths, childhood, learn to read

Thursday, February 28, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 8 - Experiences Over Things

parenting truths, childhood, experiences over things, making memories

Today’s #parentingtruth is about valuing experiences over things. As a mom, I have often wanted to give my children gifts to express my love for them. But giving them another gift was not always feasible, or even realistic. Maybe it was because they already had too many things in their room, or because buying a present was not in the budget. The truth is most things are temporary, while experiences provide memories that can last a lifetime.

Let me tell you a story

When I was almost three years old, my family moved into the house where my mom still lives today. We had visited a few times over the summer and fall as the house was being built, and I do still have a few distinct memories of those visits. Fast forward a couple of years. On a fall afternoon, my parents took us outside and sat down in the grass in the small side yard. My dad asked my older brother and me to go search and see how many different kinds of leaves we could find in the yard. Since I was still pretty little, it made sense to wait for Autumn, when the leaves were starting to fall off the trees.

While I don’t remember how many kinds of leaves we found, I do still remember the experience. Even though it has been almost 40 years since that afternoon, I can remember my parents sitting side by side, encouraging us to go look for leaves. I remember that it was not a race, or a competition, but rather a chance for them to instill in us a love of discovering the outdoors.

What have you done with your children lately that has created a memory? Memories are the things that matter most to children. Whether you are rich or poor, you can create good memories. But a word of caution: you can also create bad memories, so think before you speak. Think about what memories you want your children to have 40 years from now. Do you want them to remember a stressed out mom, or someone who made cookies with them on snow days? Do you want them to remember an over-exacting father for whom no one ever measured up, or would you rather they remember going hiking with you or playing silly board games?

There are other practical reasons to choose to give your children experiences over things. The less stuff you have in your house, the less time it will take to clean it. I am not a minimalist, but I do appreciate it when everything has place, and gets put away when you’re done using it. Now that our youngest has graduated high school, we are doing another purge of books from the house. We still like having books, but I no longer feel compelled to have our house resemble the Library of Congress with one of everything - LOL! 

When you choose to provide your children with experiences over things you provide them with a lifetime of doing. A life of experiences can be had in any socio-economic class. That means you can be poor and still provide a wonderful, well-balanced experience filled childhood for your kids. I was the queen of doing things on the cheap. These days it is trendy to be frugal, but even back then I knew we could do fun activities without spending money we didn’t have. I would ask around to find out about low and no cost days at local museums. There were activities put on at the local college that were free or practically free for homeschoolers. It just took some effort.

I let my business contacts know that we liked music and art. One of them had a sister who worked for the local symphony. We went to the free school symphony performance multiple times. If we could not afford to pay to go to an event, we could often find a way to volunteer for it and still get some of the benefits. We went to amusement parks through the Read to Succeed program, ate free lunches thanks to Book-It, and asked for memberships for birthday or family gifts.

One of the best choices we have made over the years is to always purchase an Annual Entrance Permit to our state park system. There are a wealth of free programs through our state’s Department of Natural Resources and most of them occur at state parks. With a park pass we could pack up the lunch we were going to eat at home anyway and turn these free events into memorable road trips.

A life of experiences, a life spent doing things, is often a life spent outdoors. 

This was one of my favorite parts of our daughters’ childhoods: going outside! We lived life together, riding bikes, hiking trails, watching birds, eating picnics, searching for pictures in the clouds or watching the meteor showers. We still love to go outside together.

When you buy things, they are often for a specific person. That can be a good thing, like a wedding ring. There is nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts. I happen to really like dark chocolate and orange roses. But those are things for me, not necessarily things for sharing. 

A life filled with experiences over things is time spent sharing life together. That’s what family is about - being together. You will end up sharing the good and the bad, but hopefully most of it will be good.

Now grab your kids and your spouse and get outside! Go experience some nature together. :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

111 sale at SchoolhouseTeachers

Hi all! Just a super quick note today.

If you have been kicking yourself all month because you did not sign up for a new membership at during the January Fresh Start sale - there is a special 111 sale going on right now, but just through tomorrow night (midnight on the 28th!)

For the sale, you can get a new membership to for $111 for a year, plus a print copy of the Hey Mama! planner mailed to  your door. This is a really good sale, and if you stay a member, your annual renewal will always only be that $111 price.

I'd tell you more about, but I cut my fingertip yesterday, and it is really hard to type with only 9 fingers -LOL! So go check out some of my previous reviews by clicking the orange tag at the bottom of this post.

And remember, the sale ends tomorrow at midnight - don't miss it!

Don’t let Winter Blues take over your homeschool! Fresh ideas await at Annual membership only $111 (code ONES), plus free spiral-bound planner; Monthly membership only $1 for first month (ONEDOLLAR) – $14.95/mo after. Hundreds of resources! Ends 2/28/19!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 7 - Jesus

parenting truths, raising children, trusting Jesus

We’ve covered some solid Parenting truths so far in this series, but today’s #parentingtruth might just be the most important one: Jesus! Last week at a meeting at church the question was asked: “Have you ever sensed God using you, working through you in a way that went beyond what you could do naturally?" My resounding answer was “Yes, Parenthood!” 

When we realize the we are not supposed to do this parenting thing on our own, or in our own strength, a huge burden is lifted from our shoulders. The answers that we seek, and the wisdom that we need for parenting, are found in a personal relationship with Jesus. When we are following Jesus, He leads us into the presence of the Father. Here we learn about love, forgiveness, and grace. These are all important truths to embrace in our roles as parents. It can be hard enough to find the right answers with help, I would not want to do it alone.

By the grace of God we can be gentle, even when we’re down to our last nerve and our toddler is using it as a trampoline. By Jesus’ example, we can see that putting others first is our best opportunity to introduce them to the love of the Father. When we begin to grasp how great God’s love for us is, we bow under the mercy and forgiveness He offers us. These lessons teach us how to love our own children, just as He has loved us.

Forgiveness is a hard concept to explain to someone with words, but it is understood when they see it lived out. We cannot expect our children to learn all of these valuable lessons the first time. When we remember the patience that God has shown to us, as we have been learning from Him, it provides us with the example of forgiving someone seventy-times-seven. This is something especially important to remember when your children get to around age 11.

Having a relationship with Jesus, one where we spend time reading His Word, praying, and asking for wisdom, is the best opportunity we have to be prepared for whatever tough situation may come our way as parents. Jesus teaches us about letting go of fears, of finding joy in the journey, and loving others well. Jesus modeled how to go away to a quiet place and spend time with the Father. He showed us how to listen well and to find needs and meet them. Jesus was confident in His position as a child of God, and you should be too. 

If you are unsure what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus, then I encourage you to start by reading the Gospel of John. You can read it online - for free- at Then talk to a friend, or visit a local church and speak to someone there about what it means to follow Jesus.

Parenting is full of joys and sorrows, challenges and successes, and every single one of them is better with Jesus!

parenting truths, raising children, trusting Jesus

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 4 - Family Boundaries

parenting truths, family boundaries, childhood, security, house rules

Sometimes it is a little hard to swallow the parenting truths we learn along the way. This may be one of those tough ones for you. 

We hope for an idyllic childhood for our kids - happy days, comfortable nights, and memorable vacations. Our realities often turn out differently than we had hoped. It is important that we learn to set some family boundaries early on so that what our children remember, and what we actually create, is focused more on a safe childhood, filled with love, than a Pinterest perfect looking childhood filled with remorse.

Today’s #parentingtruth is all about learning to set those boundaries that work best for your family. 
Your family - your rules. We all have friends who seem to have it all together. However, we cannot plan to model our families after them, because God has not called us to live their lives, but rather our own. Besides, you never know all the struggles your friends are going through - God is refining them just like He is refining you, but the methods are usually different.

So how do you set family boundaries? Think about what matters most to you and your spouse as parents. Make a list of those things, and then make a list of what your paying jobs require of you. While it might be okay in one family to have friends over until 9 p.m. every night, in a household where dad has to get up at 5 a.m. for work, the boundaries are going to be different. In a home where parents work opposite shifts to make sure someone is always available at home for the kids, sleepovers may not happen. It does not scar your children for things to be different at your house. A few years ago one of our daughters asked if we had ever had something “bad” happen at a sleepover and if that was why they rarely ever had them. I explained the reason was because their dad and I worked opposite shifts for so many years, so that someone could always be home with them, that it just did not leave enough time for having friends for overnights.

Family boundaries are meant to be bent, but not broken. What that means for us is that there is a lot of leeway for a special event, or a one time occurrence, like staying up until midnight to watch the Super Bowl, but in general, the house rules are there for your own good. You don’t want your children riddled with guilt because Grandma offers them a second piece of cake when they spend the night at her house, but you also don’t want them to think it is okay to eat desserts all the time instead of nutritious food. If you, as the parents, respect the family boundaries, then your children will learn to too. 

When it comes to where to set your family’s boundaries, remember that less is more. Less rules and more grace, less freedom and more security, less preaching and more doing. If it helps your children to understand what you expect of them, especially your preteens and teenagers, then make a list, but keep it short: no back talking, no staying out past midnight, no drinking, no smoking, no foul language. A short list is the less part of the equation. The more part is more grace and more love. Even if you were not raised with demonstrative parents, your children need to know that you love them. Allow then to apologize without fear when they have done something wrong, and daily remind them that you love them. Hug your kids, tell then you love them, make their favorite meal just because. The world is harsh, parents should not be!

When you start out setting boundaries, less freedom to roam is better than too much. Your younger children need to understand that you should always know where to find them. If they go over to the neighbor’s to play, then they should stay there unless you come get them, the neighbor sends them home, or they call you and ask for permission to go somewhere else. Setting your boundaries like this does not stifle their childhood, it allows them to thrive, knowing that you care about them. 

As the seasons of your family life change, so do the boundaries. Your teen will want to do more things and go more places. You are going to give them a little more freedom each year, but they have to retain your trust to keep that freedom. We live in a messed up, sinful world. Human trafficking and drug use are real problems that face many of our neighborhoods, schools and families. By setting family boundaries you are sheltering your children - in a good way! If we raise our children within the loving boundaries of our families, they are much less likely to fall prey to the evil in the world around them.

Sometimes, you or your spouse might wonder when your young adult children are going to stop calling you every time they go somewhere. Take heart moms and dads, they are still calling you because it makes them feel more secure knowing that you know where they are, and it gives them a feeling of safety in a difficult world. Our girls can call me forever if they want to. It is good for their hearts and minds, and mine as well. :)

Perhaps the best part of this #parentingtruth about family boundaries is learning that it is ok to stay at home. This does not mean you never go anywhere, far from it in our family, but that you value family time above other interests. It’s ok to say no to that extra sports team practice, to say no to that next concert, or to say no to committing your family to an after school club just because everyone else is doing it. Boundaries are designed to keeping you safe. A farmer’s fence keeps the sheep in the pasture, the orange construction cones help you keep your car in the correct lane, and your family’s boundaries show your children where they are safe.

In Psalm 16 David said that the boundary lines for him had fallen in “pleasant places.” He had trusted God to provide and care for him. May your children one day look back on your family boundaries and say that they had fallen in pleasant places. 

Bend but don’t break dear mom and dad, your children need the comfort of boundaries!

parenting truths, family boundaries, childhood, security, house rules