Disciplining A Little Fireball With Love

 

Sun Feb 01 2015 01_12_18 GMT 0800

My fifth child, Catalina, was my first child to display her relentlessness and fighting spirit so early on in her life. At times I wondered if this was due to her traumatic entrance into this world. Having been hospitalized twice in her first month of life, she had numerous needle insertions into her veins for IVs and antibiotics. Plus, she was separated from me physically when she was first confined. Even if I was allowed to see her to feed her, she didn’t experience the immediate bonding that I had with my other kids.

Her very large and loud personality became apparent when she turned six months old and escalated to include undesirable behaviors when she turned one. As a one year old, who was talkative and expressive, she not only vocalized her frustrations, she antagonized her siblings and others when she had the opportunity to do so.

I still remember our one month stay in the U.S. in December, when she discovered that carpeted floors provided the perfect surface for throwing a tantrum. She would hurl herself onto the floor (sometimes face down) and shake her legs madly when she didn’t get her way. For emphasis, she would also roll from one location to another.

I would watch this display of her temper, half amused that she thought this would make a difference, and half horrified that she expressed her anger this way. In all my experience of parenting five children, she was the first to unravel herself in this manner.

As I observed her reactions to situations that she deemed unfavorable, I wondered what she was thinking. Did she really believe that her actions would result in me picking her up or responding to her demands?

Had she been my first child, I might have been less calm. But having seen the positive effects of discipline on my four other children, I was hopeful that she too could be trained to obey and process her emotions with greater restraint. However, I also knew that it would be challenging. The very traits I mentioned at the beginning of this post, which are admirable to have in a person who has learned to control them, are not easy to channel appropriately by a one year old.

Clearly, her outbursts were unacceptable. The question was, how would Edric and I lovingly address the necessity of discipline in our little fireball of a daughter? How were we going to introduce obedience and self-control when she was barely over a year old?

Our U.S. trip provided the fitting time to begin our training. Edric and I were with Catalina 24/7. We studied her carefully and we watched her constantly.

One of her favorite things to do when playing with her younger cousin, Joshua, was hit him on the head. She had no regard for the fact that he was a helpless eight month old baby who could not run away from her tyranny. Almost every time she passed by him or stood near him, she managed to include a bop on his head that made him wail in pain. Furthermore, she found his unusually large and adorable eyeballs fascinating, and she wanted to poke them out of curiosity.

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(This is cousin, Joshua)

Obviously, none of these behaviors could continue. I praise God for my gracious sister and brother in law. But I know they were afraid for his very life! So were Edric and me!

Since setting her aside and talking to her were ineffective and she defied us when we told her, “No, don’t hit,” our next recourse was to introduce spanking. We were very clear in our instruction. “Catalina don’t hit. You obey.” She would acknowledge and then minutes later, she would raise her hand or a toy and strike her cousin on the head with it!

A parent knows when her child is being defiant and when that same child is acting in innocence and ignorance. This wasn’t a case of innocence or ignorance. We saw the intent to disobey on her face as she smacked her cousin numerous times then looked at us or her panicking siblings who would report, “Catalina hit Joshua again!”

Since Edric and I had never hit Catalina and the ladies who worked for us hadn’t done so either (or are kids), we were perplexed as to how Catalina developed this bully-ish attitude. And even though we did not understand what kind of pleasure she got out of tormenting her cousin, it was decided that she would receive her first official spanking for disobedience. During a moment when I caught her in the act of hitting, I took her to the bathroom with a wooden spoon in my hand.

In the bathroom, I held her close and reminded her that we told her not to hit her cousin. I also told her that she did not obey so I was going to spank her. Then I gave her a good swat across the bum, enough to sting but not wound the skin. She cried and I embraced her tightly, waiting for her to calm down. Then I looked her in the eyes and said, “I love you. But mommy spanked you because you did not obey. Do not hit Joshua. Obey.” I repeated this several times until she filled in the blanks. Catalina will “OBEY”.

I know she understood me because she said, “No hip (she couldn’t quite say the word hit). Obey.” In fact she would say this when she was near Joshua, as a kind of mantra to suppress her urge to antagonize him.

Over the course of our stay in the U.S. she did test us and attempt to hit again a number of times. So we spanked her in the same manner. By the end of our trip, however, we could leave her alone with Joshua and she stopped her bullying.

Several weeks after we arrived in the Philippines and we had our wonderful househelp to assist me, they told me she was easier to take care of and that she had changed. Furthermore, everytime Catalina passed by the drawer where our own wooden spoon was kept, she remarked “Obey. Good girl. Obey. No hit. Spanking.” She connected that spanking was for her disobedience.

Our disciplining is hardly over. While the spankings are now fewer and far between, we continue to train her to wait and exercise self control, to be attentive, and to accept our commands without throwing a fit or tantrum. She is also learning how to say sorry and hug her siblings when she is unkind towards them.

Our present hurdle is teaching her to manage her temper when she doesn’t get her way. For example, if she wants to look at my Iphone and her siblings pull it away from her because we want to limit her exposure to gadgets, she will cry out to express her irritation and sometimes, she may even slap them back! It’s no longer about hitting to bully a younger child, it’s about fighting back when she feels wronged.

First, we tell her siblings not to grab toys or objects from her because this causes her to go into “survival mode,” where she antagonizes them in return. Second, I try to use the distraction technique, where I present an optional activity to divert her attention. Third, if she does get upset because she is denied what she wants, I take her aside so I can talk to her about her inappropriate responses. I also give her the opportunity to apologize to her siblings.

It’s not easy to discipline a little child. The word discipline has, at its root, the word disciple which means a follower. And we want all our children to follow Jesus Christ. However, Catalina is just a year and seven months old. So her capacity to grasp spiritual truth is still immature. While she sees us praying to Jesus and she observes that we talk about him, she is not yet able to understand what it means to have a fallen nature that needs to be redeemed by Christ. But she is manifesting this nature!

Until the age when we can explain God’s redemptive plan for her life (which usually happens around three years old for our kids), we have to remain consistent about training and teaching her to obey. Even if she is a very strong-willed girl, it is our responsibility to help her develop the will to obey and respond positively to our authority.

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I am looking forward to the day when Catalina will embrace obedience because she knows it is God’s good will for her life and it leads to blessing. Until then, this is going to be a journey as we get to know her better and learn to best address the areas where she needs to grow and mature.

Every child has a strong-will. But how they manifest this will and when it erupts as a counterforce to parental authority is different for each child. Our duty, as parents, is not to be intimidated by it or give up trying to train our children to submit to our authority. We are to discipline our children for their greater good and protection, prayerfully considering what kinds of disciplinary actions work best, and always in the context of a healthy, loving relationship with them.

Focus on the Family suggests that parents need to be authoritative versus passive, permissive, or authoritarian. Authoritative parents “provide the best combination of love and discipline…not overbearing, but compassionate yet firm with their authority. They have clear boundaries but are also very loving. Everyone knows who the boss is, but there’s also a connection between parents and child, a consideration that respects and honors who the child is while not compromising his or her disciplinary needs. The result is a child high in self-esteem and equipped with good coping skills. This secular sociological study (by sociologist Reuben Hill) found that the parent who balances love and discipline, without compromising either, produces well-adjusted kids who maintain a positive relationship with Mom and Dad. This research, the best available today, affirms parents who express love well and maintain a high degree of control in their home.” (source: Focus on the Family – Effective Child Discipline)

Hebrews 12:11 “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

Proverbs 13:13 “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.”

Surrender And Wait

If there is a tech-lover and computer savant in our family, it is Elijah, our eldest. At eleven years old he understands programming and code, thanks to Khan Academy. When I am stumped by a gadget issue, I holler for him and he ably rescues me from my ignorance. He also enjoys
reading about the newest gadgets available.

Edric and I hold him back a lot. He doesn’t have his own cell phone, iPad or even a computer or laptop. When necessary, he resorts to borrowing my laptop or iPad.

However, this past year, Elijah earned more than enough money from stocks investments and speaking engagements to pay for his own IPad. So Edric thought it was time he be allowed to get one to use for his “work”. The plan was they would look for one during our vacation in the U.S. Of course, Elijah was thrilled.

A few days after we arrived, he did his research, checking online for the best deals and accompanying Edric to gadget shops. Elijah found a refurbished IPad on Apple’s online store and Edric thought it was a steal, so they decided to buy it. However, someone else beat them to it because they waited a day.

Elijah was disheartened. He had invested time looking for the deal and even chatted with the customer service personnel to clarify certain questions about shipping. We reminded him to keep praying. If it was God’s will, he would find something better. So he quickly snapped out of it and moved on.

Yesterday, he found another superb deal on EBay for an iPad Air First Generation that was close to 350 USD with shipping. He was so excited about it but another interested party outbid him! Once again he was crushed, but we reiterated that he should not lose heart but trust in God’s will.

I was so blessed by his attitude as he took to the defeat positively and processed the disappointment from a spiritual perspective. Of course I was hoping that God would reward him but I kept this to myself.

In the meantime, Edric and I went out with Catalina to shop at Bed, Bath & Beyond. During our trip away, we received a call from Elijah. He was happy to announce that he had come across an IPad Air 2 (16 GgB) for 420 USD with shipping, tax free. (It normally retails at Apple Store for 499 USD without tax.) Strangely, no one bid during the window when he gave his offer. After an hour and a half, the deal became his! My sister told me this was uncommon on EBay. But the seller checked out and the offer was guaranteed by EBay, so Edric and Elijah followed through with the purchase.

Elijah was practically jumping up and down with excitement. Apparently, he wanted the IPad Air 2 but he didn’t condition himself to expect it because it was costlier. So he had set his sights on a simpler model with acceptable specs. This new option was absolutely fantastic as it appealed to the “techiness” in him.

Elijah was going to pay the full amount but Edric said they would split. Still, Elijah asked to pay 75% instead of just 50%. I was so proud of him! This was an occasion for Elijah to “step up” as a young man.

I know his initial disappointment wasn’t easy. But God blocked those two previous selections to get him the best IPad, the one that he secretly dreamed to have.

Interestingly, the night before I attended a bible study led by my brother in law, Jeff, and he focused on James 5. In the chapter there was a portion that I highlighted again and it happened to be about the prophet Elijah!

“…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” (‭James‬ ‭5‬:‭16-18‬ NASB)

When my son, Elijah, was dealing with the unfavorable non-purchase, I shared with him the same line: the “prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much,” encouraging him to keep on presenting his longing to the Lord. I knew that Elijah loved God and honored him in his life so if the Lord willed for him to get an iPad deal, he would make it happen. And true enough, God answered Elijah’s prayer in his perfect way and time, even if he had to stomach the disappointment first.

When I asked him what his prayer was, he told me, “Lord, if it is your will, I know you will give it to me. If not, I will feel sad but I know it will be your will, so that’s what is best.”

As a mom, it’s hard for me to see my kids disappointed. It’s also a struggle for me to watch them go through the waiting process. Yet God uses instances like this one to demonstrate his personal involvement in the character development of my kids. Elijah got to experience first-hand what it is like to surrender a desire to the Lord and then receive the reward of his trust and patience.

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It’s Your Mess: Deal with It Darling

By the end of our homeschooling morning, our “classroom” usually looks like someone threw a grenade into it. I’ve tried to manage the mess by cleaning up as we go along, but there’s no better way to keep this room straight than to have the kids take responsibility for it.

Today they wanted to dye eggs as an art activity, but I told them, “If you want to do art, you have to clean up the room.” So they pulled out a broom from the hallway closet, picked up markers and colored pencils, and wiped the paint off the floor.

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My kids can get presumptuous about our househelp cleaning up after them so I have to remind them to straighten their own rooms, organize their toys, and mop their spills. They aren’t always motivated but a helpful trick is to tell them they can’t move on to the next activity until they straighten up their clutter.

Yesterday, they wanted to watch the Muppets movie. They were all plopped in front of the television enjoying themselves when I went upstairs to check on their rooms. Titus and Tiana had pulled out blankets and re-arranged furniture. They also had stuffed animals thrown around. Elijah and Edan had played with Citiblocks and constructed “trees”.

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I went back down, turned off the television and told them that their rooms had to be spotless if they wanted to continue watching the movie. They complied and got to work. After ten minutes, Elijah and Edan bounded back down the stairs. Titus and Tiana struggled to restore the girls’ room to what it looked like before they messed it up. I told them they were responsible for the disorder and had to fix it.

Elijah, Edan, and I finished the movie but Titus and Tiana never came down. I went looking for them, wondering what ever became of their commitment to put their mess away. And I found them lying on the couch in the study room, ASLEEP! They must have gotten tired trying to figure out what to do.

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Well, they resumed their clean up duties and got the job done after they woke up.

I want my kids to understand that they are responsible for their things. It’s easy to make a mess. In fact, it’s pretty fun to do so. But if my kids get into the habit of letting others inherit their mess, it’s going to have a negative effect on their character. They have to learn faithfulness in the small areas, like putting away toys or wiping up spills, so it will carry over to bigger areas in the future. If they “mess” up relationships, or make wrong decisions, they need to own up to the consequences and do what is honorable – deal with the mess and do their best to fix what they can.

The Respectable Husband/Father

With permission from my husband, Edric, I am writing this entry.

“If I want my family to respect me, I need to be respectable.” His exact quote.

He said this in reference to an activity that he believed he needed to give up. It was a hobby that was neither wrong or sinful, however he felt like it wasn’t a profitable use of his time. Furthermore, he was concerned about being a good example to our kids, especially our sons.

Since two years ago, I intentionally kept silent about my own perspective on this hobby because I didn’t want to be a nag about it or force him to change. I tried that approach and it usually ended up in some sort of marital version of world war. So I prayed about it. Finally, I accepted it as one of those unchangeable aspects of his person that I would be positive about. In fact, I asked him every once in a while, “When are you going to hang out with the guys again?”

However, he had his own epiphany about it. He discerned that he needed to spend “every centavo and hour for the cause of Christ.” Furthermore, he communicated to me that there are more meaningful ways to use his time.

Praise God! Incidences like this one are proof that God is continually at work in the lives of those whom I love. When I surrender them and trust that God will do the changing and transforming, he certainly works in ways that amaze me.

My husband has loved this pastime for many years. It was a source of conflict between us in the early part of our marriage because I thought it was juvenile and a waste of valuable time. But my attempts to convince him were futile. His arguments were more valid than mine.

First, it wasn’t anything immoral. Second, guys need “healthy” outlets for their pent up testosterone and for their stress. Third, he enjoyed hanging out with his like-minded guy friends — GOOD family guys who shared the same values and perspectives on marriage and parenting. So I stopped talking.

When he came to his own conclusions about this hobby I knew that the activity had run its course and proven to lack the draw it once had on Edric. He had changed and matured spiritually and emotionally. The pastime was no longer congruent with the greater sense of purpose that gripped him. This didn’t mean he would never revisit it. But he did not justify it the same way he used to.

Edric’s change of heart convicted me. (This is what happens when a husband/father demonstrates spiritual leadership in the home. Even though I respected him before this, I respected him even more for being an example to emulate in the area of time management.)

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Over the past year, I have been indulging in my own form of unprofitable hobby-ing. Watching TV series. I don’t even like to watch television! But a friend of ours gave us a hardrive with TV series like Elementary, Nikita, Arrow, Men Who Built America, and so on. This began after I have birth.

Some of these shows were a convenient and entertaining way for me to pass the time while breastfeeding in the evenings. I would watch several episodes in one sitting. This pushed my early sleeping hour to near midnight and sometimes later.

With the disruption in my normal sleeping habits, I woke up tired. To recuperate, I needed a few more hours to rest. As a result, early morning runs were sacrificed, bible reading became less consistent, and my homeshooling began later than usual. It was like a snowball effect. I wanted to stop but I was hooked on the story threads.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

These verses tell me I can’t engage in habits that make my body unsuitable, unhealthy, and unfit for God’s work and purposes. In the Old Testament, the temple was treated as holy and sacred because God’s presence dwelt in it. 1 Corinthians makes this analogy because we are to treat our bodies the same way.

It is a deception to think that I can participate in activities that seem neutral because they don’t have a DIRECT effect on my spiritual walk. Edric and I have discovered that this is a fallacy. All our choices set us on a course toward a destiny. All our choices have spiritual implications.

The Bible tells us, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭90‬:‭12‬ NASB)

What am I able to present to the Lord after hours and hours of watching these TV series? They did not make me wiser, not in the godly sense. If I were to be very honest, they made me tired, unhealthy, foggy headed, distracted, addicted to entertainment, more self-centered, more materialistic, less effective at teaching my kids, and a bad model of how to use my time.

So goodbye TV series watching!

I began this entry with Edric’s quote about “being respectable” because I hope it encourages husbands to be mindful of their choices, even when it comes to the area of hobbies and pastimes. The way a husband/father chooses to spend his discretionary time sets an example for his wife and children to follow. What he enjoys and takes pleasure in communicates to them what is valuable and important — what is deserving of the investment of his time, talent, and treasure. I praise God that Edric recognizes that having the respect of his family is more than a position. It is a privilege and a trust given by God to husbands/fathers.

With this privilege and trust comes a responsibility to distinguish between good things, better things, and the best things so that wives and children are encouraged to do the same. Pursuing the best things is God’s will. Jesus came to give people the “abundant life.” Anything less than this is settling for a substandard experience of joy, peace, fulfillment and fruitfulness. If a husband/father wants his family to have an appetite for what is best, he must consider this…

The best things will…

…make him a more effective witness for the gospel of Christ.
…make him more like Christ.
…qualify him to say to his wife and children, “Copy this in me.”

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My New Year’s REVOLUTION

I am revolting against my fat. Two weeks ago, I resumed P90X’s Ab Ripper X and my abs felt like they were ripping. Not ripping with muscle, ripping in PAIN!

Over the holidays I just lost it with my eating. Every sweet thing was in my hand and I thought, my genetics will overcome this. What pride. What a fool.

After I gave birth, I was just 6 pounds shy of my pre-pregnancy weight. A month after, I started running and my mom was like, “Your insides are going to fall out.” Okay, so I took a break. A LOOONG BREAK.

Now I am 10 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Darn. I might as well be 5 months pregnant because that’s how much I weighed when I was!

Christmas came along, buffet meals, sweets, delectable treats and bam! Pounds. Flabbiness. Muffin top. Tummy. I thought, I’m burning 500 calories a day as a breastfeeding mom. Just shovel it all in. I’m a milk producing machine that needs all of this. I’m hungry. I can eat anything.

Reality check. I ate anything and everything and I wasn’t selective and healthy about my choices. Now I have to contend with 10 pounds to lose.

At my age, it’s not that easy. I am up against the law of Thermodynamics, the tendency towards atrophy. I’m going to have to work really hard to get my muscle tone back so my metabolism kicks in.

I knew I needed to get back into shape when my husband, Edric, mentioned that WE need to work out.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “It’s my butt, right? I actually have a butt now, it’s getting bigger! Is that it?”

“I don’t want to say anything. I’m trying to be Christ-like, remember?”

“But I want to know the truth. Tell me the truth! I need to lose weight. Just say it.”

Is there any husband in the world that can win this discussion? Of course not. But I really wanted Edric to tell me what he thought my problem areas were. Actually, I just wanted affirmation for what I knew to be true about my problem areas so I would have greater resolve to stop eating so much.

Finally, he admitted that I have gotten “curvier” (right. safe words) but for my health’s sake, I do need to exercise. It was a softer blow…

So the very next day we ran and did our ab workout. Hoowee. World of pain. But I’m excited. I don’t want to make excuses. It’s safe to exercise now. Catalina is almost 6 months! And I don’t want to grow older without trying my best to be fit and healthy.

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I like how Edric said it the other day. We need to be fit to fight. Fit to tackle life’s challenges – parenting, ministry, work, etc. Plus, I’m always telling women, we need to try to look our best whatever season of our lives. Now it’s time to eat those words and stop eating junk food and candy. The challenge is on!

Step 1: Run every other day and do Ab Ripper X with Edric

Step 2: Get rid of junk food and sweets in the kitchen cabinets (90% done)

Step 3: Drink a ton of water

Step 4: Eat brown rice instead of white (Been doing this)

Step 5: Get more sleep (IMPOSSIBLE, for now, but I will try.)

The first few runs were the hardest because my body was used to a sedentary lifestyle. But exercise is amazing. Once I started getting into a rhythm of waking up early to run, my body began to look for it.

It will probably take me a couple of months to lose 10 pounds if I do it the healthy way. I don’t believe in dieting. Diet has the word DIE in it which is very telling. But I do believe in being thoughtful about what I eat and finding the right fitness program for my body type.

For example, I cannot lift alot of weights. I will look like a she-hulk. My body easily bulks in a bad way. But running increases my metabolism so that I burn fat more efficiently. And doing abdominal exercises works out my biggest problem area. So it is a good combination for me to do both.

I will start out with this and then see what I can add to my routine after a few weeks. It usually takes me about two months to see significant results.

In the meantime this verse motivates me.Philippians 4:7 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

Men Need Men to Become Men

Boys benefit from man-building activities that encourage the development of their manhood. When I say man-building activities I mean experiences that are like “man-versus-wild” kind of stuff – camping, mountain-climbing, scouting – and sports.

When Edric was growing up, my father-in-law, Eddie (Papa to me), invested time teaching him how to fly kites, scuba dive, climb mountains, boogie board, fish, sail, repel, bike, play ball, and swim…among other things. This is how they bonded, in the context of activity. Edric has always remembered these father and son occasions with fondness. And I have appreciated the attractive masculine traits that Edric acquired because of them.

Men need a good adventure and challenge, but they also need a man who has gone before them to pass on survival skills and know-how.

Our sons had the opportunity to take on a good adventure and challenge when Papa invited Edric, Elijah and Edan to climb Mt. Batulao last Saturday. Edric and the boys were thrilled. I was jealous because I wanted to go, too. But this was an experience that Edric wanted to share with the boys – just the guys. I had the other three kids to take care of anyway.

Early Saturday morning, Elijah and Edan had their hiking shoes on and were set to go at 5 AM. They packed their energy food – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, hard boiled eggs with salt on the side, granola bars, and water. Elijah was in charge of carrying the water and Edric carried the food. They got to Batulao 2 hours later and met up with Papa.

Initially, as they began their climb, Edan complained about the prickly tall grass and fatigue. But he wasn’t being a soiled brat. This was no tiny mountain! It was two and a half hours up one way with 12 peaks!

Edric admitted that he was concerned as he watched the boys scale some of the steep inclines. They could’ve rolled off to their deaths! Sadly, some time ago there was a woman who fell off one of the peaks while trying to take a picture. She died!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t know about that story before they went on the climb. The protective mother in me might have tried to dissuade Edric from taking Edan. But he did great! He was the only 7 year old on the trail and he persevered. Even though he was bickering at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed the hike as he went along.

Edric called me at one point during their climb (amazingly, there was a Globe signal), and he gave me an update on how the kids were doing and how much fun they were all having. What I would have given to have been there! I wanted to see their expressions and be a part of this special moment in their lives. But without me around they were better off. There was no nurturing mother figure to turn to for sympathy when they got tired or tripped and skinned their knees. The boys had to stick it out, suck it in, and push themselves under the guidance of Edric and Papa.

When they got home, they were exhausted, bruised and cut up, but they were smiling like they just had the time of their lives. They also had a certain satisfaction in their tone when they spoke about their trek. Thanks to Papa and Edric, the boys learned to overcome their fears, weaknesses, and put in the hard work and effort necessary to achieve a goal they were proud of.

How valuable it is when fathers and grandfathers mentor their sons and set aside time to help them become men. Climbing a mountain together is not the only way to do this but it sure worked for my boys. They went up Mt. Batulao as two clueless boys but they came down as wiser, stronger, more confident young men!
 

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Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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Do Not Aim For External Obedience

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My fourth child is Tiana.
She is a charming 3 year old and she knows it. Tiana will flutter her eyelashes, twinkle those big brown eyes of hers and flash a disarming smile, and voila! you forget that she needs to be disciplined for something. But Edric and I need to make sure that she doesn’t miss this critical stage of discipleship and discipline, which is largely about obedience. We want her to learn to obey because it is for her good and protection.

Since we have a lot of kids, the challenge when it comes to discipline is consistency. Each child may need a modified or personalized approach but we want the same end result — internalized obedience. Obedience is preached, practiced, and applied in our home, so we cannot allow Tiana to be an exemption.

For example, some time ago, the kids and I were hanging out at my parent’s place. And while I was putting them down for a nap, their cousin came in to rest with them. This would have been fine had my niece calmly gone to sleep. But she was singing, humming, buzzing, and trying to get their attention. I told her that if she kept that up, she would have to take a nap by herself. Well, she did not listen, so I took the kids out of the room and let them sleep elsewhere.

My niece is a sweet girl but she is not my daughter so I can only control what I do with my own kids. I wanted my children to see that I meant what I said and I would follow through. Their cousin wailed for a while because she was upset that she could not nap with everyone else. The kids could hear her in the other room but they understood why I couldn’t let them stay together. No one would be able to sleep.

After about fifteen minutes, my own kids settled down and were hitting that point where their eyes glaze over and they fall asleep. However, Tiana was moving about on the bed and playing with her pillow. So I told her, “If you do not obey mommy and lay down quietly you will be disciplined.” She acknowledged this but didn’t take me too seriously. As a result the other kids were unable to fall asleep. They knew that Tiana wasn’t obeying me and they were waiting to see how I would handle the situation.

I looked over at Tiana who was sitting up on her side of the bed, fiddling with the zipper on a memory foam pillow. She was not lying down. Honestly, I did not want to spank her. I was seated comfortably across the room looking up recipes on my Ipad. But I knew that if I didn’t deal with the situation, she would think, “I can get away with this sort of thing.” And there was the matter of her brothers looking on to see my next move. They knew that if they were in her shoes, they would have been disciplined.

So I picked her up, took her into the bathroom and explained to her that she did not obey. As a result, she would be getting a spanking. Edric and I don’t spank our kids a lot. We can count the number of times each of our children has been spanked. But when we do spank, our kids know that it is for disobedience. It is a rule that is clear to our children.

Tiana got a spanking. Afterwards, we talked about it and she said sorry for not obeying. She also laid down quietly like I had asked her to previously.

I love my kids and I don’t like to spank them. But because I love them, I want them to understand what it means to obey and submit to authority. It is for their greater good. Some people may not agree with using spanking as a form of discipline. In our home, however, we have used it in the context of a good relationship with our kids. It is not done in anger. It is primarily used to correct disobedience, especially while they are between the ages of 1 and 6. We also use other forms of discipline like withdrawal of privileges and natural logical consequences.

Harold Sala wrote, “You can discipline without love, but can you really love without discipline? ​Discipline is an integral part of love. Although discipline is actually a very old concept, there are many, today, who consider any form of discipline to be punishment. There is a vast difference between the two. Centuries ago, the writer of Scripture declared that discipline is the result of real parental love, just as God’s discipline for His children is the result of His love and concern for our lives.”

“My son do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

It’s interesting that discipline makes our children feel more secure because they know their boundaries. When parameters are set, our kids are aware of what we expect from them and what they need to work on in their character. They don’t have to guess or figure out what is right from wrong as they go along. As parents we tell them what is right based on God’s word and then make them accountable and responsible for choosing to do what we tell them to.

Tiana is still young so we have a lot to work on with her. As for her three older brothers, we are trying to ingrain in them the higher motivation for obedience — the desire and will to love the Lord and please him. After all, we aren’t after mere external compliance but the peace of knowing that our children will follow God’s word even when we aren’t watching them.

Someone asked me very recently, “How do you make your children obey?” I had a problem with that question. First, my goal is not to MAKE them obey. I want them to embrace obedience as God’s plan for their lives– for blessing, protection, and an abundant life. During the early years, we teach our kids that obedience is doing what we say, but eventually we teach them that obedience is doing what we say with a cheerful attitude. It is about the heart.

Second, obedience is something I want my kids to see modeled by Edric and I. God has established a chain of command in the home. Edric is the head and I am under his authority. If I don’t submit to Edric or if I do so with a bad attitude, I distort my children’s concept of obedience to authority. Furthermore, my authority over them is established only if I exemplify what I ask of them. If I ask them to obey me but they see me contradicting, disrespecting and undermining Edric’s authority then I can’t expect them to understand obedience from the heart.

If we have to keep MAKING our children obey there may be something wrong with our approach to discipline.
We may be focusing too much on the behavior and punishment instead of discipling the hearts of our kids. Discipline is necessary but we need to reinforce character instruction, highlight the blessings of obedience, and remind our children that when they obey us they are ultimately pleasing God. Furthermore, if our children aren’t obeying us we need to look at our own example. Do we obey the authorities in our lives with a cheerful attitude, especially our husbands? :)

Broke-a-lin

“Broke-a-lin” was the name Edan gave Elijah’s broken violin. Elijah was practicing on his violin when it slipped out of his hands and fell onto the tiled floor of our living room. It snapped in half and is now irreparable.

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The kids huddled over it for a while trying to put the pieces back together. Tiana kept saying, “Oh no.” Elijah was frustrated with himself and didn’t know what to do. Titus was eager to see how he could fix it. And Edan laughed and called it a “broke-a-lin.”

I was on the couch when it happened, trying to catch up on some news while holding Catalina. Of course I was not pleased. Elijah needs a new violin which means we have to go out and pay for another one.

I wasn’t mad at him just frustrated (secretly) that he was careless. At the same time I knew it was an accident so I didn’t get upset. I didn’t want to embarrass him.

Things get broken especially when you have lots of kids. If I were to react to every single one of these incidents, I would be stressed out often. Thankfully, I grew up in a home where my own parents didn’t put a premium on material things. They were good stewards and used money wisely but if my siblings or I accidentally broke or mishandled things around the house, we were readily forgiven. We weren’t yelled at or punished. We might have had to suffer the consequence of our carelessness but my parents didn’t get angry or lose their temper.

With our kids, Edric and I are the same way. When the kids break vases, glasses, toys, gadgets, etc, we don’t go ballistic. However, we will bring in the stewardship angle.

After hearing about Elijah’s violin accident, Edric sat down with Elijah. He asked him, “What if we just had one violin and that’s all we could afford and it was entrusted into your care?” He wanted to make sure that Elijah understood that he needed to take care of his belongings. Just because we can afford to go out and buy another violin doesn’t mean we should make light of the incident like it was inconsequential. How will our kids learn to be more careful and aware of their actions? So I was glad that Edric talked with Elijah just to make sure he took it seriously. Elijah apologized and asked for forgiveness for not being a good steward. He also confessed to me that he was prideful at first and thought it was just an accident so it was not his fault. But he owned up to it after talking with his dad and I was pleased to see him admit that he was responsible for what happened.

I actually mentioned to Edric that perhaps Elijah should help pay for the violin. He should pay a fractional amount from the money he has earned from his stock reports so he feels the “sting” of having to replace the violin.

Edric and I will buy him a new one but he is old enough to learn to find remedies for his mistakes. Even if it was an accident, he was responsible for that violin and now he can be responsible for getting himself a new one too. I believe in the passage “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

If children get to work for something they really want, they are likely to ascribe greater value to it. Otherwise, they have no concept of reality. They receive and take without realizing that everything they are given is a cost to someone, be it monetary or otherwise. Furthermore, they need to learn to take ownership for their mistakes instead of growing up with a mentality that they get bailed out by mommy and daddy every time.

Edric and I love our kids and we extend grace to them when they make mistakes but some of these mistakes are also great opportunities to teach them character lessons. I don’t expect a 3 year old to get why he would have to help pay for something he broke. But Elijah is a 10 year old who has the capacity to understand stewardship and he is earning some money now.
So this sort of character training would work for him, especially since he is becoming a young man.

(I asked Elijah if it was okay with him that I share this and he said, “Yes, so people can learn from my mistakes.” Praise God for his heart! I love this boy!)

Strawberry Yoghurt

While I struggled with my miserable cold two nights ago, trying to rest in the room alone, a commotion in the kitchen woke me up. With a raised and agitated tone, Titus said, “I don’t want that!” This wasn’t the sound of my usually sweet and happy Titus.

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I would have preferred to remain in my rested state and ignore the situation. But I could not willfully do so. Titus had lost his temper. There was an issue that needed to be dealt with. Intervention was in order. So I got up and called him out of the kitchen to talk about what happened.

Apparently, he wanted a strawberry yoghurt drink that ended up in the hands of Edan. He was offered an orange flavored one by our househelp, Joan, which upset him. Edan, on the other hand, was apathetically sipping the last few drops of the coveted drink. Titus looked on with quiet anger, convinced that he had been done a great injustice.

Taking Titus aside, I tried to understand where he was coming from. But my attempt to have a dialogue with him as his two older brothers curiously stood on the sidelines and his youngest sister called out, “Titus is going to get a spanking!” was counterproductive. So I brought Titus to my bedroom.

He thought he was going to get a spanking but my intent was to get to the root of the issue. This was not something that could be solved with a spanking. There was a much deeper problem here. Titus’ spirit was not right. There was hardness and frustration.

He stood in front of me while I sat across from him. We engaged in a conversation that involved me explaining to him why his attitude was wrong, why shouting was not okay, and how he needed to learn to share. His part was to acknowledge and respond in repentance. Did it work? Maybe a little. But I could sense that his compliance was external. It was void of real conviction.

So I called him to my side, hugged him really tightly and said, “Titus, I love you no matter what.” I assured him that I was after his greater good. His countenance softened and he started to tear. All my lecturing had not produced this sort of heart-felt response. It was not until I took him in my arms and held him that I could sense a motivation to change his attitude.

With my arms around him, I went on, “Because I love you, I want to teach you to do what pleases God.” Appealing to his own love for Christ, I reminded him that getting angry and being selfish were wrong behaviors because Jesus didn’t want him to do those things. I asked him what he thought would make Jesus happy and he acknowledged that he had to learn “to share, to say sorry, and that he shouldn’t get angry.” When I was convinced that he sincerely meant this, I let him go back to the kitchen to say sorry to those whom he had hurt.

He walked up to Edan and Joan to ask for forgiveness. There was humility in his tone and disposition, and he bounced back to his smiley, cheerful self. I affirmed him for doing what was right and I peacefully went back to my bedroom to go back to sleep. Strawberry yoghurt training case closed.

—-

Training is such a challenge. First, it takes commitment. Second, it must be personalized. Third, it must be purposeful — the pursuit of Christlikeness. Fourth, it must be cradled by love.

Sometimes, I am tempted to short cut the training part and make behavior the priority. But fruitful discipline and training must seek to restore our children’s hearts to us and to the Lord. It must heal what is broken inside them and be redemptive, effecting much more than behavioral change.

If we want real fruit in our children, we must consider these heart questions: Do our children know that we love them? Are they absolutely convinced that we want what is best for them? Do they love Jesus? Do they know that he loves them?

1 Corinthians 13:8 says that love never fails. When I think of that statement, I think of how it can be applied to training our children. Love does not fail to motivate or inspire change. When our children are convinced that they are loved and accepted, flaws and all, they respond to our teaching. More importantly, when they love Jesus with all that they are, they desire to please him and live for him.

It’s like Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”(John 14:15 NASB)

Titus painted this earlier on in the day for me. I thought it was a great reminder that our children give us their hearts to handle with care. What are their hearts telling us about their spiritual condition? What are we doing about it?

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Dealing with the Resistance

Given the “break” we have had from homeschooling because of no househelp, I have been trying to get my kids back into the habit of studying. Since they have gotten used to having the liberty to dictate their personal schedules instead of sitting down in the mornings for their usual studies, I find myself having to deal with complaining and negativity. And these are attitudes that I absolutely do not allow my children to get away with.

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Today was one of those days when my second son, Edan, put up a resistance. He slumped over his science notebook and started writing in chicken scratch. This is very uncharacteristic of him. As a very diligent child, he will more often than not assess his goals for the day, tackle them one by one, asking for help when needed but finishing it all by noon. Instead, he was holding the pencil begrudgingly, like he was being tortured, and his demeanor was a picture of negativity.

Recognizing that his heart wasn’t right, I asked him to step out of the room and pray about his attitude. When he was ready, he could come back in and resume his work. I wasn’t about to struggle through the morning with him. When he left, I focused on Elijah, Titus and Tiana, trusting that at some point, he would “crack.”

Well, he took longer than expected. In fact, my eldest son, Elijah, who has gone through the same process of taking time away to think through his attitude, commented, “What’s wrong with him? He is being defiant.” Several times, he checked the door out of concern to see if Edan was coming back. I responded with, “Don’t worry about him. Just focus on what you need to get done. God will speak to him.”

In thirty minutes, Edan snuck back in but not to do work. He sprawled himself out on the sofa like I was not serious about what I had said. “I am sorry but you can only come in here if you are going to do your work. If you are going to lounge around like that, you have to go back into the other room.” He walked out and started to cry – a wailing sort of cry that had anger mixed into it.

I know Edan. He tends to be quiet but he can be just as strong-willed and bullheaded as his other siblings. They all need training and discipline to learn submission to authority, respect, and other important character traits that are necessary for life success so I have to be lovingly tough when necessary to help them grow in these areas.

I knew this was a resistance. He was putting up a “fight.” At any point he could have said sorry and gone right back to what he had to do. But he was trying to escape responsibility.

After a while, he tried to make his constructive exile a little more comfortable, so he picked up a book to read. He also called out, “I am hungry.” My, my.

I went into the room he was in and spoke with him. “I want you to know that you will be in here all day if necessary until you realize that you have to fulfill your responsibilities. That means that you don’t get to eat, read, play, or do anything until you change your attitude.”

He looked at me and started to wail again. Of course he was upset. But it was his choice to draw out his “suffering.” I don’t always have to use spanking as a form of discipline when withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences will work just fine. In this case, Edan had to realize that he was free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of his choices. So I let him cry in the room and process his attitude. In the meantime, I went back to teaching my three other kids.

Well, what do you know, in fifteen minutes Edan opened the door and approached me. “I am sorry, ” he said with all sincerity. He gave me a big hug and I embraced him tightly.

“I forgive you. Mommy loves you so much.”

I held him for a while longer and asked if he prayed about his attitude. “I also said sorry to God,” was his reply. He was smiling, happy, and a transformed person. He finished what he had to without a complaining spirit.

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Personally, I have experienced how much more effective it is to let my kids acknowledge their wrong and make a personal choice to repent and correct their emotions rather than force them to do their homeschool work when their hearts aren’t ready.

Learning is a privileged experience for those who are eager and willing to be taught. And I want my kids to realize this. My job is not to force them to learn or work hard. I may encourage and motivate them, but my greater job is to cultivate in them a heart that is teachable and responsive to instruction, a heart that desires to please God. And this is a supernatural task. I can’t do it on my own power. By inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to them when they put up a resistance, I am acknowledging my own limitations and dependence on him to work in their hearts. If I were to push them to learn I can imagine that it would only make me angry in a counterproductive way (to say the least).

The more kids I have and the more of them I have to homeschool, the more I realize that only the Lord can convict them of sin and only he can bring about lasting change in them. My part is to remain committed to help them grow spiritually — more in love with God and more like Christ — and to be Christ-like myself (which is often the harder challenge!).

Proverbs 13:1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.

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10-Year Parenting Anniversary

Parenting has hit a 10-year anniversary for Edric and I, with our eldest, Elijah, turning 10 today. We are still in the trenches of parenting without the horizon of our children’s adulthood yet in sight. But, Elijah often pushes the boundaries of the parenting frontier for us as the eldest. He brings on new challenges, new doubts, and he surprises us with his ever-maturing perspective on life.

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Elijah, like all my other children, is an incredible gift to Edric and I. We have enjoyed his personality — his passion, intensity, zest, deep love for the Lord, and his insights. He is an intellectual child, a fast learner – a sponge, really. If he had a superpower it would be his capacity to read or listen to content and comprehend it right away. And with a voracious appetite for reading, he’s like an unstoppable force at times. I can’t keep up with the stock knowledge, facts, and information he has stored in that brain of his.

I remember asking him once, “Do you really learn anything from what I teach you or do you learn more from what you read?” He told me, “Honestly, I learn more from what I read but I still like to learn from you. But what I really like about you teaching me is that we can be together.” I felt both useless and special at the same time. As a homeschooling mom, that’s sort of a good thing. Independent learning in a child is a blessing when you have several kids to teach!

More than academic input, what he really needs from Edric and me is consistent discipleship. Like any child with intelligence (I think all children are gifted with unique abilities), he could become a Megamind without a moral compass. Therefore, he most definitely still needs guidance and mentoring.

Our parenting style with him has had to change over the years. The biblical goals remain the same, but we have to implore different strategies with Elijah. He has taken “training course 101”: obedience and respect. He knows what it means to obey and respect us, and, more often than not, he does. There may be occasions when he says things that can be rephrased in a more courteous way, but it doesn’t happen often. For the most part, he has internalized both character traits. The last time he received a spanking was years ago. He gets why it is important and necessary to obey and respect those in authority. Ultimately his obedience is to the Lord. So if he has a problem with that, he is accountable to him, too.

 

Elijah's first official photoshoot

Elijah’s first official photoshoot

Elijah as a 1 year old

Elijah as a 1 year old

Elijah today...checking on his stocks portfolio

Elijah today…checking on his stocks portfolio

At this stage in his young life he needs help with identifying character weaknesses and how to combat these with spiritual means. For example, when there is a mismatch between what his brain can imagine and what his motor skills are able to do, it leads to emotional chaos. He will groan, become self-deprecating, negative, and upset beyond reason. I used to try to lecture him and mouth out bible verses to convict him to change, but these did not help. This would, of course, aggravate me, which only made matters worse for our relationship. So I learned to turn him over to the Lord. When he would act up, I would ask him to quietly excuse himself and take a moment to pray and process his feelings.

Early last year, he finally recognized his heart issue as pride and admitted this to me. During a week of prayer and fasting held January 2013 for our church, he made a list of things to pray for and one of them was, “Be controlled by the Holy Spirit.”

When he starts to be angry with himself, he will voluntarily step out of a room and be alone for a while to pray. He will return about five to ten minutes later ready to resume the task that he was in the middle of. I asked him what he does when he isolates himself and he said, “I pray that God will help me not to be irritated, to remain focused.” This has been his most effective coping method yet.

As for me, I give him spiritual space to let the Lord speak to him. From past experience, I know that telling him what to do and saying things like, “You need to stop that and change your attitude,” works 1% of the time, if at all. I can still do this with the younger kids because they are in “training course 101” but Elijah is growing up. He needs to internalize certain spiritual truths on his own.

When he goes off and brings his frustrations before the Lord, he returns ready and able. I offer him a hug, an encouraging word, a back rub, and I pray for him instead. If he comes back smiling, all credit goes to the Lord’s work in his heart. After all, these instances are beyond my control. I can enforce consequences and get angry so that he will listen out of fear, but I’m looking for a different kind of fruit in him — a compelling desire to please God more than Edric or myself.

If there is anything that 10 years of parenting have taught me it is this: There is a spiritual tug of war for the hearts of our children. The reality of Satan’s attempts to turn them towards ungodliness and use their weaknesses to his advantage is so apparent. Even if my kids are homeschooled and seem to live in an environment where they are, for the most part, protected from negative peer, media, and worldly influences, the battle is most certainly within. Satan is a master infiltrator, intent on destroying every seed of faith that is planted in the hearts of our kids, and snuffing out the love they have for Christ.

I encounter this reality often, not only with Elijah, but with my other kids. Most of the time, they will do as they are told, but there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to deal with one of the following in at least one of my children – selfish attitudes, hardness of heart, manipulation, laziness, wrong thinking, etc.

There is no such thing as a cocoon or bubble that can really shelter my kids from evil or their own carnality. And I really don’t think that parenting or homeschooling needs to be about paranoid over-protectiveness. I don’t homeschool for those reasons, though an undeniable benefit is that our kids aren’t subject to the same sort of undesirable influences that most children who go to school are. (Not all schools, okay?)

Homeschooling lets me be present and available to better understand, help and disciple my kids for the purpose of spiritual fitness because I have more time with them. How can I do this if I am not around to identify what’s wrong in the first place? What if I can only see what’s happening on a surface level because my interactions with them are minimal and reduced to a few hours each day? How will I pass on the love for the Lord if I can’t model or encourage it often enough?

I already feel that the number of years that have been given to me for a season of parenting are too short. Celebrating Elijah’s tenth birthday was a reminder once again that I don’t have forever to prepare and equip my kids for the harder battles that they must face. His real battles are not completing a composition assignment that he doesn’t want to do, or getting annoyed because he can’t finish a 20-sided origami polyhedron with a single sheet of paper better than he thought he could. (Both of these have the potential to make him emotionally ballistic.) The greater battle is between his two natures.

On the one hand, he desires to please God, to love him, and be an obedient and loving son to Edric and I. He wants to do his best in everything that he does for God’s glory. But on the other hand, he knows that he can be an emotional yo-yo, ruled by his feelings, and unresponsive to correction and teaching when his heart is overcome by pride and irritation. I praise God that he is learning to yield to the Holy Spirit as his best weapon for the war within. But it has taken a good long while for him to come to this point of awareness.

There are no quick fixes to our children’s character and even our own. There is no fast-forward button that can be pressed for immediate transformation. God allows us all to go through a refining process where we become more aware of our helplessness apart from his grace so that we can live with power through it.

When homeschooling moms fret about uncompleted daily assignments, unfinished workbooks, unmet academic goals, I want to say, “Have you considered the possibility that you are focusing on a minor battle when there is a greater war at hand?” But, how can I say this without sounding like a crazy person?

The reality is, if the enemy can get us to be impatient, annoyed and stressed out by the little things he can make us…

a. act in ways that nullify the positive influence we want to have on our children

b. doubt our decision to homeschool because we begin to focus on our inadequacies or our child’s

c. pressure our children to learn when their hearts aren’t ready so that the joy of learning is taken away

d. seek to motivate them externally when what we really want is internal motivation

e. give the evil one victory because he has successfully channeled our efforts and energy away from discipleship.

The greater battle is not giving them the intellectual capacity to cope in the world. That is certainly part of our responsibility but it isn’t the most important thing. We need to prepare them for the spiritual war – the real world – where the foundations of their faith, their convictions and values will be tested and tried. Will they stand? Will they falter? Will they recover?

As Elijah moves towards young adulthood, his struggles will also grow. It has given me hope to witness his strategy for self-correction – learning to pray and surrender himself to the Lord. But that is not the guarantee I have for my fears. What allays my fears is knowing that God is a gracious, ever-present, and faithful father. He loves Elijah and all our children more perfectly than Edric or I ever could. If we can teach Elijah to keep walking with the Lord, if we can parent him in such a way that his heart is continually turned towards the Lord, if we can encourage him to keep studying God’s word and grow in wisdom, and if we do our part to model a love for the Lord contagiously and pass this on to him, then I believe that God will surely do the more difficult part of causing Elijah to become the man he wants him to be — spiritually fit and able to be a light and testimony for Him.

May these verses encourage you as they have me…

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers that we are only dust…But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! Psalm 103:13-14, 17-18