Disciplining Children Revisited

 
This is a follow-up article to the one I wrote on disciplining my 1-year old daughter, Catalina, which resulted in some eyebrow raising because I talked about spanking. Let it be said that I’m not an advocate of spanking for EVERY wrong behavior that needs correcting. I believe there are different ways to apply healthy correction that produce right thinking and behavior in the hearts and minds of our children. However, I refuse to accept the notion that spanking is the same thing as physical abuse, as some have so quickly labeled it.

First of all, let’s make some clarifications about spanking. Spanking is…

…NOT whacking my child in anger, repeatedly, for every wrong action or behavior.

…NOT a random consequence dependent on how I feel about the situation.

…NOT to be administered before a child understands “NO” or exhibits defiance.

…NOT as effective after the age of 6.

…NOT as effective when a parent uses it as a threat to coerce behavior.

…NOT about using an instrument that will break the skin or bruise it.

…NOT the only way to discipline a child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if a parent doesn’t have a good, loving relationship with his or her child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if only one parent applies it and the other doesn’t.

…NOT to be used if the rule that was broken wasn’t clearly explained to the child.

 

 Research shows that…

  1. The most aggressive children tend to be those who are never spanked.
  2. Of the many parents who spank, a minuscule number actually wind up abusing their children. Sweden outlawed parenting spanking in 1979. A decade later, Bob Larzelere conducted a follow-up study in which he found that child abuse had increased significantly since the ban.
  3. Diana Baumrind (considered the foremost researcher in the area of parenting style outcomes) has found that parents who are philosophically opposed to spanking are more likely to overreact to their children’s misbehaviour than parents who have no such philosophical objection. (For example, some parents resort to yelling at their children in order to control their behavior.)
  4. The more often a child is spanked, the less effective the spanking becomes. (A parent needs to consider their overall approach to discipline.)

The above information is taken from John Rosemond’s book, Parenting by the Book (pg. 216 – 219.)

I’ve said this before but I will say it again for the sake of those who may misunderstand spanking. I can count the number of times I’ve spanked each of my children over the course of their early childhood years. In other words, Edric and I haven’t had to spank our children a lot. If a parent spanks very often they need to revisit their parenting in general. Furthermore, there may be other factors that are undermining their attempts to discipline and disciple their kids such as…

…unresolved conflicts within the marriage

…frequent and hurtful displays of anger in the home

…hypocrisy (telling their children to do one thing but modeling the opposite)

…an insubordinate spirit on display, where a wife doesn’t model submission to the authority of her husband

…different parenting styles and philosophies on raising children between husband and wife

…application of unhealthy parenting styles like child-centrism

…relatives or househelp who contradict parents’ rules

…allowing children to have regular exposure to people or media content that opposes the values and character traits that a parent is trying to instill

 

Here are some common issues that parents may have to deal with and suggestions on how to discipline for these:

Dealing with eating issues – A parent can remove snacks in between meals, take away child’s plate so they get hungry by the next meal, or disallow a fun activity that should’ve followed after meal. We’ve had to do this with Titus. Of all the kids, he isn’t allowed to eat anything in between meals because he takes a long time to finish his food and he gets distracted while eating.

Tantrums and fussiness – Speak to your child calmly and let them that you will not give in to their behavior until they stop. Example, “Mommy will not carry you until you stop.” Don’t give in or pick them up to encourage their behavior. When they stop crying or stop making a scene then you can take them and say, “Very good, you stopped, now mommy will carry you.”

We encourage our kids by reminding them of our rule, “No being fussy.” Even our little 20 month old daughter knows this rule. Unless she makes her requests with a smile and a “please,” we don’t give in to her fussing or tantrums. She can pout all she wants (which ends up being very short-lived because no one will pay attention to her doing so). Most of the time, she will change her whining to a sweet “please” and a smile. However, if she screams in disrespect and continues to do so even after being told to stop, Edric and I will spank for this.

Impatience – Teach children to wait before you give them an object or an item that they are clamoring for. Until they stop demanding for it, they don’t get it. I’ve also observed that limiting time on gadgets and playing games on the computer or IPad increases my children’s ability to wait. In contrast, the instant gratification they receive from gadgets and playing games conditions them to be impatient so less is better when it comes to gadges like IPads.

Not sharing/selfishness – Confiscate the toy that two or three children are fighting over if asking them to take turns is not working. When my kids are unable to share a toy, I say, “I have to take it away because you guys aren’t sharing. When you are ready to share, I will give it back to you.”

Fighting with siblings – I sit them down together and we review bible verses on loving one another and treating one another with kindness. Then I ask them, “Are you behaving in a way that pleases God?” and let them come to their own conclusions about their attitudes towards one another. I follow up with a question like, “How can you improve or act in a more loving way?”

When it’s a toddler who bullies or hits their older sibling or other children, I take them aside and talk with them, demonstrating what it means to be gentle. However, if the hitting will put another child in danger (like my 8 month old nephew over Christmas), Edric and I will spank if our child disobeys a command like, “Don’t hit your cousin.”

Interestingly, spanking doesn’t cause a child to be confused when they are disciplined properly (not in anger, not using the hand). The focus is on spanking for disobedience of the command. Occasionally, Catalina will whack her siblings when they pull a toy away from her, as an act of self-defense and frustration. These moments are becoming fewer and far between because she can now articulate herself better. At the same time, I let my older children know that grabbing from Catalina causes her to react in anger so they should ask her nicely before they borrow the toy she is playing with.

As for Catalina, I ask, “Do you want people to hit you?” She will actually reply with a “No” and apologize to her siblings. The point is to let her think about what it will be like to be on the receiving end of a slap on the shoulder from her own siblings. Even if she is just a one year old, she understands! I wouldn’t recommend this as a full-proof solution to children who hit others since it’s hard for them to reason this way at such a young age. But I also think even very young children should start learning the golden rule, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)

Teaching kids to get along doesn’t happen overnight and it involves giving them the opportunity to acknowledge their wrong and ask for forgiveness from one another when they hurt each other. We tell our kids to hug and express a sincere apology when they have conflicts. There’s something about requiring them to hug that softens their hearts and there’s something about making sure they say, “Will you forgive me?” that expresses the kind of humility that repairs their relationships. Sometimes, my kids are required to hug for at least 10 seconds so their hard faces turn into smiles!

Destroying objects or toys or losing them – When kids destroy their toys, don’t get them new ones to replace them. Let them realize that they need to practice good stewardship. If they were keen on breaking a toy, they can live with it broken or buy themselves a new one.

Children tend to lose objects and toys, too. One of our sons really liked a marble toy that he got for Christmas a few years back. It came with special, metal marbles. But he would misplace the marbles often. As a consequence, he wasn’t allowed to play with the toy until he found the marbles. Did he do his best to find them? Yes.

Messiness – It took a number of years for our kids to internalize the importance of cleaning up after their mess. But Edric and I refused to let them move on to the next toy or another room to mess up until they cleaned up the one they were first playing in. I don’t mind if they make a mess while they play for as long as they pick up afterwards. Afterall, mess is part of the fun (for as long as they aren’t doing something reckless like drawing on the walls or pulling the stuffing out of their pillows).

When they go to other people’s houses, they aren’t allowed to leave it without picking up the toys they played with. Even if we are in a hurry to leave, Edric and I will give them time to fix up. Some years ago, my sister-in-law temporarily banned them from using her kids’ playroom because they made a big mess and ruined some toys. I thought it was a great way to communicate to my kids that they need to be mindful of the way they play and deal with their mess in other people’s houses.

Being loud and obnoxious – If there’s one thing my children sometimes do that can drive me nuts it’s their boisterousness. For some reason, riding together in a vehicle gives them the prime opportunity to talk and laugh loudly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because they are thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. But tight spaces and public ones aren’t the best places for them to kick up the volume of their voices. It can be rude and assaulting to the senses.

To deal with this, I talk to them with a serious tone and explain why it’s not appropriate. Most of the time, they respond to this positively because they have learned to obey. If they don’t, I apply a consequence like withdrawal of a privilege. For younger kids, this can be tough. Catalina screamed like a banshee in her car seat for a good number of hours when our family drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was completely unpleasant! But, we had to keep her in that seat for safety reasons so we 1. Let her cry until she got tired. 2. Sat her beside an older sibling who could entertain her. 3. Distracted her with toys or the IPad.

Running off in public places – My kids know that they aren’t supposed to run off while we are in public spaces. With all their expendable energy waiting to be released, this can be really difficult for them. They love to run down mall aisles and hide behind clothing racks. So I let them know our rules for going out together (especially since I don’t bring househelp when it’s just the four older kids). Before we leave the vehicle, I will ask them to repeat what our rule for being in public is. “Stay close to mommy.” They know the risks of getting separated or taken by strangers. But I still remind them, “If you don’t stay near me, you won’t get to come with me the next time.” This usually works because they know I have every intention of implementing this consequence if they don’t follow the rule.

Lying – My personal conviction about a child who lies habitually is they may not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. John 8:44 says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

If a child already has a relationship with Jesus but is still young, they may not fully understand what lying is. So a parent needs to explain what truthfulness is and make their child feel like home is a safe place for honesty and confession.

Some children may lie because they are afraid that they will be scolded, lectured, shamed or punished if they admit to their mistake or fault. If this is the case then a parent needs to consider whether they encourage open communication in their home or make it challenging for their children to speak the truth. Do our children feel the liberty to share what’s really going on in their hearts?

Dr. Harold Sala, author of The Parent Map, outlines 10 guidelines for successful discipline (pg. 151 – 161). I will summarize them here, but if you have the opportunity to, grab a copy of his book at OMF Literature. It’s one of the most complete books I’ve read on parenting.

1. Establish clear limits of behavior. Dr. Haim Ginnot wrote that children “need a definition that tells them clearly what constitutes unacceptable conduct and what substitute will be accepted. The limits must be stated firmly so that it carries only one message, ‘This prohibition is for real. I mean business.'” Dr. Sala encourages us to expect our children to comply immediately. We shouldn’t be counting 1, 2, 3 and so on before they obey.

2. Enforce boundaries with consistent discipline. Spouses need to agree on the same rules and hold their children accountable for them without contradicting one another.

3. Discipline in private. I’ve made the mistake of correcting one of my sons in public one too many times. By public, I mean at the dinner table, in front of his siblings. He does much better when I take him aside and talk to him in private, one-on-one.

4. Establish responsibility for wrongdoing. Asking our children questions like “Why did you do what you did?” or “What did you do?” will allow them to identify their error, versus asking a question like, “Did you__________?” which warrants only a yes or no answer.

5. Show grief over the offense. Whenever our children disobey us, Edric and I express how it hurts us. We don’t go on and on about how sad we are. But we do let our kids know that it grieves us when they make choices that are displeasing to the Lord because that’s the real issue — we want them to make choices that please and honor God.

6. Discipline should be commensurate with the offense. Dr. Sala states that the “measure of discipline should be in relation to the severity of wrongdoing — neither too severe nor too light.” A mom told me that she put hot sauce in her four year old’s mouth for speaking unkindly to the househelp. She cried afterwards because she accidentally poured too much of it into his mouth and he was traumatized afterwards. On the one hand, he got the message loud and clear, but looking back, she realized it was a little severe.

7. Practice common-sense discipline with a purpose. A parent can use restrictions, time outs, writing assignments, and physical discipline. Restrictions would be things like reducing the amount of time on a gadget, or temporary suspension from a favorite activity. When Elijah was using his IPad to do a lot of research about apps, I gave him a time limit. He actually appreciate it because he wanted to know his “boundaries” when it came to IPad use. Time-outs work better for older children. I’ve asked my older sons to spend some time thinking about their wrong attitudes and praying about how they can change and they will come back to me with renewed spirits and an apology. Physical discipline, according to Sala, should be used only when a child is rebellious or defiant.

8. Allow a child to vent his emotions, then talk about what has happened and how to better handle the situation in the future. Edric and I have done this a number of times with our kids. We let them share their feelings or frustrations and then steer them gently in the direction of right thinking and right actions.

9. Once a matter has been dealt with, consider it forgiven. In other words, parents shouldn’t hold on to the offense of their child and use it against them in the future. We need to forgive as God has forgiven us.

10. Balance discipline with personal attention. I really like this point because children who are consistently problematic probably need a lot of attention from their parents. Dr. Sala writes, “Nothing is a greater gift to your child, nor will anything contribute more to his good behavior, than the gift of yourself.”

So, when is it appropriate to use spanking as a form of discipline?

This is where we have to carefully consider the nature of the offense and the context. Sometimes children make mistakes of the mind. They forget about a rule without intending to break it out of defiance. A mistake of the heart, on the other hand, is making a conscious choice to go against the will of a parent.

For example, one day, I called out to Catalina, asking her to come to me, and she purposefully walked away while looking back at me with a face that spelled, “I don’t have to listen to you, I can do what I want to.” I know that’s the look she was giving because I am with her everyday, therefore I am well acquainted with her personality, expressions, and tendencies. This moment was clearly a mistake of the heart and I couldn’t let her get away with disobeying and disrespecting me. It wasn’t about trying to control her for my own purposes. It was about teaching her to obey authority, for her future good.

Imagine what would happen if we were walking on the sidewalk of a street and she refused to stay beside me and hold my hand, choosing instead to run off? And what if a vehicle was headed her way and she didn’t know it, and she attempted to make her way on to the street itself. I would have to call out, “Catalina, wait for mommy!” or, “Catalina, stop!” or “Catalina, come here!” And if she chose to defy me as the vehicle zoomed past, she would most probably die! So, am I willing to inflict a measure of pain in the present to convey the importance of obedience? The answer is yes.

The point of this article is to say that spanking shouldn’t be quickly labeled as an abusive form of discipline, especially when it can save a child from future hurt and pain. Can it be abusive if done inappropriately? Yes (please refer to the clarifications stated at the beginning about what spanking is NOT). However, it can also be one of the best ways to teach life-saving obedience when a child is very young. Nevertheless, spanking isn’t the only form of discipline that a parent can and should implore to deal with the undesirable behaviors their child exhibits. There are a variety of disciplinary actions a parent can apply to train a child. Depending on the circumstance and the issue, a parent must be committed to the aim of discipline, which is to produce the fruit of righteousness in their child. 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 ofrighteousness. (Hebrews 12:11) Proper discipline will be about “heart modification” (a term author Tedd Tripp uses), and not just “behavior modification.”

Let me close with a quote from Dr. Harold Sala’s book, “Discipline is an integral part of love…God instructed parents, fathers in particular, to discipline their children in order to save them from heartbreak and anguish.” (The Parent Map, pg.143,145)

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So…to spank or not to spank? I’ll leave that up to you to pray about and decide. May the Lord give us the wisdom and the resolve to never give up and never surrender to the challenge of training our children! “Discipline your son, for there is hope, do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

 

 

 

Make Time to Teach Character

 

  

 It’s a challenge to hold Titus’ attention. I suppose this comes with being a more physical child whose hands are perpetually itching to do something. Thankfully, his capacity to sit through a lesson with me has significantly improved. There are days when he is highly distracted and I need to sit him right beside me in order to check on his progress. But he is old enough to recognize when it’s time to listen and focus on what is required of him. 

My job, as a mother, is not to merely fill his mind with content and information but to equip him with the tools to succeed. This is the same belief I hold for all my kids. Character trumps knowledge as a prerequisite to true success in life. So character instruction must be prioritized. 
There are occasions when this involves setting the books aside as we homeschool to teach a character trait instead. This detour in my schedule and plans feels unpleasant. However, when I am able to remove myself from the myopic view of pages-to-be-accomplished to the greater end goal of preparing my children’s hearts for adulthood, I am comforted by the thought that this is the better pursuit for the moment. 
Today, I gathered the kids around me while I read from their Bible curriculum. Very often, to check their comprehension, I will ask each of them questions about what I am reading. Titus couldn’t answer me the first time. So I told him very clearly that he needed to pay attention. He acknowledged. He is an obedient son so obedience wasn’t the issue. This was about focusing his mind on the lesson of the moment, which he is able to do. 
I read a couple more paragraphs then paused to ask another comprehension question. Titus was chatting with Tiana so he couldn’t respond. And he knew he was in trouble. 
“I want you to write ‘I will listen’ fifty times.” 
Titus isn’t too fond of writing as a six year old boy, so I knew this consequence would be remarkable enough to leave an imprint in his brain. He walked up the stairs in tears to get a piece of paper and a pencil. At first he was resistant but then I sat down with him to give him the opportunity to process why this was a consequence. He apologized and I embraced him, reminding him that I loved him, that this was part of loving him — teaching him character.
It took him an hour and a half just to write that sentence fifty times, but by the end of it, I was sure the message sank in. 
“What did you learn?” I asked Titus.
“I will listen,” was his humble response. 
Attentiveness is one of the most important traits a child needs in order to homeschool. If my children don’t know how to listen to my instruction, there’s no point in jumping to the content and forcing them to sit still. They need to manage their attention spans, no matter what kind of learner they are. 
I have all kinds of learners in my home — auditory, visual, kinesthetic, global, analytical, social, independent, etc. The first hurdle is obedience. The second is attentiveness. 
Writing down, “I will listen,” was the only homeschool lesson for Titus today. Regardless, I would still call it a good day because we spent time addressing a spiritual and emotional need, and this is why we homeschool in the first place! 


More Painful Than A Spanking

Since Elijah and Edan are way past the age when spanking is applicable or effective, namely between the ages of 1 and 6 years old, they are disciplined using withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences. Discipline and discipleship continues in our home, taking on different forms as our children grow up.

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For someone like Elijah who has access to an IPad (that he paid for), a painful consequence is getting it confiscated. I had to do this a few days ago because he exhibited a negative attitude about finishing his social studies work. Normally, he is a cheery person who pretty much educates himself. But that morning he was mumbling and grumbling about the writing work he was tasked to complete. After warning him that his attitude was not acceptable and he still kept at it, I informed him that he was banned from using his IPad. With the exeption of writing assignments and until he got his homeschool work done in Social Studies and Bible, he wasn’t allowed to use his IPad for entertainment purposes. He wasn’t happy about my disciplinary action and began to tear but he did say, “Thank you mom for motivating me to push myself. Since I can’t use my IPad, I want to finish my work so I can get it back.” Awww…By God’s grace, he is still such a sweet son!

As a mom, I know when my kids are burdened by their homeschool studies because the content is beyond their capacity and when they are acting up because they don’t want to put in the effort to get a task done. This situation with Elijah was about the latter. When his IPad was confiscated, he told me that getting this privilege withdrawed is more painful than a spanking!

On other occasions we let our kids reap what they sow. For example, one afternoon the kids left their basketball in our church building. I didn’t go back and get it even though I could have. In the meantime, they were short one ball for their class and they felt badly about it. A few days later, they had to ask the guard of the floor they lost it on, and coordinate with him about who saw it last. It took them three days before they recovered their ball. Moving forwrad, I’m pretty sure they will be more responsible about it since they were inconvenienced to retrieve it.

Edric and I are committed to disciplining and discipling our kids, weeding out heart attitudes and perspectives that stand in the way of their emotional and spiritual maturity. But it takes faithfulness and a lot of wisdom — wisdom to discern what works for a particular situation or problem. Therefore we pray to the Lord for his insight and discernment. Our knowledge is limited and our understanding of what’s going on in their hearts isn’t always accurate. So we need the Lord to instruct us. The wisdom to address our children’s character weaknesses comes from him.

I like the reminder that Galatians 6 gives…”Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” (Galatians 6:1-3 NASB)

Based on the text above, here are some guidelines for correcting our children:

“You who are spiritual…” If we desire to see spiritual fruit in our kids, we need to be spiritual ourselves! We need to walk intimately with Lord. Often times the best way to apply this is to pray when our children act and behave in ways that are frustrating and upsetting. Instead of reacting right away, we can pray for the words to speak and the wisdom to deal with the problem.

“Restore such a one…The goal is restoration — to restore our children to a rightful disposition before the Lord. When my kids aren’t motivated to homeschool; if they deal with one another unkindly; speak to me disrespectfully or resist submitting to my authority, I try to remember that this isn’t about forcing my children to do what I want them to. This is about recalibrating the compass of their hearts so it’s pointing in the direction of Christ. A helpful question to ask them is, “Do you think what you are doing is pleasing to the Lord?” Or, “I know you love the Lord and don’t want to continue acting this way.” The focus is on their spiritual condition and teaching them to please God.

“In a spirit of gentleness.” Correction must be done in a spirit of gentleness, never in anger or we will cause our children to stumble and push their hearts away from us (and the Lord). This is tough one! It’s challenging to be patient!  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Losing our temper and displaying our irritation with our kids is counterproductive. It doesn’t encourage them to change, it incites their anger and wounds them deeply. We can be gentle when we remember the previous two points – spiritual parents are spirit filled and their goal is to restore their children to a rightful disposition before the Lord.

“…Each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  We are just as susceptible to wrong choices and bad attitudes. To avoid falling into temptation ourselves, let us instruct our children with the perspective that, “I’m not perfect. I have areas I have to work on in my own life. I need to keep improving too.” Deuteronomy cautions parents by saying, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) Sometimes, we can be guilty of the same things we are trying to correct in our kids, so let’s be careful to mind our own walk before we talk. Let’s examine our own hearts for character weaknesses that we need to change.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” We have a spiritual responsibility to help our children grow in Christ-likeness. Our goal is to present them as adults who love and obey Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Do our children know that this is our goal? Do they know we are committed to helping them pursue this goal, that we are here for them when they fail and mess up…that we will bear their burdens with them?

“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” If we think we are better or spiritually superior to our kids, we are greatly mistaken. God has given us His grace. We need to dispense the same grace to our kids as we instruct, train, and discipline them.

Here’s a comforting promise for all of us parents if we are faithful to do so…“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)

 

 

Disciplining A Little Fireball With Love

 

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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!)