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)

 

 

 

Dealing With Meltdowns

When my kids have their once-in-a-while “meltdowns” during our homeschooling, I am faced with two options. The first is to be annoyed, which is a very real temptation that may involve a response like, “Get over it and do your work. I have no time for your drama.”

Obviously, this would be counterproductive as it is unfair to expect my children to turn their emotions on and off like a switch does to a light bulb. So I usually go for option two, which is to give my children space to feel the emotion that is overwhelming them, to process what they are feeling, and then to pray about it. After all, I have several children to teach so having one absent from our homeschool room actually makes my life easier! But the more important objective is giving my kids the opportunity to hear from the Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to them more effectively than I can, especially when the meltdown is at its peak. This type of response is more effectively applied with older children who have a relationship with Jesus Christ because they are Holy-Spirit-equipped to process their circumstances.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Elijah, pushed his IPad away while muttering, “I can’t do this! I got everything wrong! I don’t like math anymore!”

“Are you okay?” I asked calmly, attempting to diffuse his frustration.

“No, I am not and you can’t help me. Nobody can help me.” (He tends to use superlatives in his sentences when he is emotionally charged.)

It wasn’t the most respectful thing to say to me, but I knew where he was coming from as a perfectionist. So I requested that he take a break from his Khan Academy work and go to his room. He got up, huffing and puffing about what a failure he was and threw himself on to the bed to cry.

When Elijah makes mistakes, his morale plummets due to the high standard he expects of himself. Even if I tell him, mistakes can be positive when we learn from them and it’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are part of growing, that’s not what he wants to hear. More often than not, the best recourse is to back off and give him space to cool down.

After thirty minutes, I lay beside him on the bed and gave him a big hug and kiss. “I love you.” I assured him. And then I listened to his ranting about how upset he was and how he didn’t want to try because he couldn’t do his math well.

When he quieted down I asked him if his mistakes were due to an understanding issue or just carelessness. He admitted that it was the latter. I suspected it was probably so because he prefers to solve math problems mentally, without writing down the solutions.

Since it wasn’t a matter of understanding the formulas involved, I didn’t think it was a big problem. He just needed to slow down and take time to review how he arrived at the answers he did. Furthermore, I asked him if I could sit beside him and do the problems with him.

He really perked up with this suggestion! The idea of sitting side by side to tackle the work gave him renewed incentive to try again. (He is a time person.) So that’s what we did, as a team.

With each problem, we raced to see who would get the answer first. When I needed to review my math formulas I asked him to help me, which he enjoyed doing. In fact his mood changed completely. He was enthusiastic as he demonstrated how to solve the problems and as we compared our answers. I let him take the lead and he gladly did so, assuming the role of instructor as I played the part of student. In the process he answered every problem correctly. What began as a meltdown turned into a fun bonding and learning experience.

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When we finished, Elijah turned to me and said, “Thank you, mom. Thank you for listening and not lecturing me. And I really like it when you are with me.”

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19‬ NASB)

One of the sweet privileges of homeschooling is being able to ask my kids to take a pause from their “school” work in order to assess and pray about their emotions and attitudes. This gives the Holy Spirit room to convict them and minister to them. It also allows me to think through how I should respond so I avoid the default reaction of irritation when my kids say, “I don’t want to do my work, mom.” After the beneficial pause, which lasts between five to thirty minutes, I can come along side my children to walk them through the challenge of a difficult assignment.

This wouldn’t be realistic in the conventional school model, so I praise God my kids aren’t in a classroom. We aren’t rushed to finish course work during the day when it’s more necessary to stop and address a heart condition or encourage the love for learning. I also get to know my children better — what enlivens them, what demotivates them, what they need to improve on. Best of all, I see the grace of God at work as he helps them deal with their struggles and come out of them positively. God works in my own life, too, teaching me what to say and what to AVOID saying (which is my number one area of improvement in life…keeping quiet and being gentle!)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭32‬ NASB)

I once read that parenting needs to be about long term goals rather than short-sighted ones. Short-sightedness is stressing out when my children aren’t eager to do their homeschooling work or when they don’t seem to get the material as expediently as I hope they will. I can fall into this mode of parenting which turns me into a tyrannical teacher, one who is pressured to MAKE my kids succeed academically. Or, I can set my sights on the long term goal of parenting.

My long term goal is to raise my children to love God with all that they are and to develop their gifts and abilities for his glory, so they can effectively declare the gospel. When that is my fixed mark, the kids and I can set aside the homeschooling task at hand because there is a more redemptive cause at stake — recalibrating my children’s hearts to adapt Christ-centered perspectives and attitudes. I want their minds primed for instruction rather than forced to receive it. I also want them to know that my love and acceptance will cushion their failures.

When these elements are present as we homeschool, the joy of purposeful learning and teaching returns and the atmosphere is one of peace and calm. But everyday births a new challenge or resurrects an old one so it’s only by God’s grace that we survive each year of homeschooling to pursue another one!

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When Little Pebbles Rob Your Peace

From website problems, to issues with my gadgets that have made me feel stupid and old, to losing 397 notes (many of which were articles) on my iPad and iPhone for unknown reasons, to yayas leaving at the wrong time, to people asking for money, to someone throwing up on our newly upholstered couch, to pregnancy hormones…let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling too perky yesterday. I didn’t brush my hair; the kids ran around in their pajamas while homeschooling; and we didn’t finish all our homeschooling because I fell asleep towards the end of the morning.

The thing is I had a great quiet time with the Lord reading 2 Peter through 1 John. But as the day progressed, I felt like a juggler of multiple sources of stress — most of them insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but all of them annoying. Let me enumerate…

Pebble # 1: I opened up my notes app and discovered that 397 of them vanished before my eyes. The page refreshed and then they were gone. Could it have been one of my kids who tinkered with my iPad? I don’t know. It didn’t really matter anyway because the greater problem was that I didn’t back anything up. My brother, the techy wizard of our family, couldn’t even figure out what happened which was very telling. I knew that God must have allowed it for a reason but I had all kinds of important documents on there…testimonies, unpublished blog entries, reflections, passwords, to do lists. It was like having my brain deleted. The same thing happened on my iPhone. I sat in the worship service at church on Sunday trying to take in what the pastor was sharing but my brain went cloudy. And I felt no emotion. Zero. I couldn’t believe my notes disappeared!

Pebble # 2: I updated my gadgets to iOS 6.0 thinking that maybe that would fix my notes problem, but it seems to be laden with issues I don’t understand. My iTunes store didn’t work. The wordpress app I use erased my blog pages (I was able to solve this). Comments of my readers could no longer be read on either of my devices. My gmail wasn’t receiving mail. (It still isn’t.)

Tech problems are especially perplexing and troubling to me because I am not very computer literate. I know how to write entries and post them, and all the simple tricks that come with publishing an article. But that’s about it. When it comes to managing the actual blog, upgrading the way it looks, etc…I find that I may have been born too early to catch the wave of computer literacy that characterizes so many of the younger people today. Elijah often knows more about the computer than I do because his learning curve for it is so much higher. When I encounter glitches, my default response is to feel a sense of helplessness.

Pebble # 3: Just a few days ago, my niece vomited on our newly upholstered couch. I would have preferred that her chocolate brownies, french fries, half eaten cheesburger, and macaroni and cheese had missed the fabric of our couch. But, it was a total accident. There was no one to blame. My sister in law felt badly about it but I told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t her fault after all. Stuff like this happens. My son, Edan, vomited on another family member’s newly purchased couch a couple years ago. And his vomit was full of green seaweed. I think that was worse.

Pebble # 4: I had two yayas that got pregnant last year, both of whom I considered close friends and whom I discipled…life-on-life style. We would chat often about having a relationship with God and what it means to make choices that honor him. Apparently life-on-life wasn’t enough. One of them lied to me about having children and being in a previous marriage even though she had worked for me for 6 years. She ended up running away with a driver who was being referred to us and whom she got pregnant with. And the second one also got pregnant a few months later and had to leave to go to the province and get married. At the time, I let both of these women go their way without feeling bitter or angry. Most of what I felt was hurt and disappointment. I really cared about them. It was a tearful goodbye for both sides when they had to go, but I dealt with it and moved on.

It wasn’t until the old wound was resurrected recently that I remembered the hurt. The one who lied to me asked for a referral for a new job. I wrestled with this request for 24 hours before responding. My thought process was, How can you be asking me?! You betrayed me! And you never said sorry or confessed to your wrong. Nevertheless, I did give a fair assessment of her work because she was a good worker but I told the woman hiring her that she ought to do a background check on her personal life.

The other one asked for quite a bit of money for her newborn baby who was in the ICU. My first instinct was to say, “That’s what you get for not listening to my advice about guarding your purity like I told you to.” It was a heartless, graceless thing to think but I was very much disturbed by the situation. Edric and I became her only resort for financial support because her husband couldn’t afford to give anything. I was so upset. You made your choice and now we have to bear the consequences of your foolishness? That’s seriously what I was thinking and it was mean.

Edric was much more spirit-filled about it. He said, “If we have something to give, we will give. God has been good to us.” And we have been giving. The last time she asked for money was a few days ago. Unfortunately, her baby is still in the ICU. (I also verified earlier on with the doctors in the province to find out what was happening.) Well, I have not only been disturbed by the situation but by the guilt I feel for giving begrudgingly. But most of all, I have been convicted about being more compassionate. What if I were in her place and had a first born who was so sick? Wouldn’t I want someone to be gracious to me?

Oh wait, I have definitely been a beneficiary of grace…God’s grace! God reminded me, I died for your sins and showed you mercy and grace you did not deserve, go and do the same. I was sharing with Elijah my struggle and asking him what he thought (like he was my shrink), and he very maturely said, “Well you need to love her like God loves you, and you need to be merciful like we learned in our bible study.” Who was this person counseling me?! Was this my 9 year old son?! He sounded like an old man. Well, he was right and I had to confess my attitude to the Lord.

Pebble # 5: We are now down to 2 yayas at present and one of them told us that she needs to go back home to take care of her mom. Her mom had a stroke a while back and she needs someone to care for her. She was crying when she informed us because she wants to keep working. Of course Edric and I understand that she needs to honor her mom who is also a widow. But, boy, the timing. So far, we have had no positive prospects to hire. And I don’t want to have to think about this right now. I even told Edric, “I don’t want anymore help. That’s it.” If I cannot rely on house help, I am going to do everything myself even if I am pregnant! I’m tired of the cycle of having to look for someone new, training them, letting my kids grow attached to them, and then they have to say goodbye when I’ve developed a friendship with them.

All these little pebbles shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I let them get to me. My spirit began to be critical and I began to dwell on other minuscule issues — we ran out of eggs again (we are always running out of eggs. There is an egg monster in the house), there was a cockroach in my closet (I hate them), my back was killing me, I had a headache, etc. etc.

The irony is I just counseled a family last week who was going through a crisis. And I told them to trust God and be spirit filled, to respond to the situation in ways that will glorify God. “Don’t let people steal your joy and peace,” I shared. Was I applying this? No! I was letting all sorts of things steal my peace.

What did yesterday’s little pebbles teach me?

1. Stay connected with the Lord. I referred back to my morning quiet time where I read the following:

For pebbles 1,2,3 – Tech issues and Couch Vomit. “Do not love the world nor the thing in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…for the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15,16)

For pebble 4 – Lack of compassion towards those in need. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:17-18)

Acknowledging my own depravity and wrong thinking, then being reconciled to the Lord – “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8,9)

Moving forward – “But according to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless, and blameless…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:13,14,18)

2. Get outdoors and exercise. When I spend too much time cooped up in the house, it is depressing. But I take a step outside, go for a run, and get some sunlight on my skin and I am physically energized. Edric and I went for a 5 k run when he got home. I felt like I needed to pee 75% of the run (pregnancy bladder), but it was great to be outdoors.

3. Have conversations with God. One of the things I really enjoy about running is being able to pray for extended periods of time. I use these occasions to be very honest and open with the Lord about my feelings and struggles, and I focus on who he is, what he has done for me, his incredible love and power, and my soul is restored. As I prayed, God helped me with perspective. Why are you acting like you have such a small god? Why are you troubled by circumstances and happenings that are really not that big a deal? Other people you know have loved ones who are very sick or dying! What are a few inconveniences here and there to keep you humble, dependent on me, and to help you grow in character?

4. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling down, but don’t stay down. Emotions are God-given. God designed us to feel joy and pain and everything in between. The key is not to allow emotions to dictate our responses to circumstances.

Whenever I feel down, it is a red flag. I know I can’t stay that way. I have to process what’s going on inside, what’s happening on a spiritual level. Daily stresses are a part of life, but I don’t have to remain stressed. It’s a choice to be joyful, whether the pregnancy hormones rage or not.

5. Practice the attitude of gratitude and look to be a blessing. My mom had a beautiful friend who endured a bout with cancer and she is one of the most positive women I have ever met. In the hospital, she was sharing the gospel with all the nurses, doctors and patients. She has laughed at her distresses often and always trusts in the Lord’s goodness. Proverbs 31:25 describes her well, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Whenever she has obstacles or challenges in her life, her first response is to say, “hello, friend.” In other words, she sees these occasions as God-ordained and orchestrated for her good and spiritual growth. I need to be more like this!

I need to say, Hello, my pebble friends.

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As the day ended I thought about all the blessings I can be grateful for. Top of mind were definitely Edric and the kids.

In fact, my kids started massaging my head spontaneously when I told them I had a headache.

I said, “Wow, you guys are so good at this!” This wasn’t hallow praise. It really felt good.

Edan remarked, “I have many talents, mom!”

“You are very talented, hon.”

“By God’s grace,” was his response.

And he continued to say, “I want to take care of you, mom. You are pregnant.”

Elijah said the same thing. This made me smile. Even Tiana started massaging my head. What a treat! Titus was preoccupied but that was okay. I had three sets of hands all over my head and face. It was their thoughtfulness that meant a lot.

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From slightly annoying to all out devastating, from pebbles, rocks, boulders, to mountains — small and big problems that get hurled at us…and sometimes without any breaks in between — we are familiar with the bruising and the degrees of wounding they bring. But let us be encouraged by this…

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:6-10, 16-18 NLT)

That’s Grace!


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There are some days when I wonder how I am going to get through homeschooling my children. Titus and Tiana woke up with a bad cough (a cough that has lingered for several days). Titus threw up phlegm. My two older boys rolled out of bed in slow motion and walked about in slow motion.

I was waiting for them to finish their breakfast so we could get the day started, but they were all lingering around in their pajamas. I knew I would have to play the role of motivating mom. Honestly, I don’t like having to do this. It’s tiring.

I love it when they wake up, perky and alive, excited to learn. Well, the reality is, homeschooling goes through its ups and downs. Children get sick, moms get sick (and pregnant!), attitudes get in the way, spiritual issues have to be dealt with, and the kids need constant training, instruction, and discipline. In fact, homeschooling often feels like it is a character education not just for my kids, but for me. The obstacles and hurdles make me dig down deep and remember that I’m doing this in faith, not always knowing what’s going to happen next but confident that my equipper and sustainer is the Lord.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3 NASB)

Endurance does bear fruit, and I hope in the fruit of all this labor – the days when the eyes of my children twinkle because they have overcome a task they thought they couldn’t do, when they progress through their material like bullet trains, when they make new discoveries and bubble over with creative inspiration, when they have insights about their relationship with God, or when they tell me, “I really like being with you, mom. Thanks for teaching me.” These moments do come and when they do, I’m re-charged and ready to go again.

I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that homeschooling is my cross to bear in this season of my life. It’s not the load that I mind so much as the self-denial it requires. Jesus says, “Pick up your cross daily, deny yourself and follow me.” It takes a whole lot of self-denial to homeschool. I have to deny the temptation to control my kids or to compare them with one another and with others. I have to deny my pride and tendency to take credit for their successes. I have to deny the doubts that plague me when I feel like, “Oh gosh, are they learning anything?” I have to deny my own comfort and liberties when I would rather do something else besides sit through a morning of teaching my children. I have to deny opportunities to serve myself and pursue my wants because homeschooling is the all-consuming lifestage that I am in, and I really don’t have time to do much else. I have to deny my own laziness when I want to lie down in bed and sleep because this pregnancy is tiring me out!

Just recently, I was having a conversation with playgroup moms about homeschooling. At one point, we were all talking about the difficulties we have to deal with. They said something like, “You are blessed because your children are smart. It’s easy to teach them.” This comment hit me on two levels — carnal and spiritual. Let me talk about the carnal first. I was a little bit hurt. It’s the same way I feel when people think my pregnancy is “easy” because I am not puking all the time. Sure, Joy is pregnant, but it’s nothing for her. It’s her fifth child. No biggie, she’s been there and done that before. She just pops them out. Well, I may not puke and my kids may not appear to be “struggling” learners, but homeschooling in our house is not always a postcard.

Good gracious! My kids have days when they act plain dumb. I mean, just this morning, Titus looked at the word “PET” and couldn’t read it. Really?! After finishing the entire Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten level so that he was proficiently reading four to five letter words and a bunch of sight words, and then he looks at me and says, “I don’t know that word?!” Was this a cruel joke? Did his cough give him a foggy brain? Did too much of the IPad over the weekend slow down his capacity to think?

My response was, “Okay, hon, we won’t homeschool today. You are not well and you should rest. But this also means that you won’t do Reading Eggs on the computer either. Your brain needs to take a break.” (Reading Eggs is a great phonics program which he was only entitled to access after he learned to read.) I meant well but he busted out into tears and then vomited out his phlegm because he kept crying. Lovely morning, eh? (You can refer to paragraph 1 about the vomit). I explained to him afterwards that I really wanted him to take it easy and get well. He was fine and spent some time playing with insect stickers instead.

Let me go on…Friday morning, Edan said, “I don’t want to do any work today.”

“Oh really? And what would you like to do?” I wanted to explore this.

“Nothing.”

Very calmly I replied, “Okay, you can do nothing. That’s fine with me. But this means you will stay home and do nothing while your brothers and sister go to playgroup and you will also do nothing when they watch a movie with their cousins tonight and have lots of fun. You can sit here and do nothing.”

“I will do my work,” was his quick conclusion. And he did. Whew.

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So, just to be clear, my kids are very normal.

On a spiritual level, the comment my playgroup friends made about my kids being EASY to teach humbled me. After all, Who am I? Who am I to have the circumstances that I do, the resources available to me, the husband, and the children that bring me so much joy? Yes, I think my kids are special, not because they are genetically superior but because they are God’s gifts to me. I don’t deserve them or any of his blessings. It is grace. God’s grace. If anyone should look upon my children and affirm their abilities or talents, the credit does not go to me, Edric, our kids, or even to homeschooling. Everything is by God’s grace alone.

The homeschooling experience doesn’t always come in a pretty package. Open this and your parenting will be successful! Open this and you will have brilliant children! If anyone feeds you advertisement like that about homeschooling, turn around and run away! It’s not true. Days like this are a very healthy reminder that homeschooling is an invitation to experience God’s grace more than it is an antidote to family and children issues.

The longer I homeschool, the more cognisant I am that it is not a cure-all solution. When it is esteemed as such, well that’s what you call idolatry. Much of the worrying and fretting, the panicking and impatience enters into my homeschooling when I want to manage all the outcomes and dictate the pace of my children’s learning or their maturity. On some days, God allows this to happen, but most of the time he shows me that I control nothing but my own responses and reactions to what he is doing in my life and the lives of my kids. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals, prepare lessons, or have a schedule for my kids. I believe in doing my part. But the results are always a testament, not to my ability to teach or train my children or the magic of the homeschooling experience, but to the grace of God.

Grace comes with contentment — contentment in my weaknesses. It was wonderfully coincidental that the first lesson the boys and I had together this morning was on the character of CONTENTMENT. I’m using a book by Ruth Younts called, Get Wisdom. She defines contentment as being satisfied because God is working everything together for my good and for his glory. The verse she gave as a reference was Philippians 4:11, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

This is exactly what I needed to deal with this morning’s slow start and my grumpy, sickly, not-all-there children. Contentment is accepting my children’s progress, the challenges, their not-so-shining moments, the waiting and hoping in the meantime, their uniqueness and limitations (as well as my own), and being able to truthfully say, “Lord, I thank you for causing all things to work together for the good of my children and myself that you might get the glory.” Only then comes the beautiful satisfaction in his grace. Only then does it look EASY.

Amazingly, we finished homeschooling by 11:30 am today with my children smiling at the end. How that happened is a wonder. But like I said, that’s grace!