Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kelli-Time and Thoughts on Parenting a Toddler

Well, I was waiting to post about our trip to see Kelli earlier in the week until I got some pictures from her of the kids. So when I get those, I'll post them. For now, I'll just write about how GREAT and FUN of a time we had there! Kelli is such a refreshing friend to be around. She makes you laugh one minute and really makes you think the next. I always feel challenged in one or more areas whenever I spend time with her. I love her modern-day Proverbs 31-ness. For instance, her neighbor across the street - a young wife who has a new baby - dropped by that evening. I got the feeling immediately that this was someone Kelli had really been investing in. The girl stayed, talking to Kelli for a while, and her husband came over for a little bit too. After they left, Kelli told me that they were not Christians, but that she and Brian had been talking to them and investing, and that they had gone to church with them the previous Sunday. The husband doesn't know if he'll be back, but the wife wants to go. So Kelli is going to be taking her to church and women's things at church and connecting the girl to some of Kelli's godly friends who will also reach out to her. I loved seeing how this girl felt so drawn to Kelli and was comfortable being in her home and opening up to her about life. It reminded me that when we're open to ministry opportunities through our everyday lives, God sends them! And this is just one of the ways Kelli is SO Proverbs 31ish, and I love it. It ministered to me just watching their interactions that night, and I want to live that way - always open to relationships (that may even be unpleasant and hard) just to show them more of Christ. The whole night, I felt God telling me to invest, invest, invest in the lives of people around me who need Him. It takes time. It takes being pushed out of my comfort zone. It takes a whole new kind of vision to see these people and their needs. But oh I believe it is worth it to participate with God in what He wants to do in the lives of people around me.

Now, I know Kelli would hate for me to be saying all this stuff about how great of a woman she is, but we all know it's the Lord working in her life and not anything she's doing on her own. So, I will continue. Whether she likes it or not. =) Just spending a few days with her has totally rejuvenated me in the area of motherhood. I think she is an amazing mommy, and she is unbelievably wise in how she parents, teaches, and disciplines her daughter. I was soaking it all up! Carter is such a well-trained child. I noticed that immediately upon spending time with them. And it really energized me to be doing the time and putting the work into training my son right now and not later. Tuesday night, Kelli and I loaded up the kids and went to dinner at Chili's, and while Kelli would tell you it was the most entertaining night of her life, I would say it was humbling. Humiliating. Embarrassing. OUT OF CONTROL. Jonah put on a show of rebellion that made the previous week's Hobby Lobby incident look like nothing! It was horrible. That made two very bad running-away-not-listening-to-Mommy-in-public incidents within a week, and it was not ok with me.

So we came home from our trip and have been in full-on training mode in tons of areas. We're addressing issues of obedience, manners, appropriate responses to adults, mealtime name it, we're tackling it. It's repetitive. It's exhausting. And even though we're still in high-training season (which means discipline, hard work, not very fun), I'm already seeing glimpses into how the work is going to pay off! My child has been sweeter, more pleasant, and just all around more enjoyable the last few days. Here's the thing: Children need to know what their boundaries are and need to know exactly how Mom and Dad will respond to their behavior. It gives them a certain sense of security that then enables them to enjoy life more fully within their clearly-defined parameters. I realize not every child LOVES and THRIVES in boundaries (even though most firstborns and other want-to-please-and-get-approval-children typically do), but all children need them. I just haven't been as consistent with follow-through the last several months as I always thought I would be. So this has been a much-needed encouragement for me to get my act together as a mommy. I mean, it's my child's heart that is at stake. Even though, I admit, sometimes I live like it's my public image that's at stake. That's so not what's important. Whether or not I get made to look like a fool in front of others when my child misbehaves badly at a store or restaurant is NOT the issue. I have to remember that it's not. about. me.

So I've been running a tight ship around here this week! And it's making for a much more pleasant home life. And public appearances too! Jonah is learning respect and obedience. And he is still testing some days, and I know full well that he will test periodically all of his life really. But if we really work on these things now, when he's a young two year old, maybe in a year we'll be where Kelli and her daughter Carter are - where I can just make eye contact with Jonah and he'll stop his disobedient behavior at once because he already knows the drill and what's expected of him and what will happen if he doesn't comply.

But this brings me to the next thing I've been mulling over in my mind this week: How do I train my child with a focus on heart issues and not just rule-following? How do I make it so that he understands God's standard of right and wrong for his HEART and not that it's about pleasing his parents with his BEHAVIOR. Obviously, as it is with us, God cares about our hearts more than our actions, knowing that a right heart will always lead to right behavior anyway. I've known that was important for a long time, but only now are we really in the season of life (intense training) where those concepts of grace-based-parenting have to get really practical. So I'm on a journey to learn more of how to do that. So many conversations with friends lately have had to do with this very issue. By the way, I'm immensely grateful that God has put some friends in my path who are seeking to shepherd their children's hearts and that our conversations about parenting aren't all about how to make our children act right. Thank you, God, because I need the encouragement that comes from journeying with others through these challenging aspects of parenting!

Kate and I were talking about how important it is to use "biblical language" when correcting our children's behavior, because every issue is ultimately a heart one. We talked about things we can say that point to the root sin involved in whatever behavioral offense they made.....For instance, instead of saying, "You need to share that toy with your friend," we now say, "That friend is our guest, and we are his servant. Sharing is how we show him God's love." (I've totally copied that from Kelli as well!) When Jonah is not picking up his toys like I asked, as I am disciplining him, I don't just say, "Pick up your toys!!!", I say, "You need to obey Mommy and pick up your toys." Focusing more on the heart issue than the behavior is what's so important. Make sense? All of this, of course, goes along with and doesn't exclude a consistent response to the rebellious act with an appropriate, logical disciplinary consequence. Understanding their heart sins is what will eventually help my child to recognize his need for a Savior. I don't want him to "accept Christ" just because Mom and Dad say it's a good idea and he wants to please. I want him to understand from a very young age WHY he needs Christ in his life. I really believe that the way I train him now and correct him when he misbehaves can help prepare his mind to understand that need, without beating him down and overwhelming him with rules and regulations. I want him to fall in love with God because of His grace, and Jonah will only understand God's grace if he understands his own sin nature and spiritual neediness. And I think that all starts right now while he's a two-year-old testing his boundaries.

In September, there will be a Shepherding A Child's Heart class for families with young children, taught by two couples who have grown children and are very knowledgeable in these methods of parenting by grace. I am so excited. It's coming just when we need it. With all of these things happening, you can probably expect that I'll be posting a lot about parenting and all of these issues. It's on my mind a lot right now! God has a bunch of stuff to teach me, I just know.

One funny thing to leave you Jonah is starting to correct us on some things! A few nights ago, Joel was putting Jonah to bed, and Jonah asked his daddy to lay on the floor beside his crib. Joel said, "No, Jonah, I'm going to put you in your crib for night-night." Jonah immediately told Joel, "No say 'No,' Daddy. Say 'yes sir'."

Oh my.


Jeanine said...

What a great post! You are doing a great job and Jonah will be a blessed little boy to have such thorough training. I love Shepherding a Child's Heart. It has been a while since I've read it and reading your post makes me want to revisit it. It is so easy to let little things slide only to realize later that bigger things have crept in. Being diligent is tough, but "undoing" bad behavior patterns is tougher.

The Granniss Family said...

So Kelli makes a great mentor, eh? Glad you are good friends!
Jonah is entering the sassing stage? You laugh now... :)
Landon tries to correct me and then says immediately "Sorry for sassing you mom," when he realizes what he has done!

khowze said...

Hey...I am reading another book on heart oriented discipline, it's called "Don't make me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman. I am really enjoying the advice she has and the scripture based reasoning. I have been trying to use it with my girls...not sure how much actually sinks in with them, but I figure if I am consistent something has got to get through at some point, right??