Calm and Intentional Discipline

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In writing about discipline, I know every child, parent, and situation looks just a little bit different. I trust that as your child’s parent, you know what he or she needs most.

For instance, my oldest daughter needs affirmation. As a momma with high standards and perfectionist tendencies, I need to keep realistic expectations and praise her efforts rather than her results. A little discipline goes a long way with her desire to please.

My second daughter thrives on snuggles and physical touch. Gently teaching her hard lessons while snuggling or scratching her back goes much further than using a heavy hand. What she needs is a firm voice within safe arms.

What are your children’s needs?

To see what discipline looks like in our home, I thought I’d share a story from just a few days ago that deals with our most common issue: sibling conflict. Take what you want, leave what you don’t. I’d love to hear your own suggestions for this sort of scenario!

The Situation

The girls were half playing, half cleaning their room, when I heard a loud scream from the opposite end of the house. Usually, when I hear these screams I wait a moment to discern whether I should intervene. My girls, at ages 5 and 7, are getting to the point where they are able to handle some disagreements on their own. 

This particular scream, however, was accompanied by sounds of crying and additional screaming; a situation requiring my involvement.

My first move was to gather my own self before handling the conflict. I’ve noticed that if I rush in to save the day, I tend to let my own emotions run the show, which never helps! I am learning to take a deep breath and say a quick prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to take over. It often sounds something like, “Jesus, give me wisdom and patience. I need your guidance through this.”

I took another deep breath before entering the room to assess the situation. One girl was in a mess of tears because she had been hit on the head with a toy. The other girl was screaming in short spurts in an effort to distract me from identifying her as the culprit.

A helpful strategy in these sorts of scenarios between my children is to separate them. When they are together, they get loud and defensive. When I address them one at a time, each girl gets the opportunity to be heard before I speak truth in love.

I sat with the crying child on her bed and instructed the other to go wait in the living room for her turn. I began by asking questions. Our conversation looked something like this:

“What happened?”

Tears and sobs of explanation.

“Oh, I wouldn’t have liked that either. What could you have done differently?”

Emphatic declarations that absolutely nothing could be done differently.

“Would you like me to give you some suggestions, or would you like to come up with your own ideas?”

“You.”

I offered up a few choices. She could do as before and risk similar results, move her things to a different location, or choose a different game to play altogether. She was pretty set on risking the consequences, so I let her know she was free to make that decision.

I spent a generous amount of time with this daughter calmly asking questions and discussing solutions. We hugged a great deal, and then I told her it was time for me to go talk with her sister.

Sister unloaded her own woes upon me, and I took the same approach as I did before. I held her, discussed alternatives, and talked about what needed to change about her actions. “If you are at the point where you feel like hitting is necessary, you need to separate yourself from your sister. You could play by yourself, or you could come get mommy. I will not permit you to hit.”

The two sisters reunited. There were tears, quick apologies, and the next game was soon under way. In the end, both felt heard and loved. Both ended up making a wiser choice.

The Formula

For those of you who like a formula, here is the basic process I followed when I stepped into my children’s conflict. I:

  • Took a deep breath

  • Invited the Holy Spirit into the situation with a quick prayer

  • Separated my children

  • Spent time with each girl by:

    • Listening

    • Asking questions

    • Providing options

    • Speaking truth in love

    • Affirming through words and touch

  • Left them to take responsibilities for their choices

When I take this calm and patient approach of discussing options as I affirm, things tend to diffuse fairly rapidly. I am simply present to coach them through a situation. Even adults need someone to hear us out and encourage us to make the wise choice from time to time.

The Consequences

Okay, this story turned out with a pleasant ending where further consequences weren’t really necessary. But what about real life, Amanda?

Yes! These girls get consequences! The good news is that because we have remained consistent, the consequences are becoming less frequent over time. To give you an idea of what that looks like, here are a couple examples of how we use consequences:

  • When my youngest was a toddler, she did quite a bit of hitting. Her consequence was to spend about 2 minutes alone in her room. When I came back, she almost always immediately collapsed into my arms with sobs of regret, but there were times she would continue to hit, kick, or pull hair rather aggressively. In such situations I held her still while calmly stating, “We do not hit. We use our hands for gentle touches.” While our family is not opposed to appropriate spanking, I quickly learned that spanking merely exacerbated her hitting. For parents in this ridiculously hard stage, I can assure you that it does not last! Your job is to consistently model appropriate behavior and redirect poor behavior.

  • My oldest recently broke her glasses, so I required her to pay $10 toward a new pair. $10 is a lot of money for a 7 year old!

  • Sometimes a toy is the root of sibling conflict. When the girls are unable to come to a happy agreement on how to play with the toy, I set it aside for a day or two and then let them try again. Just yesterday, I mentioned this as an option and my youngest immediately relinquished the toy in question to her sister.

  • My girls are responsible for cleaning their room, but sometimes they choose not to do it when asked. My response? “No problem!” The state of the room isn’t a problem for me, but it will be a problem for them if they want to watch tv or head to the park. In such a case, they must finish their task first.

The Conclusion

Whatever the situation may be, my goal is to treat my children how God treats me. Full of mercy, love, grace, and truth. And when I blow it? I take responsibility for my own actions and we all ask for forgiveness together.

Later, when my girls make bigger mistakes, they will have found that I am a safe place. They will expect consequences, but they will never wonder whether or not they are loved. As parents, we need to be willing to step into the hard things and help guide our children to see the bigger picture.

What advice would you offer in this scenario? Where do you agree or disagree with this approach? 


*Most of my my parenting philosophies come from the book: Loving Our Kids on Purpose: Making a Heart-to-Heart Connection by Danny Silk. You can read more about his book here.

**Image by Alexa Stutts Photography.


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Practical Parenting: Loving Our Kids on Purpose

Listen, let’s get something straight. I’m not a perfect parent. 

My kids yell, whine, argue, disobey, pout, cry, lie, etc. I may or may not have been known to do more than one of those things on that list myself. My children are not perfect, and I do not expect them to be perfect. 

While we don’t claim perfection, I have found some resources and strategies that are helping shape my girls into competent, respectful, pleasant, and godly young ladies. A few of my readers have requested that I share a bit about what we do, so this is the first of many posts I plan to write about practical parenting.

Do I always get it right? No. Am I here to tell you what to do and how and when to do it? Absolutely not! My purpose in sharing my own struggles and successes is simply:

  1. To show that you and I are basically the same because we each have days that seem to fall somewhere between surviving and thriving.

  2. So you can remember your child’s temper tantrums are often evidence that you are doing something right.

  3. For you to find a few new ideas when you are flustered and fresh out of your own.

Ready for my first practical parenting advice?

It’s to get yourself this book and read it cover to cover:

*sidenote: I’m trying something new here. If you click that link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon affiliate, I won’t make millions, but I just might make enough to cover one or two website costs.

This book, by far, has been the number 1 influence in my parenting philosophies.

In fact, Loving Our Kids on Purpose has been so influential in the day-to-day operation of our home, that every time I sat down to write anything connected with parenting, I found myself referring to it. My most logical move was to feature it in a post all of its own.

In the future, as I write, I may accidentally steal some phrasing or principles written by Mr. Danny Silk. I assure you, this is completely unintentional. Should this happen, it is simply because these concepts are so ingrained in my everyday life, that I no longer know how to separate my personal decisions from those I have learned from Silk.

My girls are currently 5 & 7 years old. I first read the book when my oldest was still learning to talk, and then again a couple of years ago when my husband and I chose it for our small group curriculum one semester.

Whether you have an infant, toddler, preschooler, middle schooler, or high schooler, you will find invaluable wisdom, paired with real-life practical examples. I’m already planning to read it again as my children become older and I need to re-evaluate my strategies.

At first, my children were so young, most of the examples didn’t apply to our family. However, I was able to immediately adopt the idea of giving them the freedom to make safe choices, which is something that only gets easier with lots of practice.

Danny Silk explains things so simply, and in such a way that his readers can readily apply his principles, that I strongly urge you to read this book and try out what he teaches for yourself. 

Loving Our Kids on Purpose has helped our family in each of the following areas:

  • Enforcing bedtime

  • Making our girls responsible for their own behavior

  • Cleaning their bedroom

  • Flushing the toilet (why is this a thing we have to teach?!)

  • Responding to tantrums

  • Finding natural consequences

  • Giving appropriate choices

Go buy it, read it, and apply it. And please leave a comment to let me know which practical parenting topic I should tackle in my next post!


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Free Resources to Catapult Your Emerging Reader

I’m an over thinker of all the things, so it should have come as no surprise that I was overthinking my daughter’s reading abilities.

Two years ago, my oldest was entering kindergarten and I was fully confident that learning to read would be an absolute breeze for her. We had done so much to prepare! 

We had read books upon books, she knew all of her letters, all of her letter sounds, and had even practiced simple reading skills on an iPhone app. When the curriculum started with letter identification, I was mostly concerned that it wasn’t going to be a quick enough pace for her.

heh.

Kindergarten ended, and her reading level hardly budged. It was all I could do to get her to attempt to read simple words out loud without tears being involved. 

We homeschool, so my brain was going through all the things I must have done wrong. Was it the curriculum? Perhaps her amblyopia (a condition in which one eye is stronger than the other) was making it difficult to read? What reading strategies was I lacking? Would she be better off with a different teacher?

Momma, I’m writing this to you today to remind you of three truths:

  1. You have what it takes to do this mom thing well. You know your child better than anyone else. God gave you this child and He gave you to this child. Cling to Him whatever your current struggle might be.

  2. Different children learn at different paces. Your child’s current abilities do not dictate future success. Just keep meeting her where she is.

  3. Your local library is a treasure trove full of wonderful secrets that absolutely need to be taken advantage of.

I felt pretty defeated at the end of our Kindergarten year, so I knew something had to change. Yes, we needed to keep practicing the concept of reading, but more than practice, my daughter needed to fall in love with a story.

When we fall in love with a story, our desire to know what happens next drives our desire to keep reading. I needed to let my daughter’s interests fuel her reading.

I needed a library card.

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Yup, that’s embarrassing. A writer, a homeschool mom, without a library card? It’s like trying to drive a car without the key, or entering a theatre without a ticket. Your library card is a key that unlocks a world of reading potential.

So here is what I did: I swallowed my pride and headed down to my local library, found the librarian, and signed up for a library card. “Yes, I’ve lived in the area for 15ish years, and yes, I promise I don’t have an active card elsewhere.” Oh, the shame.

But let me just tell you, it was worth it!

This particular branch has a fantastic children’s section, so I was able to guide my children toward books that immediately sparked their curiosity. The row for young readers was filled with a variety of books for every reading level. I helped my daughter pick out a book that met her ability while engaging her imagination.

That summer, we read for fun. We curled up on the couch and took turns reading. One book by me, two pages by my daughter, until we made it through her first library book. Then another, and another.

In just a few short months, her confidence had grown immensely, and she was willing to try more things.

First grade was more of the same. Sometimes we had tears and it took all the coaxing in me to get my daughter to simply try a challenging word. She’s not one who loves failure, so we are working on that. But, we kept on at the library, and in the spring, her reading took a whole new level of flight.

Instead of reading a few pages at a time, she wanted to read a whole book in one sitting! Our curriculum would divide a book out to be read over the course of two weeks, and this girl begged to read the whole thing all at once. We had turned a corner, and every week we seemed to turn another.

I share this story, because I know there is someone else out there struggling with this reading thing. It’s a big hurdle, but give it some time. Focus on the love of the story rather than the success of correct pronunciation. Talk about the book together. Create your own story together. The accuracy part will catch on later.

I have fallen in love with the library again. In addition to a complete transformation in my daughter’s reading, we found these gifts at the library:

  • Story time. Great for preschool and early elementary. There are songs, crafts, books, and video books.

  • Movies. Sometimes I let the girls bring home a movie that we will enjoy at the end of the school day. We get to keep them for a week and they are free!

  • Summer programs. This summer we completed space-themed BINGO cards. We were encouraged to learn about space exploration and astronauts through books, movies, visiting a planetarium, and drawing pictures. At the end of the summer, both of my girls earned a free book!

  • Libby. Go download this app right now. Libby links to your library card and allows you to download books straight to your kindle. It also lets you listen to audio books! We absolutely love listening to audio books when driving around town. And it is FREE!

Speaking of free, here are 3 more wonderful free resources for the emerging reader:

  1. Khan Academy Kids. This is an engaging app geared toward preschoolers, with absolutely no ads to purchase anything. The Khan Academy brand has free resources available throughout your child’s school career, so keep them bookmarked!

  2. Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival. Sign up for her e-mail list to get a free list of book recommendations. I use this list just about every time I search for a new audio book on Libby!

  3. BOOK IT! I participated in this program as a kid, and I’ve signed my girls up for this fall. It’s available for homeschools or classrooms. Free pizza for meeting reading goals? Yes, please!


What great finds have you made at the library? What free resources would you recommend for a struggling reader?

My second daughter begins kindergarten this year, so here we go again!

Fixated

My girls love horses, so occasionally we will watch a clip from a horse race and pick our favorite. “The one with the pink!” the 5 year old declares. “I want the gray one to win!” exclaims the elder. We are very scientific in our choices.

Sidenote: another example of our stellar sporting picks is in NASCAR. My favorite driver is Kyle Busch because he drives the m&m car and he wins a lot. Every time he wins, I celebrate with a bag of m&m’s. All in support of racing of course.

The other day we were watching one of these horse races, and the girls noticed that some of the horses had a special contraption around their eyes. 

“Oh, those are blinders,” I told them. “You know how horses have such a wide range of vision?”

“Yes, I know that! Horses can see everywhere except behind them and right in front of them!” Thank you, Wild Kratts.

“Well,” I continued, “sometimes they use blinders to help the horses stay focused. The less they are distracted, the more likely they are to maintain a straight course, run fast, and win the race.”

Did you catch that?

When a horse’s eyes are fixed on what’s ahead, they are less likely to get spooked by something blowing in the wind or be distracted by a rival horse. Rather, they are more likely to be sure of themselves and accomplish their purpose.

This is true of people too. When we operate with the end goal in mind, we are much less likely to run off course or become caught up in what someone else is or isn’t doing. Keeping our eyes fixed on the intended outcome helps us ward off the distractions and accomplish our goals. 

We say “no” to the extra cookie (but not all cookies, because what a downer) when on track to get our lives healthy. We wake up early, write to-do lists, or read a book in order to grow our business or our own personal development. When we sense that the little changes now will make big changes down the road, we put on our blinders, eliminate distractions, and race ahead.

The same is true for our relationship with Jesus. When we are fixated on Him, not looking to the right or to the left, but firmly moving forward in the life He has called us to, we are unshakeable. Immovable. We won’t be distracted by the next fad blowing in the wind. We won’t be so concerned with comparing ourselves to others. We will simply move ahead, eyes on the prize, aiming to win the race.

…let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…
— Hebrews 12:1-2

King Solomon, known for his wisdom, advised his son to not be sidetracked, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” Proverbs 4:25

What happens when our eyes are fixed on what lies before us? On eternal, Kingdom things? Well, the Bible holds some promises.

We Have Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

We Maintain Eternal Perspective

“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 4:16-18

We Experience Transformation

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)

Sometimes it’s easy to let the worries of life weigh us down. But friend, don’t give up. Put your blinders on and chase after God’s plan for your life. Experience His peace, remember your eternal reward, and allow your Maker to continue His transformation of you as you live your life for His glory.

Be fixated on Jesus, and let all the rest melt away.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me - everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
— Phillipians 4:8-9

5 Ways to Fight the Quiet Time Rut

My quiet time has been a bit blah this summer. I’ve allowed social media and needs of my home to distract me. I’ve woken up in the morning and updated the status on my virtual game instead of opening my Bible and ingesting life. I’ve slept in. I’ve adopted an attitude that summer is a lazy season, so it’s okay for me to be lazy too.

Quiet time ruts are real and happen to everyone; even pastors’ wives! The key is recognizing a rut and knowing how to respond when you find yourself in one. Here are 5 ways we can fight those quiet time ruts!

1: Remember the Why

I don’t spend time with Jesus because it’s what I’m supposed to do as a pastor’s wife. I spend time with Jesus because of who Jesus is. God gave me life and He is the reason I live my life. He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. The number one way to live my best life is to have Him in my life. God’s Word is there to speak to us and there is wisdom far greater there than in any social media comment stream or internet article. Including this one. So, if you are reading this article instead of spending time in the Word, turn off your phone and open your Bible.

2: Remember the Difference

I’m a much nicer person when I’ve spent time with Jesus. He changes me. It’s the weirdest, most impossible thing, but I have more energy when I get up early to spend time with Him. I respond to my children and my husband with more grace and love when I recognize the grace and love that Jesus is pouring over my life. When my heart and mind are focused on greater things, the craziness of the world doesn’t pull me down. I am stronger, more confident, more productive, and more joyful, when I make space for Jesus at the beginning of my day. The time is never wasted; it’s the most important thing I do.

3: Make a Plan

What’s causing the noise in your life? For me, right now, it’s my stinkin’ phone. I need to keep it away from me in the mornings and just have it charging in another room. There is nothing so pressing that I have to check my messages as soon as my feet hit the floor. I also need to reconsider where I spend my quiet time. I often sit in a dark room to keep from waking up the house, but since the dark makes it hard to see what I’m reading, I may need a new space.

4: Get Some Accountability

You don’t need to have an official check-in every day, but there is wisdom in sharing your plan with someone else. Find a friend or mentor and let them know what you are trying to do. I love doing a Bible study with a small group because it helps me stay on track. Try downloading an app like YouVersion or She Reads Truth on your phone and choosing from one of the free plans available. Maybe just pick a book of the Bible to read and journal through. Whatever you plan to do, share it with someone and invite them to join you. We aren’t meant to do life alone.

5: Don’t Feel Guilty

If you feel guilty about missing your quiet time, that’s the enemy talking, not Jesus. We do not serve a slave driver, or a God who loves conditionally. He doesn’t demand that we spend time with Him, He wants us to spend time with Him. God sees what we cannot and He wants to share His heart with us. So, if your quiet time has been a bit blah lately, just start fresh today.

What’s your plan? What’s your next step? What are you reading? How is it changing your life?

Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the LORD.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.
— Psalm 119:1-2