Motherhood

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!

Breaking Point: Part 3

This is the third and final post in a series I’ve written telling the story of my lowest point in motherhood and postpartum depression. If you missed the first two installments, you can find them here and here.

This is for all the mommas who are gasping for air. The ones who are pleading with God that their children will turn out okay despite their measly best efforts. I’m here to pick you up, shed some tears together, and instill some strength for tomorrow.


Part 3: Broken

On Thursday, I hated myself for letting my anger get the best of me. On Friday, I went to counseling and addressed my issue with anger. On Saturday, I failed again.

You know the strangest thing? I can’t actually remember what happened on Saturday. Thursday is so incredibly vivid in my mind. Every detail of that day can be relived moment by moment, but Saturday? It’s just a blur.

I had gone to bed the night before, completely assured that everything I had learned in counseling was going to right all of my parenting wrongs. “I’ve got this,” was my mantra.

But then Saturday happened. Maybe I didn’t sleep well. Maybe someone said something to someone else and I got frustrated about it. Maybe it seemed like no one could hear me no matter how loud I talked. I’m not sure what caused the initial spark, but my emotions were lit on fire and I reacted.

I don’t remember what I did exactly. I just know I got mad. And as a result, I felt like I was drowning in the deepest despair.

Even with all the tools I had gained in counseling, I was still a failure. A hopeless case. My heart was gutted, for surely, my children would be better off with someone else for a mother. Anyone but me.

My husband took the girls out of the house to give everyone some space. We would all meet up later at an event we were attending.

They left, and I curled up on my bed in a heap of sorrow. The term “ugly cry” doesn’t do it justice. I didn’t know how to move forward, how to get passed this. 

I’m not sure how long I stayed there, but I eventually got up and started moving. I took a shower and went through the basic motions of getting ready. The last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere with that weight of defeat hovering over me, but I decided it would be easier to go if only to avoid any questions of why I didn’t show up.

So, I went, and the day was kind of a fog. I wanted to be alone and cry, but it was good to be around people I loved. I didn’t say much, and I probably seemed a bit anti-social that day, but I managed to make it through.

And you know, after Saturday, things got better.

That feeling of ultimate failure? It was my low point AND my turning point. I didn’t give up, no matter how hard the enemy tried to convince me I should. Despite all the lies he threw at me, I kept doing what I knew was right.

I kept going to counseling. I wrote out my feelings. I claimed truth. I did some major spiritual warfare. I called out the depression for what it was. I became more intentional about doing things that would keep me healthy mentally and physically.

A year after that Saturday, I was a different person. Today, I can honestly say I have joy again. And my girls? 

My girls are the highlight of my life. If you’ve never met them, they really are quite lovely. My oldest got baptized last month. My youngest goes around singing praises to Jesus at the top of her lungs. They are still very young, but smart, loving, respectful, and kind children. God has a great plan for each of their lives.

They are this way, despite my measly best efforts. Everything they are, is because of Jesus working in them personally and through me so I can be the momma I could never be on my own.

Friend, if the enemy is trying to convince you that you are worthless, kick that lie to the curb. You are a precious child of God. Cling to His Truth and walk in His ways - you can trust Him. Take one small step at a time. Breathe in deep and then let it all out. You are not alone, and perhaps, you were made for such a time as this.

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.
— Psalm 34:17-19

Breaking Point: Part 2

This week, I’m sharing a a story over the course of three separate posts. This is the story of the darkest moment of my postpartum depression. I am praying these words help another momma in the midst of depression to find life. You are not alone. You have value. There is hope.

You can find part one here.


Part 2: Tackling Anger

At this point, I had been in counseling for 3-4 months. I went, because my normally joyful self seemed to be void of all joy. I was tense, irritable, and just plain annoying to be around. Something was off and I needed help figuring it all out.

I came in that morning knowing what I needed to talk about: anger. I had been struggling with anger and lashing out toward my children and my husband, so the experience of the previous day seemed like the perfect opportunity to analyze what was going on.

The appointment began with a retelling of the story, and then my counselor had me identify some things I did right:

  • I recognized I had needs.

  • I made my daughter do things she didn’t want to; knowing self-care would make me a better mommy.

  • At the highest point of escalation, I separated my screaming daughter so I could tend to the pressing needs of my other daughter.

It wasn’t enough to earn a gold star for parenting, but it was enough to help me realize that I was doing something right. I am a good mommy who loves her children.

Then we began discussing strategies, because yes, there were some things I did wrong.

We talked about the ongoing tension of the day that eventually resulted in an outburst of feelings that exploded onto my children. If I could recognize the triggers earlier, I could take action to calm my body before the explosion.

I’ve continued to process this concept over time, and have come up with a list of personal anger triggers:

  • whining

  • feeling crowded

  • blatant disobedience

  • lack of sleep

  • time restraints

  • interruptions

  • loud noises

  • arguments

  • feeling unheard

  • added stress

Being aware of these triggers allows me to take a proactive stance on my anger so that I can live in peace. In addition, I have a few tools that can help keep my body calm on a regular basis, and/or in the moment my anger is rising:

  • worship music

  • hugging the dog

  • deep breathing

  • writing out my feelings

  • prayer

  • regular exercise

  • waking up before my kids

  • focusing on gratitude

  • meditating on Scripture

  • alone time

  • conversation with a trusted individual

  • actively loving others

Just last week, I recognized that I had missed some of my regular workouts, and I could tell I was a little off emotionally. There are times I communicate to my children, “Hey, I missed my quiet time this morning, so I’m going to spend some time alone with Jesus while you girls play in your room.”

You know what’s also helpful? Reminding myself that there are certain strategies that are more likely to increase my frustrations than to create peace:

  • scrolling social media

  • keeping a negative attitude

  • isolating myself from others

  • becoming over confident and straying from the things that keep me healthy

  • drowning the noise instead of facing it head on

Anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Righteous anger can be used to accomplish great things for the Kingdom. In ministry, my husband often asks people, “what makes you mad when it isn’t done well?” This question can help us identify where are passions lie, so we can focus on making things better.

However, I must be careful that I do not let my anger dictate my actions. I can use my emotions as a guide and learn more about myself and the calling God has on my life. I cannot, and will not, live a life consumed by anger.

I left counseling that day feeling much better about myself as a person, and I was confident I was ready to handle the next incident.

I wish I could say my issues were immediately corrected, but these things take a lot of time and a lot of hard work. I would realize just how much hard work the very next day.


Come back tomorrow for part 3, and the conclusion of the story.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.
— Psalm 4:4