Monthly Archives: July 2011

Thoughts on Discipline

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“How Does Your Faith Influence Your Parenting?”

This is one of the questions I have been wrestling with from our adoption application.  Many many thoughts flood my head as I ponder this question.  In the big picture, I think it changes the core of my identity as a parent.  I am not just trying to raise moral contributors to society or happy people; I’m charged with raising Christ followers and surrendered bond servants to Christ.  That’s HUGE!  That has to affect everything about being a mom!  What does this mean to the nitty-gritty?  How does this trickle down into handling misdemeanor misbehavior and foolishness?

I don’t have any big answers, I’m sure!  I haven’t read any parenting books so I’m sure my thoughts aren’t even that novel.  So please just humor me 🙂  In my spirit I was stirred to ponder the first examples of God’s discipline in Genesis.  There were few particular things that stood out to me when looking at the stories of when God confronts Adam & Eve regarding their sins & when He approaches Cain regarding his sin.  You know the stories but just so they are handy, here they are again.

“Where are you?”  He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”  And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  God lays out the consequences for man, woman and snake.  They are sent out of the Garden.  God provides clothes for them and remains with them.

 

 

“Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”  He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.  Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”  Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear!  Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.   Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

In both examples, the Father approaches with a question- a couple of questions actually.  He gives his kids the opportunity to tell the truth.  He shows up and believes that the best is possible of his imperfect kids.  Right off the bat I’m challenged.  I wish that I could hear an audio recording of these moments.  What was the tone of voice our Heavenly Father used?  I can guess that it wasn’t condescending or teasing.  I wouldn’t imagine His tone was anger or disappointment.  Amazing to ponder.  I cannot even pretend to claim that I have succeeded in parenting in His image in this regard.  I have asked questions but I think most often my tone has at least one of these elements in it.  May I learn to be more like my Father!  May I be like Him- ask questions, give my kids the opportunity to do right, believe the best in them and use a respectful, patient, loving and gentle tone.  The kind of tone I imagine Adam, Eve and Cain were met with.

That’s where the similarities end!  Already!  God was consistent both times- its His kids who acted differently.  Adam told the truth.  He answered the Lord’s questions truthfully (yes He blame shifted, but that’s not the point here :).  Cain, however, did not.  Cain completely lied to the Lord, thus, I imagine, changing the way the Lord proceeded.   Adam and Eve were given their punishments and sent out of the Garden but God was still with them.   Cain was sent to be a wanderer and was sent out of the presence of the Lord!  It makes me question- and we will never know- but if Cain had been repentant and honest would the Lord’s punishment have been the same?  Just a thought I’ve been pondering.  I pray that the Lord would grant me His wisdom.  That I might discern the appropriate punishment for my child’s heart not just for their actions.

The final piece that I notice is what I alluded to above.  Adam and Eve both blame shifted and yet God didn’t even address it!  The Lord remained focused on the core issue.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed minor misbehavior rabbit trails rather than stay focused on the main event leaving me frustrated and I’m sure frustrating as well.

I have SO much more to learn than I can possibly imagine about parenting- and far more than I probably ever will.  Yet, I’m encouraged by all of this!  It wonderful that 4 chapters in to the Word of God we already have 2 rich examples of parenting at the hand of our Heavenly Father!  Thanks for reading this really long post.  And please post any thoughts, different perspectives, questions…I would love to hear it all!!!

Prayers and Blessings to all you mothers out there parenting kids.  Its a challenge like NO other! 🙂

Just a Little Help

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While my nephews were here, I couldn’t wait to make them cinnamon rolls.  I don’t make them often, but they are so yummy and I really enjoy the process!  So I got up early on the last morning they were with us and started the process of the 90 Minute recipe I have come to love.  If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls, you know the process.

mixing, kneading, waiting, kneading, rolling, spreading, rolling, cutting, waiting, and finally the baking and the smelling, anticipating, mixing, waiting, frosting, anticipating, waiting and at last the enjoying

I had made it to the smelling phase of the project before the boys woke up.  I had just begun to mix the frosting when my youngest nephew came up and asked if he could help.  Of course I scrambled to find whatever I could think of for him to do.  Just the thing!  He could hold the measuring spoon for the vanilla for the frosting and dump it into the bowl of powdered sugar, milk and cream cheese.  So, he joyfully did just that.  He held the teaspoon over the bowl.  I poured from the [massive] Costco bottle of vanilla and he watched it splash into the pile of goodies below.  He put the measuring spoon in the sink and before I was even through putting the cap on the vanilla bottle, he had disappeared upstairs, distracted by one thing or another.  Okay!  I guess he had his share of helping 🙂  I proceeded to mix, wait, spread, wait, serve and devour with our little family.

Later that day, the boys and I met my step mother, their Nana, at the pool and we brought some of the cinnamon rolls with us.  My nephew was so excited to share that he helped make them!  It was so important to him that she knew he helped.  He said it multiple times with great enthusiasm.  “Nana, Nana, I helped make them!  I helped Nana!”

It struck me as so funny.  Of all the steps of making cinnamon rolls, my nephew contributed one teeny-tiny thing, but in his sweet little mind, he had contributed; he had helped; he could put his name on the finished product with pride.

I wonder if God ever looks down and sees me doing this same thing.  I do a little something, help out a bit, water the seeds, toss in my teaspoon of vanilla, and viola!  I’ve helped!  I can stamp my name on it!  I’ve contributed!  God did all the work, and even though He doesn’t need me, he delights in finding jobs for me to do, tasks that with His help, I can contribute.  Thanks, Dad!  Yours is ALL the glory~ thanks for letting me help just a little.  Help me to never forget how small I am and how big you are.

I Am Whole

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for Mira

In my secret life I am a mother

The baby that once was yet still remains

Needles pin my heart to clouds of hope

As I long to let go

of this dream that haunts me so

I wish to fully know

that I am whole.

Tantilizing whispers scorch my soul now

Baby showers, nursery rhymes, precious skin

Heaven kissed my life once with a shadow

Challenged me to embrace

Somehow without tiny face

Purpose burried in this place

and I am whole.

My tears have found solace in compassion

But grief demands to dig deep barbed roots

Divinely empowered against gripped weeds

I stand on solid ground

My Savior turns me around

I struggle but I’m found

so I am whole.

Ever in my heart I am a mother

Despite the blows of pain and fear and doubt

I fight to dwell in purchased peace and joy

He gently takes my hand

Seeks my faith in what He’s planned

Fills my courage cup to stand

for I am whole.

 

Book Review: Punished by Rewards

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  Punished by Rewards  The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn

I ran across this title while researching a charter school here in the Springs (The Classical Academy).  Several books and authors are listed on the TCA website as influencing the ideals and methodology of this relatively new and extremely popular school.  In Punished by Rewards, Kohn puts forth quite a lot of evidence from studies and experience displaying the ways in which rewards hamper intrinsic motivation and in the long run prove counterproductive.

On the ease of using stickers with children, Kohn responds by agreeing that if all you are concerned about is immediate behavior modification, stickers work.

But  “It takes talent and time to help [kids] develop the skill of self-control and the commitment to behave responsibly.”  pg.16

“while people may seem to respond to the goodies we offer, the very need to keep offering these treats to elicit the same behavior may offer a clue as to their long term effects (or lack thereof)”  pg. 17

“If your objective is to get long-term quality in the workplace, to help students become careful thinkers and self-directed learners, or to support children in developing good values, then rewards, like punishments, are absolutely useless.” pg 41

The first section of the book “The Case Against Rewards” is filled with general research and studies going to the psychology of how rewards hurt not just children but all of us.  Then Kohn goes on to explore these dynamics in 3 settings – home, school, and workplace.  Kohn spends a couple of chapters on each setting first setting up the specific harms of each and then fleshing out his preferred method.  Kohn advocates the 3 C’s.

  • Collaboration.  Working as a team rather than fostering competition or as Kohn calls it “how to be alone in a crowd.”  (pg. 214)
  • Content.  Focus on whats most important and avoid busy work.
  • Choice.  Increased freedom increases intrinsic value naturally without need for external rewards.

After these main sections of the book, there is still quite a large chunk of pages left.  Several Appendixes and an extensive section of notes annoted throughout the book (over 100 pages worth!)

I fully recommend this book as it is quite thought provoking and filled with supportive research and challenging ideas.  Kohn does a great job of pulling the reader in and keeping you interested and curious about what he will say next and how he will resolve the tension of ‘okay…what do I do instead?’

Positives:

  • Kohn really challenged me to think outside of the comfortable box of simple rewards/consequences.  I realized that this is often my default and that perhaps there are occasions where other tools might really be more helpful.
  • Kohn supported his hypothesis that relying on rewards/consequences alone does not produce the sort of character development we all strive for.

Negatives:

  • Kohn’s writings felt very extreme to me.  The chapter I disagree the most with would have to be Chapter 6:  The Praise Problem.  While I agree that at times verbal praise can feel condescending and are sometimes not truly deserved, on the whole I truly feel that to take out verbal praise goes a bit too far.
  • I distinctly felt throughout that Kohn was coming to this topic with the premise that we are born good and with intrinsic desires to do good things.  At times his writings lined up with very humanistic thinking that counters what I believe to be truths found in the Bible.

A Few Verses:

Scripture is filled with rewards (blessings & verbal praise) and consequences (curses) from Genesis to Revelation.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  Genesis 2:15-17

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.   “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”   The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.   I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.  Revelation 22:12-19

In researching all of this I found a fascinating conversation amongst a variety of people regarding how the God of the Christian Bible would fair if critiqued by the standards put forth by Kohn.  This particular conversation was regarding Kohn’s book entitled Unconditional Parenting but I believe the sentiment still applies.

In practice I was able to use more of the 3 C’s approach coupled with rewards/consequences with my nephews this past week while they stayed with me.  For example, rather than just telling them to stop arguing and that if they didn’t we wouldn’t go to the pool, I spent considerable time and energy trying to help them discover the roots of their arguments and how to be mindful of those things (Collaboration), helping them determine if the topic was truly worth arguing about (Content) and helping them see that they really do have control over their behavior and responses as well as how they resolve arguments (Choices).  It helped me to have tools and while I didn’t stumble upon any secret recipes, I am thankful to have done more than simply react to the situation.