Posted in Uncategorized

Thoughts on Raising Children

I came across some notes I scribbled down on parenting in the 1990’s when I still had children at home. Rather than toss them, I’ve decided to document them here. Take it or leave it. Unedited for the most part.

  1. Beware of children overhearing or being told what a nuisance they are. You want them to think well of themselves.
  2. Have good “customer relations” with your children.
  3. Hear yourself talking to your child. How many times is your conversation about correction? Does your child conclude, “Whenever Mom opens her mouth it’s to tell me what I should do or what I’m doing wrong.”
  4. Have a long term goal. Parents who were criticized for how they handled a difficult situation responded, “We have a long term goal.”
  5. Determine to raise your children in such a way that you can live with them.
  6. Think, “What are my child’s needs? Wants? What are my needs? Wants?”
  7. Your child needs a secure, happy childhood which you provide by nurturing, training, preparing and protecting them.
  8. You need a peaceful home and co-operative children.
  9. Think a lot about when your children leave home. Will they be prepared? Will they call you “friend”? What choices will they make when you are not around?
  10. Unreal expectations of parents from children. Children will “spill the milk.” Don’t slap them for this. Just clean it up. Accidents happen.
  11. Practice calm parenting.
  12. Beware of placing value on things over value on children. Beware of placing value on the opinions of others, versus the needs of your children.
  13. The unspoken question of children is, “How important am I really to Mom and Dad?”
  14. When children feel secure in the support and affection of their parents, they will not find an occasional “no” shattering or frustrating.
  15. Communicate to your child, “I love parenting you.”
  16. Protect children from “adult” problems (e.g. financial details).
  17. Don’t think they are too young to know when something is wrong.
  18. Explain what is necessary to satisfy their young mind.
  19. Never make them feel like they are a burden to you.
  20. “Take good care of Mommy” may be taken literally by them and this is not meant to be their responsibility.
  21. Be honest with them. Say, “It makes me sad, too.” “I don’t understand everything, but….”
  22. It is important to teach them responsibility and to work. They need to learn to experience the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
  23. Don’t bribe.
  24. Pray protection over them.
  25. Pray with them daily. This is a great comfort to them.
  26. Don’t communicate anxiety to them. Concern is OK. Watch your verbal and non-verbal expressions.
  27. Overcome your own fears.
  28. Don’t expect from your children what you can’t deliver.
  29. Get your record cleared.
  30. Child rearing is going to take time, like a garden. A little planning and care, done consistently, at the right time, will yield good fruit.
  31. Watch and pray.
  32. Teach respect.
  33. They want to please you. It’s a good feeling. They want to discover something that pleases you.
  34. Enjoy your children. Have fun with them. Plan fun times. Be spontaneous.
  35. Teach them appreciation for beauty – make them observant. It will be rewarding later when they are the ones that point it out to you. “Look at this pretty….” “There’s a squirrel.”
  36. Enjoy things together.
  37. Look for progress. Don’t be an alarmist.
  38. Be consistent, predictable, reliable.
  39. Get in involved and communicate with other adults they respect, like their principal, teachers, parents of friends.
  40. Make them feel worthwhile and care for their needs in a timely way.
  41. Make occasional sacrifices to show them that what matters to them is important to you.
  42. Teach them that they cannot have everything they want. There are choices involved.
  43. Even if you can afford something, choose a lifestyle within a specific budget so that there are limitations for all.
  44. Set an example of giving to meet needs. Live to give.
  45. Teach them how to give their best. Don’t be a cheapskate.
  46. Your children are watching your relationship with your partner, so be considerate. Don’t discuss discipline in front of the children.
  47. Watch for attitude. Observe what you need to work on–what you need to catch.
  48. Don’t reward pouting.
  49. Try talking to someone else about a positive trait you see or want to see, within the hearing of your children. Not, “I wish my son would….” but “It sure is peaceful here tonight.” “The children have been very cooperative today.”
  50. Beware of praising, or omitting, or criticizing the other. They are listening very carefully and are excellent judges.
  51. Acknowledge your weaknesses to yourself but be very careful about generalizing about your faults openly so that they don’t “label” you.
  52. Broaden their experience.
  53. What to watch for – anger, resentment, selfishness. Discuss underlying issues and encourage self control, forgiveness and caring.
  54. Encourage (guided) independence. Be sensitive to their preparedness for responsibility.
  55. Balance protection and independence.
  56. Pray for deliverance from temptation. Pray for deliverance from the allurement of sin.
  57. Teach them to interact with other adults.
  58. Teach them with respect when you are in the presence of other adults.
  59. Accept that you will make mistakes but get back on track with your long term goal.
  60. Accept that you, as a parent, may need to change, e.g. do something you haven’t done before.
  61. Avoid being “judgmental” especially of appearances.
  62. Rather than criticizing, teach them to consider possible consequences of various choices people make.
  63. Love people.
  64. Invite people into your home.
  65. Remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
  66. Get to know your child. Be a student of your child. Know what makes them happy, what gifts they would like, where they would like to go.
  67. Have a few family traditions that you all look forward too.
  68. Don’t get bogged down with “do’s” and “don’ts”.
  69. Remember a long term goal is to have a happy child.
  70. Teach coping skills. Look for the good. Instill hope for tomorrow. Pray. God cares.
  71. Develop your own faith through church attendance, fellowship, Bible study and prayer. Leave good footsteps for your child to follow in.
  72. Cook for them. Cook together too. It is a great bonding time. Good or bad results, the memories will be of times spent doing things together.
  73. Keep a comfortable house with attention to the children’s rooms.
  74. Be careful where you “leave” the kinds and who watch who enters the house or spends tine with them, including relatives.
  75. Keep a balanced approach of caution but not paranoia regarding their safety.
  76. Immediately pay attention to hurts. Don’t belittle their pain.
  77. Make consequences fit the action, and ensure they are age appropriate.
  78. Try to be careful not to leave children alone too long.
  79. Occupy the children with activities while teaching them to find things to do independently too.
  80. Monitor their activities and keep a mental record. For instance, certain behaviors might be “learned” from friends or TV shows and they are “trying” them on you to see your response.
  81. Learn to understand the children by watching them.
  82. Teach respect for others and consideration for the opposite gender.
  83. Reward good behavior with acknowledgement, even if just a smile.
  84. Rather than say, “Bad” or “Don’t” with small children, distract them or remove them from the situation and say, “Come and see this” or “Let’s do this.”
  85. Any form of violent behavior must be addressed and prevented from recurring at an early age. (My grandmother had a violent foster child and her solution was to hold her tightly on her lap when she became violent, until she calmed down. Sometimes she would hold her for half a hour. A child will either learn to yield to the parent or the parent will lose control and there will always be a struggle.)
  86. Talk about future possibilities. Pray about the future with them. If they will get married one day, their future spouse is already living somewhere. You can pray for them too.
  87. Keep things simple and basic. Live your life so that you can manage it.
  88. Love your child. Give good gifts. Give yourself. Prepare your child to be a well-rounded adult.
Posted in Coronavirus, Disciplining Children, Home, parenting

5 Quick Tips on How to Manage With Kids at Home During COVID-19 Crisis

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Nobody said this would be easy.

And on top of that, you don’t have your usual supports–outings of various kinds, kids sports and lessons, playdates, shopping, even daycare–all those amazing parenting helps.

I’m sure I’m not the most qualified person to speak on this subject. I’m not a natural at this parenting thing, as some women seem to be. But I did learn a few things as I home-schooled my children for half their school years and lived with very limited options on a restricted income.

There are so many resources out there for parents today, so what I am going to pass on are some really simple basics that just might help you keep your sanity.

  • You are the Queen. Or the King. In your home. That means you manage your kingdom. You are in charge.

This really works best if your subjects like you. It works best if they buy into your plan. So you have to get them excited about the big picture. For us it was to have a HAPPY FAMILY. Who doesn’t want that? Everything we did was to work towards the final end of having a happy family.

  • Your job description, as the King or Queen of your home is, in practice, very much like that of a Coach in relation to your team.

A coach teaches the team essential winning skills. The coach thinks long term strategy. The coach is the encourager.

  • The King or Queen is also a good Manager. One of the keys to good management is having good systems and structures in place.

Divide the day up into sections. Separate each one with a food break. (Plan and prepare snacks.) See what would work best in each section. Make a list of things to do and fill each section with some significant activity. Don’t have too much structure. Leave room for flexibility and down time. Include regular chores, physical exercise (maybe to a video) and personal/rest/down times. Strategically schedule things to look forward to and enjoy. Have a few back-up activities you can pull out on the spur of the moment. The thing young kids enjoy the most is activities that involve their parents so plan when these will happen.

  • Princes and Princesses can sense their personal value in the kingdom. One day they too will be a King or Queen.

I never actually used this analogy in talking with my children. Parenting is a very personal thing, but there are a few principles that make parenting easier. Ask yourself what you want for your children as adults and what you would like your relationship with them to look like in ten, fifteen or twenty years from now. Keeping this picture before me constantly helped me in the trying times.

  • As a subject to a Heavenly King, we have access to his Throne, to ask for those things of which we are in need. Our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves and we can trust him to Coach us.

Teach your children gratitude. Teach them reverence for God. Teach them faith. When times get tough, we have a place to go to in prayer. When times are good, we have Someone to Praise.

 

 

Posted in Children, Disciplining Children, Home, Love, Marriage & Family, parenting

Can “Time-Out” and Other Disciplines Be Bad for Your Child?

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Some time ago I wanted to know what the research said about the effect of spanking on children. Naturally, I did a Google search, and discovered that there were literally dozens of articles that all said the same thing. When we read the same thing over and over, we tend to think it is true. We are inclined to go with the “consensus.”

The wording of the articles I read was so similar, that they aroused my suspicion. It looked to me like all these writers were drawing from the same source. That would be alright, as long as it was the actual research. But what if one writer misinterpreted the research, or conveniently omitted important relevant information, and everybody copied this person as an authority on the subject?

It turned out that was exactly what happened. After a long search I finally tracked down material from the original research and found that it read nothing like the popular articles posted on virtually every parenting site.

There may be a “consensus” or agreement from many sources about some form of parenting, but we need to apply our own understanding and observations and determine if what we read is really helpful.

If you have a parenting style that is working well for you and your child, then read no further. But if you’ve ever wondered about the effectiveness of two popular discipline techniques–“time-out” and withholding privileges–then hear me out.

“Go to your room.” We’ve probably all heard it and maybe we’ve said it. What is the purpose of this order? Think about it. I suggest it is multiple. 1) It indicates to the child that there has been an ‘incident’ or some misbehavior. 2) It separates the child from the setting where the incident occurred, and maybe from others involved. 3) It gives the child a “cooling off” period. 4) It gives the child a quiet space for reflection. 5) It offers a parent the same–time to cool off and time to reflect on what happened and to decide if there will be further consequences.

There is an age where this is appropriate. We wouldn’t tell a toddler to go to their room, for instance. They wouldn’t understand, and the separation anxiety would not be healthy for them.

“Time-out” says to the child, “You are being punished because you did something bad.” You may ask, what is wrong with that?

There is a slight difference between being sentenced to “time-out” and being told to “go to your room.” The difference I observe is that “time-out” can be used as a threat, whereas sending a child to their room is what happens immediately after an incident.

I managed without using “time-out” in my parenting and here is the reason why I resisted it. Ask yourself, what is a child doing when they are in “time-out”? They are thinking. You don’t want them to think too long without your guidance and comfort. I think “time-out” can be helpful if done the right way.

When a child has misbehaved it is particularly important for them to know what their parent is thinking and what the next step will be. This is a need they have, like the need for food.

If you send a child to their room it means something happened. The thing that happened has to be addressed. “You and your brother were fighting. Now I want you to apologize and then (fill in the blank, e.g. read quietly in your room) for the next half hour.”

After an incident there needs to be a brief discussion about the impact of the child’s actions or words, as well as talk about future prevention. This can happen at the beginning or after the cooling down period.

Make these uncomfortable conversations relatively short. I once overheard a father “lecture” his son in public for half an hour. I saw the compliance on the child’s face and felt there was no need for this kind of extreme parental intervention. I admit I became afraid for the father/son relationship. Cover all the necessary ground, but don’t go on and on. Kids get it.

“Time-out” is the removal of a privilege–the privilege of being able to roam freely and interact with others. It is “confinement.” The sooner you can get your child out of confinement, the better. For a young child of four, giving them five or six minutes alone is plenty of time before the parent comes and talks to them and then allows them to go and play. For an older child, half an hour is a reasonable time to be required to stay in their room. After the first few minutes it is good for the parent to return to the room and make contact. You don’t want your child to see this as rejection or alienation. It is simply a time to change course and momentum. You may look into the room and say something like, “You can read in your room for half an hour.”

I don’t think it is a good plan to send a child to their room without any input about how to use their time. Say, “You can play quietly for awhile in your room.” This will connect your child to you, and the child will find comfort in knowing you know what they are doing. To an older child you may say, “I want you to work on your homework for at least an hour.” This has now gone beyond discipline to a productive use of the next hour. If they come out and get a drink of water, that is allowed but they are expected to return to their room for the duration of the time. Don’t shout at them and tell them to go back. Watch them. If they dawdle, then remind them in an even tone by saying, “An hour isn’t up yet.”

Once again, ‘room time’ is to be a quiet, reflective time. I discourage music, movies or video games. The brain is to calm down and have limited stimulation. It needs to “work” in a constructive way by coming up with play, reading, doing homework or some other calming activity. In this way “time-out” can be a positive experience. You want your child to emerge from their room a happier person.

“Time-out” is the removal of a privilege. There are other privileges that parents tend to remove and I want to touch on taking away video games or electronics. Many times I’ve heard parents tell me they have removed a privilege for “two weeks” or longer, even for very young children who don’t have a sense of the length of this time period. When I see this, one question that pops into my mind is, what happens if there is another incident two days into the two weeks?

Not only is there the problem of what to do if another incident occurs, but there is also the problem of the child being left without an activity. If the activity is not a good thing for them, then by all means cut it out, but not as a discipline.

In my opinion, two days/two nights or three days/three nights without electronics is plenty of time as a discipline before the privilege is restored. This is a time span even a younger child can perceive, when you talk in terms of “two sleeps.” It also means there is more frequent optimism about having the privilege restored.

Children start out wanting to believe that their parents are being fair. But if they perceive that a punishment is extreme, they start to lose hope. Sometimes they even become more angry. You don’t want your child to lose hope. They need to see that the punishment is reasonable.

I come from the old school where spanking was also part of discipline. Yes, it was abused by some, but three swats on the bottom–after a clear understanding was reached about the error of a child’s way–was sometimes the best “attitude adjuster.” Spanking should only ever be done for misbehavior and defiance about which a child has been warned, and then, after other methods have proved ineffective. Some children never need this degree of correction. The research shows, however, that corporal punishment when infrequently administered, without excess, is actually beneficial to a child’s development.

Discipline is for the purpose of correction. If the outcome is not positive, the problem is very likely not your child. It could be that correction needs to be applied differently. Correction is meant to have a good outcome for you child. Watch for this with any form of discipline you use.

-Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Posted in Children, Communication, Home, Marriage & Family, parenting

What I Would Change if I Could Parent My Children Again

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Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

If I had the chance to go back and parent my children again, what I would change?

When thinking about what I would change, I have to look at my values. What is most important to me? What was most important to me when I was raising my children? What mattered most and why was that so important? Was I true to what was important to me? And were my methods effective?

We tend to follow the model set by our own parents. It is all we know, as children, but later we begin to examine other models. We watch other families, we read books, listen to podcasts or sermons, watch videos, and attend parenting seminars. Some of the input I gleaned from these sources was very helpful to me.

Here are the things that I wanted and were important to me as a parent.

  1. I wanted my children to like me.
  2. I wanted my children to respect me.
  3. I wanted my children to be happy.
  4. I wanted other children and adults to like my children.
  5. I wanted my children to like and respect other children and adults.
  6. I wanted my children to be healthy and safe from harm and injury.
  7. I wanted to train my children in such a way that they would have a successful future as adults.
  8. I wanted to train my children in such a way that we would have a good relationship as adults.
  9. I wanted to pass on my values to my children.

I look back, now, and ask myself if I accomplished my objectives. How well did I do? Were the methods I chose the best ones I could have used? Could I have done some things differently and possibly had a better outcome?

With any responsibility there is daily opportunity for success and failure. Each day requires an evaluation of what went right and what went wrong and from these evaluations we can determine how to make more suitable choices and how to carry out a more effective plan the next day or the next week. As someone has said, the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. For a different outcome, there must be a new input. A change—large or small—is necessary.

Wanting my children to like me and respect me

The first and most important thing I realized in parenting was that who I was would determine how I would act, as a mother, and whether my children would like me and respect me. They were watching me. They would see my flaws. They would benefit from my strengths.

I saw that these little people needed me to be a strong and wise and consistent person in their lives. If I was this kind of person then they would feel confident in my leadership. They would like me, and they would respect me.

Parenting is about leadership. We show our children a pattern of behavior that we want them to follow. We care for them. We plan activities. We play with them. All this time we are teaching them how to respond to life. From our approach to life they determine how to engage with life and even whether life itself is worth living. They pick up our hope for the future, and, conversely, our hopelessness.

Wanting my children to be happy

There are discussions going on these days about whether or not it is a wise thing to pursue happiness. I wanted happiness for my children. I don’ t think it was a bad thing to want for them. I wanted each day to be happy. I made a point of being cheerful in the morning when I awoke them. I tried to maintain my cheerfulness and optimism throughout the day. Bedtime needed to be a happy time as I put them to rest with sweet thoughts and feelings. The reason I did this was because I heard from someone that as adults our happy childhood memories will sustain us through the difficult times. We had regular “happy family times” that we looked forward to when we would do fun things as a family, such as play a game or have popcorn with a movie in the living room. We took pleasure in simple, ordinary things like a good meal or snack, or a family walk in the neighborhood, or camping, or gardening in our small backyard. I tried to model enthusiasm and instill wonder and curiosity–traits that contribute to happiness.

Wanting my children to respect others and have others like them

I wanted others to like our children, so I treated other adults with respect and spoke respectfully about them. I especially treated their father with respect and required that they did the same, even in times when I disagreed with him.

We were delighted to host other families and have them over for meals. This was a highlight for me and for our children. My culinary skills were put to the test and honed. Our children saw this. They shared my pleasure. Children are encouraged by the risks we take and the competence we show. It gives them confidence that they can do the same, and confident, adventurous children are more likable.

Wanting my children to have a successful future

I knew that work would always be an important part of our children’s lives. If they could hold a job and be good employees that would greatly impact their success as adults. So I started giving them small responsibilities early and I modeled a positive attitude towards work. They might do the dishes grudgingly some days, but it was required. They might not clean up their rooms as regularly as I wished, but I modeled tidiness in the home. They learned personal discipline through weekly chores like cleaning bathrooms. When we were offered the job of vacuuming the hallways in our small apartment building, we realized that our sons were old enough to do this and we gave them the job, along with the income. They saved the money to buy bikes and had their first sense of the power of work to give them what they wanted. This was a lesson in responsibility. They each held part time jobs while they were still in school. Work would not always be fun, but it was an unavoidable fact and a means to an important end, that end being to put food on the table and pay the bills. Growing up, my parents required that I give 90% of my income to them. We did not expect this of our sons because we wanted them to learn to be responsible with their money and see that they could accomplish their goals. We did, however, incorporate a very realistic aspect into their financial responsibility training. Once they had full time jobs they contributed to the expenses of the family by paying a minimal amount in rent which essentially covered their food costs.

We encouraged our children to explore music and art and technology, anything that might round out their skills and better equip them as adults.

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

So, what would I change in how I raised my family, if I could do it again? I think my values are still very much the same, but I know I would pay attention to a few areas where I could have done better.

I would reach out more

If I had it to do over again, I would still focus on a happy childhood. But I would reach out more to others and teach my children to observe needs and meet them. I was so focused on meeting their needs that I did not teach this very well.

In a small family of two children my sons missed out on the opportunity of caring for infants and small children under my supervision. I was the eldest of seven siblings and gained a lot of experience as a result. I did not see that my sons were not benefiting from the same experience.

I also did not teach them the value of visiting and looking after the elderly or the infirm because I was so caught up with my job and volunteer responsibilities.

I would speak more openly about suffering and injustice and our response

Although it is important to have a happy home, I would be more realistic with my children and talk more openly about the pain and suffering and evil in the world, at an appropriate age. I would share coping skills with them, and possible ways of thinking about and responding to what happens in the world.

I would include warnings about abusive behavior and train them in assertiveness

In teaching our children about respect for others, I would also include warnings about when blind respect can go wrong. I would be more open, once again, at an appropriate age, about signs of abuse. I would teach them about discernment and what emotional abuse looks and feels like. I would teach them how to say no and set boundaries.

I would be involved in talking about sex

I left the sex talks to my husband and I would be involved in this important area if I had it to do over again. A wife and mother has much to contribute and I missed my chance.

I would emphasize the importance of good communication skills

All of our lives we are going to be communicating with people and our success will depend to a great degree on our relational skills. We must model good communication skills to our children and I fell short in this area. Our sons turned out to be fairly good communicators, however, I notice areas where they could have benefited from skills such as negotiation and conflict resolution. Later in life I took helpful training in these areas. I wish this training would have been available to me much earlier because then my family might have enjoyed the long term benefits.

Those are a few of the things I would change. There is little point in living with remorse, as a parent. I know I did the best I knew to do at the time and I was aware that I wouldn’t be a perfect parent. None of us are. But we can still learn, even later in life, and become more effective in our various leadership roles. Maybe others can even learn from the areas where we failed. I’m hopeful that in some way what I have gleaned will be helpful to others. I have a undying admiration for those who take on the life-long responsibility of parenting.

Posted in feminism, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health, women

What I like and dislike about feminism

I, like most women, have not studied the basic tenets of feminism. Instead, we have drawn our conclusions about feminism from what we have seen, and read, and sometimes altered our perceptions as we learned more about the movement.

There was a time when I thought, perhaps a little naively, that feminism was primarily about women gaining the right to vote and getting equal pay for equal work. But feminism has evolved into something much more complex and some days, I admit, I struggle to understand what feminists are trying to accomplish.

Most women are not active feminists, including myself, but we have always appreciated the work of those who have advocated on our behalf for things like equal pay and benefits. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if feminism has been derailed from its original purpose. Or did I misunderstand the intent from the beginning?

Originally I was of the opinion that feminism was about advocating for what was good for women–all women–but recently I have begun to think it is more about power and the need to assert ourselves and activate for certain “rights” with the outcome being that we dominate.

In my attempt to comprehend what feminists are up to I have realized that feminists are social justice warriors advocating for numerous human rights. This can be a good thing, however, I wonder if the movement is over-reaching. From my perspective it has morphed into an almost unrecognizable entity, compared with what it once was. Planned Parenthood, for example, the most prominent feminist organization, is heavily involved in influencing the United Nations in setting international standards for education and healthcare, in the name of empowering women.

I’ve learned that feminists claim to empower women primarily by providing easy access to contraceptives, offering comprehensive sex education, and working at decreasing poverty among women. Since child bearing is viewed as a contributing factor to poverty, the proposed solution is to educate, provide contraceptives and offer abortion as means to reduce family size.

It is no secret that Planned Parenthood has worked internationally, very successfully in countries like China and India, to control population growth. Often this is achieved through selective abortion of female fetuses. Somehow this does not sit well with my understanding of an organization that exists for the purpose of empowering women.

Admittedly, women with children cannot devote the same amount of time and energy to advancing their careers as men, or as women who do not have children. So, either we choose not to have children, or we take on a heavier load, and somehow manage the extra toll it takes on us physically and mentally. Even if we take advantage of daycare and share parenting responsibilities with our partners, mothers will still carry the greater share of the burden. Because of this some women will often opt for lower paying and part time jobs in order to stay healthy and balanced. I know of numerous women for whom this has been the case.

I have some difficulty with feminists who seem to insist that we can have it all. Supposedly we can compete equally with men in every field and for every position and ought to have equal representation in every department, while raising a family as well. This is, of course, is completely unrealistic. To hold to this narrative would require that women abandon parenting.

What I probably find most disconcerting about feminism is its lack of support for the role of mothering. A woman’s role as the care-giver for her children is considered so insignificant as to be easily delegated to strangers. There is a complete denial of any long term impact of these arrangements on children. Evidence, to the contrary, shows that nothing is as critical to the development of a child as the consistent and ongoing attention and nurture of a mother and father.

I understand the aspirations of the full-time career woman. I understand the drive to contribute and the rewards of success. The women whom I know want to work. But they also want options around how much time they work in order to be available for their families. By elevating the importance of a career we tend to put undue pressure on women, some of whom want nothing more than to be at home caring for their families.

We need to have this conversation about choices and about how our families are impacted by our choices. But the moment someone broaches these subjects, feminists immediately cry foul and proceed to dismantle the credibility of the speaker. To see women silenced in this way is distressing. Every woman’s voice is valid and deserves to be heard. This unwillingness to dialogue makes it appear that feminists would rather protect their ideals than listen to the women they claim to represent.

If I could put a new face on feminism, I would begin by having feminists embrace the wider role of a woman as a wife and mother. I would encourage working at building healthy families in which divorce is less common and addictions occur with less frequency. I would build support for two-parent homes as a means to reducing poverty. I would also seek to reduce the need for social services and foster care by teaching parenting skills and communication skills so that children can remain in their home of origin. Rather than seeing sex education as the responsibility of public education, I would offer training sessions to parents on how to inform their children and guide them toward healthy choices. And, significantly, I would measure success more by harmonious homes, than by a well-paying career. Feminists may consider this form of thinking as regressive, but in reality it is thinking long term about the future well-being of our society. One of the main plagues of our society today is addictions. Supportive families are significant in preventing addictions and helping the next generation to succeed.

Increasingly women are losing their choice of being home with their children. Feminism tends to ignore the benefit of a two parent home. We cannot remove fathers from the equation. If we set up society so that we divorce women from their responsibility as wives and mothers, then we may in time end up in a place where all but the very wealthy will no longer have any choice but to work and abandon child rearing.

I wonder if I am missing a big part of the picture of what is happening with the feminist movement. Maybe the bottom line is the money that is pouring into the coffers in the name of healthcare and education and human rights and the eradication of poverty. Or maybe there is a worldview that feminists feel they need to advance. Perhaps the focus, contrary to what I hoped to believe, is not really on what is best for women and their families. I have to ask whether feminism was possibly inexorably flawed from the start by excluding men from the needs of women?

I can only align myself with feminists in as far as I understand and support their views. I am currently looking for more evidence that feminists embrace the significance of the primary roles of a woman as a wife and mother. I see this as the basis of feminism, if feminism is indeed advocating for the welfare of the whole woman, as I have believed

Posted in Marriage & Family

Is your child on your team?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The secret to good parenting is to have your children on your team. It is not a good feeling to know that your children are on the opposing team.

So how do you get your children to be on your team? Do you bribe them with candy, to do what you want them to do? Do you spank them if they disobey you?

There is a place for rewards and punishments, but in order to get your children to be on your team they will need to understand what it is you want and agree with you that it is good and important. You achieve this through a process called training.

But before a child can be trained, a parent must be trained. First ask yourself this question:

Do I believe that my child and I can be on the same team?

I honestly think some parents don’t want their child to be on their team. They would rather think of themselves as on their own team, fighting against the child. They entertain thoughts like, “My child is against me.” “My child always misbehaves.” “My kid is a brat.” And they like to talk to other parents about their children this way. It’s a kind of mommy gossip where they talk about how terrible their kids are and how miserable it is to be a parent.

You are never going to get your kids on your team that way.

Rule number ONE for getting your kids on your team is never to say a bad thing about your kids again to another parent, unless, of course, that parent is in a position to give you some very helpful advice that you intend to follow.

In order to get your child on your team he or she has to understand what is important to you and why it should be important to him or her as well. I’ll give you an example.

Christmas is nearing and some parents don’t put up a tree because their kids are going to destroy it. They have this expectation, so I agree that is what would probably happen. But you can train your children so that you have a totally different expectation. I set up a tree every year, even when our children were very little. We may have had one or two ornaments that were broken by accident, but our kids never trashed our tree. When the tree was up, before they were old enough to help me, I would take them over to the tree immediately and talk about how beautiful it was. Then I would ask if they would like to touch the ornaments, or hold them. I said they had to be careful with them, or they would break. After that they would sometimes carefully touch the ornaments and if they did, I simply agreed that they were very pretty.

Rule number TWO is don’t expect your kids to be bad. Expect them to pick up on your values. Kids have a way of living up to their parents’ prophetic words.

How do you get your children to obey you? The best way to get your children to obey you is by fostering what I call “intrinsic motivation.” It’s not a new term I came up with, but it means that they are motivated from inside. They want to obey you because they love you and they know it will make you happy. They don’t need a reward in order to do what you tell them to.

Mommy and son or daughter work together. Mommy and Daddy use phrases like, “Let’s clean up your toys. Let’s go get baby’s pampers. Let’s set the table.” Especially when children are young, it is their greatest pleasure to do things with their parents. The more “together” activities you can do the better. You work together harmoniously because you are a team. You never say, “You are a bad boy, or girl.” You just don’t say that to someone on your team. You might say, “That wasn’t a very  nice thing to do. Do you think baby liked that? Would you like it if someone did that to you? What do you think that feels like? I think baby would like it if we did this. Let’s do this with baby. This is fun. Let’s have fun with baby. Look how much fun baby is having. You are having so much fun with baby.” This develops intrinsic motivation. The child becomes motivated to have fun with baby, because he enjoys it and it makes everybody happy.

There are other ways you teach this. “Isn’t it fun to help Daddy? Do you think Daddy will like this surprise? What can we do to cheer up your brother?” You are teaching them to think about making a contribution that will bring joy to someone else.

Statements like “Don’t do that! I told you not to do that! Why don’t you listen to me?” show that the parent thinks he or she and the child are on different teams. When someone is on your team you say, instead, “We don’t do that. That’s not nice. Now I want you to give your brother a hug. That’s better.”

Rule number THREE is don’t make your child look for praise. If you say, “You are a good girl” that shows you still think of your child as not on your team, because you have to pin the medal on her. You can say things like, “That was very kind of you.” “You did that really well.” “That makes Mommy happy.” Then instead of trying to figure out what a good girl is, she just tries to be kind, to do a job well, and to make Mommy happy.

A lot of parents are very insecure about parenting and feel like they are out of control. Having the attitude that you can be on the same team takes the tension out of parenting. You are working with your child toward a common goal. You want to have a happy home. You want to be a happy family. It is not your child’s responsibility to create this happy home, however. You are the one who has to figure out how to do this. There are plenty of parents with success stories. You can have one too.

Posted in Communication, Leadership, Marriage & Family

Getting Ready for Halloween

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We all know that Halloween, just like Valentines and Easter and Christmas, is highly commercialized. Gone are the pillow cases and apples and homemade costumes. Buy your Halloween bucket at Walmart!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I want to examine present day Halloween festivities without delving into its origins–whether it began as a harvest festival, or as a festival of the dead, whether it has Celtic pagan roots with bizarre rituals, or Christian beginnings–a Hallowed Eve preceding All Saints Day.

When we lived in the Philippines, All Saints Day was a huge holiday and families faithfully placed food on the graves of the deceased. On Halloween children went and sang in front of homes in hopes of receiving a few coins. Even adults did so, sometimes dressed as the twelve disciples, going from home to home singing and collecting money. There were no costumes and of course no pumpkins.

But in North America we are all familiar with the symbols and trappings and activities of the occasion,–candy, costumes, masquerades, pumpkins, pranks, haunted houses, witches, ghosts, etc.

Image courtesy of hin255/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Halloween will mean different things to different people. When I went to the mall with my firstborn in a stroller, wide-eyed, taking in all the hideous displays of the occasion, I wanted to cover his eyes, shield him from all that represents evil in the world. To me Halloween pretty much covered it.

Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was in a store one year and observed a father taunting his five or six year old son as he recoiled in fear when he shoved an ugly Halloween symbol in his face. I remember thinking, this is how we teach intimidation and bullying and how we destroy innocence.

Image courtesy of  Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since then, each year during the harvest season I re-evaluated my perspective of Halloween. As the day approached I was so preoccupied that I frequently forgot my father-in-law’s birthday which falls on November 1st.

What is Halloween without the fear factor? Some people crave the adrenalin rush fear incites, as a weird kind of high. Without this there would be no ticket sales to horror flicks, no customers for graphic psycho thrillers.

I walked through the Dollar Store the other day. Halloween displays are out, right along with Christmas, ironically. I saw, among the skeletons and skulls, chocolate eyeballs, and a hacked off, bandaged and bloody foot. I admit I felt a little sick.

What do children think when they see these, I ask myself? What feelings do these images arouse? What is the impact?

As I was a child I remember for a time hanging around kids who told ghosts stories and I could repeat a scary story pretty well myself. It was an abbreviated season in my life but it helped me relate to the thrill of the scare factor. I soon found myself avoiding the unpleasantness.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here in Vancouver we recently had the Vancouver Zombie Walk. This is the perspective of the organizers:

Though we big kids all see the fun in it, small children may not and if you see any children reacting fearfully, please do not add to their distress. Just move on and let their parents explain. Do NOT accidentally be the douche who gives them nightmares for a week by leering in their face! However, if they’re into it, they’re fair game for fun, like ALL of the living! Vancouver Zombie Walk 2013

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So is this really all it is, fun and games? Something you enjoy? Is it something you prefer, like you prefer chocolate brownies to cream puffs? Let’s not kid ourselves. We all know that Halloween is an opportunity to glorify what is dark and deadly.

As a child I had a fascination with Halloween. For me it was about black cats, witches on broomsticks, pumpkins, and of course masks and trick or treating. In elementary school we made pictures of these symbols and put them up on the walls and windows of our classroom. I had not training about Halloween from my parents. We did not attend church, so I had no religious teaching back then.

Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My parents never had a very strong conviction about Halloween and basically let us kids do what we wanted. My aunt took us out trick or treating for the first time when I was seven. I remember that some folks complained that we had no costumes, while others they complimented us and gave us extra candy for not dressing up. In my mind I was absorbing this information and asking myself if it was indeed bad to dress up.

But many churches I have attended since frowned on any Halloween activity and created their own separate “Harvest” event for the children, featuring, of course, lots of candy. I once helped decorate for one of these events and made the mistake of thinking that a black, lace, spider-web table cloth would be nice on the table in the entry, but I was quickly told to remove it.

Black Lace Tablecloth on sale at tias.com
Black Lace Tablecloth on sale at tias.com

Is it possible to enjoy Halloween without the dark scenes and themes, without sinking to the depths of evil–death, mutilation, witchcraft, demonism? Are there elements that we can redeem, things that are fun and beautiful, unspoiled?

The churches I have attended have taken a dim view on Halloween, perhaps understandably, and as a result my husband and I never allowed our children to go trick or treating. Our boys never made a fuss because there was always a fun alternative, but when our son left for BIble College we heard that he and his friends went trick or treating. Recent immigrants in the neighborhood were happy to hand out candy to these silly young adults.

When I was in primary school I asked my friend’s dad if she could go begging. Maybe I should have used the words “trick or treating.” He gruffly told me that his family didn’t go “begging.” An article by a pastor friend of mine essentially says the same thing–Halloween is of the devil and Christians will have nothing to do with it.

One year we visited my husband’s aunt around Halloween and she asked us if we gave out candies, “Or are you too cheap to give candies to little children?” I admit we were influenced by teaching not to participate in Halloween, but we were no longer in a church that dictated what to do. My husband and I talked and decided that it would be a positive thing for us to hand out candy. It was a charitable thing to do, a way to get to know our neighbors and their children. Handing out candy to innocent children felt good, even if we didn’t believe in everything the occasion represented.

halloween-candies

After the kids had come by for candies, we decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. It was truly one of the most gorgeous, “magical” nights I had ever seen. The street lights shone off of the red and orange colored maple trees. The leaves rustled beneath our feet as we walked. A few stragglers in costumes were still out, and to our great surprise we ran into a family from our church. The children were “begging” and the father was reverting to his childhood and lighting a few fire crackers in the street. I admit it took my husband and I back to our childhoods when I dressed up like an “Indian” in a fringed gunny sack and his mom dressed him up as an old woman with a curly wig.

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After that night my thinking underwent a transformation. I saw the evening as God’s evening–the gorgeous colours, the sweet air, the still night. Even the candles glowing in the pumpkins were beautiful.

Recently I have been introduced to  Liz Curtis Higgs‘ children’s book, The Pumpkin Patch Parable. It makes me realize we can look at pumpkin carving in our own unique way. We can tell our children our own stories about Halloween.

Image courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs Books
Image courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs Books
Image courtesy of ammer/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ammer/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think Halloween is an unequalled opportunity to teach our children how to respond when faced with the dark side of life. Are they to cloister themselves in churches, or is it alright to hand out candy to neighborhood children?

What about going door to door? What about costumes? When I was young we bought a scary mask or two. It’s what kids love to do. But our parents frowned on masks so we dressed up creatively using make-up and non-threatening costumes.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choosing costumes is a great opportunity for parents to talk to their children about values. For instance, what do skeletons represent and would this be a reason why you might you not want to dress like one? What are the other options? Talk about how your family feels about themes around death. Make your children aware of the dark side of Halloween, but show them they can choose light.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I refused to go on a local Halloween train ride because the artistic producer told me it would feature mutilated babies. Talk to your children about how they feel inside when they see certain images. Is this a comfortable feeling they want to have again? Would they like to avoid it? How could they do that?

When I was older I wanted to go to a masquerade but never did. Sometimes in large gatherings there can be a lot of peer pressure to do things you are not comfortable doing. I think I realized this.

As Christians we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” As children, and even as adults, there are times when we have to look ahead and plan to avoid temptation.

Some children find it very important to see and experience what their peers are telling them about. Rather than a sharp, “no,” you might want to talk about different scenarios. DIscuss possibilities and prepare them for what could happen. Let them know that you want to be sure they are safe and that they are making wise choices.

Image courtesy of samarttiw/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samarttiw/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Probably the most scary situation for a child is to find him or herself in a place where they don’t have a choice, or where they feel forced into choosing something they would rather not do. As parents we know that the dark side exists, and that it is dangerous, and it is our responsibility to protect our children, prevent early exposure to situations beyond their understanding and control, and prepare them for eventualities.

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can understand why many churches refuse to have anything to do with Halloween. They see it as evil, and much of it is. It would be a lot of work to sort out what, if anything, to keep, and what to discard, and then to explain this decision making process to the congregation. As you can imagine, it would be very time consuming. Undoubtedly there would also be a lot of different opinions to consider. So it’s easier to just forbid the lacy spider web table covering, and anything else black or orange, or Halloween-related.

I suggest that when our children are old enough to understand and ask questions, we talk to them about the aspects of Halloween that are playful, fun, maybe even scary, as opposed to those which are vulgar, repulsive, degrading and evil. Teach them to think. Teach them to choose wisely.

It might be a good idea to look at Halloween from the perspective of love. From this vantage point it might not be so bad to turn on the outdoor light and hand out candy to neighborhood children or to allow our children to dress up and go door to door with their friends. We might even decide to decorate for Halloween!

Image courtesy of Apolonia/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Apolonia/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I happen to like the color orange, and I like decorating. I’ve decided it is not an ‘all or nothing’ attitude when it comes to Halloween. There is definitely some sorting out to be done. I incline toward what is life-giving and uplifting and it saddens me to see how evil and the grotesque is paraded and gloated over on Halloween. But, I reiterate, we can teach our children to be discerning, to pray, to understand and explain their choices, to respond lovingly to others and perhaps even have some good clean fun with their friends on Halloween.

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Keattikorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sippakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sippakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net