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Keeping My Cool During Discipline

Sometimes we all need to just take a time out
I often speak about requiring your kids to respond with first time obedience (first time means you say it, they do it the very first time  Posts on first time Obedience ) I did and still do expect my kids to respond not only to their Dad and I with first time obedience,  but also to the authorities in their life.  When they don’t, we have a problem and we try to take care of that right away.

However, requiring first time obedience doesn’t mean that we raise our voice, stop using polite words, like please, with our requests or respond with short tempers.  Our out of control behavior, harsh tones or shouting should not be excused just because our kids are not being obedient.  We need to be modeling how to handle conflict even when we are completely exasperated, tired or have dealt with our children on this very issue for the 453rd time.  Our response is just as important of a training tool as the discipline itself.  Our kids are watching and learning from us all the time. 

Here are some tools I have used to help me keep my cool during times of conflict.

1.  This is not about me. Knowing and sometimes repeating this mantra, “This is not about me.”  When my kids were young, I had a tendency to think every misbehavior was a direct reflection of my abilities.  A wise older friend reminded me that we all are fallen and fall short of the glory of God and we need to understand that our children are sinners and have a sin nature and that our job, as parents, is to give them the same grace and gentle correction that God gives us.  It is not about me but about training my children in the same manner that God trains me. The Bible is clear that a good parent disciplines a child He loves and since I know how gently, but consistently, God disciplines me then I need to afford my kids the same grace.

2. Don’t discipline if you are angry.  I have a time out chair, not only for the kids, but for me.  If I was angry, I had my kids sit on the couch in self control hands while I went to my chair with self-control hands.  My hands were generally clasped in prayer as I knew I needed to seriously calm down before I said or did something I would regret later.  My parents disciplined in anger and as I was a very strong willed child, that parenting crossed lines it should have never crossed and it was damaging to me.  Taking the time to gain self control and pray allowed me to show and train my kids in anger management and appropriate conflict resolution.  A parent yelling at a child, using hurtful words or tones is never good parenting.  Taking the time to calm down and pray is wise and is setting a great example for your children.

3. Set rules, expectations and consequences ahead of time. I found it infinitely helpful in my kid’s younger years to have talked through our rules and consequences of those rules ahead of time with my husband.  We used the Doorpost poster and filled all of it out with the rules, the appropriate Bible verses (the Biblical reason why) and the consequences for each and posted them in several areas in our home.  This allowed my husband and I to be on the same page and the rules and consequences be consistent no matter who was at home.  We shared these with grandparents and babysitters so that the rules never changed.

4. Give Grace. We all have bad days.  We all have days that we just can’t seem to get it together.  We might be tired or in pain or just having a hard day and as I appreciate it when I get grace on days like that, I want to give my kids that as well.  If your children are characterized by first obedience (they are first time obedient 80% of the time), and within the first hour of the day are in trouble for the third time, pull them aside and get eye to eye and just ask them what is going on.  Remind them of the rules and then maybe just snuggle and watch a cartoon together for a bit.  

5. Be willing to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, I lose it. Sometimes, I yell. Sometimes, I say things I don’t mean. I am a sinner and fallible.  Sometimes, I need to say, “I am so sorry that I handled that so badly. Please forgive me for yelling. I was wrong.”  Whenever I have blown it and have needed to apologize and ask my children’s forgiveness, they have responded with such grace and love.  They humble me and have taught me how to accept other’s apologies. 

Parenting is hard. Training children is hard. However, we are doing more than just disciplining our children, we are training them to appropriately handle conflict with their spouses and children. One way I use to check myself is to ask whether I would be okay with my someday grandchildren be spoken to, disciplined and trained in the same manner I am speaking, disciplining or training my kids.  There have been times that the answer to this was a resounding no and then I had some work to do.  Funny, I have become a much better wife, friend and daughter because of the heart training I have had to do since becoming a Mom.  It’s hard, but worth it. 

“10 Practical Things” Extended Pt 2 – Child Training

After you have mostly mastered parent training, ( let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no), move onto to child training.  Remember, you must be consistent or your children will never understand as the expectations are too moveable.  Consistency is the key. 

Week 2 – Child Training

When I was in the training stages with my kids, I would pick one trait to work on that week.  The pattern of the week was usually the same.

Day One – Introduce what we were going to work on.  Have them start memorizing a corresponding Bible verse.  Remind them what positive reinforcements would happen if I caught them showing this behavior.  I would also take time to remind them that they were not allowed to tell me when they showed this behavior, I must catch them at it.

Day Two – Introduce a game or activity that reinforced the behavior and practiced saying the Bible verse.

Days Three through Six- Play the game or activity, if appropriate.  Pay special attention to children and give them much praise and positive reinforcement of the behavior shown.  Make sure that you praise the kids, in front of Dad, of the times that day when they showed the behavior. Continue to practice Bible verse.

Day Seven – Have the kids recite their Bible verses. I always like to give kids a small treat, each and every time they could recite the verse for me.  Like an m&m or a jelly bean or a fruit chewie. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Earlier on, I wanted this to resonate with my kids, that the Words of the Bible are sweet to our soul and to our mouth.  Years later, they now run for the jelly bean jar when they recite verses for me and any kids who come to my house know that if they can recite a verse, I will give them candy. On the last day, I also remind them that I will still be watching for them to show this behavior but now that I know that they know what they are supposed to do, I expect that from them.  I also warn them that there will be discipline if they fail to do what they know they are supposed to.

Now, that you have the basic pattern you put any behaviors into this.

There are several behaviors that I would recommend putting into place for a smoother home and school time.

First Time Obedience

One of the first times I presented this topic at a convention a woman stood up in the middle of the workshop and asked me what I meant by ‘first time obedience’.  I was a little taken aback but since it then happened at successive conventions, I try to define what I mean by that.  By first time, I mean, if you ask your child to sit down at the table, will they sit down the very first time you ask?  If you ask them to pick up their toys will they pick up their toys the very first time you ask?  If you ask them to come to you, will they come the very first time you call?  If your child will obey consistently ( say 80% of the time) then I would say that they are obedient the first time.

The Bible verse I use to teach this is Ephesians 6:1 “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  I would use this verse for children 2-5 years old, but for older kids I would add verses 2 and 3, “Honor your mother and father – for this is the first commandment with a promise – so that it may go well with you and you may enjoy a long life upon the earth.

I play a modified game of hide and go seek with my kids to introduce first time obedience.  I go and hide and then call my kids.  They have to yell, “Yes, Mom” and then run to find me.  When they find me, if they have said, “Yes, Mom” then I give them a treat.  I play this several times the first time and perhaps have my husband do it too and then throughout the week, I would hide unexpectedly and call to them.  Little kids really love this but your older kids will get into it if you challenge them with your hiding places.  Teaching is so much more effective if we can think of fun ways to introduce and reinforce topics.


“10 Practical Things” Extended – Child and Parent Training Pt 1

The seminar and article I get the most questions on is from, “Ten Practical Things Every Homeschooler Should Know” so I thought I would start with that.

Today we are going to talk about Parent Training.

“The reasonableness of the command to obey parents is clear to children, even when quite young.”  – Noah Webster

One of the very first things I ask Moms who are stressed and overwrought and clearly at their wits end with this crazy homeschooling thing is, “ If you ask your child to please go to the table and sit down, what happens?”  and the second thing I ask is, “How many times would it take of you asking before your child would do it?”.  More often than not, the answer comes with a pause and a stammer or even an answer that it depends on the child’s mood that day.  Children that do not obey right away make homeschooling 10 times harder than it has to be and if you have more than one child, that can make it almost impossible.  Consider this scenario –

“Johnnny and Susie, please come to the table and sit down.  We are ready to start school.”  Mom asks.  Johnny and Susie keep playing with the legos with no acknowledgement or sign of movement.

“ Kids, it is time for school.  Come over.  I have fun activities planned for today.”  The two briefly raise their heads from their toys at the mention of fun but quickly go back to playing.

“I said, it is time for school, don’t make me count to 3!”  Mom’s voice starts getting louder.  Finally, Mom comes over and takes their hands and puts the toys down and makes them come to table all the while the two have begun to wail which then wakes up little brother who has been taking a nap.  Mom struggles to get them to table and hopes the baby goes back to sleep so she can do school.  Mom is stressed, the kids are whining and crying and it is only the beginning of the day.

The calm, wonderful school day Mom has meticulously planned is now shot to pieces and she just does the best she can to teach the have-to’s in the remaining time.  Anyone would have a hard time teaching phonics and math to children who won’t even come sit down at the table.  It becomes more about just getting it done than really teaching and educating. One of the interesting and more difficult parts of homeschooling is the fact that we are educating and parenting.  We are training their minds and their hearts at the same time.  You don’t stop being the Mom when school starts, you just add the Teacher hat to the mix.

 Now, before we go any further, I know that some of you are thinking, “Dawn must have compliant children.  She clearly doesn’t have any strong-willed children.”  Not true, AT ALL.  We are blessed with three children, Connor, and the twins, Caileigh and Collin.  My husband often says that if we would have just had Connor we would have thought we were the best parents ever.  We said, “No”, and he stopped.  We could look sternly at him and he would apologize.  Then we had the twins.  Caileigh, bless her sweet heart, is definitely my child and that is both a blessing and a curse.  I often heard growing up,  “ I hope you have a child just like you!” and I did.  Caileigh does her own thing, in her own time and is willing to let you know when she doesn’t like something.  Her twin, Collin, sees everything in black and white and while mostly obedient, if you do something that he sees as wrong ( like turning the cartoon off while he was watching), he will hold a grudge all day long. I understand, really, I do.  That’s also why I know this works.  I read all the books, went to the seminars, talked to the leaders and gathered all the information I could.

So what is a mom to do?  Plan to spend the summer training your children in first time obedience, no whining and complaining and cleaning up after themselves.  What if you are in the middle of the school year?  Then start where you are.  You can schedule homeschooling light for the next few weeks, take a week or two off or pare down on activities for the next several weeks.  It can be done in the school year, it just might take more of your time, emotions and energy than usual.

Parent Training

First things first, we need to do some parent training.  I would suggest you take a week before you start on child training to train and prepare yourself and possibly your spouse.

In my experience, one of the most powerful and helpful parenting Bible verses is Matthew 5:37 which says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

When my children were little, I was challenged to really put this into practice in my home.  It meant that I had to take a moment and think about what they were asking and what my response would be.  It meant that if I said,’Yes’, I was committed to doing what I said I would do.  If I said I would make cookies, then I did.  If I said they could play with playdough I needed to be prepared to help get out all the playdough toys and set them up outside on the patio.  (I can not deal with playdough in the house.  It makes me crazy)  If I said that as soon I was done folding the laundry then I would take them to the park, then I did.  Sure life can get crazy and sometimes things happen but I tried to be very careful to keep my word.  I wanted my kids to know that I when I said I would do something then I would.  I didn’t need to promise because my kids knew that if I said ‘Yes’, I meant, ‘Yes’.

This took me a little time to adjust to as I really needed to think about it before I said, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.  I had to weigh out all that I had to do, what other expectations I had on my time and what was most important that day.  Had I spent enough time with the kids or had I been too focused on other matters.  Did I have company coming and messy kids what the last thing I needed?  Was there a moral or Biblical reason to say ‘No’, or was it just because it might annoy me.  This last statement was one I was also challenged on, did I just say ‘No’ to things because I just didn’t really want to deal with it or did I have a valid reason to say, ‘No’? Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I said, ‘No’ and then I told them, “ Mom, really isn’t up to it today.  Can we do it later in the week?’.  I really tried to limit the ‘Nos’ that had more to do with what I felt like then really whether it was a bad idea.

Saying, ‘Yes’ is far easier than the concept of saying, ‘No’ and meaning it.  Your ‘No’ as parent must hold weight.  If I tell my kids, ‘No’ they understand that I am willing to follow up on the ‘No’.  I do try and give them a why with the ‘No’ so they can learn the whys behind my ‘Nos’ and hopefully begin to see the wisdom and pattern in my ‘No’.

“No, you may not take the toy away from your sister because that is rude and the Bible says that love is not rude”.

“No, you may not play with your brother’s toys as it is not yours.  We must love and respect your brother enough to ask before we touch his things.”  I said this a lot to the twins who wanted to play with their older brothers cool toys.  Actually, they still want to play with his cool toys, but they now ask before they touch.

When I said ‘No’ to my kids, I had to be willing to follow up on whatever the consequences might be.  My ‘Yes’ meant ‘Yes’ and my ‘No’ meant ‘No’.  I didn’t count to three, I didn’t ask several times because they needed to know that I meant what I said and I was willing to follow through.  Was this fun?  Absolutely not.  There were days when I met my husband at the door and said, “The kids are sitting and reading on the couch, dinner is on the table and I won’t be back until they are all in bed”.  Saying ‘No’ and meaning it means that your children will test you on your ‘No’ and you have to have to have the fortitude to follow through.  It will be worth it though.  I don’t get angry and I don’t raise my voice but my kids know when Mom says ‘No’ she means it and they very rarely challenge that anymore.  It makes our home and much more peaceful and pleasant place.

I think that this is very first step in having your children listen to you both as a parent and a teacher and it is up to the parent to determine in their heart and mind to follow the Bible’s advice.


Breaking the Pattern

There are times in parenting that I wonder about the feasibility of a certain child still being around by the time they are 18.  Sometimes I wonder if I will survive.  We can have weeks of great behavior and then, bam!, we are in a horrible pattern and every day is painful and horrific.  Nothing they say or I say or do is right.  At times like these, homeschooling seems like more of a liability as there is no way we can get away from each other and have a little distance.  Everything becomes a challenge, school, chores, meals – everything.  What’s a Mom to do other than join a traveling circus?

When I hit one of these patches with my kids, there are a couple of things I have learned to do to break the pattern.

1. Pick your battle!  Keep the most important thing the most important thing.  Pick the battle that you are going to go down on and then let everything else go.  I generally pick first time obedience or respect, in deed and tone, to be the battles I am willing to go down on.  The fact that they are wearing holey jeans to church or that they left their piano bag in the car or haven’t done their hair today, may not be the most important thing  and I may need to let it go so that we can focus on the bigger battle.  Let your child know what your main expectation for them is, and then clearly outline positive consequences for meeting these expectations are, as well as what discipline will be used when they fail to meet these expectations.  Make them clear so that there is no question about what will be done, then be consistent on both positive and negative consequences.

2.  Remind them that you love them, unconditionally!  Say it, say it, and say it again.  Know their love language and show them in no uncertain terms that your love never wavers no matter what conflict you are in.  Little notes telling them of your love, a special treat or just a long snuggle on the couch depending on your child’s love language are effective ways of showing your love.

3.  Say something positive!  When I was a teenager, my Stepmom made a concerted effort to say something positive each and every day no matter how big the conflict was and trust me, they were plenty huge.  She might only say, “I like the outfit you picked today, you look beautiful” as I left to go to school but it made a huge difference.  Don’t let your child leave the house or go to bed without something positive along with an, “I love you no matter what!”.

4.  Spend more time with your child, not less. I have often found that by spending more time with the child I am in conflict with, the battle fizzles out pretty quickly.  I may take this child with me to the grocery store, out to lunch or just hang out in their room.  After the tension has let up, which may take three or four outings, I can then ask them what is really going on and I may find out that someone is teasing them at church or they are embarrassed to ask a question or they reveal they are really struggling with something in their faith. Then we can really get to the heart of the matter and start fixing things.  To get to this point though, I really need to give them a quantity of my undivided time before I get to quality time.  Sometimes I realize that they just need me to be available and as my kids get older, this becomes so much more important.  I find that hang out time in their rooms before bed has become really important to do once or twice a week.  It’s amazing what confidences they give me in hang out time in their room.

5. Be honest.  At times, I have had to say that their behavior is hurting my feelings or that I am really not feeling well so I may not react in the best way right now.  This kind of honesty usually softens all of our hearts and the tension level drops.

6.  Be willing to say sorry.  There have been times that I haven’t handled a situation well and I need to say, “I am sorry for yelling, please forgive me” or “I am taking this personally, and I shouldn’t, I am sorry.”  When I take respinsibility for my part in the conflict, they are more willing to take responsibility for theirs.

We all have times of conflict but a family is the best place to learn how to deal with them.


I obey right away! 

Throwback post! 
Our family went tent camping this weekend which is always an adventure with three children. It’s also one of those areas which can show you if your children have a heart of obedience. There are many times while camping that demand absolute first time obedience. For instance… “Don’t touch the fire, actually don’t go near the fire, no don’t throw anything in the fire. No you may not slide down the giant rock face first. You must stay where Mommy can see you, no, you may not feed the wild animal.” Scott and I are very grateful that this weekend showed that for the most part our children had a heart of obedience. It was a little wet (okay, a lot wet) and we may need to work on doing everything without whining and complaining but nobody’s perfect!

Here’s some ideas to start your obedience training with your little ones- 
Idea one: Read the story of Jonah to your children, or you can also watch a children’s video on Jonah. Ask your children if Jonah obeyed right away. He didn’t, so what happened to him then? He was swallowed by a whale! God put him in time out in a whale! Point out to you children that God gave Jonah time to think about what he did and that Jonah needed to ask for forgiveness for not obeying right away. When we refuse to obey right away, usually bad things happen, things like time out or getting hurt. Perhaps you can remind your children of times that bad things happened when they didn’t obey right away.

Play the obedience game. This is basically hide and go seek where the parent hides and the child seeks you. The rules: You must come right away . Your child must say “Yes, Mommy or Daddy” before they reach you. Oh, and one rule we added after our kids ran over each other, no pushing or shoving. When they reach you can simply give them praise and a hug or reward them with a treat. I think that bad behavior brings bad consequences and good behavior should bring good consequences.

Help your children memorize Eph 6:1 by singing it to the tune of Happy Birthday.
“ Children obey your parents,
Children obey your parents,
children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” 
Ephesians 6:1
(By the way, this song was not my original idea, I got it from a book teaching scripture memorization)

Make a badge that says “I Obey Right Away” to wear. This is both a good reminder for them and something fun to wear!

Once you’ve done these things and your children have the concept make sure and follow up every month or so with one of these as reminders. I also have my children recite our rules before we go into a store or a public place and “I obey right away!” is one we repeat often.

“Change Your Face” and Other Questionable Parenting Moments

For the many that only know me from the blog or from the MFW FB page, what you might not know is that I have a deep well of snark. I try to keep it under control when I am writing as sarcasm and snark don’t always play well in writing.  You have to be able to see my face, hear my tone and be able to judge my relative sincerity.  Those that have heard me speak at conventions have been able to see this in me.  Sarcasm, irony and snark are my love languages.  Okay, not meanly.  Being mean is never going to be right. As my kids became pre-teens and teens this also became one of my best tools to both keep situations light and funny but also able to get my point across to my kids. I find funny is a powerful tool to keep tempers and emotions in check in both the kids and in myself.  Now, I only have to start these phrases and my kids finish them for me and check and change their attitudes.  Occasionally, they spout them back at me and I have to check my attitude.

1. “Change your face!” This gem was given to me by a Pastor at our church.  His Mom used to say it to him whenever his attitude started showing in his face.  Kid disgusted by the dinner served at Grandma’s house? A quick, ” Change your face” is highly effective.  Your teen rolling their eyes at you?  Give them a warning to change their face. Someone saying something dumb about homeschooling? Your kids remind you to change YOUR face.  

2. “ Really? That’s what you want to go with?” This phrase became almost a daily occurrence when Caileigh was struggling in later elementary with telling the truth. We had laid down the consequences, lying got you 4x the punishment of the original infraction.  It also meant you went nowhere and spent ALL your time right next to Mom.  If I couldn’t trust you to be away from me, then you got to be right by me and do everything I did.  All the dishes, cleaning, chores that I did plus outside activities were cancelled until you proved that you were trustworthy.  Caileigh needed a little grace and a little helpful reminder when it was obvious that she wasn’t telling the complete truth.  I would say this once and only once to give her a chance to do the right thing. Now, it’s used in our home as a funny way to say, “You are digging yourselves a pretty deep hole that you never are going to get out of”.  This was especially helpful with younger teen boys during puberty because they said the dumbest things and needed to think through what they were actually saying.

3. “Life is tough. Life is tougher when you’re stupid.” – John Wayne.  When I first came across this quote, I absolutely howled.  It was funny and so very true. My beloved Grandpa watched all the John Wayne movies with me and in my mind was John Wayne.  He even looked liked John Wayne and spoke like John Wayne and I could just hear him saying it to me. I read it to my kids and gave them some personal examples of when I made my life so much harder because I was making poor choices. The Bible has several examples.  Samson is a perfect example of this.  He knew the right thing to do and did the exact opposite and it made his life sooooo much harder. So whenever I see my kids headed down a path that is going to cause them trouble I just say, “Life is tough. Life is tougher…” and they generally fill in the rest of the phrase and my adorable 5 year old niece says, ” We don’t say stupid!”.  It is the perfect way to remind them that they are making their own life so much harder because of a unwise choice.  

4. “Know where you are going or you’ll end up somewhere else” – Yogi Berra. My StepMom used to say this to me all the time and it made me crazy but it’s so true.  If you don’t have a goal and a plan then you are never going to get where you want to go. The Bible says that, ” The noble make noble plans and by noble deeds they stand” Isaiah 32:8. If God has led you to homeschool, then make goals, plans and get it done.  In our home we encourage our kids to pray big, dream big and once you think God has said yes, then you step in, make a plan with achievable goals and get it done.  I have been floored by the things my kids have accomplished, they are scary big. They prayed about them, stepped in and we made a plan with achieveable goals and they have done everything from raising a large amount of money to feed kids in Ethiopia, to speaking at a MIT convention in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Boston, become the Rising Stars for their Robotics team, do two years of math in a year to catch up,  have our entire block donate food for a food drive at church or raise enough money for our family to go on a missions trip – twice. They don’t think that its impossible, they know that God wants them to make the world a better place and they make a plan and make it happen.  They humble and challenge me. 

5. “Your maid doesn’t live here.” We keep a pretty clean house with daily chores, daily 15 minute clean ups but everyone is supposed to clean up after themselves.  If you grab a snack, fine, but clean the kitchen after yourself.  Don’t leave your stuff lying around period end of discussion.  For some strange reason my kids forget these rules and occasionally I have to pull out this phrase.  I say it and point to the mess.  If it isn’t cleaned up immediately, then we have an obedience issue and no one wants that.  There have been times when this got bad enough that I started charging them, because a maid should be paid. Then they had to do chores like scooping poop, pulling weeds etc to make extra money so that you could pay me.  This generally stopped that behavior for 3 mos or so and then we had to retrain. 

I didn’t ever use these phrases with younger kids as they need black and white, yes or no’s.  They need to know the rules and follow the rules in those younger years.  Towards those middle school and high school years, I moved to more of a coaching role versus an absolute monarchy.  These are also most effective with kids who know the right thing to do and have been trained in obedience.  They just need reminders not training. 

Homeschooling with Chronic Pain

I woke up in the middle night in pain.  I rolled into a different position and pain shot down from my back into my leg and foot and I thought, “Uh oh, that’s not good.  Tomorrow’s the first day of school. ” I got in a more comfortable position and went back to sleep knowing that it was going to be a harder day.

I have Degenerative Disc Disease, basically arthritis in my back.  I have had two bulging discs, steroid shots, back surgery and seemingly endless physical therapy but at the end of the story it just means that I deal with pain in my back, sciatic nerve down my leg and burning pain and numbness in my foot almost every single day.  Some days are better and some days are worse, that’s just how it is.  I have chronically been in pain since the twins were babies, which means our entire homeschool career, I have dealt with chronic pain.  I am not saying this to gain sympathy as when anyone gives me sympathy, it makes me grumpy.  I would far prefer for everyone to just forget I have pain and just let me deal with it so that no one ever knows. However, I was recently reminded that others may gain hope and benefit from my experience in managing chronic pain and homeschooling successfully for 14+ years.  This much sharing makes me grumpy as I like to pretend that, “I am fine”, which is my standard answer when anyone asks me how I am feeling. I have a fun book all planned out to read just as soon as I finish this post to help me be less grumpy about this much personal sharing.

How I deal with it –

Completely ignore it.  No, that’s neither true or helpful but it’s what I would rather do but here’s what I actually do.

1. Take Care of Myself.- As a Mom this bugs me,  I should take care of everyone else first. However, the truth is that to be able to take care of anyone, I have to take care of myself or I will be laid up in bed or have to have surgery again, none of which I want to do. I had to learn this the hard way.  Spending much of Connor’s K year teaching from bed hammered this point into me.  I must take care of myself to take care of them. So, I get up every morning and I do my Pilates.  Pilates helps me to be able to move and function throughout the day. When my kids were little, they did it with me.  I bought them cheap plastic balls to do the exercise ball with me.  They learned how to do the downward facing dog and stretch their lower back.  They thought it was great fun.  I have 5 videos that I trade-off. I keep my weight down as more weight equals more pressure on my back which is bad.  We pay for massages every month to keep my muscles and nerves from tensing up.  My beloved husband insisted we buy a really good memory foam mattress with a moveable frame.  I can take pressure off my lower back and it feels like heaven.  I also have a set of really great Lazy Boy chairs which I sit in to do school, read, write, type, drink tea etc.  I rest every afternoon and “go flat” for at least 30 min a day.  This is one of the reasons we still have quiet time.

2. Use pain killers sparingly but use them if needed. – I don’t like the feeling of being out of control so I just didn’t take the prescription pain killers.  However, after I got yelled at by my Doctor, my husband and my Mom, as I was actually causing myself more damage by walking weird or making it hard to live with me, I did some research and found pain meds I was okay with. I like arnica pills and arnica creme.  They take away the majority of the pain but don’t make me tired or make feel like I have narcotics in my system.

3.  Give Grace. – I have had to learn that sometimes I might be extra sharp when I am in pain so on those extra hard days, I tell my kids that I am not feeling well and then I give everyone around me an extra measure of grace.  I work hard to stop and think about whether this is really an obedience issue or if I am just extra cranky.  This is when it helps to have the house rules clearly posted.  It also helps to have consequences thought out and posted ahead of time.  When I am in pain, I am more likely to be harsh so consequences thought out ahead time helps me to have a measured response.

4. Lesson plans done ahead of time. – Using an open and go curriculum and having all lesson plans done ahead of time allows us to do school even on bad days.  I can sit in my chair, open up my TM and just jump in. When my kids were young, I had notebooks labeled for each day of their week with their independent work so that they could get to work even if I needed to take a little extra time stretching or soaking my back.  As they got older, I made sure to have daily lessons written out for their independent work.  School is my very first priority and it needs to get done no matter how I feel.  ( Barring trips to the hospital, fevers over 102* or throwing up, we do school.)

5. Scheduled Down Time. – I must schedule down time daily and weekly.  This allows me some wriggle room in our schedule and time to rest.  I have to schedule it or I won’t do it.  I am a completely type A personality so I would rather go, go, go but I just can’t and I need to be wise and know my limitations.

6. Let Others Help or Even Know I am in Pain.-  This goes against everything in me.  “Nope, I am fine” is my mantra but there are a select few that know my ‘pain tells’ that I am mostly comfortable to go to for prayer and for help. They include my husband, my kids, my Mom, and my best friend.  They also have the freedom to tell me to go lay down, ask if I need pain pills, get me a cuppa tea and/or ask me if I need to cancel something on my schedule.  That last one I don’t handle well at all but I work hard to try to be reasonable.

7. Planned Crock Pot or Freezer Meals – My pain level is usually the worst by 3 or 4 so standing up and cooking can be torturous.  Having meals in the freezer or throwing something in the crock pot helps to alleviate that and gives me time to rest before all the evening activities.  When my kids were little I went to one of those places that you put 12 freezer meals together in an afternoon.  It was worth the extra cost for someone else to do the shopping, planning and chopping for dinner as it was way more expensive and less healthy to go out to eat.  I think now they just deliver the meals to you.  Now that my kids are older, I just have them help in the prep or I do it earlier in the day.

8.  Be organized! My cousin has dealt with chronic pain/chronic illness all through her kids growing up years and I learned a valuable lesson from her, organize like mad.  Her meals are planned, her kids schedule is planned and her house management is planned.  Her chore chart is a beautiful thing.  I aspire to be her but since I am not as naturally organized, I have a looser schedule but I have one none the less.  I make sure we straighten up each day, school stuff put away, dishes done, kitchen straightened up, some laundry done and some household chore each day.  My kids know how to do a “15 minute clean up” which is basically when we rush through the house putting everything in its place.  If we do this everyday, the house stays basically tidied.  We do a five days of school in four so that on Fridays, we sleep in, have fun cereals for breakfast, watch some cartoons and then clean the house.  We do bathrooms, dust, vacuum, clean the kitchen, our bedrooms and I have us focus on one room or area each week to go a little deeper.  This schedule also helps as my daughter has to take her very nasty autoimmune drugs on Thursday night and she needs extra sleep the next day. I try to do one extra cleaning thing each weekday so that Friday doesn’t get too long.

9.  Tea.  Having tea helps everything.  Oh, and a good book.  Tea and a good book almost solves everything.  Okay, it might not be tea and a good book for you but having something to reward yourself with helps to get through a tough day.  I shamelessly reward myself with tea and a book when I have done all the things I needed to.

10.  Recognize that Everyone Has Issues – Sometimes it can feel like I am the only one that has to deal with this kind of pain AND homeschool.  Sometimes it just seems like everyone has it easier and does it better but that’s just not true.  Everyone has something.  Paul talks about having a thorn in his side and I just figure this is mine.  I want to give it to God and let it help me be more patient with others as I don’t know what’s going on in their life.  I think God uses it to help me to remember that people are more important than getting things done.  If I just need to sit and have a cup of my tea with my daughter or watch a movie with my husband then maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.  I don’t think I would slow down enough to recognize that my loved ones need me to just be with them otherwise. It helps to give me perspective and patience and empathy.  None of which are natural strong-suits of mine. I am grateful for the learning lessons that it affords me, I am also grateful that this is not my forever body and one day looking down at the water I just spilled and wondering if I could just leave it because bending down might just kill me, will not be an issue.

Parent Kids Early = Loving the Teen Years

I surprised my wonderful 15-year-old girl today.  She looked at me with shock and a little dismay.  She asked me if she was allowed to do something and I responded with, ” Well, that’s probably not up to me anymore, that’s a decision you should make.  Should you do that?” The first time I said that to Connor he responded to me with, ” I would rather you just tell me what to do.” I laughed and said, ” Yes, that would be easier for you but it is now your job to decide and to step in and follow God.”

Part of the reason my kids are so surprised by my stepping back is that I have been the driving force in their life.  I am an obey the first time, ‘but Mom’ has been banned in our hours for years, be kind or you will answer to me, I don’t threaten, I promise, kinda Mom.  I am not a yeller or a screamer but break the rules and the posted consequences will happen.  Whine and complain and you will have a taste of apple cider vinegar for not using pleasant tones.  Complain about being bored and I will find a toilet for you to clean.  I believe in working hard and then playing hard, but if you forget the work hard part, you will not be playing.  If I say no, I mean no. If I say yes, I will do everything I can to make that happen.  That’s the Mom I decided to be years ago.  We run a tight ship during those young years.

I firmly believe that in those early years, it is our job as parents to make clear rules and follow them.  I believe we should teach our kids the Biblical or moral reason why we do the things we do.  We need to make the Bible the clear answer to why we do the things we do.  We speak kindly and pleasantly because Proverbs says, ” Pleasant words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  We treat others things with respect and even better than we treat our things because the Bible says we are to ” Love your neighbor as yourself”.  We obey right away because it says in Ephesians, ” Obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.”

We work hard in those young years to hide God’s Word in our heart and we work hard to not merely be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word.

There comes a time, though, when we need to loosen the reigns and start letting our kids lead.  In our house, it seems like it starts happening around 15 or so.  Puberty is mostly over, their hormones start settling down and they start living what they believe. Then it’s my job to back off and let God.  I become an advisor, not the leader.  I am the coach on the sidelines. Will they make mistakes?  Yes.  Will they have some failures?  Absolutely and I think that’s good. It’s hard but it’s good.  I want those first mistakes and failures to happen while they still live under our roof so that we can help them mitigate the consequences and teach them how to get up, shake off the dirt, deal with the hurt and try again.  I also want the chance to be able to see is there are any major gaps in their learning and have time to fix that.

It reminds me a little of how I educate my kids.  When they are in grammar stage ( earliest learning – about 5th), I teach them straight facts, yes and no, make sure they know their math facts, their phonics, know their grammar rules.  In the Logic stage ( Middle School), I start teaching the why’s of all those facts, we start to make connections, they decide what they think about those facts, they start taking baby steps in independence.  In the Rhetoric stage, ( High School and beyond) they take what they know and make it their own.  They not only know what they think about those facts, they have opinions and start sharing those opinions.  They take what they know and start to think about how they want to change the world.  They should be managing their time, their assignments and books.  The early years I have the reigns and the plans but by high school, I need to be letting go and letting them take the lead.  The key to this is to teach and discipline when they are young.

There are a few resources that were helpful to us when our kids were young.  I need to note that I didn’t follow any of these things 100%.  I took everything and tested it against the Word of God. I also took everything and thought about it and tested it against what I knew of my children and their personalities.  Personalities do matter when training your kids.  Our expectations of each of our kids have always been same but not how we get there. Having twins with opposite personalities trained this into us fairly early.

****clicking on the colored links will take you to the Amazon page for that resource.  This helps me to fund this page. Every resource I recommend I have used and I own, in several cases, I own multiple copies.

I Want to Enjoy My Children – I worked through this book when Connor was an infant.  It was the very first parenting book I ever read and it really spoke to me about the parent I wanted to be and the desire I had to enjoy this whole scary parenting thing.

Hints on Child Training – I originally bought this book because the author is the grandfather of Elisabeth Elliott and I loved the story of her life and had read many of her books.  However, once I got into it, I really appreciated his perspective.  One of the things that struck me was how he spoke about the fact that every time you ask your child to be obedient they do have a choice.  They can choose to obey you or they have the choice not to.  I am not taking away their choice, I am just following through on my word.  This thought helped me think through my opinion on Love and Logic parenting.  Some of the wording is a little archaic but it’s worth it.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart – This book really helped me when I was dealing with a very strong-willed girl.  It felt like we butted heads every single day and I was very concerned that I was going to ruin my relationship with my sweet little girl.  The idea that I needed to look at heart training versus behavior modification was life changing.  It helped me to pick my battles and focus on what really mattered.  As a cautionary note, the author promotes the idea that spanking is the only viable discipline technique and it is one I found completely untrue.  Spanking was NOT the most effective technique in our home.

Everyday Talk – This book changed me.  I realized that how I spoke and thought about everyday things affected my kids.  As I am very verbal and my tongue is my biggest sin issue, this book helped me to further tame my tongue and to think about what I said in context of how it might affect my kids.

Creative Correction – This simply was a great book to help me think of ways to provide consequences for my kids.

Spiritual Parenting – I helped teach this book in a parenting class at church this spring and I found that it closely aligns to my own ideas and thoughts in parenting.  It didn’t always give the most practical how to’s to accomplish those ideas but as a foundational philosophy of parenting, I found it pretty right on.

Babywise  – I hesitate to recommend this series of books because I have found far too many parents take the series and use it far too legalistically.  However, this whole series has really practical tips.  Self Control hands?  Genius.  The Umbrella of Obedience?  Really helpful visual tool to help my kids understand that stepping out from our covering and the covering of God’s protection is not in their best interest.  Take the tips and use them but don’t fall into the trap of making this your parenting Bible.  Your only parenting Bible should be the Bible.