By Katie Hubbard
I find in parenting it is easy to lose the forest for the trees. One thing that I have found helpful to combat this problem is to have what I think of as a “grid” to lay over my parenting to help me think through the bigger picture of what is going on with my kids, rather than getting lost in the many incidents over the day that cloud the picture.
For reference and birth order, my kids are Tom (18), Kayla (16), Rachel (14), and Joe (7).
Here is my grid (or filter, if you prefer).
Never, ever, ever, ever, ever compare. Do not compare your children to other people’s children. Especially if you have a first born boy and your friend has a first born girl. If you do, you will just lock yourself in your closet and weep for hours. Do not compare! You and your best friend may be the same age and have the same age kids, but there are hundreds of different factors in your lives, in your personalities, in your life situation, and in your children’s personalities and lives.
For example, I am the kind of parent who, if I have time and energy, will try to get out with my kids in nature and have an adventure. My good friend, Cathy, on the other hand, will immediately do a craft with her kids. So if I compare myself to Cathy and try to remember the last time I did a craft with my kids, I become glum and feel like a failure (I will let you know if I ever remember the last time I did a craft with any of my kids). If she compares herself to me and tries to remember the last time she took her kids out in nature, then she feels like a failure. And on and on.
Don’t compare, but do beg, borrow, and steal. While we shouldn’t compare, there is no shame in borrowing parenting ideas. I was an education major in college; one of my professors used to say, “Beg, borrow, and steal. You don’t have to have an original thought while teaching; feel free to borrow other people’s ideas.” Don’t feel like you have to have all of the answers and good ideas. The things I am sharing with you are things I have learned from others. Once we had some friends come over and we discovered that they put their kids in a corner with their nose to the wall for “timeout.” Brilliant! We borrowed that idea and wow, was it effective! Our kids really hated that one.
Don’t discipline in a way that punishes you. For example, it might seem like a good idea to take away your child’s favorite show or video game, but then what are they going to do during that half hour or hour that they normally watch their show and you get a break? Yep, you are going to have to think of extra things to do with them. Instead, send them to their room for thirty minutes and then you get a thirty minute break! Same with grounding; I don’t want a mopey teenager around all weekend. Instead we usually put them to work. Then they learn a lesson and we get a cleaner house or a better looking yard.
Discipline in a way that is effective. If you are disciplining your child, and the behavior is not changing, then your discipline is ineffective and you need to do something else. In other words, if your discipline is not working, then it is not discipline. One definition of discipline is “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.” We don’t discipline just for the sake of discipline, we discipline to bring about correction and training. For example, putting my daughter Rachel in timeout was completely ineffective; she is wonderfully imaginative and creative, so sitting in timeout was just another great way for her to be imaginative and creative. However, my daughter Kayla is completely social, so a timeout was devastating to her.
Which brings me to my next point, be a student of your children. Vollie Sanders has written a wonderful Bible study that I highly recommend, Train Up a Mom. She discusses becoming a student of your children in several chapters of her study. She writes, “I studied my children to find out their unique personalities, their personal values, their gifts and talents, and the things that caused them to stumble. I asked God to give me ideas on how to encourage their strengths and recognize their temptations.” Vollie also suggests thinking through your individual children’s needs in four categories: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. I apply this “grid” to thinking about each of my children and what they currently need. Four areas times four children equals a lot of thinking! But it is so helpful. For instance, Tom may be physically active but his grades are slumping; Rachel’s grades might be great but she has not been physically active; Kayla may be doing well spiritually but might be a bit too social; and Joe might be doing well mentally but then I realize we have not read a devotional together in six weeks.
Get in someone else’s back pocket. If you assemble 32 sets of parents and ask them any question about parenting, you will probably get 32 different answers. The amount of parenting advice and styles is overwhelming. We found it very helpful to narrow down our “parenting examples” to one or two families, and for the most part, we tried to do what they did. We have not always lived in the same town with these people, but they have been my “go to” sources over the years. Having one or two examples has muted the competing voices. One time one of my “examples” came to visit me for a few days when the kids were 6, 3, and 1. I asked her to observe my parenting while she was there and then give me feedback. Boy was that a scary thing to do! I really wanted her to pat me on the back and tell me I was awesome! But instead she pointed out ways I could improve. That was painful, but so helpful. I will never forget one thing she said to me, “Every moment is a training opportunity.” Up until that time, I realized I had always thought there were times that I should get a “break” from training….like when we were going to the bank, or grocery shopping, or to the mall. But no!! I needed to view those as training opportunities. Walking in to the mall and preparing myself by thinking, “If there is bad behavior here, I will view this as a training time, and not an ‘imposition’ to whatever it is I am trying to accomplish here” was super helpful. And, alas, realizing I didn’t get a break from training on vacation, either.
Let your kids bow out gracefully. In our family, our go to phrase was “Make a good choice.” If I asked the kids to do something and I saw that they did not want to or weren’t going to, then I would say, “Make a good choice!” and walk away to give them the privacy and dignity to wrestle with their little thoughts and emotions and let them choose what they were going to do. Nobody wants an eyeball to eyeball stare down where it then becomes “Mom’s Will vs. My Will.” We all want the dignity to choose, and the knowledge that we are trusted to do the right thing. And if they chose not to obey, then there was a consequence.
Birth order is a big deal, pay attention to it. Birth order and different personalities are HUGE. In our family, Kayla always wanted to do what Tom was doing, so there was a lot of competition and discontent there. Rachel could care less what Tom OR Kayla was doing; she was going to do her own thing. Different kids, different issues. Joe is a fourth born with no siblings of a similar age, so guess what? Sharing is not an issue. But on the other hand, he can never win or be right.
Is my parenting based on God’s Word or on contemporary advice that competes with God’s Word? Our culture has very definite opinions about parenting and what we should and should not be doing!! There are more voices now than ever. But as I look around, I do not see that our culture is producing lots of disciplined, self controlled, loving, caring, and compassionate individuals who respect authority. There is lots of vitriol and condemnation of those who spank, yet I see that our society is more violent than ever. The question we need to be asking is, “What does Scripture say?!” If I have observed anything from contemporary culture, it is that the standard of what we can expect from our kids’ behavior is shockingly low. Kids are capable of so much more than we think. Most of our parenting involves us “under” expecting and parenting, rather than “over” expecting. Scripture assures us that “children are a blessing.” Let us parent in a way that they are a blessing!!
Katie and Norm have been on staff since 1998 in WI and now minister in IL. This past year was her first year of parenting to not have a kiddo at home full time! They have been married for 20 years and have 4 children ages 7-18, 2 boys and 2 girls. Katie brings wonderful and focused perspective on what truly matters as she is battling breast cancer for the third time in 6 years.
What parenting tip stuck out to you the most? Do you have any “parenting examples” you turn to for guidance? Share any stories or tips that you have learned over the years while raising your children.