An Instructive Word is Better Than a Spanking

Proverbs 17:10 “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”

When I was a new mom, I devoured parenting books. At that time, nearly 10 years ago, most of the Christian books seemed to focus on spanking–when to spank, how to spank, etc. These books gave the impression that the key to rearing upstanding Christian children was all in spanking correctly and consistently for each disobedience. It never seemed to be the magic key for me, so I was thankful as the years went on to find more well-rounded parenting advice elsewhere that affirmed how God was leading me as a mommy.

As far as spanking goes, society is pretty divided about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking children, but a recent CNN report indicates that the majority of their readers are in favor of spankings. Contemporary Christians tend to be somewhat divided about the issue, largely due to debate over whether “the rod” in Scripture is a literal rod or a figurative one that describes discipline in general, and due to the fact that the Bible is not nearly as descriptive on spanking as many of the popular books are. The American College of Pediatricians supports the practice of spanking under careful control. I think their guidelines are wise and such control and restraint should be the norm for anyone who chooses to spank their children.

I think there is a place for restrained, occasional spankings by parents who can handle that kind of power wisely, but, contrary to what I read in some of those parenting books, I do not think that a spank alone will ever change the heart of a child. A spanking may be effective for immediately changing a behavior, but, in order to affect our children’s hearts and help them gain wisdom, we need to take the longer route of teaching them–of gently explaining how their behavior affects others, how it hurts them, how it fails to reflect the love and grace God has shown to us, modeling the behavior we want to see, walking them through correct responses when they are prone to fail, etc. It’s not the quick and easy route, for sure.

There is so much more that could be said about how to win the hearts and confidence of our children so that they will value our instruction. This is not at all an exhaustive essay on what I think about spanking or reaching our children’s hearts. And I am in no way an expert or a super-parent, so take my opinions with a grain of salt and search the Scriptures for yourself. These are just a few ideas that I was mulling over as I studied this verse in Proverbs. If you have constructive comments that will sharpen me, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Linkage

I enjoyed this post from Karen Campbell today. My relationship with my grandma was so much like Karen’s with her grandma. My grandma made me feel treasured and enjoyed, and I’ve remembered that and have tried to bring the same kind of attitude into my own parenting.

Being a “yes” mama doesn’t mean you’re a permissive mom. It’s more about enjoying your children and treasuring each moment. And I can’t get enough of that kind of perspective each day.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kids, Mealtime, Picky Eaters, etc.

Hello out there! It’s been a while since I’ve stepped out and written anything on this blog. I’ve been silent partly out of busy-ness and partly out of an understanding of what a fool I am and how little I know about anything worthy of blog-space. I love being a teacher, which is why I started this blog–to explain to others the things I have been learning–and yet I have become afraid of the greater criticism that comes to those who try to teach. So, I’ve decided to be mostly silent and keep my teaching realm at home among my very forgiving sweet kids. For now.

That being said…..today I’ve decided to come back for a brief chat and talk about something highly controversial: picky eaters and what to do about them! (You’d think I’d come back with something a little more mild, huh?) My husband’s side of the family is amused right now if they are reading this, because they KNOW that I am no expert at what I’m about to talk about. I really am a fool and am not saying that anything I do is right for anyone else, but I hope to explain the thoughts behind my actions in order partly to explain myself and partly to encourage others to make their own decisions based on good thinking and not on pressure from others or a desire to make your family look good on the outside. This topic has come up several times lately among young mommies I know, so I’ve decided to stick my neck out and share my two cents. So….here goes!

As I begin, I want to share some verses with you that have helped to shape my choices:

Matthew 15:11 “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Mark 7:15 “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

Romans 14:16-17 “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

As I’ve pondered these verses, I’ve been challenged to not communicate to my children that they are “good” if they eat a lot, eat fast, eat all their food on their plates,  or that they are “bad” if they eat little, eat slowly, have a small appetite, etc. Eating well does not make them “good” in God’s sight, and so I wonder why, many times, parents and grandparents put such grave importance on “cleaning your plate”, being a “good eater,” having a “healthy appetite,” etc. Sometimes, I think our values come from tradition more than they come from biblical thinking.

If you’ve read many of my other parenting posts, then you know that I am always striving to reach the hearts of my children and I bristle against any teaching that stresses outward performance or conformity without reaching the hearts of my children. I try to take the long, messy road of teaching to the heart rather than using a discipline method that will produce immediate obedience but may reap rebellion, hurt, or confusion in the future. (Of course, no one intentionally chooses a method that will reap rebellion, hurt, or confusion in the future, but some parents just don’t stop to look ahead and calculate the long-term effects of choices that bring pleasing temporary results. Don’t assume that a pleasing result now equals a pleasing long-term result!)

Here are the things that I value when it comes to mealtime and teaching my children:

1. Kindness to others: I try to explain to my children that it is polite to eat food that has been prepared for them by others. I’m trying to teach them to think of others when it comes to mealtime and to let love overrule when they are served something that they don’t like. (At the same time, sometimes I am amazed when an adult would expect a child to show that type of maturity and yet would show such immaturity as to be offended that a child did not like or eat the food prepared!) At the stage my children are in, we ask them to take some “thank you” bites of foods they don’t love, but if there is a food my children are very averse to, I treat them the way I would want to be treated and let them off the hook. (C’mon, now! Aren’t there foods that you really can’t stand? So why are you expecting more of your children than you expect of yourself? Most of us have polite, socially acceptable ways of avoiding the foods we don’t like.) I expect that my children’s ability to eat foods they don’t like will grow as they grow physically, so, in the meantime, I “remember their frame” (Psalm 103:14) as God remembers mine and lets me take baby steps in my own growth.

2. Good stewardship of our bodies: I try often to teach my children about nutrition, and we try to model it with our own choices, too. They know about saturated fat, they ask me what vitamins are in different foods they eat, and they know about the food pyramid. Every once in a while I will sketch out a food pyramid and ask them to list all the foods they’ve eaten that day. If they are low in fruits or vegetables, I’ll point that out and suggest that maybe they have a carrot or apple for a snack rather than a granola bar or cheese stick. I try to help them make good choices for themselves so that someday, when they’re on their own, they WANT to eat wisely. I could just dictate every choice for them, but then I think they’d run a greater risk of choosing Doritos and Mountain Dew everyday for their snacks when the choice is finally theirs.

3. I want mealtime at my home to be a time of enjoyment, togetherness, and celebration, not a time for fights and battles and anxiety about food. Food is given by God for our enjoyment and nourishment. Click here to read a piece that has inspired me to make mealtimes about more than just dinner.

Things I want to avoid:

1. Giving my kids the impression that they are “good” or “bad” kids based on what they eat:
My nephews and one of my nieces eat anything and everything put before them. And lots of it. Sometimes I’m tempted to say something like, “Wow! Look at So-and-so. He ate ALL his food! And he ate it so quickly! What a GOOD eater you are! *patting him on the back*”  When I do that, I am doing an injustice to all the kids. I am communicating to my nephew that I value him more when he eats a lot of food, setting him up for overeating, and I am communicating to my own children that I would be most pleased with them if they would eat a lot of food, tempting them to put their personal value in what they eat, rather than who they are. This is not what I want to value. I want to value those things that come out of their hearts: righteousness, kindness, love, peace, etc.

2. Teaching my children to eat for the wrong reasons:
When I’m around people who value “good eaters,” I’m tempted to cater to those people rather than to follow my Spirit-guided mommy heart, and I’m tempted to make my children eat in order to make me look good and for them to be loved more by others. The fear of people should never rule my choices.

2. Inadvertently teaching my children to overeat:
I’ve read it in many books, and I believe it to be true: children know when their own tummies are full better than we do. When my children were bottle-fed babies and pushed the bottle out of their own mouths, I knew they were full. I never forced the bottle back into their mouths and made them finish it just because there was more left in the bottle. In the same way, I don’t expect them to finish a plate of food if an adult not used to their normal portion-size mounds their plate with food. They know best when they are full, and I don’t think it’s virtuous to make them eat when they are full. At worst, I believe it teaches their bodies to overeat.

So, practically, this is how all this works in my house:

I take the recommendation that seems to be the overwhelming favorite of pediatricians. I try to serve healthy, delicious, balanced meals. I try to model good nutrition by what I buy, prepare and eat. I don’t make something different for my kids if they aren’t happy with what I’ve prepared: dinner is what’s on the table and nothing else, with rare exceptions. I make my two older kids try a bite of everything, for the most part, unless it’s something they are very averse to. (A child with abnormal eating difficulties needs to be treated uniquely under a doctor’s care. The type of pickiness I’m addressing is the type that seems to affect the majority of children, from what I’ve observed, not something more extreme.)

We are a work in progress. My 17-month-old would happily eat cheese and granola bars for every meal and hands back any piece of meat, fruit, or vegetable I put on her tray. My older kids often dislike the meals I prepare and usually are skeptical of new things. Sometimes I entertain thoughts of being a “meaner” mom. It would make the here-and-now a lot easier. But I feel confident that the path I’m on is the one God has for me. Other parents with different personalities, backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses and their kids with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, have different mealtime expectations than we do. And that’s ok. Whether you feel confident in this area or whether you feel inadequate, we’re all works in progress, after all, as God teaches our kids through us and us through our kids. And that’s a good thing to remember about one another.

A Few Good Posts

Well, I haven’t had much time to post my own thoughts lately, but I thought I’d link to a few posts that have really resonated with me lately:

The first one is a post from Ann at A Holy Experience. Click here. I thought I just might cry when I read this post. I am learning to be more content with what I call “happy chaos” in my home. Often I choose spending time with my kids over folding the laundry or allowing my children to make a creative mess over keeping my house pristine. By nature, though, I really am a person who likes everything to be clean and tidy. And then sometimes I feel guilty about the toys on the floor or the sink full of dishes that I just can’t get to right now. Or I feel incompetent when someone comes over and the house isn’t as neat as I’d like it to be. Anyway, if you struggle with those types of feelings too, go read Ann’s post. It’ll bless you.

And then I read this gem from Wendy Alsup over at Practical Theology for Women. I can’t begin to explain to people how God has transformed my husband and me as we have understood more of the gospel in recent years. God has changed us from legalistic Pharisees into gospel-loving people who understand more of God’s grace than we ever realized was possible. And I know we’re just scratching the surface. But it’s really hard for us to explain to people who are stuck in our old kinds of thought patterns just how we’ve changed and what those changes mean. So….I probably need to start posting things that give little windows into this new world of understanding. Anyway….if you’re trying to understand God’s grace or why I’m so weird and different lately, go read Wendy’s post. And I’ll try to be better about posting things that articulate better than I can why I believe the gospel is extremely important for believers every day, not just for those who are yet in unbelief.

Ok. Sorry for this awkwardly worded post, but I hope these links will be a blessing to you today!

Oh, and, by the way, if you are interested in sewing, I’ve started another blog at lifesewbeautiful.wordpress.com, where I’m posting photos and descriptions of the things I’m sewing.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Hearty Recommendation

Well, a month or so ago I had high hopes of writing lots of posts on things that have been swirling around in my mind, but for now the time it would take is better spent elsewhere. For now. But I did want to pop in and give a big, hearty recommendation for the Faith Comes By Hearing recorded New Testament. Wow. I became familiar with it through Ann Voskamp’s blog, and we bought a set for the kids for Christmas. I can’t give a big enough recommendation for this dramatized audio Bible. You can get it as a “Bible stick”, MP3s, CDs, or a few other options. It’s available in several different translations. We bought the ESV in CDs. For us, CDs work well because we can put one in each of the vehicles, one in the downstairs stereo, and one in each of the kids’ rooms, if we want. We’ve been listening to them nonstop in the car and throughout the house. The kids are listening and asking questions. Just today in the car we were listening to the crucifixion story and I got these questions: “What does “strike” mean? What does “flog” mean? What does “crucify” mean?” When I play a CD, the kids stop what they’re doing, and they listen! And Dan and I keep hearing and thinking about things that we hadn’t thought about before. They’re very well-done, with sound effects and different voices. (Just listen to the excerpt on the site. Who wouldn’t want to listen to that?) My brother-in-law and sister-in-law ordered these, and they’re just as delighted with them as we are. If you’re wondering whether there’s anything negative about it, here are my thoughts: There are a few times we’ve asked ourselves, “Would Jesus have really said it that way?” and a few of my family members are bothered by the evil voice of Satan (since his voice would not necessarily sound evil.) Because it is dramatized, the readers have had to make some decisions about the tone of voice a character would have used. You may disagree with the tone of voice used at times, but I think they do a superb job.

Five out of five stars. I should be on their marketing team, because I am totally excited about this audio New Testament.

Published in: on January 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Our Advent Calendar “Snowballs”

Because it’s the first day of December, it’s also the first day of a special tradition in our house. When my husband was a little boy, his mom made “snowballs” out of white construction paper, numbered them 1-25, and wrote a Bible verse per day on the backs.  She used Luke 2 (the Christmas story) for numbers 1-20 and then used other gospel verses for days 21-25. (I have Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8, John 3:16, Isaiah 9:6, and II Cor. 9:15 on mine.) Dan’s mom taped the snowballs on the cabinet doors in the kitchen. Every day the family would recite the verses, adding a verse each day, and by Christmas day, my husband and his brother had the Christmas story memorized. Each year his mom pulled out the snowballs, taped them again on the cabinet doors, and the family looked forward to reciting the Christmas story together.

We brought this tradition into our family too. This is the third year of using our “snowballs.” (We still call them snowballs, even though mine are shaped like ornaments. Also, rather than writing the verses on the backs, I made mine so they open. I put magnets on the backs of mine and stick them on the metal door that leads from the kitchen to the garage.) The first year we used our snowballs, my 4-year-old daughter delighted her grandparents by reciting Luke 2:1-20 to them over the phone. Their little tradition of getting God’s Word into their kids’ hearts had trickled down to the next generation.

Deuteronomy 6:6-10 “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. “

Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.”

Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 10:32 am  Comments (2)  

Parenting Like God Parents Us: Remembering Our Frame

On a road trip, several years ago, my husband and I listened to Ramona, The Pest by Beverly Cleary. It was a book we had both enjoyed as children, but we listened to it with very different ears, as adults. Beverly Cleary has a gift for understanding how children think. Dan and I kept finding ourselves saying things like, “I remember feeling like that. I remember being excited like that. I remember feeling confused like that,” etc. We concluded that all new parents ought to read the Ramona series in order to help them understand their children better: to help them remember what it was like to be a kid and to use that understanding to “look inside of” their children more often.

God keeps our frame in mind as He parents us. Rather than being frustrated with our humanness, he pities us. Rather than feeling frustrated with our children because they’re being…..childish (it’s an inherent part of being a child), we ought to model the way God parents us.

Psalm 103: 13-14 “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”

My parents are good to have around. Sometimes I’m ready to pull my hair out over my children’s impulsiveness, silliness, messiness, etc. Then I’ll look over at my parents who are biting their lips to stifle a laugh, looking the other way, covering their mouths, and it gives me perspective: Should I expect my children to act like adults? No. It is my great privilege to lead them into adulthood, but it takes many years to get there. I need to remember their frame.

In Grace Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel, there’s a story in Chapter 3: A Secure Love that moved me to tears. This is a somewhat long excerpt, but it’ll be worth your time if you allow it to give you some perspective on your children:

“I was sitting in a hotel restaurant in Portland, Oregon. It was a Sunday morning. I was catching a plane around noon, which afforded me the luxury of enjoying a leisurely breakfast. This restaurant offered an all-inclusive breakfast buffet, with a lower price for kids.

A mom arrived with her two children: an infant and a boy approximately four years old. I noticed the boy right away. His face was filled with excitement, and his mouth was running a mile a minute as they circled the buffet line so that Mom could see the options. His mother held the infant while the boy followed along. He could barely contain his excitement. He saw the fruit, the varieties of cereal, the pancakes and waffles, and the station where the chef made omelets to your specifictions. Then I watched his eyes pop out of his head as he studied the trays full of breakfast “desserts”–blueberry muffins, bear claws, and assorted Danish. This brief chance to watch this enthusiastic boy check out the breakfast buffet quickly became the highlight of my morning. I was watching a boy designed by God take a big breath out of every moment. He was absolutely in love with his surroundings. He looked like a boy who had gone to food heaven. (more…)

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm  Comments (3)  

The Chief Task of Parenting- Showing God to our Children

I recently discovered this quote from John Piper (Here is the source):

The most fundamental task of a mother and father is to show God to the children. Children know their parents before they know God. This is a huge responsibility and should cause every parent to be desperate for God-like transformation. The children will have years of exposure to what the universe is like before they know there is a universe. They will experience the kind of authority there is in the universe and the kind of justice there is in the universe and the kind of love there is in the universe before they meet the God of authority and justice and love who created and rules of the universe. Children are absorbing from dad his strength and leadership and protection and justice and love; and they are absorbing from mother her care and nurture and warmth and intimacy and justice and love—and, of course, all these overlap.

And all this is happening before the child knows anything about God, but it is profoundly all about God. Will the child be able to recognize God for who he really is in his authority and love and justice because mom and dad have together shown the child what God is like. The chief task of parenting is to know God for who he is in his many attributes, and then to live in such a way with our children that we help them see and know this multi-faceted God. And, of course, that will involve directing them always to the infallible portrait of God in the Bible.

The idea of parenting our children as God parents us has gripped me for over a year. I’ve had a few friends and a few books steering my thinking in that direction, even before I came across this Piper quote. I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around the idea yet, but I’m fascinated by it and would welcome any discussion on the topic.

How does God deal with disobedient children? This has been the hardest facet of this topic for me to understand. The punishment for my sin was paid in full by Jesus Christ, and I am no longer under condemnation for my sin. God has shown me grace. When I first began thinking about this topic, I wondered, “So, in order to parent my children as God parents me, am I to show grace toward my children and overlook their sin?” Is that how God parents us? Overlooking their sin didn’t seem right, and it didn’t line up with other parenting verses in the Bible.

Because I am God’s child, there is no punishment in store for me, but does He let me continue in sin? Look at Hebrews 12:6-11:

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

So, God does not punish his children, but He does chasten his children. What does “chasten” mean? According to Strongs Concordance, the word means, “to train, educate, discipline.” And the word “rebuke” means “to convince, tell a fault, reprove.” The word “scourge” refers to corporal discipline.

Here are some keys that I’ve taken away from this passage:

1. I no longer “punish” my children. Instead, I correct or discipline them. You might think this is just a matter of semantics, but, really, punishment and discipline have different goals. The goal of punishment is to make my children “pay” for their disobedience. The goal of discipline is to correct their behavior and to teach my children. You’ll often see me guiding my children in “doing it again the right way.” We try to use lots of scripture to show them God’s ways. We remind them whose “team” we’re on.

2. In verse 10 we see that discipline is for our children’s profit. It is not to make my life easier or to give me a vent for my frustrations. I think we all know this in our hearts, but it’s easy to react in the moment and make it all about me.

3. From verse 11, the goal at the end of my discipline is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” I should not walk away from a discipline situation still holding my child accountable for his disobedience. I should not walk away angry, nor should he. My goal is for my child to realize that his disobedience is wrong and to help him make the right choice. I want us to be hugging and smiling in the end, not walking away feeling resentful toward each other. This goal in mind affects my attitude toward my child when he has disobeyed. I am working toward restoration, rather than vindication.

I am in no way the perfect example of this type of parenting, but I think it’s right, and I’m growing and become a better parent, I think, as I strive to parent my children as God parents me.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic. My thinking is always sharpened by thoughtful, God-loving friends.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm  Comments (3)  

*Cough! Cough! Cough!*

I’m blowing the dust off my blog today. I’ve got lots of ideas swirling around in my head that I’d like to share. So…..if anyone is still out there, stay tuned for some posts from me coming soon!

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 9:26 am  Comments (1)  

The Jesus Storybook Bible-A Giveaway

My most popular blog post ever is one I wrote about my favorite Bible story books for young children. I get hits weekly, if not daily, from people who are looking for good resources for teaching the Bible to their young children. One book I mentioned was The Jesus Storybook Bible. This storybook is unique in that every story mentions Jesus. I’ve not seen another Bible story book that helps us to see Christ in the Old Testament like this one does. This book is truly gospel-centered and gospel-focused. I highly recommend it to you.

Zondervan is releasing a deluxe edition in October. You can go here to learn more about The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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