Monday, December 07, 2009

Help for the Harried Mom!

Help for the Harried Homeschooler by Christine M. Field.

This book is amazing, and poorly named, I feel. It is so much more than "help." It is a perspective check and if necessary, shifter. Field brings it all back to Christ, which is really what all of us are all about. She shows how laundry and dishes and mopping the floor can and are part of teaching our kids, and that these things can be used as tools of learning as we complete these tasks. She shows how we don't need to compartmentalize every aspect of our lives into categories. She gives so much that would be helpful to anyone, even non-homeschoolers, such as her advice on discipline how-to's.

1. Establish and Enforce Clear Lines of Authority in your Home and in your Homeschool.

The way to do this is not the way that you and I may have been raised with, by parents ordering us around, with harsh consequences for dis-obedience. That is not what Field is about. She says to establish Christ, or God as the Authority in our home! How simple! How true! "Let your children see you obeying and honoring God with your life. Then expect them to obey both you and God." Expect from them the same things that God expects from you.

She does talk about a woman who's No means no, and Yes means yes, (the second part we often overlook, but should not!)

She also teaches that to gain the children's respect, we respect their father. I have never thought of this in this way before, but it's true! "Acceptance of [the children's] dad's authority gives her children a healthy model for accepting hers."

2. Establish Clear Expectations based on Biblical Values

(This is made even richer with the advice of Kirk Martin.)

When we teach as Jesus taught, we teach in terms of principles. A much more powerful way of teaching "don't hit your sister," is to put it in a frame. "In our family we treat each other with respect. Hitting is not respecting, no matter how mad you get." You can frame it however you like, with "Loving," or "Kindness," but get down to the heart of the matter. In my personal experience, this can be done very well, or be done very badly and destructively. The difference is in the tone and manner. When I got mad at my daughter for hitting my son, my Mama Bear claws came out, and I ended up really hurting her feelings, and establishing battle lines, and her as the enemy! I did this by standing over her wagging my finger shouting, "IN OUR FAMILY...blah blah blah!!! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO RESPECT EACHOTHER! YOU DON'T HIT NO MATTER HOW MAD YOU GET! Don't EVER lay a hand on my son! Blah blah blah..." But since I was screaming at her, she was hearing: "I DON'T LOVE YOU! I CARE MORE ABOUT HIM THAN YOU! I WISH YOU WEREN'T MY CHILD!" She then acted out even more.

After learning from Celebrate Calm, however, these discussions go like this now:

I send her to her room, or force her to her room. After a few minutes to collect myself, I go in the room and sit down. I don't say anything until I sit down. Then, if I'm really upset, I put my feet up and search for and find compassion for her in my heart. If I can't, I pray for it. Then I say, "You want to roll a ball to me, and I'll roll it to you?" If she says no, I know she's really upset, and I ask if she wants to say a prayer with me. I may say it, or she may say it. If she won't cooperate, then I do anyway. When I'm talking about her, she'll listen. The prayer is genuine and a heartfelt confession and plea to the Lord. We do this, and after the tension is eased, I may or may not ask about what happened. Usually once she is feeling like she can talk about it, she'll confess or ask questions about what occurred. I will then tell her the above statement in context of what happened, with a tone of love for her. Then we explore options for next time. She helps come up with a plan of what to do next time she gets really angry. After this she will often apologize to her brother of her own accord, which is what I'm looking for, and praise her for! If she doesn't, I'll remind her that she will feel so much better once she does. I usually find, though, that after several hours, if I'm making sure to be positive and cheerful and loving, setting an example for them, they really are sorry, they will say sorry again, and really mean it. I love that my 18 month old Kenny says "Sahyee" (sorry) frequently. I also apologize to them every time
I can, even if it's just a moment of harshness, because it's really good practice!

(During Family Home Evening the other night, we renewed our Calm Family Creed, which needed some renewing and re-focusing as we were begining to stray, I felt. Kaylee, age 5, was teaching the lesson, sort of. I said most of it into her ear, but she felt proud of her role as teacher. Then at the end I asked her, "What's your favorite part about our Calm Family Creed?" She said, "You sit down." I knew then that the calm in our home is as priceless to her and her brothers as it is to Kevin and me.)

3. Establish Consequences and Consistantly Enforce Them

There are so many many books and programs all based on this. I won't say anything much, except that she sites a great author who gives guidelines for establishing consequences. She says, "finding consequences is an art:"

  • It should be reasonable.
  • It should be enforceable.
  • It should be clearly related to the offense.
  • It should be consistent with nurturing care.
  • Anger, resentment, and retaliation have no place in an appropriate consequence.

Those last two principles are often forgotten in other parenting books. But without them, the entire process is worthless, because the eventual outcome will be the very thing we're trying to avoid. Our children will become enemies to us and their siblings.

4. Reinforce Positive Choices and Behavior

She gives examples from the Bible to help with this. Proverbs 1:9, Exodus 20:12, Isaih 1:19, for special things you can do for your kids when they've been really good. Let them stay up late one night, take them out for a special meal, give them a crown or necklace to honor them. No really! Sometimes it just takes a little something extra to say, "well done!" We're proud of you!

5. Give gentle direction when required

See above Celebrate Calm way of giving gentle direction framed in love. She sites Ephesians 6:4 and Clossians 3:21. Then Proverbs 16:21, great scriptures to take note of.

6. Pray for Your Children

This can change the feeling in our hearts and homes faster than anything, and it is the source of my own transformation as a Mother. I believe it is everything and the key that will unlock many mysteries and closed doors in our relationships. The Lord WILL turn your heart to your children, and your children's hearts to you, and He will teach you what you need to stop doing, and do differently, and what you're doing right that you ought to feel good about and do more. If He can do it for me, he can do it for you!

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