One of the things I love about homeschooling is that our mornings feel so free and relaxed. We don't have to race to get everyone packed up and out the door for school. We can wake up slowly and enjoy our mornings together. But before I had a good morning routine for the kids, our slow and relaxed mornings could easily turn into “Not getting our homeschool day started till noon.” I don't want that! That gives everyone less time to play in the afternoon, pushes back dinner time, pushes back bed time, which means it's easier to sleep later in the morning and start the same cycle all over again.
When we all get up and going earlier, we have time to accomplish more, and spend more quality time together!
But just waking everyone up early is not enough. Before I implemented a morning routine for them, my kids would get up, wander around in their pajamas, eat something, make a mess that they didn't clean up, lay in their bed reading a book, and then when I was ready to start school for the day, I'd look around and realize that we had an hour's worth of cleaning to do because they had things strewn everywhere from their “relaxed and slow morning!”
It was stressing me out big time, and keeping us behind on everything all the time.
The thing is…kids are kids. They have to be taught. It's not enough to wake them up and tell them to get ready for the day. They need clear direction.
So I set out to make a morning routine for them that was so simple, they couldn't possibly neglect it without being outright purposely disobedient.
It was three things:
Three things. Anyone can remember that, and it's not overwhelming at all. In fact, I adopted the exact same morning routine for myself because who doesn't want life to be simple?
I created a little chart and hung it in each of the kids' rooms so that they would have no excuse in the mornings to be wandering around, taking forever to get ready for the school day.
I also created a room cleaning checklist so they would know my definition of the phrase “tidy your room.”
I have them independently do those three things, then I prepare breakfast for everyone, and after breakfast we complete the rest of our “morning things” together as a family (cleaning up our breakfast dishes, brushing our teeth, fixing our hair, etc.)
This way, the kids are learning some independence and becoming more skilled at preparing themselves for the day without my help, but it's not so much that's it's overwhelming to them where they shut down and do nothing.
I can't begin to tell you what a difference this simple change has made for our mornings! The kids know exactly what they need to do without feeling overwhelmed. When our morning gets off to a smooth start, our whole day goes better!
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Do you desire a deeper prayer life? Do you know you should be praying more, but aren't quite sure what to pray for?
As father's day approaches, I've been thinking about some specific ways I can pray for my husband, the father of my children.
The more specific we are in our prayers, the more specifically God can answer them!
Coming straight from scripture, here are 10 ways to pray for your children's father:
1. Pray that he will be a man of integrity.
The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)
2. Pray that he will teach his children gently yet faithfully.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
3. Pray that he would encourage rather than discourage his children.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)
4. Pray that he will lovingly discipline his children.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (Proverbs 13:24)
5. Pray that he will teach his children the truth of God's Word.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)
6. Pray that he will train each of his children according to their unique needs.
Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
7. Pray that he will lead his children in serving the Lord.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
8. Pray that he will notice opportunities through daily activities to teach his children God's Word.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 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. (Deutoronomy 6:6-7)
9. Pray that he will be strong in the Lord and always keep his spiritual armor on.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:10-18)
10. Pray he will remember that his children are a blessing and a gift from God.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5)
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“We're done, mom!” Three children stand beaming at me from their version of a clean kitchen.
One glance around the room tells me they are far from done.
Now I have a choice. Do I berate them for being lazy and doing a sloppy job? Or do I calmly and kindly say, “Well, I can tell you all have been working hard, but mommy's going to show you a few things that can make the kitchen even cleaner, okay? First, you want to make sure you squeeze the water out of the cloth really hard so there won't be water dripping all over the table when you wipe it…”
I think we would all agree that it is only fair to remember that little children must be taught how to do things before they should be expected to do them the right way.
And yet, so often, we as parents forget that children are learning so many new things every day, and we could stand to cut them a little more slack. (Read: The Thing Most Parents Forget About Their Kids)
I have noticed some additional deficiencies in Christian parenting skills that most of us could stand to improve (myself included for sure!)
1.Laziness/inconsistency – We've all done it. We call our child and they don't come, so we call them again. They still don't come. We call a couple more times, more loudly each time, until finally they hear, “GET IN HERE, NOW!!!!”
If we would get up the first time they don't come and take care of the problem immediately, our children will never have to wonder if we mean what we are saying. We will never work ourselves up to the point of anger due to repeating ourselves and continuously being ignored.
We can more honestly teach our children that they ought to obey because God says to, rather than by our actions teaching them to obey because mom or dad will eventually get angry if they don't.
2. Lack of Thoughtfulness – Does God clearly teach children to obey their parents? Certainly. But never does God give parents permission to be slave drivers, never giving heed to the fact that the little person you are teaching is also a fellow human being.
What tone of voice do you use when speaking to your children? Would you speak to another adult that way?
Does “Be ye kind one to another” apply only to other adults?
Yes, we need to teach our children to obey. But we must remember that we have other jobs besides teaching – nurturing, comforting, helping. When too much focus is placed upon obedience, it's easy for things to get out of balance.
3. Lack of clarity – When you are giving a command that you expect your child to obey, don't phrase it as “Why don't you…?” “You should…” “Can you…?”
I've been reading Parenting is Heart Work (affiliate link), and they say that you need to phrase commands in a way that the child is positive it is a command and not a suggestion.
Use phrases like, “You need to…” instead.
Once again, if a child is not clear about the command, the child is not likely to obey, and the parent is likely to become angry – neither of which are the desired outcome.
4. Lack of Follow-through – Ouch! This is the area where I have the hardest time.
I tell the kids to clean their room and later see them playing. “Did you clean your room?” I ask. (Of course they answer yes!) At bedtime, when I see that their room is not thoroughly clean, I get irritated because their room is a mess, but I don't want them to stay up any later to clean it. I should have gone to check it immediately when they were finished.
Parenting is Heart Work makes it clear that there are 2 sides to the responsibility when a command has been given. The child has a responsibility to report to you when they are finished, and the parent has the responsibility to follow-through with making sure the job is done and done correctly.
5. Forgetting to teach them how to do a job – This goes along with what I was talking about at the very beginning of this post. We must remember that they are children, that they are learning lots of things, and that we must invest lots of time teaching (and reviewing) things before we can expect them to do it perfectly.
Sometimes teaching children is as simple as playing a role-playing game where they come to you when you call them. Parenting is Heart Work explains in detail how to do this.
6. Praise for a job well done – Should children be expected to obey? Certainly! But I think that because many parents expect just that, so when the job has been done they say no more about it.
I don't know about you, but I love it when someone acknowledges my hard work, whether it was something I was supposed to do or not.
Is it my part of the family responsibilities to put supper on the table every night? Sure, but it's so nice when people tell me thank you and that they enjoyed it.
Our children have emotions just like us, and we can provide so much encouragement to do right just by giving them some positive reinforcement.
Which of these mistakes do you need to work on the most?
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”
(Isn't that what God's word is supposed to do? It's sharper than any two-edged sword. Amazing that it does what God said it would do.)
As I read those words I knew exactly what God what telling me. And I could do nothing other than to bow my head and say, “Yes, Lord. You're right. I haven't been very long suffering or kind to my children lately.”
Oh, I'm very familiar with I Corinthians 13. I know that it's saying that it's pointless for a person to do great things to spread the gospel if they don't have Christ-like love for people while they're doing them. Then it goes on to describe exactly what Christ-like love is.
It starts with the words, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind.”
The reason that hurts so much is because I was hit with the realization that spreading the gospel isn't something that just happens “out there somewhere.”
And if I'm not being long suffering and kind with my children, all my efforts to spread the gospel to my children are pointless.
“But, Lord, it's so hard! My physical issues make it seem impossible to be longsuffering some days. My anxiety and stress levels are through the roof, especially when the kids seem determined to get on my every last nerve!” (Read: Why your physical health affects your ability to be a gentle parent.)
“My precious child. This is my will for you, and I will not require anything of you that I will not give you the strength to do.” (Philippians 4:13)
All I can do at this point is to humbly thank God for his living Word. It shines a light into the dark corners of my heart to point out where I'm wrong. And it gives me hope that I can do right through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So today I'm asking him to give me the strength to be long suffering and kind with my children.
This post is part of the Parenting with Gentleness series.
“Your kids sit so still during church! Mine are so wiggly!” she told me after church.
In my typical fashion, I couldn't think of anything non-dorky to say in the moment, but after the fact I thought of all the things I could have said to encourage this other mom.
Instead of making a lame joke, here's what I wish I would have told this sweet mom:
First, thank you. I sincerely appreciate the compliment.
I'm sure you know as well as any other mom how it feels to work day in and day out to teach your children all the things they need to know and feel like you're not getting anywhere. It's lovely when someone with an outside perspective can step in and let you know that you actually are getting somewhere.
Also, don't worry about your wiggly kids because I'm going to tell you a little secret. When you commented on how still my kids were, what you didn't know was that I had already finger-motioned my youngest child up to where I was at the piano three times before the service so I could tell him to calm down. What you didn't see was how many times he really did wiggle during the service. What you didn't hear were my whispered admonitions to my older children to open their Bibles and stop daydreaming.
I'm sure I would have noticed if your children were a distraction during the service. They weren't.
I wish I could tell you that I have some kind of fancy routine where I sit them down at home and have church practice sessions. Or that I always review with them before we go to church exactly what is expected of them. Or that I always remember to follow through with talking to them after we get home about any ridiculous stunts they tried to pull during church.
But I'm just a normal mom. A mom who tries to give my kids a heads up about how they need to behave but forgets to do it a lot too. A mom who has whispered, “Sit up and pay attention” more times than she can count. A mom who has a hard time paying attention during every single service because a little guy wants on my lap. Or off my lap. Or back on.
And my kids? Oh, I think they're pretty super, but I guess they're pretty normal too. They have a hard time sitting still just like all kids do. They have to be reminded of things countless times before they actually start remembering to do them.
No, mama. Don't you worry a bit about your wiggly kids. It takes so much patience and repetition to teach kids to sit still in church. But as they get older and start understanding what the pastor is saying a little better, it will get easier. Keep teaching. Keep reminding. Keep insisting that they pay attention, even when they can't fully understand all that's being said. Eventually it will stick. But for now, you're doing fine. It feels so much worse when you are the one responsible for making sure they don't turn around and make silly faces at the lady behind them or get ink on their dress from the pen you let them use or announce very loudly that they need to go potty.
But in reality you're doing great and so are they.
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“How many times do I have to remind you to take out the trash?” My frustration mounts as I turn and notice his bare feet. “And why do you not have something on your feet? You know you're not supposed to go barefoot in the winter.” As I spin around and walk out of the kitchen, I catch a glimpse of his room. Oh my! I start to hit him with another reminder of what he hasn't done properly, but decide against it. I can't take credit for this; I can only thank the Lord for showing me this through something I read somewhere, but — it's hard to be a kid! So as I caught myself beginning to let my son have a piece of my mind for everything he'd messed up on that day, I stopped and let him focus on emptying the trash instead. And then I thanked him for his hard work.
Imagine trying to learn English as a second language. There are so many spelling and grammar rules! And once you learn them all you find out about all the millions of exceptions to those rules and all the nuances that make a rule not apply in that instance. (How about spelling tough, through, though, and thought?)
What if you were working as hard as you could to memorize all those rules, but your teacher yelled at you every time you forgot one? Or worse yet, when you tried hard to apply a rule, but got in trouble because it wasn't supposed apply in that instance? How frustrating would that be? Wouldn't it be a lot more reasonable for the teacher to remind you of the rule or to explain why there was an exception? Marking your grade down a little will probably help you recognize your weaknesses and work on cementing those particular areas in your mind a little better. But it would be ridiculous if your teacher gave you an F on a quiz for missing one answer.
Now, what must it be like to be a child? So many rules to learn! For the record, we don't really teach kids that there is a great big list of do's and don'ts and that they have to learn them or else! But nevertheless, there are general principles of living that everyone must follow if they're going to grow up to be a decent adult.
To name a few basics:
If it's not yours, don't touch it.
If you get it out, put it away.
If you've been given a job to do, do it to the best of your ability.
Unless it's hurting them or someone else, don't tattle on other people.
Now, think about all of the nuances to those rules!
“Well, yes, honey. You're not supposed to touch things that aren't yours, but when you saw your sister had carried mommy's phone into the bathroom and set it on the back of the toilet, you could have brought it to me before it got knocked in.”
“Well, no. You're not supposed to tattle, but when your brother is drawing on the chair with a sharpie, you should definitely tell me about it.”
“i know you need to put your toys away, but we're going to be late! You should already be in the car!”
I wonder how often I've perceived my children to be disobedient, when all they're trying to do is remember all these confounded things they're supposed to be doing!
How much more gentle would I be if I placed myself in my children's shoes more often?
I surely don't want to exasperate their little hearts. But when my vision is too narrow to see things from their perspective that's exactly what I will do.
If something is not defiant rebellion (i.e. you know for certain they heard you tell them something and they just flat out ignored you) then gentle reminders are going to go a lot further than stern discipline. Overreacting to the fact that your child forgot to take out the trash is only going to make him feel angry or discouraged.
Maybe you're thinking, “But how is he going to learn to cement these principles into his head?! It's important that my child learn to ____ (fulfill responsibility, treat others properly, etc.)”
You're right! I'm not saying that treating our children gently when they forget something means that we overlook the problem. Sometimes there are natural consequences that will teach a better lesson than harsh discipline ever would.
When my son neglects to take out the trash, the job gets nastier and nastier. It piles up higher and higher and begins to spill out into the trash pullout. By the time he finally gets around to doing his job, the bag is so full that it's difficult to pull out of the can, spilling even more trash onto the floor. Now he has to pick up the dirty diapers, food remnants, and who-knows-what-else that has fallen all over the place. He has also added to the work because he has to sweep the floor around the trash can, clean out the trash pull-out, and even scrub off all the dried on food that fell down there. It's not a pleasant task. And hopefully he's saying, “Note to self: Take out the trash before it gets to this point next time!”
When there is willful defiance involved, you may need to look for other means of correction (as well as determining if there is an underlying emotional need that is not being met so that it can be remedied.)
But otherwise, just remember that it's hard to be a kid!
Often on particularly difficult days when there have been a lot of reminders needed and I can sense my kids beginning to feel discouraged, I tell them, “You're doing a great job being ___ (9 or whatever age they are)! There's a lot of stuff to learn and remember, isn't there?”
I know how easy it is for me to feel like I am failing at life and to berate myself for not being more organized or getting dinner on the table on time or keeping the house cleaner or whatever. And that's without anyone jumping all over me about it.
Our kids probably feel the same way sometimes. On top of learning times tables and spelling words and being tested over it all, they also have to learn how to think of others before themselves, how to keep their things neat, and which items in the house they may not touch; they must remember to wash their hands after they use the bathroom, say please when they ask for something, and put their dirty clothes in the hamper when they change.
They're basically learning or reviewing new things from the time they get up until they go to bed at night!
Maybe if we can keep that in mind we'll be a little less hard on them when they slip up, eh?
This post is part of the parenting with gentleness series.