Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rites of Passage

For the record my children are ages 7, 4, and 2. I know this series hasn’t gone too deep into parenting the tween years and up because I have zero experience with that age group, but for today's topic I'm looking ahead a little into the unknown as I discuss Rites of Passage. These milestones can certainly happen at all walks of life, but the ones I am focusing on are more around the adolescent years. The book Wild Things has an entire chapter dedicated to Rituals, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage and puts a great deal of  importance on marking significant moments and transitions into manhood, or in the case that I am about share womanhood. 

My niece (in-law) has a beautiful story about a symbolic ring she got for a significant milestone. I happen to love romantic stories and proposals, so I asked her if I could share hers and she agreed. She received a purity ring from her parents shortly after 8th grade. The idea was to wear it on her left ring finger until the day she was engaged. Well, it wasn't too long after she began college that she found the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. When their one year anniversary as a couple was approaching he began making an elaborate scheme to catch her off guard.

He told her months beforehand that he would be on a mission trip during their one year anniversary. So she knew well in advance not to expect anything around that time. However, on the day they hit the one year mark, a friend of hers gave her a letter from her soon to be fiancé and told her that he wanted it to be special even though he couldn't be there. The note led her to a Lighthouse that they had previously visited together. When she arrived at the Lighthouse she found candles, bridal magazines, and white Gerber daises along with another note instructing her to remove the purity ring (in preparation for the engagement ring). She still assumed he was out of the country and had no idea when the ring would be coming, but when she followed the instructions she turned around and there he was down on one knee asking for her hand in marriage! How sweet is that? She actually had her sterling silver purity ring melted down and put into the band of his custom titanium ring. 

These are the actual rings.

They have been married for 5 years now and have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter.

The reason I share this story is because her parents cared enough to acknowledge that she had become a women. They gave her a tangible and valuable gift to signify this, and she in turn was able to take ownership of that in a spiritual way and in this case literally turned the ring over to her husband to be melted into his. What a beautiful picture of God's design for family! The man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two, but one. 

This is a photo of my niece and nephew on their wedding day.

I think the purity ring for girls is somewhat common in Christian communities, whereas boys often get overlooked. You will find throughout history, and even now in other cultures, there is great value placed on rites of passage. Unfortunately this is not the case in our Western culture. In the book Wild Things it explains how these days driver's licenses and sports trophies are about as close as it comes to having a significant marking to manhood. The trouble is "If we don't create rites of passage for our boys, they will find their own. If we don't mark their passage into the fellowship of men, they will create experiences that make them feel like the men they long to become. A rite of passage for a boy can be anything from smoking pot to sleeping with a girl. For many boys, life will eventually initiate them, but it is often too late or too imperceptible to have any real meaning."

There are so many ideas and options when it comes to what an initiation can look like. I won't get into all that right now, but I do want to highlight one rite of passage in particular that I will never forget. It was a grand sweet sixteen birthday for a pastor friend of mine's daughter and I was hired to do the photography. At this event the father gave his daughter a ring just like the one mentioned in the first story with my niece. He gave a speech that the ring was symbolic of her covenant with God and her promise to commit her heart and her life to Him only. It was a symbol that she was to remain pure and consecrated and not be distracted by the world and the lies of the enemy as she enters into a new season of independence. 

I don’t remember the exact wording of the speech I just remember one part that stuck out to me and brought me to tears. The father went on to say to his daughter

This ring isn’t just a symbol of your commitment to God, but it is also promise of my commitment to you. And that is if you ever find yourself in the wrong place, if you go down a path that you know you shouldn’t have taken, I will be right here for you. My love will never leave you no matter what. There is nothing that will break that covenant and you can always come to me anytime. 

WOW. That's it! That's the new covenant. That's grace. That is the heart of Teachable Parenting.

 I can't be the perfect parent, but even if I could, at the end of the day I can't control them and they will have to be able to stand and fall with their own two feet. Even then I can say, "I love you my child. I will never stop and no matter what I will never give up the fight to be connected to your heart" because that is the Father's love for us. Thank you Lord. 

This is day 25 of a 31 day series. For the rest of teachable parenting click HERE.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chores and Money

Along with computer science and foreign language, finance is one of the unconventional elementary education subjects that I feel is overlooked and/or introduced far too late. I was raised by parents that would confess to making just about every financial mistake you can think of until they discovered Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University 12 years ago and completely changed their lives around. They were the ones that bought the Financial Peace Junior kit for my son when he was only three years old. Get 'em started young right?

Since mentioning a time or two that we use this program, one of the biggest questions I get as a mommy blogger is about how the chores and allowance system works in our home. I don't always do our chore chart as constantly as I should, but I've been incredibly pleased with the success we have had. 

For us at this age we have decided that chores are worth 25 cents. That means if they do 4 chores a day, which many days is doable then they earn a dollar. At the end of the week that's 5 dollars, because we don't do weekends. To keep it easy one dollar goes in the Give envelope, one goes in the Save envelope, and one goes to the Spend envelope. The Give goes to church offering on Sunday. The Save is something that represents investments and long term savings so it doesn't get touched (or maybe it doesn't exist right now. Oops. we'll get there eventually.) And lastly the Spend is for a personal purchase, although this is technically something they save for. 

The kit comes with a chore chart and savings dry erase magnet board that we keep on the fridge.

They have actually changed the design since then. This is the old one.

The list of chores at our home ranges from help clean out the car, to folding clothes, or loading the dishwasher. My 7 year old is just now getting to the point that he can do some chores on his own and it actually is helpful. Up until now it's mostly been him doing a chore with me for the sake of the learning experience. One important thing I should mention is that we have distinguished the difference between a chore and a responsibility. A responsibility is making the bed, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, and getting stuff out of the car. However, it is a chore to vacuum or pick up after your baby brother. In other words we are each responsible for keeping up with our personal stuff and keeping in somewhat in order, but I think the rest is a great opportunity for learning how a paid job works. 

We don't have a lot of money to put towards the chore lesson so we keep it pretty simple. Our son Z has saved up for a lot of things that we would have probably ended up buying anyway so that helps alleviate some of the chores budget. Two years ago he saved up for a Mario costume for Halloween. He still wears it for dress up, although it is a bit tight! He has also saved up for Christmas presents for us and his siblings. One time the Wii sensor bar broke and he had to save up to replace it. He also uses his own money to pay for mother son events that we have done twice now (a lesson in etiquette). 

He's also earned money to purchase items from the book fair. So these are all really positive ways he has spent money and they would have been nice purchases regardless, but the fact that he worked for them makes it even more valuable and thoughtful. 

The latest thing that he saved for was a video game and he has bought a few of those with chore money and tooth fairy or birthday money. So I don't want to imply that he doesn't get to buy fun stuff too. He knows that whatever purchase he makes has to be mom and dad approved though. He wanted to do another video game back to back and I informed him that Christmas was coming up and he might want to start saving for Santa shop. He agreed, especially since he could put the video game on his Christmas List. 

Not only is he learning about giving and saving, but there is also lessons in math involved. We've had practical hands on learning about the value of the dollar and the importance of good work ethics. On top of all that I know that Dave Ramsey's teaching are Bible based and we child can teach what the word of God says about our finances and why it matters.

These are all the reasons I have loved being able to use this program. Not only does the kit include all of the chore program supplies, but the "Monster Pack" also includes 6 books and audio books with life lessons about money. They are really great lessons! When we go to Chuck E. Cheese, which I call the kiddie casino I am always able to use Junior lessons to explain why you shouldn't waste all of your money on the games that claim you can win 50 tickets! I am not affiliated with Dave Ramsey or Financial Peace in anyway at all. No kick backs here, but I will say that for $30 more the books are worth it (the basic kit is $20 or there is the Monster Pack for $50). We listen to the discs in the car and have read the stories over and over for the past 3 years. They are large hardback books with colorful, fun illustrations that the kids love and you aren't going to find these kind of themes about debt, budget, integrity, and savings in other children stories. 

I know I sound like an infomercial. Sorry. I get passionate about this topic because I do think it's important for our kids. I am sure there are lots of other ways to go about teaching these invaluable lessons, but this has been great for us so far so that's my "two cents". 

This is day 24 of a 31 day series. For more Teachable Parenting click HERE.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Helicopter Has Landed

A couple years ago I sat in a waiting room watching a woman fold a million tiny origami stars. Maybe a million is exaggerating, but she was working on it for a long time. I asked her what it was for. She said it was her son’s homework assignment and it was due tomorrow. I don’t remember all the excuses, but her main one was “He’s never going to use this skill. I mean, if it were important I would want him to learn it, but this is not something he’ll need to know in the real world.”

I get it. I am not judging that woman, who knows what she was going through. I could tell she wasn’t proud of it herself, but her reasoning was lame. Her son may not ever craft another origami star in his life, but will he have deadlines, tedious projects, assignments that take precision and focus? He probably will and bailing him out is not going to help him.

I never thought I would be the helicopter or drill sergeant parent, but I have to tell you it does crop up. There have been a number of times I have seen my son on the play ground with kids that I had a bad feeling about and I would just go into mama bear/eagle eye/ lioness /whatever-other-strong-animal-image-you-can-think-of mode. It’s hard not to swoop in and rescue.  I knew this was a tendency of mine and when reading descriptions for "the three damaging motherly stereo types" from Wild Things it was confirmed. I saw that out of The Man Hater, The Mother Hen, and The Overly Bonded Mother I related to The Mother Hen a little more than I wanted to admit. I think it’s natural and good that we want to protect our children, sometimes that what we’re here for. We have to watch out that we aren't being over involved though. Out of the three books that I’ve been referencing they all mention the dangers of both hovering and controlling, and how they ultimately teach children to operate on the basis of fear and shame.

If we want responsible kids we have to give them more responsibility. I went to a conference about this last year at my son’s school. The advice was let them do their own laundry, walk to local destinations when possible, and let them fail assignments too. I have already talked about how it’s okay formistakes to be made (especially when the price tag is low), but it bears repeating because if we can’t shield our child from the pain of failure and suffering in the world, what we can do is teach them how to cope with it now.

I’ll end with this excerpt from Wild Things “ If we don’t allow the boys we love to suffer with the disappointments of life, we undermine their manhood by sending them messages that say, “You’re weak. You can’t handle life”. Intentionally or not, by our words and our actions we communicate to our boys that they’re not capable or responsible.”

This book is written for caregivers of boys, but it applies to girls as well. I want to see my children be stretched to their fullest potential, even if it hurts to watch (gulp). Will you join me?   

This is day 23 of a 31 day series. For the rest of Teachable Parenting click HERE.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Being Fun and Unpredictable

I’ve given a lot of information over the past 21 days of this series. It’s been a little overwhelming for me and hopefully not too much for you. I feel like a lot of it is freeing and I am very passionate about the idea of Teachable Parenting, but I never want to come across as preachy. You can get so wrapped up in the “how to” parenting stuff that even the gentle discipline approach can become a beating for the adult. It’s not supposed to be that way.

Children are a lot of work. They are for me anyway. It’s exhausting. For the people that comment nearly everyday “You look like you have your hands full” or “they sure are strong willed aren’t they” Yes. Yes I do and yes they are, but I’d rather full than empty. I’d rather strong than weak. It’s not as bad as it may look in passing. I get to have a lot of fun with these little fire balls. So, today I want to share a parenting tip that is more about enjoyment together.

In Wild Things the book recommends changing it up, being unpredictable or risk being dismissed. They give a story of a mother that made spaghetti and meatballs for her husband and two sons (ages twelve and fifteen) and served it on the patio behind their house. In the middle of dinner she picked up a handful of spaghetti and chucked it at the boys. The salad and meatballs shortly followed. Both boys were so amazed that they just sat there, stunned at first, and then began laughing harder and longer than they ever had in their life. None of their friends believed them when the boys told them what had happened. This mother was neither predictable nor dismissed. She was a hero.  

Now, I am not suggested scoring through pinterest for calculated ideas on how to be the unpredictable mom. I think you need to be yourself and I think you need to have fun with your kids in whatever way shape or form that looks like to you. Not everyday is going to be fun. And I think we’ve all been there when our idea of having fun turns out to not be very fun for the whole family. Let it go. Try again another time.

My latest crazy fun which I haven’t shared on this blog yet was the Color Dash Bubble Bash that I did with my children. It was also a beautiful lesson in paying it forward because BB4K is an organization that helped fund my daughter’s summer therapy this year at her dear school. Not only were we able to give through the money raised for the event, but we had blast! The event happened over a month ago and they haven't stopped talking about it since.

That wasn't some creative idea that I came up with and it doesn't have to be. Or if it is like the spaghetti thing than that's great too. Ort it could be spur of the moment idea. Another recent super, crazy, fun activity was when my husband and son were flying a glider in the park and my husband decided to tape his phone to the plane to see video from the planes perspective. You can imagine what my seven year old thought of seeing himself on the video like that.
I gripe about my kids in a light hearted way because I want others to know that for most of us motherhood is not a cake walk and it's normal to feel like your are loosing your mind. It's also normal to feel like you are experiencing the fullness of God's blessings everyday through the beautiful children He's given you. They are a lot of fun, and sometimes it's up to us to join in! 

I previously mention the post I wrote called "Turns Out Mom Was Right" and I share some of her more unpredictable moments, which turned into unforgettable memories. I also explain why these experiences meant so much to me.

Think back to your childhood when did you see your parents kick back and loosen up? What were the times that you laughed the hardest? What kind of fun traditions or wild spontaneous memories are you building with your children? 

I think you know what the next teachable parent challenge is! Have fun… 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tackling Those Terrible Tantrums

I went on and on yesterday explaining the mind of a toddler. If you missed it I would encourage you to go back and read it sometime. I consider it Part One of my toddler spin off series. Some of you have been on the edge of your seats waiting for my ultimate toddler tip and I hope you are not too disappointed to hear that I came up with this one all by myself (thank you very much). This also means you should proceed with caution considering it's like the moonshine of parenting advice. It's just three simple actions that I have found apply to nearly every tantrum scenario in some form or another. The three words are:

 Correct. Redirect. Disconnect. 

Before we dive in, let me address some potentially controversial points. When I talk about a temper tantrum I am going to assume that we can all use our best judgement to know what a tantrum is compared to a legitimate need, and I am also going to assume that these are for children that do not have any special sensory processing disorders or other special needs because I don't know what the best approach is in those situations. And lastly I am going to go ahead and specify that this is for around 2-4 year olds. I personally believe that a child younger than 18 months is not manipulating a parent. There is tons of research to support that babies in the first two years of life need nurturing, loving response above anything else. I do not believe in "disconnect" with babies. I will have to stop there or I'll start another blog post. 

That's my boy during his two year old photo session. He's a doll isn't he? 

Okay, so yesterday we learned that most toddlers are going to act out of control for a couple years. Even though it might be inevitable that does not mean we let them get away with spitting, hitting, biting, screaming, thrashing, yelling… fill in the blank. No way! This is the most crucial time for us to teach our children the right way to handle their emotions and it is a privilege to do so. That is why of course we correct it every time. Even if it takes 100 or more times before we see improvement. 

After we have addressed the issue through correction we can get them to move on to something else which is where the redirect comes in. In some cases this also means relocate. This is the part were we give our child a chance to calm down rather than blow up. 

 However, for those that have strong willed children they are focused on whatever they have their minds set on and they are going to dig their heels into the ground until there are ruts! That means it's time for you to disconnect. I don’t think you should abandon your screaming child completely or leave them in a dangerous situation, but if you have already addressed the issue then there is no need stir the pot or cater to their disrespect. It's time to let them ride the wave until they are ready to return to their senses. According to Love and Logic 
"The best way to raise a chronically unhappy and poorly behaved kid is to make a habit of giving them a lot of attention or pizzazz when they are misbehaving." 
Sometimes it’s best for the child to be screaming in their room so the family can go about their business contecting with each other. It won’t be long before your little bug-a-boo (or whatever pet name you have) is totally recuperated and ready to be involved again. 

Keep in mind this isn't always a 3 step process that has to be done with all three in the same order. Sometimes you just have to correct and disconnect. Other times you don't have to disconnect at all if the redirect part works. Exactly what this looks like will depend on the age and the situation, but I'll give a few examples that I have dealt with in the past six years with my children. I'll put asterisks with links next to the tips that have been previously mentioned in this series.
18-24 Months Old:

The child takes a toy from his playmate. 

Correct: Tell the child "Uh Oh. We don't take toys. You need to give it back and say sorry." *Short and simple*

Redirect: Offer the child a different toy.

Disconnect: If the child is throwing a huge fit about it, you may just have to wait out the temper tantrum. Let the toddler know they can continue play time when they calm down and then do not give them attention in response to their whaling.

Two Year old:

The child wants to walk, but you need them to sit in the stroller.

Correct: "I'm sorry you are upset, but mommy is going to push you in the stroller so that you can stay safe with me." *Enforceable statement*

Redirect: "Do you want to sit and do the buckle yourself or do you want mommy to help?" If they don't decide in 10 seconds you sit them in the stroller if possible. *Choices*

Disconnect: No time for melt downs. Push that stroller mama! I use this example because I have a two year old and he has to go with me to pick up his brother and sister inside their schools everyday and has to be done in a hurry! The stroller is a life saver for me because he can be buckled in and I can keep moving.  

3 Year Old

You are at a gift shop on Vacation and you are buying batteries. Meanwhile your child has decided to pick out a $45 gigantic stuffed horse.

Correct: "Uh-Oh. That horse can't come with us! He has to stay here, say bye bye horse"

Redirect: "Do you want to hold these batteries and we can go see some butterflies?"

Disconnect: In the real life story where this took place my daughter threw herself on the ground literally kicking and screaming. I had to check out, so relocating wasn't an option. I was by myself and she is getting a little too big to try to hold when she's flailing like that. So she made a huge scene and I stood there calmly knowing that despite what anyone else around me was thinking I was aware that "I control myself, but I don't control others". In these situations I will often have people comment "Ewww, that floor is dirty" In a helpful way trying to coerce the chid to get up. I just agree with them and keep controlling myself. No big deal (even if it feels like it is). Eventually it's over, I haven't had to spend the night in the store yet. Rest assured, they WILL grow out tot this.

4 Year Old:

I hope your child is mature enough to never, ever throw a fit at this age, but for mothers like me that may have late bloomers here is my advice. They are crossing a bridge developmentally at this age. Try to introduce a lot more of the timer, choices, enforceable statements, and logical consequences, but be feel free to treat them like a toddler if they choose to act like one.

For example, The child is having a great time on a play date until lo and behold it's over and they have to go home! So they insist that they are not leaving.

Correct: You really love playing with your friend don't you? Too bad, we have to go home. *empathy primes the pump for learning*

Redirect: Why don't you see if there is a CD you want to listen to in the car?If they don't take the redirect bait then go ahead and switch to the relocate tactics. I have been in plenty of situations where I have to use force to break up a play date. If your child is big enough to carry and I pray for your sake they are, then you might have to do what I call the bandaid technique. Just rip it off quick instead of prolonging the agony. In other words grab them and head for the door. Or if not, you'll have to consider some logical consequences, or enlist your friend to help. My kids always listen to other people for some reason.

Disconnect: You might have to listen to a lot of screaming. The good news is you are in the car so it's a little easier to ignore because they are stuck in their seat and you don't have to look at them. 

This is a photo my husband took when I was pregnant with my second and my 2 year old wanted to be carried everywhere! I just couldn't do that all the time and she is my "throw yourself on the ground tantrumer". So It took a long time to get anywhere in that season.

I know these might seem obvious and probably not helpful. I wish I had a magic wand, but instead I just get a chance to practice a lot of patience and perseverance.  It's a wonderful age though. Just consider the Correct, Redirect, and Disconnect approach when facing some of these challenges and last, but not least,

I repeat -This too shall pass!   

This is day 21 of a 31 day series. For more Teachable Parenting click HERE.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Inside the Mind of a Toddler

I was planning on writing about the "Terrible Twos" yesterday, but I had so much to say on the topic that I had to do another post in it's place and break this one up into two parts. That means tweaking my entire 31 days plan. That is how important this topic is to me! 

For the past 20 days I have been talking about some Teachable Parenting methods that rely heavily on Love and Logic principals. The problem is, I know that myself, most of my friends, and many of my readers have preschool age children and the rules of logic don't apply to them. Well, they do the little ones just haven't gotten the memo yet. Hope is not lost though, and over the next two days I am going to be focusing specifically on toddler age children. Even if you don't have toddlers it could give some insight for when you are around them or their exhausted parents. 

I feel like I have read it all and seen it all, but when it comes to the tricks that stick with toddlers I can’t tell you one specific thing that I have had consistent success with. Maybe it's because I wasn’t looking for solution to the long term goal as much as I was hoping for a "get out of jail free" card. I’m entering my third round of toddlerhood with my youngest and even though there are parts I am dreading, I feel like this time I am more prepared than ever. It’s not because I think I know how to fix it, but rather (as with the theme of this series) I know that I can’t. It is going to take a lot of patience, a lot of prayer, and a good deal of Ben and Jerry’s therapy. I have always said God had to balance this age out because they are so stinking cute. 

If it wasn’t for all the headache and heartache we might just spoil them to pieces and they wouldn’t learn any boundaries at all. What good would that be? This is the perfect age for them to see cause and effect by pushing every button and testing every limit.

I so often see moms posting questions on social media or discussing in real life concerns about how their cute little tyrant is misbehaving and the mother is despretaly seeking a solution (get out of jail card). Sometimes there is one, but most of the time the answer is “this too shall pass”. It’s not that you ignore the child’s needs, your needs, or the learning opportunity that is there, but at the risk of sounding like the worst parenting advice ever, set your expectations low until they are 5. In the book Wild Things there is a chapter called The Explorer which deals with advice for boys of this age (2-4) and it says, "Because of where he is in his development, an Explorer is incapable of self-regulating. A common mistake that parents make with Explorers is to place unrealistic expectations on them to control their own behavior. Requiring high levels of self-control at this stage only sets up an Explorer for failure. This is the one part of the journey of boy-hood where we need to expect less from boys and be pleasantly surprised when they self-regulate. We are not suggesting that you have no expectations, just realistic ones." 

 I know people where age two was a breeze, but three was hard. I’ve seen the tantrum stage last from 1-4. A lot of people find tremendous breakthrough at the age of four, but then others swear it’s the climax. If you say that 5 was your worst stage or anything above that, well then you are just dealing with a different issue entirely.

I am not saying that 5 is easy peasy for everybody, but there are a lot of physical and mental changes that take place by this age. A 5 year olds behavioral issues compared to a 3 year old is apples and oranges. I have learned a great deal about neurological pathways since my daughter was diagnosed deaf. I wrote a whole piece about the science of language, which is pretty darn fascinating if you ask me. This applies to more than just language though. Did you know that a two year old has double the amount of connections your adult brain does? No fair, right? We all start out with trillions of neurological pathways and as I mentioned when I blogged about language, you use it or loose it. So while you see your toddler busy dumping out a box of cereal, watching Doc Mcstuffins, or napping, their minds are super busy doing neural pruning. This is a really important stage for learning. It's all about repetition, routine, limits, and social skills, and NOT academics focused, although I'll save that for another post. Anyway, the whole point is their brains are still forming and developing up to age 4, but ESPECIALLY in the first 3 years of life. From what I have researched, the part of the brain that regulates the emotion and controls social behavior (the prefrontal cortex) is one of the last areas to develop and this starts around age 4. Surprise, surprise! 

 By age 5 (without going into detail) things are pretty well set developmentally and your 5 year old has the same brain they will have their entire life. Now they just have to mature and fill it up with the wisdom and knowledge that comes with time.

Anyway Dr. smarty pants Michael Potegla, Ph.D. pediatric neuropsychologist has several years of research and he concludes that you can pretty much anticipate this “out of control” behavior from about 18 months to 4 years. If you read the entire article on you can learn more about the mechanics going on inside that tiny nogen and as mentioned in the book Wild Things "Understanding how your children’s bodies work and develop is a form of lowing them well." I couldn’t agree more.

So fear not fellow parents, you are not crazy and your stubborn toddler is not a lost case. They are at a fascinating important stage of development where a potential side effect is grey hair for you. I've got a few tips to help get through it though and I'll have part 2 of toddlerhood tomorrow. Hang in there.

This is day 20 of a 31 day series. For the rest of Teachable Parenting click HERE.