Principles Of Mothering
To finish out the mothering “mini-series” it’s always helpful to view life from the practical side, and especially our life and faith together because they can never be separated from one another.
Some principals that Kevin and I have already started to put to use in our home are:
1. Make your life an example to your children – you know the old saying “practice what you preach” ? Well, it’s true. Especially when it comes to those little eyes that are ever on you – watching your every move. This is where God’s grace comes into play big time. How, if we are sinners, can we not be burdened by the fact that our kids will watch us make mistakes and sin? Yes, they will catch the good things, but they will see the ugly too. What a beautiful opportunity every single time they catch us messing up to point them to Jesus. This is the simple practice of reminding ourselves (and them!) of the Gospel every single day.
2. Require Obedience– this one is crucial. If you tell your child to do something, you have to follow through. If you set up a rule, it must be obeyed. If your little one breaks God’s rules, there must be discipline involved. There isn’t a day that goes by when our girls don’t respond(out of sheer memory) when asked, “How do you obey”” with a hearty, “All the way, right away and with a happy heart.” It’s that simple in our home. We require obedience that is carried out to its’ fullest (all the way), quickly (right away) and cheerful (with a happy heart). The happy heart part is always the culprit. With alot of prayer and referring back to Proverbs 15:13 “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit” we trust God to continue the work He has already begun in them. As your children grow older, you will find that it becomes harder and harder to control their hearts. When they are young, you train them to respond and act, but when they get older, their hearts responses begin to show more and this is where our trust in God’s work in their lives comes into play. Our job as parents is to correct behavior, discipline (the use of the rod) and practice what obedience looks like. If one of our girls has hauled off and hit the other, we talk about why it is wrong, they receive their discipline and then go to the offended and ask for forgiveness. Then, we have them “act out” what the better response would have been. Yes, this is time consuming and we don’t always do this every time. But if we expect obedience from our children, we have to be the ones to show them what obedience looks like.
3. Study Your Child– this means taking the time to know your child; look into her eyes often and deeply, touch her, talk to her, know where she is weakest/strongest, what deserves praise in her life, which of her strengths is most likely to lead her astray or fail her, what makes her feel loved, what are her likes/dislikes? All of these things take time. You have to spend time with your little ones to truly know them – individual, focused time. Kevin and I make it a point to spend time individually with each of our children. Kevin takes the girl’s out on dates. I grab one of them when I run an errand or head to the grocery store. It’s amazing how we gain access to their hearts while pushing them down the isle of Publix in a shopping cart or while sipping hot chocolate and reading books at Border’s.
4. Give Many Rewards – Jani Ortlund talks about this principle in a clear way. “Punishment teaches what not to do. You want to teach your child that good and pleasure go together, just as surely as sin and pain. That’s how we learn to fear and hate sin. Reward kindness, good deeds, and cheerful obedience.” There will be many times when you have to say no to your child and there will be days when it feels like all you are doing is spanking and correcting. Look for ways to praise them for obedience. You just might be surprised at how well they are doing. Kevin and I just implemented something new in our parenting. We realized that we tend to both be very focused on how much our girl’s dis-obey. To help us and to encourage them we had them decorate 2 little containers to call their very own. When we catch them doing something exceptionally well or working hard at obeying in an area they have been struggling in, we tell them to put a penny in their cup. When they have reached 5 pennies they get to trade them in for a prize from the prize box. This little box has candy and little toys and stickers in it that they can’t wait to choose from. We also have the freedom to take a penny away if they have dis-obeyed. This doesn’t take the place of spanking but it is a tangible reminder of the consequences of their sin. So far, it has been working well. Of course, we never want to bribe our children into obeying but rewarding can be a very positive thing if used correctly.
Everyone’s principles of parenting might look a little different but they should all line up with God’s Word. Hope this encourages you to develop some of your own principles if you haven’t already. Then, we must do alot of praying and trusting the Lord. Afterall, He holds the keys to our children’s hearts.