The Difference Between Being Good and Behaving

The_Difference_Between_Being_Good_and_BehavingGrowing up, my brother and I were always taught to “be good”. This seemed rational to my way of thinking. It made life easier on my mother, it got me in less trouble, and it earned respect from adults. It wasn’t until I started attending school however, “being good” took on a whole new meaning.

Being good somehow became associated with being a snob or being too good for other people to hang around with. I soon became labeled as the “goodie two shoes” who never used bad language, never wore inappropriate clothing, and had to “ask mommy for permission”. It created quite a dilemma in my young mind. Wasn’t I supposed to be good? Weren’t these kids taught to be good as well?

In time, I gained a few friends. They would later confess they always thought me a snob, until they realized I was just a little shy and didn’t do things like everyone else. We remained friends for the remainder of my schooling.

On occasion I still wonder… Aren’t most children raised to be “good” people? Honestly, I don’t think so.

I think most children these days are taught to behave, not to be good. These are two different things entirely! When we behave, we are acting according to how the situation demands. When we are good, we are doing what is right.

As a parent, I don’t want my children to behave. Yes, you read that correctly! Their behavior should have nothing to do with what society commands or expects, but rather should stem from a moral compass which demands righteousness.

Being good goes far beyond behaving, it is an attitude of the heart. It is a drawing nearer to God. His goodness works in us, shines through us, and goes before us. It is an inner beauty that expresses itself in outward action. When we are good, we will listen to our parents. When we are good, we will respect others and show kindness. When we are good, we will do everything to the best of our ability. When we are good, we will do the right thing.

When we teach our children to simply “behave”, we are failing to teach them the most important lesson of all. Guard your heart. It isn’t just about the outward appearances, but who you are as a person. Being “good” shouldn’t be an act, it should be who you are. At the core of my children’s being, I want them to not only be a “goodie two shoes”, but to wear those shoes with confidence, knowing that they are doing the right thing.

“Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”
~ Psalm 119:65-68

Your Turn!: Speaking of shoes, in a round about way… What are your favorite pair?

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My Child Isn’t Talking to Me

My_Child_Isn't_Talking_to_MeBeing a teenager can’t be easy. I vaguely remember being there and it wasn’t always a walk in the park. However being the parent of a teen isn’t a breeze either, and this is completely new territory for me. There are days when we’re all laughing and having a blast. Then there are other days when nothing I say can bring a smile to their face and all I get are grumbles. Today is one of the hard ones. For whatever reason, my child isn’t talking to me.

I know what you’re probably thinking. In theory, this seems a simple problem to solve. We sit down, talk with our kid, they answer our questions, and we move forward together after a quick pep talk and a hug. In reality, this can be quite a challenge. Often, our child doesn’t wish to talk. Talking is out of the question. This makes figuring out the issue significantly more difficult. In fact, sometimes trying to force our children to talk can create even bigger issues. Our children become more grumpy, mean, and feel pressured. They just want space and we’re invading. What then? How do we deal with their lack of desire to communicate or even be pleasant?

Prayer – You’ve heard it before. You’ll hear it again. From now till kingdom come. Prayer first. I can do nothing. I cannot change this little person’s heart. But God can. I need prayer. Prayer for me; prayer for my child; prayer for the situation. I pray and keep on praying until the Lord resolves the issue. And then pray He help us continue on in peace.

Set Aside Emotion – This hurts, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t done anything wrong. We’ve even made a point of reaching out to our child. Their harsh words and actions slice us to the core, bringing pain. As much as this cuts, we need to push our feelings to the side and handle the situation maturely. This isn’t about how our child makes us feel; this is about our children being separated from us and probably God. This is about much-needed restoration.

Evaluate – So let’s be honest with ourselves. I might not think I’ve done something wrong, but perhaps I’ve done something which unknowingly bothered my child. This doesn’t justify their actions, but might contribute to the current situation. On the other hand, maybe this has nothing to do with me and my child has a physical need. This might be a spiritual battle. Here’s a tough one… It might be that my child’s personal choices during free time are affecting them. What are they watching, listening to, and reading? To the best of my ability, I need to evaluate what’s been going on and try to get to the bottom of it.

Reach Out – Even if my child responds unfavorably, I need to make an attempt at showing love and letting them know I’m here for them. It might be a hug, a kind word, a smile, or a note to say I care. I will continue to act gently towards them so the doors of communication are left open. I’m here, ready when they are.

Keep Trying – It would be grand if my child immediately apologized and everything was restored after a smile from me and a few well-placed words. How I wish this happened more often. Instead, we try. We try again. And we keep trying. We ask the Lord to show us when to speak and when to remain silent; allowing Him to reach their hearts. No matter what, we don’t give up.

Allow for Space – As just mentioned, sometimes the Lord needs us to remain silent. We let our child know we’re here for them. We smile often and ask them to join in. Then, we step back and let the Lord work. God wants this relationship restored even more than I do. I need to trust He is doing the work and be open to His leading.

Be Chill – When our child finally does wish to talk, or of their own accord involves themselves in an activity, we need to not make a big deal of it. For my kids, this tends to draw attention to the child who simply wishes to fly under the radar. Instead we act calmly and, afterwards, gently – privately – thank them for joining in or let them know how much we had fun with them. Inwardly, I’m soaring and feel like dancing. But on the outside I’m chill.

By nature I’m a people-pleaser. So when my child isn’t happy I take it personally. I evaluate and re-evaluate what I did wrong. Then I get angry when I come to the conclusion I haven’t done anything wrong and my child is just unhappy with me. These are natural reactions, but neither are helpful or healing. Through the leading of Christ, I am reminded to pray, set aside my personal feelings, and focus on the needs of my child. In Him will this relationship be restored and my kiddo once again made whole.

Being a teen isn’t easy. They have a lot going on both mentally and physically. Being the parent of a teen can feel like a struggle. It helps to remember this is just one day of many. By the grace of God we will see this through and come out to the other side.

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
~ Isaiah 54:13

Your Turn!: Sometimes I feel alone in this struggle. How do you handle difficult parenting days?

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Would You Rather Be a Mule?

“A mule is an animal with long, funny ears
He kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny and his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And, by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule”

~ Swinging On a Star, by Frank Sinatra

Rather_be_a_Mule?Most days, our kids do just fine with their learning. We eagerly race to the table and settle in for a few hours of focused lessons. I wish could say that everyday was like this. However, on occasion, my babies can be quite stubborn. What’s a parent to do?

On mornings when our children just won’t budge, dragging their feet to the table or perhaps making life miserable for themselves while trudging through their work, I have two options: I can get mad or I can figure out what is causing the trouble.

Not Enough Sleep – A frequent cause of stubbornness seems to stem from lack of sleep. They kids stayed up too late the night before and are, therefore, having a harder time focusing on today’s activities. The remedy: Give them a lighter load today, get them to bed on time, and then try again tomorrow. This usually does the trick!

They Have a Need – Rushing through their morning routine, especially when they sleep in later than they should, sometimes the kids choose to skip out on breakfast. (Um… sorry guys, you probably inherited this from me.) My kids are having a hard time because they have a physical need like food, a drink, or even exercise. The remedy: Figuring out what their body needs, giving it to them, and trying again!

They’re Irritated/Frustrated – Sometimes it takes just one thing to set our kids off. It could be harsh words spoken, a shirt that’s too itchy, or pencil being tapped on the table. The remedy: Identify the offending factor and remove it immediately.

They Need Help – Did the work I give them seem too much? Did they not truly understand it? Kids will often dig in their heels when they are really begging for help. The remedy: Sitting down with them and walking through their lessons. Ask them questions and help lead them to the answers.

They’re Intimidated – Similar to needing help, new lessons can often be intimidating. Instead of pushing forward with anticipation, our kids can drag their feet expecting to fail. The remedy: Encouragement. I need to help them see this is a challenge needing to be conquered, not the end of the world.

Too Much Work – I have grand visions for my children’s lessons. Once in a while, my visions are little too grand. My kids balk at the amount of work or time stretching out in front of them. It seems I have overwhelmed their minds and overburdened them. The remedy: Ease up! I need to restructure the lesson, reducing where I can.

Of course, there are times when my kids are just being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn; this is a character issue which needs to be worked out. However, with prayer and a quick evaluation of their needs, I can better help them move on from this obstacle.

“Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.”
~ Psalm 32:9

Your Turn!: I’m sure your children are never stubborn! But, for the sake of argument, if they were to exhibit such a trait… what is your plan of attack?

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I Just Don’t Want To

I_Just_Don't_Want_ToIt happens from time to time. It’s becoming more common as my children grow older, and begin to express personal desires and opinions. We’re getting ready to walk out the door and someone announces they are no longer interested in participating in our planned activity. No reason, no rhyme. Only a curt, “I just don’t want to!” What’s a mom to do?

I’ll be honest, these situations are hard for me. I dislike changes in plans as it is. Then we heap on a desire to not participate? This is not good! Before the problem escalates, I need to pray for wisdom and then ask myself the following questions:

What is really going on? Who knows what’s going on in their heads? I don’t! And I won’t until I ask. This might be rebellion or simply a genuine lack of interest. Before I can determine a course of action, I need to communicate with my children and seek out truth.

What’s the most important thing? Yes, the field trip would be fun, but is it worth the kicking and screaming to get out the door? On the other hand, while it might be easier to not make my children get out of bed, we understand church is non-negotiable and like-minded fellowship is vital. Each situation will be different, but the end goal the same. We ask the Lord what is most important and act upon it.

Is there a lesson to be learned? Whether by me, or my child, perhaps the Lord has something to show us. Maybe need to learn how to pick my battles. Perhaps my child needs to learn the disadvantage and consequence of missing out, or the benefit of being made to participate. First, I need to identify the lesson and then move forward.

While I’m never excited to hear my children announce they suddenly do not wish to participate, I’m learning to no longer take these decisions personally. Often these circumstances are opportunities for growth and lessons we all needed to learn. Through the Lord’s leading I am learning to listen, understand, and lead my children with grace. It’s not always easy, but it’s well worth the effort.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Your Turn!: One of your several children adamantly decides they do not wish to participate in a given outside activity, how would you handle this situation when both parents had planned on attending and no babysitter is available?

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He’s Building a Cathedral

Building_a_CathedralThe waking of children, cleaning of the house, cooking of food, running of errands, character building, discipling and homeschooling keep me tied to the moment. I can get bogged down in my day-to-day experiences to the point I lose sight of my overall goal. It’s as if they are walls surrounding me, preventing me from seeing beyond the day’s activities. I can become overwhelmed, disheartened by thinking I am not making progress but instead spinning my wheels. Then the Lord gently reminds me these daily responsibilities are important and necessary. I might not see the end picture, but He does. He is building a cathedral, and no cathedral was built in a day.

The Lord has great plans for my children. I know this because God’s Word speaks to this truth. But what about those times it feels as though nothing is being accomplished? We are still facing the same issues we were last week, or last month. We get frustrated with one another. Even when we conquer one area of concern, another is soon to follow. What can we do? How can I to realign myself with God’s Word and once again focus on the Lord’s purpose for our family?

Prayer – Whether it’s lies from the enemy, hard truths which need to be faced, or just a difficult day needing to be dealt with. I am going to fail if I do this on my own. Before I turn anywhere else, I need to fall on my knees and seek the Lord. With Him all things are possible.

Encouragement –  The Lord has given us friends and family to edify us during these moments of discouragement. They pray for us, perhaps show us where we have deviated from the plan, and come alongside us to work together toward the end goal. When I become overwhelmed by the cares of today and lose sight of the bigger picture, it’s these like-minded Christians I need surrounding me.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back – While this seems discouraging, in truth we are still making progress! What might seem like a setback could in fact be additional lessons the Lord feels we need in order to perfect the lives He is building. The goal is righteousness, which often means practice, practice, practice. We need to think positive! Progress is progress, no matter how slow or tedious it might seem at the time.

This is Only Phase One – The building up of these children does not end with us parents, though we ought to be the ones laying a solid foundation for the work which will continue throughout their lifetimes. When I become overwhelmed that my children are not perfected today, He reminds me the job is not done. He is still working in each of us, myself included.

This is Not My Project – Though this was just mentioned, it’s worth repeating. I am not in charge. God is. The Master Builder has given me – a poor layman – instructions and objectives. My job is to carry those out to the best of my meager ability, understanding He is not only working through me, but cleaning up after my messes, laying groundwork for future accomplishment, and perfecting these little people. If this is His work, I need only be faithful and trust in Him.

My prayer is that the Lord continues to help me see as He sees. To no longer be bogged down by day-to-day responsibility, but rather be invigorated by each act of service knowing there is a greater purpose. His purpose. I may not see the bigger picture; the final plan. But I can rest in knowing the One who does.

No matter where today finds each of us. May we seek Him wholeheartedly. May He fill us with His presence, renew our minds for the task at hand, give us strength beyond our ability and peace which surpasses all understanding. When we stumble and fall, may He lift us higher than we could imagine. And when we lose sight of His vision, may we move forward in faith. These children are not our own, but His. May we embrace the blessing of assisting in His building of their lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~ Jeremiah 29:11

Your Turn!: If you could give up one daily household task, which would it be?

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Is Self Awareness a Thing of the Past?

is-self-awareness_a_thing_of_the_pastHave you ever been in a quiet setting and had someone rudely interrupt with a loud comment? I have. I find this highly annoying and equally frustrating. My opposition isn’t necessarily to the comments, but rather to the timing of them. I imagine others might feel the same. And what about the acquaintance who felt the need to point out your growing waist line?

A recent homeschool outing brought this issue front and center for me. I often wonder if people have a lost their “buffer zone”. The little place inside all of us which tells us when something really needs to be said or if we need to restrain ourselves. I wonder why it is certain people don’t seem to recognize when a comment is out-of-place, either by its timing or purely by its existence.

Since these events, it occurs to me that perhaps I need to be taking better stock of my kids’ “buffer zone”. Do they speak at times when it is best to remain quiet? Do they say things which ought not to be said? I would hate to be out somewhere with my children and find myself slinking down in my chair, due to the ridiculous nonsense which just came out of one of their mouths.

I think all of us have moments when, upon reflection, we ask ourselves, “Why did I just say that?” The key is to learn from those situations and not to repeat them. Unfortunately some people not only fail to reassess, but they find this character trait amusing.

Through training and discipleship, we hope to make our children both more self-aware and sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. We try to keep our children conscious of their surroundings and the appropriate decorum therewith. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a frequent occurrence and is often a teaching moment for all of us.

May the Lord continue to do a work in our homes and in our children, continually drawing us closer and making us more like Himself. Through His leading, our heart is to see people as God sees them and to use our lives as a way to reach people for His Kingdom. May we do this through our words, actions, and character.

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
~ I Timothy 4:16

📢 Chime In!: How is the Lord directing you to help your children learn this important skill?

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Character vs. Curriculum

ABC's“Today was such a rough day. I made the right choice though. Instead of doing arithmetic, I did character training. I just knew today was going to be a busy one. Choosing character was definitely the best choice.”

At the time, this comment completely baffled me. I didn’t understand the contradiction. Why couldn’t you do bothteach your curriculum and teach character? It seemed to me that this mommy was looking at the situation all wrong. To me, she was doing her child a disservice by not teaching them, using character training as a safe fallback.

In reality, things aren’t so clear-cut. I’ve come to realize this as my children get older and our lives get more busy. There are days you are going to need to put off the writing assignment in order to work on your child’s character. Moments will come when you would actually be doing your child a disservice by forcing them through those lessons instead of getting their hearts back in the right place.

This doesn’t mean curriculum and character are at odds, however. In fact, I would say they go hand-in-hand. Through teaching our children the importance of good penmanship (yes, I’m one of those) they are learning patience and grace. Through arithmetic we learn logic and reason. In all branches of study there is character training to be gained. All areas teach us diligence, self-control, patience, and so much more. Education is not only for the mind, but also for the soul and heart.

Granted, there are moments – sometimes days – when we need to stop everything and focus on the underlying character issue at hand. Hopefully those days are few and far between. In the mean time, consider looking at your education through a whole new lens. It isn’t just another opportunity to learn the ABC’s, but a possibility of teaching character.

Time to Chime In: Do you find curriculum and character to be at odds? Share your thoughts!

Demanding Dudley

“‘Dudley’ his mother replied softly and kindly, ‘Is someone being a Demanding Dudley?'”

Book-Review_logoCharacter training is a must. What good is a well-educated child who is a monster? Anything which helps my children better learn manners, character, and general etiquette is always a good resource, in my opinion.

Demanding Dudley is an adorable story about a fuzzy little guy who needs to learn his manners. Through Dudley’s interaction with his mother, we see how bad manners yield no results and good manners produce good things.

This was a charming little book. The story was easy reading, enjoyable, and a thoughtful lesson; the illustrations creative, colorful, and cute.

My son really enjoyed this story. He thought the main character, Dudley, was quite funny. Mom really enjoyed the character traits being shared and the lessons learned. In addition to this adorable book, more fun can be had at The Wiblets website! There you will find games, goodies, a list of currently available books, and more.

dudley-cover-300x300

Please click on the image above to be taken to The Wiblets website!

Demanding Dudley is just one of several Wiblet books written by Deneen Renae. Renae’s The Wiblets series of educational picture books is perfect for bedtime, and is built on pillars of hard-won parenting experience. Her “positive trigger phrase” method of calming and educating has proven itself effective in reaching the hearts and minds of children at any stage in their emotional maturation.

If you’re looking for a fun, creative way to teach basic manners to your littles, these might be just the books for you!

It’s Not Your Fault

As parents, we have a tendency to put our children’s behaviors onto our own shoulders. When they are doing well, we give ourselves a pat on the back. When they misbehave, we berate ourselves and stress over how we could be doing better. Sometimes, it’s important to understand that our children are just human. They have free will and not everything that goes wrong is our fault.

Maybe it’s just me, but when my children act out or misbehave I tend to ask myself what I did wrong. Was there something I could have done differently; am I missing an area in my parenting or character training; or is this an act of rebellion due to something I’ve done?

Now, don’t get me wrong. (Because I always feel the need to qualify.) Sometimes we are the cause of our children’s issues; we frustrate them, hurt them, or just flat-out make mistakes. We are human, too. However, we also need to realize that there comes a time when our children need to own up to their own actions and take responsibility.

Our children are human, just like us. They, too, will make mistakes and need to mature. While it is a good idea to take stock of each stumble and learn valuable lessons, not every stumble is the parents’ fault; this is especially true as our children grow up.

Children, just like parents, have the ability to choose good; to do the right thing. Our job as parents is to model and train them to choose the good. We cannot force the good upon them or make them into robots who will perform well on command. If we are doing our part, we need to allow our children to do their part; mainly, to make those choices on their own.

When our children choose well, we commend them and encourage them to continue. When they choose poorly, we help them learn the lesson and redirect them onto the right path. If our children refuse to choose the good or refuse to be brought back to a better starting point, that inot our fault. They are expressing and demonstrating their free will.

Take stock of each situation. If you could be doing better; do so! However, if you are doing your best and your children are still struggling, learn to let it go. You are doing your part, their choices are not your fault.

Does this mean we have no recourse? Absolutely not! We do the only thing we can do: pray! Pray, and pray hard. Ask the Lord to convict them, guide them to where they ought to be, and bring them back into a right relationship with the family. Prayer is very powerful, don’t underestimate it.

At the end of the day, we are all fallen creatures with free will. Our children are no different from us, they just have a few more lessons to learn. Train them well, disciple their hearts, and help them make those wise choices. If they should choose poorly, instead of heaping on the self-inflicted guilt, focus on the lesson. Not everything they do is your fault.

Time to Chime In: Do you feel guilty when your children act out or rebel? How do you overcome your own self-doubt and move forward?

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – I John 2:1

Mini-Me

My 'Mini-Me'

It was pointed out to me that this is the exact face I make!

She was doing it again. That thing that just gets under my skin. The look, the attitude, and the unspoken message were being communicated loud and clear; she was not happy. My first inclination was to train her, but then I heard a soft voice remind me, “She is doing what you do.” (sigh) It’s true; my children are mini versions of me. The poor little dears…

As much as I would love to portray an image of perfect parenthood, the truth is I am human. Just like everyone else, I too make mistakes. This is most apparent when my children act out. As does a mirror, my children reflect back to me all the ways in which I need improvement.

Parenting has taught me so much about myself and not all of it good!

The most important lesson I have learned from parenting is that mercy and grace need to abound. While I have a tendency towards being overly firm, sometimes a gentle hand is what is needed.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to pay attention to those moments of frustration that these children are experiencing. I would encourage myself to listen carefully to the underlying message this little person is trying to convey. I would remind myself to be patient, humble, and gracious. Most importantly, I would tell myself that these are lessons from God for me. The Lord is using these situations to shape me and mold my character. Through my children, God is showing me areas which need improvement and giving me the opportunity to change.

This is the same advice I would offer others. When your children act like mini-replica’s of yourself – and not the best versions of you, either – consider this a wonderful teaching moment for you!  Don’t be quick to judge, but seek to restore that child back into a proper relationship with the family.

Having our children be miniature versions of ourselves can be a little frustrating at times, but it is also a blessing. Besides showing us personal areas of needed improvement, we have a unique ability to understand the struggles this child is experiencing. We’ve been in her shoes and we know what she needs to move forward.

The next time you’re faced with a ‘mini-me’ moment, consider this a wonderful learning opportunity, for both of you!

Time to Chime In: Which of your children is your ‘mini-me’ and what has the experience taught you?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4