Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Family worship (or, quit complicating things so much)

November 9th, 2017

We knew even before we had children that we wanted family worship to be a thing in our household.

We also knew that the thought of family worship was overwhelming and intimidating. We knew how hard it could be to be consistent in personal devotions – and how many times we’d stopped and started at attempts to spend devotional time together as a couple. How on earth could we do family worship?

It just so happened that we have children who don’t do a great job at sleeping – and I started reading Tirzah Mae a Bible story from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor (which my mom gives a story a baby shower gift) every night before putting her to bed.

Then, last Advent, I got out the Advent wreath and we made a point to light the appropriate candles and sing a Christmas hymn after supper each evening.

As we got ready to put away our Christmas decorations, it struck us that we’d been complicating the idea of family worship overmuch – and that we were missing out on a great opportunity to train our children as a result.

We combined the Bible story I’d been reading with the hymn we’d made a habit of singing, added a time of family prayer at the end – and now we have family worship almost every evening.

It turned out to be that simple. We get the kids in their jammies after supper and then choose a hymn to sing. We read from a story Bible (we’re actually reading through The Ology by Marty Machowski right now, having gone through the Old and New Testaments in story form twice now – we plan to alternate going through the storyline of Scripture and doing something more theological/doctrinal like this.) Finally, we pray together – Tirzah Mae and then mama and then papa (Louis isn’t quite talking yet.) Then it’s kisses and toothbrushing and off to bed.

Simple and totally doable, now that we quit complicating things so much.

Priceless

June 12th, 2017

Tirzah Mae peeled the barcode off her new water bottle and affixed it to her shirt.

I noticed it on our way out of the grocery store and began to tease her.

“We need to find a scanner so we can see how much you cost.”

“Are you a bargain or are you pricey?”

I contemplated adding the numbers I knew, the ones I’ve quoted to others.

Half a million dollars.

That was the sticker price for her first twenty-nine days outside the womb. (Neither we nor our insurance company paid the sticker price.)

I thought back to my question: “Are you a bargain or are you pricey?” Yes.

I didn’t quote that number to my daughter, couldn’t quote that number.

Instead my daughter listened and watched, a bit baffled as her mother choked out the words: “You’re neither. You’re priceless. Because you’re made in the image of God.”

So she is. And so are you.

Am overwhelming truth.

You have a choice

March 6th, 2017

When I read Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s Parenting with Love and Logic with my sister-in-law a couple years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. I felt like many of Cline and Fay’s examples were manipulative – and they gave an initial description of parenting styles that put me off.

But one thing in particular about their approach stuck with me (in a positive way). They encouraged parents to offer children choices – both of which choices are acceptable to the parent. So “eat all that food or I’ll leave you at the restaurant” doesn’t fit the bill, since the parents really aren’t okay with leaving their child at the restaurant. “Either you can eat that food in the next 15 minutes or we’ll leave THE FOOD at the restaurant” is another matter entirely.

Now that Tirzah Mae is two and is asserting her independence on a regular basis, I’m finding this particular tip to be a life-saver.

In the parking lot: “You have a choice. Either you can hold mama’s hand the whole time we’re walking through the parking lot, or mama will pick you up and carry you into the store.”

Tirzah Mae on a Curb
Tirzah Mae chose to sit on the curb while mama was putting Louis in his car seat

At the library: “You have a choice. You can look at the books without pulling any new books off the shelf or you can sit in the stroller.”

At home: “You have a choice. You can take your clothes to the hamper or you can go sit in your room for a minute.”

I don’t always use the words “You have a choice”. But I use them often enough that when I reminded Tirzah Mae to clear her bowl from the table after breakfast one morning, I heard her repeat to herself “You have a choice.” And then, a few seconds later, I heard the bowl slide off the table and heard her mutter “Good decision.”

And that is indeed what happens when she selects the option I prefer. “Good choice!” I’ll tell her. Or the aforementioned “Good decision!”

It doesn’t eliminate parenting challenges, doesn’t mean she always obeys. But giving her a choice certainly makes things easier.

Parenting: Providing Anticipatory Guidance

January 24th, 2017

It didn’t matter how many times I told her not to. She bit the fluoride dropper every time I put it into her mouth.

I’d draw up some fluoride, squeeze the excess out until I had the prescribed 0.5 mL, and insert the dropper into her mouth. She’d clamp the dropper between her teeth and grin at me as I tried to extricate the dropper. “This is not funny, Tirzah Mae,” I’d say, “this is disobedient. You should not bite the dropper.” My frustration level to rose higher and higher as the days went on – and so did Tirzah Mae’s sense that this was a marvelous game.

And then, one day, I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to do.

I needed to give some anticipatory guidance.

Holding hands with Mama

What is anticipatory guidance?

According to yourpediatrician.com:

“‘Anticipatory Guidance’ is a common term in the field of general pediatrics. It refers to providing education to parents about what to expect, or anticipate, over the next few months or years with your child. Recommendations are specific to a child’s age at the time of a visit.”

Our family doctor’s anticipatory guidance involves reminding me to childproof the house at the 6 month visit, since my little one is likely to soon become mobile. Our doctor is letting us know what to expect and what to do.

In the same way, my anticipatory guidance for Tirzah Mae meant telling her what was coming and what I expected of her.

In the above scenario, that meant I’d tell her something like this: “Okay, Tirzah Mae. Mama’s going to give you some fluoride. Now, I don’t want you to bite the dropper.” In this way, she knew exactly how I expected her to behave (or to not behave). If she followed my instructions, I’d praise her: “Thank you for being obedient, Tirzah Mae.” If she disobeyed my instructions, I’d put on my sad face and say “Oh, Tirzah Mae, you’ve been disobedient. Now mama will have to punish you.” And I’d administer whichever punishment was currently the order of the day.

And, as time went by, she learned what I expected and I no longer needed to give anticipatory guidance for the fluoride drops.

Holding her own hands

Now, it’s other things. As I see the pastor or elder making his way to the pulpit for the call to worship on Sunday morning, I explain to Tirzah Mae: “See how Mr. Dave is coming to the pulpit? He’s going to read to us from the Bible and then pray. I want you to be quiet and stand next to mama while he does that.” Or as I get ready to take Tirzah Mae out of her car seat, I’ll explain: “We’re going to go into ALDI, but I want you to hold mama’s hand the whole time we’re in the parking lot, until I put you in the cart.”

It doesn’t mean Tirzah Mae obeys every time, or that we never have struggles, but because I’ve articulated my expectations in advance, I’m able to respond to her actions more calmly rather than reacting in frustration. Because I know that she knows what I expect of her, I need not waffle about punishing her when she disobeys for fear that she’d forgotten my instructions. And the disobedience occurs less and less. In fact, she even begins to anticipate my guidance and say so herself.

She reaches out her hand to grab something from the shelf in the gas station but stops herself just in time. “Fold your hands,” she instructs herself, repeating my guidance. “We’re going to go into the gas station, but I want you to keep your hands folded and not touch anything.”

Anticipatory guidance. It works for us.

Snapshot: Tirzah Mae’s Makeup

January 15th, 2017

Tirzah Mae generally does an excellent job of only writing with her markers on paper.

With one exception.

She loves to draw on herself.

Like a week ago, when she put on some eye “makeup”.

Tirzah Mae's "Makeup"

Must Christians Homeschool?

January 9th, 2017

After listening to R.C. Sproul, Jr’s audio series Training Up Children”, I am quite sure of what Dr. Sproul Jr’s answer to that question is. I am also quite certain that I disagree.

First, Dr. Sproul’s position.

Dr. Sproul began in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (an excellent place to start when discussing a parent’s responsibility toward their children, by the way.)

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your hearts. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

~Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV – Emphasis mine)

Dr. Sproul (quite rightly) extrapolates from verse 7 (bold above) that parents should speak of God to their children throughout the course of their lives, not just during a time of formal devotions or family worship. From here, he takes a giant leap to say that parents must homeschool their children in order to be with them at all times.

This, I believe, is an inappropriate conclusion to draw from this passage.

This passage clearly speaks to the important role God intends His word to play in the lives of his people. God expects that His word be not merely external to His people but internal (“shall be on your hearts”.) God expects that parents will diligently teach His word to their children, not merely as formal instruction but as part of the everyday-ness of life. God expects that His word be always before His people (bind on hands, between eyes, on doorposts and gates.)

What this passage does not speak to is whether parents and children should always be together.

As a thought experiment, let’s explore whether one can be obedient to Deuteronomy 6:7 while sending their children to a “state school” (Sproul’s term). We’ll start with the various contexts in which parents ought to talk to their children about God’s word.

“When you sit in your house.” Do parents of children in a state school sit with their children? It depends. Do they eat meals with their children? Do they sit in the living room together after supper? Do they sit together in a car? They may or may not, but there is nothing inherent in sending your children to school that precludes parents sitting with their children.

“When you walk by the way.” Do parents of children in school drive their children about? Do they walk or ride bicycles about? They may or may not, but there is nothing inherent in sending your children to school that precludes parents from traveling with their children.

“When you lie down and when you rise up.” Do parents of children in school put their children to bed (or send them to bed, depending on their age)? Do they wake their children up or see them when they wake up? They may or may not, but there is nothing inherent in sending your children to school that precludes parents from being with their children during bedtime or wakening.

Interestingly, although a majority of Israelites of the day would have engaged in some sort of agricultural activity, God does not say that parents ought to talk to their children about God’s law while milking the cows or tending the sheep or collecting manna. Nor does he say that craftspeople ought to talk to their children while sewing, weaving, or throwing pots, despite the reality that many crafts were done as a family. Instead, this passage refers to everyday activities that parents and children are likely to share regardless of profession or position or socioeconomic class. And even if parents and children don’t do them together, every person on the face of the planet sits down, moves around, goes to sleep, and wakes up. And every person on the face of the earth does these things regularly.

What this passage has to say about parents’ obligation to train their children in God’s word is simply this: Parents ought to diligently and regularly speak to their children about God’s word in the course of everyday life.

Dr. Sproul thinks that Deuteronomy 6 insists that parents be with their children all day every day homeschooling them. He allows that there will be some delegation – for example, his son was going on a trip to the zoo with Dr. Sproul Jr’s mother and sister while Dr. Sproul was giving one presentation – but he denies that sending one’s children to school is an acceptable form of delegation. I have two problems with this. First, as I argued above, I believe that Dr. Sproul twists this passage to imply a necessity of parents and children being together at all times. Second, if Dr. Sproul’s interpretation of this passage’s implications is indeed true and parents must be with their children at all times speaking to them about the word of God, then I see no reason why “delegating” to the children’s grandmother and aunt is an acceptable exception.

This is not to say that there are not significant advantages to homeschooling. This is not to say that some parents may discover that homeschooling is the best way for them to diligently teach their children the word of God. But homeschooling is not necessary.

Let us not put burdens on the believer that God does not.

Must Christians homeschool their children?

No, they need not.

Baby Hacks: Tummy Time and Cloth Diapering

August 8th, 2016

We all know by now that the only thing better than sustained tummy time is frequent tummy time. But who has time and energy for that?

It’s enough work to feed (breastfeeding and pumping and bottle warming, oh my!) and diaper (change, rinse, wash, no-time-to-fold, and repeat) and clothe (spit-up, blow-outs, and big-sister-drool) your baby without having to remember to put baby on the floor on his tummy multiple times a day (supervised – don’t forget that tummy time should ALWAYS be supervised [Sarcasm alert].)

But you can’t do tummy time when baby is hungry (read: half of the day) because then by the time you get around to feeding he’ll be too frustrated to latch well. And you can’t do tummy time right after feeding (read: the other half of the day) because then he’ll spit up everything you just fed him (anyone else need to keep their babies upright practically until the next feeding to avoid the dreaded mouth-nose-gasping-for-air-and-crying-like-he’s-dying-whenever-he-does-get-a-breath-spit-up?)

Getting frequent tummy time in is almost impossible.

Or is it?

Our solution is to turn unavoidable “can’t be on mama” time into tummy time.

Louis "enjoying" tummy time

I use a washable throw rug in our bathroom (actually, it’s two vintage bath towels sewn together to double thickness). After diapering, when I’m rinsing those cloth diapers, I lay Louis on the rug with a clean burp rag under his head.

Voila.

At least 4 or 5 (if not 8 or 9) little tummy times every day.

Lazy Parenting: Help with Housework

August 1st, 2016

“Training your child to help around the house will make the job harder now; but it’ll pay off down the road.”

It’s such common advice, it’s become something of a parenting axiom.

The implication is that lazy parents avoid doing the hard work of parenting – that is, training their children in the way they should go – and end up with more pain and work in the future when their children haven’t been trained to do x or y (or to have z or a character traits).

The axiom tells parents to do the hard work of including their children in housework now so that they can offload some of the housework to their children later. Or, less cynically, parents should do the hard work of including their children in housework now so that their children can be responsible for themselves as they grow into adulthood.

Tirzah Mae helps with wiping chairs

The training task of parenthood is often hard – which is why people find it necessary to remind parents to do the hard work now that will pay off down the road.

But I contend that, at least for toddlers, involving your children in housework does NOT make the job harder now. Involving your toddler in housework can pay off in the here and now – not just down the road.

Now, you are probably thinking “Have you seen how much longer it takes to [insert chore here] when my toddler ‘helps’?”

Yes, I get what you’re saying. My toddler tends to smear food around the chairs when she wipes them, which means I have to re-wipe them. My toddler drops the dustpan before she’s emptied it, which means I have to re-sweep a section of the floor. My toddler puts things in the wrong places when she’s picking up, which means I have to re-sort everything multiple times.

Doing a task with my toddler takes 1.5 to 2 times longer than doing a task myself.

But have YOU seen how much extra work my toddler can create when I let her play independently (not right next to me) while I’m cleaning up?

While I’m saving five minutes by cleaning up after lunch without her help, she’s creating ten minutes worth of work in the living room, bathroom, and bedroom.

The reality is, involving your child in your work right now will have benefits both in the future and in the present.

So, if you want to be a really lazy parent, involve your child in housework now.

Note to Self: Distracted Parenting

June 15th, 2016

Have you ever noticed, Rebekah, how distracted you can be?

You get up to do one thing and find a half dozen other things to do along the way, such that you sometimes forget what you were aiming to do in the first place.

Sometimes this isn’t a problem.

Many times this isn’t a problem.

Even if you forget your original intent, it’s rarely urgent and will usually get done eventually – and the half dozen little other things need to be done sometime. Now is as good a time as any.

But there are times when this distraction is a problem.

“Come here, Tirzah Mae,” you say. “We’re going to change your diaper.”

And then you notice the toy on the floor that belongs in the nursery and the socks that belong in the hamper in your bedroom. You pick them up and take them to their appropriate spots.

Returning to the living room, you repeat your plea: “Come here, Tirzah Mae. We’re going to change your diaper.”

But on the way into the bathroom to wet her wipes you realize your water bottle is empty so you grab it to refill it.

And so on and so forth.

Tirzah Mae learns that when Mama says “Come here, Tirzah Mae”, Mama really doesn’t mean it. When Mama says “We’re going to change your diaper”, she doesn’t mean right now.

She learns to ignore your directions until you come and get her. She learns that Mama isn’t serious about changing the diaper until Mama picks her up and carries her off to the nursery.

Your distraction is training her to ignore you.

And that is NOT good.

So try this, Rebekah.

Stand by the bathroom door. “Come here, Tirzah Mae,” you should say. “Mama is going to change your diaper.”

Stay there, holding your hand open for her to grab hold of it, repeating yourself if necessary until she obeys. DO NOT BE DISTRACTED.

When Tirzah Mae comes, you can wet the wipes in the bathroom sink and then the two of you will walk, hand in hand to the nursery, where you will change her diaper.

If you notice something that needs to be done while you’re standing by the door waiting for Tirzah Mae to obey, make a mental note but don’t do anything else.

Your primary job is teaching your daughter, not ensuring that the toys and socks are put away and the water bottle filled. You can do those things after you take care of the first thing – training your daughter to be obedient when you give her instructions.

Distraction in housekeeping is one thing. Distraction in parenting is quite another. Keep your eyes on the goal, Rebekah – train your daughter well.

Riding an Elephant

May 17th, 2016

Going to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo was an at-least-annual part of my childhood.

We’d load into the car some Saturday morning, singing Dad’s ditty:

“Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo
Zoo, zoo, zoo, zoo
Beeps and bonks and squeaks and sqwanks.”

We’d arrive at Grandma Menter’s in Bellevue in time for lunch at noon – except that, while Grandma Menter was an excellent cook, she was not excellent at multitasking, which meant that lunch was generally around two.

Tirzah Mae and Papa check out the cow and calf
Tirzah Mae and Papa check out the cow and calf

This didn’t bother us much (that I remember), since we had cousins to play with and 7-Up to drink.

Except that myself, my sister, and the cousin who falls exactly between us in age REALLY wanted to ride the elephants.

As I remember it, elephant rides were available until 3 pm – but since lunch was always at 2, we were never at the zoo in time for elephants.

Other times, we’d go with Grandma to the in-zoo cafe, which meant we were there earlier – but then we’d have to trek through the Leid Jungle, and would yet again miss the elephant rides.

Tirzah Mae and Mama pet a sheep
Tirzah Mae and Mama pet a sheep

A couple of months ago, a plane left Swaziland with sixteen elephants on board. The elephants were bound for Dallas, for the Sedgwick County Zoo (in Wichita), and for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.

The departure was rather a story because some environmental groups were trying to block the transport and the zoos opted to sedate the elephants and load them up for transport without a permit in order to force the issue (they were successful at doing so.)

Tirzah Mae and Mama with an Orangutan statue
Tirzah Mae and Mama with an orangutan statue

I followed the story with interest, partly because it’s Wichita news – and partly because it’s Henry Doorly news. And partly because I never got to ride those elephants.


I still haven’t ridden the elephants (I rather doubt that’s at all d’jour in today’s conservation efforts) – but thanks to Daniel’s employer, our family has gone to see Wichita’s six new elephants.

We spent the afternoon on Sunday at the Sedgwick County Zoo, where we petted the goats and sheep (one got out while we were at the gate!) and where Tirzah Mae clucked and crowed and quacked at hundreds of different bird species.

Tirzah Mae is enamored with large birds
Tirzah Mae is enamored with large birds

And we saw the elephants, two weeks before the exhibit opens to the public.

Tirzah Mae inspects the elephant
Tirzah Mae inspects the elephant

I don’t know that Tirzah Mae was enamoured with the elephants. She was already tired by the time we got to the exhibit – and elephants, unlike birds, are entirely outside of her realm of experience).

But I loved seeing the elephants ambling about their spacious enclosures.

Tirzah Mae and Mama enjoy the elephant
Tirzah Mae and Mama enjoy the elephant

It almost resigns me to not having been able to ride the elephants. Almost.

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