Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kids Activity - Providing Structure

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Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4, NIV)

One of the goals I made at the beginning of the year was to be more available for my girls and I am so glad that I let go of some formal commitments just to meet this goal. Things were just not working out here at home with regards to child rearing. I felt out of control most of the time and really stressed out, causing me to feel like I'd failed as a mommy. The Lord even revealed to me a huge sin of anger and impatience through my children. In addition, because of our difficult financial situation, DearHubby's had to spend a lot of effort providing for our family, giving me little help here at home. Therefore, I needed to figure out a way to gain back control of my emotions and determine how I am to bring my children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Where else to turn, but to the Lord.

Everyday I pray to God for wisdom.

Well, Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart reminds us as parents that at this stage in DearDaughter1's life, the Biblical lesson she ought to be learning comes from Ephesians 6:1, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Throughout this child rearing journey, this is the verse that I have kept in mind. However, I failed to remember Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children..." As a result, I easily grew frustrated, angry, and impatient with DearDaughter1 when she disobeyed or seemed rebellious, and out of this frustration, anger, and impatience, sometimes I would yell at DearDaughter1. I forgot about grace and forgiveness and I did exasperate and discourage DearDaughter1.

DearDaughter1 will soon be turning 2 years and 3 months old, but sometimes I treated her like she was 21, thinking that she is mature enough to understand self-control and that she has the capacity to know whether or not she is doing wrong or right. I was essentially getting frustrated and angry at DearDaughter1's immaturity and childishness.

It really took DearHubby's kind and many reminders to me to finally understand that DearDaughter1 is acting is out of immaturity. Although DearDaughter1 is able to do wrong, there is nothing malicious behind her disobedience. It is purely out of her childishness that thinks about "me, myself, and I" first that is causing her to act in a disobedient manner.

I guess when you're caught in the middle of the situation, it's hard to really objectively look at the situation, which is why I so often got angry.

So, with a lot of prayer and spending time with DearDaughter1, the Lord is finally giving me some insight as to how I ought to respond to DearDaughter1. Yes, the first and foremost lesson that DearDaughter1 should be learning now is obedience, but I needed to determine a way that is best suitable for DearDaughter1 to learn obedience.

One thing I noticed about DearDaughter1 is that she really likes structure. She thrives when she is given a challenge and a goal and within those 2 parameters, she enjoys following instructions. Therefore, I decided to make an Obedience/Disobedience chart for DearDaughter1 using happy faces and sad faces. Whenever she is obedient to Mommy she gets a happy face and I tell her "DearDaughter1, you did a good job by being obedient. Thank you. Mommy is pleased by your obedience." When DearDaughter1 gets 8 happy faces, she gets her favorite treat as a reward. On the other hand, whenever she is disobedient, DearDaughter1 receives a warning, "DearDaughter1, you are being disobedient by doing ...If you continue to do that, then you will recieve a form of correction and a sad face. This is your last warning, stop doing..." If DearDaughter1 continues in disobedience, she then receives her form of correction and a sad face and I tell her, "You received a form of correction because you continued to disobey Mommy by doing...Mommy is not pleased when you disobey. Are you sorry?" I'm not really sure that DearDaughter1 knows the concept of being sorry, but I do make her apologize and then I walk her through how she ought to have been obedient. She has not reached the end of a row of sad faces, but even if she did, there really is no BIG punishment. The whole point of the chart is to make obedience and disobedience visual for DearDaughter1 and to let her know that when she is obedient Mommy is pleased and when she is disobedient Mommy is not pleased. Lastly, when she does disobey, I note what the disobedient act was. That's to help keep ME in check to make sure that DearDaughter1 was not punished out of anger, but that it was legitimate. As a result, I have not yelled since implementing this system...(However, it's only been a few days...Perhaps I'll need to give an update as this system is tweeked)

Lastly, I've implemented the use of the timer, both to open up opportunity for DearDaughter1 to earn a happy face and also for correction. As mentioned above, DearDaughter1 likes to be challenged and she loves to race against the timer. So, for example, if I want her to clean up her toys, I give her clear instructions what I want cleaned up, I assess how much time I think it will take her, and then set the timer. Usually, I assess correctly and DearDaughter1 cleans up before the bell rings, but sometimes she doesn't finish. At that point I just add more time because the whole point is her obedeince and not the fact that she beats the clock. I use the timer as part of a corrective measure when I need her to calm down. Sometimes, as typical toddlers are, DearDaughter1 just has a breakdown and needs time to cool off. At that point, I would take her into her room, set her in her chair, and set the timer for 2 minutes. That gives her time to cool off and come back out with a better attitude.

One last tool I am learning to implement is the skill of redirecting...I've learned that a toddler's first response is "No" and so if I see DearDaughter1 heading in a direction that I know I'm going to tell her to stop doing, I try to direct her to an activity that I know is alright, to avoid unnecessary conflict and frustration.

These ideas didn't just come overnight and I know that as DearDaughter1 grows, my response to her will need to change. However, the lesson I learned within these past few weeks are:
1) Remember what your whole goal to parenting is..."To bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
2) Spend time getting to know your child so that you know how to most effectively train and teach your child.
3) Child rearing IS a full time job and requires a lot of time.

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