Last week I started to get my head in the game of parenting. Sometimes I can get so caught up in the academic and physical aspects of parenting, that I neglect the spiritual! Which means that our lives are chaos because I'm not dealing with my children's hearts while training and disciplining, I'm only reacting to situations that come up. Just being reactive ends up creating a crazy, yelling, frustrated Mom and two completely undisciplined kids.
So one night last week I grabbed every parenting book I owned and sat down on my bed ready to make my game plan. I was tired of repeating myself over and over, tired of yelling, tired of being upset all the time - I was just exhausted! Despite the fact that I had a whole stack of parenting books, I came back to the same two that I have loved from the beginning. Their strategies and perspective on parenting have always worked for us - when I use them! It's so easy to get into a reactive parenting rut - a few illnesses, a busy period, a new change, and BOOM! I'm back to frustrated Mommy.
Don't Make Me Count to Three and Parenting With Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments have helped me tremendously. (Note that Parenting with Scripture is a reference book of parenting scriptures, not a "how-to". For the nuts and bolts, read Don't Make Me Count to Three.) They give some great advice and point out some of the pitfalls of parenting without a real plan. Just to name a few:
Repeating Yourself Endlessly
"Hayden, stop that. Hayden, stop. Hayden, Hayden HAYDEN SIT DOWN!". Yeah, sounds annoying just typing it and it's super annoying while I'm doing it too. Now there is one warning if it's something he is aware of that is wrong (two if it's a new rule) and then training and disciplining.
Disciplining Without Training
How many times have I verbally reproofed Hayden or done a time out or some other discipline but then never gone back and showed him what he should do. I clearly stated what was wrong but never what was right. Now every discipline is paired with training in the right behavior. An example: Hayden is whining about what's being served for breakfast. He gets the warning with our rules for meals: "Hayden, you don't have to eat all of your food, but you won't get anything else unless you finish what you were given first." Then the scripture (paraphrased for his age): "We need to do everything without complaining or arguing". This is his warning for the arguing that often comes after this. If he argues, then part of his discipline is training: "Hayden, instead of complaining and arguing, what should you have done?" Hayden: "Say yes, Mommy and eaten my food OR tell you I'm finished eating.".
I was parenting based on my mood. Some days I corrected certain behaviors and others I "let it slide". But my duty as a parent is to correct and traing my children. If it is bad behavior than I must correct it, regardless of if I feel like it or not, or if it's only a "small" thing. I must deal with each behavior and train them in the correct way. Which leads me into...
Disciplining Out of Annoyance
Occasionally, I was disciplining things that were merely annoying to me and not truly wrong. In fact, in some scenarios - maybe I was in the wrong for being lazy or distracted or doing things that were best left for times when I wasn't with my children. I can't expect to spend a significant time on the computer doing work when I have two small children at home. And that's something I have to be sure and guard against.
Parenting Without Reference
Again, I was flying by the seat of my pants here. I knew what was right and wrong, but not why. Using God's Word gives me the tools I need to train my children. It's not wrong "Because I said so" (which I was using a lot lately) - It's wrong because God says so, and here's where and why (God actually explains his laws, unlike me sometimes).
After retraining myself, I'm delighted to say that I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's a lot easier to enforce God's Word in my house than my word. Having a plan for how to discipline and training my children is so much more empowering than guessing and making it up as I go. There has been a lot less yelling (practically none - it's a hard habit to get out of), I am working on remember not to repeat myself and get off my lazy buns and discipline and train when I need to, and the kids actually are slowly starting to listen a bit better. It's also helped me dig into the Bible a lot more because I'm realizing that even I don't know what God says on this or that situation. It's not always easy - for instance we were almost late for the boat party this weekend because Hayden decided that he did NOT want to be disciplined and was throwing a fit. But instead of saying, "Whatever, let's just go", we stayed and dealt with it - and I'm so glad we did. I'm still in process and unlearning my old ways of parenting, but I'm hoping to continue to grow and parent with a plan.