Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday's Top Ten [Parenting Lessons on Repeat Mode]

Life with toddlers can be repetitive. They thrive on consistency. But the day-to-day, never-ending pick-ups, bedtime routines, I-can't-believe-I have -to-say-this-again's, can become humdrum and wearisome. And I know I'm not alone.

I've felt this way for the last two weeks. My children have been weepy. Crying at the drop of a hat is the norm as of late and it is exhausting. It wears on my nerves. But it's in the midst of these trials that I learn the most because the lessons I'm trying to teach them, become engrained in my heart and mind as I say it again and again and again - making a lasting impact. They are not just for my children. They are for me too.

I started to get irritated today because a lesson had to be repeated for the umpteenth time. I was screaming on the inside and found myself on the verge of yelling, "I HATE repeating myself! How many times do I have to say this?! Aaaaaaaagh!" God's up there patiently explaining, "This is the 10th time I've taught you this lesson." And I was reminded - once again - that I am more like my children than I am like God. These 10 phrases are on repeat mode for everyone in my house...

1. "Listen." I am constantly asking, What did I just say? If she cannot answer she was not listening very well. I feel like I'm always reminding them to "look at mommy!" Nine times out of ten if I tell her to do this, I get a better response. It's when she refuses to look at me that I know I have different problems (like respecting authority) that I must address immediately.

2. "Be patient." I wish I had two of me, but there is only one of me and I only have two hands. Therefore, you must wait; without whining or crying.

3. "The Bible states that when you have two of something, share one." (Luke 3:11)

4. "Be kind, even when you do not feel like it." Here's my script for this one, "Do you think Jesus wanted to be kind when he was beat and hung on the cross? He was gracious and kind in words and actions even though He died unmercifully and horribly?" Sometimes I even add the story of Cinderella, especially the new version where Ella follows her mother's advice to be kind and courageous even when her stepmother treats her terribly. In fact, the last scene gives me goosebumps! She's walking out with the prince and she turns around to look at her stepmother and states, "I forgive you." She is kind even when she didn't feel like it, even when she was asking her stepmother why she was so cruel. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.
One, of many, memory verses for this one is Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgoing one another, as God in Christ forgave you." 
5. "Be Thankful." This one is said almost every day at meal time. "Be thankful for the spoon you have to eat with, whether or not it's pink or blue." or "Instead of complaining about the food God gave us to eat, be thankful that you have something, anything at all, to eat. This is your third meal of the day, many children around the world have nothing. Give thanks!"
Memory verse 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." And if Paul advised persecuted Christians (the audience of 1 Thessalonians) to rejoice and be thankful in ALL circumstances, even in the face of affliction, we have that much more reason to be thankful!
6. "Obey the first time you are told." (No buts.) I do not allow arguing, if I allow it now I cannot imagine how it will spiral out of control as they grow up. This is also a lesson in respecting authority. So I'm also always asking, "Who is your authority?" (Mommy and Daddy) "Who is mommy's authority?" (Daddy) "Who is daddy's authority?" (God) I'm trying to prove (again and again) that we are ALL under authority and we must ALL obey someone (God, government, police, city officials, boss, teacher, etc. etc.) therefore, it is best to learn obedience to authority at an early age. Why? God established an order to life throughout Scripture. One that I'm constantly referring to is in Ephesians 5 and 6; it is in this order that we glorify God because we reflect Jesus, His bride, and His submission to death on a cross - even when He didn't want to (Matthew 26:39).

7. "Trust Me." Arguing about an answer given is a daily response. I try not to say no unless I have a good reason to, but lately I feel like I'm constantly saying no. "NO! Don't color on the walls!" or "NO! You may NOT eat the markers." or "No! Do not wipe your snot on the curtains!" or "No, you may not have _____ unless you have eaten all of your vegetables!" If they are not satisfied with the reason given, I ask, "Do you trust me? God gave you a mommy so that I help you and do what's best for you. You have to trust me because God entrusted you to me! I'm not doing it to be mean. I'm doing it because it's what is best for you and I love you."
The other night I wanted to give in after a battle with Ele at the dinner table (lasting for over an hour) over whether or not she was going to eat her vegetables. I told my husband, "I can see why parents just throw their hands up and say whatever!" And his response cut me to the core, "Well that wouldn't be very loving would it? Because that's not what she needs. You show her love by doing what is best for her." Ahhhhh! I won the battle and she was rewarded with a piece of chocolate afterwards. I was rewarded with an early bedtime.

8. "Please and Thank you are magic words." Use them. They have learned that they will receive nothing unless asked kindly and respectfully. That includes using these magic words. Ele, at 18 months, says the most adorable thank you, "GungGa" and signs "please" regularly. It can be done. It will be done in our home.

9. "Rejoice in the Lord always." When you are sad, rejoice in God. When you do not want what you are given (like when your sister got the cup you wanted, a sandwich for lunch instead of mac-n-cheese, a purple shirt instead of pink), rejoice. You deserve nothing, therefore rejoice because you have an abundance of clothing, food, toys, movies, etc. I want to spoil our girls, but I do not want to raise entitled adults. I want them to rejoice for all that God gives and be thankful for it, because He does not have to give us ANYTHING. Same memory verse as #5.

10. "Take care of the things God has given." This lesson comes up in many situations, especially if the "MINE!" attitude ever comes out or destructive behavior is evident. Both are unacceptable because God made it abundantly clear to Job in Job 41:11 that everything, everything, is His, "Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." David also recognized this when the Israelites were giving an offering for the temple to be built, "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you." Therefore, what God has given us we must take care of. That includes stepping on items, kicking them, throwing them, etc. - just for the sake of destroying them. I do not tolerate that behavior from my children nor from the children who visit. They will know this fact. And they will also know that it is God's; He gave it to us and we will take care of it. Now, accidents happen and that is entirely different. We live in a broken and fallen world; things will fall apart and break. That is a fact of life, so I do not want them to hold onto things too tightly, but I do expect them to take care of it if it is within their ability to do so.

Plus one: the gospel. It is in the death, burial and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ that we find hope, encouragement, and reason to rejoice and be thankful! There is nothing, absolutely nothing, on this planet that has this power. Nothing. Jesus is eternal and HE changes hearts. When we focus on HIM and what HE accomplished, hearts are changed.

I am not a perfect parent and do not  want to give the impression that I am. I fail in each of these lessons myself! My goal is to point them to Christ each and every day. I want to mimic Susanna Wesley's mentality of caring more for their eternal soul than for their current earthly one. Yes I care about how their clothed and their health, but their soul is eternal, their earthly body is not.

Also, I truly believe that God has given me these girls to teach these lessons so that they are constantly at the forefront of my own forgetful brain. Be kind. Be selfless. Be thankful. Always.

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