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Archive for February 2011

Worth The Battle?

There is an all out war raging at our house over screen time, helping around the house and fairness.

Inspired by a friend, I decided to implement a new plan on how to regulate screen time (TV, computer & video games) and motivate my kids to contribute to the general well being of our household. The basic idea is that they can have as much screen time as they want, but they have to earn the points by doing household chores, reading or other beneficial activities.

My kids have decided this system is completely unfair.

Why? Because I had fallen into the parenting strategy called, “Getting Through The Day.”

I define the Getting Through The Day strategy like this: Doing whatever it takes to get through the day without a fight, even if it means sacrificing the long term good of my children.

This is my default mode when I am tired, busy and burned out as a parent. I simply run out of energy to engage in the battle of raising responsible human beings and I settle for happy kids, even if that means I have to do everything myself and end up even more tired, busy and burned out.

There are seasons where Getting Through The Day is a completely valid parenting technique. Those stressful times in life where temporary circumstances throw life into a blender and all you can do is swim to the top to avoid being sucked into the sharp blades at the bottom would be acceptable moments to employ this strategy. Moving, having a new baby, recovering from surgery, starting a new job and grieving the loss of a loved one have been blender seasons for me as a parent. My kids have learned a lot about being independent during those periods.

It’s when I realize that the blades are no longer whirring and some of the independence my kids are exerting have gone awry that I decide to fight a few battles for well-being of my beloved sons. In this case, the screen-time battle of 2011. I’ve stepped back and looked down the road a few years and decided that when I’ve launched my kids I want them to understand a few things. That life does not revolve around our entertainment. That work comes before play. That it’s important for us to work together for the well-being of our home. That spending time together interacting is way better than zoning out.

As Reggie Joiner says in Think Orange, “In my pursuit of what I thought would make my kids happy, I threatened what makes them come alive.”

So I’ve picked up the battle ax and started swinging. My kids are not happy. They have been shaken out of their video-game-induced coma. They are experiencing the pain of being alive. I know I’m not fighting perfectly, but I am depending on the grace of God to cover over my inadequacy.

What is it in your home? You may have already fought the screen time battle and won. Have you thought through some of the end-game results that you desire for your children? Is there anything worth the battle?

Parenting…The Great Embarrassment

I always knew there would come a day when I would be an embarrassment to my children. I just didn’t know it would come so soon. Apparently, a six-year-old is not too young to be concerned about his mother’s public behavior. I have been informed, under no uncertain terms, that I am NOT to dance at stop lights while driving, and I am to limit my private dancing to times when only members of our immediate family are present. Clearly, I do not have enough dignity to impose these sensible limitations on my own behavior. They need to come from my kindergartner.

Vindication has come however on a recent mission trip to Peru. One of the missionary moms approached me at the end of our week of working with her children and said that her kids thought I was a really cool mum. Did you get that? I am a “Cool Mum.” So what if I had to travel to another continent for this to be true? These kids even saw me dancing crazier than I do at stop lights and they still think I am a cool mum. (Sorry, I just can’t stop writing “cool mum.” I might even invest in some personalized license plates with that description. Of course, that will undoubtedly be completely embarrassing to my children.)

Now, in order to encourage that mom, I confessed that in my own country and to my own children I am actually an embarrassment. She was not surprised since she, also, is an embarrassment to her own children. Her encouragement to me was this, “To be fair, think of all the times your children have embarrassed you.”

Ah yes, I instantly recall the day my firstborn followed me out of a store screaming at the top of his lungs how much he hates me and how I am the worst mom in the world. That was a doozy. Then there was that time, OK one of many times, that my newly potty-trained son was caught publicly watering trees, rocks and fences. Really, this list could get very long. In fact, parenting can either drive you to insanity attempting to minimize embarrassing situations in order to win approval of onlookers, or you can learn to seek the approval of One. There is no in-between because your kids will shame and humiliate you. It’s only a matter of time.

This realization, that the embarrassment flows both ways, is slightly vindicating, however, there is another important principle at work. The fact of the matter is, our kids will probably always find it easier to see a “cool mum or dad” in someone else. My question to you is, “Who is that going to be in your kids’ lives and how will they influence them?”

Confession. I am not at the place where my kids have completely tuned me out and are looking for other voices. Wisdom tells me that eventually it will happen. No matter how much they love me and want to marry me now, eventually they will realize how embarrassing it is to want to marry your own mother and will decide that I have no idea what I’m talking about. At this point, the opinions of peers, teachers, mentors and coaches will seem much more appealing than those of their embarrassing mother.

As a parent, I can cross my fingers and hope they choose good voices to listen to, or I can diligently forge relationships with adults with whom they can build trust. This is a huge benefit of being in the body of Christ, belonging to a church family who will come along side me and my children as we navigate the decisions of life. This is also a huge benefit of sticking to my guns on Sunday mornings and insisting that they attend Kids Connect when they’d rather just go to service. These small decisions set them up to have adults in their lives who will speak the truth of God when they don’t want to hear it from me.

My husband and I also have made a point of continuing a relationship with our kids’ Kids Connect teachers outside of Sunday morning. It helps that one of them is in our journey group and the other is on my husband’s softball team. It also helps that we truly enjoy them and love sharing life with them. The side benefit is that we increase the time that our kids interact with them and at this stage, time is gold. In order to develop a real, meaningful relationship it has to happen over lots of time. So we make this investment with hopes that it will pay off in the lives of our kids.

My challenge is for you to think this through and be intentional about putting your child in the path of adults who love God and are willing to invest in their lives. I would love to hear from any of you who have done this and found it helpful.