Parenting Doesn’t Always Look the Same

Intentional Parenting doesn’t look the same for every family–not now and not in biblical times.

For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year, I posted some observations on biblical mothers and fathers who didn’t fit the conventional molds.

Three Biblical Moms who “Owned” their Unconventional Roles

  1. Naomi: the mother-in-law role
  2. Hannah: the longed-for-and-lost role
  3. Eunice: the cross-cultural marriage role

These three mothers didn’t let their circumstances excuse them from raising children who loved and served God.

Three Biblical Dads who “Owned” their Unconventional Roles

  1. David: the substitute dad role
  2. Joseph: the stepfather role
  3. Paul: the spiritual father role

These very-real fathers looked beyond bloodlines to raise the next generation for God’s glory.

10-25 apple house (1)
(c) Carole Sparks

If you want to read more about each of these parents, click through to the original posts! I hope you are encouraged in your unconventional role or God leads you to encourage someone else in his/her role.

Intentional Parenting doesn’t look the same for everyone. It didn’t back in Old and New Testaments times either. 3 moms & 3 dads who “owned” their unconventional roles. #IntentionalParenting encouragement via @Carole_Sparks. #BiblicalParenting

Are you particularly encouraged by one of these parents? Do you know of another awesome unconventional parent in the Bible? Please share your answers to either question in the comments below. I would love to make a collection of studies with present-day examples! 

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What Good are Your Yearbooks Now?

Ahh, the end of the school year…

It’s “that time of year” for many things, depending on the ages of our children: field days or proms, end-of-year parties or graduations, pool passes or job applications. And yearbooks. We didn’t do yearbooks in elementary school, but my children did. Then of course, they have middle and high school yearbooks.

So many yearbooks!

freshman class pic
My freshman class pic. It was 1987.

My husband and I recently—finally—unpacked some boxes and pulled out our old high school yearbooks. The kids laughed at the outdated designs of the covers before we even opened them. Then they laughed at the hairstyles, shoe choices, clothing, club names…just about everything. I’m not offended. Styles change, and one day, my grandchildren will laugh at my children’s yearbooks, too. (So there!)

They laughed, and I laughed with them for a minute. Then I began looking into my own eyes, staring back at me from those pictures. My yearbook reminded me of a few things I had forgotten in the thirty years since I was a teenager.

I was once awkward, too.

I once spent too long in front of the mirror, too.

I had braces. And glasses. And pimples. And all the worries that go along with them.

I had broken hearts and broken friendships.

I stressed out over a junior prom about which I can’t remember a single detail, even when I see myself in the yearbook photos. (Well, I remember that my date was a really nice guy.)

yearbook most likely
1991: My Senior year, voted “Most Likely to Become a Millionaire” – LOL!

Have you looked through one of your old yearbooks recently? Have you taken hold of them and looked into your own eyes until you remember all the emotions and uncertainty of that age? That’s what your teenage kids are feeling right now.

When it comes to our children, we need to remember the other side of this verse.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  –1 Corinthians 13:11

It’s okay that our children talk, think, and reason like children. That’s what they are.

Yearbooks aren’t good for much, especially if, like me, you prefer to look forward rather than backward. But they helped me. You see, I had forgotten. I was expecting my teenagers to be entirely too reasonable, too rational, too efficient. I wasn’t reasonable, rational, or efficient at that age, and I came out okay.

I’m thinking my children will, too.

God used my high school yearbooks to remind me what it feels like to be a teenager. I needed that. #teenagers and #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have you looked through your high school yearbooks recently? Is there something else that helps you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

How to Talk to Your Kids About Childhood Sexual Abuse – part 2 (guest post)

Oh, how I wish we didn't need to know these kinds of things! But no family
and no child is immune to this kind of abuse. Please read Lyneta's words
and share it with others who need to know. And like Lyneta, I hope you 
never have to say these things to your child.

Last week, I shared some ways to talk to children about preventing sexual abuse and our duty as parents to protect them. But the sad fact is, no matter how diligent we are, some parents are faced with helping our children heal and recover after the damage is already done.

When I finally got the courage to tell my husband how I was traumatized as a child, and how dismissive and insensitive my caregivers were, he said, “It sounds like you could have healed a lot faster if you’d been heard and validated.” Continue reading “How to Talk to Your Kids About Childhood Sexual Abuse – part 2 (guest post)”

Four Tips to Disciplining your Introverted Child (guest post)

I want you all to meet Kass Fogle, a writer friend of mine who advocates 
for the shy, socially anxious, and/or introverted in our churches and 
communities. She's also a thoughtful parent, which is why I asked her to 
share with us today. Oh, and by the way, Kass has a fantastic sense of 
humor; seriously, if you want a frequent laugh, follow her on Instagram! 
Let us know what you think in the comments at the bottom.

My children have provided some of my most cherished memories. They have also provided memories I’d rather forget.

Like the time I fireman-carried my two-year old son while very pregnant with my daughter, leaving behind a cart full of groceries.

Or the time my five-year old daughter chose to share her “texture-aversion” to shin guards 5 minutes before a game. To this day, I will attest they were lined with fire ants.

IP - Kass Fogle ducks
courtesy of Pixabay

While the cherubic memories far outweigh the demonic snapshots of our lives, one thing is for certain: kids are kids and will behave in illogical and immature ways.

Our challenge as parents is to respond differently. Easier said than done. In fact, I’m quite guilty of throwing my own tantrums. (For more on momtrums, read When Good Moms Lose It)

But, God’s word instructs parents not to provoke their children.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.  –Colossians 3:21 NKJV

One way we can avoid provoking our children is to pay attention to how we discipline them based on their personality type. Introverted children respond very differently to discipline than their extroverted siblings.

Introverted children (and adults) tend to be more reflective, self-aware, and judicious, therefore very responsive to discipline that matches their personality.

While discipline is based on many factors, here are four tips to guide you when disciplining your introverted child:

  1. Instead of, “Answer me!” consider telling them, “I want you to think about why this is wrong.”

Your child is introspective. Try not to assume he is ignoring you or trying to make up a lie just because he is quiet or not responding to cues immediately. He is likely processing the situation. Consider giving your child time to think about your request then provide the option to respond in writing. Introverts typically share their thoughts or feelings more easily in writing, even with those they love.

  1. Instead of asking them, “How does this make you feel?” consider asking, “What will you do differently in the future?”

Introverts are already hyper-aware of their feelings so calling them out shames them. Instead, have them develop a plan for what they will do next time. Introverts are problem solvers and will rise to this challenge.

  1. Don’t assume a time-out is always the answer. Instead, match the consequence to the situation and child.

Just because your child is an introvert, does not mean they do not want to be heard. Locking them away in a room may not bring the change in behavior you seek. They may enjoy solitude, but no one enjoys loneliness.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences. Instead, speak up – tell them you’ve made a similar mistake or that you’ve made bad decisions too.
IP - Kass Fogle mom-daughter
courtesy of Pixabay

Introverts tend to exaggerate their offense and worry themselves into quite a state over it. While they may not be as open to sharing their own feelings, they are usually great listeners. Hearing about your experiences and mistakes puts their own transgressions into perspective.

When you combine these four tips, you are creating a safe environment for your child to learn and grow from their mistakes.

God has certainly blessed us as parents when He chose us specifically for raising our kids up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). There is never a shortage of methods, theories and tips. Studies will show this and research will show that, but one thing remains the same and that is our Father’s love for us. It is by His example that we lead our children, introverts and extroverts, “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

4 #IntentionalParenting “insteads” to better #discipline our #introverted children–because they think differently. From @KassFogle via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have you found that your children respond differently to discipline because of their personalities? Have any helpful tips for the rest of us (introverted or extroverted)? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

IP - Kass Fogle headshotKass Fogle is an award-winning author and speaker. Her weekly blog, The Introverted Believer is shared each Wednesday on Kassfogle.com.

As an introvert with a side dish of social anxiety, she’s struggled with understanding her role in the Christian Community where small groups are the foundation. This struggle has inspired her to learn more about personality types so she can encourage other introverts, and those who love them, to live out their faith in their work, their marriages, and their friendships.

Kass lives in south-central Illinois with her husband, amazing daughter and two crazy cats. Her son, the source for much of her content, plays football at Olivet Nazarene University. Kass welcomes conversation about coffee, chocolate and comfortable clothes, but please, no small talk!

Please visit her website to download Friendship with a Purpose – a journaling page to strengthen your friendships, free when you subscribe to kassfogle.com.

Related: Disicipline is Designed to Disciple

 

 

Little Pitchers, Big Ears

The three-year-old squirmed in his stroller. I said, “Hello” to his mom and smiled at the boy.

She greeted me with a tired smile. “You want him? You can have him. I’m over it.”

I laughed awkwardly. I knew she was joking, but did her son? Maybe he didn’t hear her.

Or maybe he did.

We all have difficult parenting days, and not just when they’re toddlers. We’ve all wished someone would take away just one of our kids—you know which one!—for a day or two. I am not “throwing shade” (as my teenager says) on anyone for feeling that way. In fact, it’s healthy to recognize these feelings. It’s also healthy to take the breaks we need from our kids in order to be completely with our kids the rest of the time. I took breaks. I still do.

But do our kids understand all this? Probably not. Toddlers and young children are very literal, concrete thinkers. Imagine what a three-year-old might think if he heard his mother (or father) trying to give him away.

  • She doesn’t want me anymore.
  • She doesn’t love me.
  • She is sending me away.
  • I’m worthless.
  • I can’t behave.
  • I don’t deserve her attention.

You get the idea.

Little pitchers have big ears.

IMG_1692
This pitcher, which I made back in my before-children, pottery-throwing days, has only one “ear.” (c) Carole Sparks

This old saying means, “Be careful what you say. It might not be appropriate for young children.” Apparently, the imagery is that of large handles which look like ears on pitchers. (I had to look this up. A small pitcher might have two big handles. The imagery is weird, but the truth behind it is spot-on.

We may not use pitchers very often anymore, but our “little pitchers” still walk around with enormous ears.

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.

There’s an old children’s song in which the singer advises various parts of his body to pay attention to what they take in. (I should have used it in my Reflections on Sunday School Songs series.) All of us should evaluate the images, sounds, and ideas we allow into our minds, but a young child shouldn’t have to filter his parent’s words. It’s up to us to guard our words in front of children no matter how exasperated or tired we feel.

Build Others Up.

Paul instructs us to be sure our language edifies.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  –Ephesians 4:29

Our children are no exception to the “helpful for building up” rule, and they are always listening—especially when it’s about them!

Need to vent? Find someone to talk to (such as a mother with older children) and schedule a time away from the kids. If you’re really struggling, talk to a counselor. Whoever you find to listen, talk about your difficulties and vent your frustrations, but also pray together and look for practical, small-step actions you can take to prevent future frustration.

Do you find yourselves making jokes about your kids that they wouldn’t understand? Listen, none of us are perfect, especially when it comes to our words (James 3:2). But let’s all pay a bit more attention to what our children hear about themselves when we’re talking to other adults.

With what are you filling the “little pitchers” in your life? Those big ears collect more of your words than you think! An #IntentionalParenting approach to what our kids hear from us…because #kidsheareverything, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have your words, spoken when you thought your kids weren’t listening, come back to haunt you? We would love to read some wisdom from parents of older/grown children. Or do you know another subject we should keep out of our children’s ears? I always love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories

I love those historical markers you see along the roads. They’re embossed metal, with print so small you could never read it from the car, even if you weren’t zooming past. Some stand beside busy thoroughfares, but some are on quiet streets or by scenic overlooks. We stop if we can. (I guess we’re history nerds.)

When we read those signs, we learn a little bit of relevant history. But more importantly, we’re reminded that we’re standing where many others have stood: living, fighting, succeeding (and failing), dying. Continue reading “Stack the Stones and Tell the Stories”

Except for That One Kid

Your child comes home from the first day of a new school year. He sits down at the table, and you refrain from plying him with questions about every single detail. Instead, you focus on what’s most important to him: which friends are in his class.

He lists some familiar names.

You: “So you like everyone in your class?

Him: “Well, I don’t know a few of them, but I like the rest…except for Whit.”

He sighs. You sigh. You look at each other. “Whit” is a familiar name (that I picked entirely at random for the purpose of this example), but not for good reasons. Whit disrupts the class during reading. He cheats on math tests. He bullies and manipulates on the playground. He refuses to eat the cafeteria food then complains about his stomach growling during social studies. He tries to be friends in all the wrong ways. And he lies.

You sit down across from your child, stalling while you silently pray your guts out. How can you help him honorably deal with the difficult kid in his class?

I’ve faced this situation with my children in both elementary and middle school. I’ve learned the answers to the following four questions helped us show Jesus’ love to “that kid”—not always perfectly, but consistently.

4 Questions to Help Us Love “That Kid”

  1. What do we know about him?

Help your child remember things Whit has said in the past, situations he has faced, comments he may have overheard.

a. What is his home situation?

  • Maybe he plays video games from the time he gets home from school until 2am. That shows a lack of supervision and no set bedtime.
  • Maybe he faces older siblings who are bullies themselves.
  • Maybe there’s one parent/guardian in his home, and that person works all the time.
  • Maybe he’s in a fostering situation.
  • Maybe his home address keeps changing or he’s staying with grandparents “just for now.”
  • Maybe his family has constant financial concerns. I heard somewhere that one in five children now live below the poverty line in the United States.

b. Does he face learning challenges?

  • Maybe he’s dyslexic or ADHD.
  • Maybe he struggles with math or another aspect of education. Kids who “act up” are often trying to distract everyone from the fact that they can’t do the work.
  • Maybe no one has taught him how to sit quietly or how to study on his own.

c. Does he have a spiritual influencer, someone who shows him Jesus?

The answers to these questions will help us understand some of the reasons for Whit’s behavior. You’ll probably need to help your child connect the information with the issues behind it, as in the video game example above.

  1. How would you feel if your life were like that?

Help your child put himself in Whit’s shoes.

You might need to start: “If I were a kid and I knew my family didn’t have enough money to buy food, I would feel worried all the time, even at school. My stomach would probably hurt, and I would eat anything I could find, even if it wasn’t good for me. Or I might be embarrassed about getting free lunch, so I would pretend I wasn’t hungry.” Take whatever circumstances your child has noticed and help him imagine if his life were similar.

  1. How can we pray for Whit?

Let your child lead out on this one. After he thinks about life from Whit’s perspective (no. 2), he’ll probably have some amazing insights into praying.

How can we pray for ourselves as we spend time with Whit?

You’ll think of many Christ-like qualities, but you can start by praying for kindness, patience, and the ability to show friendship even when he acts out.

  1. In what other ways can we show Jesus’ love to Whit?

Brainstorm ways your child—and your whole family—can be generous toward Whit and his family without embarrassing him or drawing attention to his situation. It starts with the way your child interacts with Whit at school, but there may additional possibilities. I’ve spoken to teachers privately and made donations of school supplies or lunch money. I’ve volunteered to help with reading in the classroom. We’ve invited our Whit to birthday parties.

Perhaps most importantly, remember this won’t be a one-time conversation. Continue to encourage your child and follow up regarding how he deals with Whit. Join your child in praying for Whit.

Your child can to do more than endure a school year beside “that kid!” It takes some courage—on our part as much as our child’s—but he (or she) can grow in Christlikeness and represent Jesus to this child who may have no other Jesus influence in his life.

Who knows, they might even become friends.

Your child can do more than endure a school year beside “that kid.” 4 #IntentionalParenting questions to help him/her learn to love even the difficult ones in class, via @Carole_Sparks. #backtoschool (click to tweet)

Do you have some suggestions for helping your school-age child deal with the difficult kid in class? What’s a good Bible verse to supplement these four questions? Add to the conversation below. We would love to hear from you!

Your Child and the 5 Love Languages (guest post)

This week, I'm pleased to introduce you to Jann Martin. On her own blog, 
Jann recently did a series of posts on The 5 Love Languages for Children. I
asked her over here today to summarize all her work and study (in less than
1000 words--no small task). If you haven't read the book, this will be a 
good introduction. If you have, it's still a great reminder (one that I 
needed!). Find out more about Jann at the end of this post.
IP - 5 Love Languages book
The 5 Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

It’s important to teach our children all of The Five Love Languages of Children. This will help them become more rounded adults and care for others around them. It may be difficult for them at first to learn how to reach out to others, but it’s very important that as they grow they learn more about how others feel and act. This will teach them not to be selfish and self-centered, but to care for and about others.

It will take time to figure out your child’s love language. When they are infants we use all of the languages with them. They are very self-centered and can’t tell us the best way to reach out to them. As they grow we will learn what responses work the best. Try to be aware of what words and actions work best in different situations.

Be honest with your children as you talk with them and reprimand them. Don’t, however, tell them what, how, and why you are saying and doing different things. This can lead to the child manipulating you to get what they want.

Describing the “Languages”

Physical touch – Touch in each stage of life is different. For infants and toddlers, it’s easy to give a lot of touch and loving cuddles. Both boys and girls need all of the love and comforting touches they can get.

12-26 friend hugs
showing some love through physical touch (c) Carole Sparks

When the children become school-age it’s important to send them off to school with hugs. This can give them a positive start to their day. There is so much new for them at school that they need that little extra reassurance before they head out for the day. The hug at the end of the day can be just as important, especially if they have had a challenging day.

Next, we come to the pre-teen and teen kids. This can be challenging. They want to break away, yet they still want their full support system to be there for them. Girls especially need reassurance and hugs from their dads to give them a healthy look at men as they grow older.

Words of affirmation – Encouraging our children with words of affirmation gives them the courage they need to grow up to be strong adults. What they learn with these types of lessons gives them the basis for treating others as they would like to be treated as well.

Quality time – We can turn any time with our children into quality time. Take advantage of a long ride. Ask a few questions or share something from your past. Your children will love to hear stories about how you met your husband or wife.

Plan quality time with each of your children. It could be a day alone with them. Go shopping, or to a movie, then their favorite restaurant for a meal. Another example could be reading together. If they can read, have them read their favorite book or a few chapters to you.

Gifts – For some children receiving gifts is very important. They look forward to their parents returning from vacations and business trips. They can’t wait to see what new thing they will receive. However, parents need to be mindful of making sure their child’s other love language needs are met.

We need to be careful not to use gifts as payments for chores or a bribe to stay busy so you can accomplish a task. These types of gifts make a child feel unloved and that receiving the gift is only if they do what is asked of them.

They also may want to make and give gifts to those around them. This can be family, friends, or teachers.

Acts of service – We want our children to grow up wanting to help others. If this is their love language, it’s easy for them to reach out to loved ones. They can do a chore, make a meal, or take them to a place where they can help others. We want to teach them to reach out to those in need around them without expecting something in return. Jesus showed this gift of love over and over throughout his ministry.

Discerning Your Child’s Primary “Language”

As your child grows, keep a mental record of how they express their love to you. Do they tell you they love you? Are they asking for attention, or how they did on a project? Then their love language would be Words of affirmation.

IP - Jesus w children
Don’t you know Jesus demonstrated all of the love languages? (image courtesy Jann Martin)

When they are relating to others and want to take something to friends, family, or teachers, they are showing the language of Gifts. It gives them pleasure to see others happy to receive something from them.

Is your child complaining that you are too busy? Is your time being split with another child or you have work to do around the house because you work away from home and are trying to get everything done? What and how often they are asking for or complaining about will help you see their love language may be Quality Time.

Is Physical touch something that is very important in your relationship with your child? They may enjoy lots of hugs, sitting close, or even being tickled. Any form of touch can be felt as an expression of love for them.

For some the Act of Service is very important. They are always looking for a way to help or do something for someone. They don’t want to be paid or recognized, the act of doing is reward enough for them.

Your child and the 5 Love Languages: how to connect with your child in the way that means the most to them. An #IntentionalParenting guest post from @JannWMartin. #5LoveLanguages (click to tweet)

I hope you learned something new to help you with Intentional Parenting. Which “language” is most challenging for you to demonstrate with your children? Have any fun thoughts or memories on how to show love to your child in the way they best understand? Leave Jann and me a comment below!

 

IP - Jann MartinJann W. Martin is a wife, mother of two girls, and Nina to four grandchildren. She is also an author, teacher, speaker and blogger. Her dream is to captivate the hearts of children, by writing stories that teach them of the Bible through the eyes of a child. Catch up with Jann on any of these platforms:

https://jannwmartin.com/  https://twitter.com/JannWMartin https://www.pinterest.com/jannwmartin/pins/  https://www.facebook.com/booksjann.christianchildren?ref=bookmarks          https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/?trk

 

Who Needs You More?

As a writer, there’s nothing better than when someone says they connect with something I wrote. Jann (who will be our guest blogger next month here at Intentional Parenting) recently reached out to me in this way. She identified with a piece I wrote for Pastor’s Wives and asked if I’d share it with her readers as well.

As usual, I had more to say than what I’d said the first time, so I wrote a new piece for her using some of the same elements as the original piece.

If you’ve ever struggled with #MomGuilt (or #DadGuilt), this post is for you! Click the link below to read it, then be sure to leave us a comment over there or come back here and let me know what’s on your mind.

Who Needs you More, Mom?

10 Ways to Secure Influence and Reach Your Goal (guest post)

I love it when I have the chance to learn from Christ-follower parents who 
are a couple of steps ahead of me on the parenting journey. This week, we 
have the privilege of sitting under Sandra A. Lovelace, a writer friend that
I’m sure you will love! Read more about her at the end of this post.

Both ladies sported face-wide smiles. Emma jumped out of the silver Honda with fourteen-year-old delight. Mom grabbed her purse and slid out from behind the steering wheel. They’d taken a few steps when the older woman started to sing what had become their just-us-having-fun song.

The daughter’s eyes shifted from the ice cream shop to the tires of an old green truck. Mom slowed her tempo as she made beckoning circles with her hand. No response. “Hey now. Don’t leave me with a solo here.” Continue reading “10 Ways to Secure Influence and Reach Your Goal (guest post)”