Saturday, November 25, 2006

More Behavior Modification

Behavior modification. Hmmm. That's quite the buzz word. Personally, I am not opposed to behavior modification. After all, a change of action is often a pretty good idea.

As a mother of nine I can think of plenty of times when behavior modification was desirable for my soul, necessary for my sanity, and just plain "all around" beneficial for me and everyone else who might have been in the house. Mothers, fathers, and siblings throughout the ages have benefited from behavior modification. Period.

As Christian parents, are we to be satisfied with mere behavior modification? What if little Johnny is forever "standing on the inside" - what if he never learns to sit down with a willing heart? That is a genuine concern. We want to capture their hearts. But let's deal with first things first.

When determining what behavior is desirable I consider two standards as foundational: God's first, then Mom and Dad's.

God makes some things pretty clear in His Word. Certain behaviors are just not acceptable, such as disrespect, lying, or unrighteous anger. When Johnny hits or bites Susie because she touched his truck - or slams her on the head with said truck - that falls under the category of unrighteous anger. If little Susie rolls her eyes and sighs when you ask her to come, stomps her feet as she walks your way, or flat out says "NO!", that is disrespect. Lying is - lying.

These are just a few standards upheld by His Word. You need to study the Word to know His heart. Start today if you haven't made it a regular habit. Read the stories and discover what is good or bad in His eyes. It matters. His standards are unchanging with the ages and are critical for future success in God.

Secondly, I consider our own personal standards. "What?!" you exclaim. "You dare to include your own ideas alongside of His? Why should you be making such decisions? Do you have a degree in child psychology? Education? Philosophy? Have you read all of Dr. Phil's books? What if you make a mistake in the behavior you demand? Why should they act that way just because you want it?"

I'll tell you why. The God of this universe entrusted to me each one of my children. With that entrusting came a conferment of authority, wisdom, and grace to perform the stewardship required. My confidence has never been, and never will be, in knowledge amassed by Dr. Phil or Dr. Spock, or even Oprah, for that matter.

I am thankful (at times) for such people and their knowledge, but I do not consider their notions as foundational for my children. They may affect my understanding of what is good and necessary behavior - and I am open for continued alteration in this area, as I am with my understanding of God's standards - but they will never usurp my position of final authority. And certainly they should never be heeded above the Word of God.

When determining personal behavioral preferences, we must begin with a heart examination. Isn't that the way God does things? It's always the heart that matters; it is the same here. Of paramount concern is your love for your child. You must begin by cultivating a vision for serving God by serving them. You must love them sacrificially. Your interests do not come before theirs, ever.

Now you are free to establish rules of behavior that will bless you and them.

On more than one occasion the following scenario has played out in my home:

child # 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, 0r 9: But Tommy Smith's mom lets him do it this way. (possible substitute line which is always a favorite: Donna Doe's mother lets her watch this movie.)

Mama Darlene
: Well, God didn't give you to Tommy Smith's mom, or Donna Doe's mom. He gave you to me. Must be He didn't want you to do this. You will have to trust His wisdom. You aren't being raised to be a Smith or a Doe, but a Sinclair. Tommy is being raised to be a Smith, not a Sinclair or a Doe. And Donna is not a Smith or a Sinclair but a Doe. God has made us all different and special. So for now, you will learn to do things our way.

This authority and privilege is not to be handled flippantly, but with prayer and much thought. You are responsible to figure out what is and isn't acceptable behavior in your eyes as well as God's. Here are some good questions to get you started:
  1. Do you like a certain behavior? (i.e. jumping on the couch, climbing on the counter, running through the room, screaming while playing, getting 10 puzzles out at once, etc.)
  2. Will others be blessed by this behavior? (We want our children to grow in favor with God and with men.)
  3. Does this behavior contribute to a peaceful atmosphere in the home?
  4. Is this behavior helping establish healthy relationships with siblings?
If you aren't being blessed by something, then you are responsible to change it! If you don't, you are setting yourself up for frustration and discouragement. Your children should bless you, each other, and eventually the Body of Christ. And it begins with learning to acquiesce in the simple things - doing or not doing according to Mom and Dad's desires. You don't have to prove everything with scripture and verse. But you are responsible before God to have made your decision a prayerful and thoughtful one.

Behavior modification may not be the final goal, but it is the place to start. Begin today to make a list of things you want to see changed. If the list is monumental because behavior has gone unchallenged for too long, be wise. Choose one or two items and begin there. Make a plan. Get a stragegy. Look for counsel if you feel daunted.

But most of all, trust in this: it was His choice to give you that child. His wisdom is not faulty, nor will He leave you ill-equipped to care for His heritage. His is a vested interest.

And His love is new every morning. Aren't you glad?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Changing Toddler Behavior

Once, when still newly married, I recall observing a child that truly was a blessing to his parents, and even to me. "Aha! That is the kind of child to have. So, Dar, here's your chance. Look and learn what you can."

This young boy was a real-life example that children are a blessing. I had seen plenty that weren't. God filled my heart with faith to believe that His word was true -- children are a blessing. This faith was foundational for my approach to child-training in the future. There has never been a moment of doubt as to the value and promise of each of my children (or yours, either, for that matter!)

When my own children were toddlers it didn't take long before I realized that certain behavior patterns would need to be changed if I was going to enjoy having them in my house all day every day. And I most certainly wanted to enjoy them. God had said that they were to be a blessing, and I figured He didn't lie. He never reneges on His side of the bargain. So when they were not blessing me, I decided it was time to find out how I was failing to fulfill my part of the deal.

The question thus became: What am I doing with that promise from God; how am I to be a part of the fulfillment of His word?

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

This was my first clue, and it was a biggy. Before my first child was even walking I had been privy to its relevance.

A dear friend was visiting, bringing her brand-new babe for me to see. Her less-than-two-year-old also came. As my friend sat nursing her infant, the toddler showed me just who was really in charge. Within three short minutes the mom was frantic, frazzled, and frustrated as the daughter proceeded to ignore mom's every command, doing just as she pleased.

At the time, my own daughter was 12 months old; number two was due in 5 months. This visit served as a warning for me: start training your toddler before you have a nursing infant. The goal? Obedience. My husband and I began Basic Training in earnest. It wasn't long before we realized that she understood much of what we were communicating; and she was choosing to respond or not respond according to her will!

There was a host of material available on child training (and even more today) from secular parenting magazines and talk shows to Christian books and tapes. Where to turn, who to heed, what to believe?

When in doubt I look to my Heavenly Father. I know that this relationship is the template for my earthly relationships. It was time to take stock of His view on attitudes and responses. How am I to respond to Him? What heart issues does He choose to deal with? What is acceptable and what isn't? Back to the Bible and my Heavenly Father I did go.

My husband and I soon developed a fuller understanding of obedience. It was to be instant and cheerful (later we ammended that simple adage -- it was to be instant, cheerful, and thorough.) We should and would expect nothing less from our children.

Was this demanding? Too difficult for us to maintain? A high standard compared to what the world required? Yes. But His grace was there for us and for our children. It drove us to Him again and again, proving to be beneficial for all involved.

When my first born was not even walking, I discovered what she had discovered: her will. A particular event stands out in my mind. One day I was sitting with my daughter on the floor of the church lobby (as many mothers of young children are wont to do.) Seeing a leafy green plant in her pathway, I very carefully demonstrated that she was not to touch the plant leaf looming before her. Sure enough, as soon as I looked away she reached forward to touch the leaf, eyes glued on yours truly to see if I was watching. In no time her little chubby angelic fingers grasped the leaf, pulling chunks of green material from the stem. My innocent babe was revealing the mischief in her heart. Amazing! The Word of God proved true again!

What was to be my response? Proverbs 22.15 answers that question, if we will only yield to its wisdom. At her young age, I knew the physical pain needed to be immediate if I was to be sure of her understanding, so I sharply flicked her hand with my finger. Soon she would be old enough to receive the rod of correction. According to the Word of God we were on our way to driving that mischief far from her!

The Word did not say to remove all hindrances. I could have averted her attention, picked her up and moved her, or removed the plant. None of these things would have driven the mischief from her heart. It would simply have postponed that necessary deed for a subsequent date. Better for me and her to deal with it now, if possible, rather than later.

Many sources complicate the simplicity of this wisdom through detailed analyzation and heady evaluation. Doesn't she need to discover her world? Are we doing psychological damage? Is this too harsh, too soft, too soon, too late? What size should a rod be? On and on we go.

Are we to be mindless and unthinking? No. We are to be well studied. But let our primary study be of the scripture which allows the entrance of light and truth, establishing faith in our hearts and renewing our minds by the Holy Spirit. God forbid that we should replace His divine wisdom with our own.

One more question: Isn't this mere behavior modification? We'll look at that next time.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Odds and Ends Of News

For the past two weeks we have hosted the Gonzales family from Spain. Paco, Doreen, Daniella, and Stephanie have helped us get up to date with Spanish as well as UK culture (the girls actually have lived there more than in Spain.) We have grown very fond of them as we have seen God knit our hearts with theirs. It is clear that God has future plans for some work together in the Kingdom. They have a keen desire and God-given strategy to introduce homeschooling to a large ministry in Spain for the purpose of raising up a future generation who will know their God and do mighty exploits on His behalf. It is very exciting to partner with them in this great adventure!

Our final meal together was shared last evening with the elders and wives of our church family. Paco shared his heart; he made some astute observations when speaking about impressions of America. Our history and rich heritage in God has captured his attention, and he realizes that much of what is American culture is the kingdom of God here on earth -- family meals full of laughter and rich communion, fellowship with believers celebrated freely, casual prayer at a meal table, freedom and liberty to pursue dreams, music and art flourishing, creativity valued, stability and peace within government structure. The list was extensive. As he shared, we were once again reminded of our valuable liberty so lightly esteemed, so taken for granted. He looked with new eyes and was able to see God's rich heritage in so much of what we call American. It was a precious reminder of our wealth through His mercy and goodness. Thank you, Paco, for your generous words to us.

Today they will leave for their home in Malaga on the southern coast of Spain where they will begin packing for a move to Madrid (Spain.) In January Rick and I will join them there for a series of teaching on family, child training, and generational building. We hope to visit numerous churches and help establish a heart for investment in the next generation in the Spanish church.

Meanwhile, life will resume normalcy once again, excepting the holidays peeking at me from around the corner. Minimal shopping has been accomplished (not my usual style -- it is customarily pretty much finished before Thanksgiving,) holiday musical programs with Jr. Church and Christian Fellowship Academy (our homeschool support program) are being prepared, cards, newsletters, decorating, food -- you all know the routine! So step back, regroup, make a plan. Or maybe go for a walk and read a book.

Today it just may be the latter.

I will post more thoughts about child training next time!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Practice Makes Permanent

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

train: to give the discipline and instruction, drill, practice, etc., designed to impart proficiency or efficiency

drill: any strict, methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise

The actions and language that I allow to be practiced regularly by my children will become their habitual responses and behavior. Therefore as I encounter various responses and behavior, I am responsible to determine whether those things are acceptable or unacceptable before God, me, and my husband. I am also responsible to implement a strategy for the sake of correcting and redirecting any wrong responses and behaviors. I am responsible.

Why? The answer is simple: I am a steward of their young lives. God wants me to walk diligently before them for His name's sake. They are His heritage; His desire and plan of salvation is for them.Therefore I am to lead them in that direction; work to form in them hearts full of obedience, respect, and honor; and help develop strength of character that is pleasing to Him.

Is that not the job of the Holy Spirit? In great measure, yes, but amazingly enough, He looks to us for a large part of the job as well. The admonition to train up a child was not given to the Holy Spirit but rather by the Holy Spirit to us. He is looking to us to accomplish this work.

Fortunately the Holy Spirit in His faithfuness to them will, as He has so diligently done for me, renew minds and retrain hearts and reshape wills. But how much better for them to have good character established at a young age. I know from experience -- both mine, others, and now my older children's, that it is so.

So be assured, the job is yours and mine. And be confident, also, that He will be faithful to us in it -- He has a vested interest in seeing that it is accomplished!

Next time we will look at the different levels of training and practice that we want to realize in their lives.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Up and Running

Officially feeling better. That's based on the fact that I no longer feel like I've been hit by a Mack truck. That's official in my book!

So at 4:30 in the morning I found myself at the computer creating a daily school schedule (hey, better late than never I always say!) I love putting it all down in hours and minutes and finding that it really is possible. Somehow it puts my somewhat choleric/sanguine mind at ease. However, when unveiling the prototype to my students their initial response wasn't favorable. My melancholy daughters immediately saw large amounts of black print and felt overwhelmed. The phlegmatic type just kind of shrugged her shoulders. And my little sanguine guy just wanted to see his name somewhere. Well, I was hoping it would be exciting to them, but I can see they don't view it as I do. Hopefully it will prove to be a valuable tool in the long run.

Our new schedule allows for a 20 minute walk each day. This was the perfect inauguration day for such a habit. And it was doubly exciting since it was my first "walk" (i.e. walking just for the sake of walking) since my injury last December. Wonderful!

I've been reflecting freshly upon Proverbs 22.6 -- Train up a child in the way in which he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. I am newly challenged to be mindful of what my children are doing, how they are acting, and what responses are allowed. I will be sharing some thoughts soon. God is so very faithful.


Just an additional "for your information" comment:
i.e. means id est or "that is"

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Excuse

It has been a while since I last posted. Aside from extra busyness, I am in the grips of some kind of virus, feeling achy and tired all over. You know the kind. So, my mind is even resisting work. Arranging rides for more than one person has frazzled this system as of late. And finding energy or enthusiasm is next to impossible.

Consequently no posts have been forthcoming. Sorry. Hopefully soon. I have 4 days with no major activity (aside from needing to accomplish a great deal of school with four children) -- perhaps that will be enough to get me over the hump and be done with this sickness. I'm praying so.

At any rate, naps may be on the agenda, although I tend to avoid them except for the 20 minute variety taken in the LazyBoy. The thought of crawling in bed in the middle of the day never appeals to me.

Fortunately the cupboards are full and we have no scheduled appointments. Hubby has our only vehicle until Thursday. He is treating our Spanish guests (the Gonzales family is with us for two weeks -- Paco, Doreen, and two daughters) to a whirlwind tour of the mideastern states. Last night was spent in Lancaster, Pa. Today they head to Virginia, then on to Washington DC by nightfall. A day touring there, NYC by Wed. midday and heading home on Thursday. Whew!

If you will excuse me now I will take my foggy brain and drooping limbs out to the kitchen and concentrate on getting some breakfast for a certain little guy who still needs his mama's help. Even on days like this one, I am glad he still needs me. Guess that tells you that I've watched more than a few of them grow up. I'm never in a hurry anymore.

Have a good one.