When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse. Then some psycho serial killer began killing nurses and I decided that was not for me. I began instead to dream of flying the friendly skies and travelling the world as a stewardess (the term used before "flight attendant" became vogue). But, alas, I fell in love and got married and took on the occupation I had wanted most in my life...to be a wife and mother.
The only problem was that you did not get a manual with that first baby. I was SO green!! I am an only child and the daughter of the youngest of ten, so I did not grow up around siblings or younger cousins. Family dinners at our house consisted of my mother's siblings and their children, some of whom were the same age as my mother. I did a little babysitting in high school, but that was the extent of my knowledge of children.
I was a pretty compliant child and my mother believed that a little "peach tree tea" would solve any discipline problem....and it pretty much did for me. But, she never knew the joys of sibling rivalry nor did she have a strong willed child.
I spent a lot of time in the book of Proverbs and a lot of time on my knees as a young mother. And, although I know I made a lot of mistakes, the Lord knew my heart and knew that more than anything in the world I wanted to be a good mother. Still, I look back and wish so badly I had done some things differently.
I have had the privilege of teaching a Mom to Mom Bible study in which we used the material of Jean Stockdale. Jean is my age, but oh how I would have loved to have had her as a mentor as I was parenting!!!!!! She had such godly wisdom! I have sat week after week listening to her and often wept as I thought "I wish I had known that 30 years ago!"
For instance, she solved the sibling rivalry problem by assigning each of her two boys days of the week. One got Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The other got Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. So if it was your day, you got to pick first or you got to choose the TV program to watch or you got to choose which side of the car to sit on. On Sunday, they all learned to defer to each other. Brilliant!!!!!!!!! I can't help but think how many arguments that would have settled over who got the orange cup!
Another goal of Jean's was to give her boys the opportunity to succeed, to put them in situations where they could do well, rather than subjecting them to situations where they were bound to fail. Case in point, the grocery store. How many of us have done battle in the grocery store with our children wanting everything they see, or just having a total melt down over something. I shudder just recalling many of those scenes. Jean says she rarely ever took her boys to the grocery with her. She said that was a "recipe for disaster", so she chose not to put them in a situation where they were bound to fail. I thought, what a wise principle! Other places where they might fail would be a hair or nail salon, an all adult function, a business office or a very nice restaurant. She in turn gave them lots of places to succeed with play dates, preschool, the playground, family oriented restaurants, etc. And with each success, they received praise which helped to reinforce their good behavior.
In teaching this study, I also came across a great book, "Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman. The entire premise of her book deals with training in righteousness. We all know the verse in Proverbs about "train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." But the key word in that verse is the word TRAIN. Training takes repetition and patience and consistency. Training in righteousness means more than just disciplining a child for doing wrong. "Discipline that is not balanced by using both [the rod and reproof] will surely fail. The whole purpose of discipline is to teach children the Word of God, how they have violated that Word, and how to change. Chastising for the wrong without teaching them the right can exasperate them, provoke them to fear and anger and fail in inward change." In other words, if you only discpline a child for what they did wrong without explaining to them what the right way was AND take them back and make them DO the right thing, you have only done half of your job. That is the job of TRAINING. Oh what a tool in the hands of parents this book is.
Finally, I was blessed to have a wonderful Bible teacher and dear friend who not only had the gift of teaching, but he also had the gift of wisdom. From time to time as he was leading a Bible study he'd share a parenting "nugget". He had three children and I had the privilege of watching them grow up. Now the oldest has brought his teaching full circle. She recently gave a presentation to the women of First Evan Church in Memphis on the topic "The Master Gardener". She shared many of the spiritual principles her dad had taught her growing up as they gardened together. He was not a dad who shouted rules and then whacked you if you didn't obey. He taught God's Word and God's truth "as he went". Now years later, Kristen is passing those same truths on to her four children. His legacy lives on though he is now with the Lord. He used everyday experiences to train them in righteousness.
Yes, there are many tools and resources today for young parents to avail themselves of. I hope I've given you just a few that will help you along in this parenting journey. There are NO perfect parents. In fact, there has only been ONE perfect parent in all of history and He has no perfect children!! You will make mistakes. You will look back years from now and wish you'd done some things differently. However, with a heart that is yielded to the Lord, the Holy Spirit to guide you along the way, the Word as your guidebook and the resources you have at your disposal, the odds are in your favor that you will raise godly children who will grow up to be godly adults. I pray the resources provided here with encourage you. Press on!!!!!!!!!
"Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman, Shepherd Press, 2003
www.milktomeat.org Click on "blog". Here you can listen to Kristen Thornton's presentation of The Master Gardener or you may also download it. I highly recommend you download it to a cd and keep it in your car to listen to again and again!
www.raisinggodlytomatoes.com Another great site for training and discipline ideas for young children.
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