Since we are focusing on moms this month, I thought I would share some great parenting tips from a Mom who recently taught me a lot. But before I do, I just have to put in a plug for Family Life's Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways. Mark and I just attended one last weekend, and it was amazing for us. We didn't have any major problems in our marriage, but just knew we were exhausted and needed to get away and focus on each other and connect. I was looking for something fun for us to do in Charlotte (I have to now admit that we chose Charlotte simply because it had the closest IKEA and I'd been wanting to go there for years :) and found the marriage get-a-way and thought it would be a great way to get us to focus on each other. I mentioned it to Mark and he laughed in my face. Sitting through a conference was definitely not what he wanted to do on our get-a-way! So I dropped it. I told him he could plan whatever he wanted for us. And two weeks later he brought it up again and said we could do the marriage conference as long as we didn't have to go to every single session. Ha! We almost dropped the idea again because of the price, but Family Life people are super nice and will give scholarships based simply on "what you and your husband have decided you can afford."
Mark and I looked at the schedule and decided which sessions we would attend... some of the sessions sounded very redundant to information we had learned in Seminary so we decided to skip many of them. We actually only made it to 4 out of 10 sessions but those 4 sessions were indeed invaluable to us. I'm talking, life-changing, "I feel like we are courting again" type of impact! (In retrospect, we probably would have learned much in the other sessions as well, but the 4 we attended gave us more than enough to process and work on.) I expected to get a lot from the conference (being the relationship-oriented, emotional woman that I am), but I was amazed at how much it changed my husband as well. He didn't even want to go to the conference originally, but has said many times since how glad he was that he went and how he wishes others that we know could go to one as well.
Sorry this has gotten to be such a long plug, but I felt like I really needed to share because it helped us so much. Since this is a blog specifically for exhausted moms of little ones, I am certain that we are not the only ones who unknowingly settled into "companionship" mode without even realizing it. We love our kids and the life that we enjoy with them and we truly get along great so we did not even realize that our marriage had become complacent. Weekend To Remember is a wonderful tool to get the communication flowing in all areas of marriage and God greatly used it to recharge ours!
The wife and mother who spoke at the conference did one session on parenting and she told her top ten tips for kids. I knew many of them already, but the session was a good reminder and listening to her tips helped me to think about what areas of parenting I need to work on. It also helped me think more about the future of my kids and our goal in parenting. (I tend to get so caught up in the here and now of the little years that I often forget that we are doing such training so they can be independent but wise and godly teenagers.) I hope these tips will be helpful to you as well:
1. Set limits -- kids need limits and they find security in them.
2. "We play to an audience on one." This one was a particularly good reminder for me because I parent very differently than a lot of people I know and I need to stop worrying about what others are thinking about my parenting style. What matters is that I am in prayer and doing what God has called me to do. I raise my children for Him, not anyone else.
3. My job is not to be my child's best friend! She went on to say that friendship does come later and right now she is enjoying a sweet, sweet friendship with her teenage and college-age kids. But the little years are for training and instructing in righteousness and much discipline.
4. Because of all the boundaries and discipline that come with #3, try to say yes to as many things as you can so that when you do say no, it really means something.
5. Give them the Biblical reasons behind the rules and limitations -- we do not just want good behavior, but to help them make good decisions in the future!
6. When you take something away, give them something better -- she gave the example of beach week in the South, where kids always go to the beach and party like crazy for a week after school lets out. They never let their kids attend beach week, but instead used that week to plan amazing family vacations.
7. Stay calm and loving in discipline -- you don't want them to think you are disciplining simply because you are mad, but because you love them and are obeying God in training them in righteous living.
8. The less you react in the moment, the more your kids will come to you with their moments. If a child comes home and tells you something incredibly shocking that happened in school, if you get all upset and immediately call the principal, the child will probably not choose to confide in you the next time something disturbing happens.
9. Focus on unconditional love -- when you discipline, tell them that you are disappointed, that they sinned, but that it does not change your love for them.
10. Pray that they would get caught! You will not be with them every moment and will not catch every sin, so pray that they will get caught before their sin grows so they can deal with it and learn from it. (Sidenote: my own mother did this and told us that she did and God definitely answered her prayer -- my brother and I never got away with anything! :)