The secret of Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

I love how the apostle Paul expresses himself. Here he is (in prison, no less!) telling the people of Philippi, “Be joyful in Jesus ALL the time. Did you get that? I say, be JOYFUL!” I think I get why he puts such emphasis on this point. I crave for my children to feel the joy of the Lord in their spirit. Because I know that once they’ve tasted real joy in Jesus, they will never want to let go.

Have you ever watched Veggie Tales’ DVD ‘Madame Blueberry‘? It’s about a lady (or rather, blueberry) who tries to buy joy. She knows it’s out there, but she doesn’t know how to get it. Until one day she sees a little boy rejoice despite his circumstances. Suddenly, Madame realises that joy is closely tied to thankfulness. She is well quoted in our house: A thankful heart, is a happy heart. Proverbs 17:22 tells us the same thing: ‘A joyful heart is good medicine.’

Paul tells us we should be joyful always. If joy is tied to thankfulness, that means we should be thankful, always. Not just when we live in peace. Not just when we are well. Not just when we get what we want. Always. We can be barren, threatened by terrorists, or plagued by illness, yet we can rejoice.  The secret is keeping that eternal perspective. ‘Joy in Jesus’ is because of Jesus, and not dependent on anything this world can or can’t give us. His sacrifice and victory and freely offered grace are the source of an eternal joy that we can know and live despite our circumstances. However saddened we are by the situations we are in, they cannot and should not rob us of true joy.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6-7

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6-7

The question is, how do we impart this joy to our children?  I have shared before some practical ways to encourage joy in our children. We also need to be living joyfully ourselves. On top of this, I believe teaching our children to live life God’s way will help them access joy, as it says in Proverbs 19:8 (emphasis mine):

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the
heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Most importantly, we need to infiltrate their lives with the Good News. Grace should be woven into every conversation. We need to talk about it as we sit in our house, as we walk along our way, when we go to lie down and as we wake up to each new day. It should be inextricably bound up in our words and actions. It should be sprinkled throughout our home.

As our children go through life they experience all its frustrations, fears, temporary pleasures and empty promises. We must be there to help them see things from the right perspective. To help them grasp that yes – life will fail them. But this is not the same as God failing them. Because God looks at the big picture, the forever. And with regards to eternity, He has sorted it out on our behalf – eternal joy.

Attitude expectations

Have you ever received a compliment or word of encouragement that you really don’t feel like you deserve? I have.

“You are so good at…..”  Eeek!

Or “You really knows how to …..” Do I??!!

But I have noticed something very interesting about these kind of comments. They make me try to live up to their expectations. Think about it. If someone praises the way you solve problems peacefully, even if you honestly don’t think you are so good at it, you’ll more than likely make an extra effort to be peaceful next time a problem crops up. You see, you want to live up to that good expectation.

Having someone expect good things of you is nice. Sometimes a little daunting, but nice. Someone else’s confidence in your ability somehow bolsters your own confidence, and in turn this inspires you to try; you aim to do your best to deserve the praise already given. And I think this is a principle we need to apply to parenting.

Moment by moment we are shaping the attitudes our children will hold for years to come.

Moment by moment we are shaping the attitudes our children will hold for years to come.

I want to make clear that I am not talking about setting the kind of expectations which put negative pressure and stress onto a child. I don’t think we should say, “I expect you to win that race.” This can result in a fear-based effort. Not only that, but it is unfair – your child simply may not be the fastest runner in the race. We should not set expectations based on our children’s performance; we should set expectations about their attitude and character choices. Verbalizing your anticipation of your child’s best effort to win the race will spur them on with joy rather than fear.  And your praise at the end, no matter where they finish, will bring about positive results.

"We are raising the next generation"

“We are raising the next generation of this world”

Children are perceptive little people. They observe and absorb much more than we realise. And I’ve noticed that as adults we are almost constantly giving off impressions of the expectations we have of our children, perhaps unaware that they are soaking up and internalising these messages.

You can see it in all kinds of places. In the t-shirts we buy our toddlers: “I’m the boss”, “I’m a little monster”, “Mischief maker”. In the TV shows which model “normal” teenage behavior: arrogant, more concerned about appearance than character, self-absorbed. In the tone of voice and choice of words with which we communicate to them: “You’re so naughty! You never listen to me.” Or the way we talk to others about them, “He’s such a nightmare. He really knows how to wind me up.” All of these set negative expectations, and they tend to result in one of two scenarios: a child who lives up to these poor expectations and becomes the “nightmare” he is called; or a child who strives to please but deep down is broken and depressed.

We need to think more carefully. We are raising the next generation of this world. If we want them to be kind, compassionate, healthy, competent and respectful adults then we need to set those expectations now, while they are children. Why do we think we can call them “a little monster” yet expect them to behave well? We need to set them good standards which they delight in reaching, by highlighting the good they are capable of achieving. We need to find things to praise them for – not to build pride, but to remind them that everyone is valuable no matter what. I can tell you from first-hand experience: commenting on the good your child has done – no matter how small – inspires them to achieve more.

In the book of James chapter 3 we are told that the tongue has the power to set the course of a life – for good or for bad. Let us use that power to set our children on the course for greatness. In Titus 2:7 Paul says “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.Let us use every moment to model high standards. And when we talk to or about our children, let us keep every conversation “full of grace” (Col. 4:6), that they may be inspired to become the best version of themselves they can possibly be.

And above all, let our unconditional love flow through our words and actions.

Loving discipline

I recently wrote about the necessity of both grace and discipline in effective parenting. As a follow up on this I thought I’d share ways we have implemented this in our own family, in the hopes that what works for us might be helpful to you too.

Showers of love

I am a great believer in showering children with love. Obviously this takes many different forms, but some of the things you would see everyday in our house are:

  • Lots and lots and LOTS of hugs, kisses, snuggles, high-fives, lap-time, and other positive physical contact.
  • Praying for each other, thanking God for the gift of family and asking God to help each child when they are struggling.
  • Random exclamations of “I love you SO much!”, “I love spending my days with you.”, “You are so precious.” etc.
  • Praise and encouragement, for little and big things.
  • Speaking gently and gracefully.
  • Doing things together – especially if this is a child’s love language.
  • Listening to children.
  • Laughing and joking together.

There are many more ways to express love to our children, but the important thing is that it IS expressed. This constant outpouring of love develops security in the parent-child relationship which is essential for discipline to have the right effect (heart-changing rather than simply behaviour-changing).

Firm boundaries

I love the journey of parenthood with these two blessings.

I love the journey of parenthood with these two blessings.

In my experience it is vital to set the expectation of obedience early on. Children need to know that the parent is in charge, and that they must respect that authority. In our house we often talk about the chain of command: children must submit to parents and parents must submit to God. This has two implications: Firstly, children should obey parents because God said so. Secondly, parents are responsible to God for parenting in obedience to His will. Some of the ways we set firm boundaries in our house are:

  • Zero tolerance for disrespect. Lack of respect for others – especially authority – is one of the biggest problems I see in children and youth today. It is also a heart issue, which is why we place such importance on it. In my experience dealing with this effectively makes every other discipline issue easier to resolve.
  • No time for ‘one, two, three’. I know parents who believe the counting technique is a good and helpful way to help a child obey. To my mind, however, this teaches children two problematic ideas: One, that obedience should only be done at the last possible moment, rather than as a response of a heart which delights to obey. Two, that obedience is only required to avoid punishment. This second idea is the most damaging, as it subtly undermines the principle of saving grace. However, I do think there is a difference between “We’re going. Get off that swing now!  One, two, three..” and “We need to leave, darling – I’ll give you five more seconds on the swing and then we’ll go. One, two, three, four, five.” The first teaches that ‘now’ doesn’t mean ‘now’.  The second shows consideration for the child’s feelings and gives time for them to move from one task to the next whilst still requiring obedience at the time it is required.
  • Careful use of ‘no’. Sometimes it’s easy to say ‘no’ without thinking. Sometimes it’s hard to say no when it’s necessary. A carefully considered balance is what is required. If a child hears ‘no’ too frequently they can become frustrated, so we try to say ‘yes’ often. However, it is also vital that children learn to deal with ‘no’ appropriately, so on issues of importance we must be brave to say ‘no’ even if it means tears in the middle of the store. A child’s character development is more important than our own embarrassment.

As with everything, the grace-discipline balance is something we are constantly fine-tuning. And in our turn we are shown both grace and discipline from God. I find myself frequently praying for wisdom to teach Prince and Princess how to live in His ways whilst dependent on His grace. But as they are growing we have begun to see the fruit of firm discipline blended with grace-filled love, and I can tell you – it is SO sweet. I am humbled and delighted by the joyful obedience my children show every day, and I thank God for the love which fills our home.

I will leave you with this encouragement from the book of Proverbs, and pray you will all be filled with delight in the children God has blessed you with.

“Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
Punish them with the rod
and save them from death.

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad indeed;
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.

Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.

Listen, my son, and be wise,
and set your heart on the right path:
Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
The father of a righteous child has great joy;
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!”

Proverbs 23:12-25

Grace vs discipline? It’s not a dichotomy!

“For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Ephesians 6:1

I have been blessed to observe many wonderful examples of parenting amongst my friends and family. I am always seeking to learn how to become a better parent myself. When I see children who are full of love for God and others I look carefully at how they have been parented, hoping to find some wisdom I can apply in my own family. There is nothing so important as the job of a parent, and we only get one shot at it. I desperately want to get it right!

It is a combination of my own experiences, observations of others and study of the Bible that has lead me to believe that grace-based parenting and parenting with discipline are two pivotal parts of the parenting puzzle. I believe they must work together, and that when they do the result is beautiful to behold. Yet so often grace and discipline are seen as opposing perspectives – an either/or choice. My experience is that to show grace without discipline leads to stress, strife, and sadness. To insist on discipline without grace leads to fear, shallow faith, and distant family relationships. The most successful parents I know apply both of these principles, balanced in just the right way – and their children are a delight and an inspiration. Let’s look at these two aspects in a little more detail.

So blessed I get to parent these two precious kids.

So blessed I get to parent these two precious kids.

It is abundantly clear in the Bible that we are saved by grace, and that NO amount of good behaviour or Godly virtues can get us to heaven. It is essential that we teach this to our children. We need to model grace in our daily interactions with them, and we need to show them that we, too, are in constant need of grace. Our children should know in their innermost being that they are part of a messed up humanity, AND that they are loved beyond imagination by a God who wants to freely offer them salvation. This truth is vital. We need to talk about it and live it out openly at every opportunity. It is foundational.

Secondly, we need to parent with strict discipline. I include the word ‘strict’ here because I think most parents discipline to some degree. The type of discipline I’m talking about here is the kind that requires obedience and respect. This is where I begin to hear some dissent. Within the Christian parenting circle we talk a lot about grace. It is generally agreed that grace, unconditional love and forgiveness are central parts of parenting. But when discipline comes into the conversation many people begin to look wary. It’s not that parents don’t want their children to be obedient – but many seem to be afraid of enforcing it. They appear to feel that being strict is at odds with offering grace. But if we look at the Bible, I think this idea is unfounded.

The Bible  shows us two very clear aspects of who God the Father is, and how he relates to us as his children. Firstly, he is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8.) Yet at the same time we are told – no, warned – that “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31.) Also, that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:6) We can see here that despite our free access to God’s grace, he also disciplines his children and is not afraid to punish those who reject him. That seems very much like a balance between grace-based parenting and parenting with strict discipline.

Proverbs 13:24 is pretty straight forward on the topic of parental discipline: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” This verse tells us that avoiding discipline equates to hating our children. Yikes. In fact, if you really love your child (and most people say they do), then you will prove this by being careful to discipline “diligently”, or “promptly”, as the NASB and NKJV put it. Why? Because living according to God’s principles will bless your child, their family, their friends, their neighbours, their country, and the world. Hebrews 12:11 sums it up perfectly: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

So YES – it is by grace, not works, that we are saved. This is the foundation we absolutely need to teach our children to live upon.  But let’s not allow that wonderful truth to prevent us from disciplining our children – for their own good.

Guest Post: Avoiding Frustration

Heading Things Off At The Pass
Or…
Ways to help avoid frustration in our children

  1. Pray for your children to have peace, contentment, flexibility, generosity & calm.  That’s a big ask but God is a big God… and it is important for us to do the asking on our children’s behalf.
  2. Emphasise foundational concepts regularly.
  3. Help your children learn perspective by pointing out regularly what is (and isn’t) of first (i.e. eternal) importance.
  4. Set clear, realistic expectations AND make sure they have been heard & understood.  My personal favourite – calling gaily from the kitchen whilst making supper (with the extractor fan on) into the lounge (where someone is playing the piano) that supper is nearly ready and someone must please set the table – is NOT what we are looking for!

    Conquer the entangling web of frustration!

    Conquer the entangling web of frustration!

  5. Give a warning before you want your children to change what they are doing.  E.g. when they are about to need to tidy up/go out/come for a meal/come inside/stop playing. My children are more often happier with having to stop playing if they can finish a ‘last chapter’ of their game; it lets them get to a suitable stopping point, which is more satisfying than stopping in the middle of an exciting bit.
  6. Early Intervention Plan.  Distract your child from potential/early frustration & come up with alternative courses of action.
    – E.g. If a child is looking lost for something to do/someone to play with, offer them a menu of options to choose from including, if at all possible, some things with you.
    – E.g. If a sibling has done something a child did not want/like, suggest ways the child can be gracious to their sibling – and make that sound like an appealing thing to do so they can be just like Jesus – then offer the aforementioned menu of options for things to do (possibly including doing something nice for the sibling)
  7. Ask YOUR CHILDREN to tell YOU what the right thing to do/say is.  This is a ‘double scoop ice-cream’ type approach:
    Scoop one: you can avoid them getting frustrated with being corrected/told what to do.  This is especially helpful if a) you are a long-winded communicator, like me and/or b) they are a child that needs frequent guidance…some children do.
    Scoop two: you are training them in the discipline of making right choices themselves. Obviously, if they are floundering, help them out – otherwise you start off a new cause for frustration, which is not quite the idea!!
  8. Ask questions, rather than jumping to conclusions.  If you think the situation they are in might be likely to trigger frustration in your child or if you spot their warning signs, asking discreet questions might either dispel your concerns or activate your early intervention plan, rather than you having to help them recover from a meltdown later.
  9. Patiently explain misunderstandings.  Often, when you are in the habit of asking questions, you will discover that there is a lack of understanding in your child. Explain things patiently and calmly, without laughing at the child or putting them down (which is more easily done than you would think – especially if they express themselves in a super-cute way – and can lead to insecurity in some children).

Isn’t it wonderful how when you write these things down they sound so easy and straightforward!  Since drafting this I have been busy trying to remember to put these ideas into practice myself…today was a better day because of it…

What are your ideas on how to head things off at the pass to help your children avoid frustration?

Guest Post: Laying Strong Foundations

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Matthew 7:24-25

Hi! In this family I am known variously as Sinead, Sineadanne, Tobe (pronounced ‘Toby’) and Aunty Tobe – I think that covers it! We have been so blessed by God to have one foster son (adult) and four precious princesses (ranging in age from 7 to 12). We love God, family, music, nature, being creative, food & laughing together!

I was thinking the other day about some basic concepts it is helpful for children to know. It was a useful process for me: taking a step back to survey our parenting focus from a ‘big picture’ viewing point. Below is what I came up with, vaguely grouped but in no particular order of importance.

I thought I would share these ideas in the hope that God may be able to use something to help someone somehow 🙂

RELATING TO GOD

Laying strong foundations is important in parenting.

Laying strong foundations is important in parenting.

– God loves them and desires that they love Him
– Our value comes from the unchangeable fact that God made us and loves us; we & God belong together
– Jesus is a friend like no other they will ever know – even us, their parents – and He demonstrated this on the cross
– When we do wrong things, we deserve to be punished by God. God keeps a record of every wrong thing every person does – but Jesus’ sacrifice means that a Christian does not have to take their punishment as Jesus has already taken it for the
– Following Jesus includes:

  • Putting God first
  • Putting other people before ourselves
  • Showing grace (a simple definition = undeserved favour)
  • Being humble
  • They can talk to God about anything

– Sometimes things are hard/bad things happen – this is actually good in the end as God uses these situations to train and strengthen us

RELATING TO US (PARENTS)

– They can talk to us about anything
– We love them and like them  (Note: these are connected but different things and they need to know BOTH)
– God has given them us, their parents, to look after them and teach them about His love & His ways – THAT is why it is wise & beneficial for them to listen to us
– Our love is unconditional and we will support & encourage them through the ups and downs of their lives
– Unlike God and just like them, we make mistakes (this gives us an opportunity to role model humility, repentance & the joy of God’s grace)

PURPOSE

– Our purpose on earth includes:

  • to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul
  • to love others as we love ourselves
  • to fear God
  • to serve God
  • to praise God
  • to honour God

– Our lives (time, words, actions) are created by and for God, not ourselves

Take joy in everything!

Take joy in everything!

JOY

– God will take care of problems and help us cope in hard times, which means there is nothing we can’t get through in life with Him = JOY!!
– Christians go to heaven = JOY!!
– All good gifts come from God and He gives us many every day = JOY!!
– God wants us to look out for these good gifts all the time and be thankful to Him and others for them = JOY!!
– CHOOSE joy – in the end it is always better to look on the bright side

RELATING TO OTHERS

– God will meter out justice (so they don’t have to!)
– Do good to others as much as you can, especially if they are unloving to you
– Imagining what others might be thinking/feeling is useful in knowing how to bless them
– Show grace & forgiveness as you have been shown grace & forgiveness
– Wisdom is seeing things as God sees them & it is something good to desire
– Think BEFORE you speak or act
– It is great to be an encourager/helper

  • Everybody needs one
  • It is good for everyone involved e.g. helper & ‘helpee’.

– People make mistakes – including us and them – it doesn’t make the people less lovable: God forgives them (and us) so we should forgive them (and ourselves) too

Wow – that ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be! This may seem overwhelming to some of you but let me encourage you; when I start to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the responsibility of parenting, I have learnt to remind myself that there are THREE parents: God is working tirelessly to lay strong foundations in our children’s lives – we are just His helpers! Furthermore, we have surprisingly many opportunities in the day to gently teach & reinforce these foundational concepts.

I am sure there are others, too – probably some obvious & important ones – this was just a mind dump with a little revision. Can you add any ideas on foundational concepts children should know? I’d love to hear them 🙂

Brick image courtesy of Kai4107  www.freedigitalphotos.net.

Dear God

As each day of my motherhood journey passes, I am more and more convicted of the need for prayer, in two key ways.

1)  Fervent, deep prayer.  Daily – or at least, regularly – we need to set aside time to go into our room, close the door, and pray to our Father who is unseen. There is no way that any of us are capable enough to raise, teach and fulfill children on our own. We may have gifts, talents, commitment and love, but we are still not enough. I don’t say this to tear us down; I don’t want to submit to false humility or self-deprecation. I just want us to be honest – and the honest truth is no matter how good we are, we are not perfect. We will fail as a parent – and often! The truth is, we need to appeal to a power greater than ourselves to raise our children up in faith. We need to beg God to fill them up with His Spirit, to strengthen their souls, to draw them to Himself, to lead them in His paths, to teach them His truths and to instill in them a life-long love and passion for Him, and an unconditional love for all others.

Not only is this deep prayer an intercession to God on behalf of our children, but it is also rejuvenating and nourishing for our own souls. Spending time with God is like drinking a fantastically healthy fruit and veg smoothie – only better! It builds us up and strengthens us to resist Satan’s attempts to bring us down. Spending time in deep prayer is the best motivation I have found for helping me put into practice the ideals and ideas I have for my children.

The prayer jar, and a faithfully answered prayer 🙂

2)  Sprinkling prayers throughout the day.  It is important to include prayer throughout the day for both our own and our children’s sake. In our house, we try to pray in lots of different ways: together at our Bible snuggle time, stop what we are doing to pray if we hear of a specific need, pray at meal time, and pray at bedtime. Paul, in the book of 1 Thessalonians, says we should pray ‘continually’. I think what he means is that we should have a prayerful mindset. Prayer should be a first reaction to both good and bad situations. Thanking God and asking for His help should be second nature as we go about our daily activities.

There are also many creative ways of adding prayer into your daily life. I particularly like this idea as a way to help our children remember to pray for others. Another idea that we use is the ‘prayer jar’. Anyone can write a prayer or ‘letter’ to God, and put it into the jar. It is fun to look at them again later and see how faithfully God has answered the prayers we have prayed.

What ideas to you have to keep prayer a central part of your and your children’s lives?

Of men and muscles

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

Every night I watch my brother and husband work out in our lounge. This started about two weeks ago, due to their desire to flatten their tummies and grow their muscles, and they are pretty faithful to do it every evening. Sometimes they even cajole me into joining them, but I have to admit I prefer to just watch… 🙂

We live in a world where health and fitness is seen as somewhat of a god. People join gyms, buy protein shakes from health food shops and sign up to all kinds exercise classes. Children are taught about the value of regular exercise, cigarettes are legally obliged to come with huge health warnings, and mothers are given information on post-partum ways to work out as soon as possible after giving birth.

Now there is nothing wrong with being healthy – if you’ve read my previous posts you will know that I myself am concerned with helping my family to stay healthy by eating the best kinds of food we can afford. Being healthy is great – but it’s value is a limited-time offer. You see, we can be the healthiest, fittest person on earth, who never gets sick and avoids cancer, diabetes and heart attacks. But in the end, health is only valuable for this life. When you die, health and fitness won’t be an issue! Godliness, however, has eternal value.

Prince takes every opportunity to strengthen his physical muscles. Do we take every opportunity to strengthen our kids’ spiritual muscles?

As parents, we need to keep this truth in mind as we train up our kids. It’s easy to spend hours of time researching how to give your kids the best nutrition for their growing bodies. It’s easy to spend money and time enrolling them into sports and gymnastics, knowing that you are supporting their physical well-being. But more than all that we need to be seeking after ways to regularly feed them spiritually nutritional food, and find ways to encourage them to exercise godliness.

One of the reasons people seek after health is to avoid getting sick. They don’t want to go down with the flu or risk a heart attack by clogging up their arteries with grease. In the same way, we need to exercise godliness so that we can avoid falling into sin. We should be aiming for peak spiritual fitness – for ourselves and our kids. We need to give our families the best spiritual nourishment available to strengthen their souls, so that they will be able to resist the harshest of temptations.

My little boy loves to compare his muscles to Daddy’s muscles. He take joy in seeing how strong he is, and even takes it upon himself to exercise in the hopes of getting stronger as quick as possible! My hope is that I can teach him to have the same kind of passion for developing spiritual muscles, because this will last him for eternity.

A joyful heart

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

The life of a child is like a swing – they seem to go from having the best of fun to total disaster in one quick swoop! One of the challenges as a parent is helping them learn to moderate this roller-coaster of emotions, identify what the important things of life are, and make the choice to have a positive outlook.

My prince is going through a time of particular challenge in this area at the moment. It seems as soon as something doesn’t go the way he would like he reacts as if his world has just come crashing down. I don’t say this in jest – in actual fact it is something I find hard to deal with. It is tough to balance understanding that little things are important to children, with teaching them to respond well to disappointment.

In hopes of encouraging both myself and others, here are seven ideas for dealing with the emotional downs in our children’s lives:

  • A joyful heart is GOOD!

    We love the Steve Green ‘Hide ’em in Your Heart‘ Scriptures songs. One that we often use when one of our kids is feeling down is ‘A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine’. This reminds children that being joyful can work like medicine, making us feel better.

  • Make it a habit to talk about what the most important things in life are – not just when the kids are upset, but also when they are enjoying something. Reinforcing this over and over will – hopefully! – help them learn to let the little things go and keep their minds on the big picture.
  • One of the top ten children’s movies from yesterday’s post was ‘Veggie Tales: Madame Blueberry‘. This teaches the motto that “a thankful heart is a happy heart”. We use this phrase (and accompanying song) from Madame Blueberry to help the kids remember to find things to be thankful for in every situation, and show them how this makes them happy.
  • Take time to acknowledge and understand that things can seem important to children even if they are not important to us adults. Reinforce the idea that sad emotions are okay – but that we must learn to deal with them in the best ways. By making our children feel heard and understood, we will help them to move on towards joy.
  • Something we invented is a ‘blessings walk’ – or a blessings drive, blessings lunch, or whatever else we happen to be doing at the time. When a child is tempted to be sad about something they don’t have, we take turns naming blessings in our lives and pretty soon the discontent disappears.
  • Model appropriate emotions yourself. Kids learn to imitate what the see, so as parents one of our greatest teaching tools is our own behaviour. They say actions speak louder than words, but I think what speaks loudest is actions matching up with words. When we model appropriate ways to deal with disappointment, and a heart focussed on the things that truly matter, our kids will be able to see the good fruit in our lives and be more likely to follow suit.
  • Teach the concept of choosing our emotions. Even as adults this can be tough, as we often think we are at the mercy of our feelings. Training our kids from young that we have a choice about how we feel will set them up for a more positive future.

To TV or not to TV

Different people have differing views on how much TV time to allow their kids – ranging from none at all to unlimited amounts. It’s one of those issues that each family has to work out for themselves. I wouldn’t like to say our decision is the only correct opinion, but – at least for now – it is what we feel is right for our children.

Two God-given blessings.

Our family have taken the approach of allowing what we consider to be a middle ground ‘reasonable’ amount of TV time. We have reached this decision because, in our experience, banning any TV altogether can result in binge watching when they do eventually get the opportunity to watch. We also feel that to allow an unlimited amount is in contradiction with the idea of moderation, and can cause kids to develop a dependency or addiction to TV to be entertained. The way our decision works out practically is that our kids usually watch anywhere between none and three programs a day.

One of the earliest decisions we made was to not have a TV licence. We feel that there is such a lot of unsuitable advertising and program choices on TV which are very difficult to avoid when TV is available in the house in this way. Rather, we stick almost exclusively to DVDs, with the occasional use of “catch-up” TV for particular programs. A bonus of this is that it also works out cheaper 🙂  (Please check the TV licencing laws in your own area if you are thinking of taking this option.)

Here are my top ten favourite programs that my kids watch:

  • Veggie Tales: Pistachio
  • Veggie Tales: Jonah
  • Veggie Tales: Madam Blueberry
  • Veggie Tales: Sweetpea Beauty
  • Veggie Tales: Little Jo
  • Veggie Tales: Gideon
  • Word World
  • Sesame Street
  • The March of the Penguins
  • Octonauts

Whatever your stance on TV for your children, make sure it is made carefully and prayerfully.

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