It’s so much more friendly with two

Have you ever faced a challenge alone? Gone somewhere new for the first time? Tried to learn something complicated without help? Gone on a long journey with no companion?

It's so much more friendly with two.

It’s so much more friendly with two.

Being alone can be adventurous, at times. But when you are facing something difficult, something scary, something big – being alone can be daunting.

Life has many daunting moments for our children. The world is full of amazing possibilities, but getting to them can mean facing some tough challenges first. Challenges which can seem so big to their little minds. The dark feels frightening; sharing with friends seems impossible; the new class looks impenetrable; maths work feels lonely. If we leave our children to face these challenges alone, they can become overwhelmed.

The symptoms of an overwhelmed child are varied. Maybe he cries when maths is suggested. Perhaps she throws a tantrum at bedtime. He may be shy and clingy. She might become withdrawn around peers. The important thing is that when we see symptoms of an overwhelmed child, we don’t ignore them. They are a cry for help – and aren’t we our children’s primary helpers? We need to walk through the hard things with them, not leave them to flounder.

It doesn’t always take much. Often just a friendly smile can make the challenge seem smaller. Sitting with your son while he does that hard homework.  Holding your daughter’s hand while she stands up for what is right.  Encouraging words can give strength. A hug, a wink, a squeeze of the hand – just to let them know they are not alone, that we’ve got their back. Sometimes it takes more from us; issues can be deep-rooted and need long term understanding, care and encouragement before they can be conquered.

I am convinced that A.A. Milne knew what he was talking about.  It’s so much more friendly with two.

Little secrets

I sat there reading Little Lord Fauntlery aloud. Prince and Princess were listening quietly, and all thoughts seemed to be on the story. Suddenly, Prince interrupted. ‘Mommy – it seems to me that Francis Hodgeson Burnett wanted to make Cedric like a perfect boy. But…’ his voice took a crestfallen tone, ‘nobody can be perfect.’

I was struck.

Walking and talking together - what a blessing!

Walking and talking together – what a blessing!

It was the smallest of moments, but it contained a world of meaning. It was a glimpse into the heart of my boy; a revelation of something I had never noticed before. My Prince struggled with guilt? Suddenly several tiny moments of revelation over the past few months made sense, and I had become privy to a secret. A secret that Prince himself probably couldn’t even articulate and define, but which was causing inner distress. A secret which, now I knew, I could gently and lovingly resolve.

Knowing, is the key thing. If we don’t know a problem exists, we might never solve it. Even worse, we might exacerbate it. How easy it could have been to miss this vital insight. If we never took time to read together, I would have missed it. If I always simply told him off without allowing him to discuss mistakes with me, I would have missed it. If I frequently missed our morning snuggle time, or rushed through it with no chance to chat, I would have missed it. All these little opportunities throughout the days and weeks could so easily have been wasted. Thank God they were not.

We have our children for such a short, precious time. I am so thankful for the chance to see their hurts and struggles, and minister to their particular needs. I am so thankful for time to reassure, build up, encourage when they are down. I am so privileged to spur on, inspire and watch as they pursue their passions.

All it takes is time – the gift of our time.

Education is not a god: part 2

Last week I wrote about how education is not the ultimate goal of childhood. All this was not to say that education is irrelevant. But we need to remember that education is there to serve us, not be served by us.

So what is education really, then? Here are some thoughts.

Education is a tool

Getting a good quality education is one of the tools which helps to shape our children’s future. The foundation of knowledge they build up though childhood is a platform they can bounce off to reach the heights of God’s plan for their lives. Equipping our kids with wisdom and understanding in academic, spiritual and practical arenas prepares them to use their God-given gifts to their fullest potential. A good education will open doors of ministry and enable our kids to take hold of any opportunities which come their way.

Education should teach children to approach work with an attitude of diligence. If we nurture their natural love of learning, if we show them how to solve problems effectively, and if we teach them to self-discipline and allow them to self-direct their studies, then their education will serve them well when they go out into the world. And the best education will teach our children good stewardship of their talents – helping to grow them, not bury them.

Education gives our wings to soar into all God has prepared for them!

Education gives children our wings to soar into all God has prepared for them!

Education is a gift

I love to learn, and I want my kids to know the joy of learning too. Knowledge is a blessing! As children learn about the world, their minds begin to open up. They make connections between topics, and they start to grasp concepts which open up further new thoughts. With knowledge, kids are able to take part in meaningful discussions and feel that their contributions are valuable. They are learning not just to be part of society, but to be a useful part of society – contributing their gifts and understanding to help better the world around them.

One of education’s greatest blessings is the way it helps our children to connect with people of diverse opinions, beliefs, and cultures. As they learn about the world they begin to appreciate the common value of people as well as appreciate their diversity. Education breaks down barriers and misconceptions and stereotypes. Jesus reminds us that unconditional love for others is one of the most important things we need to grasp as Christians. Quality education helps our children to do this with ease and joy.

I pray that as we seek God’s will for the education of our children we will not lose sight of what is truly important. May our children be blessed with an education which encourages them to live a life of love, not gain.

Education is not a god: part 1

I want to give my kids an excellent education.

In fact, one of the reasons we home educate is because we believe that the smaller ratios, focused learning, and personally tailored curriculum that can be provided at home have the potential to produce a better quality education than that which can be achieved in an over-crowded, peer-dominated, test-orientated school setting.

But I want to be very clear about something which I think has become very unclear in our society: Education is not a god.

Our children need to know that while they should always strive to work to their personal best, grades do not define who they – or we – are. There is only one God, and our children have immeasurable worth in His eyes, and in our eyes, which is not defined by their academic or sporting ability, the career they obtain, or the number of extra curricular activities they attend.

Education is good, but it is not a god.

Education is good, but it is not a god.

It is easy to ‘know’ this. But do we live it out?

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I don’t think any of the things below make us ‘worthy’. God alone provides our worth, and it is not dependent on works or behaviour. I also think all of the activities below have a value, a place and a time. However – the fruit of our lives reveal the secrets of our hearts. It is worth examining our priorities honestly.

I believe that education is often worshiped as the ultimate goal of childhood. It is evident in a culture which prioritises academic achievement over character development. It is evident in the efforts to make sure our kids understand geometry, and yet neglect discussions on evidences and controversies of faith. It is evident when parents fear lack of education for their four-year-old, more than lack of compassion. It is evident in the way parents work longer hours to pay for a extracurricular activities, but leave no time for quality, relationship building.

I want to repeat – all of these things have good and right places in our children’s lives. Geometry, sports and academics are good things.  But the question is – do we let ‘good things’ take a higher place than the ‘best thing’?

There is only one thing of first importance, and we only get one shot at parenthood. Let’s make sure we don’t get our priorities confused.

In part two I will be looking at some of the things which education is, and how it can be used to help our children, not hinder them.

Lessons from my son

With thanks to my dear friend Monique for writing her second guest post here at Writing on the Doorposts!

I became a mom two and a half years ago and I remember thinking, ‘I have so much to teach my baby boy.’ The thought was rather overwhelming at the time. Actually to be honest, I was scared of such a responsibility. My prayers increased as I cradled, fed, nurtured, burped, and changed him. Now that two and a half years have passed, God has shown me something amazing. While I am training up my child Thaddeus, he is, at the same time, teaching me life-changing lessons. There are several lessons I have learned, but here I will list three.

Beauty

“While I am training up my child Thaddeus, he is, at the same time, teaching me life-changing lessons.”

Open your eyes. My son Thaddeus has taught me to open my eyes to my surroundings. His curious nature allows him to point and say, “Look Mama, ant!” I can tell you that without my two year old’s keen vision I would have missed the opportunity to see the busy ant walking back and forth to its anthill (Proverbs 30:24-25).  Another example is when I’m carrying Thaddeus and he waves to the person behind us in the checkout line at the store. Without him doing that, I might have easily forged ahead with my errands and not stopped to speak to the person behind me in line.

Enjoy the moment. Thaddeus loves life! He is full of energy and doesn’t let things wear him down. As an adult, I get caught up in the worries of this life, such as paying bills. It is important, as an adult, to be responsible and take care of what God has given us, but we must also enjoy each breath God has blessed us with and live for each moment.

Keep looking up. Thaddeus looks up a lot searching for airplanes in the sky. When he sees one, he shouts with glee, “Airdplan!” This has reminded me to look up more, figuratively speaking. My Heavenly Father is up in Heaven and my life here should consist of “ups.” I should be living my life in such a way that people will want to look up and know more of my Father. My desire is to live one day in my heavenly home with my God.

I am so thankful to have been blessed with the role of “mom” in this life. It’s a beautiful thing to see life through the eyes of a child.

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.

To my Prince

Last week was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a long time (hence the lack of blog posts). There were many things going on, but just one I want to share with you – my Prince turned six!

Baby Prince

Every year on his birthday I think back to my early days of motherhood, when Prince first came into the world. I remember how tiny and perfect he looked in my arms when I first held him. He had big dark eyes that looked quietly up at mine, and his skin was unbelievably soft. He had this cute little swirl on each ear lobe, and if you look closely you can see they are still there today 🙂

When we found out we were having a baby boy, we decided to give him a middle name that honoured God.  We chose “Samuel”, because he was a gift to us from the Lord. And what a gift he has been! Today I dedicate this post to him, and all he is to me.

To my Prince:

You are one of the greatest joys in my life, my boy.

I love the way you delight in snuggling me, and even though you are so big (nearly my size!) you still climb onto my lap and wrap your arms around my neck so tight.

I love the way you are a kind and caring brother to your little sister. You look after her when she is worried, you affectionately enjoy her cute little ways, you share and play with her nicely, and you teach her things that you know.

I love the way you are passionate about things. About drawing, about ocean creatures, about Octonauts, about Bible Snuggle time.  You take great care over things.  You notice little details that other people miss.  You look at the world in a way which opens up my eyes to a new and wonderful point of view.

Love.

I love the way we laugh together over silly and funny things. I love the way we enjoy stories together, the way we talk about new things, the way we sign ‘I love you’, the way we sing together at bed time.

I love the way you obey even when it is hard. I love the way you pray. I love the way you practise being a gentleman, and hold the door open for Princess and me. I love the way you seek to be strong like Daddy, and to take the leadership as a man when he is not there.

As you turn six I want you to know that you are so very, very precious to me – and yet you are even more precious to God. I pray that you will daily give Him your heart and allow Him to lead your life. I pray you will have strength to stand firm in faith even if others fall down. I pray that you will be filled with the Spirit and speak with wisdom and understanding. I pray you will give your life as a daily sacrifice to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. I pray that you will find a wife to help and encourage you as you live out your faith, and that your marriage will be a strong example of the love of God. I pray you will be a leader in the church, able to teach and willing to serve. I pray you will become a father who knows how to train his children up in the ways of the Lord. I pray that you will love others with passion, and always search out ways to do good.  And I pray you will always know that I love you.

With all my heart,
Your Mommy

In the mind of a three-year-old

Just for fun, here is an interview with Princess, on what life is like at three years old.

My beautiful, darling Princess - the light of my life.

Me: Can you tell me about your life?

Princess: Um, no. I don’t want to tell you about my life.

Me: Oh – okay.  Well, what are your favourite things to do?

Princess: I love to read these [Usborne books]. And I love to read the Tiger book that has lots of things to open in it.

Me: Nice.  What else do you like to do?

Princess:  To draw. Play.

Me:  What do you like to play?

Princess: Playmobile.  And I like to draw.

Me:  What do you like to draw?

Princess: Animals and princesses.  Even that.

Me:  When you get up, what’s the first thing you like to do?

Princess:  Draw.

Me:  What do you like about drawing?

Princess:  I like about drawing – drawing!

Me: Oh! What makes you happy?

Princess: God.

Me:  That’s a good answer 🙂  What makes you sad?

Princess:  Having my jumper on.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Princess:  A mommy.

Me: A mommy?

Princess:  Yep, a mommy.

Me:  And what do you think about dying?

Princess:  Come back to life again!  And Grandma and Papa die, and we die, and Timmies goes there, and we can meet Grandma and Papa.

From the lips of children

My precious Prince - my gift from God.

Yesterday I was working on my computer at the table in our lounge. My kids brought out almost all of their cars, and set them up near me in rows, like a large audience. Prince had one car at the front, facing all the others, and up on some kind of makeshift platform.  Then he put on his ‘car voice’, and began the announcement:

“Everyone, I have something amazing to tell you: Jesus died on a cross.”
[shocked gasp from the audience]
“No, don’t worry – you don’t need to gasp.   Jesus died…”
[another gasp]
“…but then after a few days he came back to life again!!!
[cheering from the crowd]

Amen.

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