Tag Archives: parenting

A “Middle Years” Mindset

God is so smart.  He knew exactly what He was doing when He chose to teach us about boundaries with sleepovers and birthday parties at a Growing Families International (GFI) conference back in 2009.  I had no idea how this one teaching would shape our family over our kids’ combined 8 years in the Middle Years (2010 to 2018).

At the conference, during a “lunch and learn” breakout session, the couple teaching asked if we would like to hear their family’s perspective on sleepovers and birthday parties.  We enthusiastically agreed.  Their family decided that birthdays were special, but that they wanted to celebrate them at home as a family without “inviting the neighborhood”.  They also decided that play dates should end before bedtime and sleeping should be done at home.  They had several reasons for making these decisions, including their children’s safety when not under their supervision, the financial strain of numerous birthday parties, and the time involved.

As we drove home from the conference, with so much new information in our “parenting tool box”, we decided that we needed to pick one topic to focus on.  This was the topic we chose and it was an easy one to implement, since our kids were only 3 and 7 at the time.  Our son had a best friend since kindergarten, who he was already spending a lot of time with, and we made an exception for them, as we had a close relationship with their family.

What I didn’t know in 2009 was that we would open our first fishing bait and tackle store at the end of 2011, and that I would have a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter when Joshua was 9 and Jordan was only 5.  Keeping our children close to home, close to our business, and not “shipped off” here and there was so important.  In the beginning of this crisis, we were fortunate to have friends help with public school drop off and pick up, but as I got healthier, I realized that part of my healing included taking over those tasks.

The fifteen hundred days of preadolescence are all the time you have to prepare your kids for the nearly thirty-seven hundred days of adolescence.  Let’s make the most of every minute.” – Robert Bucknam, MD, from the “PreTeen Wise” foreward

I wanted to make the most of every minute.  John was extremely busy with his full time job and with the new tackle store and, whatever time he did have available, needed to be with me and the kids.  Building our family identity happened in large part because we were always together.  If our kids weren’t at school or at a church activity, they were most likely at home.  Yes, Joshua spent time with his best friend and Jordan spent time with my parents, but these were all like-minded influences.

If the terms “building family identity” and “like-minded influences” aren’t familiar to you, I would highly recommend that you take the Middle Years class (ages 8 to 12).  If a class isn’t available right now, Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD have a whole series of “On Becoming” books (think “On Becoming Babywise“) and “PreTeen Wise” is the book you’re looking for.

Leading your children from your authority is critical when your children are young and you’re establishing first-time obedience.  But it definitely works against us when we get to the Middle Years.  Moving from “leading from your authority” to “leading from your influence” could be the hardest task you’ll ever face in your parenting, but it pays such dividends.  You’ve spent years “filling your child’s moral warehouse”, and now it’s time to see what’s really in there.

Think about this.  God doesn’t ask His children questions because He doesn’t know the answers.  God asks us questions to pull out of us what is inside, clarifying for us what we really believe.  Just as God plants seeds of wisdom into us as we grow in maturity with Him, we as parents also plant seeds of wisdom into our children (“filling their moral warehouse”).  It is our job to ask questions of our children, pulling out of them what is inside, clarifying for them what they really believe.  If we’ve done our job well (with the Lord’s help, of course, as none of us are perfect parents), those seeds of wisdom grow over time and our children will be able to verbalize what they’ve internalized, further solidifying their beliefs for themselves.

We don’t want our children to act a certain way because “Mom said so”.  We want their behavior to reflect what they truly believe inside.  And the only way to do that is to pull that back out of them time and time again, just as God does with us.

Now that our kids are 14 and (almost) 18, they fully participate in family decisions and we consider their input carefully.  We have made conscious decisions together to allow a sleepover or a birthday party here and there, allowing our kids to give their reasons, cite potential issues, and explain what they will and won’t participate in.  It’s put the responsibility for their behavior in their court, not because “my parents said I can’t”, but because they’ve thought through the consequences of their actions ahead of time.  Owning their own behavior has made all the difference.

**Having a middle years mindset begins by starting early, taking an age-appropriate parenting class and seeking advice from those who’ve gone before you.  Thinking through and explaining the “moral reasons why” a family decision is made will help your kids to want to follow your lead.**

 

New Online Parenting Classes

It all started with a little boy named Kyle.  His parents had asked me and John to babysit, even though we had no children of our own and had no idea what to expect.  They explained that Kyle was very predictable and assured us that it would be an easy way to earn a few bucks.  They were absolutely correct.

Kyle’s parents laid out the whole evening for us when we arrived.  We would give him his last bottle of the night, keep him awake to play for a while, and then when he got cranky, it was time to put him down for the night.  They explained that he would lay in bed and cry for just a few minutes and then would fall asleep and we probably wouldn’t hear from him again.  We could spend the rest of the evening watching a movie, and that’s exactly what happened.

How did they know this about their son?  Were they just incredibly “lucky” to have been given an “easy baby”?  Or was it something else?

Turns out it was a program called “Preparation for Parenting” (aka “Babywise”).  And when we found out that we were expecting our first child, we knew that we would be signing up to take the same class.  And when Joshua was born on 6-14-02, we applied the same principles that Kyle’s parents had and Joshua turned out to be another “textbook” baby.  He slept 8 hours at 5 1/2 weeks and 12 hours at 8 weeks (and still does, at 17 years old, when given the opportunity).  🙂

We went on to take “Preparation for the Toddler Years” and “Growing Kids God’s Way” and then started leading classes at our home.  We were surrounded by like-minded parents, not only those who came to our home for classes, but also with fellow class leaders who got together once per month for dinner, training and fellowship.  Everyone’s kids played together at these monthly gatherings and our community grew stronger together.

Jordan Rose was born in 2006 and she was not the “textbook” baby that Joshua and Kyle had been.  However, the fact that she wasn’t sleeping helped us to figure out that she had food allergies.  If we hadn’t known what was “normal”, it would have been much more difficult to figure out that something was “abnormal.”

In 2007, we moved from Clawson to Clinton Township and continued to lead classes.  But it seemed that it was getting harder and harder for families to find babysitters, carve time out of their busy schedules and fight the traffic to get to weekly classes.  In 2011, we opened a bait and tackle store and it became impossible to keep leading classes with John working two jobs.  So, we stopped leading, but we kept applying the principles we had learned and occasionally we were able to attend National Conferences held by Growing Families International.

2018 National Family Camp. So thankful for all that we have learned from Gary and AnneMarie Ezzo. Our family wouldn’t be who we are without you!

In 2017 and 2018, we attended the National Family Camp in Carlinville, IL.  In 2018, they announced that all classes would now be available for free on their brand new website:  https://growingfamilies.life .  That was a beautiful step in the right direction, but something was missing.  Watching videos from the comfort of your own home is great, but what about the community of like-minded parents?

Well, just 2 weeks ago that issue was solved.  Now you can join a Growing Families class from the convenience of your home (or anywhere you are) using a phone, tablet, or computer:  https://growingfamilies.life/find-a-class-home?rq=Find%20a%20class

“Participants watch each week’s video lesson prior to class time and then come together online using the Zoom® group meeting platform.  Class time is dedicated to discussion, questions and answers, and additional teaching from experienced, certified class facilitators/mentoring coaches.”

Yipppppeeee!!!  No more issues with babysitters, busy schedules and traffic!  🙂  Below, I’ve listed upcoming classes available as of today, 8-20-19.  Please use the following link to find the most up-to-date class info:  https://growingfamilies.life/on-line-find-class-by-course?rq=On%20line%20Find

And while you’re waiting for your class to start, check out the on-line videos here: https://growingfamilies.life/parenting-video-master-page

Scroll down that page to get to “Most Popular/Viewed Short Segments” for information on  the interrupt courtesy, couch time (preventing childhood insecurities), the five minute warning (encouraging first time obedience), gaining self control (folding hands), emotional touchpoints (love languages), choice addiction (“Red cup, blue cup”), bribing, threatening and repeating parents (“Are you listening to me?”), encouragement for dads, potty training and much more.

Here’s a little preview of what you’ll find there:

https://growingfamilies.life/twenty-one-most-popular-segments-blog/2018/7/3/hey-mom-today-mps-02-1

Blessings to you and your families.

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Preparation for Parenting

  • Thursdays beginning October 17, 2019 at 7pm EST

Babyhood Transitions

  • Tuesdays beginning August 6, 2019 at 7:30pm EST

Toddlerhood Transition

  • Tuesdays beginning September 3, 2019 at 8:30pm EST

Tree of Life, Part 1

  • Sundays beginning September 8, 2019 at 5:00pm EST
  • Mondays beginning September 16, 2019 at 8:30pm EST

Growing Kids God’s Way

  • Tuesdays beginning October 15, 2019 at 7:00pm EST

Worth It

There was a time when I was really angry with God for creating humans in the first place.  What was He thinking?  If He really is omniscient, knowing everything, then He knew we were going to turn away from Him in the garden and go our own way (Gen. 3).  He knew Satan and his angels would rebel and be hurled to the earth, where they would wage war against us (Rev. 12).

If God knew that we would rebel and that we would spend our lives tormented, battling an invisible army, why in the world did He create us in the first place?  Are we just pawns in some sort of cosmic chess game?  Are we here for His entertainment, like the gladiators of ancient Rome?

Or was I completely mistaken?  Was there something else motivating Him?  He had perfect community within Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  One being, three persons, in perfect and loving communion, submitting to One Another from the beginning of time, extending out into eternity.  Why mess with perfection?

John and I asked each other the same question.  It was just the two of us and the dog.  Why mess with perfection?  Maybe there was something more.  Something that could be gained in adding another person to our family.  Yes, there would be challenges.  Yes, there would be times when we would wonder, “Why in the world did we decide to walk down this path?”  I think most pregnant women, maybe even those who have prayed for a child for untold years, in the midst of morning sickness, sleepless nights, or childbirth itself, ask the question, “Why does anyone want to do this again?”

But we hold that baby in our arms, we gaze into each others’ eyes and we know.   Yes, there are challenges and they are great.  But the triumphs are even greater.  Simple things – the smiles, the coos, the first time they sleep through the night.  First teeth, first steps, the first day of preschool.   It has been said that there is no greater frustration and yet no greater joy in life than parenting.  I think God feels that way too.

In that time that I was so angry with God, I do believe I was completely mistaken.  And, regarding God’s true motivation, I believe I received my answer.  He had perfection in and of Himself, but He wasn’t looking for perfection.  I think that’s why He doesn’t expect perfection from us.  He already has that.  He wanted to be a parent.  He wanted to expand His family, just as a family with one child or two decides they would like to expand their family.  “We have room in our hearts for one more.”  God always has room in His heart for one more.

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That’s Fezzik plopped on top. Aren’t they sweet?

I was talking to my brother the other day about his cats.  He and his wife don’t have human children, but they have an expanding family of cat children.  They’re now up to four.  The latest member, Fezzik, has come complete with one challenge after another.  Rick was sharing with me the ups and downs of the latest challenge, which ended up affecting everyone in the household and their pocketbook.  Definitely not something they planned on.

Rick stopped and said, “You know, even with everything we’ve gone through with Fezzik, he’s totally worth it.  He’s so sweet.  And he just checks in.  He comes in, plops down on me and hangs out for a little while.  He’ll leave for while, but sure enough, he’ll be back again to check in.”  I could hear Rick grinning from ear to ear through the phone as he talked about his beloved and sweet little cat.

I got to thinking.  If a human being feels that way about a cat, imagine how God must feel about us.  Imagine God chatting with Jesus:  “You know, even with everything we’ve gone through with _________, they’re totally worth it.  They’re so sweet.  And they just check in.”  Put your name in that blank.  Can you see God grinning from ear to ear as He talks about His beloved and sweet child?  That’s you.  If you haven’t checked in with Him in a while, maybe right now is a great time.

Love’s not a feeling
Love’s not convenient
But I know love will change your life
Love takes sacrifice
Love cuts like a knife
Sometimes love will make you cry
Love’s not easy
But it’s worth it

-“Worth It” by Francesca Battistelli