Monday, August 6, 2012

learning from our first round of parenting

i consider our year with our first four foster kiddos to be a testing ground for parenthood.  we learned a lot.  i am thankful for that time because one of the results is that i have been able to think through what went well with them and what didn't go well, and what i will change for the future.

some of the changes i would like to make have been on my mind this week.  they include:

memorizing more scripture and singing more jesus-centered songs, especially hymns.  we did both of these thing with our four foster kiddos, but it could have been a WAY bigger focus than it was. it breaks my heart to think that if we had done things differently, they might have gone back to their birth mom with LOTS of scripture written on their hearts.  with esther i now make it a point to sing hymns and recite scripture while i change her diaper (and at various other points during the day).  i want these to be the first words that are on her heart, and some of the first things she learns to say.  the added bonus is that reciting helps me to keep memorized scripture ingrained on my heart and mind (it is too easy to memorize scripture and then forget it soon after), and helps keep my focus on jesus and the gospel throughout the day.

think that toddlers can't memorize scripture?  think again.  watch this cool video of a toddler reciting psalm 23:

handling disobedience. too much of my parenting was influenced by my work as a behavior therapist for kids with autism, which i did for about a year before becoming a mom.  it was easy for me to handle disobedience from a behavioral psychology standpoint (how do i fix this behavior?), rather than focusing on the heart, the root of all disobedience.  something i would like to change in handling this when it comes up is to pray with and for my children when they disobey (i did this occasionally with the older two boys, but not nearly as much as i wish i would have).

i also want to help them to see what is going on in their hearts when this happens.  for example, when they are fighting over toys, instead of "solving" the problem by making them take turns (we used to set a timer and have them switch back and forth) i would want to help them see the selfishness overflowing from their heart, resulting in their lack of desire to share.

working on heart issues takes a lot more time and energy than just teaching them (or forcing them) to behave "correctly".  working on the heart also paves the way for the gospel to infect their hearts and do the true, deep work that will lead to real life change and actions that are truly honoring to jesus.

teaching chores early. not only does teaching kids to do chores at an early age help them take responsibility, it will also help things run in the house more smoothly (especially important if you plan to have a big family, as we are).  furthermore, it helps teach them life skills and even gross/fine motor skills.  many parents buy toys to help their children learn certain skills (for example, sorting) when typical chores could teach this (for example, putting away silverware).

the problem with teaching chores (and the reason i didn't do it nearly enough before) is that it takes time.  i am too focused on efficiency, and getting things done quickly, which means doing things myself. the problem is that i failed to see how i would be saving time over all (as well as loving my children well) by teaching them to do things around the house.  here is a good list of suggestions for basic chores that children as young as 18 months old can do.

one chore that i was good about having them do: pick up their own toys!  i really miss having kids who can pick up their own toys, especially with hurricane esther doing her thing in the living room every day :P

by God's grace (and not our own wisdom/knowledge) i think we did a lot of things well with our previous four children.  but i am praying that God really strengthens us and improves our parenting in the ways i mentioned above.

and may He get all the glory!

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