Sunday, May 22, 2011

"The Slightest Bit of Frustration" (thoughts from Keri's parenting e-book)

I read Keri's e-book over the weekend.  It was very good for me since I had started getting rather lenient in many of the things I had learned when I attended her class in March.  It was good for me to be reminded of the importance of consistency in my expectations.  There were some things that stood out to me in my reading that I want to focus on more with my family.

I really liked the emphasis on the importance of having a peaceful environment in the home.  Sometimes I feel guilty for not allowing too much loud noise and silliness in the house.  I want my kids to have fun together and enjoy their time, but there is a certain level of rambunctiousness that feels more like disregard for those around them.  I'm not sure where the line is, but I can say that there are times when I love to hear my kids laughing together and other times when it feels rude and the peace seems to leave our home.  Is it a certain decibel level?  Is it my own mood?  As I think about it, I think it has more to do with the content of their conversation.  If they are enjoying uplifting conversation and laughing with one another, the peace stays in the home.  However, if they are making fun of something, being sarcastic about situations, laughing at someone's expense, or acting somewhat unrefined (making loud silly voices, potty humor, etc) it seems to wear on me and the peaceful feeling I would like to maintain in our home.

I liked this point:
I want them to grow up in such a refined, beautiful, and heavenly home, that they are uncomfortable with anything less than their best, and thus choose their best by their own free will.  However, if I allow them to destroy the quality of that environment by their own misbehavior, they will never know what that level of living feels like.  How then will they ever be comfortable with it, and how will they ever choose it for themselves?  In my experience, if I set the standard high, and keep it high, the children taste it and know that it is good, and set it up as their standard by which to compare everything else.'
Of course this also means that besides "loud laughter" (as I defined it for myself above), that whining, rudeness, and contention in any form are not allowed (at least in my presence) since it goes against what I am trying to create.  It is becoming easier to feel when the spirit leaves our home since we are becoming more accustomed to having His peaceful feeling with us.

I am going to stop feeling guilty about having a high standard.  When kids have consistent consequences if they choose not to uphold a high standard they "are not comfortable to ever becoming accustomed to a sloppy standard".  Just because rudeness is the norm in much of the world around us does not mean that I have to allow some of it in our place of refuge from the world.

I also really liked the understanding that I am not controlling them or their agency when I give them consequences lovingly.  It is when I become rude or frustrated, or when I lecture them about what they already know (implying that they are not smart enough to figure it out themselves) that I am trying to control their behavior with my emotions and words.  Loving consequences is how our Heavenly Father teaches us.  He is always there for us, waiting with outstretched hands.  I do not ever doubt how He feels about me.  Yet, there are always consequences for my wrong actions and I want to repent because I want the peaceful feeling of His presence in my life.  His feelings toward me don't change, but His Spirit can not dwell in unholy places so I must do my part to have Him with me.

I see this paralleled in Keri's approach.  She sends her kids away from her loving presence for a little while until they are willing to act in a way that is conducive to the feeling of peace that she wants to maintain.  Yet through it all, there is no feeling of resentment or frustration on her part - just sympathy for a child who is trying to learn.  And just as Heavenly Father expects us to do our part to find answers and guidance for ourselves, Keri suggests keeping quiet after giving a consequence so that the child can consider the behavior on their own and figure things without being told what to think, thus owning the teaching for themselves.
"The minute you begin telling them what to think, and what they ought to have learned, you destroy the inherent teaching power of the consequence..."
I loved the idea of not "carrying" a child through a learning experience.  I am guilty of this at times.  I know that there are certain chores that sometimes I "carry" my children through so that they get done well and they still feel like they did them, but in reality they are not learning to do the job well and I am fooling myself into thinking that they are (this is different than job training because I do not tell them that I am teaching them and I expect them to do a quality job the next time - I am just pretending that they are doing a good job already). 
"It is not the end results that determine if our teaching is taking root; the end results could be too deceiving.  It is, rather, the sustainability of our efforts which determine the success of them."
The last thing that I realized that I most needed to hear is how incredibly important it is to always be loving and consistent.  I can safely say that I am usually loving and pretty consistent, but this hit me pretty hard:
"When we deliver a consequence with even the slightest bit of frustration, the child is robbed of the opportunity to focus on changing, because they are too busy conquering a more important challenge ---that of figuring out how to get their parents' love back." (emphasis added)
I don't think my kids ever doubt my love for them, but I do think they worry about my good opinion of them sometimes.  I want them to know that I think they are wonderful, capable, amazing human beings even when they make mistakes.  The trap I sometimes fall into is that I am not consistent in giving a loving consequence and so I allow their behavior to annoy me after a while and then when I finally give the consequence I do it in a frustrated voice which clearly indicates that I am disappointed in them.

I've been trying all of this, and I must admit that it can be hard in application.  This is probably because I am trying to tackle too many "problem areas" at once.  Lately it's that I want dinners to be had with uplifting and interesting conversation instead of with silly games and talk.  I want loud voices to be saved for the outdoors.  I want the children to respond the very first time I tell them something.  I want them to do their work quickly and well.  Since we've gotten into several bad habits in these areas, I feel like I'm giving out consequences all of the time.  Maybe it would be better to focus my energies into a couple of habits first and then move on to the next ones.  I don't want to make it sound like our house is a zoo.  I do think it is a peaceful place most of the time, but I do want to iron out some glitches and bad habits that I know will make a difference in truly making a "refined, beautiful, heavenly home".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keri Tibbet's Parenting E-book

Keri's e-book is finally online!  Here is the link for those of you who haven't read it yet :-)

I'll be reading it today.  I'd love to hear what some of you think when you get a chance to read it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Motivating Our Kids with Money? (And Our Moab Trip)

In Sunday school, someone brought up the question, "How do we find balance in knowing what our needs are and our wants and how much of our wants we ought not to have?"  We were discussing the parable of the rich young man who said he had kept all of the commandments from his youth and was wondering what he yet lacked.  Jesus said,
"One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."

Where is the balance in that statement?  He didn't say, "Go figure out what is a want and what is a need and find a balance and sell the rest and then come follow me."   The kids and I had recently discussed the parable of the widow's mites.  I found it interesting that Jesus didn't say, "Maybe that was a bit financially irresponsible.  She should have kept some of it, or only given just what she could spare."  Instead He said,
"Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
 I went home from Sunday School and thought about this and it occurred to me that the question should not be "How do I find a balance in my needs and wants and what I give to others?"  Instead it should be, "Why is this a need or a want?"  Is it to build up the kingdom of God?  I've decided to ask myself this question before I spend my time or means on something.  This will require quite a bit of honesty with myself.

I think this would look different for different people so we should never judge.  For example, I may consider buying a necklace or some make-up.  My motivation for these purchases could be because I want my neighbors to think I'm stylish.  On the other hand, my motivation might be that I feel I have an important message to share and I know people will be more likely to listen to me if I look presentable.  Or maybe those things help me feel more feminine and motivate me to be a better wife to my husband.  There could be a variety of reasons, but it will require self-reflection and honesty to know my true motivations before I make the purchase.
Some of my friends were talking about how different things motivate different children.  It was mentioned that some kids are very motivated by money and will do a lot of extra chores in order to earn it while some do not care about money at all and will not do any extra chores for it.  The general consensus was that mothers need to figure out what motivates their kids so they can use it.  I went home and thought about this and came to the conclusion that I don't want to encourage my kids to be motivated by money.  I don't want them to be motivated by treats.  What I want them to be motivated by is the peace that comes from choosing the right and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the love they feel towards God and others.
Of course this is easier said than done.  I would love to hear some ideas about how this is done in some of your homes.  My older kids seem to get this for the most part, but how is it taught?  I think not using money or things as motivators is a good idea.  Why have them practice the very thing I want them to avoid?  I think also encouraging the "basics" (scripture reading, prayer, journal writing, etc) will help them develop a relationship with their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ so that they will come to love them and want to serve them.  Also, it seems also that giving them the opportunity to work for the family welfare without a reward will accustom them to the peace that comes from serving others and doing their duty.

I think of the book Little Britches and how the little boy was so proud to give his wages to his father to help with the family's needs.  We have it completely backwards these days.  Instead, many feel an obligation to give their kids an allowance or to pay them for the work they do.  It's such an individualistic mindset instead of the family mindset that used to prevail in America.  We are trying to raise "financially responsible" children by allowing them to experiment with money.  I've come to believe that children will be responsible with their means when they are motivated by the right reasons - not because they are allowed to play and experiment with money.  I think money is a powerful force for many children that will take their focus away from those right motivators.

I don't give my children an allowance of pay them for their work, but they do occasionally get money from relatives on their birthdays and other occasions.  I have seen them donate some of it or save some of it for their missions.  Sometimes they will buy something to help them develop a talent.  They have, on occasion, wasted it on a treat or a junky dollar toy, but this is rare.  I think they are learning what the blessing of money is for without having to focus on it and be motivated by it.

I heard a wonderful talk last night as I was making dinner.  It was called "What is your calling in life?"  He talks about how work has been seen in the past, and some heresies concerning finding our life's mission.  I loved the way he described the right motivators in finding our life's calling and what it really means.  Listen to it when you get a chance - it will be worth your time.  You can find it here:

That is how I want my children to see their means, time and talents.  It is not confusing as they look for the "right balance".  It is the way things really are.   It is clear, straightforward and beautiful as I want their lives to be.

Here are some more pictures from our trip to Moab this last weekend:
Bazinks climbed whatever we would let him
Sometimes the hike to Delicate Arch was a bit much for Bazinks
Ray loved it when we would let him out of the backpack to explore

The kids had fun counting lizzards.  I think they made it to 15.

Sand Dune Arch was definitely a favorite

Ray had a good time rolling in the sand

The kids loved exploring all around the arches

We camped for two nights and it was a great time.  I felt a little embarrassed the first night because we were in a campground with many tents and Ray kept singing in his sleep - at the top of his lungs.  I kept waking up to the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "We Will Rock You" or "As I Have Loved You Love One Another" throughout the night.  I'm sure our neighbors loved it.  He did much better the second night though.

The kids especially enjoyed making s'mores around the campfire, playing in the sand, playing in the swing set by our campground, seeing the arches and eating trail mix.  I think they had a better time hiking this time because they didn't feel rushed.  My pace was so slow that they had a chance to look at the flowers, find bugs and lizards and rest.  We need to go camping more often.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Learning Who I Am

 I struggled when I first became a mother. It seemed to me that my whole identity had shifted in some way and I didn't quite know how to still be "me" and also be a mother. I remember feeling like I was in a sort of twilight zone. I hadn't realized the level of commitment that motherhood entailed. I wasn't prepared for the sleepless nights and for all I would have to give of myself just to keep a helpless baby alive. I was tired and I felt that it was all somewhat unreal. I had always thought of myself as a pretty "tough" gal and I was amazed, since I was struggling so much, that so much could really be required of all mothers. I couldn't believe the amount of daily, unnoticed, monotonous work; and the loneliness that I often felt as I was struggling to stay awake during the day as I made myself clean, yet again, a messy kitchen. It was not an easy transition for me.
I read an excellent blog post yesterday about some deceptions in motherhood.  It got me thinking about how altered my view is now, 11 years later.  I remember well-meaning people back then telling me that I needed to keep my identity in some way by getting away and making time for myself. I struggled with frustration as I tried to follow this advise and found it really hard to "get away", it made me miss my freedom of doing what I wanted, when I wanted. I would sometimes recent my precious baby because she would not cooperate with my need for "me" time.
How differently I see things now! Motherhood has become a joy that surpasses anything I could have dreamed of. What I didn't realize 11 years ago was that instead of "finding myself" outside of motherhood, I needed to find who I truly was by being a mother. I used to think that "who I was" was a combination of my interests and passions. I was an outdoorsy, alternative-music-loving, thrill-seeking, semi-tom-boy who didn't like country music or "jocks" or anything too girly. That's not an identity - it's a list of likes and dislikes at a particular moment.  Most of those interests have changed over time (I even married a "jock").  However, my identity has not changed over time,  it's just that I have come to understand myself better and have come to find so much joy as I grow to realize who I really am.
This understanding didn't come by getting away and pursuing my interests. It seems illogical or counter-intuitive, but it came by loosing myself in the service of my family! Once I came to an understanding that motherhood was the most important work on earth, I gave it my full heart. Once I gave it my all, I came to find that it is BY FAR the most rewarding and beautiful experience imaginable. I found that my identity wasn't something to be found outside of motherhood - I am a mother. I have always been a mother (as Eve was before she even bore children) and I will always be a mother. I wish so much, when I hear people talk of "finding themselves" or finding their "missions in life" away from their families, that I could somehow convey the feelings that I feel about who they are! I'm not saying that women do not have wonderful gifts that can also bless those outside of their families, but, as my wise friend Mary put it, they find those gifts and passions by serving their family. It is only by being who we really are and embracing it, that we come to understand ourselves, our mission, and our relationships in their true light. It is only by forgetting ourselves that we come to know ourselves. I know this is true! I have experienced it over and over and I continue to experience it every single, glorious day!

I was reading The Princess and the Goblin to the kids last night and I came upon my favorite chapter in the book. It talks about the mother of a miner boy named Curdie. As you read it, you should know that the princess' "huge great-grandmother" represents God in the story.

Mrs. Peterson was such a nice good mother! All mothers are nice and good more or less, but Mrs. Peterson was nice and good all more and no less. She made and kept a little heaven in that poor cottage on the high hillside -- for her husband and son to go home to out of the low and rather dreary earth in which they worked. I doubt if the princess was very much happier even in the arms of her huge great-grandmother than Peter and Curdie were in the arms of Mrs. Peterson. True, her hands were hard and chapped and large, but it was with work for them; and therefore, in the sight of the angels, her hands were so much the more beautiful. And if Curdie worked hard to get her a petticoat, she worked hard every day to get him comforts which he would have missed much more than she would even a new petticoat in the winter. Not that she and Curdie ever thought of how much they worked for each other: that would have spoiled everything.
 I am so blessed to understand who I am.  I am so blessed to have such joy everyday.  Things do sometimes go wrong, and I am sometimes selfish, and sometimes I don't live up to my high calling, but still I know I am doing a great work.  Such great work has great responsibility and astounding blessings. I have moments of joy every day that surpass anything I imagined possible in my selfish years.  And the more I learn and grow in this service, the more moments of joy I find all around me.  Sorry if this post sounds too honky-dory.  I know there is much heartache as well as joy in motherhood, but I also know that no other pursuit could compare with the beauty to be found in the word "mother".

*The pictures in this post are from a day this last month that Spice took the camera out to take a few pictures.