Monday, May 20, 2013

When the going gets tough, stop the going!

One thing my mentor taught me early on in motherhood was this: Stop all the going.

You see, I was in a dangerous pattern of going. Going to play dates. Going to the library preschool reading time. Going shopping. Going to the park. You know what that entails as a mom. Get everyone, including yourself, dressed. Pack the diaper bag. Go through the mental checklist... Do I have the snacks? Do I have the stroller? Do I have my purse? Do I have extra changes of clothes for the kids? Do I have the diaper bag? Get in the car and drive.

Then inevitably, this is what would happen. We would arrive at our destination, slightly frazzled from all the preparation of leaving. Then came the task of expecting my kids to rise to the occasion. If it was library reading time, they needed to stay quiet. If it was a play date, they needed to share and be kind.  If it was shopping, they needed to stay close to me or in the shopping cart, and be patient while I browsed or grocery shopped. I was setting us all up for failure. My intense desire for them to do what I expected mixed with their small age and continual need to be trained, equaled disaster.

My kids would quickly get tired and start to misbehave. I would get frustrated. They would start fussing. I would get angry. I would also become keenly aware of what other people were 'thinking' about my mommy situation. And instead of properly training my children by giving them appropriate consequences, I would plead with them to stop or threaten to spank without following through. I wasn't properly training or disciplining them, and it was all in the name of 'fun' or 'me time' or 'learning time'.

We would leave the event completely exasperated and worn thin. I would yell and drive, lecturing them all the way home. They would cry. I would cry.

A total nightmare.

Then the next day, I'd do it again, expecting something different to happen. I'd tell myself, "Maybe Sarah just had a bad day yesterday." Or "Andrew is just teething. He'll be fine today."

Here is what began to happen. Over time, I noticed my kids getting more and more unruly. They learned they could get away with more disobedience when we went on our outings. Week after week, our behavior issues got worse.

That's when, by the grace of God, my mentor recognized our dangerous pattern and spoke truth to me. 'Stop' she told me. 'Training your kids consistently, in love, is more important that all that going.'

So I did. I stopped all the going.

Over time, their behavior issues disappeared. Why? Because I was home, all the time, teaching, training, and disciplining them in the way they should go, as Proverbs says. I was able to be loving and consistent. And those much needed boundaries created safety, love and order for my out of control children.

If I needed to go out, I'd run the necessary errands quickly. I'd plan for multiple errands to be run in one day so that the other days were planned 'stay home' days. On our errand day, I'd explain the rules and the consequences if the rules were broken. I would carry a wooden spoon in my purse to use for spanks, if the rules were broken. I would mentally prepare to have to step out to discipline my kids, if needed. And I focused on the task of consistently training them while we were out, as much as I did at our home.

Fast forward to now. I have 4 kids. And I homeschool them. So they are always with me. Stuff has to get done. Oil has to be changed in the car. Groceries have to be bought. And occasionally we go to the library, park or a play date. I go at the most ideal time for my children, with a list (if it's the store) and a wooden spoon, always ready to train my sweet babies. And when our schedule gets too busy, I clear the calendar and get back to the basics!

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