Monday, February 22, 2016

Thoughts on "Loving the Little Years" (Part II)

Besides the encouragements and challenges for mommies Rachel Jankovic gives (see Part I), she also shares some helpful and practical parenting advice throughout her book…

  • “Set behaviors into stories”- just like the Biblical example of Nathan the prophet telling David a story to help convict him of sin, Rachel suggested setting your children’s behaviors into stories to help them see their sin in a different light. One example she gave was telling boys a story of a very brave knight and how he was set out on a mission to slay the dragon, but instead, he hit the beautiful princess. Right away the boys would be able to detect what was wrong about the story! And it would be much more effective than “Don’t hit your sister!” I thought this was brilliant and am keeping this in mind for when our girls are a bit older. 
  • “Words are like knives”- We’ve heard this before, but Rachel puts a twist on this truth. She acknowledged how littles tend to repeat e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g they hear- we are just now entering into this stage! Now, there are obvious words we do not want our children saying (and we shouldn’t be saying), but what about the more obscure words? Sometimes littles might hear words used by adults like- “Oh, I was being really dumb when I said that- I’m sorry” or “Shut up! You’re kidding!” It’s in these situations the littles might stare at you with those wide and wondering little eyes, silently asking, ‘Wait a minute, they said that word!” To explain why adults might use certain words but her children are not allowed to use them, Rachel said she and her husband explain to their children that words are like knives… there are different uses for different kinds of knives, and children are too young to discern these uses. If they played with the knives, they would most likely end up hurting themselves or injuring someone else. Adults, however, have more wisdom and know how to use certain knives for appropriate circumstances. This does not give them liberty to use the knives to hurt others; that is still wrong. But sometimes they might use knives when it is appropriate to do so. … I had never thought of explaining words in this way before. It shouldn’t mean parents don’t guard what they are saying, but I thought it could be a helpful illustration for how to view words. It can help get to the heart behind why we say what we do rather than just using a blanket “dont’ say that word” rule. Because all words, including “not so bad” words like “Stink!” or “Shut up!” can be said with an appropriate heart attitude or out of a heart that is full of anger or revenge.
  • Discipline = moving from one set of temptations to another. I thought this was SO helpful! Rachel explained that disciplining a child does not result in a perfect child, but children will continue to struggle and continue to need discipline throughout their entire childhood- they might just move from one set of temptations to another (from throwing food on the floor to not saying “no” to mommy!). And this is not a discouraging thing- this can be a sign of growth! Sometimes as a mom, I feel like I am constantly disciplining and teaching all throughout the day, and it can be super discouraging as I think I’m not seeing any progress! But Rachel encourages moms to look for progress in the little things! Your toddler isn’t hitting her sister with the whisk anymore, she’s giving her kisses instead of biting her, or she's coming the first time you called her instead of the tenth. Yes, there might be new things she is struggling with. but all of these are signs of growth! How easy it can be to see all the ways she still needs to grow and miss encouraging her for all the ways she has already grown! Growth is growth; it is not coming into perfection. No one can ever, ever, ever be perfect! And it is this truth that can help point our littles to Jesus, Who was perfect for them. This was a good reminder to value growth, don’t be discouraged by imperfect littles (how imperfect am I anyway!!!), and to keep pointing our girls to Jesus. 
  • The “Bulk Effect”- This can be defined as a number of little things that aren’t so bad in and of themselves, but together, they create a chaotic situation. Example: sequined craft hanging on the fridge + toddler who still loves to put things into her mouth + pot boiling over + baby who just had a blowout diaper. This type of “bulk effect” situation can bring the temptation to be impatient with the toddler and take the craziness of the situation out on them. Knowing our tendency toward this and being able to detect these types of ‘bulk effect” situations can be extremely helpful! It can help us be faithful and fair in our discipline and treatment of our children as individuals, not all together in a lump. We should gently and lovingly teach and discipline individuals, not situations. 
  • Fights & “Breaking fellowship”- Rachel shares in one chapter how she talks with her children about fights, especially fights over toys or whose turn it is to do what, etc. She says her goal is to help her children see that they are “breaking fellowship” with each other and to help them learn how to prioritize their relationship over things and to eventually reconcile with each other so they can be “in fellowship” again. I had never before heard this “big word” used with littles in relation to fighting before. But how neat is it to teach them this important truth at such a little age! Instead of focusing on “she had it for x amount of time, so you will get it in y amount of time” or to continually be telling them to stop fighting and to share, etc., it would be helpful to give them a picture of the root of what is happening when they fight. I was thankful for Rachel’s explanation of this, and can see it being very helpful with our girls in the near future!
  • “Childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational problem.” - Last but not least, this statement really challenged me and gave me a fresh perspective! I feel like I often focus on routines and schedules and how to run a house smoothly- certain days for laundry, certain times set aside for cleaning, naps at such and such a time, etc. And it can be easy to try to “organize” my littles into the perfect little routine (which RARELY gets carried out and tends to cause more frustration and discouragement on my part). So this was a good reminder that, although routines are not bad and can definitely be helpful (toddlers thrive on them, I’ve found!), I should be continually caring for (“pastoring”) my littles’ hearts. Some days organization might go out the window for some much needed quality time when an adorable little lady takes my hand asking me to do “special craft ‘gether pweeeeese!!!” It’s good to remember she needs me and her heart and our relationship is more important than following a perfect routine. This is so refreshing. 

Hopefully sharing all of this has been encouraging!

And if you are a mommy with littles- or a daddy!- or even just work with littles, I would really, really encourage you to read this book and let your heart be encouraged and challenged! 

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