WFMW – Backwards Day

wfmwIt’s Backwards Day again on the Works for Me Wednesday post!! What shall we talk about? I was planning to write about our new school schedule and daily routine. After all, it’s been two days and it’s going great. :) Instead, I’d love to take advantage of Backwards Day and get some help on maintaining and keeping our new routine. My oh, so optimistic oldest son has given me two or three weeks before the whole thing falls apart. This is how he and I figured it would go:

Week One:

Struggle through the new routine. Claw and fight to get up early. Try desperately to stay on track with our intense school schedule. Check the new Schedule regularly. Fuss and whine about all the work and lack of fun. Admonish children NOT to follow mother’s bad example of whining and fussing.

Week Two:

Get in the groove of things. Tired but cheerful in the morning. Hardly any complaining as everyone begins to accept the structure and higher level of work expected of them. The house is clean, meals are nourishing, and school is accomplished. The Schedule Printout is well-worn and nearly memorized.

let's read!

Even late at night, in their pj’s, the children continue with their studies.

Week Three:

The newness of plan begins to fade. Slowly bad habits slide back in to our routine as the Schedule is “set aside”. Surely we don’t need to look at it all the time. We’ll just do a little adjusting here and there. The snooze button is pushed two or three times and the alarm turned off all together one day, a little bit of movie watching happens over lunch, email and blog stats are checked mid-morning, chores are pushed later and later and then forgotten.

i just need to check a few things

Let me just see if anyone left a comment on the blog.

Week Four:

No one bothers to even set their alarms. The Schedule is permanently “lost.” Mom decides to take a few days off to refocus and catch up on her blogging. Kids spend more time playing educational computer games than doing any real school.

a game, anyone?

Anyone up for a quick board game?

This does not look good, people! Help me out. Tell me your best ideas for staying on a disciplined schedule. How do you keep to it day after day, month after month? Do you use rewards or consequences? Are you an Excel expert? Do you post charts around the house, use a calendar, day timer or Blackberry? How do you get up early every morning? I am NOT a morning person and I need all the help in that area that I can get. I know there are gifted, organized people that stop by here now and then. Share with me your words of wisdom!

Stop by Works for Me Wednesday for other desperate souls needing help.

a good book is hard to resist

Project 366 – Day 8

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How Not to Repent

new logoOne of the most challenging problems that parents face is teaching and motivating their children to repent from sin. This is not particularly surprising, I suppose, since many parents don’t know what repentance means, don’t see the need for it, and wouldn’t know how to repent if their life depended on it (which, of course, it does).

The word ‘repent’ has several meanings, depending on whom you ask:

“to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life” — Merriam Webster (1)

“to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.” — (2)

Some definitions of the word speak more to how you feel than what you do:

“to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc.” — (1)

” to feel regret or contrition” — Merriam Webster (2)

Personally, I think that ‘emotional’ repentance is not worth much, unless it is accompanied with a change in direction. Old Testament references to repentance use a combination of Hebrew verbs, which can be translated as: to return, and to feel sorrow. The writers of the Old Testament books will be gratified, no doubt, to know that I think both are necessary. A pragmatic change in behavior motivated by self-interest is not true repentance; nor is contrition sufficient in itself, without action that shows the contrition to be genuine.

you're in trouble, buddy

Repent, I say, repent!!

Back to parenting. Let’s start with a toddler (we’ll call him Alfred), who is watching his baby sister as she coos contentedly, strapped in her baby seat. An idea comes to Alfred’s little mind: what will happen if I hit her? A born scientist, Alfred forms a hypothesis: “I’ll bet she will cry.” He immediately tests his theory by striking her on the forehead. The sister wails in a satisfactory manner, and the toddler enjoys the happy knowledge that his experiment in causality has been successful. Alfred’s mind immediately turns to additional variants of the experiment, but his plans are spoiled by the arrival of his mother.

“No,” scolds Mom. “You may not hit your little sister. No, no!”

Mom gives Alfred’s hand a sharp swat, and a tear forms at the corner of his eye. His lip quivers, but his jaw is thrust out in defiance. Mom’s disapproval is not a sufficient deterrent at this point in his development. Although the pain in his hand has taught him some respect for Mom’s physical presence, Alfred’s heart intention is unchanged — he’d do it again in a heartbeat. Why should he not be free to extend his scientific knowledge? Who is this Mother, to place limitations on his freedom and enjoyment? Craftily, Alfred waits until Mom is on the phone, and he whacks his sister again, this time on the nose, extracting a loud cry.

Several days later, Mom catches him pinching his sister with a malicious grin on his face, and gives him a hard enough spanking to make it no longer worth his while to torment her. He was beginning to reach the limits of science in that field, anyway, and turns his attention to the reprogramming of household electronics and poking holes in the walls. But what about Alfred’s heart? Skip forward a few years.

Alfred is six, and his friend Eric has come over for a visit. Eric notices Alfred’s cool new action figure, and snatches it up, swooping it around in proper heroic fashion. Alfred, outraged at the liberties taken with his toy hero, tackles Eric and rips the figurine from his hands. Eric appeals to Alfred’s Mom, and Justice is Done — the toy is given back to Eric and Alfred is sharply rebuked. Alfred’s jaw thrusts itself out again … and a little while later, Eric suffers an injury under suspicious circumstances.

Why do people repent? It seems clear from the Bible that God’s standard is very high, and that no one can meet it (Romans 3:23). Clearly, there should be a whole lot of repentance going on, yet it seems a concept very foreign to many. Repentance seems only to come about when the following elements are all present:

  1. An authority is acknowledged
  2. The standard for behavior (given by that authority) is understood
  3. Failure to meet the standard is acknowledged and confessed
  4. A breach in the relationship with the standard-maker is recognized
  5. A deep desire to restore that relationship is felt
  6. A change of behavior is implemented to ensure the standard will not be broken again

Most people (and many children) don’t want to change their ways, even when they are forced to admit that the things they do are wrong. People kick up smoke screens in all six areas, but they often do it in a haphazard and inefficient manner, so I’ve written the following cheat-sheet to help, for those wishing to avoid any form of repentance:

How Not to Repent

  1. Ignore any authority that is set up over you.
  2. Pretend not to understand any behavioral standard, or interpret it in a way that renders it useless.
  3. i didn't do anything

    What? I didn’t do anything.

  4. Never acknowledge or admit that you didn’t meet the standard. Feel free to blame anyone and everything. Claim to be a victim.
  5. Act as though breaking the standard will have no effect on a relationship with the standard-maker. Tell yourself that God is Love, and that a loving God won’t hold your ‘mistakes’ against you.
  6. If you ever do feel that you have wronged God (or any other authority), act as though it is his responsibility to restore the relationship
  7. It's his fault
    It’s not my fault, don’t look at me. Why don’t you pick on someone else?

  8. If caught and forced to endure some consequence, assume that sorrow (even sorrow that you were caught) is enough. Act as though you are performing a great service to accept your consequences. Take no steps to avoid breaking the standard in the future.

naughty naughty

Let’s check back in with Alfred, now that he’s all grown up. Alfred still mostly cares about Alfred, and assiduously pursues life, liberty and happiness for all they are worth, as he has been taught is his constitutional right. Alfred decides to drive home from a party where he’s been drinking, because he doesn’t really think the .08% blood alcohol limit in his State is a legal standard that applies to him.

Sadly for Alfred, he is pulled over by a man with a flashing light and a blue hat. He first tries to pretend that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, and quickly becomes belligerent when the officer insists on a breathalyzer test. Imagine Alfred’s surprise when he finds himself in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car, and spends the evening in a cell. When he appears in court, he is further angered by the severe, lecturing tone the judge takes, but (as he learned from his mother), he conceals his furious reaction under a veneer of contrition (since he wants to avoid being held in contempt and spending more time behind bars). He pays his fine and leaves the courtroom.

Unfortunately, Alfred hasn’t ever learned how to repent, and so he continues living his life without bowing his knee to the standards that God (or even the government, or his employer) have put into place. Ultimately Alfred is fired, jailed and killed. Since he never acknowledged his sin before God, he never admitted his need for a Savior, so his name isn’t found in the book of life. Alfred spends eternity separated from God.

Actually, Kathy tells me I can’t kill poor Alfred off so quickly. “Not everybody who fails to repent is killed in a gang war,” she told me, in a rather patronizing tone of voice. “You’re setting him up as a stereotype, but lots of people never repent and go on to become rich and powerful, oppressing the ‘little people’ around them quite happily.”

david and his very own goliath

This looks like a gang war in the making.

OK, fine. Alfred is not fired, jailed or killed. But his pattern of blaming others and considering himself above and apart from the law continues, so that little Alfred Junior grows up to be much like his father. Alfred doesn’t really know this, because his wife divorces him while his son is still in elementary school, and Alfred ultimately dies in his 60′s of liver failure, alone and unmourned. He still spends eternity in torment, apart from God.

It’s been a long day, and I’m a bit tired, which makes me gloomy. :)

We’ve written before about the Five A’s for Resolving Conflict:

  1. Admit
  2. Apologize
  3. Accept
  4. Ask
  5. Alter

I wish I had a ‘magic bullet’ that would reliably get to the heart of a child and bring about repentance every time, but I don’t. From what I can tell, development of a tender and repentant heart in a child is a long and grueling process, although some children are naturally more tender-hearted than others. What I have discovered is that I can teach the mechanics of repentance through the Five A’s, but actual sorrow of the heart comes more slowly. I’ve tried to accelerate that process by asking these kind of questions:

  • How do you think you would feel if your (sister, brother) did that to you?
  • Do you think God cares about what you just did?
  • How do you think your sister feels, when you spoke to her that way?
  • Does the Bible have anything to say about what you did?
  • Did you know that God is sad when you ignore His rules?

More often than not, my children are angry at me for catching them, or for enforcing the standard, rather than repentant for their actions. They’d rather blame me for being a harsh and unfair ogre than take responsibility for their own sin. I try to get out of the way, between them and God, by speaking to them gently, but firmly, administering any consequences in a dispassionate manner.

I think she can take him

I think she can take him.

As I write this, one of my boys, suffering from idleness, ignored his mother’s suggestion to clean his room. I rebuked him and sent him up to clean it, and his face darkened in anger. As he left the room, I stopped him.

“No one is doing anything unkind to you. You were idle, and so Mom wants you to clean your room. You have no reason to be angry.”

He went off, still unconvinced and angry. When he arrived upstairs, he found a way to bully his little brother, by hiding just outside the door, and scaring him. I took him into my room and closed the door. “Is it such a big deal, to scare somebody?”, he asked, jaw thrust out belligerently.

I tried to help him to understand the sequence of events that led to the bullying; how his idleness often leads to sin, and how Mom and I were trying to protect him from punishment by giving him something to do with his hands. I explained to him how inappropriate it was for him to bully his brother when he was mad at his parents, and how he should have accepted my rebuke in humility. I asked him if he meant to be unkind to his brother when he scared him: “Sort of,” he grunted.

I reminded him of the Five A’s, the first of which is ‘Admit’. His unwillingness to embrace that first ‘A’ stiffened my resolve to send him to bed early. As I turned out his light, I reminded him of 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I’m convinced that true from-the-heart repentance is possible only when we are willing to confess our sin to God — that when we do that, He keeps his promise and begins cleansing us, ripping sin out of our heart, denying it a chance to develop deep roots. He gives us the power to resist it in the future and the energy to make a new start.

Project 366 – Day 7

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Almost Monday

It’s been a long day and I’m scrambling to finish everything in order to get in bed by 11 pm. Rachel and I ran errands after church. We didn’t get home until the middle of the afternoon. We did some returns, bought 1/2 price calendars at Barnes and Noble, shopped at Target and then got some groceries on our way home. It was fun! I like having a shopping buddy. :)

The afternoon was spent tidying up for our Bible study company, working on school schedules and keeping the kids quiet so Tim could nap. I didn’t do so well on that last one. I think Joshua vacuumed right outside the door while Tim was sleeping.

daniel, david and eli

During fellowship hour at church, the boys wrestle on one side of the room…

I am working on a Excel spreadsheet for our daily schedule. As I go through all the subjects required for each child, I see over and over they need time WITH ME! There’s only one of me and five of them! They have me outnumbered. I don’t see a place in the schedule for hours of blogging and frivolous internet surfing. Sigh.

Monday is a time of true fresh starts (or re-starts) for us.

  • School begins
  • Back to regular exercising at the YMCA
  • Healthy eating for the whole family – more veggies, less sweets, better planned meals
  • Return to my eating plan – recording food, cutting back on calories, aiming for losing NOT gaining
  • New school schedule and chore charts for the kids
  • Renewed commitment to daily Quiet Times – Bible reading and prayer
  • Consistent bedtimes for the kids and early to bed for me

Can I get some coffee to go with this new well-ordered life? I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

Jaalah, Elizabeth, Emma, Sarah, Tarah and Caedie

…and the girls giggle and visit on the other.

Tim’s lunch is all prepared, including his breakfast pancakes for the week (extras stored in Ziploc bags), the dishwasher is running, the kids are in bed, and I am almost finished with our schedule for tomorrow. I have a plan for staying on track (mainly it involves shutting down my email and blog during school hours) and am ready to attack the new semester with enthusiasm.

Thanks for all your kind words about the blog, our little family and my personal quest for healthy habits (including sleep). It means so much to us to have your encouragement and support.

Project 366 – Day 6

I think I accidentally labeled yesterday as Day 6 when it should have been Day 5. That’s what happens when you post after midnight, you get your days confused. No longer! (Yeah, right, we’ll see about that)

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Stair Stepping Children

This is me posting one picture, a short caption and going straight to bed.

Please ignore the fact that it’s already 1 am and I drank some coffee at 11 pm.

Yes, I am an idiot.

How’s that for a caption — Yes, I am an idiot.

I like it. It’s short, pithy and isn’t very difficult to spell.

what a bunch of silly pies

Goofy faces but sweet children.

So it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual picture, I’m still finding my way on this Short Blog Post path.

Project 366 – Day 6

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How to Go to Bed Early

I asked one of my children how I was going to be able to get to bed at a decent hour next week when School Starts and life as we know it (aka Holiday Hours) ends.

First, you stop blogging, my helpful child responded, then you, pay attention here, Mom, you turn off the computer, walk away and go to bed.

Just walk away.

Ah, so young to have such wisdom.

But my bloggy fans, I sputtered, surely you don’t expect me to leave them without exciting, witty posts to read each morning?

The world, weary sigh and slight shake of the head said it all.

Just walk away, Mom.

Thankfully Tim spoke up and said I could always post a picture and short caption and still make it to bed before midnight. Obviously he has proper respect for our devoted readers.

Sadly, I don’t even have a decent picture for today. We had a co-op meeting in the morning and saw an incredible rainbow on the way home. Have you ever taken a picture while driving? Let’s just say it’s definitely not a skill I have quite perfected.

It’s just shy of midnight and I’m going to follow my beloved child’s advice. Of course, I need to start the dishwasher on my way, oh and throw in a load of clothes, turn off the lights, and put away the juice someone left out.

But then, I’m going straight to bed.


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