Mrs. Mom: Training Up A Child

There are many reasons why I love my job.  But my favorite is summer.  And it's not because I'm off work...I love my job!  And it's not because I get to lay around in a pool a lot--but I love that too! :)

It's because I get to be a mom...and I get to be Mommy 24/7.  Not just after school hours.  Don't get me wrong...I love teaching.  It's a wonderful, WONDERFUL job.  But my favorite job is Mommy.  Hands down.

I've been soaking up all of my time with Cooper this summer and cherishing every single minute of Mommy and Cooper time!

Cooper is right in the middle of that "Let's see what I can get a way with" phase of toddlerhood.  Which is challenging Mr. and me as parents in a whole new way.  No, he's not a bad kid.  Not at all.  In fact, while I'm partial, I'd say he's an extremely well-behaved boy.  He's mild-tempered.  He can say, "thank you" on his own now without reminders (although not all of the time!)  He is extremely friendly toward other people.  And he's just an overall happy boy 99.9% of the time.

But he's pushing limits.  He's doing what every kid does: trying to figure out what it is he can get away with.  How far he can go before mom or dad step in... He's trying to figure out the rules.

As a teacher, I see this every year in my classroom.  A good portion of my kids test boundaries for the first 6 weeks of school.  And it's mostly not because they want to misbehave.  It's because they want to see what my response is going to be.  Am I going to get angry and yell?  Will there be consequences? Am I going to just ignore it?

And Cooper is doing the same thing at home.  And he probably will for the foreseeable future.

I'm a firm believer that {for the most part} kids just want to know the rules so they know how to play by them. They not only need rules, but they crave them...they actually want rules.

But I'm also a firm believer that we are all born with an innate desire to sin. {"For all have sinned...Romans 6:23}

Somewhere in between a desire to follow rules and a desire to "see what's on the other side" is where parenting lives.

"Train up a child..." 
There are so many areas we are "training" Cooper for right now.  But we are trying our best to keep our focus on our biggest goals for Cooper.  I could nit pick all day long, but I want what I say to have meaning. And purpose. And to be long-lasting.  So we have tried to limit our "parenting" lingo with Cooper to a few, thought out goals for what we want for Cooper as he grows into an adult.

1. We want Cooper to grow to love God because of a personal relationship with his God.
2. We want Cooper to be respectful to others.
3. We want Cooper to have a "just do it" work ethic and attitude.  A servant's heart.
4. We want Cooper to be a "me second" caring and empathetic adult that sees the needs of others and tries to meet them.

And the list continues, but those are the important goals for now...

There are 2 main pieces of advice that we have used to develop these goals over a short time of parenting.  One is from a lady whom I respect more and more the longer I am a mommy: Michelle Duggar.  I know, people.  You think she's crazy for giving birth to 20 children.  I do too sometimes.  I think she and her husband have crazy conservative beliefs about dressing and dating.  I do too.  But you know what?  Her kids are good kids.  The Duggars live in the same town as we do and I grew up playing in piano recitals with her oldest kids.  I've seen them out and about in stores around town.  And I have not one bad word to say about them as people.  Not one.  In fact, I would say their kids are some of the nicest, most well-mannered and well-behaved kids I've ever met.  And I've never, not once heard Michelle raise her voice.  Not on camera.  Not in person.  And as a mother of 20 children, that's quite a statement.  So when she talks about parenting, I listen.   Michelle Duggar has a lot of valid things to say about parenting and mommyhood, but one of the main things I remember her saying is that one of the first things she teaches her children as early as she can is to look her in the eyes when she is talking to them.  I will never forget how she explained it at one point,

"If I have your eyes, I have your heart."  

Man, that's powerful.  From the moment Cooper was able we have used this with him.  When I'm telling him something important, or disciplining him, I always make sure I have his eyes first.  Now...he's a toddler and I may not have them long, but he is learning.

Having his eyes does two things: It helps him focus on what I am saying.  But it also helps me keep my cool and my focus.  It's hard to get overly excited and loose my cool when I'm staring at his sweet baby blues.  In fact, I've noticed that my "worst" moments when I've raised my voice as a teacher or a mommy are when I'm not looking a first grader, or my child directly in the eyes.  Seeing his eyes helps me "see" him and see my purpose for discipline.

The other piece of advice we've used is from my childhood.  One thing I explicitly remember my parents doing with me is quoting the Bible.  When my brother and I fought, I would hear one of my parents in the background quoting verses.  When I complained about my life, I heard a Bible verse quoted to me.  And one thing I learned from that is....You can't argue with the Bible.

I mean, really.  If you believe that the Bible is truth and that,

"The Word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
{Hebrews 4:12}

then you have to accept that the Word of God is the end all be all.

Mr. and I have used this principle in our marriage.  If we feel like one of us isn't doing something right, we just quote a Bible verse and that's the end of it.  Not in a "I'm better than you" way, but in a "Matter of fact" way.  It's the quickest way to get silence in a conversation or argument.  Because we know...can't argue with that.

And we are using this same principle in parenting. Because,

"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee." {Psalm 119:11}

For each of our major goals we have for training Cooper, we have a Bible verse that backs us up.  And it gets quoted.  Daily.  One thing I told Mr. that is great about quoting the Bible is it gives me something meaningful to say to Cooper.  That's positive. And not in a yelling voice... {I mean, can you really yell a Bible verse??}  There are times {we all have them, right??}, where I'd really like to growl and yell, "STOOOOOPPPP!" So I'm thankful for something else to say in place of that!

Obedience...If we want Cooper to be respectful to others, than that starts in toddlerhood as obedience.  And we are still working on it.  And 15 years from now we will still be working on it!
 But he is learning...and he is obeying!  And can I just tell you how much my heart melts when Cooper tries to say, "Obey!" after I ask, "What does the Bible say?"  He may just be 21 months, but he already can say two of the words in that verse: obey and right {as he bobs his head up and down!} It is the cutest thing!

Kindness...If we want Cooper to have a servant's heart, then that starts in toddlerhood with kindness to others.  When the whining and fits started {yes, grandparents, there are occasional fits...}, the need for this verse came about quickly!  For the most part, our philosophy is to ignore the fit until it's over {since fits are really just attention getters anyway} and then we ask him, "Was that kind?" And he knows it wasn't.  And the occasional, "The world does not revolve around Cooper" speech!  
This is the verse my parents quoted to me and my brother...again, and again, and again.  It's a judgmental verse and just saying it to Cooper every day makes me do a little quiet assessment of myself... " judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart..."

Gentleness...If we want Cooper to be empathetic and see needs in other, than it starts with gentleness.  He needs to understand that throwing toys breaks things and makes others sad.  And biting and hitting hurt.  NOW, is he hitting out of meanness? No.  But, sometimes out of no where, Coop will start hitting my arm and smile at me.  And I have to say, "Gentle, Cooper.  Gentle..." And after a few times of showing him what gentle actually means, he's working on it.  He'll even hit me and then immediately shake his head no and say, "gentle" and do it again softly.  How can I be mad at that??

...and then there's potty training.... {Read more about that here.}
...sigh... only Bible verse I can think of to get me through this goal is...

"For the things we see now will soon be gone..." {2 Corinthians 4:18}  
This too shall pass. :)

Mr. and I are not perfect parents.  We do not by any stretch of the imagination have it all figured out.  None of us do.  But we are trying.  And we are training based on goals we have set for what we think is best for our kid...and that's all anybody can ask, right?

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