Want a Peaceful Home?

twins 1

Aren’t there days when we would give our children’s birthright for some peace and quiet?

Oh, wait. I remember a story about that with two brothers named Esau and Jacob. Giving up a birthright did NOT end well. Scratch that….

Yet the fact remains – there are days we would give up a whole lot for a little peace and quiet around the house, wouldn’t we?

That is why the following verses jumped out at me. Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

But afterwards there will be a peaceful harvest ! 

What an amazing promise. If we endure the discipline  – we will reap the rewards.

Why do we give up on disciplining our children? There are as many reasons as there are families, but here are some common causes:

  • we as parents are tired
  • we give in
  • we are disciplining the same bad behavior again and again
  • we give in
  • our children whine and fuss
  • we give in
  • we forget to follow through, i.e. make sure they don’t use their device, get desert, etc.
  • we give in

Do we see a pattern here? We give in, we aren’t consistent, we don’t follow through on what we say.

I will always remember a high school junior telling his classmates that he didn’t care that his parents had grounded him for a month. “They will forget about it in a week.”

If I say that there is a certain consequence for a certain behavior – I must FOLLOW THROUGH.

If I don’t act on my discipline consistently, I am sending the very strong message that I don’t mean what I say, and that there aren’t really any consequences for my child’s actions.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Notice verse 11 says discipline is “painful”. It is often harder for us as parents to follow through than to give in.

BUT….giving in has a price.

This will not lead to a peaceful home!

Let’s commit ourselves to consistent discipline so that afterward we will reap a peaceful harvest of right living.

We will have a peaceful home when we commit ourselves to following through – meaning what we say.

We can have a peaceful home, even in the midst of chaos.

Philippians 4:6-7 LB

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

“No” Still Means “No”

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We have dear friends who have 4 children just like we do, also now grown. Their children were all born after our youngest, so it has been interesting (fun?) to watch their children go through each of the growth stages after our children had done so.

This kind of situation is proof that hind sight is 20-20. It is so easy to think of solutions after one has faced a particularly difficult stage with a child. It is also easy to watch children a few years older than yours and think “I would never let my children do that!”

This is dangerous territory!

Truth be known, no two families are alike and we don’t know what we would do in another’s situation.

Our friends had one child with a strong will – to be honest and a VERY strong will. They are effective, nurturing parents and from the beginning they set clear boundaries and had realistic expectations. Yet, this child tested every limit and challenged every standard set by the parents. We were visiting from out-of-town one weekend when he was about 3 or 4 years old. The parents were giving bed time instructions to their children and this one kept asking for changes to the normal routine.

Children will frequently do this when there are guests since they think the parents

  • 1) aren’t really paying attention or
  • 2) the parents don’t want a “scene” in front of the guests.

Both of these ideas are quite often TRUE!

Our friends did not give in. They firmly repeated “no means no” and refused to discuss the matter further. This did not deter their son at first. He, being a very bright and creative child, had new and unique alternatives to the standard bedtime procedures. The parents did not cave in, they repeated “no means no” calmly and firmly and soon their son was in bed.

I commented to the mother after he was tucked in for the night, “You were so consistent! You repeated “no means no” and meant it!” She smiled a weary smile and said, “Gayle, if you only knew how many times a day I say that. Every reason I give him just creates another opportunity for him to come up with an excuse for not obeying. But a simple “no means no” works. Sometimes I get so tired and I want to give up, but I know we need to require obedience.”

Don’t give up.

God requires obedience from His children “Thou shall not steal” “Thou shall not commit adultery” “Honor your father and your father”. Exodus 20: 12, 14, 15

These are not suggestions. God does not say “If it’s ok with you, don’t take anything that isn’t yours” or  “Try to be faithful to your husband, alright?”

To God – no still means no.

Are we sending mixed messages to our children when it is nap time and we say “Do you want to take a nap now?” Is there a choice? If there is fine – but nap time in our house was NOT a choice. It was the goal each afternoon to get everyone fed, changed, and down for a nap at the same time! If I had said “Do you want to take a nap now?” one of my four might have said “no!” My day would have fallen apart!!!

Yet I hear many parents, and I probably did this some myself, ask their children if they are ready for lunch, nap time, supper, clean up time, bath time, etc. It would be a clearer communication of my expectations if I said, “It’s time for lunch. Please come sit down at the table.” ” It’s nap time, take your shoes off and pick out one story.”, or “You had so much fun playing with all these toys today. Now it is time to put them away before you go to bed.”

It is unfair to the child to appear to a choice when I don’t intend to allow the child to choose. Let my “no” mean “no” and my “yes” mean “yes”.

Believe me, it will be so much easier when your children are teenagers if they learn “no means no” at a young age! It is less difficult to deal with issues of obedience when a child is 3 or 4 than when they are 13 or 14.

No still means no.

The Right Time

Gandalf 2

“He is NOT cute any more!”

Now wait a minute…..

this is my grandson you are talking about…..

…the one who dresses up as Gandolf, Batman, and Bob the Minion (my personal favorite)

Our daughter called to tell me our three-year-old grandson was no longer cute. He had expended all his allotted “cuteness quotient” and his behavior was no longer entertaining.

It was annoying.

His time had come.

He would now be held accountable for his behavior.

My friend, Alice Marie and I were talking about this and she mentioned that her little sister used to get her in trouble on purpose when they were young. Their father would threaten to spank Alice Marie if her little sister cried. It had to be Alice Marie’s fault since she was the oldest and knew better, right?

Her little sister would say “Me gonna scream, Daddy spank YOU!” when she wanted to have her own way.

Evidently, I did something similar to my older brother. I had polio when I was two years old. After being treated in isolation  and released from the hospital, I was weak and had to have physical therapy to regain strength and function in my muscles. It was a difficult time for our family, and I must have started to take advantage of all the attention.

My mother asked the doctor how long I should be coddled and favored. The doctor told mother that each child was different, but that she would know when to return to treating me normally.

A few days later, mother said she came down the stairs to hear me say to my older brother – “You have to give me that toy because I had polio, you know!”

The time had come.

I was no longer the sick child who needed extra attention.

I was held accountable for my actions. Polio was no longer an excuse for bad behavior.

It is natural for us as parents and grandparents to require more from the older children and spoil the younger ones.

This is not fair, nor is it healthy for any of the children. I need to guard against giving in just because they are “cute”.

I remember Jay Fesperman teaching us as new parents – “What is cute at 5 years old is NOT cute at 15 years old. When do you want to deal with it? When your child is 5 or 15?”

Such words of wisdom.

There is a right time to hold our children accountable for their behavior and allow them to suffer the consequences when they disobey. They don’t finish their supper – they don’t get dessert, or snacks after supper. They throw their toys inside the house – those toys are put away for a week.

If one of our children is suffering, we are especially vulnerable to giving in to them. Sometimes they know this and take advantage of our weakness. But we are sending a very wrong message when we do that which is – “Just act hurt and you won’t have to obey, or follow through, or clean up. etc.”

We want to be sensitive to the right time to offer extra help or give our children grace for messing up. Doesn’t our Heavenly Father do that for us?

We need God’s wisdom to know when the “right time” occurs to hold our children accountable.

James 1:5 (ESV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

We must utilize this wonderful promise from God’s Word!

I need to pray for wisdom from God each and every day as I parent and grandparent.

God will show us the right time.

God is faithful.





Because I Said So

Woody Family in 1990

Woody Family in 1990

I will NEVER say that to my children – “Because I said so”.

I remember thinking that after my mother had used that response with me, probably because I kept asking “why?”

I ended up using that phrase many times with my own children, simply because it was the only response that fit the moment. Sometimes explanations simply don’t work. This happens when;

  • the child is too young to understand the reason
  • the child keeps asking “why” even when a reason is given
  • the reason seems unfair to the child
  • there is not time to explain – the obedience must be immediate

“Because I said so” is the time-honored response of parents because we have authority as parents to decide what is best for our child at any given time. This does not mean we should never give a reason for what we ask our child to do. Many times an explanation helps develop positive communication between a parent and a child.

We must remember though, we are the parents and our children will not always understand what we ask them to do. Learning to obey even when we don’t understand is an important life lesson. Our teachers, coaches, employers, and officials will ask us to do things throughout our lives that we neither understand or like. We still need to do them unless it violates God’s will. Life will be so much more pleasant for our children if they learn this sooner than later.

Isn’t it true for us as adults as well? We are willing to follow rules when we know they are for our good – but if we don’t understand, well that is a different story. Yet we often don’t understand what God is allowing to happen in our lives while we are going through it. It is only as we look back that we see His love and grace at work. Sometimes we won’t know God’s purpose until we meet Him face to face.

Jesus had to teach this principle to His disciples. In Luke 5:4-6

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (emphasis mine)

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Jesus told Peter to go out and throw his nets into deep water (not the usual place to make a good catch)in the day (after they had fished all night and caught nothing). Peter answers Jesus, “but because you say so”…

Peter, James, and John would never have experienced the blessing of catching all those fish if they had not obeyed Jesus. Will we obey when the Lord tells us to “love our enemies”, “do good to those who spitefully use us”, “forgive as we have been forgiven”?

Are we willing to obey God even when we don’t understand why?

I pray we learn to obey our heavenly Father ” because He said so” and teach that lesson to our children as well.

Speak the Truth

Chicago Skyline  January 3, 2014

Chicago Skyline January 3, 2014

“If you don’t quit crying, I’ll leave you on this airplane!” (mom)

“NOOOO, don’t leave me…” followed by louder wailing (child)

“Stop crying right now or I’ll give back all your presents to Santa!” (mom)

Don’t give back my presents… louder crying (child)

This is the exchange I (and the other approx. 105 passengers) heard as the airplane had landed at O’Hare airport. We were waiting to dock at the gate and disembark. I’m sure the mother and child were very tired after this last leg of a long flight. Both were stressed by the cramped quarters and the extended wait. My heart went out to this mother and her difficult situation.

Yet I was struck by this mother’s unsuccessful efforts to quiet her child.

She lied to her little girl.

1) The mother was NOT going to leave her child on the airplane. The flight attendants would make sure of that!
2) The mother was NOT going to give Santa all her child’s toys. Send them to the North Pole?
3) Her threats were not working. Each comment resulted in renewed crying at an even louder volume.

The above situation was an overt attempt to calm a distressed child by using threats. Yet it is an easy trap for ANY parent to fall into.

1) “If you don’t stop I’ll turn this car around and go back home!” Really?
2) “If you don’t share with your brother, I’ll take all your toys away!” All the toys?
3) “You do that once more I’ll put you out of this car and you can walk home!” Safety?
4) “You won’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate!” Everything?
5) “If you don’t find your shoes and put them on, I’ll leave you!” Alone?

It is so easy to make sweeping statements when we are frustrated, pressed for time, or embarassed in public. When we do this we are not only lying to our children, we are showing them that we do not really mean what we say.

In Scripture, the disciple Matthew records what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is sitting on a mountain and teaching a crowd of people. He says:

Matthew 5:34-37 New King James Version

34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

This is a good principle for those of us who are parents and grandparents.

Say “Yes” or say “No”.

Anything else complicates the issue and often makes it easier for the child to argue. It is definitely harder to dispute a simple “no” or “yes”.

I do feel there are times when an explanation is warranted and even helpful. Yet, when parents and children are stressed, upset, or tired, reason tends to flee. The explanation may just prolong the agony.

The challenge for us as adults is to speak the truth in love, firmly, but in love.

Speak the truth – no means no.

Cuteness Quotient

CalebAll babies are cute. Yes, I mean it. Some are cuter than others, yet there are cute qualities in all babies. There is something innate in the young of most species (shall we leave out snakes?) that causes us to respond with tenderness and a smile. I believe we were created that way so that we would care for the young and helpless.

An interesting study on the language patterns of adults talking to babies showed that throughout the world, in every culture, adults raised the pitch of their voices and talked softer to babies than other humans. Test it sometime. Watch the big, burly football player talk to a newborn. Precious!

All puppies are cute. Some are so ugly they are cute. I came home one day so excited about the basset hound puppies that were for sale. “They are SO cute, Phil. You must see them!” I pleaded. “Gayle,” he replied, “all puppies are cute. They just don’t stay that way. They grow up to be DOGS!”

Which brings me to the point of this post. Some of our children’s behavior that is cute when they are very small, is NOT cute at 4, 6, or 8 years old.

One of our daughters called today and said “Fred (name changed to protect the guilty) is NOT cute any more!”

“Oh yes, he is!” I immediately contradicted her as any grandparent would. He is only 18 months old and his smile melts my heart every time I see it.

“NO,” she replied. “He has started hitting his brothers and yelling at them whenever I hold someone besides him in my lap.” “Fred” had exceeded his cuteness quotient. His cries for preferential treatment will now be dealt with in order of urgency, just like his siblings.

We have all probably laughed when a small child says something that an adult would not get away with. Yet when we do this we send a very strong message that the behavior is funny, therefore people like it. It is not funny when older children are rude or disrespectful, so it should not be funny if they are 2 or 3 either. We should set an example of respectful behavior no matter what the age of a child. Certainly small children will make mistakes and say rude things. We can quickly and gently correct them and share an example of a better way to respond to others.

Does our Heavenly Father look at our mistakes and smile? Even if we are “baby” Christians? I think not. God is patient and kind, yet He does require obedience. The Bible talks about the importance of growing up as Christians. God does not want us to stay immature and self centered.

I Corintians 13:11-13 addresses this issue in the chapter many refer to as the “love” chapter of the Bible.

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

There is a time to put away childish things. As Christians we need to ask ourselves “Am I behaving in ways that are immature? Are there things I am saying or doing that I should “put away”?

I desire to be an example of mature godliness to my children and grandchildren. That may mean not excusing or encouraging “cute” actions that have exceeded the cuteness quotient.

Who did This?

Dogwood at Macktown Gap

Dogwood at Macktown Gap

There it was written on the ceiling plain as day. “Hannah”

We had just gotten bunk beds so that our three daughters who shared a room would have more floor space on which to play. Hannah was the oldest of the three girls and at five, had just learned to write her name. Hannah was also the tallest so she was relegated to the top bunk.

Now it is NOT a good parenting strategy to ask your child a question you know the answer to just to “catch them in a lie’. Yet at the moment I saw the large “Hannah” displayed on our previously pristine ceiling the first words out of my mouth were “Who did this?” (think firm tone of voice – no smile)
* I knew the word had not appeared on it’s own
* I knew neither my husband nor I had written it
* I knew it was not the older brother. (at that time it was like pulling teeth to get him to write ANYTHING!)
* That left three little girls only one of which could write.

Naturally, Hannah said “Salem did it.”

“Why would Salem write “Hannah”? I asked the guilty party.

“‘Cause I teached her.”

The girls did play school often, but the evidence overwhelmingly pointed toward the owner of the name – Hannah.

As an art teacher I have my students Focus on an Artist each Friday. We look at great works of art and discuss the artist, the artist’s motivation, style, materials used to produce the art, etc. Students first want to know WHO created the art work we study and often ask “Why is that art considered great?” Sometimes it is the process itself that is significant, but most often it is the interpretation of the art within the context of the current culture. What did the artist intend to say?

Hannah intended to write her name. When I asked her why she did it, she replied that she just wanted to.

Often artists who are honest will admit they paint a certain subject matter just because they want to.

When we look at the magnificance of spring and the creation around us it begs the question –

Who did this?

Some would say that it all evolved over time – a very, very long time. Some think it exploded into existence, and then diversified over a very, very long time. Some don’t know – except that it wasn’t a divine act. Others think that some force created our universe, but then left it to evolve on its own.

As an artist myself, I look at the world around me and ask “Who did this?”

It is beyond my comprehension to think that the detailed function and beauty of a flower “just happened”. All matter is made up of basic elements. (see, Mr. Phelps – I did hear even if I was talking) As these elements are arranged in various combinations and in various amounts they make up all that exists in our world. I believe the order of the natural world reflects the order of the Creator and gives purpose to all that exists.

The sculptor doesn’t visualize a form in a piece of marble and them sit and wait for it to erode away in exactly the places that will result in eyes, a nose, a mouth, etc. The sculptor chisels away and works until the desired result is achieved.

A potter doesn’t leave a lump of clay out and watch to see what it will become. The potter molds and creates the form that was envisioned for that lump of clay. It requires pressure in the right places.

God tells us in Psalms and again in Romans 1:20 (NLT)

20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

When our children and grandchildren ask – “Who did this? – tell them God did. The evidence is everywhere.

PS – a better parenting strategy – instead of asking “Who did this?” ask the child you know did it – “Why did you write your name on the ceiling?” That gives them a chance to give a flimsy excuse which you immediately see through. You follow up with consequences that fit the misbehavior. Example – child writes on the wall – they must erase it/wash it/ etc.
Effective consequences fit the misbehavior.