Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Simple Ways to Be a Better Parent

I've noticed how much time I spend learning how to be a better parent - books, blogs, the Bible, audiobooks, podcasts, articles on Pinterest, etc. but how little time I spend putting this into action.  A big thing is sleep - I am so darned tired All. The. Time. (Except from 9 pm to 2 am -- I'm sure I have some sort of sleep disorder).  I often struggle to get everyone up and going in the morning and succumb to my desire to take a little nap with Bruce when he conks out in the afternoon. 

This week I made the effort to put these things I am learning into action:

-Get up before the kids (well, except the baby - he wakes me up). 

-Start the day with a prayer and time with the Lord.  Ask Him for wisdom and patience today. Each and every day.

-Get dinner in the crockpot - to eliminate stress at dinnertime (dreaded witching hour).

-No yelling* or nagging as the kids get up and get ready. I simply refer them to their job boards (we have these awesome peg boards from Accountable Kids - they really work, tangible and visual reminders) and stay calm.

-Get everyone up early when we need to be somewhere to avoid being in a rush - which leads to stress and yelling and frustration for everyone.

-Prep the night before - if we have a picnic, pack lunches before bed since no one in this house is a morning person (save for the baby).

-Games and stories.  I say "tomorrow" or "later" when the girls ask to play a game with me or Dean wants a story read to him.  Not anymore.  Whenever feasible/possible I will say yes.  Better yet, I have been pulling out a game and suggesting we play.

-Compliment them for no reason.  I'm proud of them and they should know that.  If Taylor did a good job feeding Bruce, I make effort to TELL her.  If Julia was kind to her brother and let him play on the computer with her, I point it out.  When Dean picks up a toy I encourage remind him this is good behavior.  Regardless of whether I am a good mom or not, they really are good kids - despite my mistakes.  They should be told that!

-Again, no yelling*. It takes a lot of effort and awareness.  Aware of what I am saying to my children and in what voice.  I often have to stop and pray some more.

-Hug them.  Dean is easy - THE most cuddly child ever.  "Mom, I just want to kiss you." he says.  Or "I just love you so much, hug me." He's 4, it's easy.  Remembering your 12 year old needs hugs too? Harder.  It doesn't come as naturally to snuggle the big kids.  But my 9 year old's love language is physical touch and closeness, she needs those hugs.

-Do it myself.  I am surprised at how much I rely on the girls to be helpers. It is SO GREAT to teach them to be responsible, independent, and to know how to care for the household.  They have had a large burden on their shoulders each time I've been pregnant and on bedrest.  I get into the habit of relying on their help.  So this week, I am trying to let them be kids.  There is a balance between chores and responsibility and child labor! :)

-We've done a great job of ending our days with our devotion/Bible reading and prayer and thankful but we've done it too late at night.  I have been working on getting them to bed on time, even when it is not convenient.

So as we pack for vacation (we leave for North Dakota tomorrow) I think - wow, I am blessed.  Is this really my life?  I spend my time playing with children, experimenting with cooking, browsing Pinterest and Facebook while breastfeeding, using my brain not in a stressful job but in volunteer activities I am passionate about, and home educating my children, learning right alongside them.  My biggest chores are clipping coupons, mopping, and folding laundry.  There is little drama. 

My worries are money (which scripture tells us not to worry about - He will provide, and always has) and health issues in the family - but we are not homeless or battling cancer.  My husband is truly amazing - God really gave me a good one! I hold my baby close and am just in awe of the undeserved blessings in my life.  And while I miss my children in Heaven, I can have the assurance I will join them there one day.  This is not the life I deserve, but it is the one I am blessed to have.

*It's a year and a half later (3/3/15) and as I read this I feel burdened by my shortfalls and convicted to continue to try to be the best version of myself possible - to be the mother my children deserve. I don't wear a superhero cape but I must parent with the understanding that, to my children, I am a hero. Everything I do and say will become their inner voice.

*The yelling - I come from a long line of yellers. It is what I know and what comes naturally. I've targeted the physical and emotional feelings that happen prior to yelling. My heart beats fast, I feel this adrenaline and warmth rushing though my body.

My game plan in this moment is to stop. I repeat the word "aware" in my head until I am calm. If that is not enough I say "I'll be right back." I take 5 minutes and return. I may need to put a piece of gum or candy in my mouth to give it something else to focus on. lol. And most of all, I take a few seconds to pray for wisdom and restraint.

God is still working on me and in me but I will say it's working. I've made yelling a 30-year habit and am blown away at the supernatural strength God has given me to break it. The kids will attest to my noticable decrease in shouting! And, wow, how greatly that has impacted our home is amazing.