What does the Bible say about being a homeschooling mother? I’m surprised how much of an example we have in the Proverbs 31 woman. Let’s pick up where we left off after part 1, which you can read here.
Verse 17 says that she sets about her work vigorously.
There it is again, her excellent work ethic. But we read that she also manages to keep her arms strong. My grandmother, in baking goods for an area bakery, had to have strong arms from kneading dough. No doubt she kept fit working in the garden as well. Today we have so many modern servants that it’s harder to stay strong by doing our everyday work. That’s why we have to be intentional about getting the exercise we need. Exercise in the form of walking, jogging, or any of a number of aerobic classes can keep our heart strong and our weight down. But we also need to keep our strength up. Strength training helps to prevent osteoporosis, keeps us looking fit and younger, and allows us to continue caring for our grandchildren well into our 70s. For more on how we can be strong moms, read my guest post on The Musings of Mum.
Verse 18 says that she sees her trading is profitable.
She is managing her business and also household expenses. We too want to be certain that we are good stewards of everything God has given to us.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
The verse continues with what I believe is the most misunderstood aspect of the Proverbs 31 woman. The verse says that her lamp does not go out at night. Real women like us can read these verses and think that in order to be a Proverbs 31 homeschooling mom, we must get up at dawn and stay up past midnight. Instead, I believe we learn here that keeping lamps lit requires proper planning.
Matthew 25 recounts the parable of the ten virgins.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The Proverbs 31 woman has planned ahead and has enough oil to keep her lamps burning. The lesson we can take from this is that we do not want to be caught unprepared. If we plan ahead, we don’t have to discover the night before the Christmas pageant at church that none of the stores in our area have black pants in our boys’ size. Planning ahead saves our time, our money, and our sanity. Being prepared and not burning the candle at both ends is what I believe this verse is about. I do not believe that God would suggest we skimp on sleep when Jesus Himself slept whenever He felt the need. The Proverbs 31 woman’s lamp is also lit because she is prepared for the Lord’s return. We can keep the lamp of our hearts burning as we wait for Him as well.
In verse 19, we find a Proverbs 31 woman spinning again. It reads, “In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”
What stands out to me from this verse is the emphasis on her hand. It is tempting as homeschooling moms to want to delegate as much as possible. I’m all for delegation! But there are some tasks that we ought to take responsibility for ourselves. I believe training our children the faith is one of those. I believe that teaching our children how to live in an increasingly unChristian culture is also our responsibility. We can have pastors and youth leaders and Christian teachers come alongside us to help, but our hands have to be in the business of training our children.
The next verse says that she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
This verse convicts me because much of the charitable work I do is outside my children’s awareness. We want to make sure our children know and participate in giving directly to needy people. The responsibility of offering hospitality is also hinted at here. If we do not make the sacrifice of honoring and serving guests in our home, we are missing an opportunity that would bless us and most certainly would bless our children.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
In verse 21 review we read once again that the Proverbs 31 woman is prepared. She’s not only prepared for the challenges she expects, but those she doesn’t necessarily expect. We don’t want to be caught unprepared for difficulties whether those are financial or otherwise. We want to be ready. A homeschooling mom I know had two hours to remove belongings before a fire consumed her apartment building. In an emergency like that, would you be able to retrieve your most valued possessions? If not, this preparation is something we want to do to become more like the Proverbs 31 woman.
Verse 22 says she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Here’s how I read that: She looks good. Making an effort to look good brings honor to her husband. This does not mean we have to wear expensive designer clothes. But it could mean that we make an effort to look as good for our spouse as we would for church or an important meeting. The side benefit of this is the better we look, the better we tend to feel. I used to wear sweatpants, my hair in a ponytail, and no makeup. Makeup isn’t the issue, so don’t let that hold you up. I feel better wearing some makeup; other women don’t. The key is to feel good about how you look. The more confident we feel, the more attractive we will be to our mate.
Verse 23 tells us her husband is respected.
At that time, and even still today, his respectability was somewhat dependent upon his wife’s character.
Verse 24 tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman has another business.
This business may be where she got the funds to start her vineyard. It can be intimidating to think about a woman who has multiple irons in the fire, but I find it exciting. This woman is held up as a model for godly women. If you have the desire to do something other than homeschool, I believe God honors that desire. We each have different capacities, depending on our families and our giftings. It seems to me that the Proverbs 31 woman was so earnest in her work and care for her family that she didn’t have time to compare herself to anyone else. Had her business gotten in the way of caring for her family, no doubt she would have made some changes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Verse 25 tells us once again that she is confident about the future.
Verse 26 tells us that when she speaks, she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She doesn’t say idle words. They are words meant to build up. They are words of wisdom that she believes are vital to her children and most likely other women she mentors. This verse is also very convicting to me because my words are often careless. They are often not words that build up and they are sometimes foolish. As we seek to teach our children, let us ask ourselves if what we are teaching is wise and will build them up for their walk with the Lord.
Verse 27 says she watches over the affairs of her household.
Have you ever been guilty, as I have, of not watching over the affairs of your household? Have you discovered like I once did that work that was marked complete in the student planner wasn’t actually done? Have you gone so long without checking on chores that you’re horrified to see the state of your child’s room or the bathroom that is your child’s responsibility? Maybe it’s just me. Watching over the affairs of our household is what will give our husbands confidence in us. My husband, in particular, gets upset when the kids’ bathroom is a mess. I have been more intentional about checking the state of the bathroom daily. I’m also checking my children’s work weekly.
Verse 28 says her children arise and call her blessed.
Some of us homeschooling moms feel a pang of longing when we hear those words because our children are arising and complaining and quarreling instead. My belief is that the Proverbs 31 woman demands respect and gratitude from her children. It is something that I demand from mine. I feel no guilt over telling my children the sacrifice I have made to homeschool them. But even so, most children have to mature before they recognize how blessed they have been to have a devoted homeschooling mother. Hang in there, mom. The blessing is coming.
I love verses 30 and 31. In verse 30 we read that a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Our faith, our trust in God, and our obedience to Him are a crowning glory. In our culture, we don’t typically receive the honor described here.
The next verse says that her works are honored at the city gate.
Our culture honors money, beauty, and prestige more than a faithful wife and mother. Even though we may suffer the negative remarks of those who don’t believe in homeschooling, I believe we will one day be honored for our work. I believe that homeschooling is an incredibly powerful way that God uses to raise up godly men and women for the next generation. I also believe that the city gate in which we will be honored is a heavenly one. What we suffer now in our hard work and our trials isn’t worth comparing to the glory we will experience one day.
To conclude our study, I believe that we are Proverbs 31 homeschooling moms if we believe we are. Begin each day considering what you did the day before that is consistent with your identity as this godly woman. Consider how you will earnestly take on your work as a Proverbs 31 homeschooling mom today. Know that we can do nothing apart from Him. But in His strength, we can be more than we ever imagined.
Which of these characteristics of a Proverbs 31 homeschool mom are you already making progress on?
Have you ever wondered as I have what God expects of you as a homeschooling mom? One place we can find answers to that question is in Proverbs 31. She isn’t the unrealistic role model so many say she is. Join me for the first part of a study of this woman and how she can help us grow in our roles as homeschool moms.
Grab your Bible and your printable study below and let’s walk through the Scriptures together.
In verse 10 we read, “A wife of noble character can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”
One of the ways I have struggled as a homeschooling mom is in recognizing my value. Some of my friends work part-time or full-time instead of homeschooling and generate an income for their families. One even supplies college scholarship money because she works for a university. Our worth certainly does not depend on income generation. But the tasks that we perform in our roles as homeschooling mothers are very valuable. I have saved thousands in private school tuition over the years. My one-on-one tutoring of my children has helped them to earn college scholarships with their test performance and grades. My children and I are home to keep our house clean, meaning that I do not have to pay for housekeeper. I am not as rushed, so we can enjoy less expensive and healthier meals at home on a regular basis. I don’t have to have a more expensive work wardrobe and nothing I own needs to be dry-cleaned.
True value, however, is in being at home for our children. If we are married, we are also available to support our spouses. If you work part-time or full-time in addition to homeschooling, don’t think that I am taking anything away from your value as a homeschooling mom. The extra time you spend reading to and talking with your children has proven dividends.
Verse 11 tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband has full confidence in her and he lacks nothing of value.
I want to seek to educate and parent my children in such a way that my husband isn’t worried about our decision to homeschool. I can give him that confidence by bringing my very best to my role. Sometimes that means I have to educate myself about the best approach to teaching and parenting. Notice that it says the Proverbs 31 husband lacks nothing of value. It does not say lacks nothing. We gift our husbands with everything we can and are not responsible for gifting those things which we have not been given. At one time my husband asked me to learn to cut our children’s hair. Doing so would save us a tremendous amount of money and time. I was honestly reluctant to do this, but I purchased a book on how to cut hair at a used book sale, gave haircutting my best shot, and I have now been doing it for years. I cannot, however, offer everything that might be of value to my husband. We do what we can.
Verse 12 says she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
I have heard many sad stories of wives who spend freely and foolishly. I have heard other stories of women who refuse to cook, clean, or even be intimate with their husbands. Such women bring harm to their husbands. Those of us who are married want to bring our husbands good.
Verse 13 says she selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
If you’re like me, at this point you’re thinking, “Woah, Nellie! I don’t spin thread.“ Neither do I. I don’t have the skill of spinning, and it’s just as well, because that skill is not of greatest value to my husband and family. We each do, however, have skills that are of value. What strikes me in this verse is her attitude about her work. She works with eager hands. She is diligent and not slow. She is ready to accomplish valuable work. Whatever our specific abilities are, we can approach our work eagerly.
The next verse tells us she is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
Have you ever ordered special foods for your family? I used to belong to an organic food co-op that required me to place my order well in advance and drive to pick it up. I was being like a merchant ship that was gathering the best food. Grocery shopping, even at your local Aldi’s, which is where I shop to save money, is gathering food from afar.
Verse 15 says she gets up while it is still night.
She is an early riser. Some of you may be bristling at that. I was not always an early riser, but I have come to love it. However, when I had babies getting me up in the middle of the night, I was not an early riser. The Proverbs 31 woman described here does not appear to be nursing an infant. The principle, however, is this. If we can begin our day early, however early is defined for our season of life, we can achieve the work God has given us to do. The later I get up, the less I get done. If you’re a late riser, consider gradually rising earlier and note any improvement in your days.
Verse 15 continues to say that she provides food for her family.
The benefits of eating at home are not limited to health and financial benefits. Meals prepared and served at home have numerous social and emotional benefits for families. The Proverbs 31 homeschool mom does what she can to provide meals for her family at home. This does not mean that we can never enjoy a meal out. But eating the majority of our meals at home is probably best for our families.
The verse goes on to say that she provides portions for her servants as well.
This is where you want to pull back on the reigns once again. Servants? Are you kidding me? No wonder she could do so much! She had help and you have none. I used to feel this way as well. But now I believe that I have many more servants than the Proverbs 31 woman had. I have a servant in the form of indoor plumbing that brings running water into my home. I do not have to send anyone for it. I have a servant that does all of my laundry, other than putting it away. My washing machine and dryer would’ve been an incredible blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman. I have convection and microwave ovens that greatly reduce my time spent cooking. I have a gas grill that turns on at the flip of a switch, a fireplace also. I have a servant that heats our home and one that cools us. I have a servant that takes me anywhere I want to go in the form of a vehicle. I don’t need a stable hand to care for my horses. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman had to provide portions for her servants. In the same way, our modern servants require maintenance as well. The sacrifice is so little when you think of it that way.
Verse 16 says that she considers a field and buys it. From her earnings, she plants a vineyard.
The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t a 1950s homemaker. She is a real estate mogul and entrepreneur. Having started my own business, I have enormous respect for women who courageously venture into the world of self-employment. There is so much to know. It is so easy to be taken advantage of and to lose money with foolish purchases. Obviously, the Proverbs 31 woman had done her research. She knew land that was best for beginning a vineyard. She had obviously made good investments or income in the past because she used her earnings to plant a vineyard. She had to have researched this process a great deal. Homeschooling moms sacrifice at least potential income that they could otherwise made staying in the traditional workforce. But we do have the opportunity to make money even as we homeschool our children. We can not only make an income, but we can live the dream of hanging out our own shingle or beginning our own business venture. The skill required to become a homeschooling parent serves us well in this area. We know how to study a topic and we have already made the leap into what for many is the terrifying prospect of homeschooling. If you would like to find a way to add to your household income, I highly recommend the book, Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine.
I am going to end our study of the Proverbs 31 Homeschooling Mom here for today. We have enough to think about, don’t we? We want to consider our value as homeschooling moms, how we can bring good and not harm to our husbands, and how we may add to our family’s income. Work through the questions in the free printable I’ve provided for subscribers below. Then join me next week for Part 2 of our study.
That question we throw around all the time invites black-and-white thinking. We are challenged to consider whether our day has been good or bad. Thinking in terms of black and white or in dichotomies or extremes is the definition of black-and-white thinking.
Why is black-and-white thinking a problem?
Black-and-white thinking ignores the large gray areas in our lives and homeschools. It is a common habit that our children easily pick up. I want to give you plenty of examples of black-and-white thinking that can play a role in our homeschools, but first I want to talk about the dangers of black-and-white thinking.
Black-and-white thinking depresses our mood. This is so because in thinking in extremes, we tend to gravitate toward the negative. Our thinking, when it is chronically negative, can lead to changes in brain chemistry. Depression, in turn, is a condition that must be addressed or it can have serious consequences for us and our families.
Black-and-white thinking is definitely something we want to change so we can model healthy thinking for our kids.
How black-and-white thinking affects our homeschools and how to change it
The first way black-and-white thinking can affect our homeschools is how we evaluate things. We evaluate our day. If we decide we are having a good day, we are likely to treat everyone around us well. We are likely to get a lot accomplished. But if we decide we are having a bad day, we may make everyone around us miserable and in a self fulfilling prophecy, we will behave in such a way that things go wrong. You get nothing done.
Black-and-white thinking leads us to evaluate not just our day but homeschooling in general. Rather than consider progress that we have made or the positive aspects mixed with the more challenging aspects, we are tempted to give homeschooling a good or bad rating. If we consistently give homeschooling a bad rating, we are very likely to consider quitting. Our children’s bad rating of homeschooling can contribute to that.
Black-and-white thinking also comes into play when evaluating curriculum and classes. We often ask our kids whether they like a curriculum or class instead of asking them what aspects of it they enjoy. In this type of questioning, we are leading our children into black-and-white thinking. We want to emphasize to our kids that every type of education, every class, and every curriculum has its pros and cons.
If you have already made the mistake of modeling black-and-white thinking for your kids, you can stop today. Ask your child what the best parts of homeschooling are. Ask what they enjoy most about a class or curriculum you are using. The change in attitude can be dramatic as a result of letting go of black-and-white thinking.
The next way in which black-and-white thinking plays a role in our homeschooling is in our assessments of ourselves. I have often heard homeschoolers say, “I’m not good at math. I can’t write.” These types of statements are rife with black-and-white thinking. It is not true that even my most math-phobic friend cannot do math. My friend may have struggled with some aspects of algebra. But that does not mean she is incapable of doing mathematics. In the same way when I have made the mistake of saying I’m not artistic in the past, the truth is that I can draw at a basic level. I will not be winning awards for my arts, nor will I be teaching an art class anytime soon. But to compare myself to professional artists or those who are gifted in arts and to pronounce myself incapable is not how we want to model for our kids.
Most abilities, we know from research, can be developed. We are each born with a range of potential. Homeschooling is our opportunity to help our kids reach the upper limits of that potential. For example, you may have a child who seems naturally musically gifted. Perhaps they can play by ear. You may have another child for whom music requires a great deal of concentration and practice. This does not mean that your child who works at music is not musical. This is especially something to watch for when it comes to sibling relationships. Children often believe that if one child is gifted in an area, that area is no longer available to them. Make sure you tell your kids that every one of them can be the smart one, the athletic one, the musical one, the spiritual one. That, in fact, is why you homeschool. To give your kids the opportunity to reach their potential.
In order to discourage black-and-white thinking in your homeschool, first and foremost refuse to make black-and-white statements about yourself. If you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do public speaking,” correct yourself and say, “Public speaking has been challenging for me in the past but if I work on it I can improve.”
When you hear your children making black-and-white statements about their day, homeschooling, or their own abilities, challenge them. Ask them to consider the gray areas. Use humor. Ask them if it is the case that every single thing has gone wrong in their day. Your child will most likely admit that no, not every single thing has gone wrong that day. Ask your child to consider the positive and negative aspects of all forms of education. Ask your child to consider what he or she has learned in a particular subject area. Make sure to challenge the notion that your child has not learned anything in a subject that is more challenging for them. At the same time that you challenge your children’s black-and-white thinking, invite them to challenge yours. Black-and-white thinking is very insidious. It will show up when you aren’t paying attention. We have to hold one another accountable. You have my permission to challenge my black and white thinking as well.
With time and attention, we can combat black-and-white thinking in our homeschools. As a result we can feel happier, our children can be more confident, and our homeschools can be more pleasant overall.
This has been a stressful month for me. I have spent time thinking and praying about what led to the stress and what I can do about it. If you’re a stressed homeschool mom too, or if you just want to avoid stress in the future, I hope these tips help you.
First let’s define stress. Stress is a physical and emotional response to demands or threats. Release of adrenaline and cortisol is one response to stress that prepares our body for emergency action. The problem is when we have a chronic release of these hormones because everything feels like an emergency. Chronic stress can lead to physical and mental illness.
There are are six situations that can lead us to experiencing stress as homeschooling moms that affect everyone. But I will put these in a homeschool mom frame of reference.
#1 High Expectations
First is high expectations. The higher expectations we have of ourselves, our kids, and everyone else we interact with, the more likely we are to be disappointed. Disappointment leads to stress. When I began homeschooling I expected that I would have children who were dressed in matching outfits sewed by me, who would form a homeschool band at an early age. They would finish high school by the eighth grade and would make everyone praise me with their politeness, their bold faith, and their genius. That might be a little exaggerated, but you know what I’m saying. I went into homeschooling with very high expectations of myself and my children in particular. When we all failed to meet those expectations, I was disappointed. I was also stressed and even angry. My high expectations led me to become an impatient homeschooling mom. If that’s you, you may want to listen to the episode I did on how to be a patient homeschool mom.
My true confession time is that I have had very high expectations this month that have led to disappointment. Besides some events that were out of my control, like a hurricane, I have been stressed as a result of adding more responsibilities to my already full life. I wish I could do more and more and more, but I can’t do that and maintain the happy, balanced life I currently enjoy.
To manage stress as a homeschooling mom, we must manage our expectations. As you think ahead to this homeschooling week, the planned vacation, or another activity that you have high hopes for, consider the past. What has gone wrong in the past that may very well go wrong this time? It’s a good idea to also consider everything that might go wrong. This allows us to plan for those disappointments. Even more importantly, thinking ahead allows us to lower our expectations. I don’t know what you’re trying to balance in your life, but I also urge you to make an accurate assessment of your expectations of yourself. I had a long talk with my husband and he gave me some much-needed wisdom. I recommend talking with your spouse, homeschooling friends, and praying about your expectations and making sure they aren’t too high.
My high expectations of myself and my family often come from comparing. I love the relationships that social media has allowed me to develop. But I don’t like that I am constantly tempted to compare myself to others. There are enough temptations to compare even without social media. Other homeschoolers tell you the impressive activities or achievements of their children. You see another mom working full-time and homeschooling who even has a clean house, and you wonder what’s wrong with you.
When we compare, we typically compare ourselves to those we perceive are achieving at a higher level. We raise our expectations of ourselves and our kids and typically pile more on an already full schedule. We may wonder how we have gotten ourselves into a very stressful lifestyle. It usually begins with comparisons.
Here’s my true confession time. I often compare myself to others who are super successful as bloggers, podcaster, or publishers. I don’t have their page views, their email subscribers, or their customers. So I raise the bar, even though I am happy and at peace in the work I’m doing. My stress level increases and I wonder if I should quit it all.
To manage the stress of comparison requires putting blinders on. We haven’t been called to be great at everything. Even though a friend is teaching homeschool classes and blogging and having her kids become proficient in a foreign language so they can do extended missionary work, that doesn’t mean it’s your calling. I will be spending less time reading about what other bloggers, podcasters, and publishers are doing going foward. They have to run their race and I have to run mine. Consider taking a break from social media or even relationships that tempt you to compare. Remind yourself of your calling every day. We are called to obedience, not results.
The third cause of stress I want to address is complaints. When we’re stressed, we complain. But complaints also lead to stress. The more we talk and think about what isn’t right, the worse we feel. We can find ourselves feeling mistreated, taken for granted, and out of control simply by virtue of complaining. Because complainers love company, we can add fuel to the complaint fire when we participate in a complaint session. Maybe everything is going fairly smoothly for you and your homeschool, but you hear someone talking about how their kids don’t pick up like they should or aren’t doing their work fast enough, and you’re prompted to remember all the ways your children disappoint.
True confession time. I’ve engaged in a lot of complaining about everything that has gone wrong lately. My website went down, there have been mix-ups and mistakes in multiple areas of my life. My complaining about them has added to my stress level and I have entered into a vicious cycle.
The answer to avoiding and managing stress that comes from complaints is to focus on gratitude. The book Kisses from Katie convicted me of my complaining attitude. I highly recommend the book and I think it would be an excellent one to read to slightly older children. I realized that my complaints were shameful given the abundance God has blessed me with in multiple areas of my life. I certainly didn’t like having my website down, but I am so grateful that I have a platform to share my ideas in a free country and that God provided technical help and emotional support very quickly. Gratitude has to be more than just listing one thing we’re grateful for each day. For me at least it means covering every complaint with gratitude.
At the root of our high expectations, our comparisons, and our complaints is fear. We are afraid that we won’t measure up, that we’ll fail, that we’ll be rejected. So we raise our expectations of ourselves and our kids, so we won’t be labeled a homeschool failure. We compare ourselves to the exceptions rather than the rule in a misguided effort to motivate ourselves. We don’t want to be left out or left behind, so we agree to do one more activity.
Our fear of an unlikely eventuality creates something more fearful–stress. God would not have us choose out of fear. He admonishes us not to be afraid more than 300 times in the Bible.
Confession time. I hate doing new things in which there is a possibility that I will be embarrassed. I was, in fact, embarrassed more times than not by doing new things this week. I was stressed as a result, but I am honestly grateful. Here’s why.
To overcome fear-induced stress, we have to stop sweating the small stuff and laugh. I did everything in my power to avoid being embarrassed and it happened anyway. I realized that the Lord was most likely trying to get me to stop being so afraid of embarrassment. I decided to laugh. Some fears aren’t funny though, right? One of my stressors was my son having a serious bike accident. Had the circumstances been just a little different, he could have been killed or paralyzed. My fear of him possibly needing surgery or having a complication from his injury did absolutely nothing to change the circumstances. This is why Jesus asks us which of us can add even a single hour to our lives by worrying. Our fear serves only to cause us stress. How much better it is to trust in the Lord and to take all of our anxieties to him in prayer. I definitely asked friends and family to join me in praying for my son as well. Fear is not our friend. I encourage you to listen to the episode I did on anxiety for more.
Another way in which we contribute to our own stress is by having no limits. We throw out our routine. We ignore guidelines. We go to bed later than we know is good for us. We eat more sugar or fat or whatever food doesn’t sit well with us than we know is good for us. We allow the kids or ourselves to have more screen time than is healthy. We let the house go. Having no limits or disregarding them will increase our stress level tremendously. We think that having a free-for-all in our homeschools is relaxing, but it’s actually the opposite.
True confession time. I stayed up until two in the morning one night last week for no good reason, other then the comparison and high-expectation trap. I have also been spending an inordinate amount of time on social media again. I have tried to tell myself that having no limits will make me feel better, but of course I feel worse.
To manage the effects of no-limit stress, the obvious answer is to create and/or enforce limits. Get to bed at a reasonable time. Start eating the diet that makes you and your family feel great. Have limits for screen time that help you and your family be productive and enjoy one another’s company. Choose reminders or apps to support you in those limits.
#6 No Rest
One of the biggest contributors to stress is not having rest. Whether that means not getting enough sleep or not having enough down time, no rest will eventually lead to serious stress. Again, our habit of no rest can come from many of the other risk factors: high expectations, comparisons, fear, and no limits. Glitches and challenges that would normally be easily managed can become crises if we aren’t getting the rest we need. This, of course, applies to our kids too.
True confession time. While I have generally been getting eight hours of sleep a night, I have been expecting myself to work evenings and Sundays in addition to my usual six full days a week. This is important, so please hear me on this. Even if I don’t work evenings and Sundays but I expect myself to, I will experience stress. I never have guilt-free down time then. A mixture of working, kid and family activities, and guilt over not working have led to my having no rest and a very high stress level.
To manage the effects of no-rest stress, I am calling it a day guilt-free at dinner time and I am going back to my habit of not working on Sundays. This doesn’t mean that I won’t have to be a taxi service to kids in the evening or that we won’t have a commitment on Sundays. But I will no longer have the unreasonable expectation that I will be working at those times. I took last Sunday off and stayed off social media. I felt like I had been to a spa! I talked to my husband about how great I felt and he said, “You need to talk about this on your podcast.” So here I am.
When we have reasonable expectations, stop comparing, complaining, and fearing, and when we institute limits and rest into our lives, we and our families can manage stress.
Which of these six causes of stress has been the biggest problem for you? Comment and let me know.
Conflicts involving our children are draining, aren’t they? Last week, I discussed how teaching our children personality and gender differences can help them manage and even avoid conflict. This week I’d like to finish the acronym BLT.
We learn by listening and not assuming that we know what other people are thinking.
What does God say about listening versus assuming? In James 1:19 we read, My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Proverbs 15:1 reads, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
When we are listening and not assuming, we will ask ourselves, “Do I really know someone else’s motives when I’m not sure of my own?” How many times have we asked a child why they did something and they tell us they don’t know? How many times have we done something and we have no idea why we have behaved that way? I came to understand how important it is not to assume others’ motives when I read the book How to Stop the Pain by Dr. James Richards. The problem with assuming others’ motives is we typically ascribe very negative motives to others and very positive motives to ourselves. Dr. Richards argues that we can stop the emotional pain of our assumptions by just refusing to make them and listening instead.
We want to listen to learn. When we listen well, we not only understand another person’s perspective, our feelings toward them change. I anticipated getting together with someone whose values and beliefs are in complete opposition to mine. I was worried that conflict would ruin our time together. I decided that I wouldn’t share any of my own beliefs but would only ask questions about herss. In the end we had an incredible visit. She not only felt very positively toward me, but I found myself feeling great about her as well.
Right to Speak
But listening is very hard when you’re already in conflict. I used a technique called Right to Speak all the time when I was practicing as a clinical psychologist. The Right to Speak involves one person speaking for a limited period of time. When you’re dealing with children, that period of time may be one minute. After one child talks about their grievances and feelings, the other child must ask questions to get three yes answers from the speaker. The listening child should restate what the speaker has said and ask if that’s what was said. Asking inflammatory questions such as, “Did you take my toy without permission?” is unlikely to get a yes answer as are negative comments. To make Right to Speak easier for younger children, you can give the speaking child three quarters. Each time the speaker answers yes to a question, he or she can hand a quarter to the listener. After three yes answers have been given, the children switch roles. You may very likely have to give an example question and redirect children who are having trouble formulating questions to get yes answers.
After we listen it’s our turn to talk. That’s what the T stands for in BLT. But we have to choose assertiveness over aggressiveness when we speak. Aggressiveness maybe verbal or nonverbal. Nonverbal aggressiveness is better known as passive aggressiveness. Yelling and physical expressions of anger are not the only destructive forms of aggression.
What does God say about assertiveness versus aggressiveness? Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Your child should ask herself is if she is speaking to improve the relationship or to get revenge. Is there ever a time not to speak to improve the relationship? Yes, when dealing with a chronically difficult person it may be best not to respond. But it is never okay to seek revenge.
I feel…when you…and I need.
We get confused about what assertiveness is. We think it’s demanding that our needs be met. Instead, we can use this formula to teach our children assertiveness. I feel…when you…and I need. We begin with I feel. Use emotional words. Discourage your children from using the word bad.
when you… This is when your child explains what the other person did that was upsetting to them. Encourage your child to limit this to present circumstances and avoid the words always and never.
and I need… This is where your child expresses what he or she needs from the other person. Make sure your children look at the person to whom they’re speaking. It’s very important that a child who has been offended can be seen by the offender. The offender often has no idea how hurtful words or actions have been.
Create a Kindness Contract
Aggressive talk leads to many, many conflicts. Discuss with your kids what kinds of words bother them. Kids know which buttons to push, don’t they? I have created a Kindness Contract that I use with my children. We have a list on our contract that includes all of the things that the kids can say or do that will lead to hurt feelings. If one of the children violates the contract, the other child who has been offended is to ask, “What did you say?” This is to alert the aggressive child that they are in violation of the contract. Sometimes a child who is prompted in this way will not say, “I meant to say (with something more appropriate)”, “I take it back”, or “I’m sorry.” In that situation it is a good idea to prompt the child with, “What did you mean to say?” The Kindness Contract also includes the communication you will agree to use as a family instead, such as regular compliments. Everyone in the family should sign this contract.
Teaching Conflict Resolution Skills with Story
That is the BLT method of conflict resolution: breathe, learn, and talk. Taken together with part one of this series, it’s a lot to remember to teach your child. I believe in the power of story to teach but the story needs to teach the right things. I haven’t created a conflict resolution curriculum, though I would love to. Instead, I focus my writing time on Grammar Galaxy, my language arts curriculum for elementary students. What I have done, however, is to add a story to Grammar Galaxy that teaches conflict resolution. The lesson includes the Kindness Contract. Click to request your copy for subscribers below:
I know I haven’t equipped you to resolve every conflict your kids will have, but I hope I have started you on the journey. Keep learning and keep teaching.
Which of these approaches will you teach first? Let me know in the comments.
I consider conflict resolution skills to be with one of the four R’s. We have reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, and resolution of conflict. Poor conflict resolution skills are the number one cause of divorce. They result in $359 billion in lost work hours. In fact, 25 to 40% of a manager’s time is spent on resolving conflict in the workplace.
I have had plenty of opportunities to teach these skills in my own family. I have five boys and one girl and my daughter has had more physical fights then all the rest put together. Go figure! Moms are the world’s best mediators, but we often do the work of mediation without teaching kids the concepts. Before I go any further I want to define conflict. I think of it in literary terms.
“Conflict is when someone stands in the way of getting what you want.”
I want to begin in this episode (which will be part one of two) to share with you the acronym we’ll be using: BLT. The BLT method of conflict resolution is breathe, learn, talk.
First breathe. This means stop and think. Calm down and think of the conflict in terms of win-win. Cain in the Bible is the first example of someone who thought in terms of win-lose. He thought only one of them could please God, when that wasn’t the case. We still make that mistake today. What does God say about win-win versus win-lose? In Philippians 2:3 – 4, He says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In Matthew 5:9 we read, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
When your kids stop to breathe, they should ask themselves this question: Do I want to be right or do I want to improve the relationship? You can coach them in the middle of a conflict by asking them this question as well. We’ve all been trained to seek compromise in an effort to achieve win-win. Compromise means both parties give up something and sometimes compromise is a great solution. But sometimes it isn’t the best one for win-win. Imagine that two people are fighting over one remaining orange. They compromise and cut it in half. One person is now able to make only a very small amount of orange juice and the other doesn’t have enough of the orange peel shavings to add to a dessert recipe. They could have both used one organge.
To help kids identify conflicts and win-win solutions, practice with books and movies. Every book and movie has a conflict to discuss. There aren’t always simple solutions, but it’s a great exercise. Some books and movies have a difficult person, which is a separate topic that I’m going to be writing a book about next year.
In order to resolve conflict, you also have to know whom you’re in conflict with. This is necessary for a win-win solution. We have to consider others’ needs.
Our culture says there aren’t true gender differences (and it’s true that they aren’t universal), but I think of men as wrenches and women as stethoscopes. Men want to quickly solve problems and women are most concerned with heart issues. For example, men’s number one marital complaint is nagging and complaining on the part of their wives, while women’s is not having their feelings validated. Men figure if they’ve discussed the problem, it’s solved, and women feel that if they haven’t come to a mutually beneficial solution that they need to keep bringing it up.
On one occasion, I told my husband that a friend had upset me. I wanted to talk out my feelings, but my husband told me just to stop talking to her. He then returned to reading the paper. It is possible to have both a solution and a time of relationship building, however. Fortunately, I know to say, “I’m not asking you to solve the problem, but to listen.”
Another gender difference is men’s desire for respect from their wives and women’s desire for love from their husbands. Often the conflict continues as both parties wait for the other to give them what they want. Of course, the conflict can be resolved in a win-win way if both husband and wife meet their spouse’s needs. Without understanding these gender differences, there can be no win-win solution. I already see these gender differences in the conflicts between my teens.
A second important difference between people is personality. I use Florence Littauer’s Personality Plus typology of four types instead of Myers-Briggs because it is much easier to remember. You only have four personalities to remember instead of 16 and it’s much easier for children to understand. The four personalities are Popular Sanguine, Powerful Choleric, Perfect Melancholy, and Peaceful Phlegmatic. I studied ornithology in college and I thought it made sense to choose birds to represent the personality types, especially because it could help my kids to remember them.
The first personality I’ll describe is the Popular Sanguine. I chose the peacock to represent the Popular Sanguine because the peacock is colorful, loud, and draws attention to itself. The Popular Sanguine also likes attention, tends to wear bright, colorful clothing, and can be loud. The Popular Sanguine is an extroverted talker. They like to have fun, and because cleaning and repetitive work isn’t fun, they’re disorganized. A person from the Bible who was a Popular Sanguine is Peter. He thought walking on water seemed like fun and often spoke without thinking.
The Popular Sanguine more than anything else wants approval and compliments. A single compliment is like eating one Pringles potato chip. It’s simply stokes the appetite for more. Criticizing the Popular Sanguine or keeping them from having fun will likely result in conflict.
The second personality I wanted to describe for you is the Powerful Choleric. I chose the blue jay to represent this personality. If you’ve ever seen a blue jay arrive at a birdfeeder, you see all the other birds scatter. They dominate the feeder. The Powerful Choleric is an ambitious personality, often referred to as Type A. They desire control of themselves and often of other people. They’re the most likely to have a hot temper. They generally believe they are right about things and are frustrated by lazy people. If you keep a Choleric from having control or are lax in your work, you are likely to have conflict with them. Like the Popular Sanguine, this personality is a social, extroverted type. The apostle Paul is an example of this personality in the Bible. He told Peter he was wrong and then wrote that he did.
The Perfect Melancholy is the third personality type I will discuss with you today, and this personality is represented by the Canada goose. This personality wants perfection. The type tends to be very organized and like the Canda goose, everything is in order. Because this personality wants perfection, they are often depressed. Interestingly, the Canada goose appears to be depressed upon losing its lifelong mate. This personality can be musically inclined. They also want people to be thoughtful and sensitive to their needs. This is an introverted personality who often conflicts with the Popular Sanguine. The Perfect Melancholy is often reluctant to give the Popular Sanguine compliments until they are perfect. And they often Popular Sanguines as being insensitive to them. Moses in the Bible was this personality type — a perfectionist prone to depression. He didn’t want to be in the limelight as God’s spokesperson or even the leader of the Israelites.
The final personality I’ll discuss today is the Peaceful Phlegmatic personality. I chose the turkey to represent this personality because everyone likes them. Everyone loves the Peaceful Phlegmatic. More than anything the Peaceful Phlegmatic wants peace. This type avoids conflict the most. This is an introverted, easy-going personality and not an ambitious personality. They tend to be easily satisfied with their lot in life and like easy work. As a result, they are often disrespected by Powerful Cholerics. Even though they don’t meet the demands of Powerful Cholerics, they want respect. If they don’t get respect, they can become passive-aggressive. Abraham was a Peaceful Phlegmatic. He preferred to let Pharoah have has wife rather than having a conflict over it.
Learning these personality differences has helped reduce conflict in my family. I used to assume that my husband was trying to make me miserable by controlling me. Eventually I learned that when he felt out of control in his work or other areas of his life, he proceeded to try to control me. Personality types have also helped me immensely in understanding and relating to my children. I honestly believed that one of my sons was depressed or obstinate when he described most of his activities as fine. My personality believes that fine is a bad thing. Our family has learned to understand one another. Teaching our children their personalities and the needs and wants of other personalities can drastically limit the amount of conflict they experience in dealing with other people.
I am going to end this episode on conflict resolution skills you must teach your children here and I will pick it up again next week. We will discuss the learn and talk aspects of the BLT method.
If you would like to take a questionnaire to help you determine your primary personality type or if you would like to have your children take one, try this PDF version. I would love to hear what your personality type is! I am primarily Popular Sanguine and secondarily Powerful Choleric