Many of us homeschooling moms not only have fears about our children but about our parents as well. This month in the Trust Project we will focus on trusting God with our parents.
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Why trust God with your parents?
What are the benefits of trusting God with our parents? For me, the benefits are less time spent worrying, a better relationship with my mom who is still living, and certainly a better relationship with God. What are the things we will stop doing this moth? I hope worrying is one of those. Perhaps we will stop trying to control our parents’ choices. If you have a parent who is not a believer, you might stop witnessing to them when it feels forced or fear based. What things will we start doing if we’re trusting God with our parents? Perhaps we will enjoy our time with them in the moment. If you are estranged from a parent, perhaps you will reach out to them. Or if your relationship with a parent is an unhealthy one, you might allow God to meet the needs that an earthly parent isn’t meeting. How will you know that you’re trusting God with your parents? You might have peace of mind, better conversations, or fewer conflicts with siblings over what to do about a parent’s care.
Next, we will work through the TRUST acronym.
T is for truth.
I love this Scripture. One of the fears we can have as our parents age is that we are now responsible for their care. Certainly we bear some responsibility, but God has never left our mom and dad. He is caring for them and we can rely on Him for that as much as we can rely on His care for us.
Our Bible account is Genesis 43. Joseph meets with his brothers in Egypt and asks after his aging father. It’s clear that Joseph is concerned about him. But he learns that he is alive and well. God had sustained him just as he had Joseph, even though he had suffered great sorrow in the loss of his son. God knows the number of our parents’ days and is in control of them. In fact, He doesn’t need our help to keep them alive and well.
This month, record the thoughts that lead you to distrust God with your parents. Then refute them with the truth. Repeat Scripture or just truths you would share with a friend who had the same fears.
The R in TRUST is for Remember.
At one time I thought my dad would suffocate and die. He had COPD. I know he thought that is how he would die as well. I also feared that my dad hadn’t put his faith in Jesus Christ. I wasn’t doing the Trust Project then, but I want to share what happened.
I received a call that my dad needed surgery and had only a 50% chance of survival. I was beside myself with grief. I cried out to the Lord for his life, opened the Bible randomly, and read words that gave me confidence he would live. He did.
A few years later, I happened to call my dad a day early for our weekly chat. Typically, when I had other plans on our chat night, I would forget to call until the next day. This was before I had a smart phone that would remind me. In our conversation, my dad affirmed his faith in Jesus. I was so happy. The next night, the night I would have normally called, I got a call from my mom instead. My dad had had a heart attack and died quickly thereafter. My father didn’t suffocate. And I knew where he would wake up. God can be trusted to care for our parents.
Remember how God has been faithful where your parents are concerned.
The U in TRUST is for Understanding.
What wisdom has God already given you for your relationship with or care of your parents. When a friend was caring for both her parents in their home, I sent her a book that was just for caregivers. She said it was a great help to her in a very trying situation. She knew from that book that it was critical for her to have respite care and take breaks. No sense crying out to God for help if you’re not using the wisdom He has already given you.
The S in TRUST is for Supplication.
For years I prayed that my mom who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 18 years ago would have more strength. The Lord answered that prayer far above and beyond what I imagined was possible. My mother’s illness went into remission two years ago. She is currently working as a caregiver for someone else.
Present your requests for your parents to God and believe that He hears them and will answer in His love and wisdom.
The T in TRUST is for Thanksgiving.
My father died when I was 31. He only met two of my children. I wanted more time with him, and I still miss him so much. But even as I mourn, I thank God for a father that was good enough to miss. What a blessing he was for over 30 years. I am thankful my dad is with Jesus and that he wouldn’t return here even if given the choice. I am thankful too that the Lord gave me men who served as fathers in my life after he passed.
Thanking God really does help to heal our hearts when something in our relationship with parents is lacking.
We can have peace and even joy where our parents are concerned when we believe the truth, remember God’s faithfulness, understand the wisdom He has already given us, pray for them, and thank God for all He’s done in our parents’ lives and in ours.
How do you struggle to trust God with your parents? Comment and let me know.
How to Trust God with Your Kids
How to Trust God with Your Spouse
How to Trust God with Your Finances
How to Trust God with Your Health & Safety
One of the most common concerns I hear from new homeschoolers is whether or not they’re doing enough. If that’s your question, regardless of how long you’ve been homeschooling, I have six ways you can know that you’re doing enough in your homeschool.
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#1 Know you’re doing enough in your homeschool by comparing your plans to policies
The first way to know if you’re doing enough in your homeschool is to compare your plans with your state or charter school’s policies. Many homeschoolers are surprised to learn how few guidelines there really are for what to teach. I recommend that you visit HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Organization). This website lists homeschooling laws by state and also has curriculum guidelines for high schoolers – another area that causes homeschoolers a great deal of anxiety.
If you are doing what the laws or guidelines suggest, you can take a deep breath and relax. The standards set by others are typically much lower than the standards we set for ourselves. I am not suggesting that we do the least amount possible. We want our kids to have a rich, quality education. But neither am I suggesting that we should do every subject and use multiple curricula and classes to teach these subjects. I am here to promote homeschool sanity, and that’s the quickest way to the homeschool loony bin. Instead, use the standards to reassure yourself that you are in fact doing enough.
#2 Know you’re doing enough by comparing your hours
The second way to know if you’re doing enough is to consider the number of hours you might spend on direct teaching by the age of your child. RaisingArrows.net says that formal homeschooling takes 30-45 minutes for kindergarten and first grade, 1.5-2 hours for second to fourth grade, 2-4 hours for 5th & 6th grade, and 4+ hours for 7th grade and up. That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?
My state requires 1000 hours of instruction. Let’s have a reasonable view of what that means. It does not mean that I must stand at my whiteboard lecturing for a thousand hours a year. Public school teachers are not held to that standard. In fact, public schools operate a bit more like I did when I practiced as a clinical psychologist. A counseling hour was really 45 minutes with ten minutes of that taken up with greetings and good-byes. Traditional school students spend time using the restroom, walking the hallway, staring out the window…you get the idea. We also have an advantage over traditional teachers in that we can count many informal activities as educational hours. Have your kids help you make dinner and if you are teaching as you go, you have life skill hours. When your child is reading the manual to understand a new game or toy that has been purchased, you have reading time. If you are balking at the suggestion that reading manuals counts as educational time, know that Common Core standards introduced the idea that this type of reading was valuable for students. I agree, but I don’t think it should replace literature. As homeschoolers, it certainly doesn’t have to.
I homeschooled for many years before I understood that educational hours did not always have to involve me. Kids can read and work independently. They can take classes, participate in extracurricular activities, and even help teach siblings. Begin to expand your definition of education, and you will be more confident that you are doing enough.
#3 Know you’re doing enough by developing key skills
The third way you can know you’re doing enough is if you are spending time developing key skills. My previous point may have had you thinking about unschooling. If you’re interested in unschooling, I recommend my podcast interview with Karla Marie Williams. No matter how strictly you adhere to the unschooling philosophy, I believe it’s critical that we spend time developing key skills. Even if you don’t think your child needs to learn handwriting until middle school, Grandma may believe otherwise and give you a hard time. Your child may be thoroughly embarrassed if she doesn’t know her math facts while playing a game with friends. And while many children develop the ability to read later, it is critical that we spend time developing phonics and fluid reading skills in our students. You may choose to develop reading, handwriting, and math knowledge in whichever way you choose. Have your child use games to learn phonics. Use online programs like Starfall for reading. Or use a book like Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Whatever you choose, reading instruction is not optional in my opinion.
Handwriting too is an essential skill. I’ve learned over the years of homeschooling five boys that slow handwriting results in reluctance to do any type of seatwork. In fact, even math homework can be a struggle if kids are not able to write their numerals quickly. Choose the handwriting approach that works for you. Teach your kids to form the letters by writing in Cool Whip, use the handwriting app on your iPad, or use formal curriculum like Handwriting Without Tears. Whatever you do, have your child practice for short periods and consistently.
The next area that I believe is critical for our students to learn is math facts. Some homeschoolers have told me that they don’t believe learning math facts is important in the age of calculators. I couldn’t disagree more. Have you ever made a mistake with calculators? I do it all the time. When I am totaling my sales at conventions and I am told that I had $300,000 in sales, I am not hooting and hollering. Instead, I groan and know that I have to re-calculate. If your kids don’t know math facts, higher level math will be impossible. Without memorizing basic math facts, your child will be that cashier who panics when the cash register doesn’t tell her how much change to give you back. Again, you choose how to have your child master math facts. Use flashcards, stories, games, or competition to complete math fact quizzes in a short period of time as is taught by Learn Math Fast. But make the acquisition of math facts a priority in your homeschool.
#4 Know you’re doing enough by covering some subjects every other year
The fourth way to know if you’re doing enough is you are covering subject areas like social studies, science, and fine arts at least every other year. One of the mistakes I made as a beginning homeschooler is I thought I had to teach every conceivable subject every year. That is a recipe for homeschool burnout. Public schools do not teach calligraphy, map memorization, and astronomy, in addition to all the core subjects they have to cover to meet standards.
If you want to study one or more of these things, make room for it in your homeschool schedule. I love history. But I didn’t realize that I was not required to teach it every single year. The same with science. These subjects and even fine arts will be a part of your homeschool education even if they are not a specific focus. Field trips we have taken almost always incorporate history. My kids did science experiments of their own for fun. In the YouTube age, that’s even more likely. And art and music appreciation can be incorporated into a fun Friday rather than being a specific course.
I know, I know. I want to do it all too. And we we can do a lot. Just not all this year. Just not all this week. If you’re struggling to determine which curriculum to use, I recommend that you read the article I wrote on curriculum paralysis.
#5 Know you’re doing enough if you’re reading a lot
The fifth way to know you’re doing enough is that you and your kids are reading a lot. Reading is the gold standard for education. In truth, we can teach our kids all the other subject areas with reading alone. Sure, mapping, experiments, and writing are important too. But primary education is to be found in books.
I learned best by reading. In fact, my teen son asked me while I was cutting his hair how I had learned to cut hair. I explained that I found a very old book at a used book sale and that was all I needed. If your child is not a verbal learner, audiobooks can be a huge help. I have spoken before about the benefits of audiobooks and reading aloud for building vocabulary.
If you are in a challenging time in your homeschool because you’re pregnant, traveling, or caring for an ill family member, focus on reading. It will be enough.
#6 Know you’re doing enough by talking to veteran homeschoolers
The final way to know you’re doing enough is to talk to veteran homeschoolers. I laughed so hard when my new homeschooling friend was worried that her son wasn’t willing to follow her plan. Of course he wasn’t. It was too much and I empathetically told her so.
Sure, there are homeschoolers online who present their homeschools as though they’re reading a novel or two aloud to their family each day, reenacting a new war every weekend, and building a life-sized model of the ark this month. But most homeschoolers will be honest about what they are able to accomplish. I trust the members of The Homeschool Sanity Circle on Facebook to be real with you. They will read your plan and will tell you if you’re doing enough or more likely that you’re trying to take on too much.
In conclusion, if you are following your state’s or charter school’s guidelines, spending a reasonable number of hours on school for your kids’ ages, teaching key skills, covering other subject areas at least every other year, reading a lot, and you’ve gotten the green light from veteran homeschoolers, you can rest assured that you’re doing enough.
I wrote what became a very popular blog post about why I wasted my education to homeschool. I will summarize by saying that there were people in my life who thought trading in a PhD in psychology and clinical practice in a Christian clinic to homeschool was a waste, an obvious mistake. I didn’t know if they were wrong at first. I didn’t know what to expect from homeschooling. If you’re near the beginning of your journey, you may wonder what the future holds for you too.
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The truth about homeschooling and feeling fulfilled
I’m going to be completely honest and say that when I began homeschooling, my question was what about me? What about my gifts, what about my dreams? I even wondered what about God’s other call on my life, which I knew was to be a writer and speaker. To say that I didn’t trust God to work all things together for my good would be an understatement. I only knew how hard it was to parent three boys three and under. How would I have time for anything besides parenting, homeschooling, and homemaking?
If that’s your question, I have some answers for you gained through experience.
Truth: Homeschooling leaves less time for personal pursuits
The first truth I want to share is that homeschooling and parenting little ones leaves less time for your personal pursuits. Yup, I’m being Captain Obvious here. But what might not be obvious to you is that this season is short. Even with six children, I see how short that season was. When your oldest is unable to help you with any chores or responsibilities around the house, you will be busy. But as your older children mature, you will have built-in babysitters and a home maintenance crew. By the time I had my last baby, I never had to get him out of his crib. The older kids vied for the privilege of doing that. My older kids entertained the younger ones, were able to read to younger kids, and took on the responsibility of doing their own laundry. If you will allow your older children to help in your family, you can free up more time for those things you want to do apart from homeschooling.
Truth: Help is available
The second truth about fulfillment in homeschooling that I want to share with you is that if you’re married and you communicate your desire to your husband, he will help you. Now some of you may be protesting. Perhaps your husband hasn’t been all that helpful to this point. I would say my experience was the same. When my kids were younger and there were fewer of them, my husband was not doing as much child care and managing as many chores around the house as he does now. I think there are a couple of reasons for that that are in my control. What I mean by in my control is that my husband is reluctant to do things because of his own reasons. I have no control over that and neither do you.
But I did have control over my attitude. I had two attitudes that got in the way of my husband supporting me in being fulfilled in my homeschooling. The first was my supermom persona. I honestly made everything look too easy. My husband thought I had it all under control and therefore didn’t need his help. Men seem to like helping people who have obvious needs. I didn’t seem to need anything. Why would he help?
The next bad attitude I had was just the opposite of the supermom. When my supermom attitude wasn’t getting me what I wanted, I tried on the martyr role. I was the suffering saint, always at home with the children and doing it all with very little help. Do you know anyone who is a martyr? Are they fun to be around? I didn’t think so. Men want their wives to be happy. Instead of being a martyr, explain how happy the activities you want time for will make you. Demonstrate that happiness. Read my post on how to be happy and homeschool too.
Besides our happiness, we can convince our husbands of the benefits of the other activities we want to take on. I explained to my husband that while having a business selling books to homeschoolers would require more of my time and my absence for conventions, we would enjoy the benefits of an additional income. He has been very supportive of me for the that reason as well as for the obvious happiness it brings me.
Without appearing as though you can do it all and without whining about your lack of help, talk to your husband about what it is that you aspire to do.
If you are not married, perhaps you have parents who are involved in your kids’ lives and you could have a similar conversation with them. But realistically, we may have to consider getting help with the kids elsewhere. We can hire a mother’s helper. I hired my niece to come in once a week when my kids were young. My daughter is a mother’s helper for a mom in our neighborhood. It’s a worthwhile investment in your sanity. But if finances don’t yet allow for that, you could barter time with a friend. Have play dates and one mom takes a turn watching the kids. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Truth: Homeschooling itself can be fulfilling
To this point I have been discussing fulfillment as something that exists outside of homeschooling. So you need time to engage in a ministry, start a business, or start writing. But even though these extra activities can be fulfilling as they have been for me, homeschooling itself can be fulfilling.
One of my favorite things to do is learn. Studying history with my kids and following all kinds of educational rabbit trails is one of the best parts of my life. Teaching my kids has been more fulfilling than I ever dreamed.
Because of homeschooling, I realized that I was born to be a teacher. I didn’t even consider it because I felt people expected me to do something that required more education. But I began my childhood teaching my dolls and stuffed animals every single night. Homeschooling allowed me to rediscover my true passion in life. Now that I am no longer counseling people one on one, I find myself teaching instead. I teach on my podcast. I teach through my books. And I teach in sessions at conventions.
But what if teaching is not your passion? There are so many other ways for you to find fulfillment in homeschooling. Are you a leader? The options for you to take a leadership role in homeschooling groups are wide open for you. Where you may have had difficulty taking on a leadership position like that in a large traditional school, the smaller groups of busy homeschool moms can afford you the opportunity to share your gift of leadership.
Are you a natural organizer? After you have organized your own homeschool, you can help other homeschooling moms get organized, either as a business or a ministry.
Do you have a skill in art or music or computers or science? You have the opportunity to share whatever your gift is through teaching other students or creating your own curriculum as I have done. My friend Gena Mayo has a passion for music that she has turned into not just local co-op classes but courses that are available to all homeschoolers online. Check out her courses at Music in Our Homeschool and listen to the interview I did with her on easy ways to add music to your homeschool.
My friend Beth Napoli is passionate about technology. She used that passion to create a Facebook group for moms who are interested in using technology in their homeschools and she has used it to create courses that moms and homeschoolers alike can take advantage of.
I have another friend who uses her flexible schedule in homeschooling to put her decorating and organizing skills to work in planning parties and coordinating weddings. I have a photographer friend who taught photography in our co-op. In the process, she realized she wanted to return to it as a business. I also know many homeschooling moms who love to counsel others. They make themselves available to advise new homeschoolers about curriculum, parenting, and homeschooling in general.
Homeschooling itself can be fulfilling as you teach your children and enjoy watching them develop as people. But homeschooling is also a flexible lifestyle that allows you to explore other interests.
I never dreamed that homeschooling would become my most fulfilling career. Not only has it met and exceeded every one of my desires for my kids’ education, their family relationships, and their faith life, but it has given me the opportunity do what I love. I don’t believe that my ability to write and speak would have enjoyed as much success outside of the homeschooling niche.
I am not suggesting that every woman must choose to find her fulfillment in homeschooling. Even if they could, eventually the kids grow up and move out. But I am saying that homeschooling can be fulfilling. It has been for me and I am so thankful to God for leading me to it. I encourage you to pray about how homeschooling can be fulfilling for you too.
Trusting God with our finances can be tough. But if we are going to complete this Trust Project, we have to deal with our fears about money. Have your Trust Project printables ready, and let’s do this!
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What are the benefits of trusting God with our finances?
First, we won’t experience all the negative effects of anxiety: the sleepless nights, the G.I. distress, and the conflicts that inevitably occur as a result of financial worry. But we will likely make better choices when we are trusting God with our finances as well. Perhaps we won’t take risks or a job that isn’t a good fit for our family simply for the sake of making more money. When we trust God with our finances, we have the opportunity to see Him provide in ways we never even dreamed of. When we are striving to manage our finances ourselves, we will invariably take the credit for any extra cash that comes our way.
What will you start and stop doing if you are trusting God with your finances?
We want to ask ourselves things we will stop doing and start doing if we are trusting God with our finances. Maybe we will stop worrying, stop going over and over our accounts, and stop nagging one another about spending habits. Perhaps we will start praying with our spouse specifically about our financial needs and we will start earnestly looking for God’s provision. Perhaps we will start a financial course such as Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
What are the benefits of trusting God with your finances?
We will ask ourselves the benefits of trusting God in this area. I covered a few of them already, but likely our mood, our health, and our relationships will improve when we are trusting God with our finances.
T – the Truth about trusting God with finances
Now let’s discuss the T in trust. It stands for truth. Our Scripture to meditate on this month is 1 Timothy 6:17.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Our Bible account is the feeding of the five thousand from Matthew 14. God isn’t hindered by any obstacles in meeting our needs. Whether our spouse is unemployed, the medical bills are mounting, or the economy takes a nosedive, God is still able to provide and provide abundantly.
Any time this month you have thoughts that lead you to mistrust God with your finances, record them on your Trust project printables. Respond to these thoughts with truth, whether that truth comes directly from Scripture or from what you know to be true. You might respond to a fear of being bankrupted by dental expenses, which is a thought I have honestly had recently, with a more reasoned appraisal of your ability to cover the expenses with financing, moving money in the budget, or asking God for extra income.
R – remembering God’s faithfulness with finances
The R in trust is for remembering. Remember God’s faithfulness to you with your finances. As a single woman, I was terrified that God would not provide for me financially. I had two credit cards. I would borrow from one to pay the minimum payment on the other. Not the best financial plan, right? When I met my husband, my financial status changed and so did my money habits. I know God provided for me in the form of my husband, but the truth is every time before that that I feared I would be out on the streets, God provided for all my needs.
U – understanding God’s wisdom for your finances
The next letter in our trust acronym is U for understanding. What wisdom has God given you in this area? My sister-in-law tells a funny story of her first days as a self-supported missionary. She literally sat at home, waiting for people to call and come over and deliver the finances that she needed to do her work. That is until her ministry leaders made it clear that she was to go out and ask for support.
When I evaluate my single days of financial trial, it’s easy to see my errors in judgment. For example, I lived alone in my apartment. Had I roomed with another graduate student, my housing expenses would’ve been cut in half. Had I paid cash for my recreational activities, I would have realized I was out of money long before I got the overdraft fees that were a regular occurrence in my life. We are blessed to have so much financial wisdom at our disposal. If you need financial education, Crown Financial is another excellent place to start.
S – Supplication for our finances
The S in trust is for supplication. We pray for our financial needs to be met, but we don’t dictate how they will be met. Or when. I once listened to a pastor’s sermon in which he said everyone wants a miracle, but no one wants to be in a position to need one. So true. Sometimes God will miraculously provide your needs financially at the last minute, without providing us with the immediate security we crave.
For years, my husband and I lived in fear that the company he worked for would go out of business. That fear hung like a cloud over our financial decisions. Of course, we prayed that my husband would keep his job. But one day, after 15 years of fear, it happened. The company was sold and my husband’s commissions were being cut off. Within about two weeks, however, my husband was offered a job with a competing company. His work with that company has been a joy. While with the former company, my husband constantly bemoaned the poor customer service and resulting disgruntled customers, the new company made those concerns a thing of the past. Our finances improved as a result of the job loss. We prayed that my husband’s company would stay intact. But we are so thankful God answered our prayer in a better way. Our prayer should be for God to meet our needs in the best way.
T- thanking God for our finances
The second T in trust is for thanksgiving. You’ve heard how rich we are in first-world countries compared to so many other places. It can be hard to believe that when you’re getting bills you can’t pay and you are unemployed. But it’s still true that we have advantages that much of the world would and do risk their lives to have. If we are not expressing gratitude for what God has already given us, why should He entrust us with more? I ask that not to invoke fear, but to provoke true gratitude. Thank Him today for His provision.
One of my favorite books about trusting God with finances is the biography of George Muller. I find lots of opportunities to talk about this book because I love it so much. Read it to your children and show them how God does provide, especially when our motives match His. We aren’t to believe God for a lottery win, but we are to believe Him for everything we need to raise our families and fulfill our calling.
Do you have a financial need I can pray for? Comment and tell me below.
Are you dealing with complaining when it’s time to start school, or time to do chores, or time to do anything your kids don’t like to do? If so, you will want these six ideas that will result in a complaint-free homeschool.
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Why close the complaint desk in your homeschool
Before I give you the how, I have to share the why. Why should we work to stop complaining from our kids?
First, if you don’t address complaining in your kids, you will be miserable. Few things are as discouraging as being criticized or hearing grumbling after you have spent time and energy and money on your kids. In fact, not addressing complaining in kids is a primary reason why homeschoolers decide to send the kids back to school. We need positive feedback for the hard work we are doing, and even if we can’t find that in our kids, we certainly don’t need to be verbally beaten down by the very people we are sacrificing for.
The second reason we have to deal with complaining in our kids is because complaining people are not fun to be around. If you don’t help your children beat the complaining habit, they may find it difficult to find spouses or may have difficulty maintaining a happy marriage. They may have difficulty holding a job. They may have difficulty maintaining friendships. No one likes a complainer.
The third reason we must deal with complaining is because God commands us not to complain. We are not doing our God-given parental duty if we allow our kids to disrespect us, God, and others with complaining. Philippians 2:14 says to do everything without complaining or arguing. And Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
How to close the homeschool complaint desk in your homeschool
I hope that I have convinced you that nipping the complaining habit in the bud is a worthy endeavor. So how can we close the complaint desk in our homeschool?
Do a Bible study on complaining or gratitude
The first way to deal with complaining is to begin a Bible study on complaining or gratitude. I like the Bible study on contentment you can find at NotConsumed. God’s word does not return void. As part of your Bible study, have your children memorize verses having to do with complaining and gratitude. My favorite Bible memory program is Memlok that uses pictures to prompt memory.
Pray with gratitude daily
The next strategy for closing down your complaint desk is to have your children pray with gratitude daily. In doing this for many, many years, gratitude has become a habit in our home. I always ask my children to thank God for something in our prayer time. I also participate. The key to making this effective is to not criticize what your child says. It’s okay if your child is thankful for a pet or thankful they don’t have to do schoolwork in a certain subject. We want them to be habitually thankful.
Be indignant when a child complains
The third strategy for closing down your complaint desk is to use indignance when a child complains. Numbers 11:1 reads “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled.” Let’s be clear: Complaining is disrespect. When your children complain about a meal, how long something is taking, or about doing school, they are demonstrating their disrespect for you. This third strategy is not flying into a rage over that disrespect, but it is absolutely communicating a no-tolerance policy.
My mother used to give me the look. I called it the eyeball bulge. I have given my kids a look too to communicate that their complaining was unacceptable. If you don’t have a scary look, it is acceptable to be indignant. I have said things like, “I spent a lot of time making this meal, preparing this lesson, taking you to this place, and I deserve respect and gratitude.” We don’t want to lay a guilt trip on our kids habitually, but when complaining happens, you are within your rights to play the guilt card. I have talked honestly about what I have sacrificed for my kids. Getting complaining in return is insulting.
Use logical consequences
A fourth strategy for closing down your complaint desk is to use logical consequences. You hope that indignance will shut down the complaining. but if it doesn’t, it’s time to use corrective action. If your child complains about a meal, it’s taken away. Your child can make his own meal. If your child complains during an outing, you either go home immediately or the child forfeits the right to attend the next outing. If your child complains about a chore, another chore is added to his list. If your child complains about her schoolwork, more work is given. For this last one, be sure to read the article I wrote on dawdling homeschoolers. It may be that your child really does have too much work. In that case, don’t pile on even more. Whatever you do, do something to demonstrate that you won’t tolerate the complaining. If you don’t, your child will think she can control you with her complaints and she will be right.
Teach your child that there is a God-honoring way to ask for change. Your child should begin by expressing gratitude and a willingness to obey. Let’s say your child doesn’t like the bread your sandwiches are on. Your child could say, “Thanks so much, Mom, for making lunch. Do you think we could try French bread for sandwiches sometime?” Or, let’s say your child doesn’t want to do chores now. Your child can say, “I know you want me to get the lawn mowed. Would it be okay if I started after I finish this game?” Instead of your child whining and saying, “Can we go?” repeatedly when you’re out somewhere, your child could say, “Thanks for taking us, Mom. Do you have a time when you expect to leave?” Or your child could say, “I was hoping to spend some time with my friend when we get home. Do you know when we will be leaving?”
Use a complaint jar
A fifth strategy for closing down your complaint desk is to use a complaint jar. Every time someone in the family complains, that person has to put money in the jar. Some jars have labels that read, “All complaints must be written on dollar bills $1 or larger.” The money collected can be donated to a charity of your choice. Alternatively, you could have the complainer write out something they are grateful for in the situation and add their note to the jar. Try a Complaint or Compliment Box. Or, take the Complaint-Free Week Challenge.
Have your kids serve others
Finally, you can shut down your complaint desk by having your kids serve others. A mission trip where kids work with families who live in poverty is very effective. But having your child serve others in your family, church, and community is also effective. I have found that my kids who lead younger children in Vacation Bible School learn how challenging it is to be a parent. Teens who work in service industries learn how painful complaints can be. As a result, they learn humility and to be kind to those who are serving.
You can put an end to complaining in your home and homeschool when you recognize how destructive complaining is to you and your child. First, begin a Bible study on contentment and gratitude. Pray with gratitude daily. Use indignance when complaints occure. Enforce a no-tolerance policy by giving logical consequences for complaints. Try using a complaint jar and give your child plenty of opportunities to serve others.
I hear from many parents who have a child who antagonizes siblings, rebels against them, or otherwise makes life difficult. I have six strategies for turning your troublemaker into a terrific child.
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#1 Look for positive traits and praise them.
The first strategy and perhaps the most important strategy is to look for the child’s positive traits and praise them. Often I hear from exasperated parents who tell me that finding something positive is very, very difficult. I used to hear the same thing from teachers who dealt with difficult students in the classroom. So much of the parent’s or teacher’s time and attention is focused on dealing with problem behavior that it’s hard to see anything positive that is happening. So in order to find the positives, we may have to shorten the time frame. Here is what I mean. For example, perhaps every trip to the grocery store involves a child having a tantrum over something. If your standard for positive behavior is no tantrum at the grocery store, you’re both likely to be frustrated. Instead, look for your child’s good behavior in the first few minutes in the store and praise it.
One problem I see with many parents who have a more perfection-driven personality is that parents are afraid that praising small behaviors will convince the child that there is nothing that needs to be changed. This is simply not the case. As long as you are praising truly positive behavior or attitudes, your child will be motivated to repeat them.
#2 Assign new labels publicly
The second strategy for dealing with a troublemaker is to assign new labels publicly. You don’t want to call your child the troublemaker. The only reason I am using that word here is because it communicates effectively the type of child that we are discussing. If you call your child a drama queen, a terror, or any other negative label, your child will seek to live up to the label. We are all very vulnerable to how we are described by others, but children are especially so. We might label a child in anger or frustration, not really meaning it, but our kids are likely to take on the label. To counteract that, we need to give our kids positive labels, especially in front of other people. So tell your child you’re so thankful he is responsible while you’re having people over. Compliment your child’s persistence in front of friends.
One of our family traditions is on a child’s birthday, the entire family takes turns saying what they love about the birthday boy or girl. This is a way of assigning new, positive labels. I highly recommend it. Assigning new labels works hand-in-hand with looking for positives to praise.
#3 Use positive coaching
Next, you will want to use positive coaching. Before a situation in which your child has a history of behaving badly, tell your child you are confident that she can behave admirably in the situation. Remember to use those small steps in your coaching, too. So tell your child that you know she can walk quietly with you into the grocery store’s produce section. I would follow that up with other evidence you have seen of positive behavior traits. You might say, “You are such a good helper. I know you will do a great job of helping me pick out fruit that has just the right amount of ripeness.” Express your belief in your child’s positive traits and your child will believe it too.
#4 Exercise trust with responsibility
The next step in turning a troublemaker into a terrific kid is to exercise trust with responsibility for that child. After you’ve begun regularly looking for positives in the child and praising him, when you have assigned new labels, and you have begun using positive coaching for difficult situations, you are now ready to put your trust in your child.
Here is what I mean. If you have a child who has had a habit of causing squabbles with siblings, put that child in charge of making sure the kids are behaving while playing a game. Give specific guidelines about what the rules are and allow your child to supervise. If you give that responsibility publicly and then leave the kids to their playtime, you have given your child a new label, you’ve done positive coaching, and now you’ve put real responsibility on your child to behave in an appropriate way. The child can’t claim that you were playing favorites or you weren’t being fair because you have put your child in charge. Give your child the opportunity to exercise self-control and prove that she is capable of making good choices, and your child is likely to surprise you both.
#5 Use rewards rather than punishments
Sometimes when you have a child who consistently breaks rules and gets into trouble, a parent’s natural tendency is to want to increase punishments. The thinking is that we will finally come upon a punishment that will be so negative that the child will stop the misbehavior. I have no problem with using negative consequences for misbehavior. In fact, I think it’s required for good parenting.
However, when you have a child who has gotten into a cycle of misbehaving and being punished evermore for each incident, you have to do something to break the cycle. In this type of situation, I recommend using rewards rather than punishment. So when your child does well in the situation that you have coached her for, or when your child has risen up to the responsibility that you have assigned to him, give that child a meaningful reward. If you aren’t sure what kind of reward to use, I suggest you read Motivational Mistakes Many Parents Make. Reward your child for good behavior and at least for the time being, drop punishments. Remember that not earning a reward is a punishment too.
#6 Study positive role models
Finally, if you have a troublemaking child in your family, I recommend that you study positive role models as a family. In no way should you call the child out for being a troublemaker, but instead attention should be drawn to the fact that each of us is a sinner and capable of behavior that displeases God.
My favorite strategy for this is to read books about difficult people who change. In the Bible, we have the apostle Paul. It’s hard to be worse in your behavior than the apostle Paul who was murdering Christians. I do recommend that you read that account and discuss how not one of us is a good person apart from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The next book that I love on this topic is the biography of George Mueller by Youth With a Mission. George was a real stinker. Yet he became a great and generous man. Augustine, the Farmer’s Boy of Tagaste is another great true story of a troublemaker who changed. We want to communicate to our kids that we are not putting our hope in them because then we would have no hope at all. Instead, we are putting our hope into the Lord, who is the only one who can change hearts.
[Read How to Handle a Dawdling Homeschooler]
You can turn a troublemaker into a terrific kid by looking for the positives in praising your child. If your child responds to physical touch, give your child a pat on the back or a hug when you do this. Next, you want to assign new labels publicly. Praise your child’s positive traits in front of siblings, other family members, and even friends. You want to use positive coaching with your child. Talk about the tempting situation and your confidence that your child can manage himself well. Pray with your child for the Lord’s help, but pray a believing prayer. Next, you’re going to want to exercise trust in your child by assigning responsibility. Give your child the chance to show you that she can manage her behavior well in a previously difficult situation. You are going to want to emphasize rewards to motivate good behavior rather than punishments. You want to break the vicious cycle of a child believing that he can’t do anything right. And finally, you want to study positive role models as a family. Look in the Bible and consider YWAM biographies, many of which talk about a true transformation of a troublemaker to a terrific person.
Let me know in the comments which of these strategies you’re going to try first.