I was given free access to the premium version of a chore management app and was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.
We all want our kids to be responsible people who can care for themselves as adults. One of the best ways to teach responsibility is to require chores. That’s simple enough. You create a list of chores that must be done around your home to keep it functioning and you assign them to children who are old enough to complete them. Your children now have responsibilities that will not only make your life easier but will make them better people.
The Trouble with Teaching Accountability with Chores
If only it were so simple! Giving children chores or responsibilities is meaningless without accountability. There must be some way of determining that the chores are complete. As the saying goes, “You must inspect what you expect.” If you have one child whose sole chore is to feed the dog, it’s easy to check that it’s been done. But accountability becomes much more complex when a child has multiple chores assigned at various times of day in addition to independent school work. When you have multiple children with these responsibilities, teaching accountability with chores becomes PAINFUL.
As a mother of six (three of whom who are grown men living at home at least part of the time), I can tell you how painful it can be to inspect what I expect. I feel like I’m running another small business with six employees who are slacking. I don’t discover until the next day that the trash wasn’t taken out on time. I realize only after a guest has used our bathroom that the toilet hasn’t been cleaned. The failure to complete chores is invariably blamed on another child, who may or may not be available to defend himself. When my husband discovers an incomplete chore, there is a lot of analog communication (aka yelling) to determine who didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
I have used multiple approaches to assigning chores to my kids. All of them work when it comes to determining who is to do what. None of them has helped me with the accountability piece. I don’t have the time or patience to inspect every person’s chores and neither does my husband.
How the Homey App is Teaching My Kids Accountability with Chores
I jumped at the chance to try the Homey App, a chore and allowance app available for iOS and Android. My kids are older now (12 and up) and all of them have mobile devices they use daily. An app for managing chores makes perfect sense for them.
Homey has you set up a family account. I added my husband to it as well. Everyone can see from their mobile device who is supposed to do what. If the chore hasn’t been completed, instead of shouting for them to please come do it, we use the family chat feature. Everyone in the family sees the message, allowing them to respond to any blame shifting.
Homey allows your child to provide proof of completion. I am so happy about this benefit of using the Homey App, I could cry. In the past, my child would say, “Yes, I cleaned my room.” Later I would see what looked like a Hoarders before episode going on. As soon as your child marks a chore complete (and you’ve set it up to require photo proof), their device’s camera opens. When it comes to the bathrooms, I am going to start asking my kids for a close-up of the toilet. I receive notifications of their completed chores and the photo proof on my phone. I don’t have to stop what I’m doing and run up a flight of steps ten times to make sure the kids are being accountable with their chores.
Homey allows you to connect an allowance to chores and jobs. I have always given my kids an allowance that isn’t connected to their chores. I require them to use that money to purchase things they want. I deduct money for offenses and incomplete chores. It has been an excellent disciplinary strategy. I had an app I used to manage their money that was discontinued. I started using Penney Owl but never liked it as well as the old app. When I realized that I could transfer the kids’ money to Homey, I was ecstatic. Instead of deducting money for individual chores not being done (which I rarely remembered to do), Homey allows me to set a percentage of chore completion required before the allowance is granted. I can still deduct money for other infractions without having to use multiple apps.
Homey allows me to assign jobs as well. These are responsibilities with a salary that may or may not be ongoing. In the spring, my son will start mowing again and he is paid for that. When my husband says it needs to be done, I’ll assign it to him in Homey and he’ll be paid when it’s complete. If your child has a checking account in the U.S., you can connect Homey with it and make an actual transfer of money, rather than a virtual one.
Other Reasons I Love the Homey App and You Will Too
Homey automatically rotates chores. My kids hate to be assigned the same chore all the time. They want the chores to be rotated. Homey is hands down, the easiest way to assign rotating chores. It’s not a college-level logic puzzle!
Homey makes it quick to create chores. Homey has built-in chore packs, so you don’t have to come up with them from scratch. You can even save your own list of chores as a pack. Have a chore that is shared or you want assigned as an individual chore to multiple kids? It’s crazy easy to do.
Homey allows you to add school assignments too. While it wouldn’t make sense to schedule a year’s worth of lessons in the Homey app, you can create an assignment as a job with no pay. Here is how I used it. I read the kids their history lesson and then took a picture of the assignment that went with it. I assigned it as a job to each student. The only adjustment you have to make, depending on the age of your child and your preferences, is giving your child permission to complete a job before chores and permission to complete it after it’s due.
Homey helps me stay accountable too. I have assigned myself the clean room task (with photo proof!) and have the task of prayer and Bible time with the rest of the family. I love getting the reminders. This feature can be used for establishing any habit.
Homey provides you with a weekly chore list you can print for younger children and other family members not hip on using mobile devices. This print-out could be highlighted or marked with a star by the little helpers.
Homey allows you to teach financial responsibility. Your child can set up a savings goal and can add money to a spend, save, or give jar. I was taking out a giving amount for my kids automatically. Homey will allow them to decide how much to give on their own. I love that!
Download the Homey App Today!
The basic Homey app is free for families with up to three accounts. Homey Unlimited allows the addition of unlimited family members, connection of banking accounts in the U.S. and customizing the app for each child. Homey Unlimited is just $4.99 a month or even less if you pay annually ($49.99). Try out Homey Unlimited free for a week! Be sure to enter to win a year’s subscription to Homey Unlimited below.
In the meantime, follow Homey on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to learn more tips for teaching accountability with chores.
No doubt you’ve heard some of the horrifying details about the Turpin family in California. This mother and father of 13 children ranging in age from 29 to 2 are accused of starving, abusing, and holding them captive in deplorable conditions. Honestly, the case has given me nightmares. I want to say in no uncertain terms that I am mortified that their registration as a homeschooling family may have been used to allow them to continue abusing their minor and adult children. I am praying for the children and also praying that we can prevent the abuse of more than 600,000 children in the U.S.
I want to share my background with you before I launch into the topic. I am a clinical psychologist, not currently practicing. As a mandated reporter of abuse, I am familiar with the definition and signs of abuse. What I am also familiar with in this case is how to evaluate research and statistics. I have the added experience of having homeschooled my children for 19 years.
However, I understand their perception that the problem is widespread. The details of these cases are disturbing and heart-rending. It’s their passion to protect these children that fuels their mission. Even one incidence of this type of severe abuse of a homeschooled child feels like too many. That being said, I still object to their use of the phrase “widespread problem.” It implies that it’s commonplace for homeschoolers to torture their children when there’s no evidence of that.
To protect homeschooled children from potential abuse, Coleman and Brightbill argue that states should require academic assessments and medical exams. They insist that lack of contact with mandated reporters is what creates the possibility for families like the Turpins to torture and severely abuse. When considering their recommendation, these are the concerns I have.
First, would this increased supervision of all homeschooling families prevent child abuse?
I recently read a description of one of the Turpins’ daughters attending school in the third grade. The filth of her clothes, the body odor she had, and her use of a candy bar wrapper as a hair band suggest that she was being neglected at the very least while attending school. Details are emerging, but I have read nothing which suggests the Turpins were previously investigated for child abuse while at least one of their children was in school. The LA Times further reports that none of the children had seen a doctor in four years. Were any of the children seen by a physician four years ago and yet not reported as being victims of abuse? My point is that mandated testing and physicals may not have protected the Turpins and may not protect other children. Couldn’t these families also move as the Turpins did and avoid mandatory evaluations?
I don’t think we have an answer to the question of whether increased supervision of all homeschooling families would prevent child abuse.
My second question is whether the potential benefit of required supervision offsets the infringement of all homeschooling families’ rights.
It’s possible that mandated testing and medical exams could create a new category of victims — children inappropriately forced to attend public school or removed from their homes and put into a foster care system that could truly victimize them.
What if a homeschooled child has special needs and is actually doing well in a homeschool setting but doesn’t test at an average or above level on standardized tests? Will these children be required to enroll in public school? If so, will they be released to their homes if their scores decline? I think we know the answer to that. Will the same policy be applied to private school students who aren’t scoring as well as the government deems acceptable? If not, why not? There are many small, private schools where educational neglect could be hidden.
The Atlantic reports: “Since 2008, the number of referrals to child protective service agencies…has increased by 8.3 percent, even as overall rates of actual child victimization declined by 3.3 percent during the same period. There is no system that can totally avoid putting parents who don’t deserve it through investigations, despite the fact that even the best moms and dads would regard the ordeal as nightmarish. Over time, however, the number of undeserving parents so burdened seems to be increasing–and the number is large.”
I’m concerned about legally required oversight of homeschoolers and I don’t think my concerns are unfounded.
The third issue I want to discuss with respect to child abuse and homeschooling is children’s safety at school.
The assumption of Coleman and Brightbill appears to be that homeschooled children have a better chance of avoiding abuse if they can be exposed to mandated reporters of abuse, teachers being one class of them. I understand this view. Parents who torture their children want to isolate them. Teachers could recognize signs of abuse and neglect and could contact Child Protective Services.
How I think we should respond to the Turpin case and child abuse.
I don’t want any child to be abused or bullied. Like Coleman and Brightbill, I want to protect children. I believe they are precious to Jesus. The challenge is how to do that without victimizing even more people.
These are some steps I feel confident in advocating:
If you believe a child is in danger, make a report to Child Protective Services. You will not be held responsible if your report is determined to be unfounded. Professionals like psychologists are mandated reporters, but we should all consider ourselves mandated reporters when a child is at risk of serious harm. Here are signs to look for.
Get to know your neighbors as a homeschooler. In the aftermath of the Turpin case, people who don’t know us well may be suspicious of homeschoolers who are very private. If you are a Christian as I am, you are to be serving your neighbors anyway. People need to see that our kids are healthy and well-adjusted. Talk about what you’re doing in your homeschool. Many still don’t understand that most homeschoolers have a great deal of social contact through various activities and classes. We want to advocate for homeschooling instead of living in fear of being reported for doing so. Joining HSLDA is a good step to protect yourself from unwarranted reports of neglect. You can relax and be open about your family’s educational choice.
Get help. If you are having trouble disciplining your children without being harsh or your mental or physical health is keeping you from educating your children, reach out for help. Yes, you may have to make a different educational choice while you are getting help, but it’s worth the sacrifice for your kids’ sake. There are many options available to you and it doesn’t mean you can’t resume homeschooling in the future.
These abusive parents often are not homeschooling but they claim to be, creating an association with homeschoolers that is a problem for genuine, caring homeschooling parents. While I can see the potential for a teacher making an unfounded report of abuse that then makes homeschooling onerous for a good family, I believe the benefits for children and even the homeschool community may outweigh that risk.
What’s your response to the Turpin case? Let me know in the comments.
Before we can think about ways to get past guilt, we need an understanding of how guilt is to function in our lives. Guilt is like a warning light designed to get us back on track. When that warning indicator is functioning correctly, we can make the changes we need to make and that indicator will disappear. If you’ve ever had a car like I have that has an indicator that goes off inappropriately or constantly, you know how annoying it can be. Sometimes our guilt is not an accurate indicator. When we’ve clearly done something wrong, guilt can drive us to apologize or change our behavior. But inappropriate guilt is like that annoying, always-on indicator in the car. We try to ignore it, but we often wonder if there really is a problem we need to address. Inappropriate guilt takes our focus off of what we need to be doing.
If a warning light on my car keeps going off, I can take my car to the shop and have it tested. The problem can either be fixed or the indicator can be turned off. But what do we do about guilt that keeps popping up? There’s no guilt shop to go to, or is there?
My contention is that if we allow God’s Word to diagnose our guilty indicator, we will often find either a quick solution or discover that our guilt is the only real problem. When we allow the world’s standards to determine whether our guilt is a real problem or not, we will likely drive through our homeschooling lives constantly feeling guilty.
Now that we understand the problem of guilt in our lives, what do we do about it?
The first thing we can do is confess.
If we have done something that God’s Word would say is worthy of guilt, the next step is confession. We are to confess our guilt to God, but we may not want to stop there. We may need to confess our guilt to our families, our friends, or anyone who has been affected by our behavior.
Confession makes sense if our behavior is worthy of guilt, but what if it isn’t? Confession can also work in that circumstance. When we confess to our spouse or our homeschooling friends something we feel guilty about, these godly individuals can help us discern whether the guilt is appropriate or not. My husband has been wonderful in helping me determine appropriate versus inappropriate guilt. He will reason with me and help me release inappropriate guilt. However, he has also pointed me toward changing when he feels my guilt is appropriate. Talking with my homeschooling friends and determining that the standards I have for myself are much too high has also been a very effective way for me to release inappropriate guilt. I highly recommend it. I’ve seen the moms in our HomeschoolScopes.tv Facebook group do this for one another.
I’d like to share a personal example with you. I have sometimes felt guilty that my children don’t have as many friends as kids in school do. My homeschooling mom friends have helped me to let go of that guilt. Children don’t require a large number of friends and I am providing my kids with the best education I can in the most loving, social environment possible.
Do the good you ought to do.
The second way we can get past guilt is to do the good we ought to do. We can instantaneously feel better by making even a small step in the right direction. If you know the right thing is to teach your children their math facts and you’ve been avoiding it and feeling guilty, the easiest way to get past the guilt is to go over those math facts. In fact, doing something you’re reluctant to do, for whatever reason, is much less painful than living with the guilt. Think about what one small step you could take in the right direction that would relieve your guilt and take it today. Don’t put it off!
Of course, if you are suffering with inappropriate guilt, then acting on that guilt is not the right step to take. After spending time in prayer, reviewing God’s word, and confessing your guilt to people you trust, discern whether or not you are suffering from inappropriate guilt. If you are, continue with the remaining steps.
Avoid situations that encourage inappropriate guilt.
Step three is to avoid situations that encourage inappropriate guilt. It’s harder to avoid the situations that lead to an errant indicator in your car, but it is possible to avoid them as homeschooling moms. Is there a certain someone who makes everything from scratch, does elaborate science experiments, or is one of those homeschooling wonder women? If so, you may need to avoid her until you get your inappropriate guilt under control. Likewise, you may need to take a break from social media. The perfect Pinterest Photoshopped images may give you guilt. If understanding that these images don’t represent real life doesn’t relieve your guilt, take a break from Pinterest. Do the same with Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
Consider who you are in the body of Christ.
The next step is to consider who you are in the body of Christ. I have a sister-in-law who shares the Gospel with nearly every person she meets. Numerous times I have felt guilty that my witnessing is paltry in comparison. But then I go to God’s Word and I am in prayer and I discover that God has given each of us a part to play. We are not all called to the same works. Imagine if we were! What a mess it would be. I can feel good about who God created me to be and the part He created me to play. I don’t have to compete with my sister-in-law’s way of witnessing or feel guilty when I don’t even try. Think about the gifts, talents, and interests you have. Would you want your loved ones to feel guilty if they don’t share those? I’m sure the answer is no. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love and let go of the guilt.
Lower your standards.
The fifth step is lower your standards. I had a friend whose defibrillator fired in her chest when her heart rate reached a certain level. That firing understandably caused pain and anxiety. Her doctor determined that the standards set for the defibrillator needed to be changed. It shouldn’t have fired. Like that defibrillator, some of us have to change our standards so as to avoid pain, anxiety, and guilt. One of the most common reasons for our standards being too high is that we don’t really believe we are acceptable. We haven’t fully trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ in our lives. For most of us, this is subconscious. We are working and trying and striving as I discussed in my post on when strivings cease. The result is anxiety, stress, and guilt.
One of the most stressful situations for a homeschooler is being evaluated. Some homeschoolers are evaluated every year in their state, while others are never evaluated unless there is a legal problem. Imagine how you would feel if your homeschool had been evaluated and certified as fully acceptable. I believe in that case, we would feel free to homeschool without fear or guilt. While our homeschools probably haven’t been certified by an outside agency, we can know that we are fully acceptable to God–not because of anything we’ve done but because of what Jesus has done. He continues to work in us and through us and because He does, we can have freedom from inappropriate guilt. We can homeschool with peace and joy, knowing He is in control of our homeschool.
Homeschool in love.
The final tip I want to share with you for getting past guilt is homeschooling in love. It’s hard to make homeschool decisions. We often don’t know what the priority is, what the best classes or curriculum are, or how we should be spending our time. But love is always the right choice. When our homeschooling is done in love for God, for our families, and even for ourselves, we will be free from guilt. Let me explain that last part about loving ourselves. Genuine love should provoke no guilt. Love means providing the same time, opportunities, and gifts to ourselves that we would provide to anyone we love. Feeling guilt over taking time alone, to be with friends, or to engage in hobbies that renew us makes no sense because these things enable us to love others. Jesus never appeared to feel guilty over resting or being alone.
Allowing ourselves to be ruled by inappropriate guilt can lead to physical, emotional, and spiritual dysfunction. If we do not take steps to get past guilt, whether that is appropriate or inappropriate guilt, we do our families, our friends, and our Lord a disservice. We don’t model a healthy approach to guilt and we do not fulfill God’s purposes for our lives and our homeschools.
In conclusion, it is possible to get past guilt. When guilt is appropriate, we can confess it and make changes. We can feel instant relief. When guilt is inappropriate, we can avoid situations that encourage guilt, consider our role in the body of Christ, lower our standards, and focus on homeschooling in love — including loving ourselves.
What makes you feel the most guilty as a homeschool mom and which of these steps is most likely to help you get past it?
First let’s define mental toughness. For our purposes mental toughness is being able to cope with and adapt to the challenges of life. We already know from the Bible that we will have trouble. So we are preparing our children for the inevitable. We want our kids to be strong in the Lord. We don’t want them to crumble at the first sign of adversity. I say that we can encourage mental toughness because I don’t believe this is a formal subject for which a curriculum or even a lecture is appropriate. Instead we have to encourage it as we live.How can we do that?
Allow children to experience natural consequences
I believe the first way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions. As tenderhearted mothers, we often cringe at the potential for our children to suffer. We don’t want them to know the pain of their choices and would prefer to give them second and third and fourth chances. The problem, of course, is that children will never learn to make better choices if we shield them from the natural consequences.
I have an example for you. On multiple occasions my children have signed up to participate in things by their own choice. Later on, this same child of mine has decided that they didn’t feel like continuing to participate or participating on a certain day. They weren’t concerned that their teammates and coach or activity organizer was depending on them. The natural consequence is that I refused to shield them from was having to do something that they no longer wanted to do. Of course, as I allowed my kids to experience this type of natural consequence, I was also teaching them Christian character. They learn loyalty and faithfulness and commitment.
Anytime our children make a choice, there will be consequences, both positive and negative. It’s important that we refuse to protect them from the negative consequences unless they are truly destructive. You will have to pray and use your parental discernment about which natural consequences your child should have to endure. Our decision should always be loving and never abusive. But always keep in mind that the difficult consequences your children face will make them stronger.
Encourage children to take responsibility
The second way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is by insisting they take personal responsibility. A refusal to take responsibility for our own choices and mistakes goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We shouldn’t panic if our child has a propensity to shift blame to others, because it is the human condition. However, we should not allow our children to shift blame without rebuke. Even when someone else’s choice or the circumstances were a contributor, our children need to take responsibility for their part in a bad situation. Did your child participate in the appearance of evil? Did your child stand by as someone else did something wrong?
Encouraging your child to take personal responsibility is an easy thing to do when it comes to team sports. If your child has the habit of blaming other players, the coach, or the conditions for their errors, ask your child to own up to their mistakes. At the same time, it’s important to teach children that admitting to mistakes does not mean they are unloved or without value. Some children believe that if they admit to doing wrong, it means they are worthless. In fact, some adults believe this as well and it explains why many people refuse to apologize. Instead, remind your child that everyone makes mistakes. And not just mistakes, but sinful choices. God has already offered us the solution for this. Our sins do not keep us out of fellowship with him or out of fellowship with one another if we admit them and ask for forgiveness. This is likely a lesson that will need to be repeated multiple times.
Teach children to feel the fear and do it anyway
The third way we can encourage mental toughness is to teach our kids to feel the fear and do it anyway. Anxiety is very uncomfortable. It makes sense that we as parents don’t want our kids to feel uncomfortable. This is particularly the case if we have our own anxieties. But keeping our kids from feeling the fear and doing it anyway will make the fear grow bigger. You may want to listen to the episode I did on anxious homeschoolers.
Anxiety that isn’t challenged will spread to more and more situations. You may think that it is better not to have your child do the public speaking assignments for your co-op. But soon your child will be balking at other assignments that tap into his social anxiety. You will be doing your child a great service to encourage your child to feel the fear and do it anyway.
In order to do that, we have to give our kids the tools they need to cope with anxiety. Those tools will likely include meditation on Scripture that relates to trusting God, taking deep breaths, relaxation training, and mental imagery in which your child practices relaxation. Our kids need to know that avoiding anxiety will make it worse.
Teach children how to control their thoughts
Related to encouraging our kids to confront their fears is the truth that we are capable of controlling our thoughts. As parents, we want to discuss with our children the importance of taking thoughts captive. Many thoughts will come to us briefly that are not within our control. But once we have the thought, we are capable of controlling it. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive and to bring it into obedience to Christ. We can do this or we wouldn’t be given this directive. We can also renew our minds. I encourage you to read about my post on the topic.
We do not have to accept the thoughts we have that are lies. Sometimes writing those thoughts down enables us to combat them with the truth more easily. The mental battle our children will have when dealing with challenging circumstances is the most important one. When our child believes a lie about her circumstances she is likely to respond with a negative emotion, which will in turn affect her behavior. Mental toughness is developed by being a disciplined thinker. For more on controlling thinking, read about black-and-white thinking in your homeschool.
The fifth important way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is to model it. If we refuse to accept the natural consequences of our choices, if we refuse to accept personal responsibility for our behavior, if we refuse to feel the fear and do it anyway, and if we persist in thinking and meditating on lies, our children will not develop the mental toughness that will be such an asset to them in the future. We must work on our own mental toughness in this regard. Furthermore, we have to be talking with our children about the challenges we are dealing with. Talk with them about the situation with as much detail as is appropriate for your children’s ages, and then talk about the strategies you are using to cope. Modeling is incredibly powerful. So many people will share examples of their parents’ mental toughness once they are adults and are reminiscing on their lives. We want them to have plenty of examples of mental toughness to hold onto.
Provide your children with mental toughness role models
Along with modeling, we want to give our children access to other role models. This suggestion is one that we can easily incorporate into our formal homeschooling. I love exposing my children to missionary biographies and Christian historical biographies that demonstrate mental toughness. Reading about men and women who suffer unjustly, rely on their God, and bravely serve despite trying times will instill a desire for mental toughness and a framework for pursuing it for our kids. I love YWAM biographies for this purpose, but books about Esther Kim, Samuel Morris, and Winston Churchill are more of my favorites for giving kids mental toughness role models.
To conclude, I want to give you a picture of the importance of mental toughness. You’ve likely heard the story of the person who wanted to help a butterfly that was struggling to emerge from its chrysalis. The person removed the chrysalis and the butterfly died. The struggle to emerge from the chrysalis is what provides the butterfly with the strength to live. In the same way, we do not want to prematurely remove the struggle from our children’s lives. Our kids are going to be dealing with difficult circumstances, challenging people, and injustice in the future. Like arrows in our quiver, we want them to be sharp enough to wage battle against the enemy in the years to come.
How do you encourage mental toughness in your kids?
When I began homeschooling, I immediately discovered that disciplining my children was central to my homeschooling success. If I couldn’t get them to obey me, I couldn’t teach them. Even though I’m a psychologist, I spent a lot of time reading about how to discipline. I’ve learned a lot over the years and I want to share some principles with you that can save you time as a new homeschooler.
You may have read that there are three basic approaches to parenting. There is the authoritative approach. This is the most balanced, healthy style. You’re the authority in your child’s life, but you extend plenty of grace. You enjoy your children and they love you as well as respect you. There is also the authoritarian approach. This style takes authority and commands very seriously. Swift obedience is valued above relationship. Demands for obedience are often accompanied by anger and harsh punishments for failure to comply. This approach can lead to children who obey outwardly but inwardly burn with resentment. The authoritarian approach puts parental demands above the child’s needs. Finally, there is the passive approach. The passive approach also puts the parent’s needs ahead of the child’s. In this style, the parent does not demand obedience or respect because discipline is too much work. The parent doesn’t provide consequences for misbehavior. The child feels unloved and is ill equipped to function in a society with other authority figures.
I doubt that you would put yourself squarely in either of the latter two categories. Instead, most of us see ourselves as authoritative parents. However, when we are under stress, tired, or overwhelmed, we will tend to revert to one of the less functional parenting approaches or both.
How We Can Use a Functional Parenting Approach Even Under Stress
The key to being a positive parent even when we’re hangry, wiped out, or PMSing is to plan ahead. We need to know our triggers and have a response ready.
Which misbehaviors get to you the most? Is it acting out in a public place? Is it not picking up after you’ve asked? Is it fighting? Make note of these.
Then consider which situations lead you to revert to an authoritarian or passive style. Is it when you’re short on sleep? When you’ve had no time away from the kids? When you’re running late? You’ll also want to make note of these situations.
First, decide with your spouse (if you’re married) what your family rules are. It’s a good idea to have your rules posted and to review them with your children regularly. Next, decide which consequences you will use for violations of these rules. Consider these.
Spanking. This is most effective for outright defiance or blatant disrespect in young children. However, avoid physical punishment if you are prone to anger OR if you have a child prone to anger. There are other forms of discipline that are more effective in this case.
Scary persona. Giving your child the eagle eye or using a certain tone of voice is enough to correct misbehavior with some children in some situations.
Privilege levels. You can keep track of the level of privileges your child is using a cork board and a pin, for example. This system requires an understood and achievable means for a child to return to higher privilege level. Using this approach with multiple children can be challenging.
Refuse requests. As described in How to Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman, refuse to comply with your child’s next request after misbehavior. For example, “You may not have a snack.” “Why?” “Because you wouldn’t come inside when I called you.” The advantage of this approach is it requires no pre-planning and can be very effective.
Guided obedience. When young children refuse or are slow to pick up toys or go up to bed, guide them with your hands (without anger) until they are complying on their own. Thank them for obeying, even though you are providing the guidance.
Time out. Putting a child in a place where there is no opportunity for reinforcement (no access to toys, books, or interaction with others) for one minute for each year of their age is an effective strategy for many children. The same can be done with a toy that isn’t being used properly or is being fought over.
Put fighting children in close quarters. Insist that siblings who are fighting stay in a small room (like a bathroom) until they can stop quarreling. Insisting that the squabblers wear a single large shirt, hug, or hold hands until they stop serves the same purpose.
Fines. If you give your children an allowance or earnings for chores, you can discipline misbehavior with a fine. Keeping track of your child’s money on an app on your phone makes it easy to fine wherever you are.
Confinement. A young child who doesn’t like to be restricted can be seated in your lap with his back to you. Firmly hold his right arm with your left hand and vice versa for a minute for each year of age. Do not speak to your child after explaining what the misbehavior was, but require him to remain in your lap.
Make note of which approach you will be using. The simpler the better.
The final step in avoiding an unhealthy parenting style is to prevent the situations that lead you to adopt them. If you know lack of sleep is a problem, make sleep a priority. If your sleep deficit is unavoidable, avoid other stressors that will put you over the edge. Get a nap. Tell your children that you’re especially tired and need their help and definitely ask another adult to help you. Eliminate activities that contribute to stress and plan ahead so you can be at your best. Lay out shoes the night before and leave earlier than you need to for actiities. Review the rules with your children before you go to public places. For example, “If you beg for something in the store, we will leave immediately.” Then follow through.
Improving your parenting approach is a lifetime activity. Give yourself lots of grace for making mistakes! Pray, read Scripture, and talk to other parents about their struggles. You’ll find you’re in good company. But any effort you make to improve your parenting approach will pay off in improving your homeschool.
Which parenting approach do you revert to when you’re stressed? What misbehaviors are most likely to lead to that? What discipline strategy would you like to try going forward? Comment and let me know.
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?