***Edit: Yeah, it’s not corporate punishment, it’s corporal. I’m going to blame pregnancy brain on that. I think I’ve fixed that mistake now!***
So, as mentioned in my last “Sweet” post, I have two kids: one age 4, and one age 2. Parenting is always a challenge, but it seems like when Ava turned 4, some of those challenges multiplied exponentially! I feel pretty comfortable working with two different age groups: the 2 and under crowd, and the 1st – 5th grade crowd. The 2 and under crowd is, well, just sweet to work with! I’m great at changing diapers (cloth, disposable, you name it!), cuddling, nursing my own or bottle feeding others, baby food, cleaning up messes, singing lullabies, kissing booboos, etc.! The 1st – 5th grade crowd represents children that can read and possess some reasoning skills. Although I don’t have children of my own in that age group yet, I have worked with many, many elementary age children in my experiences with camp and children’s ministry, and I would venture to say that I’m not that bad at working with them. So, anyway, if you’re paying attention, you can see that Ava currently doesn’t fit in either of these age groups. She is sort of in a childhood no-man’s land for me, and I’m having an interesting time learning how to forge a path through it! So here, in bullets, are some of the challenges I’m facing as a parent of a four year old, and what Josh and I are doing to face these challenges.
~ The Challenge of Spiritual Growth
With my little babies, spiritual training comes pretty naturally to me. I sing them praise songs. We read them picture books with Bible stories. We have a daily prayer time. I feel like, for infants and young toddlers, most of their spiritual training will come from watching the spiritual behaviors of mommy and daddy. But now, Ava is older and she needs more structured training. I have to pay much, much more attention to her actions and words to pick up on what she knows and doesn’t know about our faith. I have to realize what are “teachable moments” for her and how to go about teaching the needed lessons. We want her to see that Christianity is NOT a list of “do’s and don’ts”, but a relationship with a real Savior. And that is hard to do with a child who’s reasoning is still very literal – it’s much easier to accidentally teach a preschooler a “works theology” than a “faith theology,” and that could have some serious lasting effects on their worldview! Plus, since Ava is not reading on her own yet, she is totally dependant on us for spiritual instructions – we cannot expect her yet to dive into the Scriptures herself.
So, what are we doing about this? I had already mentioned in a previous post that we were trying to decide how to read the Bible to Ava this year. After spending a few weeks thinking about it, I decided that instead of using a reading plan created by someone else, we would just create our own! We are largely focusing on the four Gospels this year. I feel like Ava is old enough to start hearing and understanding the events that surrounded the birth, life, and death of our Savior. However, I do not want to totally leave the Old Testament out, since I want her to also begin to understand the importance of the Old Testament and how it points to Jesus. After reading multiple fantastic reviews of it, we have ordered The Jesus Storybook Bible to use to teach Ava some Old Testament stories. We will not read it every day (it is a paraphrase of about 50 select stories, not a literal translation of the Bible,) but maybe about once a week we will pull it out and read a story with her!
We are also introducing Scripture memory to her this year. I sat down and made a list of about 9 verses/short passages that I think should be the first one she commits to memory. I have no idea if she’ll be able to memorize them in one year or not, so I’m not really setting a time limit on this project! I have made a chart of the first 4 verses, and have developed a reward system to encourage her to keep the verses fresh in her mind! Will blog more on that as I see if it is working or not! So far, she has memorized the first half of the Shema pretty well, and now we are working on the second half! Josh and I also think that this will be really great for us to refresh ourselves on the memory verses, too!
~ The Challenge of Discipline
About a year ago, I did a survey on parenting for a grad student friend, and one of the questions was, “What is the most challenging aspect of parenting to you?” Discipline wins, hands down! I really dislike disciplining. It’s intimidating to me to think that the way I discipline my children will have such a strong influence on the way they will live for the rest of their lives.
Ava is in a difficult stage for me to discipline with. In my 2 and under crowd, my disciplining is pretty simple: I point out and praise good behavior, I completely ignore temper tantrums when it is possible to avoid encouraging that kind of behavior, I use time-out in a crib or play pin, and, for serious offenses, a pop on the upper thigh may be used. With my 1st – 5th grade kids, I plan to adopt a contractual system that one of my psychology professors successfully used with her children; the child is required to write their own contract, recording the offense, and recording their own punishment. Then the parent can negotiate the punishment with the child. (I’ve been told that children will give themselves harsher punishments than their parent would have, so then you actually get to negotiate the punishment down in severity as opposed to up. I hope that is the case with my kids!) However, Ava is now too old for my 2 and under “techniques,” and yet not old enough to start writing contracts.
I firmly believe that a punishment should A) fit the crime, and B) be something that the child will remember and want to avoid. I’m not here to write an essay on my thoughts on corporal punishment (this time!), but I will say that my current thought process regarding corporal punishments is that it A) should be used as a last resort (this helps me avoid doing it out of anger), B) should only be used for select and serious negative behaviors, and C) should only be used if it is actually effective for a child. (I also have a personal policy of not spanking other people’s children, even if they have given me permission to. I think that corporal punishment is something that should only be handled by the parent, and if their offense severe enough to possibly merit a spanking, I will let the parent know about it and they can take care of it however they see fit. Just wanted to throw that out there in case I babysit your kids! ) Honestly, Ava’s getting to a point where spanking is just not that effective for her, and I’m having to be a little more creative with her punishments. For example, to me, a child telling a lie is a very serious issue. A lie is an offense of the tongue, so I have found myself adopting the old-school punishment of washing Ava’s mouth out with soap when she is caught in a lie! I don’t know if it is the best technique or not (I make her stick her tongue out and rub a wet bar of soap on it for 10 seconds, if you really want to know how I go about doing that!), but she certainly does not enjoy it and it seems to get the point across! So, all that goes to say, we are still working on figuring out what punishments are most effective and how to go about administering them.
Another discipline challenge I have is actually reinforcing good behavior. A lot of times I forget that children need it pointed out when they are behaving in a positive way! And how do you go about rewarding them for good behavior without breaking the bank or giving them a sense of entitlement? To help me with this issue, I have adopted yet another idea from MckMama: behavior charts.
About a week ago, while I had Ava doing something crafty, I sat down with her at the table and created these charts. I targeted 4 behaviors that she has trouble with (a couple of them Izzy does, too!), made a column for her and a column for Izzy on each one, and taped them to the pantry. On the side of the pantry, I taped up a homemade pocket full of sheets of stickers. When we “catch” a child in an act of good behavior, they get to put a sticker on their chart! Ava is aware that if she asks for a sticker, she will not get one. (Although I will confess that I do remind her about stickers from time-to-time in hopes to encourage some good behavior!) As you can see, I drew some super-attractive and yet simple drawings on each one because, well, Ava can’t read! And my art has seemed to do the trick, because she still knows what each picture represents! The idea is that there will be some sort of reward when a chart is filled in. I’m not sure what that will be…we certainly don’t need any more things, so I think the rewards will most often be experiences, like a date with Daddy or a family trip to the park. And there could be a good bit of cheap Chick-fil-A ice cream in our future, too! (And, in case you missed when I first mentioned it – this is not my idea! I got it from MckMama, and you can click above to see her blog post about her own experience with it!)
Are the sticker charts working? Well, I feel like it’s too early to tell, but it is definitely helping me to remember to point out good behaviors! I’ve also been surprised at how much I have used them with Izzy…I was really adding a column for him “just to be nice,” but I’ve had a lot of opportunities to use the charts with him! He even got a sticker on the “Truth” chart for telling us he had pooped in his diaper – he usually will deny that he is stinky (even when we can smell him from across the room!) so that he can keep on playing. And the first time Ava got a sticker (on the “Listening” chart, as you can see above!) she jumped up and down for 10 minutes like she had just won Wheel of Fortune, so I guess she kind of digs it!
OK, although there are several other big challenges I (and my hubby!) face as a parent, these are the ones I am going to limit my blog to today! Happy Tuesday!