Friday, March 19, 2010

day seventy-nine: parents determine preschooler’s schedule based on preschooler’s needs and family dynamics

“I got up early this morning—Mom said she barely had her eyes open—and got sent back to bed with books FOR HOURS!”       from “Jonathan’s Journal”

One of the most important concepts about scheduling a preschooler’s day is that the parents are the ones who should schedule it—not the preschooler. In our “feel good; let children be” society today, we often put too much emphasis on what the child wants to do or thinks he needs to do—and not enough on the fact that parents are wiser and more discerning than the child—and probably know his needs better than he does. This is not to say that we did not consider our preschoolers likes/dislikes/wishes as appropriate, but we did realize very early in our parenting that our children are given to us because they need someone older, wiser, and more experienced to guide them through the early part of their lives. We would all do well to remember this the next time we find ourselves trying to reason with/beg/cajole a child to put on his coat to leave the store. We ARE the parents—for a good reason.

In the opening line of “Jonathan’s Journal,” we find our sweet, sweet Jonathan going back to bed with books for HOURS! We had a family rule that children did not (a) choose when they would go to bed or (b) choose when they would get out of bed. Obviously, a child is not mature enough to decide how much sleep he needs or when he needs it; likewise, a child in our home never decided to get out of bed at five a.m. and do as he pleased.

There are dangers in a preschooler/toddler running around the house unsupervised. Additionally, we always based the children’s rising (i.e. when they could get out of bed) on our family’s needs. As much as we adored our preschoolers, we always taught our children to consider other people’s needs too. Mom often had babies and toddlers to tend to. Dad was often up in the morning with older children, teaching and discipling them. Thus, our preschoolers (and toddlers) stayed in their beds until they were told to get up. As in the story above, when the child was awake earlier, he could look at books in his bed, or more often than not, listen to talking books and story tapes, as he waited for time to get up.

There are key times that you will notice in Jonathan’s day as we progress through this series. These include the following:

a. Rising time

b. Meal times

c. Play times

d. Structured times (i.e. story time, read aloud, specific play times, time with siblings, time with parents, etc.)

e. Unstructured times (free play, outdoor time, etc.)

f. Bed time

You might wonder if it is really necessary to structure a preschooler’s day as much as we did Jonathan’s (and his siblings). The answer to that is yes and no. Obviously, we had six other children of various ages to consider. In our case, the structure of Jonathan’s day was simply a carry over of the structure of all of our days. Everybody had structured days, to a certain extent. (We homeschool, but we do not have an eight to nine math; nine to ten reading, etc. necessarily; however, we do have blocks of time that are devoted to independent work, working with Mom, chores, etc.)

If your preschooler is the oldest one in the family, that much structure might not be necessary. However, children thrive on consistency and predictability. Thus, I recommend as much structuring as you are comfortable with and that works for your family.

Tomorrow we will look at maintaining a schedule in our hurried world and a preschooler’s obedience and contentment. We have a jam-packed two weeks planned—so tune in often.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

day seventy-eight: introducing “jonathan’s journal”

Over the next two weeks, I will be giving insights into parenting preschoolers (and some toddler info too). Hope you will join us. Today I am posting my unpublished children’s book, Jonathan’s Journal, in its entirety. I will use portions of this each day in my blog about preschoolers and toddlers. Thanks for joining us!

I got up early this morning—Mom said she barely had her eyes open—and I got sent back to bed with books FOR HOURS!

Mom said she set the timer for half an hour, but I think she made a mistake. Finally, I got to get up, and I made my bed.

When Mama came in to check on me, she picked me up, and we swirled and swirled ‘coz she was so happy that I remembered to make my bed without being told.

I woke my little brother up GENTLY, and we wrestled a little before Mom came and took us into her bed to snuggle. Mommy and Daddy’s bed is so warm it must have some kind of special heater in it. Mommy says it’s warm because they’re so in love. Does love really make things warm?

Mommy read us our “Little Eyes Bible,” and I knew all of the answers when she asked the questions at the end. I let Josiah answer the really easy ones, so he would be happy. Mother read us our blessings, then held us close and sang Josiah’s favorite song that Mommy made up: “Precious Baby.” Josiah said that song is Jakie’s now, but Mama said it is still ours, too.

Next we had to get dressed and groomed. I had to brush my teeth three times before I got them good. I threw a TEENY fit because I wanted to wear my new blue shirt that’s for going places, and today is a stay at home day, so Mommy wanted me to wear play clothes. My little fit didn’t do any good—I wore the play clothes.

My big sister made yolky eggs for breakfast. I had to butter the toast—which is the worst job ‘coz it takes FOREVER. It’s worth it when I push a corner of the toast into the yolk, and the yellow puddle oozes out. I love yolky eggs.

Mommy read out loud from a chapter book while we ate. I’m starting to kind of like chapter books, even though they don’t have any pictures; I can make the pictures in my head now.

During breakfast clean-up, we listened to a story tape, which I LOVE. After breakfast, Mommy, Josiah, Kara, and I read some animal stories since that is what Kara is studying in our homeschool. I love animal stories and begged Mommy to read another one, but she didn’t have time because my big brother needed her help on his math. She said maybe we would read an extra one tomorrow—I’ll be sure to remind her.

I had to help with Baby Jacob. He can be so grouchy sometimes! Luckily, Mommy let me give him Cheerios to quiet him down, so I got some too.

Soon it was time for Jakie to play in his play pen, so Josiah and I got to play together. Next thing I knew, we were in trouble! Mommy came into the room and said that it looked like a tornado went through. We did it again! We got too many things out at one time. We had stuff all over the living room: Legos, cars and trucks, Duplo people, books, and stuffed animals. It took us FOREVER to clean it up---even with Kara’s help. Josiah and I had to each do an extra fifteen minute chore with Mommy because we forgot the rule about getting out too many things at one time, even though Mom said that she has reminded us every day for the last month.

Before I knew it, it was time to set the table for lunch. Josiah and I raced to see who could get done with our jobs first. I slowed down at the end so Josiah could catch up---then I let him win! Mommy took me into her room alone and gave me a million hugs. She said she was so happy that I was learning to see how others feel—and that I make Josiah feel important. I think she’ll probably tell Daddy, and he’ll say, “Jonathan, Mommy told me a good report about you!” I love it when he says that—he always has a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes when he does.

During lunch Mother read the older kids’ history book out loud. I kind of like it too. It’s about the Pilgrims who rode on the Mayflower. I like the Indians. She read more of it while we cleaned up lunch.

Right after lunch Josiah, Kara, and I picked out our stories for story time. We snuggled on the couch with Mommy and read them. I was so happy ‘coz it was my day, and I got to pick two stories today. I picked Curious George and a book about astronauts. Story time is my favorite time of the day.

After story time, Josiah had to take his nap, and I set the timer for half an hour and played on the computer. My big brother let me play his World War II game. It’s really fun.

Josiah slept FOREVER today, so I got bored. It stopped raining after lunch, so Mommy said I should go outside and jump on the trampoline—I think I was getting on her nerves. My three big sisters got done with their school work and came out and jumped. We played “California Earthquake” until Mommy finished her writing on the computer.

When Josiah finally woke up, Mommy, Josiah, and I played puzzles on the floor. We did our huge ABC floor puzzle. It’s really neat. We left it out for Daddy to see.

The next thing I knew it was time for evening chores. I didn’t even get to play army men yet! Josiah and I had to unload the dishwasher and set the table. Kayla and Cami are making bbq chicken tonight. Yum!

Daddy called and said that he is not going to be home for another half an hour, so my brother helped me set up army men. We worked and worked, making the forts and setting up all the cannons and everything. We got done setting up just in time to eat dinner. Mommy said we could leave it out for later.

During dinner Joshua and Kayla told some jokes from their joke books, and Mommy and Daddy talked about all of the yard work we have to do on Saturday. I don’t know why adults like to work so much! After dinner, Daddy read to us from the Bible and we sang. I chose “Father Abraham,” which is my favorite song ‘coz I like the motions. We cleaned the kitchen quickly so Daddy, Joshua, Josiah, and I could play army men.

After we played army men, it was almost time for bed. Mommy gave us a five minute warning—which meant we only had five more minutes of fun before we had to clean up our toys. I wanted to leave it set up for tomorrow, but Mommy said tomorrow is “grocery and doctor day,” so we will be gone in the morning. She even said I could wear my new blue shirt! I can’t wait.

We got ready for bed and Daddy, Kara, Josiah, and I did our “Picture Bible.” Daddy always stops at the most exciting parts!

After he hugged and kissed Kara and Josiah good-night, Dad asked me to sit on his lap for a minute. He held me close, smiled real big, got watery eyes, and then said, “Jonathan, Mommy told me a good report about you!”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

day seventy-seven: introducing the preschool days

 "Parents are often so busy with the physical rearing of children that they miss the glory of parenthood, just as the grandeur of the trees is lost when raking leaves."    -- Marcelene Cox

It’s preschool time! My favorite ages of children have always been ages four to six, ever since our semi-strong-willed second born went from a difficult three year old to an absolutely-blissful-four-year-old. (That did not magically happen, as you will learn when we dig into toddlers later this year. It took hard work, perseverance, and consistency that were all literally, “super human”!)

Over the next two weeks, we will be sharing boatloads of tips and strategies for parenting preschoolers—from scheduling their day, to love and affirmation, to bringing in the boundaries when things get out of control, and much more.

And we will do all of this using our yet-unpublished-children’s book, Jonathan’s Journal. Jonathan’s Journal is a look at the life of a day of one of our preschoolers, specifically, our sweet, sweet Jonathan, who is now a sweet, sweet seventeen year old. Someday if we get an illustrator and our little publishing company can afford it, we will publish our first children’s picture book—and add pictures and life to my special story.

In the meantime, we will use it as a teaching tool here and in our workshops. The book goes through Jonathan’s day, from his perspective. It gives details about his life on that day—from getting out of bed to doing his chores—to helping with little brother. And as we follow Jonathan through his days, we will have dozens of “mini-lessons” about parenting preschoolers.

We will post the story in its entirety tomorrow, but I want to leave you with the story of when I first shared Jonathan’s Journal in a workshop at the Ohio state homeschool convention several years ago. Just like I am doing on this blog, I first read the entire book aloud. Then, as I will here over the next couple of weeks, I went through it step-by-step, teaching from it. I had prepared thoroughly and was excited about the prospect of using a preschooler’s journal to teach parenting. It seemed the ideal combination—a real “day in the life of” followed by teaching about each aspect. I was not, however, prepared for the emotional onslaught of reading the book aloud.

I began reading it, and within ninety seconds, I began tearing up. A minute later, I was pausing, trying to regain my composure. Mid-way through, I lost it completely and absolutely could not continue. I just stood up there in front of two hundred people and bawled and bawled. Someone brought me some tissues, and in a few minutes, I began reading again, sniffling my way through. By the end of the book, I was in complete meltdown, and I again stopped for two or three minutes, sobbing.

More tissues were brought to me—and as I looked out on the crowd, many of the two hundred parents in the audience were crying as well! (That helped, actually, as it was a pretty comical sight to see this room full of people with Kleenexes, dabbing their eyes and trying to hold back the tears, most unsuccessfully.)

I regained my composure and began the teaching—and it was an awesome time of learning and sharing. I got more positive feedback from that workshop than most any other I have done—in spite of my weeping.

Something just hit me as I read about the special days that Jonathan and I used to share—that my little guy was ten—and would never be a preschooler again! He was one of the sweetest little boys I have ever met, honestly. And I loved sharing my days with him.

The moral of today’s story: cherish every moment. I know you hear that over and over again—that they will be grown up too soon, etc. etc. And I didn’t believe it twenty years ago either—but now I do. And part of my job as an older, I mean, experienced, mom is to tell you the truth: kids grow up too fast. Enjoy every day with your preschoolers.

day seventy-five: “we always….”

”What we remember from childhood we remember forever - permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.” ~Cynthia Ozick

We had one of those nights tonight….the kind where you enjoy your children more than you ever thought possible. The kind where you think that every sacrifice you ever made was worth it. And every mistake you ever made was forgotten. The kind that makes you glad that you had those family “ we always……” times.

Kayla was home from college itinerating for her upcoming missionary position. Kara was teaching a drama seminar to a homeschool group two hours from us. And Cami and her husband (who live near us) were available. So Kayla, Cami, Joseph, Ray, and I went to visit Kara. We picked her up and went out for dinner then dessert and had an absolutely incredible night…a night filled with remembering our “we always….” times.

It started when we picked Kara up. “We always” run up to each other, hug, and act like we haven’t seen each other for years (which it sometimes feels like!). Then we went to the restaurant and promptly laid all of the table signs on their sides…because “we always” do that.

Next, just like “we always” do, the one in the middle prayed. And just like “we always” do….we talked, and talked, and talked, and talked.

When we left the restaurant, everybody grabbed somebody—arm in arm, hand around the waist…because “we always” cuddle and show fond affection towards each other—and Dad swirled and twirled Kara because “he always” twirls his girls.

As we drove to the ice cream shop, one of the girls called out “calendar meeting” at the next stop because when we’re together, “we always” have calendar meetings. (Joseph, our son-in-law, said that if we were having a calendar meeting, he was staying in the van….our calendar meetings drive him crazy!)

When we went for dessert, two of the girls ran ahead and yelled “corner family booth” because “we always” try to squeeze in a corner booth so we can be closer and talk even more. As we talked in our “corner family booth,” we reminisced about old times because “we always” do that—and talked about how much fun we had on our last vacation, how important each person’s ministry/work is and how proud we are of each one, how cute and sweet “the little boys” are, and on and on.

Then, unfortunately, we had to part. We took a long time letting Kara go because “we always” do that. When we were all going our separate ways, I sent a love note via text—“I love you all ‘a million times infinity and beyond;” because “I always” write my kids love notes.

Our “we always’s” have become so important to our family. They define us. They make us the Ray Reish family. They bind us and build us up. They make us secure in our place in this world.

Some of our “we always’s” are big—“we always” exchange siblings gifts on Christmas Eve; “we always” do a big, expensive family night in December (with a play and dinner out). Many of our “we always’s” are small—moving the table signs off the table so we can see everybody and reminiscing about vacation. Regardless of whether they are big or small, our “we always” times build family unity, draw us closer to each other, and make us what we are—a Christian family trying to serve God in our own ways and “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Create "we always" times in your family--your kids will be so glad you did!

Note: Couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share our “we always’s.” I will introduce “Jonathan’s Journal” tomorrow—and start on our toddler/preschool journey.

Monday, March 15, 2010

day seventy-five: questions for the recipe for rebellion series

Over the past week or so, we have spent several posts detailing the Reishes’ Recipe for Rebellion—and we ended with the Ingredients for Intimacy. Today I am providing questions that you can review with your spouse (or in a small group, if applicable) to see where your family stands concerning the Recipe for Rebellion.

If you are just joining us, you can find the Recipe for Rebellion detailed in the past eight blog posts. Thanks for joining us!

1. Do you believe the Recipe for Rebellion is a valid recipe? Which areas do you disagree with?

2. If you find yourself reacting to the Recipe for Rebellion, thinking that you are the parent and they are the children--and they should obey and listen to you--spend some time praying and discussing this with a non- biased party and/or your spouse. How does God treat you?

3. Can you think of rules you have made that do not have logical reasons? Can you think of more logical reasons for these rules or should you eliminate this unnecessary or illogical rule?

4. When you use a Scripture for your reason for a rule or lifestyle guideline, is it accurately used? Are there other verses that say the same thing? Is the verse speaking to you or to another culture or people group (like in Leviticus)?

5. Can you think of something you have recently read or heard in which a Scripture was used and then extra-biblical and often unreasonable links were made to it? How can you teach your children to evaluate things more carefully using the premise that a verse should not be given and then outlandish or illogical links made to it?

6. Do you agree that God allows us to respond to his rules and decisions for our lives? How do you feel about letting your children respond to you?

7. If your children respond incorrectly now, but you desire to let them respond to you, how can you train them in correct responses?

8. Do you believe in the godly appeal? If so, decide when and how you and your spouse will begin implementing this in your home to eliminate "Rules Without Response."

9. Can you think of times recently in which one or more of your children said something that inferred that you were being inconsistent? That last time it was different than this time? How can you become more consistent in your rule making and enforcing?

10. Think of a rule (or more than one rule) of which your children are unhappy. Take it through the "ingredients" list from this week. Does it contain one of the ingredients in the Recipe for Rebellion? How so? Should it be changed or altered in some way?

Are you ready for me to switch gears? I have much more to say about teens, but to keep the blog varied, we will switch to preschoolers tomorrow—and stay with them for several days as we unveil—“Jonathan’s Journal”—an unpublished picture book with parent notes about parenting preschoolers.

For those of you with only teens, please recommend our blog to others with preschoolers! And stay with us as we will come back to teens and other general topics in several days.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

day seventy-four: ingredients for intimacy instead of the recipe for rebellion

Antithesis of Rules for Rebellion: Ingredients for Intimacy

We have found a truly successful Recipe for Rebellion--with four key ingredients. We know exactly how to create the dish known as rebellious children. If the final product we desire is rebellion, we can follow this recipe, including the correct portions of those ingredients, and get a sizzling menu of rebellion--and, along with it, the inability to get into our children's hearts to train them. Likewise, the opposite ingredients of the Rules for Rebellion can be combined to create a dish known as intimate relationship.

While I am no Latin scholar by any means, I did find it interesting to learn recently that the word intimacy is related to the Latin word intimus, meaning inner/innermost. When we want to have intimate communication with our children, we are saying that we want to have innermost communication with them—an innermost relationship with them. The ingredients in the Recipe for Rebellion keep us from developing that innermost relationship with our children.

Ingredients for Intimacy are the opposite of Recipe for Rebellion. They are the ingredients in our relationship (and rule making) that will cause us to get into our children’s innermost being—their very hearts.

What do these Ingredients for Intimacy look like?

1. Logical reasons that we voice to our children frequently—with as many and as detailed explanations as are needed and appropriate.

2. Allowing response and dialogue concerning our rules for our children and our own lifestyle choices.

3. Consistency in making and applying rules (and a listening ear should our children find us in inconsistencies!)

4. Deep, heart-affecting relationships with our children—no matter how much time, discomfort, inconvenience, money, space, and US these require.

If we give our children logical reasons; let them respond to us when they disagree; be consistent in making and applying rules; and develop deep, heart-affecting relationships with them, we can create the opposite of rebellion in our homes. We will then be following the Ingredients for Intimacy--and create an atmosphere where true heart training can transpire.

Note: Join us tomorrow as I give questions to ponder (and possibly discuss with your spouse or small group, if appropriate) concerning this series on the Recipe for Rebellion. And then stay with us for a few more days of focusing on teens as I review some materials that are helpful in the spiritual, character, and intellectual training of our teens.