Saturday, October 9, 2010

day 265: amazing cheese spread recipe

I am a collector of recipes (obviously!). Some of my favorites are definitely freezer cooking ones as I have been a freezer cook for over twenty years. Two other areas I collect recipes in widely include appetizers and holiday goodies. The latter is obvious—who doesn’t love holiday goodies.

The former (appetizers), however, I used to collect because of the groups of company we used to have all the time for small group, parenting classes, moms’ meetings, etc. Now, in our small house and our travel schedule, we do not have company very often. We do, however, have occasion to use appetizer recipes for carrying in places, namely get-togethers that our boys go to and ballroom dances for me and Ray.

Today’s recipe is a unique cheese spread. I love it (in spite of the mayo)—and it gets rave reviews everywhere. It is so different than the typical cheese ball. I think you and yours will like it too! Make it the next time you have a group of teens over!

Unique Cheese Spread

2 cups shredded cheese

1 cup Hellman’s Mayo (no substitutions)

1 cup spreadable cream cheese*

3 green onions, chopped

6 slices bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled

½ cup pecans, chopped

*Note: The original recipe has two cups mayo and no cream cheese. We are not mayonnaise fans, so we do half and half.

Mix all. Refrigerate. Serve.

Friday, October 8, 2010

day 264: benchmarks for readiness to expand boundaries part i of ii

If you have begun parenting with boundaries in place—you as the parent and the child as the child—congratulations! Your parenting joys will outnumber your parenting woes—and usually by a great number.

When, however, should boundaries be expanded? When is a child ready to become more autonomous in a given area? When can we release some of the “micro-managing” that raising little ones involves?

There is an extremely obvious benchmark for this readiness in your child’s behavior : If a child is not happy when he does not get his own way, he should not get his own way. In a practical sense, this means that if our two year old screams because he has the blue sipper cup and he wants the red one, he is not mature enough to make that decision. He is unhappy when he doesn't get his way, so he should not get his way. And maybe this child should have the blue sipper cup for the rest of his life!

It means that if our four year old cannot share a toy with his brother, he is probably not old enough or mature enough to have that toy (at the very least for that day, but quite possibly for longer than that).

It means that if our ten year old is not doing her assignments on time, she should not be the one who decides when she will do her homework, where she will do her homework, and what she is permitted to do until the homework is done.

It means that if our sixteen year old cannot seem to get home on time after debate club, he is probably not mature enough to drive to debate club (and perhaps not mature enough to be driving at all right now).

This “discontentment benchmark” is a glaring one and one that is extremely measurable and obvious—when we want it to be. How many of us overlook the telltale signs that our children are calling the shots in certain areas way before they are ready? How many of us justify a behavior? How many of us excuse away tantrums? How many of us look the other way instead of confronting our children’s negative actions?

Tomorrow: Part II of “Benchmarks for Bringing in the Boundaries”—signs that you cannot miss.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

day 263: the concept of our children’s “boundaries” part ii of ii

If you have young children, be assured that the decisions you make today in your parenting (to be in control or let the child be in control) have a huge impact on your child’s future behavior. Bad behavior does not change on its own. The child does not “grow out of it.” Look around at peers with kids older than yours. If these moms and dads began with this permissive, child-controlled parenting, have their children “outgrown” it and started to obey and respect for some odd reason?

Starting out with the boundaries established for your little one, with parents who truly believe their children were given to them to raise for God’s glory, makes a world of difference in every aspect of a child’s life. After all, if we genuinely believe that our children were given specifically to us to raise in a Christian manner for the Lord, we would never let our children be disrespectful, mean, hateful, etc. We would constantly have the awareness that I need to parent as the Lord would have me parent—and He would not want me to allow my child to grow up behaving like that.

We all want our children to be happy, of course. Unfortunately, the desire to have our children be “comfortable and happy” has trumped the desire to raise our children in a biblical, Christ-centered way, in many cases. This is sad because allowing our children to have their own way all the time is so counter-productive—and does not result in children who desire to please their parents, or eventually, to please other authorities, including God Himself.

I write about this so much because I want you to enjoy your kids, love parenting, develop good habits, and create a strong, Christian family. It starts right here. Our kids were never perfect. However, I can honestly say that this approach to parenting has made all the difference in our enjoyment of parenting—and even the enjoyment of our children, to a large extent. Our toddlers and preschoolers (even our strong-willed child, eventually!) were joys to us and everybody around them. (Most of the time!) It’s truly about having the proper person in control in the toddler years—and widening the boundaries (more on that to come in the next few days) as the child is ready. Oh, and tons of love, hugs, kisses, snuggles, stories, playtime, and more!

Tomorrow and beyond: benchmarks for knowing when the boundaries have been widened too much too soon, how to bring the boundaries back in, and “is it too late?”

Note: The scenarios in today and yesterday’s posts with eight, ten, and twelve month old children include controlling the child through holding him until his fit subsides, removing the child from the situation, and making the toddler stay in his crib until he quits screaming. We did not spank toddlers at those young ages; thus, we used these techniques to train the child to submit to our authority. Seldom would an eight month old make the connection between a spanking and screaming during nap time. We do not recommend spanking at those early ages.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

day 262: the concept of our children’s “boundaries” part i of ii

In our parenting, we have discovered that when a child continuously has to have control or does not respect/obey us, we have probably widened the boundaries (the areas that child controls) too much, too soon. Before I tackle “bringing the boundaries back in,” let me expound upon the boundaries concept, especially for young parents who can actually ward off many, many difficulties in child training if this is grasped early in your child’s life.

As Christian parents, we want to have a healthy balance of our children’s development of independence (or hopefully, dependence on God and His principles rather than on us) and our continual “micro-managing” of them. With the emphasis on autonomy and children’s independence/indulgence and with a shortage of role models and teachers who have successfully parented small children with a biblical approach, parents are at a loss as to what to do with the eight month old who refuses to nap and screams and screams or the ten month old who will not quiet down until she is given drinks of your pop or the twelve month old who continually throws food from his high chair (or the seven YEAR old who fusses until she gets the front seat—while Mom is relegated to the back). Thus, rather than parents being in control of their toddler, the toddler controls the parents. This is what we call “releasing the boundaries” too early.

On the other hand, if the parent controls the toddler’s behavior until the toddler has the ability to control himself or herself, the parent is keeping the boundaries in place where they should be until the appropriate time.

Let me give you some comparisons of the parent who is allowing the little one to control vs the parent who keeps control of the child until self-control is achieved:

1. In the eight month old who refuses to nap, the child is in control when the parents get the child out of his crib every nap time, walk the floor, let the child stay up and get fussier and fussier, etc. In this scenario, the toddler is controlling the parents—and everybody is miserable from the results. In a parent-controlled environment, the wiser parent knows that the eight month old needs the nap in order to achieve peace for all—and for the baby’s health and behavior later in the day. This parent controls the situation by being sure that the child is dry, well-fed, hydrated, tired, loved, read to, scheduled (i.e. the nap is not just a passing idea because Mom is tired!), etc.---all of the “preventive parenting” strategies introduced in this blog earlier. Thus, the child is put to bed and stays there—possibly with music or story audios, possibly with books—whatever training method is needed. However, the child does nap—and the parent is not “widening the boundaries” and letting the child decide for himself what is best.

2. In the ten month old who screams until she gets to drink Mom’s pop, the child is in control when Mom gives her drink after drink because of her fit. In a parent-controlled environment, an alternative is given (sipper cup with juice or milk) and if the child cries, the parent firmly says, “No. This is Mommy’s and this is baby’s.” If the child screams, throws her cup, pulls Mom’s hair (agghh…), etc., she should be held firmly until her fit ends or placed in her crib until she ends the tantrum. (“You stay in here until you are ready to quit screaming and ready to be nice and drink your drink. We don’t scream if we don’t get our own way. No screaming allowed.”) Once she is quiet, she is moved out and the process is repeated as needed. Again, this child is not mature enough to decide for herself what to drink---and to give her drinks of soda to keep her from screaming is widening the boundaries of her decision making too soon.

3. In the twelve month old food-thrower, the child is in control when the food is continually replaced with a “Don’t do that. Stop throwing it.” (Or anger and a slap or jerking out of the chair—even worse than child-controlled is parent-out-of-control!) In a parent-controlled environment, the child is warned: “Do not throw food. If you do that anymore, you will have to leave dinner. Throwing food is not nice.” Then if it is done again, the child is removed. He has lost his privilege to sit at the table with the family. (Trust me, we did this so much with our last child that we had a designated “runner” each night of the week to take little Jakie to his bed until he was ready to act right at the table. He was placed in his bed until he quieted down then brought back down again to his high chair with the reminder, “That’s better. No screaming. And no throwing food. You can come back to the table if you are ready to be nice.” Over and over and over and over…..for weeks. That lesson took the most resolve and consistency of any child training we have done!)

Continued tomorrow….

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

day 261: taking back control

Many parents are bewildered as to how to take back their rightful place as, well, the parents. They feel overwhelmed with the consequences they will have to face if the child loses his or her control. Isn't it easier just to keep peace now and give the child what he wants? Maybe he will grow out of this selfish stage. Proverbs 19:18 addresses this subject: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." Wise words of Solomon--do it while there is still time, while there is still hope, leaving us with the impression that someday it will be too late.

The Living Translation of this verse says that we can ruin our children by not disciplining them: "Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don't, you will ruin their lives."

According to the KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, the word chasten here means “to instruct and to discipline.” This is consistent with our thinking about the two aspects of "negative" (i.e. corrective) child training:

1. Instruct indicates teaching (i.e. through verbal instruction, preventive parenting, and consequences for poor character)

2. Discipline indicates what some call punishment or chastisement

The other words here are fairly literal--while there is still hope (before time runs out and it becomes a hopeless situation); he will not die (from the "chastisement"). Of course, even without that Proverb, we know in our hearts that this is true. We allow a baby to manipulate our home and schedule--at six months, nine months, twelve months--having to be walked around at night to go to bed, giving him our watch because he will not quit screaming in church until he has it (no toy will suffice), letting him determine our family's schedule.

Then that baby becomes a demanding toddler--two year old who has to have his cup with the lid off or else. Then a preschooler, of whom nobody wants to be around.

Into elementary school--a know-it-all, my-way-or-the-highway ten year old girl or demanding, pushy boy. Need I go on?

Then the young teen, who is shunned even by his own siblings because his personality is so abrasive….and, well, you get the picture. We have to take back control now. Not later.

Tomorrow—the antidote for the child-controlled home: recognizing and instilling boundaries in children’s behavior.

Monday, October 4, 2010

day 260: who makes the decisions for the children?

I can still vividly remember a time when we were trying to get a handle on our first little one’s behavior. I was questioning biblical discipline and wavering some on whether more "modern" techniques might be appropriate.

One time, during my doubting weeks, I called two-year-old Joshua to come to allow me to put on his coat. He didn't come right away. I remembered an article I had read in a parenting magazine about talking sweetly, telling him the importance of your "wish," acting nonchalantly about a child's disobedience, etc., so I tried it. I had his coat in my hand as I told him that I really needed him to come, so we could leave. I told him that if he didn't come soon, we would be late. I spoke in soft, syrupy tones. Then I sat on the couch and acted like it didn't really matter to me whether he came right away or not. Suddenly, I looked down at the coat in my hand and thought about what I was doing and realized how foolish it was.

Joshua was training me, rather than the other way around! There I sat on the couch, unable to leave, because my little one did not want to. I was allowing an immature preschooler to dictate our schedule. In essence, that is what we do when we do not punish our child, but let him do things his way or do what he wants instead of what we know is best for him. We are letting someone without the needed maturity and wisdom make decisions about himself (ie, when to go to sleep, what to eat, what to wear, etc.).

When our children are given to us as babies, they are foolish (sweet, wonderful, and darling, but definitely not “wise” yet) and unable to take care of themselves or to make decisions on their own. God expects us to take care of them and make decisions for them, not let them do it for themselves simply to avoid tantrums.

We have always been big fans of explaining things to children—including why we want a certain behavior, but a child should not HAVE to be given an explanation in order to obey. We have explained what we want and why we want it to our children for two reasons: (1) to keep the child from becoming exasperated; and (2) to give him something to put on his “learning hooks” to pull out when needed in the future. These early explanations are the foundation for later character training.

So how do you train small children to obey and be content even when the parent (as opposed to the child) is in control—in a world that says that children can only be happy if they consistently get their own way? Tune in tomorrow for “starting out right” and more!