Tag Archives: Loving Our Kids on Purpose

Better Yet, Don’t Do Your Chores (A Funny Yet Effective Parenting Technique)

The following is a true (and slightly hilarious) story that occurred in our home this very morning.

Over these past 4+ years of learning to parent the children and teenagers the Lord has blessed us with, we’ve read many Christian parenting books and sought advice from many trusted people in our attempts to relate to our young ones in a loving yet firm manner.

Our 13-year-old daughter Gleny, whom we are in the process of legally adopting with her two siblings, came into our lives as a rather angry and malnourished 9-year-old. In her tiny body with big, frizzy hair she experienced very intense mood swings and bouts of unexpected screaming and crying during her first couple years with us. We kept praying for her but oftentimes wondered what would become of her if the Lord did not heal her treacherous emotional swings. Although there is still much more work to be done, we have without a doubt seen the Lord calming her wild heart and granting her more peaceful, loving and happy emotions in recent times. She has experienced great advancements – academic, spiritual and developmental – in her nearly-five years in our family, and after great academic struggles in primary school she is now one of the best students in her class of ten 7th-graders in the little high school we operate out of our home. She has been very consistent in her violin lessons for over a year now, and we’re discovering that she’s a talented painter as well. She knows God’s Word and is very quick to engage in meaningful conversation about Him.

Well, all of this to point out the many triumphs in my precious Gleny’s life…but I will now point out a recent struggle and how I am working (with humor and grace) to resolve it.

Although she manages almost without flaw her many homework and group project assignments in our high school, she has not found the technique (or rather, desire) to fulfill her household chores every morning.

In our home we get up at 5:00am as each person gets busy doing the various tasks assigned to them. Darwin goes to milk the cow with two of our kids; our eldest sweeps our home and porch; Jason feeds the cat; I empty all the trash cans and tidy up the living room. Others clean the bathroom; some fold clothes; and so goes the routine.

Our goal is to leave our home clean and tidy before walking out the door and entering a full day of classes and Christian discipleship on our rural property from 6:45am-4:00pm, and on most days we reach this goal pretty darn well. We are a well-oiled machine.

Except for the squeaky parts (and, yes, Gleny is one of them.) On most days I walk on bare feet into the stillness of the room she shares with two of her sisters and quietly stroke her feet or pat her arm as I lovingly wake her up only to pass by again 20 or 30 minutes later to find her sleeping again. Everyone else is on their feet taking a shower, making their bed or going about their daily duties, and I have to call her name loudly just so that she’ll sit up in bed, startled.

Once up, she meanders around our house in a daze for nearly an hour, oftentimes spending an inordinate amount of time making her bed or going to the bathroom. (I suspect she’s taking a nap on the toilet.)

I have tried many techniques to try to rouse her and incite her to fulfill the only chore she has each morning (everyone else has 2-3 chores and they fulfill them without complaint), but I have oftentimes been left frustrated after reminding her two or three times to go do her chore only to find that she never does it.

Well, this morning a new idea occurred to me, and it worked like magic. I pulled back three bedroom door curtains and entered three silent bedrooms to awake 7 sleepy people this morning as usual, and we were off. Little Jason was taking the fruit and vegetable remains from the day prior out to the cows’ stable; Jackeline was washing the dishes; my husband was cleaning our bathroom; I was feeding the dogs.

I passed by Gleny’s room just to make sure she was up, which I suspected she wasn’t. “Gleny!” I called from the other side of the curtain, a good half-hour after having gone to wake her up the first time, and her older sister replied, “She’s not up yet.”

Instead of feeling frustrated with our chronic (but precious) squeaky wheel, I responded joyfully, “Oh, that’s okay. Just let her be!”

I’m sure everyone who heard me was surprised by my response, but I kept on my merry way – look for little Josue’s socks; help him put his shoes on; go get a bar of soap for Jackeline; take my vitamins.

Well, at some point Gleny did get up and asked permission to use our bathroom to take a shower. I felt almost giddy (in a naughty-child type of sense) as I thought I-hope-she-doesn’t-do-her-chore-this-morning. I-hope-she-gives-me-the-chance-to-do-what-I-want-to-do!

6:45am rolled around and all of our local teachers and uniformed students began streaming through our front gate. At this point family time (and house-cleaning time) is over and we enter our sacred daily routine of service to the poor, the proclamation of God’s Word, and humble love to the lost. God has sent several dozen local young people our way who spend the majority of their waking hours under our guidance as we seek to draw them nearer to Christ. We teach the ignorant, encourage the faint of heart, discipline the unruly and include many in this beautiful lifestyle with and for Christ. It is a very good, rich life. We love what we do.

Soon enough I forgot all about Gleny and whether or not she had done her chore of picking up whatever was left laying about in our outdoor washing station.

I began hugging little kids and teenage girls and extending my hand and a warm pat on the back to teen boys. It is our morning routine. I slipped into the office to greet each of our teachers and I watched as little ones began playing on the rope swings dangling from the trees in our yard.

Fifteen minutes or so later – once each group had been tucked away in their respective classrooms – I walked back over to our home (which is about 5-10 paces from our school).

Gleny! I suddenly remembered. I headed for our outdoor washing station (called a ‘pila’ in Spanish) on the edge of our porch where we wash our household’s clothes, shoes and bedding.

Yes! Ah-HAH! My eyes alit with glee as I saw the many rags and tidbits thrown about the washing station. Gleny had not done her job!

I got to work doing the job myself, laughing all the while. I hand-washed a shirt and several underpants and rags that had been left half-washed and sitting in a pan; I collected the long blue rope that was laying haphazardly on the ground; I collected the many shoes that were scattered about; I picked up and re-hung the clothes that had fallen off the line. Perfect.

Upon finishing my job, I headed straight into our little cinderblock home (still laughing to myself) and wrote on our family’s living-room whiteboard the following message that will be read by all later this afternoon once they get out of classes and come streaming into our home:

Blessings to you, Gleny! Don’t worry about the fact that you didn’t clean up the washing station this morning; I took 10-15 minutes to do it once you were in class. Now you can go ahead and cover my job of washing the boys’ clothes this Friday since I did your job this morning. I am available to fulfill your responsibilities when you need help! I love you. –Mom

So I am now at peace and will happily cover her morning duty when she ‘forgets’ to do it – and then she will have to take one of my jobs!

I had instituted this same technique a year ago with another one of our teen daughters with fantastic and rather quick results. One afternoon she did not do some chore of hers, so I switched roles with her (unbeknownst to her) and vegged out in her room watching a movie with one of our other daughters. When she walked in, shocked to find me slouched out on her floor without a care in the world, I informed her, “Oh, I did your chore because you forgot, so now you’ve got to do mine. Normally I make dinner, bathe your little brother, bring in the dry clothes from the line, feed the dogs, supervise all your siblings and help them resolve any conflict they might have. I hope you have a great time, sweetie. Don’t come look for me; I’m enjoying this great movie with your sister.” She was left with her jaw hanging down around her ankles, and sure enough she got busy doing my long list of chores while I enjoyed a very relaxed afternoon and evening. From that day forward, every time she considered not fulfilling her chores I amiably offered to do them for her and she would scream, “No; they’re mine! I’m on it!” because she didn’t want to assume my long list of chores. Score!

This parenting idea and many others can be found in Danny Silk’s phenomenal book Loving Our Kids on Purpose. It sure beats nagging and frustration! (And I certainly hope she neglects the washing station again tomorrow so that I can assign her another one of my jobs!)

God bless you and keep you!

Sweeping Away Bitterness: Learning to Foster Gratitude and Humility in Our Home

In our little cinderblock home out in the countryside with our 8 foster kids, roughly 30 local youth in our community homeschool, 5 local missionaries/teachers, a few guard dogs, more chickens than you can count and about a half dozen cattle thrown in the mix (all under the blistering Honduran sun without air-conditioning or properly sealed buildings), we are constantly innovating new cleaning routines so as to maintain our rustic little buildings as clean as they can possibly be (for at least five minutes before they get dirty again).

We have two local moms come help us out part-time in the kitchen and with general cleaning during the schoolweek, but even so everything seems to be perpetually grimy. Sweaty, dirty children (many of whom come from local poor families that do not bathe or brush their teeth frequently/properly, do not own deodorant, etc) dart about our property, leaving dirty hand- and shoe-prints all over our walls; bats, rats, bugs and other creatures constantly invade; and special-needs children frequently leave pee- and poo-messes in the least desirable places.

Thus, we dedicate a good chunk of time to scratching our heads and scheming up new ways to tackle the hygiene giant on our rural property (without becoming totally obsessed with this endeavor, as our ultimate purpose is not to maintain an immaculate house but rather to usher young men and women to the foot of the Cross).

And so on Monday of this week I orchestrated a long day of deep-cleaning activities around our property in collaboration with the ongoing effort to establish good hygiene. Brayan spent the entire morning washing the walls of our 2 school houses with abundant water and detergent (we had done so not three weeks prior, but they were already dirty again). Developmentally-challenged Gaby and Josue helped out by filling four grocery bags full of little bits and pieces of trash, thrown-out papers, etc, that they found in and around the porches and tables on our front lawn (this is also a job that is done weekly, but many Hondurans are accustomed to throwing trash wherever they want, and they frequently choose our front lawn).

Each person had a job, and all seemed to be going according to plan as a rather simple (perhaps even obvious) idea dawned on me: what we really needed (and had yet to establish) was a morning sweeping routine, as we sweep all floors and porches once or twice in the late-morning/afternoon, but each morning as we receive all our local students through our front gate, it would be really great if the porches were already swept. Our porches are large cement slabs that are often covered in a fine layer of dirt, dog hair or insect remains, as people and animals with dirty feet are constantly walking across them. Although our morning routine is already tight with our 4:45am get-ups and the very precious task of getting 8 young people ready, making beds, serving breakfast, etc before all of our neighbors arrive, I came to the conclusion that the sweeping routine must be added to our daily schedule if we were going to elevate our overall hygiene standards as we hoped to.

I briefly considered who would do this job – I personally enjoy sweeping, but with my many other early morning commitments, I knew that my time simply would not allow me to take on any additional commitments. And our kids? How would they react to the news of being the new chief executives of the morning sweeping routine? 

As is evidenced throughout the Bible, humankind oftentimes is given to murmuring and complaining, and our kids are no exception. Just the day prior I was listening to the Old Testament on CD as I drove around town doing errands. As I listened, I felt surprised and personally convicted by the fact that the Israelites – who had been rescued out of grueling slavery in Egypt by God’s powerful hand! – fell into the trap of complaining so many times in their journey through the desert. Had they not just been rescued, and should they not be grateful and full of faith in the good God rather than constantly complaining, doubting and murmuring? Unfortunately, humanity has not changed much, and I mulled this over as I considered how to break the news to our kids. In any situation of responsibility or work, we want our kids to approach the activity with joy and humility, doing all things with excellence as unto the Lord and not unto men, but this grace-filled attitude is not always achieved. How could I break the news to them about my fabulous new idea to sweep each morning without them falling into murmuring, complaints, and “it’s not fair”?

Without further ado, I headed to our family’s whiteboard in our living room, feeling suddenly sure of what I was to write: “…We are going to start a new sweeping routine every morning. The schedule is written on the piece of paper above this whiteboard. If anyone has a problem with this, you can talk with Mom and Dad and exchange jobs with them, and they will gladly sweep for you. Mom and Dad’s jobs are: wake everyone up each morning, prepare/serve breakfast, make sure everyone makes their beds and brushes their teeth, brush the girls’ hair, and bathe Gaby and Josue and get them dressed. If you do not want to sweep or see this job as unfair, then just talk with Mom and Dad, and you can take their jobs instead.”

I laughed to myself as I wrote the breaking headline on our frequently-used family whiteboard. I knew that within moments everyone would be flocking to it to see what the latest announcement was. I added at the end of my short informational paragraph: “Please be encouraged to take on this new morning routine not as a punishment or extra baggage, but rather as a privilege as we learn to serve one another and take care of the home God has given us. God bless you!”

Sure enough, our kids all read the message and there were immediately signs of negative attitudes as several of our girls exchanged glances that seemed to say, “I don’t like this. Why is Mom giving us one more job? This isn’t fair. Ugh.”

Refusing to be discouraged, I kept a smile on my face.

The next morning I was glad to see that our first two daughters on the list completed their task after a friendly reminder. Although I can’t say that they did so joyfully, the porches did get swept in a timely fashion.

Later that afternoon, our eldest daughter approached me in the kitchen pretending to not understand the new sweeping schedule that I had written and taped to our living room wall. She is a very smooth-talker and very emotionally astute, so she began the conversation with me as I was serving dinner: “Hey Mom, I guess I didn’t really understand the sweeping schedule…My days are Tuesday and Friday, right?”

I smiled at her – knowing that she was probably masking her true feelings about her new job – and said, “No. Your days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The four days we have classes.”

Her eyes grew wide as her face displayed a slight grimace. Ouch! Not two days, but four! She and Josselyn would take the weekdays for now, and our other two teen girls the weekends. She probed further with her smooth talk, still trying to find a way out: “When is the schedule gonna change?”

“I’m not sure, but for now it remains as is.”

She crossed her arms as she leaned back against the kitchen counter. She looked thoughtful. This conversation hadn’t quite turned out the way she had hoped.

Just in case she really had not understood the whiteboard message or had read it too quickly, I added with an upbeat attitude: “I personally really enjoy sweeping, but I just don’t have the time to take the job on in the morning. You know, if you want to exchange jobs with me, I’ll gladly take yours. Each morning I prepare and serve breakfast, bathe Gaby and Josue – “

She stood up straight with a look of genuine surprise in her eyes and cut me off before I could finish listing off my morning responsibilities, “No thanks!” She let out a sincere little laugh and shook her head in an enthusiastic ‘no’ as her rather simple job of sweeping two porches suddenly seemed a whole lot more desirable. Her entire countenance changed as she approached the job with gratitude for the first time.

I laughed with her and continued cutting the watermelon that I would be adding to each person’s dinner plate. Joy had suddenly been restored among us as I thanked God in my heart for this change of attitude in our delightful daughter.

To all you parents and educators out there: try this technique! I learned it from Danny Silk’s book Loving Our Kids on Purpose.

 

Amen! Glory to God!

Sane Family Practices: The Sabbath Hour

Last night a few minutes before 8:00pm Gleny, our almost-12-year-old fireball with her frizzy hair all out of place and clunking about in her rather large, black rain boots to accompany her pajamas, laughed hysterically as she came out of the bathroom. It was one of those sincere laughs that rattles your whole being, almost violent with joy as she confessed through loud, sincere bursts, “Ok! Good night, Ma and Pa — this time it’s for real…”

She clunked right past us in her big ole rubber boots, her body still convulsing joyfully, and entered the bedroom she shares with two of her older sisters. As the curtain closed silently behind her, so, too, our entire cinderblock home became enveloped in an immediate silence.

Biting my lip and holding back a similar belly laugh that Gleny herself had experienced only moments prior, I looked over at my husband as we both sat on our living room couch, each with a book in hand — reading as much as serving as our home’s watchful vigilantes.

You see, about four or five months ago we instituted the “Sabbath Hour” in our home every night. Well, every night except Fridays, that is. At 7:15pm everyone enters their bedroom — teeth already brushed, showers already completed, all conversations already had — and our entire household enters into total silence. No laughing, no idle chit-chatting, no running about.

The general rule is this: we don’t want to hear you; we don’t want to see you. If you want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading, drawing, praying, etc — that is fine. If you go to bed immediately upon entering the Sabbath Hour, that is fine. But at 7:15pm everyone will be tucked away in their room, and we will rest.

So many months ago we got this idea from Danny Silk’s book Loving Our Kids on Purpose. In the book the author calls this idea “Room Time,” but we have changed the name in our household because our kids didn’t like the original name. While this daily routine of silence is a healthy exercise for our kids (after having spent the entire day in constant activity playing, learning, interacting with other people, etc, they have a designated, protected time each evening to rest emotionally and spiritually, seek God in His Word, etc), it is even healthier for the parents. (Alas, perhaps we should have named it “The Sanity Hour!”)

So with dogged persistence and undeterred consistency Darwin and I have established and protected our family’s Sabbath Hour as if our life depended on it (because it does!), and those neighbors of ours who occasionally call in the evenings even know that they must do so before we enter the Sabbath Hour because after 7:15pm we don’t receive calls.

Despite the many (many) times our kids have tried to persuade us to push the hour back (or do away with it altogether — it’s so hard not to talk, laugh, and jump around noisily when you’ve got really fun roommates!), by God’s grace we have continued onward, respecting and protecting the Sabbath Hour for many months now. (Oh, how many times even during that blessed Sabbath Hour have one or two of our kids daringly opened their curtains and come out to the living room or knocked on our bedroom door to try to reel me in to their love trap, putting on cute faces and trying to get me to solve this or that problem or do any number of things that could have been done earlier that afternoon! I merely say lovingly, “Now is not the time. You should have told me that earlier. Now it’s the Sabbath Hour. I love you so much. Good night!”)

So what happens when we hear a loud shriek of laughter or some little voice is heard chit-chatting when all should be silent after 7:15pm? Darwin and I call the perpetrator(s) calmly, hand them a couple plastic grocery bags, and send them outside with a flashlight to pick up a few dog poops. And if that doesn’t do the trick, we send them out again to sweep the three rather large porches on our fenced-in rural property. Then, they re-enter their room and resume the Sabbath Hour.

Last night as we reached the blessed 7:15pm mark, warm bedtime hugs were given and everyone was herded toward their bedroom. Door curtains opened to let in their inhabitants and then dropped closed behind them. “The Sabbath Hour starts on the count of three! 1, 2, 3…”

All became quiet.

I grabbed Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and headed for our living room couch in my pajamas to read, a rare treat that can only be enjoyed during the Sabbath Hour.

The only overpowering noise heard in our entire house was the water falling from the shower in our bathroom as Darwin bathed (and in our house, you can hear everything. If someone coughs at the other end of the house, you can hear it). I contemplated my own breath peacefully entering and exiting my nostrils, such a small noise that during cacophonous hours is easily overlooked. The creaking of beds, soft footsteps across bedroom floors, the quiet rustling of books and papers, and the opening of a dresser drawer. The sound of Legos building upon one another as Josue played in his bed not five yards from where I sat. Our dogs, too, respected the Sabbath Hour as they lazily sprawled out on our porch, thankful for another day well spent.

A few moments later, Darwin came to join me on the couch, Bible in hand.

Fifteen minutes or so passed in total silence as we read, breathed. Then, unexpectedly, a few little whispers started. As any parent knows, when children are involved, a whisper can turn into a full-out hullaballoo faster than you can say “Sabbath Hour,” so Darwin and I looked at each other, eyebrows arched, and I motioned for him to go investigate the situation.

He got up from our little multi-colored couch as his even words declared for our whole little house to hear, “Ok, those who were whispering, come on out. I’ll get the plastic bags.”

A couple moments passed before Dayana, our 15-year-old daughter who quite proudly holds the title of “eldest,” suddenly appeared in our living room from the other side of her bedroom curtain, a small grin taking over her face as she knew she had been caught red-handed. She had on her pajamas with her big, curly hair going in all directions. I made eye contact with her and couldn’t help but smile.

Darwin then came out of our room with a couple plastic bags in hand as almost-12-year-old Gleny suddenly burst on the scene behind her elder sister, laughing hysterically as she slipped on her big ole rubber boots.

Darwin in monotone: “Three poops each.”

Gleny, laughing and eyeing her older sister: “Like three little droplets?”

Me (knowing she was trying to find a loophole and pick up three little droplets that were all part of the same overall poo): “No. Three whole poops. We love you guys.”

The sisters groaned good-naturedly, Dayana with flashlight in hand, and soon enough they were walking out the front door. Gleny turned around, trying to engage us in some last-minute joke or silly pre-teen commentary, but I answered, “Gleny, it’s the Sabbath Hour. See you soon.”

So about 10 or 15 minutes later we heard a knock at our front door accompanied by some giggles, and Darwin answered.

Their triumphant declaration: “We’ve got the poops!”

So they went, threw them away in our outside trash barrel, and came in, now (mostly) in silence as Gleny still wrestled with intense laughter. They washed their hands in the bathroom, and then were off to their room.

That was when Gleny confessed through a big grin and burst of giggles, “Ok! Good night, Ma and Pa — this time it’s for real…”

 

Amen! Glory to God for the precious Sabbath Hour!