Monday, February 14, 2011

A New Tool

Something that Steve and I have been realizing lately is that almost without us knowing it, we are quickly moving out of the really little phase. Well, at least half of the children are. Gone are the days of a quiet house in the the older boys and I play games, work on projects and then they are sent off to rest time while I catch a few moments to myself. These changes are good. They need to happen. They are supposed to get bigger you know. That is the point. So instead of fighting it and pining for days gone by, I've really tried to embrace it. You know, celebrate the end because something new is coming.

But one of the things that we've really noticed with this shift, has been our need to teach a bit more rather than just dictate. When the boys were all little, things were pretty black and white. The rules were simple. Obey Mom and Dad and obey God. Okay. Everything else is fair game. Have fun and enjoy God's blessings! Our rules were simple for all to understand and easy for us to see when someone crossed the line. But now, as we very slowly learn to let out the rope, more gray seeps in and bigger questions start coming to the surface. I can't tell you how many good, tough theological questions our kids have been asking recently and they're only (nearly) 4 and 5 1/2! They notice everything and Steve and I have really been kept on our toes in trying to explain to them answers to their questions!

So with these changes, we've come to the realization that our parenting must continue to adapt and evolve which means, we need to bring in new strategies. It's not that the old strategies don't work anymore but it's that we need more tools to deal with the increasingly intricate situations that surface daily. And these tools simply complement the ones we are already using instead of replacing them.

In some ways it's as if we've been in a Beginner's Carpentry class for the last five and a half years and now we're moving to the first level of Intermediate of which there are three levels and someday we'll go on past all of those into the Advanced Class. In the Beginner's Class you focus on two tools, the hammer and nails. In the Intermediate, you get to start using a screwdriver. And so on. But the end goal is a functional, usable, carefully crafted and thought out, beautiful piece of art that has been shaped for years by many different tools. If all we ever used was the hammer, we would end up with a pretty jagged and crude finished product that lacks any creativity and beauty.

So all of that to say, we've been making some attempts to incorporate a bit more teaching into our parenting of the two older boys (and Joshua when it's applicable). One of the ways we've been doing this is through the avenue of storytelling. Now before you all think that we made this up, we didn't. Pretty much anything that we do that's worth telling anyone else about didn't come from us-trust me. We're not that smart. You can check out this post to get an idea of what I'm talking about. The boys have really responded to this tactic.

Here's a few examples. Our first attempt came straight from the second blogpost about fussing. Our middle son can be prone to sulking but he also loves a good fight. My husband has said for two years now that we need to get him to fight the right things and not us. In essence, his will, turned in the right direction, can be a great thing!! So basically, Steve told Caleb that when he gets mad and wants to sulk that it's like a dragon is trying to come in and steal his joy (which technically is true). Caleb can either choose to fight that dragon with as much gusto as he's got or Mom and Dad will have to fight it for him with discipline. I have seen so many Kung Fu Panda moves over the last few weeks and it's been amazing to see how that bit of coaching and teaching really helps him get himself past the sulking. We can't just force him to shape up forever. He has to learn to deal with his emotions and apply his feelings in the right places on his own. This is just one example.

Once that story started, naturally many others have come along with it. I've got an oldest child who likes to tattle. So we've talked about being a good policeman who protects people (telling Mom when something is broken or someone is hurt) and being a bad policeman who just wants to write tickets to meet his quota-ha! (telling mom about every little thing). All tattling isn't bad but there must be teaching involved to get Isaac to see when it's appropriate and when it's not. And a story helps illustrate the point so well. Plus, kids love stories and they remember them.

When they're bugging each other, I tell them they're being like a little fly (we had a major influx of flies this past summer so, this really makes sense to them) that annoys everyone around them. We walk around saying, "Buzz, buzz, buzz." And how no one wants to be around a fly. They just want them to go away. The possibilities are endless. Even real stories work well because you don't have to make them up on the go. Isaac brought up Robin Hood the other day and we applied that story to hoarding things/toys (King John) and giving/helping others (Robin Hood). Of course, they want to be like Robin Hood. He's the good guy. He's the hero.

You get the idea.

We're so new at this level of teaching and are trying to figure it out. But even though we're still finding our feet, it feels fun, adventurous and good. Someday this level of teaching will seem like old hat. But I guess at that point, it'll just mean that we're headed into even more uncharted territory...maybe then it will be time to pick up a circular saw. That sounds scary to me!

Currently, things are still simple enough with a few screws thrown in here and there to mix things up. We'll stick with that. Right now, we're good with our trusty hammer, nails and the occasional need for the screwdriver which includes an arsenal of good, made-up stories/metaphors that prove a point. These stories teach and in turn, help us get through the lively, busy day in fairly good spirits!


  1. That was so cool, Nikki. Thanks for sharing. I learn so much from you guys going ahead of us in all this! I'm so glad you started a family first:)