“Motherhood is hard work. In our own human effort to build ourselves up and find meaning in our lives, we turn our choices into accomplishments, our children into gold stars that show our worth.”

Kristen Knox Stewart

Kindergarten: Better Late than Early?

“Look, I did school!”

A5 just came up to me, showing me some papers which he cut, pasted, and wrote letters.

I tend to be a “Better Late Than Early” (aff) sort of homeschool mom. . . but I think he’s a “Better Now Than Later” sort of kid.

His birthday was last week. He kept telling me, “When I turn five, I’m going to start Kindergarten!” It took me awhile to realize that he thought that as soon as his birthday came, he’d get a uniform and go to the school his brothers attend and join the class his little friend from Sunday School is in.

He was sad when I told him he wouldn’t be joining Ellie’s class. But now, I think we need to start our Kindergarten rhythms in earnest.

Review: “Love, Honor, and Virtue”

Hal and Melanie Young’s most recent book, “Love, Honor, and Virtue” is a great primer on puberty and purity for parents and sons to use together. (Come back later for a mom-to-mom interview with Melanie!)

 

Mom and boys standing near a loch in Scotland.

My teen boys tower over me… Obviously, they’ve hit puberty!

We have five sons, half of whom are now legal adults. In all honesty, I expected to navigate the muddy waters of adolescence with a little more clarity than I have. Instead, I often punted the ball to my husband who is a bit more direct, rather than addressing things head-on myself.

 

I used to joke that the best way to teach about puberty and reproduction is through mom being pregnant. And while that isn’t the reason WHY we had child #5, it sure was convenient that I was pregnant when the older boys were 12yo – 16yo. It was easy to talk about reproduction, hormones, and birth while living through it. But let’s be honest — we can’t all keep having babies just to make talking about puberty and reproduction easier.

 

Let’s be honest — we can’t all keep having babies just to make talking about reproduction easier.

“Love, Honor, and Virtue” would have been a welcome resource to have when our older boys were first entering adolescence. While there are topics in the book which I wish didn’t need to be addressed in early adolescence (sexting, porn, masturbation), they do need to be brought up at a younger rather than older age. This book would be handy to open the conversation with them about these more challenging issues.

 

Life, love, sex, and development are all connected and part of God’s design. That is the foundational premise of “Love, Honor, and Virtue,” and that is a great starting point.

 

Written directly to the young teens themselves, the book gives a good overview of the biology of puberty and reproduction. The information is specific and accurate. It’s just a primer, though, and eventually I’d want to use biology textbooks and further health resources to for more detail. The biology section addresses some areas especially well, including a summary of the birth process aimed at future fathers and the impact of hormones on male emotions.

 

Life, love, sex, and development are all connected and part of God’s design.

Our culture assumes hormones will impact young women’s emotions, and ignore that those become cyclically predictable and therefore somewhat easier to handle. I find that young men are surprised at how hormonal changes lead to mood changes — and at how confusing it can be when these emotion swings seem to come out of nowhere. (This was one of our topics of conversation as we drove to church just yesterday!)

 

As I expected, this book communicates a Biblical sexual ethic clearly. I appreciated the discussion on how we tend rationalize our sin, including sexual sin. Some materials in the Christian market err either in making light of sexual sin, or presenting it in doom and gloom morass that will ensnare everyone. The Youngs are frank about sexual temptation and the seriousness of sexual sin, without presenting fighting sin as a hopeless cause. In addition to Scriptural encouragement, they address some very practical ways to fight temptation, as well as some of the biological factors (dopamine!) which make it harder to resist temptation.

 

“Love, Honor, and Virtue” is a great primer on puberty and purity.

What I didn’t expect was the depths of discussion on boy/girl relationships — friendships as well as relationships leading to marriage. I think we’ve learned over the past few decades that it is not healthy to cling closely to idealistic relational models(courtship! betrothal! dating!) I found that the Youngs provided young men with very helpful insights into relationships, without being prescriptive. Rather than a “don’t do this” list of rules, they offered counsel on practical ways to build good friendships with young women which may (or may not) lead to marriage.

 

In discussing the book with one of my sons, I was surprised at the area where he and I disagreed. I liked the rule of thumb, “Are you finding your desire rising in a situation or activity? Then it’s time to back down. . .” (page 42.) That seemed sensible to me, especially as a mom, and remembering my own desires. My son, on the other hand, didn’t like that — he expressed wanting more “rules” of what to do and not to do. Similarly, I liked the idea that young men treat women in their lives as mothers or sisters — another son didn’t. While he wants to respect a girlfriend like a sister, he felt weird considering a girl he likes as a “sister or mother.”

I even appreciate areas in which I disagree with the book, as it opens the doors for conversation.

 
A few areas I would approach differently — yet I even appreciate areas in which I disagree with the book, as it opens the doors for conversation in our family. Really, though, what mom wants to talk about masturbation with boys? That’s a conversation I leave for my husband.

 

 

As a holistic introduction to puberty — biological, spiritual, social — I highly recommend “Love, Honor, and Virtue” for parents and young teen boys.

 

 

 

When I saw that the Young’s were working on this book, I (selfishly!) requested a review copy. The above is my personal opinion and does not contain affiliate links. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview (also selfishly requested) with Melanie Young!

5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Sleep

As parents, we often suffer under the delusion that we have more control over our kids’ lives–and sleep–than we actually do.

Just ask any mother of a sleep-resistant infant who has tried every trick in the book.  Can you make that baby sleep?  Nope.  You can do a lot to help foster sleepiness and good sleep habits, but you can’t actually make that little one close her eyes and sleep.

Similarly, we can’t actually make our teens sleep.  And the reality is I would rather have my teens learn responsibility and self-regulation, than control their sleep myself.

So, what CAN a parent do to help teenagers get close to getting enough sleep?

 

1. Model good sleep hygiene.

We all know that “more is caught than taught” — and this is true of sleep patterns as well.

I live barefoot and in sandals. Every night I use a baby wipe to clean my feet before getting in bed. My toddler pulls out a baby wipe and cleans her little piggies, too.  It’s adorable, and I’m sure you remember your toddlers copying everything you did. It may not be as apparent, but our teens are also copying what we do.  The rhythms of their lives they have picked up from watching us.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had to work on my own sleep habits and it hasn’t been easy.  Making the  bedroom a peaceful place, a consistent bedtime and wak-up  time, daytime exercise, turning off electronica early in the evening, letting go of stress, and having a regular evening routine… These are the good sleep habits we want our teens to practice and we need to start by modeling them.

How is your sleep hygiene? Do you have a before bed routine, or do you stay up as late as you possibly can and sleep in as late as possible on weekends? Our teens are taking their cues on sleep from us.

 

2. Regulate light

Melatonin, the hormone linked to the sleep regulation, seems to be controlled by the exposure to natural light. Bright light in the morning helps us wake up, and dim lights at night trigger the production of melatonin to help us get good sleep.

In the morning, we can open blinds and turn on lights throughout the house. We can dim the lights when the sun goes down, and maybe even light candles. Exposure to the blue light from screens seems to suppress melatonin. This is tricky when it comes to teens, who often have to do homework on the computer at night or are still engaged socially with friends.

We want to help our teens take ownership of their own sleep cycles and school responsibilities, and so in our family we  don’t “make” them get off their computers at a certain time. However, we model making sure we aren’t using devices about a half hour before bed and encourage them to do the same.

We’ve found some tech helps useful as well.  We’ve installed and encouraged our teens to use f.lux software, which automatically changes a computer/phone screen to be less bright and more warm as it gets later.

At an agreed upon time in the evening, our internet is programmed to go off (through Covenant Eyes–affiliate link). We’ve worked to get buy-in from the teens, rather than made a unilateral decision about this.

 

3. Create a Calm Atmosphere in Our Homes

Make your bedroom a sleep haven, the experts say. Reality in my family? The teens’ rooms are often messy and not the “sleep haven” I would envision. I’m not going to go in and take over. But I do try to make sure they have sheets, blankets and pillows they find comfortable — and you know, everyone is different with that.

While they are responsible for the upkeep of their rooms, without invading their space, I’ll change the sheets, grab dirty clothes, empty the trash from time to time. Not to invade their space, but help them stay on top of it. Again, this is where modeling comes in. My bedroom is not a “sleep haven” either, yet. But we’re working on it.

As parents, we can do more in the public areas of our home.  We turn the thermostat cooler at night.  What about making an evening routine of dimming the lights, lighting candles, putting on calming music?

Teens and parents need evening routines almost as much as toddlers and preschoolers. But our routines are no longer bath and bedtime story.  What might it look like for you and your teens? Making herbal tea? Asking about their day? It’s amazing how hearts often open up when the lights go down.

 

4. Create a Calm Atmosphere in our Relationships

Stress and the stress hormone cortisol work against us going to sleep. And the resulting lack of sleep leads to increased cortisol production. It’s a perverse cycle that works against our teens getting the sleep they really need.

Many teens feel intense pressure to perform — in sports, in school, and in peer relationships. While we can not take away all the stresses in their lives, we can work to create calm in our relationships with them.

Conveying our unconditional love and acceptance to our children can help alleviate the anxiety to perform, especially in the areas of academics and sports. It’s tricky to communicate confidence in their abilities through high expectations, without implying pressure to perform.

Even though we dearly love our teens, the reality is our relationships will have conflict.  That is part of life and close relationships.

Yet we can have control (sometimes!) over the timing of conflict, and to the best of our abilities, we can avoid conflict and adding stress to our teens in the evening.

I try not to have conflict with the kids in the evening.

In the “pick your moment” life hack, Gretchen Rubin recommends waiting for the right time to address something that may be particularly challenging. This is great for parenting teens. They aren’t toddlers who will forget if not corrected right away.
My coaching on the right way to clean the kitchen doesn’t have to happen after dinner.  That’s when it bothers me and when I want to deal with it — but it could easily trigger conflict and a cortisol dump, and doesn’t need to be addressed then.   I can wait for a time when they are receptive to hearing, we are both feeling positive, and not dump a bunch of stress on them when they are supposed to be winding down for sleep.

 

5. Understand Your Teen and His Sleep

Experts estimate that teens need 8 – 10 hours of sleep each night. Is your teen getting that? Mine aren’t.  Even though I understand my teen’s NEED for sleep, beyond that I need to understand my teen.

Lack of sufficient sleep snowballs in to a whole host of issues.  But the big one in our home?

Tired teens and parents are cranky.  Irritable.  Irrational.   It’s true for me when I don’t get enough sleep, and it’s true for my teens.

This is where the power of understanding comes in. . .  When we understand these external factors and internal issues, we are empowered to act and not react.   Understanding the pressures they are under to stay up and get schoolwork done helps us encourage them. Understanding when they snap at us with an attitude when first waking up, helps us overlook the offense and not take it personally.

Ultimately, the power of understanding helps me “bear with one another in love,” and show that love in patient ways to my teens. And if I can’t give my teens the sleep they need, at the least I can give them understanding and love.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)

We Remember: Sean

Sean Paddock, 2001 – 2006

Sean Paddock was just four years old when he died.

 

My youngest son is four. As I write this, he’s dressed in his Spiderman costume, showing me how he can climb over the fencing on the porch. He’s jumping from couch to floor. He’s hiding in the Amazon grocery box. His energy never stops.

 

His energy never stops, but mine does.

 

A part of me has sympathy for Lynn Paddock, Sean’s adoptive mom who is responsible for his death. Maybe she was exhausted? She was looking for help from a trusted source, and found deadly advice. She wrapped him tightly in blankets to “discipline” him so he couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t breathe. He died. “Disciplined” to death.

 

Let me be clear — Lynn Paddock was not just a tired mother who “made a mistake.” She was found guilty of felony child abuse and first degree murder.

 

And while they have not been found to have legal responsibity, moral responsibility for Sean’s death (and that of Lydia and Hana) also lies in the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl.

 

When Sean died, we had been back in the U.S. for just under a year. God had worked on my heart in ways that changed my attitude and actions towards my children. By that time I understood that the Christian conventional wisdom about spanking was more a cultural value than mandated in the Bible.

 

And then Sean Paddock died.

 

Sean died of child abuse in a Christian home. Died at the hands of a mother who others described as always wanting to do the “right” thing. Died a young four-year-old boy, acting simply as four-year-old boys act.

 

Why?

 

Why did his mother, who may have been well-intentioned at least at the start, abuse her child to death?

 

Part of the legal defense points to her own abuse as a child. Another part of the legal defense and the broader investigation point to the influence of Michael and Debi Pearl and their book, “To Train Up A Child.”

 

Within many churches and home school circles, copies of this self-published book was handed out to every new parent. Fans of the book would buy it discounted by the case. Well-meaning pastors’ wives would hand it out to new members.

 

I read it in the early ’90s while babysitting for a lovely family, a family I still admire. Just enough sounded good or Biblical to bypass my defenses. Build relationships, “tie heart-strings,” nurture your children. Just enough Bible references are scattered throughout for Christians to lower their guard and buy in to its harmful teachings.

 

Michael and Debi Perl promise fewer spankings and instant obedience. These promises can lure in loving parents, who are charmed by the Pearls folksy common-sense stories, and deceived by their shiny website with faces of happy families. Some are not only sucked into their false teachings, but promote them actively to others.

 

But then Sean Paddock died. Slowly the few voices that had warned about the extremism of the Pearls’ teachings grew. I thought it would shock enough Christians that the Church as a whole would stop promoting these teachings. But not everyone was listening. . .

 

Sean Paddock died.

Then Lydia Schatz died.

Then Hana Williams died.

 

Stop a moment. Digest that.

 

Three children died of abuse at the hands of their Christian, adoptive parents.

 

Perhaps others have also died, but the connection has not been made to TTUAC by the media.

 

How many hundreds or thousands more children have been abused at the hands of their well-intentioned, loving and Christian parents? I know many of them.

 

Did you catch that? Physical abuse can happen, even when you love your child and intend to discipline and not abuse.

 

God have mercy.

 

February will always be a hard month for me, a month to remember.  Writing about Sean, Lydia, and Hana at the anniversary of their deaths is both a ritual of mourning, and a issuance of warning.

 

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” – Mark 10:14-16

 

*****

More about Sean and the Pearls:
Challies.com
ThatMom.Com
Her.Meneutics
WhyNotTrain.Com
Christianity Today
WorldMag.Com
State vs. Paddock
Salon.Com
WRAL