“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.”
“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.
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!)
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.
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!
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.
At this stage in my life, so much of my reading and studying is filtered through the perspective of mothering. This includes my study of the Bible and theology. I find the deeper I dig into God’s Word, the more light it shines on my life–and how I ought to mother.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
“Brothers. . .” This passage is written to Believers. As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.
As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.
My friend Kristen shared, “We went to Ash Wednesday services at the beginning of Lent with Kate at the Episcopal church around the corner (we missed liturgy) and when the priest put ashes on her little forehead, it really made an impact on me. As much as I am her mother, I am also her sister in Christ. This has been really helpful to me in thinking through parenting issues. Most Christians wouldn’t serve wine to a fellow Christian who was a recovering alcoholic. Why do they discipline their children and then set them up to do the same things again?”
In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther clarifies that “caught in sin” is not speaking about doctrinal errors, “but about far lesser sins into which people fall not deliberately, but through weakness.”
As our children are learning right from wrong, they will sin. As they are growing through various stages of development, they will have greater or lesser control over their impulses.
Luther goes on to say, “is caught in imply being tricked by the devil or sinful nature.” Sinful nature, temptation, weakness, developmental stages–remembering these sins of our children are part of their weakness helps me respond to them with compassion.
Luther states, “Paul therefore teaches how those who have fallen should be dealt with–namely those who are strong should raise them up and restore them gently.”
I don’t always feel “strong” or “spiritual.” Often I feel weak and struggling myself. But it is my responsibility to raise my children and be strong for them. We have no trouble with the idea of parents being a “mama bear” protecting her young child. I also want to be strong spiritually to correct them gently, to be the “mama bear” to help my children when they are struggling with sin.
It’s interesting to note that this passage is immediately proceeded by the admonitions to walk in the Spirit and the list of the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These should be on my mind as I restore my children gently.
Luther reinforces the idea of this passage reminding us of “the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul requires of those who have charge over souls.”
What does “restoring gently” look like?
Luther explains, “when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can—yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.” And “. . .gently, and not in the zeal of severe justice.”
To be honest, at times I’ve had Christian mothers advocate some child-training approaches that seemed to have more of the “zeal of severe justice” than how Luther describes the Holy Spirit’s correction, “mild and pitiful in forbearing.”
we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.
After restoring gently, we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.
One of my preschool sons was insecure around lots of guests–and he responded in the past by getting very loud, climbing on furniture, and even hitting a guest. I’ve found that to carry his burden means I prepare him beforehand for our guests, and I hold his hand when they arrive, until he is comfortable and calm. Another son was prone to lash out at his brothers when he was angry. Bearing his burden has meant praying with him and for him, helping him recognize when he feels anger rising, and giving him strategies to deal with that anger without hitting. And it has meant letting him know it’s good to come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m angry” so I can help him not sin in his anger.
Also in this encouragement to carry one another’s burdens, it strikes me how wrong it is to follow the child-training technique of placing a child in a situation of temptation–to test him and see whether he can withstand it (or be punished.) This method is encouraged by some for training toddlers and preschoolers, and seems to be very contrary to bearing the burdens of temptation.
Luther also comments on this passage that sometimes in bearing with one another, things need to just be let go–“These people are the ones who are overtaken by sin and have the burdens that Paul commands us to carry. In this case, let us not be rigorous and merciless, but follow the example of Christ, who bears and forbears these burdens. If he does not punish them, though He might do so with justice, much less ought we to do so.”
“And watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” For parents, I see this as a two-fold warning. First, to be gentle, not be angry—the caution here illustrates how very easy it is to slip into being harsh.
And also I see the warning not to be tempted to pride. When we become concerned about appearing to be “good parents” it is easy to slip into correcting harshly, minutely. This is one of the areas in which I struggled a lot, especially when my children were smaller. And especially when we were guests in churches and people’s homes. I felt pressure (from myself even more than others) for my kids to be perfect and “prove” we were worthy to be missionaries. That pressure tempted me both into pride in my children’s good behaviour, as well being overly picky and correcting unnecessarily.
“Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . .” — Martin Luther
The end of these verses is “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
As Martin Luther said, “After Christ had redeemed us, renewed us, and made us his church, he gave us no other law but that of mutual love. To love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens–that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . . Love, therefore, is mild, courteous, and patient, not in receiving, but in giving, for it is constrained to wink at many things and to bear them.”
Footnote: Quotations are from the Crossway Commentary series,
It’s funny how some of the lessons the Lord leads us through circle back again for us. I continue to pray that the Lord will show me how to “restore gently” as I’m once again in the toddler/preschool years and as we navigate the new road of our children being adults. Originally posted May 2005 and January 2010.
We remember Lydia Schatz today, February 6, 2017.
Seven years ago today, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz died after her adoptive parents disciplined her to the point of death.
Lydia was a vivacious little girl, adopted from Liberia. In the photo below, her smile shows a missing upper tooth — in the same place where my 5-year-old-son is missing a tooth.
February tends to be a hard month for me. I don’t know why it is, but it seems some of the biggest emotional challenges come around in February. A big part of it is remembering and mourning Lydia Schatz and Sean Paddock, and facing the reality of abuse within the church and Christian families.
Lydia’s adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were convicted by the courts. Kevin was sentenced to two life terms for second-degree murder and torture and will serve a minimum of 22 years. Elizabeth Schatz sentence is for over 13 years for voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. These sentences were the result of a plea bargin — originally they were charged with murder related to Lydia’s death, torture related to her sister (also adopted) who was hospitalized but recovered, and cruelty related to a biological son’s injuries.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Lydia’s autopsy revealed that she died from rhabdomyolsis, a condition related to kidney and heart failure from toxins released when muscle tissue breaks down. Lydia’s muscles broke down as a result of repeated beatings over time, though her death was proceeded by an especially long “discipline” session.
Lydia’s parents used a plumbing supply line, which is recommended by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book “To Train Up A Child.” Both plumbing supply line and TTUAC were found in the Schatz home and the older children have attested to those methods being used in their home.
While death is not a common result from the implementation of TTUAC, this is not the first time that a child has died when parents have carefully and consistently applied the so-called “child training methods” espoused by the Pearls. In February 2006, 4-year-old Sean Paddock was killed. How many other unreported cases of quiet abuse are happening under the influenced of these harmful, unBiblical teachings?
Compounding the tragedy is the professed love of these parents for their children, the desire to nurture their children through homeschooling, the commitment to seek out help in parenting.
Further compounding the tragedy is that Lydia and her sister Zaraiah were adopted. Her parents needed to provide love, security, attachment. . . and instead beat them with a plumbing supply line. Sean was a foster son in the process of being adopted.
We need to remember Lydia. We need to remember Sean. We need to remember Hana Williams.
We need to remember the children who need families, who are in families.
We need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
We need to open our eyes to the abuse within our own communities.
May God have mercy on us all.
CONNECTION, noun [Latin See Connect.] The act of joining or state of being joined; a state of being knit or fastened together; union by junction, by an intervening substance or medium, by dependence or relation, or by order in a series; a word of very general import. There is a connection of links in a chain; a connection between all parts of the human body; a connection between virtue and happiness, and between this life and the future; a connection between parent and child, master and servant, husband and wife; between motives and actions, and between actions and their consequences. In short, the word is applicable to almost every thing that has a dependence on or relation to another thing.
What is your word for 2017?
I think it is great to have a theme or organizing principle for different seasons in life. It helps me prioritize my energies and serves as a catalyst for growth.
Yet I admit… I’ve been resistant to choosing a “word of the year” for ages — simply because it’s a popular thing to do. Even when it may be helpful, I bristle at adopting something that might seem trendy. Prideful much?
Over the past few months, however, the same theme keeps coming to the surface. In my journalling, my prayer time, my discussions with my husband. . .
So when I listened to Gretchen Rubin’s What’s Your One Word Theme for the New Year?, the word came to mind again and I really knew I had to dedicate 2017 to this idea.
A whole-orbed connectedness.
Connected to God.
Connected to myself, body and soul.
Connected to my husband.
Connected to my teens and young adults.
Connected to all my kids.
Connected to my community.
Connected. I feel the Lord has set in front of me the need to really be connected in this season in life — especially connecting to Him and to my teens.
Connected is my theme for 2017.
**I balk at trendy things, but love Gretchen Rubin? Yes, I have my inconsistencies.
Life has shifted.
My oldest has been away at college for three years. The next three teens graduate high school in the next three years. One right after another.
I had four kids in five years when I was in my 20s.
It was exciting, it was fun, it was exhausting.
Well-meaning people would be sympathetic to the work and energy required, and would offer advice and encouragement. “remember, they are little for such a short time!” I embraced that. The days are long and the years are short, was my mantra when I was knee-deep in laundry and nursing and noise.
What those well-meaning people didn’t remember to say was that they are only teens for a short time, too. One day they would all be starting high school, then I would blink, and they would be gone.
We did treasure the early years. We have happy memories of making play dough and building pyramids and the Sphinx. We did treasure the middle years. We built our family traditions. Even now the kids know to expect socks and underwear in their Christmas stickies, along with some candy and an orange — a tradition started during our leanest years when I tried to make the gifts under the tree look more abundant with necessities.
Your memories are likely much like mine, full of funny family stories and laughter. You were intentional, investing your time and yourself into your children. Even when you remember the struggles, I bet overall you feel like it has been a joy.
Life is good now, too. Yet, I feel a shift in our family dynamics — and something isn’t quite how I want it.
I don’t have the energy I once had, and the intense emotional and intellectual needs of teens is hard. I’ve felt myself become more distracted — distracted both by the logistics of life and the technology right at hand.
I love my teens dearly, and we’ve been a close family. Yet, I get surprised by what I don’t know about them. I’m sad that we aren’t as attached as we once were. I know that they are growing and maturing and that is good — and at the same time, I feel like we can get to a place of being more connected.
This has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s been in my conversations with Hubby and even with the teens. I don’t want us to just drift through these last years at home and drift apart. We need connection.
A friend who homeschools her kids was sharing her struggles the other day. I heard in her words such self-condemnation, such self-blame.
When I read it, it reminded me of the downward spiral of thoughts I’ve had at times. . . “I’m a terrible mother… I’m a terrible wife… I’m a terrible Christian…” These thoughts take hold and have such sway over me, because they are key elements of my calling in life. Feeling like a failure in areas that are so important to me go swirling in my head.
More often than not, when these feelings take hold in my heart, they have been amplified by hormones. My post-partum depression felt like PMS on steroids. Identifying that connection has helped me observe these thoughts and feelings for what they are — thoughts and feelings that are not the full sum of reality.
Do you ever feel that way? Like the things you value most as a mother are the things you struggle in the most?
Remember, YOU are just the right mother for your children. God has chosen YOUR children to be nurtured by you. Regardless of what you are or aren’t doing, YOU are JUST the right mother for your children. THEY are the children God has given to you.
Your strengths and weaknesses are being used by God, in His sovereignty, as they grow in to the people God has created them to be.
I heard my friend share words of frustration — and wanting encouragement to really press in to the effort needed each day.
And I heard her say words of condemnation — which is not what needs to be taking hold in our hearts.
In the context of struggling to do what we want to do, and the struggle not to sin, Romans 8 reminds me, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)
Jesus calls us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
And for me, with all the failures (and good things) through the years, I keep meditating upon the the comfort,
“But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)
This is the encouragement I need to hear each day.
Please be gentle on yourself, as you accept God’s gentleness. . .