Notecard Parenting #1

We are every bit the parents of a 3 and 1 year old. With a very verbal, young preschooler and a pretty smart toddler we have fully entered the training phase of sibling issues and more direct heart training with Mekonen.

I'm calling these days "Notecard Parenting." Sometimes reading things in a book makes great sense, but when push comes to shove in the moment, we often resort to the age old way of dealing with children, "Mekonen, stop touching your sister." "Mekonen, Evie doesnt' like that." "Evie, no screaming." These are merely parenting band-aids, covering up the real problem. If you don't address the real problem, the same issue will just show up another way.

So we have a few specific things we need to start working on. I chose one to start with and wrote down the specific issue and exactly how we are dealing with it on a notecard. This might sound so dumb, but hey, whatever works! I keep it on hand and throughout the day read over it to get it into my brain so its idea becomes natural in the moment. It doesn't have to be memorized word for word, but it's the concept and the training that needs to come out, "in the moment."

Here is the first of the issues we are working on here in the Oren household.
1. Intentionally aggravating- I don't know how many of you see this with your kids, :) but Mekonen loves to aggravate his sister. He chases her, growls at her, and just does things she doesn't particularly enjoy. Basically, it's his entertainment at her expense. All day long I can be heard saying, "Stop it Mekonen." "Mekonen leave her alone." He would obey and stop whatever it was he doing, but then a few minutes later he would choose another way of aggravating her that I hadn't yet said "stop" to. Proverbs tells us that the heart is the well spring of life. What comes out of a person is what is in their heart. This is where merely behavior management drops the ball. When you behavior modify (correct only the behavior), they continue the aggravating (sinfulness) but in another way. Our goal is to guide/train Mekonen into understanding his own sinfulness in each situation, repenting of it, and then being able to govern his own behavior instead of me always having to say stop.

So here is the specific way we are trying to guide Mekonen through these types of situations. Remember, it doesn't have to be exact. It's the need for the concepts to come to mind during an incident rather than my frustrating utterance of "Stop it Mekonen. Just leave her alone!"

This is how the training and instructing would go.
Intentionally Aggravating
Mom: Mekonen, it seems from your laughter that you're having a great time chasing Evie. Are you having fun?
Mekonen: yes?
Mom: Is Evie having as much fun as you?
Mekonen: no
Mom: What is Evie doing?
Mekonen: She's crying/yelling
Mom: Are you delighting (or being happy) in Evie's suffering? Remember, love does not delight in evil (1 Corinthians 13:6. Although I might not be quoting the verse and reference in verbatim, just referencing where the thought is coming form).
*Then at this point, Mekonen needs to ask Evie's forgiveness for making her cry.

Author Ginger Plowman used this method with her two children and she said once they did this consistently, they began to see their son able to evaluate his own heart and govern his behavior. He began to aggravate his sister and as soon as she became unhappy, he would apologize and stop the behavior on his own.

Now from here, there would be more training and instructing by way of Evie's response and the 2 of them learning to handle the conflict Biblically without tattle-taling, but that's a bit away from us now since she only knows about 5 words. :)

Notecard #1- Intentionally Aggravating
  • Mekonen, it seems from your laughter that you're having a great time. Are you having fun?
  • Is Evie having as much fun as you? 
  • What is Evie doing?
  • Are you delighting (or being happy) in Evie's suffering (or sadness?) Remember, love does not delight in evil (1 Corinthians 13:6). 
  • Guide in asking for forgiveness and reminding him of the Gospel.
This is where the heart training book "Don't Make Me Count to Three" stops. It doesn't continue through with Gospel nurturing. On the backside of the card I put a reminder that the Gospel is the goal (which is seen in the last point about going beyond forgiveness and reminding him of the Gospel). The back says,
You are not loving Evie the way Jesus has loved you. Jesus loved you and fought to win you. Because of Jesus' love for you, you can love Evie. He died so that your sin of unkindness could be forgiven. We can ask Jesus to help you learn to love the way you have been loved. 

Now the backside of the card isn't memorized and talked at Mekonen every single instance. It's just an example of how the Gospel is the over-arching theme of any kind of heart training. It's impractical to apply those exact words to each and every scenario, and I don't walk around reading parenting cards to my kids. But it's the concept, the idea, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you into those times where you continue heart training into Gospel nurturing (i.e. the specifics of the back of the card).

The Gospel aspect of parenting is the absolute foundation of any of these heart conversations. Without lacing our parenting and training with the truth and influence of the Gospel, we are in danger of teaching our children moralism.

"We are in danger of teaching them inadvertently that God is happy if they're good and say and do all the right things. We teach them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be all and end all of their faith. This is not the Gospel.When training our children and teaching them about God and His Word like He has called us to, we cannot forget the Gospel. We cannot forget the deadliness of relying on our own goodness, and we must be aware how what we say and do can teach them that Christianity is all about their behavior and whether, on any given day, God is pleased or displeased with them. Children can't use the law any more than we can, because they will respond to it the same way we do. They'll ignore it, or bend it, or obey it outwardly for selfish purposes, but this one thing is certain: they won't obey it from the heart, because they can't... That's why Jesus had to die.Does this mean we don't teach our children God's ways? We are commanded to do so but not to make them good. We are commanded to give them the law so that they will be crushed by it and see their need for a Savior. The law won't make them good. It will make them despair of ever being good enough, and in that way, it will make them open to the love, sacrifice, and welcome of their Savior, Jesus Christ." (direct and paraphrases from Give Them Grace).

Our favorite parenting books which are being laced throughout these child training and parenting posts are:

  • Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick If you only ever read one parenting book, let it be with this one. 
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart and Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman    
  • Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman. This is a really great calendar size/style booklet of all these heart probing questions (where I get the notecard questions) for various issues such as lying, selfishness, aggravating others, whining, etc. You can get it for about $4. I highly recommend it. For me the notecards are easier to carry around and handle in order to memorize the "concept" rather than referring back to a booklet every time an issue arises (which would never happen for me). But that's where I'm getting the ideas from. 


Happy Gotcha Day!

Happy 3rd Gotcha Day Mekonen!
It's hard to believe that 3 years ago we stepped off the plane at the Indianapolis airport with our darling little boy. He stole my heart before we ever even met, before I ever even knew his name. And now, he is ours. ;) 
Gotcha Day is when we celebrate Mekonen's adoption. "Gotcha" day is the first day we actually met him in person, in Ethiopia- August 21, 2009.
Our family 3 years ago, on a bus in Ethiopia, headed to the airport to come home....
Our family today...
(I promise, Mekonen was having a great time). 
3 years ago on Gotcha Day...

This year on Gotcha Day....my how he's grown.
We shared a "Happy Gotcha Day" cake with our small group from church on his actual "Gotcha Day" (August 21st) and then tonight had a small celebration with some close friends. I cooked 3 Ethiopian dishes, we watched Mekonen's adoption lifebook video, and he got to open a couple of gifts from us. And of course, much laughter to be had between he and his good buddy Josiah. 

Mekonen loves Ethiopian food. :)
 Evie loved walking around with a big roll of injera bread. 
 Daddy and Mekonen
 Josiah. One of Mekonen's favorite friends. 
 Isaiah could not get enough of the Ethiopian food. It was too cute. 
 Adam and Allie. Our dear friends. Jon and Adam have been best friends since 4th grade. 
 More great friends. Michael and Kenean. Kenean is from Ethiopia and they just had their first baby Moses last week! So glad they came to celebrate with us. 
 A girl and her Daddy. (I was holding up a cupcake to get her to look at the camera. Ha!)
 Our Gotcha Day tradition- watching Mekonen's adoption video. 
 I love how Evie is watching from the coffee table. 
 Mekonen squealed with delight when he opened this gift... a pack of 10 cars from the movie Cars. He couldn't contain his excitement!
 We also got him a special reading light for his bed, which he thought was so cool. Now he can turn on his light in the morning and look at his books in bed (which means Mommy gets a few more minutes of sleep). 

We are so grateful that God gave us Mekonen. His outgoing and extremely happy disposition light up our home each and every day. It's impossible to be around him and not grin from ear to ear. We love you sweet boy! So glad you are forever ours. 


A Crazy Fun Week!

A sign the grandkids have arrived at Grandma's, adorning her house with their fingerprints, loud feet, and excited giggles....
I want to take a moment to say how wonderful my Mom is. She is the greatest Grandma ever! Ever since Manny arrived as the 1st grandchild, and then with each child who followed, she has joyfully soaked up every minute of being a Grandma, and especially taking advantage of the fact that she lives close to 5 of her 7 grandchildren. Last week my Mom took Manny and Aderyn for an entire week! Their parents weren't going away or anything, my Mom has just always envisioned having her grandkids for vacation time during the summers...building memories that they will remember forever. And it's not just a random week in the summer. She works full-time but even still, her family is her prized possession. She is often found having a sleep-over at her house with my sister's girls (who live in the same town), taking the kids for the day, or driving 2 1/2 hours to Philly to see baseball games, school activities, and soak up some grandkid time while their Mom and Dad go out. She is amazing!

So my Mom planned "a week of summer fun" for the kids! She took Manny and Aderyn for the entire week, my sister's girls came to all the activities- who live in town-, and I drove my two out to PA so they wouldn't miss out on the fun. We had 3 major day trips- a waterpark, amusement park, and camping trip, alternated by "break" days where they swam in Grandma's pool and filled her house with noise and messes!

So thank you Mom for beginning the kind of Grandparent legacy that you and Dad didn't have... Godly Grandparents who show their love and support of their families with the gift of joyful time. I get teary-eyed just writing that, wishing my parents were across town to watch my babies grow up. I wish we weren't so far away, but am thankful for the many trips we get to make to see you. You are building joyful memories!

All 7 of the Grandkids! 
Aderyn (6), Mekonen (3), Manny (7), Natalie (5)
Kim (21 months), Jane (4), and Evie (16 months)
While we were in PA, we celebrated Jane's 4th birthday! 
My sisters and I having way more fun at Jane's "Max and Ruby Party" than the kids. :)
First big day trip! The waterpark! We were a riding advertisement for Graco carseats! 
The Original Fab Five at the waterpark, waiting with much excitement to go down the slides! 
Mekonen was hesistant at first, but quickly warmed up and was flying down the slides by himself!
Jane always came down tumbling every which way. I laughed so hard every time she went rolling into the pool below. It was so funny and she didn't seem to mind one bit! 
The second big day trip was a trip to Knoebles amusement park. We got all the kids on the mini roller coaster together without us adults. They were a tad "shooken up" but loved it! 
 Evie's very 1st amusment park ride by herself. She LOOOOVED it. I think she is going to be my daring girl when it comes to rides. And of course, she screamed her head off when she had to get off. 
 This was by far the funniest thing I've seen our kids do. They all drove these go-carts on this track by themselves, using a gas pedal and everything! I never laughed so hard. Mekonen only crashed a few times! :) 
 I told them to give me their "scary faces" for the teacup ride. Looks like only Grandma listened! 
And we saved the biggest trip for last! A weekend of camping. Now that is one brave set of Grandparents! They took 6 of the Grandkids camping without their parents (except for me), and all the kids are 7 and under! Hats off to them! Whoa! 
Here are the kids helping Grandpa set up the tent. 
The kids went to collect firewood for Grandpa and they came back with this tree. We were losing it. :) 
Swimming in the campground pool. Again, no one likes going into freezing cold water (which never seems to bother kids), and my Mom went right in! Brrr! Now that's love. 

 The Bigs getting ready for smores!
 Grandma bought all the kids headlamps. They thought they were so cool. 
Bedtime story in the tent with their favorite book, "Mrs. Brown Went to Town."
 All the Grandkids slept with Grandma and Grandpa in the tent. It was stinkin' hilarious! 

 The kids couldn't wait to fish! They each had their own special fishing pole. Of course, Mekonen's was Cars. :)
 They caught fish every time they put their pole in the water. 
Here's Mekonen's first fish. As soon as he reeled it out of the water, he took off running. It freaked him out because it was flapping around. He wouldn't go near it! 
 Ready for a canoe ride!
 Before this picture was taken my Mom and Evie were also in the canoe. It was so funny. We were all packed in and the kids were so scared we were going to tip! 
 Camping trip rain out! It POURED!!!!!!!! We had to quickly pack up on night 2 of our trip. We were all soaked, including all the stuff. It was jam packed into the car and all you could see were four little heads sticking out. They thought it was so funny. 

Hats off to you Grandma for not only creating a wonderful week of memories for your grandkids, but for the way you do that week after week, year after year. These are the days they will remember when they are grown. We love you.