It was my fault. I deserved it. After all, I’d behaved just like he was behaving. I’d thrown the fits, hurled myself on the floor, yelled and screamed. My mother didn’t know what to do with me. I wore her out and consistently reduced her to tears.
When I was older, I disobeyed and argued with my parents. I knew how to wear them down. But if that didn’t work, I would just lie. Lying was my native language. I wanted what I wanted, and I was willing to do what it took to achieve my goal.
In short, this son of mine was the answer to my mother’s prayer, “I hope you have one just like you one day.” Looking at him, I saw my own reflection.
Yep, this was pay back.
Mom, have you ever had those thoughts? Have you ever thought your child’s misbehavior is your fault? Ever beat yourself up because your child, “That” child, won’t cooperate or obey? Ever felt like parenting is penance? A penalty? A punishment?
I have. I’ve listened to the enemy’s whispers. I’ve bought the lie. I’ve hung my weary head in despair. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve chosen to wallow in the reality of my own sin and rebellion, reducing God to a cruel “Gotcha God” — a God who laughs at my discouragement, a cosmic overlord who takes aim at me for fun, who delights in my suffering.
But that’s not the biblical God. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Allow me to digress for a moment and then connect some dots. Do you remember the parable Jesus told in the New Testament about the servant who was forgiven? In Matthew 18:21-35 in response to Peter’s question, Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master a debt. Now this was no small IOU. Apparently it was a huge sum, so much so that the servant fell prostrate begging for extra time to pay the debt. This action touched the heart of the master who forgave the servant’s debt.
Now hang on, I know you probably know this story, but try to listen with new ears. So this servant who has just been forgiven a huge debt leaves his master. As he is going away, he runs into a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars. A few, as in, not many. Although having just been completely released from a large debt, the servant grabs his fellow servant and demands payment.
When I read this story, I generally want to just throttle the first servant. After his own debt is forgiven, his friend begs and begs to be given more time, he pleads, but the greedy man throws him in prison. Eye witnesses report back to the master who calls the man out on his ruthless behavior and throws him in prison until his original debt is paid in full.
Hang with me a moment longer. What claims does Jesus make in John 8:12? You remember, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And then in I John, the same author admonishes us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” So, according to these passages, Jesus is the Light who illuminates our life’s path.
Now, what about those dots? Are you seeing a connection?
Being a mom is one of the most important jobs on the planet—maybe the most important. Every day we are shaping the future, every day we are defining culture, every day we are making a difference. Obviously these daily opportunities can be used negatively and we see that evidence every time we go to the grocery store. Clearly there are moms who are not taking advantage of their “every day” to nurture the world-changers (aka children) God has sent to them.
Being a mom is also not for wimps. If you are determined to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord, you know what I mean. If this mothering thing were only about food, clothes, and shelter that would be easy. But it’s not. No, this mothering thing is about holding up before our children a God worthy of their praise and service, worthy of their lives.
Being a mom means being strong and being vulnerable. It means living out loud in front of our kids every day. It means requiring obedience and respect. It means explaining one more time. It means dealing with conflict. It means persevering and not giving up.
Being a mom means we must walk in the Light — the light of His love, the light of His grace, the light of His forgiveness. Walking in His Light means that we extend what we’ve been so abundantly given, what’s been lavished upon us, shaken, pressed down, beyond what we can ask or imagine, to our kids day after day after day. It means praying without ceasing.
And Mom, here’s the truth, which trumps the lie: having “That child” isn’t payback. It isn’t punishment, or a penalty, or even penance. Having “That child” is a privilege.
Our being able to parent “That child” begins with our acceptance and embrace of our Father’s forgiveness.
A recent reading of Augustine’s Confessions has been a sobering reminder of just how sinful I was in my childhood. Many would chalk up the sins of youth as trivial or thoughtless. Many would say that the wrongs done during a time of immaturity should be overlooked as a right of passage, just foolishness to be endured as we travel through our younger years, having no real consequence. But that isn’t true.
The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If a father loves his son, he should discipline him. “That child” should be taught diligently. So evidently, childhood’s behaviors can reflect deeper issues of the heart, issues which need to be dealt with through the discipline of a loving parent.
When you get down to the fundamentals, it’s simple truth. Yet all too often we don’t acknowledge it. You cannot give what you do not have. For example, I cannot give you a horse, or the moon, or one million dollars. I might want to give you one of those things, or maybe even all three of them, but I can’t. My wanting to and your desire for me to give them to you cannot override the fact that I don’t have those things to give. No matter how much I want to. No matter how much you want them. Neither of us can change the fact that since I don’t have them, I cannot give them.
What you Have Not Received
The physical example of things is easy enough to understand, but it works the same with intangibles, like love and forgiveness and grace. You see, I cannot give you what I have not received, what I have not embraced. This is not to say that love, forgiveness, and grace are not available to me. No, they are readily available to everyone through the person of Jesus Christ from God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. These three, and others like them, are available, pressed down and running over. In fact, many of us would say that we have accepted and received these from the Father, but if that is so, then why aren’t we walking in them?
Mom, if you’ve accepted and received forgiveness from the Father, extend it to your children. If you’ve received love, give it. If you have experienced forgiveness, extended it to your “That child.” Why do we withhold from them what we’ve been so generously given? Why do we resist sharing what we have in abundance? Why are we stingy with the blessings of God?
I’m going to venture a guess as to why we do this. And my hunch is based on my own experience. I know that I was once an unforgiving and angry mom because I was like the servant. I had a debt of sin that I couldn’t repay. I’d been forgiven, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the enormity of my debt, it’s hideousness in contrast to His holiness, and I didn’t get the power of His forgiveness, the completeness of it, His delight in granting it.
I’d been forgiven, but I hadn’t really received that forgiveness, allowed it to wash over me, to contemplate it’s value or it’s power.
So, when one of my kids did something, when “That child” misbehaved or rebelled, well, I got angry and incensed. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I considered it my right to be offended, to hold the offense against them. I didn’t get what I’d been given. Look, if you are finding it hard or maybe even impossible to forgive your children (or anyone else), then I’d suggest that it’s because you aren’t realizing the forgiveness you’ve been given. You can’t give it because you don’t have it. You’re not walking in the Light of His life. If you were, it wouldn’t be so difficult.
Look, when you get what you’ve been forgiven, you cannot help but look for opportunities to forgive. When you get the grace, the gift of salvation given which you neither deserve nor earned, then you cannot help but graciously respond to others. When you glimpse the love that chose to die on Calvary to pay your sin debt, the perfect sacrifice for your ugly, small, secret, overt, denied and deliberate sin, then you look for others to love unconditionally, extravagantly, and persistently. When you get what you’ve been given, you are driven to give it to others. You’re not driven by compulsion. You won’t have an I’ve-got-to-do-this obligation. Instead, you will have an inner desire to share out of the overflow of unearned abundance, abounding blessings, and bountiful gifts. Salvation is yours, but now you want to share it with others.
Mom, do you know this kind of forgiveness, this kind of love, this kind of grace? When did you last consider all that you have been forgiven?
Rage. It’s very intense, and it’s embarrassing when it’s happening to you, you can’t believe it. I know as a young mother, I was like “I didn’t sign up for this, this isn’t what I wanted”. I couldn’t believe that it was happening, and I always wanted to go “Shh! Shh shh!” when it was happening. And I’ll be honest, it happened a lot. My oldest son was my original “that” child, I had that one first, and I learned so much for which I am retrospectively grateful, but at the time I was just mortified at the way he’d rage.
If you have a ‘that’ child that’s doing this raging, I want you to know this: you’re not alone. Say it with me: NOT ALONE. There are others of us that have these kids that just rage, and we don’t understand it, and it’s kinda terrifying. But I want to tell you this: they’re not broken…
What I know now, and I didn’t know then, is that often they’ve just got so much bottled up inside of them. So many ideas, so much they want to say, so much they want to do, so much frustration, so much creativity. It can all just bottle up in their little body and they don’t know how to navigate all that.
I would actually describe Charles, when he was younger, as the proverbial volcano. And he would blow all the time, it was completely unpredictable. And yes, it had seismic consequences for the rest of us when he’d do it. But it was not unusual for him to rage not just once a day, but multiple times a day.
I remember one day in particular, he was two and a half and his next sibling, younger brother Anderson, was just a baby. I had just changed Anderson on the floor in our bedroom where I had this little changing station. Charles went into a rage and actually ran into the bedroom where that baby was on the floor and locked the door. I was terrified, because I didn’t know what he might to do the baby on the floor. I was shaking trying to get the latch to unlock the door to get in there. I’m so grateful he didn’t even try to do anything to the baby but he was running around the room just screaming…
Mom, you have to know that you’re not alone if that’s happening to you. Not even close to being alone. At the time when he would go into these rages, he would yell and scream these things that didn’t make any sense. Like something had gone off inside him and he couldn’t stop. I felt very compassionate towards him, I felt like I needed to do something in that moment to help him, I didn’t think it would be healthy for him to just continue to run around in circles. So what I did, and what seemed to be very effective with him at the time, is I’d take him into my arms to restrain him even in the midst of his yelling and screaming. I would sit on the floor with him, and put my hands between one of his legs, and I’d put my arm down to hold my leg, and I’d just rock him back and forward and he would just yell and scream and yell and scream and all I knew to do was to sing to him.
There we would sit, Charles in a rage, and I would sing “Peace perfect peace”, I would sing “holy holy holy”, I would sing “Jesus loves me” and just rock him. Sometimes it took every verse of every hymn I could think of in that moment… it did work though and he would finally let go. I’m guessing you know what that’s like mom, if you have one of these kids. You know that’s what they do.
He just had to let it run its course and completely wear himself out. And on the other side of it he was just physically… done and just completely drained. We would both be crying by the time it was done because it’s just so intense for both of us. I know that if this is happening at your house its intense for you too. I wish I could just give you a hug, mama, I wish I could just somehow assure you with more than just my words through a screen. But I want to tell you this: you’re not alone and its not your imagination.
What you need to make sure that you’re communicating in those moments with ‘that’ kid is that you love them, and that you’re on their team. You want to be as much of a calming effect as you can possibly be. Yelling? Screaming at them? Thats only going to make it worse. That’s not blessing them, that’s not helping them, that’s not meeting them where they are.
One of the wonderful things I love about scripture and Jesus in the New Testament throughout the gospels is He always met the people where they were. I mean that’s glorious! Obviously, there were occasions like the sermon on the mount where the people came to Him, but there were so many other examples where He actually met the another person right where they were.
I think when our kids are raging, we should step back and imagine what its like to be them. Haven’t you ever wanted to throw a fit? Haven’t you ever wanted to throw yourself in the middle of the floor and just yell and scream because things aren’t going your way? Of course you have, just like I have! What we need to give to them in that moment is a whole lot of compassion, and a whole lot of grace. Just like our Father gives us in our ugly moments. Just be there with your precious child, in that moment.
Hold them, calm them. Don’t contribute to it! Because you know what? They can’t, they just cant…
I don’t know if this will terrify you or encourage you, but I want to tell you that, generally with “that” child, it doesn’t necessarily go away with age. It might morph become a more sophisticated rage. As they age it’s probably not so much the yelling and screaming and running around in circles. Often it becomes this emotional pit that you just can’t believe you’re in the middle of. I mean surely I’m speaking to somebody out there when I say that nobody prepared me for a twelve year old boy. They can be so incredibly challenging. They’ve still got all those ideas, They’ve still got all those frustrations. They’ve still got all of this energy, and now they’ve got all the hormones too. God has wired them this way, and one of the primary things they need from us is our acceptance. They need to know that we get them. If we’re continually fighting with them about the way God made them, what does that say about God? What does that say about them? What does that say about us?
I think the most powerful thing we can do for them is to really be for them and with them in that moment.
My current “that” child and I had a moment earlier this summer where he just took a left turn and started spinning out of control. Everyone was against him and everyone was mad at him, and nobody understood him. (Side note: I think that language is a cue to us moms, the “Everybody”, “always”, ”never”, “nobody”, “all the time”, “every time”, and it just keeps going on and on. You and I know it’s not true, but they can’t think it through.) So in this moment, he couldn’t think clearly and he couldn’t stay on topic. He kept coming back to something that didn’t matter over and over and over.
It was well past my bedtime when it started, I was literally in my pajamas. He had had a conflict with his brother in another room, and he comes into my room angry. At this point I’m halfway to sleep, eight o’clock is my bed time so I was out. But Davis and I got up so we could engage. You can’t really engage when you’re horizontal. So we’re up, and we’re just keep cycling and going through the same thing over and over. And Davis was speaking at a conference first thing in the morning so I said, “Look, you need to go to bed. I’m here”
I literally sat on the floor with my child for two and a half hours. I was telling him how much I love him, going through that same conversation over, and over, and over and over. I sat there, in my pajamas, into the night because that’s what we get to do. Did you catch that? Thats what we get to do. We get to be with them in that moment of total and utter frustration. We get to be with them and show them love and compassion.
We get to experience the holy sovereign God’s mighty patience with us, that we know we don’t have in that moment.
Trust me, when this starts happening, I want to yell and scream myself. I really do. I want to get all frustrated, and say things that should never be said. But when I don’t do those things, I get to experience the holy spirit coming, and giving me strength I don’t have in and of myself. You know what I’m doing the whole time? I’m praying “God give me discernment, God give me grace, give me eyes to see what I cant see, open my ears to what I can’t hear.”
When we do that with that kid, we’re communicating a level of love to them that is just immeasurable and invaluable. So I want to invite you to reframe this. I get that it’s frustrating. Lets just all admit it and give that one a big hug. But the God of the universe has a plan to shape you through this, and to shape that child through this.
I have been so shaped through this, I am sooo grateful. I am so grateful, if I had never had “that” child, I would’ve thought I was a fabulous mom. If I had only ever had my other kids that are compliant, and obedient, I would’ve thought I was amazing! I would’ve had more judgement than anybody should ever have for anybody else because I would’ve thought it was all about me and my skills as the world’s greatest mom. It has been through having “that” child, that God has taught me and He’s broken me.
I now know all I have is Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Heavenly Father to help me do what I knew I couldn’t do.
Look, along the way I learned some things I didn’t know so I want to go over a few of the potential reasons behind the rage.
- It’s chemistry
They’re a chemical project. They have chemicals in their body that are simply not balanced. We found out that with Charles by keeping a journal. Red food coloring and cinnamon would actually trigger Charles rages.
One morning we were having cinnamon rolls for breakfast on a Sunday, and he actually threw a plate at me! It was pretty evident that there was something chemically inside of him, that didn’t know how to process red food coloring and cinnamon.
I don’t know what that is for your “that” child but it’s worth keeping a journal to see if you find any trend or pattern..
Another thing is that affects “that child” is stress. They have stress that they can’t always process. What complicates this is they don’t have the communication skills that you and I have, to say “I’m stressed” and “I can’t handle anymore” So the combination of the stress, and the lack of communication skills, makes for a messy cocktail when they’ve got both of those going on at the same time. And so again our compassion, and our ability to be the mature one and not reduce ourselves, and not give into our stress like they are. We just need to keep breathing in the midst of it.
The hormone thing is not something to be underestimated. When all those hormones coursing through their veins, and all those changes are going on and they’ve got all this going on in their head, it’s just a very intense time for them.
The first book I read in high school was “to kill a mockingbird”, and it just became my favorite book of all time. In it, Atticus Finch talks about the value of walking around in someone else’s shoes. Mom, I want to invite you to consider what it’s like to be “that” kid. I promise you, it’s not easy. They feel all the stress, they feel this need to communicate something. They know they can’t, and they don’t like it. But, they don’t know what else to do.
When I first started with my “that child”, it was all about me and I was so embarrassed and I felt ashamed and I was sure I was a failure. But I’ve learned so much since then. Please, please put yourself in your child’s shoes. What are they going through? How did we get here? What have they eaten? What stressors are going on with them? Because what I’ve found “that” child needs consistency like nobody’s business. And that’s hard. It’s hard with one, it’s hard with two, three, four, five, six or seven.
I know you’re wondering, “What does an Oreo cookie have to do with ‘that’ child?” Well, let me tell you. And before any of you email me or comment saying I should not eat these, I want to assure you that I cannot possibly keep these at my home because I would become an Oreo cookie. I do love them but I don’t eat them often at all, probably biannually.
I want you to think about an Oreo cookie: you’ve got two chocolates, and the creamy stuff in the middle. It’s actually the original sandwich cookie right? So that’s what you’ve got here, and now I want to give you some tools to deal with the raging, whether it’s young or old, and to deal with your exhaustion.
First of all, I want to challenge you to surrender to the Lord. That’s right. It may sound trite, you may say “Rachael, I’ve already done that”. Well, I’m saying do it again. Surrender to God, and start every day praying and saying “This is your day, have it your way. This is your kid, teach me who they are for your kingdom. Equip me to be the mom, that that kid needs me to be.”
Surrender to God every day.
Next, if this raging thing is pretty basic and on going in your home, I want to challenge you to plan a conversation. Yes, there’s no point in going through this cycle over and over again. I want you to plan to have a conversation with “that” kid about the raging. Now, it’s very important that you make sure they know this isn’t about punishment. This is not you intimidating, this is not about “hey, you’re in trouble”. This is you saying “Hey, I want to have a conversation with you. Do you have some time this afternoon?” Or, if they’re younger than than go “Hey, let’s make some cookies” or “Lets cut up an apple” or “Lets sit on the porch. I’d like to talk to you about something.” And frame it as positively as you possibly can. Build anticipation! If it’s an older child say something like “Lets go for a drive” and they’ll say “Oh cool what are we gonna talk about?” And you can reply “That’ll be a surprise! I’ve been really wanting to spend some time with you and I’m really looking forward to it!”
So you’re planning this conversation; they’re excited and looking forward to it. I want you to plan to discuss four things:
- Bless your child
I want you to tell them you’re so grateful that God sent them to live at your house and in your family. Tell them you’re so excited about the young man or young woman they’re turning out to be.
- Praise your child
“So what do you think are a few things that are going really well right now?” and then give an idea or two that you can see. Find some positives and really talk about how your child is doing well! I promise, you can find them. And if and you can’t, ask God and He’ll show you something. Find SOMETHING that they’re doing real well.
- Ask your child
“Can you think of some things you need to work on? Some areas that need some improvement?” Look, that kid knows they’re raging. They’re not going to be surprised, and they’re probably going to be the one to bring it up; you probably won’t even have to!
- Ask your child
“How do you think I can help?” Don’t jump in immediately with a solution. Be quiet and listen. That’s right, just listen to what they have to say. They might say “I have no idea what you could do to help” or you know what, they might say “When I’m doing that, I’d really appreciate it if you’d stop asking me questions. Or if I could just go to my room for a few minutes. Or maybe I could just walk around the house for a few minutes” They probably have some ideas on what you could do to help them! And some of the things they might suggest, might hurt a little bit. But I want to dare you, listen. And listen. And see what you can learn about that kid. Ask how it makes them feel, or maybe even ask how you think you’re contributing to the problem (if you dare). And I promise you they’re gonna tell you, and it’s going to be an amazing time.
I found that with my oldest son, when I dared to have this conversation when he was fairly young, he totally got it! He knew that he was raging, he knew that he was out of control, but he didn’t know what to do to stop it. Giving him a setting in which he could have that conversation, was powerful for him.
Affirm for them how difficult it is to deal with stress, how difficult it is to deal with frustrations. How difficult it is to deal with change or when things don’t go as planned. Affirm that you too get frustrated, and exhausted. That you too get frustrated when things don’t work out. Remind them that you’re in this together, that’s the number one thing you wanna communicate. You’re on their team against this problem of rage. It’s not you, against them, against the rage. It’s you and them against the rage, shoulder to shoulder. I told my that child, and they one I’ve got going now, “You’re stuck with me, you can’t lose me in a crowd. I’m determined, we’re gonna fight this out together.” Make sure you communicate, that you are on their team.
Next, strategize how you can work this out. When “that” kid is starting to feel those feelings coming up inside and let me tell you, they can feel it coming on. Strategize some terminology so they can come to you and say “I’m feeling off, it’s coming on” just pick a phrase or a word they can say to you or you can say to them when you see it beginning. The phrase I used with my oldest son was “You’re getting close to the edge” And often time when I would say that to him, not always but often times, it was like a wakeup call for him. And sometimes he would just come to me and say “I’m off”
Your “that” kid needs to have permission to come to you and have a timeout of their own. A self-initiated timeout. They don’t want to rage so give them permission to come to you, or to go to their room, or go for a walk, or even just take a rest. Something positive or constructive they can do to avoid going into that rage.
And the last thing, you need to pray together. Make sure the first time you’re praying, that you’re surrendering to God. This isn’t just you and God in this last step, this is you praying WITH that child. If they need anything from you, aside from their compassion, they need you to pray with them.
So back to our Oreo cookie. You’re going to pray, you’re going to do the conversation in between, and you’re going to pray on the other side too, just like this Oreo. I cannot guarantee this will be a one-time conversation. In fact, I can promise you’re going to have this conversation over and over and over and it’s worth it. So just resolve to dig in, resolve to have compassion, and resolve to persevere as you raise your world changer.
What do you do regularly? What are your habits? Sometimes we joke about them and give each other a hard time about them. For instance, I make my bed every morning, even at a hotel. Yeah, I know.
Often we underestimate habits. The good ones we call mundane: brushing teeth and hair, sweeping, cooking, laundry. We forget their value and significance. The bad ones we either hide or deny or try to overcome, but even those we tend to minimize in an effort to alleviate the guilt we feel about them.
Habits make all the difference.
Habits communicate our principles, reveal our character and establish our integrity. Habits are those activities we do no matter what, when your back is up against the wall, when no one is watching, when you’re desperate and alone, when you’re confused or lost. It doesn’t matter if the sun is shining or the rain is falling, your habits get done.
Habits give comfort to us when storms rage and tragedy smacks and the lights go out. See when someone dies there are still towels to be folded, dishes to wash a child read to and a dog to walk. The more drastic the change, the more desperate we become to establish to some kind of normality, some order, some routine. Thank goodness for habits.
Habits, good or bad become our best friends. They define us. We depend on them whether we want to or not. That is why it is so difficult to break a bad habit and so imperative that we establish good ones. And the best news-it’s always a good time to start a good habit!
Spending time with God on your knees, in His word and with hands uplifted in prayer are three important habits worth practicing. All three of them take time, but the investment has an eternal return.
Spending time on your knees.
Over and over in Scripture we admonished to pray. Pray without ceasing, on all occasions, giving thanks and praising God. In Hebrews we are encouraged to ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’. Peter encourages us to ‘cast all our cares on Him for He cares for us.’ The Psalmist writes over and over about how he cries out and how God hears and answers. Praying is our opportunity to lay it all down and out. To humbly acknowledge we can’t and our need for Him. We have so many worries and concerns. Jesus said, “Come to me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” We need only go to Him in prayer and lay it at His feet in prayer. He invites us to tell Him all about it, not because He doesn’t know, but because it is good for us to tell Him. In doing so we are reminded of His goodness and faithfulness.
Time in the Word.
God speaks to us through His word. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,’ Psalms says. Taking the time to read His word and study its truths actually transforms our minds. Through it we learn how to think. Paul writes in Philippians, ‘think on these things.’ He also tells us how to live when he writes, ‘be imitators of God’. We come to know who Christ is as we study his life here through the gospel accounts. The message of God’s love for us is clear from Genesis to Revelation. God’s word is unchanging, but through it He molds us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Studying His word changes us, who we are as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, friends, and neighbors. It changes us from the inside out.
Hands raised in Worship.
Acknowledging God as Master of the universe, as Creator of all things, as the King of kings and the Lord of lords puts all of life in its proper perspective. As we praise Him, recognizing Him as the Great I Am, the Great Redeemer, the Great Physician, reminds us that He is in control. We have no reason to worry or stress or even panic. He is sovereign. He has a plan for His glory and our good. We were made by Him to worship.
Worshiping Him, keeping Him squarely on the throne of our hearts safeguards us from idolatry. Further when we lift our hands in worship our open hands represent that we come with nothing, we hold nothing, we lift our hands in submission to His perfect will, in surrender. It is a beautiful posture.
What if we were known to spend time in the word, on our knees and in open-handed worship?
What if no matter what, we spent time with Him acknowledging Who He is and our need for Him, His wisdom, direction and strength?
What would it change?
The way we respect our husbands?
The way we serve our families?
The way we talk to our friends?
The way we minister?
“The heart is the wellspring of life.”
I bet these habits would change us from the inside out. I bet it would strengthen our marriages and our families and our friendships. I’m betting these 3 habits could change the world?
How about we start a revolution?
Prayer. The Master of the universe invites us to come into His presence, to bring our worries and concerns, to bring our longings, to bring our brokenness, to bring our questions, our frustrations, our hopes and dreams.
He welcomes us to approach the foot of the throne, the throne where He sits on high, the Sovereign of all creation, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He welcomes us to come boldly as His children, knowing He listens and cares and loves and acts.
Many have twisted prayer into a kind of cosmic, mystical, God-on-demand, ask-what-you-want, He’s-obliged-to-deliver, call-in-process. Some say (and even go so far as to teach) that God can be manipulated through prayer—what we say, how we say it, and how often we say it. Follow that theology and He’s no ‘God’ at all. With this thinking, their god is only one of their own construction without any power and really only part of their imagination.
No. That’s not prayer. And that’s not God. Prayer is a conversation, an ongoing conversation. It’s between the Creator and His created ones, His people, the sheep of His pasture, His beloved. Prayer is our fellowship with Him. It’s where we tell Him all He already knows. Prayer is about bowing our knees and laying it down and out.
What is Prayer?
Through prayer God offers us a place to lay our burdens, those things that weigh us down, those things that distract us, those things that overwhelm us, those things that confuse us. It’s a place where we can lay it all out—our plans and strategies, our hopes and dreams, our fears and challenges. At the foot of the throne we can lay it all down, lay it all out. Humbly kneel at His feet and ask Him for His wisdom, His discernment, His strength, His will.
Prayer is not magical or mystical. It’s not a formula or a fancy. Prayer is not a waste of time or a mere ritual. It is humble communication with God. It means we realize His authority, His position, His power, His glory. It is an acknowledgment of our need for Him, our realization that we can’t and it’s okay. It’s the place where we trade in our wants for His will, our pursuits for His praise, our goals for His glory.
We don’t come merely to ask His blessing for what we want to do, but for His direction regarding all that He wants us to do. We come seeking Him.
The one true God, the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of David, the God of the prophets, He is able. He is big enough to allow us to wrestle through it. He knows our understanding is limited, He knows we cannot fully comprehend. He realizes our perspectives are obstructed. He can handle our questions, our doubting, out pain.
It’s how we come to Him that matters. Coming to Him in humility is key. He knows our hearts. He knows if we are coming with a broken and contrite heart. We cannot fool Him. Prayer is an avenue He offers us to come and know Him.
Here are six ways to engage in prayer:
1. The ACTS method.
Using an acrostic to order your prayers is a tried and true way to pray. One of my favorites employs the word ACTS, where each letter stands for a different aspect of prayer:
C-Confession=admitting my sin
T-Thankfulness=expressing gratitude to Him
S-Supplication=laying it all out before Him
This method of prayer helps to keep first things first and helps set the proper context for prayer. It is a simple and memorable way to organize your prayer time. It is a great way to help children develop their prayer time because even though it is simple, it is powerful. Beginning our time of prayer praising and confessing, then moving to thankfulness and requests helps our hearts to stay focused on the right object in prayer: God.
2. Be still and know.
David wrote about this discipline in Psalm 46:10. This is not an easy habit to practice in our busy, rushing culture, but it is a necessary one. Being still and knowing means we stop and sit in silence before Him. It means that we unplug and unwind and unload.
3. Prayers in the Bible.
Depending on your definition, there are over 600 prayers in the Bible. Some of them are only a single verse. Others are an entire chapter. Throughout Scripture, the prayers of God’s people have been recorded for our encouragement. Noah, Abraham, David, Hannah, Elijah, Anna, Mary, and Paul prayed. When the disciples asked, Jesus Himself taught them saying: “Pray then in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
4. Written prayers.
There are several denominational traditions regarding prayer. Some do not practice reading prayers, but others recognize the depth and power in written and recited prayers. There are several books filled with such prayers for our encouragement. One of my favorites is Valley of Vision. It is a collection of Puritan prayers, which were written in worship of the King and are meant to bring the worshiper into close, focused communion with God. Here is an example:
Longings after God
“My dear Lord, I can but tell You that You know I long for nothing but Yourself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with Your will.
You have given me these desires, and You alone canst give me the thing desired. My soul longs for communion with You, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride.
How precious it is to have a tender sense and clear apprehension of the mystery of godliness, of true holiness! What a blessedness to be like You as much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator! Lord, give me more of Your likeness; enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness; engage me to live more for You.
Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and when I feel at ease after sweet communings, teach me it is far too little I know and do.
Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to You, and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with You, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its beloved.
Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring You, always humble and resigned to Your will, more fixed on Yourself, that I may be more fitted for doing and-suffering.”
Other prayer books for your edification include: The Prayer that Changes Everything, Prayers that Avail Much, and The Book of Common Prayer. As you read these prayers allow them to wash over your heart, soul, and mind. Allow them to penetrate your thoughts. Meditate on their truths. Allow them to sink down into your bones, to change you from the inside out. These prayers will grant you peace and comfort. They will challenge you and affirm you.
5. Prayer cards.
This is something I have done for years. I posted about them a while back. Prayer cards are a way to help you organize your prayers for each day. It is hard to get everything prayed for in a day. Although we must continue to remember that prayer isn’t a formula, it is an ongoing conversation. Sometimes we allow little issues to rattle around in our minds, which just continually distract or discourage us. Sometimes it’s bigger issues, things like jobs, or relationships, or money, or disease.
We carry things around that God invites us to set at His feet and prayer cards give us a way to organize our prayers each day so that we can pray it all through. They are handy to keep with you in your Bible, on a cork board, on a counter tip, or in your purse. They are an excellent way to ‘set your mind on things above.’
This is a tool which can be incorporated no matter what other resources or approaches you might use. Whether you prefer the written prayers, the prayer cards, the ACTS method, or something else, make sure you record what God is doing by keeping a prayer journal.
This doesn’t have to be fancy or neat or artsy, it’s just for you! A prayer journal is where you record His goodness to you, His answered prayers, His praises. In your prayer journal you can write about how He wows and amazes you, how He does ‘beyond what we can ask or imagine’, how His ways are ‘higher than our ways.’
Your prayer journal is intensely personal. It’s like a secret diary full of both tear-stained pages and praise pages. When you start one, write in it often. No one checks grammar, spelling, or the frequency. It’s all for your personal encouragement. Make it yours—plain, colorful, chronological, or random, big, small, ruled, or not.
Pray for Him to show off and glorify Himself. That is what He is always doing—glorifying Himself. Ask Him to open your eyes so you can see what He is doing all around you. Then take it all in, write it down, and marvel at Him who alone is Worthy!
Is there anyone out there?
Anyone? Anyone at all?
Ever think that you’re all alone?
Shhh? Do you hear it?
The breeze in the leaves. The buzzing of the bee? The croaking of the frogs?
Shhh. Bend an ear, concentrate, listen.
Now do you hear it? The babble of the brook. The flapping wings of the geese overhead. The sigh of a child.
Shhh. Your tears falling on your shirt. The deep sobs of your soul. The breaking of your heart.
There are sounds going on around you everyday. The alarm clock, the shower, the tea kettle, the fireplace wood crackling, the hairdryer, the washer and dryer. The microwave, the toaster, the dishes, the silverware. The early morning yawns and stretches. And a whispered “I love you.”
What is the cry of your heart?
What would you love to say to God if you knew He would hear and pay attention?
What would you like to hear back from Him?
What are some things that you have heard from Him in the past?
What would you like to hear again?
What is the question, life situation, problem on which you would like His advice?
With whom would you like to reconcile?
Let us dare to persist in prayer. Let us pray throughout the day, crying out to Him who alone is Able. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found. Let us approach the throne of Grace with confidence. Let us pray without ceasing. Let us not grow weary.
Let us pray for each other. Let us hold each other up, have each other’s back, and stand in the gap. Let us intercede with the Father on behalf of each other. Let us pray for each other’s marriages that they will be strong, that we will respect our husbands. Let us pray for each other as mothers, that we will raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Let us be attentive to His voice alone. Let us ignore the whispers of the enemy. Let us worship Him alone. Let us spend time in His word, reading and meditating on its truth. Let us practice being still and knowing. Let us be quiet and just listen.
Know this: He is listening. He knows. He cares. He is acting on your behalf.
Assuming you have done some prayerful preparation and planning for the upcoming school year, now you are ready to discuss your plan with your husband. As you seek to go forward, united in training up your children, make this a high priority.
I realize that some husbands merely tolerate their wife’s desire to homeschool. These fathers choose against being genuinely engaged and settle for the sideline. If this describes your home, I want to encourage you to invite him to be a part. Inviting is different from guilting or badgering or manipulating or belittling. Don’t assume he doesn’t want to be a part of the homeschool adventure this year. Invite him to join you and the kids.
Ask your husband to set aside a specific time and date to discuss the coming school year with you. Tell him you want to let him know what you are planning and you want his support and insight. He will probably see some things in your planning that you missed. It is also important to review the objectives of your homeschool and remember that you are working together to bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Suggested course of action:
- Pray. Whether your husband is supportive or merely tolerant, pray that God would bless your meeting. Here are several things to bring before the throne:
- Thank God for having a plan for your homeschool, for going before, walking with you and coming behind you.
- Pray that He would grant you and your husband wisdom and understanding.
- Pray that God would glorify Himself through your homeschool.
- Ask the Lord that you and your husband would be united, that He would grant your husband a vision for his family and that you would joyfully support him as his wife.
- Ask that God would grant you the time to meet with your husband and that he would engage in the discipleship of the children.
- Praise His name for all He is going to do!
- Set the date. Look at your calendars and choose a day you can sit down together to focus and discuss the coming home school year. Be considerate of his time and schedule. Many husbands are used to attending meetings with a clear agenda. Let him know what you want to discuss so he does not feel like he is put on the spot or unprepared for the discussion.
A few items you might discuss:
- Guiding Bible verse for the school year
- Review of roles
- Responsibilities for the individual children
- Proposed routine
- The subjects to be studied
- Prayer requests
- Set the stage. Plan the meeting to be just the two of you without the kids, if possible. You might trade off watching the kids with another homeschool mom. Try and make sure you won’t have any interruptions so that you can have a productive meeting. If you go somewhere, make sure it’s somewhere you can talk. If you stay in, make the setting as peaceful as possible. Most men enjoy a good dinner, consider making one of his favorite meals. Take a cue from Esther!
- Go Forward with Confidence. Now, make it happen. Talk with your husband, plan the evening, gather your visual aids such as your planner and various books from the curriculum you want to show him and have a great meeting.
It’s important to note that some husbands want to engage but they don’t know how. You might want to have some activities that your husband can take full ownership of – here’s a few ideas:
- Choose the year’s Bible verse
- Read aloud to the children each day
- Go over a particular subject with a child
- Plan and carry out specific outings or field trips
- Give you some time each week to plan by doing an activity with the kids
- Direct family worship
- Pray for specific challenges/opportunities
Again, it is important that we do not nag our husbands into helping, but rather invite them to be involved as they are able. We need to make sure that we don’t exclude them or make them feel that there is no place for them because we dominate and reject their help and input. As you’re planning, search diligently for a way to engage your husband’s talents and interests and encourage him to play an active role in your homeschool.
This is one of my favorite times of the year, the time everything is fresh and new and possible! This is the time when I get to look back and forward, dream and consider, pray and trust as I look to a new year of home schooling.
Over the course of 18 years of teaching my children at home I have learned that this journey is not about figuring it out, but it is about prayerfully persevering. It is about continuing on through the challenges and celebrating God’s goodness and faithfulness.
We must remember not to allow our plans to become our idol. God’s word says that “man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” God has a plan for each of our lives, for our family’s homeschool. We should plan prayerfully and hold our plans with open hands, offering our plans up to God to work through and use as He will for His glory.
Planning gives us a target to aim for. We do not always hit the bull’s eye, but having one means we are shooting in the right direction. It is vital we have a target to aim at while allowing, or rather inviting God to come and direct our steps.
Here are some steps I go through as I plan the year:
- Pray. Before you even begin the day, ask the Father to guide you and grant you wisdom as you plan. His Spirit will help you and give you insights as you go forward.
- Review Objectives. Our over-arching goal each year is to glorify God and to raise children who glorify God. From there I look at each student, where they are and what they need for the year and set goals for them individually.
- Plan out weeks. This simply means looking at the calendar and your family’s activities/travel and planning which days/weeks you will be home schooling. Additionally, consider planning in some down time for you and your kids. We adopted a 6-weeks-on-1-week-off schedule several years ago that works great for our family. The week off gives us a break, a chance to adjust and catch-up if necessary. Once you know when you can homeschool, now you can better plan ‘what’ and ‘how’.
- Decide on the year’s subjects. I have developed a rotation for our study of history so that we can go through world and American history several times over the course of their education. Subsequently I add in math, science, writing and foreign language. After these are in place I look to see what I can add in that is unique to each child. For instance I might add in some LEGO material for my LEGO enthusiast or an art class for my emerging artist. Though these may seem to be merely extracurricular, I maintain that as their particular talents and interest begin to develop, they should become more prominent, not just add-on’s.
- Develop a Routine. Over the years I have come to believe that a routine is much better than a schedule. A routine sets a pattern for our day, a course of action, and ultimately, habits. In contrast a schedule ties us, makes us slaves to the clock. A schedule demands we pay attention to the minutes instead of the moments. It robs us of joy and distracts us from our purpose. I desire to create a context wherein my children love learning. I want to engage them in such a way that they don’t even notice the time. I don’t want to rush to the next ‘thing’ but lean into the now, what we are reading or discovering or solving now.
As you consider the pattern you want to adopt for your day, I would encourage you to put God first (Matthew 6:33). Read God’s word together first; pray together first. This example of putting God first is an excellent example for your children as they grow up and begin to adopt their own daily routines. As they get older, show them how to have their own quite time first and then ask them to share what they learned that day.
After time with God, then put the other subjects in an order that best serves your children, their needs, and your day. We have a routine that is basically the same each day. This way the kids know the drill. They can proceed on their own if I am busy with a character issue or the laundry.
- Plan a meeting with the Principal. This is key. Make sure that you take the time to go over your plan with the principal of your homeschool, your husband. (In North Carolina, the husband/father is considered the principal of the homeschool. Though homeschool law varies from state to state, this is a good way to look at the division of roles.) Get a date on the calendar to meet with him and discuss your plan. More on this next week!
That child is always challenging us. Sometimes it’s not just a different perspective. Sometimes it’s not just a crazy idea.
Sometimes it’s not just some imaginative plan that they want to put into place. Sometimes it’s a real attitude that creeps in and they’re just frustrating, and they have this angst within themselves and it kind of comes out to the rest of us.
We kind of had that day here today and I’m just telling you all that to say that I’m in this journey with you.
Maybe I’m a little further down the path since I do have a “that child” that I’ve already graduated who is currently in graduate school. This alone ought to give us all hope!
But I’m still dealing with it! Not just in my “that child” but also in me. Right?
I’m not a finished product.
I’m still a work in progress. I’m grateful for this process of sanctification, but it’s not easy.
I still have really tough days with “that child”; I recently closed our school day early to deal with an attitude issue.
We could have pushed through. I could have insisted on the work getting done. But you know what? That work that we would have gotten done and any of those academic pursuits would not have been as valuable as the work we needed to do in his heart. So, I’m in this with you. I want you to know that.
We are in this together as we seek God together, and seek to honor God, and seek His glory and all we say and do.
I really do believe that as we have “that child” in our families and in our homes, that we have an opportunity to raise up a generation to change the world.
That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That’s what makes me so excited about coming here to talk to you about these kids that are just so misunderstood.
These are the kids that get a bad rap. It’s hard to be these kids because very few people want to invest in getting to know them.
Very few people want to consider “that child’s” perspective or listen to their rantings or their ravings or their idea lists.
Very few people want to do that. But, Mom, you’ve got an amazing opportunity to really invest in that kid and really love “that child” as a unique creation of a holy, mighty God.
Let’s Review “That Child”
I told you the story about I loved my oldest, my original “that child”, but I didn’t like him very much.
That may ring true with some of you in the audience. You may just go, “Gasp! You just said that.”
Yeah, I said it. I don’t think there is any shame in admitting how selfish I was and how I had just failed to see this from a different perspective.
But I want to challenge you to embrace that child. Embrace him as a unique son or daughter of the King, uniquely wired for His glory.
They are someone very special. So, I want to encourage you to embrace “that child”.
Second of all, and we have talked about this, I want to dare you to engage with them.
Look! These are the kids that no one wants to engage with. They are always going off on rabbit trails. They see things that the rest of us can’t see.
They have ideas that seem impossible. It’s amazing. But we need to dare to engage with them. It starts with conversation.
“Unpack that idea for me.”
“Talk me a little more about that.”
Dare to chase the squirrel with them. These kids… remember the movie “UP” where you had the dog named Dug, and every now and then he would go, “Squirrel!”
That’s our “that child”, right? Because they’re always chasing squirrels.
Anything that crosses their path is game for conversation. Would we dare to engage in that conversation? Give “that child” a voice.
So, we engage with them in conversation. We engage with them in their ideas. We engage with them in their imagination.
But we don’t just engage with them. We get to know who they are. What motivates them. What lights their fire. What frustrates them.
Based on all the things we learn based on this active, intentional engagement we advocate for them.
We advocate for them before the throne of grace. We pray for them constantly. We advocate for them in the medical community when everybody wants to shove a prescription across the table to help that child.
We advocate for other methods. We advocate for them when it comes to their inappropriate behavior on a team.
I think I’ve told you in the past we have had some very real consequences for very wrong behavior. One that I can remember well was, “you won’t get to play in your next soccer game”. Now, mind you, this doesn’t mean we didn’t go to the game…Oh no! We went to that game and supported the team. And in doing so, “that child” would realize that he could have actually played in the game. But instead he got to explain to the coach that he wouldn’t be playing because he disobeyed.
Yeah, that’s a real consequence.
It’s daring to engage and enlist the help of others through advocation as you engage and get to know them and pay attention.
We are going to embrace them.
We are going to engage with them.
Finally, we are going to enjoy them.
It’s not a straight shot
Look, these kids are not going to allow your life to just go in a linear pattern. They’re not!
They’re going to take you around the moon and back again. That’s how they are. But what an amazing opportunity to enjoy them.
Enjoy the laughter.
Enjoy their perspective.
Enjoy learning from them.
I’m sure many of you saw the video my boys posted a while back on how to spread an insect.
So, I’ve learned a lot about bugs this year! I didn’t know that there were even websites where you can buy dead bugs! I didn’t know that! I am learning so much from my “that child”. Just like I learned so much from Charles (my first “that child”) when he was home.
What a rush! What a ride! The enjoyment that we get to celebrate with “that child”…I want to invite you in to that.
That’s what we’ve been talking about. I talked about the top ten things you say.
I talked about you might have a “that child” if…
We’ve talked about all these different things, all these different tools, all these different conversations.
We talked about their sin nature. If you’ve missed any of this go back on my blog you can find all my posts on “that child” and catch up.
Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. In both cases, God is glorified.
Now I want to introduce you, some of you maybe for the first time, to someone who has really helped me on my journey, and my son’s journey. This is Dianne Craft, DianneCraft.org on the web.
This woman gets your “that child” from a thousand different perspectives.
She specializes in helping us get to know them and really fight this battle with them.
Often “that child” is educationally frustrated. There are many issues. I was extremely dyslexic as a child. My oldest child had an auditory processing issue. It’s not just that they’ve got this ADHD, and they’ve got this incredible mind, and these really unique perspectives.
I’ve talked last week about the different signs of genius, the twelve characteristics of genius. Often, your “that child” will show those characteristics. But they are often struggling.
Well Dianne is the expert in all of those issues. She has a plethora of articles, YouTube videos, you can catch her at a conference.
Her schedule is online, too. You can do phone consultations, and you can even make an appointment and fly out to see her in Colorado. She is the real deal.
You know, I come alongside the moms to really encourage mom’s hearts. She comes alongside with some really practical things, everything from learning tools to articles.
She wants to approach this from a natural perspective. I wouldn’t say she’s anti-pharmaceuticals. We didn’t get that far into the conversation. But she has found there are natural supplementations, dietary supplement, and also dietary changes that we can make in our home to help that kid function.
I have seen it firsthand. If I have cut down on carbs at the beginning of the day for “that child”, it makes all the difference. It’s a little bitty thing for us to have protein shakes and eggs for breakfast instead of just cereal or oatmeal.
That sounds great, the oatmeal does, but not for “that kid”.
So, learning all of this from her I wanted to make sure that you were aware of her many resources.
Get in the game with “that child”
Look, we’ve got to fight for “that kid”. These are things that they don’t know. They don’t know that, one of the things that Dianne talks about, I want to get it right, is about the learning glitches that your kid might have. She has an assessment online free that you can go through and read the article and go, “Ah! That’s it!”
Look, “that kid” can’t do that for them.
They don’t know what they don’t know. You and I don’t either but we can find some resources like Dianne and her website and get some real practical help to help that child.
I’ve added a few supplements to my son’s diet currently. We also did this with Charles in the old days.
I’m here to tell you mama, we can help them in natural, practical ways to be able to take in the information. We don’t have to drug them down or make them into something else. There are natural ways to make it easier, not just for us, but easier for them to function so they can think clearly and so that they can focus.
Take some time today to thank God for the “that child” in your home.
Today, I want to talk about how “that child” sees so many things differently than you and I do.
I have some books I want to recommend and talk through. These are works that have completely changed the way I approach mothering and homeschooling.
First, The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias. I would highly recommend that you seize any chance to listen to Cynthia Tobias; she is a scream to hear in person. She is a very funny speaker but has tremendous insight. I actually got this book I think all the way back when we were beginning our homeschool journey. It has really helped me see some things I was blinded to.
Second, if you get a chance to hear Dr. Kathy Koch, I would highly recommend her. She is based out of Texas (my beloved state), and frequently speaks at the Hearts at Home conference and on Focus on the Family radio. Her book, How Smart Am I? is another must-read.
And thirdly is an work entitled Awakening Your Child’s Genius by Thomas Armstrong. He maintains, “We want to assist [children] in finding their inner genius and support them in guiding it into pathways that can lead to personal fulfillment and to the benefit of those around them.” He has said his writing is motivated by the desire to ensure that every child gets a chance to fulfill their potential. Obviously, this is an incredibly helpful perspective when you are learning to educate your “that child.”
That Child & The Way They Learn
I was really a struggling learner until about the eighth grade when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although I had incredible auditory skills, it wasn’t until we identified my dyslexia that I was able to process the different ways I learned.
So, when I stepped into home education I assumed that my kids would learn the same way that I did. I kind of slammed into the reality that this is not true. Cynthia Tobias’ premise in this book is that there are four quadrants: concrete, sequential, random, and abstract; and then combinations of those quadrants.
I tend to be a concrete and sequential learner. I want concrete examples that you can show me and I want them to go in order. Those are two very, very important things to me. I really believe that by and large, when I’m learning, those things are important to me. That’s how I assumed my children would also learn and need information. I believe this is generally how the education system functions.
Yet what I learned from this book was that that’s not how everybody learns. Our reality is our own normal, not necessarily that of everyone else, and so I was shocked to find out that my son was my complete opposite. I am concrete-sequential and he is random-abstract. I certainly couldn’t get my head around it.
I couldn’t appreciate his many questions, the things that he wanted to chase, the ideas that he had, the way that he saw things because I didn’t understand. I didn’t think the way that he saw things was legitimate. I’m here to advocate for the fact that, no matter where you are on this, how your child sees, and thinks, and takes in information, is indeed legitimate.
Not sure which type of learner you are? Tobias has included a brief survey so you can actually figure out which style(s) describe you and your children.
I wish that I had read the work of Dr. Armstrong when Charles (my first “that child”) was little. I literally had tears dripping off my chin when I read one of his articles on genius and I realized that my current “that child” (who is now taller than me, and in the 9th grade, eating me out of house and home) is so much like his older brother yet truly his own person.
Reading “Awakening Your Child’s Genius” brought me to tears! This was describing my two boys! Moms, if you’ve got a “that child” and you are just continually feeling like you are banging your head against the wall because you do not get where a particular question came from, or why they are interested in that random topic, or why did they do that thing with all of your straws… Anybody with me on this? Anybody?
You had plans for those straws and it wasn’t for that spontaneous craft project that they just completed. Right? Armstrong’s work gives you insight into all of that. Actually, I think it gives a lot of insight.
If this resonates, you can read even more from Dr. Thomas.
How We Are Smart
In her book, Dr. Koch talks about the eight intelligences: word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, nature smart, people smart, self smart. She validates each one of those, which is so important. So often we try to put everybody in the same box, but that is not the objective of raising the next generation of kids to change the world.
It certainly will fail every time, and twice on Sunday, if we try to put “that child” in a box of everyone else’s construction. We need to validate and affirm “that child” as a very unique blessing from the hand of the Almighty God. Again, as we use these tools to help them understand how God has wired them then we can help, and encourage, and foster, and nurture these intelligences, and maybe even some of the other ones they are not as strong for them.
So, I found this really, really helpful. But I want to get to my really favorite part and give you three do’s and three don’ts.
I’m here to tell you that “that child” is wired to be a world changer. We must not destroy the joy that they have! I get so excited about this. So, let’s go on and look at these qualities of genius. Again, I’m just going to briefly over each of them, give you a little bit of insight, and then you can read more for yourself.
The ways we learn
Oh, my goodness! If you have a “that child” you know that this is true. They have a curiosity way beyond our curiosity. In fact, often, their curiosity seems like they are not paying attention.
You may have heard me tell this story before but one time, and I do mean one time, because the outplay, the effect on my son, was so painful for him I determined that I was not going to subject him to that again. Certainly not at the young age that he was at the time. I took him and his brother to Reading Time at the library. I was literally that mom in the back of the room nursing the baby. Yeah. That doesn’t happen a lot in public anymore but that’s what I did all those years ago. So, I was sitting in the back and Charles, in Charles’ form, was on the front row. Right?
Anderson was dutifully sitting beside him and this woman, oh! I wish that I had the foresight at that time to mark down the book that she was reading. Anyway, he was up on his knees and he was so excited to be there to listen to the story. You know, we had a pattern of reading books at home. Right at the very end of the book, you know the woman, the librarian (I don’t have to say anything more about that), but at the very end of her reading she says, “Are there any questions?”
I literally went, gasp! Because I knew… She, she did that. Right? I knew that this was Charles’ moment and he was going to have a question. Why? Because we fostered that at our house. We were always talking, always having those discussions. His hand shot up. She said, “Yes?” And he proceeded to ask the question. Again, I really wish that I had known to write it down because it was just be so much more full, the story. He proceeded to ask the question that she did not think was on topic.
She, in that moment, said, “I would really appreciate it if the questions pertained to the story we just read. Is there anybody else that has a question?” And I saw Charles slump. Maybe you’ve seen that in your “that child”. Because this is what I knew as the mom in the back of the room, he was on topic! He was curious about something that was related. She just couldn’t see where he was where she was standing.
Often, our “that child” has questions that don’t seem related. It’s their curiosity. I really think that we want to foster that, and encourage that, as we have discussions with them.
This is another thing that we tend to discourage in our children. We tend to not want them to be silly. Dr. Armstrong, in this article, encourages them to be silly. They should be silly! We should have homes, and circumstances, and contexts in our immediate family where their silliness is welcome.
Now, we do need to teach them orderliness, it does have a place and a time. I know it’s challenging, but you know what I’m betting? That we need to die to our self and let them be more silly more often. These books talk about play being the highest level of development.
This is when kids can escape and imagine things being different, imagine things being better, imagining fantasies or dreams. We need to encourage those.
I have a daughter right now that’s writing a paper on Chesterton. He would often just lay in bed, and just think, and just imagine. His whole idea about imagination was that it was never wasted, that daydreaming is never wasted. Look, we often see one of our kids, our “that kid”, and we’re trying to accomplish something and they’re daydreaming. Certainly in the school system, we don’t have any patience for that. But according to this article, it’s valuable for them to have those fantasies, and those dreams, and for us to give them life, and discuss them, and smile when we see them imagining.
This is when we give them permission to come to conclusions in new ways, in ways that we wouldn’t have. This is an example of that. You may think that your “that kid” maybe isn’t very creative. Because see we often have a very narrow definition of what creativity is. We think it’s some artistic display. But it’s not always!
Creative thinking often manifests in answers to questions that we immediately assume to be wrong, and they’re not. For example, if you ask one of these kids, “What is… one plus one plus one is?” If they say, “Four!”, we would say it was wrong. Or if they said it was one we would say it was wrong. Look, if you’re creative in the way that you think the immediate question is, “One plus one WHAT?” Are you talking about one half plus one half?
Because one half plus one half is one. We would mark that answer wrong! But see they are being creative in the conclusions and the solutions that they’re coming to. These are kids that don’t test well because these are kids that argue and discuss through every answer that they are given in a multiple choice situation. We need to foster that creativity.
“How did you come to the conclusion that one plus one is one because that’s not true?”
Or you might have a child that you have taught Biblically and you might have an equation that says, “One plus one plus one equals?” and they wrote “one” thinking the Trinity. This is an example of that creativity. Look, to these kids, it’s not just about connecting the dots for them. They see dots that the rest of us don’t see. We don’t need to make them feel bad about that. We need to encourage that.
This is their natural astonishment at the world around them. This is something that, sadly, many of us grow out of. Again, you might have heard me tell this story but it fits here so I’m going to share it. One night there was a mother standing in the kitchen sink washing the dishes when her son comes running into the kitchen. He goes, “Mom! You’ve got to come right now. The sunset is so beautiful. There’s blue, and there’s orange, and there’s pink. Oh, mom! Come right now. See the sunset right now.”
Mom goes, “Just a minute. I’m going to finish these dishes.” You know what I know? That mom who got caught up in finishing the dishes, a few moments later her son comes moping in and says, “You missed it.” There will never be another sunset like that one that was right there. That child in the wonder, and the amazement, and the astonishment of Creation came in and wanted mom to share it with him. We were distracted, you and I, by the dishes.
May we not do that. May we dare to enter in into the wonder, and the astonishment they have by a sunset, or a bug, or a spider web, or lightening bugs. Anything the wonder of Creation. May we as Christians, Mom, point them to the glory of God’s majesty and His detail in every creative thing. This is an opportunity. This aspect of intelligence is our opportunity to point them to a holy, mighty God.
These are children who have wise insight beyond their years. It’s not based on any kind of experience. They’re very, very young. But they see things, they have this wisdom that they can make connections that sometimes we discount. Sometimes it’s in small pithy statements. I remember one of my kids, we went on a walk one night just around our neighborhood but it … trash and recycle day was the next day.
One of my kids said, “Wow! You can learn a lot by looking in someone’s recycle bin.” Goodness! Yeah, well yeah, you can. But I didn’t expect you to notice that. That would be an example of wisdom. When our children dare to say something like that, again, we need to take the time to unpack that with them.
- What do you see?
- What do you mean?
- What do you think that that tells us?
- What’s in ours that we are telling to other people?
- Why does that matter?
There’s so much opportunity for communication there.
This is about their willingness or ability to use ordinary things around your house for extraordinary purposes. I remember many years ago now when I was doing astronomy with my “that kid”, my original one, and we came to the point in astronomy where we were supposed to build the solar system.
Well me, remember concrete-sequential, I’m thinking, “Oh man! I didn’t get the styrofoam balls to make the solar system. Ugh! I didn’t get that so we can’t make the solar system.” Well something happened and I got called out of the room. I left him with his younger brother. When I came back they had made the solar system with pom-pom balls, and pipe cleaners, and construction paper for the ring around Saturn.
They had constructed it kind of like a mobile. I think the one maybe they had seen over the baby brother or sister’s bed. That is not at all how I would have constructed a solar system. But they were being so inventive with what they did with it. Inventiveness is what we need in order to solve the problems around us in culture and society. We need new inventions. That means you and I probably won’t always know where our scissors are. We probably won’t be able to squirrel away a box of straws for a special occasion.
But we need to be open to their inventiveness and again have those conversations.
- What did you see?
- How did you come to this conclusion?
- How did you solve this problem.
I remember in the movie “Apollo 13”, do you remember that movie with Tom Hanks, and here they had those astronauts up in this rocket ship and they had a major problem?
He comes in and he dumps these supplies on the table. He goes, this is all they’ve got. You need to figure out how to use what’s on this table so that they can breathe and we can get them home. The reason they were able to solve that is because those people around that table had this quality of inventiveness. They were able to look at things that you and I think, “that straw is made to drink something”, but “that kid” doesn’t see it that way. They see the straw having tons of different tools and we need to encourage that.
You and I might tend to think of vitality as having a negative connotation because we think of it as a rashness or impulsiveness. This is the aspect of genius that needs to do it now. They don’t want to wait. They want to do it now. This is an aspect of them that can be exhausting. But it’s also very exciting and invigorating if we allow it to be.
Their vitality is something that really spurs them on. We need to be responsive to them in our environment, in our home, and try our very best to respond to their vitality. This is one of the main reasons why I tried to keep a bunch of random stuff on hand all the time, straws, toilet paper tubes, empty containers of various kinds, I mean I literally had a tub of things. Glue, sequins, all of that kind of stuff, string, all sorts of different things for their vitality to bloom.
This, too, is a beautiful thing because these kids that have these qualities of genius tend to be far more sensitive than we give them credit for. I think this is often because we get caught up in how they make us feel. Like, maybe inadequate or unintelligent because sometimes they are just so far passed us. Sometimes they just make us want to pull our hair out. Sometimes they make us want to cry. They make us want to scream.
So, we discount their sensitivity and we should not do that. These kids have a level of sensitivity that the world has not been able to harden and I am so grateful. They have not been desensitized. These kids see something on the street and they want to do something about it. See, that combination of things, their sensitivity, and their inventiveness like we just talked about, and their vitality? They want to do something!
I took my “that kid” to New York City. I love that city. There are beggars on the streets of New York City and my “that kid” doesn’t want to just walk by. He wants to think of a way that we can help. What could we do? These kids are very sensitive to the problems of this world and that can ultimately be a motivation for them to change it and do something. So again, let’s not wish for them to be hardened. Let’s not want them to be a “big boy”. Let’s not insist that boys don’t cry. Let’s nurture that. Let’s fan the flames of that sensitivity.
Friends, remember that Jesus wept! He was sensitive; he wasn’t cold. And Peter wept bitterly after he denied Christ. Let’s not deny these kids that sensitivity that ultimately can motivate them to change the world.
Flexibility is this idea that they can move from reality to fantasy, to reality to fantasy. They can go from metaphors to facts. They are very fluid in their associations.
Often this is scolded in the system. This was scolded in my house when I was a young homeschool mom. I was so aggravated with his flexibility. We would be talking about, I don’t know, the constitution and he wants to talk about The Hobbit in the same sentence. And I’m confident that he’s not paying attention. But it’s not that he’s wasn’t paying attention. He was just very fluid in his associations. He really was thinking about both of them. He truly was thinking about the concreteness of the constitution and the fantasy of The Hobbit at the same time.
Humor is one of the things that I am passionate about, and I believe in, and that we need to make sure we have lots of in our parenting of “that child”. In fact, according Dr. Armstrong, it is one of the qualities of genius.
Our ability to laugh at situations and things, and more than anything, ourselves, is so valuable. We need to be able to laugh. It’s like a pressure valve when things get tough. It’s not always a time to laugh; but we need to give our kids permission to laugh as they make associations.
This is this core component. We need to chase their joyful things, that which brings them joy, and encourage their joyfulness because that is what is fanning the flames what they are chasing and what they are learning about. Let’s not kill their joy.
I want to challenge you to observe that child. Observe how they learn, how they take in information. Whether it’s random, abstract, concrete, sequential from Cynthia Tobias, or if it’s different kinds of intelligence by Dr. Koch, or if it’s these twelve qualities of genius. Even if you want to journal about different things that you see, observe them.
Next, discuss it with them. When you see them make a quirky connection, or ask a seemingly unrelated question, or take all of your straws and make a spaceship, have a discussion with them. Dare to say, “What? Where did that even come from? I don’t even understand… Help me to understand what popped in your mind that you would ask about a necklace when we are discussing the Treaty of Versailles? How did you get there?”
Look, you and I do not have it all figured out. We have a lot of things that we can learn from our kids. As you start to see them do things differently I pray that it would expand our minds and we would start to consider things. That we would be reawakened in our astonishment of God’s Creation and our wonder, and the connections that we make, and the creative ways we think about different things. We will still face problems and need solutions every day, so let’s learn from them in the process.
Finally, three things don’t do.
Don’t assume that they are wrong. Don’t assume that they are off topic. Don’t assume they are not paying attention. We should not assume. These kids, remember what I talked about so many times when we are talking about “that kid”?
It’s got to be hard for them to them. Because so often everybody assumes that they know that they are off topic, assumes that they are not thinking, assumes that they are not paying attention. Let’s not be one of the people that assumes.
Don’t shame them. Let us not shame them because they do it different from the way that we do it. That genius at your house, “that kid” that thinks outside the box, isn’t going to do it like everybody else. But that doesn’t mean that we need to shame them. We need to encourage them for how differently they do things.
Don’t discount their conclusions or their perspectives. They are valid. Remember, God needs unique perspectives, and descriptions, and conclusions as long as they are based on the truth. He needs those to solve the problems of this world.
We are beginning a new month in our devotional series, focusing on God’s provision. I hope you’ve been able to catch the rest of the series where we’ve focused on praise, love, joy, faith, humility, and peace. I know I’ve been blessed by all the different perspectives the writing team has brought to each of these themes, and I pray that you’ve been blessed as well.
When you think of God’s provision, what comes to mind? Do you readily recognize His care, even when it doesn’t look like what you might expect or hope for? Can you rest in the knowledge that our Father always provides for His children.
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
It is important to remember that God’s provisions are ever present, even when they don’t resemble the perfect solution we requested. Remember the Israelites? Their deliverance from Egypt wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Maybe you can relate in your motherhood? Career? Marriage? I challenge you, mamas, trust His perfect plan, resist the temptation to grumble (remember the Israelites?).
The greatest provision
More than any physical need or solution that you may be imploring the Lord for, we ought to be begging the Father for more of Himself. When we seek first His Kingdom, He fulfills far more than the needs we’re aware of.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:9-11
No matter the season you’re in, my friends, whether it motherhood that seems impossible, a financial solution, a health scare, or anything else you are bringing before His throne…seek first more of the Father.
He longs for you to ask. He longs to take care of you, his beloved child. He is eager to fulfill your needs and deliver His promises. But He is not at our beck and call, waiting to produce the results we dictate. No, friends. He has a perfect plan.
Place your trust in our Father’s love and goodness; graciously receive His provisions, no matter their appearance. Resist the temptation to conclude that He’s anything but a perfectly generous Father when your requests aren’t fulfilled just the way you asked. I can guarantee that His provision will probably not always look the way you expect. Praise the Lord! Can you imagine if all of our requests were fulfilled, exactly as ordered? I shudder at the thought.
Thank the Lord for His provision. No matter your circumstance today, be thankful that we belong to a mighty and omniscient King. He knows your needs. He has perfect plan. So rest in Him, trust his absolute goodness, and practice gratitude in all things.