Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Parenting, Positively or Negatively

I have written roughly 20 different drafts of this post.  I have sat at the computer too many hours to count trying to write this without totally sounding like I do everything the right way or have all the answers.  Because I don't.  But my emotions are a huge mix between anger, frustration and deep concern when it comes to this new fad called "positive parenting."  So if you get to the end of this post and totally hate what I have to say, just remember that I have 19 other drafts that you would have hated more...I guarantee it.

It all started when I heard a couple of moms at the library talking about positive parenting.  One mom was telling another how this style of parenting has done wonders for her child.  This mom's child is a whopping 13 months of age and just the sweetest little girl I know.  This was not the first time I've heard the term positive parenting, so I decided to check it out.  For those of you who have not heard of this style of parenting, let me give you a brief overview.   Basically it is parenting done in a positive way.  By positive, I mean there seem to be a large number of parents that don't even use the word 'no' when talking to their children.  It is all about talking things out with your kids...always, always explaining why you do what you do and having only natural and logical consequences in loo of punishments. And putting a kid in time-out is not considered a logical consequence.

My first few drafts had snippets of actual online conversations between parents about how they would deal with this and that.  While my initial intention was to show an actual example of what I find so wrong, I soon realized that I was only picking out the over-the-top comments and not showing an accurate overview of the whole parenting style.   I myself have been known to fit into a parenting category that is all too often inaccurately and fallaciously described so that was definitely not my intention here. 

In order to try to accurately describe positive parenting (pp) I will tell you that, while the basic guidelines do not condone putting children in time-out, there are in fact pp parents that do in anyway.  There are also pp parents that say the word 'no' to their children.  There are probably a healthy number of parents who simply look into positive parenting as a starting point for child raising and ignore the numerous parents who are a bit over the top. And while I too try to make things as positive as possible, as I'm sure most parents do, there are times when the positive in the situation needs to be that we forgive and still love our children when they have done wrong. But actions and inactions have consequences and sometimes those consequences aren't so positive.  From what I gather, it seems that the purpose of no punishments and always being positive is to build your child's self esteem.  Supposedly when you put them in time-out, it is showing your child that you only love them when they are good and not when they are bad.  This isn't something I agree with at all.  I believe that your child learns that his/her actions were not appropriate.  A time-out gives them time to think and process.  I think that, as a parent, if you tell your children you love them no matter what, then they will know you still love them when they need to be punished.

The majority of articles, blog posts, and book snippets I have read all seem to ask the same question.  Do you want your children to obey out of fear or respect/love?  While the authors of these text make it seem like these things are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they really aren't.  For those of you who are not Lutheran and therefore have not studied Luther's Small Catechism, Luther pairs "fear" with "love" in the explanation of each of the 10 commandments.  The fourth commandment is Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.  Do we fear God's wrath?  Absolutely!  But we also know He loves us and cares for us. 

As a child I never got into much trouble when in the care of others.  So whether it be a babysitter, school teacher, Sunday school teacher or a friend's parents, I was sure to be on my best behavior.  And, as much as the thought of getting chastised by another adult made me cringe, I feared and loved my parents enough that the thought of reporting back to them that I was misbehaving simply kept me in line.  I just chose to store up all that snottiness for my parents, specifically my mom.  Being snotty to anyone was unacceptable, but it was a big no-no to be snotty to people who where not my parents.  Parents expect their kids to be snots.  But just because a behavior is expected does not make it acceptable.

My parents were very good at teaching me and my brother what was and wasn't acceptable.  I love them more and more for being such faithful and loving parents, for always telling me they loved me even when I was bad, and for punishing me when it was needed.  Yes folks, I just thanked my parents for punishing me.  Did I like it at the time?  Absolutely not.  Did I feel back then that punishments were necessary?  That would be a big fat no.  But if it wasn't for my parents positive and loving guidance (even if it didn't seem so positive and loving at the time), I would not be a decent human being today.  I assure you that if 'no' had never escaped my mother's lips and time-outs were never given, I would be a self-serving, bratty adult.  I still fear my parents.  I fear I will disappoint them.  Deep down I know that was always my fear.  Sure I feared the punishment, but I also feared the disappointment.  Having this type of fear isn't a bad thing.

But you know my biggest concern about the positive parenting model?  It isn't that I find the parenting method to be a conscious effort to undermined the parents that choose to do things the old-fashioned way.  I don't care if you spank or don't spank.  Each child is different and will respond in a different way.  No, my biggest problem is that this method doesn't seem to take original sin into account at all.  I was horrified to find out how many people don't believe in original sin.  Seems like this is something we went over in confirmation, but I was in 8th grade and boy crazy back then.  I'm sure I was playing footsie under the table when I should have been listening.  Sorry Dad.  At least I got the original sin part...I just didn't get the part where we were told others don't believe it exists.

I know it is hard to believe that the sweet little baby you hold in your arms seconds after birth is sinful, but he is.  I know it is hard to grasp the fact that the sweet and helpless child you see before you has sinful thoughts, ideas and actions, but he does.  And throughout all of these online articles and conversations I've seen parents react in two different ways that both stem from the same unbelief in original sin.  Either a parents asks, why is my child doing this?  There must be a reason.  Maybe something is bothering him.  Or they say,  it's natural/normal for children to do this.  He will grow out it.  So I must say, yes, your child's actions are normal.  Your child is doing this because your child is sinful, not because there is some deep dark secret you must uncover.  And while your child will most likely outgrow these undesirable actions if you teach him that they are unacceptable, they will never outgrow being sinful.  Take comfort in the fact that, through God's grace, we are saved.  All of us poor, miserable sinners, both big and small, have salvation.  And we are constantly being shown forgiveness, the same forgiveness we show our children.

I'm disheartened at the fact that my boys will probably struggle to find suitable mates amongst the rising count of positively parented girls.  I find it infuriating when I see a kid throw the monster of all tantrums and get his way.  And I find it utterly frustrating when parents give the kids the reigns.  But above all, I find it sad that some of these kids will never know that the horrible thoughts and actions they may think and do are our sinful natures at work.  And every time we ask for forgiveness in the name of Christ, God grants it.

It is important to let your child know that you love them no matter what.  But even though we love them and will always forgive them, that doesn't mean the consequences will always be positive or be viewed as loving.  As I end my 20th draft I'll be bold and say that if your child does not think you love them even when they are bad, then you are doing something wrong.  And that doesn't mean you should throw all forms of punishment or discipline out the window.  It means you should tell your kids you love them...even when they do bad things.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

RAIN- A Tribute to the Beatles

Debbie and Pam decided it was high time to take me out on the town.  I didn't put up a fight one bit.  They saw that there was a tribute to the Beatles in Chicago, so off we went for a fun evening out.

Before going to the concert we had a nice dinner at Cooper's Hawk.  If you are ever in the area of one of these restaurants, I would recommend dining there.  They even have wine tasting rooms and plenty of space for private parties.  Oh, and I can't forget to mention the pretzel bread they bring to the table.  I'm a sucker for pretzel bread.  Just don't tell me how many calories are in each of those babies.

This, sadly, is when I put my camera away and didn't get it out again.  I would have loved to grab a picture or two of the concert, but the staff was very firm and quick to tell people that pictures were not allowed.  They even had ushers running down the isles to catch those who dared to take pictures with their phones.  It was rather comical.  It was a very fun evening and I had a great time with good friends, great food and fantastic music.  If Rain is ever touring nearby, you must check it out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Church Picnic

The ladies at church decided to have the church picnic on the Sunday following VBS this year.  They thought it would be a good idea to invite all of the kids and their families for food, fun and swimming.  

The People:

The Cooks:

The Food:

After eating it was time to go swimming!

 There were lots of water guns.

 Even the adults were having tons of fun with water guns.

 Anders became pals with a guy named Noah.

Aside from the pool, splash pad and a big water slide, there is also a huge sand play area.

 Anders had a ton of fun in the pool.  He actually didn't want to get out, but after his lips turned blue from the cold, I had to pull him out.

 He saw John going down the little slide and wanted to try it out.

 I love that squishy little face.

 In the end, he loved it and went down the slide several times.

 Winding down and getting ready to go home.  Aren't these boys adorable?

This is Noah.  He claims to be Hans' favorite Norwegian redneck.  I have to say that is probably true.  Noah had no shame wearing a swimsuit with his boots.  I'm actually pretty surprised he didn't swim in his boots.

This was a great day and a wonderful way to end the busy VBS week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Anywhere Will Do

I was doing a little yard work one day and came in the house to find this little bundle of joy.  You won't find Anders too far from a pair of shoes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Indiana Dunes

As if I wasn't spoiled enough, Debbie and Pam decided to take the boys to the dunes one day.  It was a day I didn't actually have to work.  It was fantastic...but this isn't about my day.

 Anders has no fear.  They would often find him walking towards the water without an adult.  

 Goggled up and ready to go.

 As much as he loves the water, he also loves the sand.

 He just can't get enough.  Check it out, his tongue is sticking out.

 I thought this was a great picture of Sophie diving after John.

 Time for a snack.

 Look at that beautiful smile.

 Partners in crime.

 Rolling down the dunes.  See those three little dark spots? 

 Sophie decided she wanted the boys to bury her.  That is one brave girl.

 Then it was John's turn.

 Gus decided he wanted to try, but he was a little diva and needed to lay on a towel.

And you can't leave out Anders.  Debbie said he sat here really still for a good long while after they were done.  I need to get a sandbox in my living room!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


We had a great VBS this year.  Hans was very excited since he didn't have to plan anything.  While VBS can still be an energy sucker, Hans was over the moon that he only thing he had to do was to teach the older kids for 30 minutes and help out with music.

 We are pretty casual for VBS.  VBS is a great time to have fun, sing crazy bible songs, do crafts and learn.  

 Most churches only have VBS classes for kids from pre-k to 5th grade.  We never set an age limit either way and ended up getting a fair amount of Jr. High kids.    Hans was going to teach an adult class during VBS and quickly decided to cancel that and teach the older kids.  We had 4 kids in the older age bracket and none of them were from our church.

Our hymn of the week was "Jesus, Refuge of the Weary."  The kids learned the hymn very well and some of them even came to church on Sunday to sing the first verse for everyone during the service.

Here is our group.

 One of the days we had water games outside.  This is the youngest group and they were pretty tame with the water.

 These three boys look like trouble.

 This was the middle group.  They were very brave with the water.

 I put this one in there to show John the shorty.  His group was 1st-5th grade.  There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm crammed into that small body.  He was the most talkative of the bunch.  But Pierce, the other boy in the group, gave John a run for his money.

 Pierce thought Hans should come in and join the fun.

 That boy did not hold back.

 This sparked the whole group to take turns dumping water on Hans.

He loved every minute of it.

 The older kids didn't feel like getting wet, so they made mustaches instead.

 On another day, Debbie brought a parachute.  Those things are really fun.

 Anders thought it was the best thing ever.

 He loved VBS.  He didn't actually attend a class.  He just roamed around the building.  But he had tons of people to pay attention to him, which is good, since that's all he wants out of life.

 The kids loved making the parachute fly.

 Since Anders knows Sophie so well, he has no problems crawling in her lap.

 On the last day the older kids showed the younger kids how to say the Lord's Prayer in sign language.  I wasn't there but I heard it was great.

Just don't take Gus's word for it.  It put him to sleep.

VBS was very fun and very busy.  We all had a great time and are looking forward to next year.