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Sep 4 2012

Do I Need To Pull This Car Over?

 

I have a question to ask.  How many of you had parents that said to you, while you were riding in the back seat of their station wagon, “Do I need to pull this car over?  Because you do not want me to pull this car over.”  My parents did!  I have used this same technique, much to my own horror, but found it extremely effective about twice.

Well, imagine you are all in the back seat of a station wagon right now, and I am in the drivers seat.  I see most of you behaving so nicely, sitting on your hands even, trying your very best to be good and do right.  But…there are SOME of you, who are doing other things. We’re pulling over, and I’m calling a time-out.

For starters, I know I have a lot of opinions about stuff.  I am always hesitant to share them in a public way for fear of imposing on other people’s opinions, angering them, making them uncomfortable, etc.  My biggest fear in expressing my rather strong opinions is that I would come across as high and mighty, or leave the impression that I have arrived at a place of perfection that I can only look down from.  The truth is that I struggle daily with a sense of self-worth, hoping that I am doing a good job as a wife, mom, and a friend.  I make mistakes all the time, usually pretty selfish ones, putting my own needs and wants above others.

But for today, I cautiously step out and share a few opinions about faith and family that might help someone somewhere.  If not, I know it will help me just to get the words on a page so I don’t explode with exclamation points and italics print all over the next person I see…

My Opinion on Parenting Young Children:

You are in charge.  Your baby isn’t.  Your toddler isn’t.  You are.  You are the parent for a reason.  You have a lifetime of experience behind you that helps you make wise decisions for your family and your precious children.  Your feelings are important.  Listen to your gut.  Your baby and/or toddler will cry and scream to get out of bed, eat waffles with maple syrup for every meal, and hit and bite you and others to get their way.  All of these things are primal and instinctual.  Your child wants to get their way.  It’s natural and it’s normal.  Sometimes when they’re little, it’s really cute; However, if you coddle them and tell them they CAN eat waffles and maple syrup for every meal, get out of bed whenever they want, hit and bite whomever they please, they will become exactly what their instinct tells them they need to become–self serving, self-centered, tyranical little people.

When these babies and toddlers get just a little older, some will become bus bullies, shoving smaller kids out of their way to get their own seat.  Others will become playground tyrants, bossing their minions around.  Some will become cleverly disguised little passive-aggresive girls or boys who look plesant on the outside while secretly plotting to do whatever it takes to keep the world spinning around them.  They plot ways to keep you, their parent, catering to their every whim. They say what will please you so they can keep calculating their next move to keep you distracted from their self-centered and increasingly destructive behavior.

Bottom line: “Kids these days” (and yes, I am horrified by my own use of that phrase) get a trophy for just showing up at a sport.  They are given a black belt for karate on their second lesson.  No one loses, no one is disciplined or corrected.  If a child  has never earned a “win”, they lose sight of what goals and dreams are like, and everything begins to revolve around them.  If a child has rarely been redirected  when their sweet little wills began to wander, don’t be surprised when you wake up one morning to find an eye-rolling, door-slamming teenager in your house.

I humbly, and I really mean humbly–advise you to take control now.  I’m not talking about spanking or not spanking, grounding or punishing…I’m talking about daily involvement in the little choices your precious child is making.  It’s the little things we turn away from because they are too hard to deal with in the moment that slowly progress to real problem issues that quickly get way past our own ability to control.

I know I am not too far off base and I look at Eli, a temple priest in the Bible.  He was given the enormous responsibility of raising Samuel, God’s chosen instrument to bring his grace to His people at the time.  He poured his life into his ministry and into raising Samuel.  BUT, he turned away from what was closest to his home and to his heart–the sin of his own children.  The Bible literally says,

” And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. 2 Samuel 3:11-13

It’s time to pull the station wagon over friends.  Eli kept driving, eyes averted from the rearview mirror.  The cost of this was tragic.  We don’t know exactly when his sons began to disobey and act shamefully.  My guess is that they didn’t start robbing the church or sleeping with prostitutes when they were 3 or 4.  It probably started with minor issues, like Eli caving in every time they asked for waffles and maple syrup, or ignoring the fact that they got out of bed for the thousandth time at night when they should have been sleeping…It’s these little things that turn into big things.  He didn’t pull the station wagon over. Not once, not ever.

If you cannot control your child’s behavior with simple redirection and discussion, ask for help! Rob and I have spent countless hours with friends just a few steps ahead of us, begging for ideas and tools that would help motivate our children toward better behavior.  When it comes to our parenting, my hope and prayer is that we will never be too proud to ask for help.

 


May 2 2012

Missional Family

 

“Missional” is a fairly new term that has been thrown around in Christian circles for the past few years.  If you understand what Missional is, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you have no clue what Missional means, here goes: Missional living” is a Christian term that describes a missionary lifestyle; adopting the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with thegospel message. That definition is from Wikipedia.  Here’s how we’re living it out around our house:

We love Jesus.  We know He has enormous love for us and the people He sends our way every day.  We are intentional about being God’s representitives of His love wherever we are.  At this phase of my life, I’m not travelling a lot to places like Africa, India, Mexico, etc. to spread God’s love.  But I am travelling to my kitchen, and my living room, and my back yard.  Here’s why:

We’ve made our home a Missional Outpost.  We pray that every person that comes through our doors will know and understand the love of Jesus because of the love we have for one another and the love we share with them.  The other day we had a new little friend over who was not following the rules and called one child a bad name.  I gently pulled her aside, looked into her precious round blue eyes and said, “Sweetheart, this is a house of love. We don’t call eachother bad names here.”  Another little guy that is always over here piped in and said, “She’s right! We love people here!” It made me so happy to hear him say that.

Here are some of the very easy and practical things we do to make our home “Missional”:

  •  We have an open door policy.  Any kid can come over to our house.  Good kids.  Bad kids.  We take them all.
  • Everyone follows the rules.  We are a house of love, so no name calling, fighting, stealing, or back talking.
  • Everyone helps each other.  If a kid eats over for dinner, they help out.  They are usually the ones more eager to help than my own children.
  • We talk. We swap stories at the dinner table about our day. Each kid shares at least one “high” and one “low” from their day.  Once everyone has shared one story, the talkers can have their turn to share more.
  • We pray. We pray before we eat dinner, or before the kids go to bed at a sleep over.  Not once has a guest been freaked out by this.  They love it. The past few nights one of our regular “guests” could not wait to ask if he could pray.

Our little buddy found his way to Jesus at our dinner table.  Missional living is not difficult. We love and serve Jesus as a family, and we just ask others to join in along the way.

I’d love to hear your Missional Living stories!  I bet you are already doing it and don’t even know it.  🙂

 


Oct 4 2011

Chicago Weekend With My Almost Teenager

Miss Maddie turns 13 tomorrow.  13 is a big deal in our family, partly because we have never had our own teenager before, and partly because in our culture, becoming a teenager is sort of a really big deal.

To celebrate this special birthday, Maddie and I made a trip to Chicago and stayed at a nice motel right downtown. (Paid for by Rob’s frequent flyer miles-Yay!) She had a little birthday money to spend, so we hit Watertower Place and a few other shops. She loves to shop, but I do have to say she knows how to stretch her money as far as possible.  I love that about Maddie.

Throughout our time together, we also went through the Passport to Purity book and CD’s. It is a great resource for tweens just crossing over the line from tween to teen.  We talked about boys, dating, God, and girl stuff.  We had some really great conversations, all highly confidential, and I promised I would not blog, tweet, or Facebook about them.  I totally respect her privacy, but some of our funnier conversations would have been great blogging material.  🙂

As some of you know, I am a HUGE Insagram fan.  If you don’t know what that is, Instagram is an iPhone photo application that allows you to edit and upload your iPhone photos into a really brilliantly creative community of fellow amateur photographers (and some not-so amateur).  Well, I found out that Instagram Chicago was doing a photo walk only a few miles from where we were staying, and Maddie and I went.  Maddie is also a huge Instagram fan, and takes some pretty amazing photos.  It was so much fun meeting fellow Instagram friends that I have been following for awhile.  Most of the pics you see above are from our photo walk through Lincoln Park in Chicago.

We had a great time together, and  I know lots of memories were made.  It was exhausting, but a huge investment into Maddie’s teenage years.

 


Jul 13 2011

Teaching Our Kids To Get Along

We have three girls in our family. They have sweet, angelic smiles. They are silly, entertaining, creative, imaginative, quick-witted and full of love for anyone. They have traveled across the globe with us a few times to places like India and played with kids from the untouchable caste. They’ve held crying orphans, given candy to children who have never tasted it and taught Indian kids their own age English phrases. On top of all that, their dad is a pastor. You’d think that all of these ingredients would whip up a batch of fabulous children: shiny, happy, with halos to polish wherever they go. The truth is that all of us have broken halos. No matter how awesome our upbringing. We are human, and sometimes we fight.

Sometimes our girls fight – a lot. They are a constant source of companionship to one another, but on any given day, it’s two against one, one against two or one against one against one. On the more interesting days, it’s three against one (one being either me or their dad).

Usually the source of tension lies in the general unfairness of life – the woes of our inability as parents to divide the last cookie in to three perfectly equal parts. The trials of not having three individual computers for them to play on – but two, one that runs very, very slowly, and the other with sticky keys from an orange juice spill on the keyboard. And then there’s the sadness of two siblings getting to play with friends while the third’s play date gets cancelled. Generally, life is not fair, and Mom and Dad can’t always fix that.

It’s Not Fair. It’s Family.

As parents of more than one child, one of the most difficult things we find is that it is never fair. There is no possible way for one or two parents or grandparents or caregivers to predict the outcome of every given situation to ensure the results are perfectly fair. The cookie will crumble, the computer will shut down and the play date will get cancelled. Disappointment is a part of life, and so is unfairness.

Our family friend and child psychologist Dr. Ron Craker said to us once, “You’ve got to teach them thatit’s not fair. It’s family.” It took me awhile to get my head around that, and I’m not quite sure our kids get it yet, but it’s become sort of a mantra for Rob and me. When something goes terribly wrong in their little world and one kid gets what another doesn’t, they will inevitably say, “It’s not fair!” Our response, which no doubt irritates them, is, “It’s not fair. It’s family.” What we are trying to teach them through this is that life really isn’t fair. We sometimes cannot control what is fair and what isn’t, but we can choose to respond to unfairness with a good attitude. Disappointments are a part of life, and it’s our job as parents to deal with those in a healthy way from an early age. Aren’t their siblings lucky that they get to practice those skills on each other?

We don’t wag the phrase “It’s not fair. It’s family” in front of their face with a side of bad attitude. We really try to be gentle, loving and full of sympathy and understanding. It really is tragic when one child gets 150 free tickets at the Chuck E Cheese lotto machine and the other gets three. We embrace them with sympathy, see if the one with the 150 tickets has it in their heart to share a few with the less fortunate and then move on. We learn to compensate for what is unfair with love and respect for one another in those situations.

When It Gets Ugly.

There are times, of course, when words of correction and an occasional time out are not enough.

A few months ago, our kids were at each other’s throats constantly. I am not sure what triggered the irritation, whether it was the shortness of the days, long school hours, piles of homework, or a full moon – who knows? But, it was bad. There was poking, irritation and some harsh words thrown around. In times like this, when the usual means of discipline and order are not working, we have learned that it is time to think outside of the box.

We devised a method of scoring points for good behavior, losing points for bad behavior. At the end of the week, if they met their point quota, they got to cash it in for a reward.

Good behavior meant any sort of positive remark toward their sibling throughout the day. Of course it got a little silly. They went out of their way to compliment each other on their choice of colored socks, how well one of them put away the dishes, or the awesomeness of how their sister wiped the chocolate cake from the corner of her mouth. The silliness led to giggles, which was the whole point of the exercise, but we didn’t tell them that.

Negative points would be scored whenever a child would show negative behavior toward another. Any put downs would result in five points taken off. We really wanted this to be a positive experience for everyone, so we allowed them to make up their lost points by positive behavior. They could make up points by doing extra chores, being extra polite – any form of positive behavior really.

Peace At Last

At the end of the first week, we were astounded at how well the whole experiment went. The girls all met their goals, were rewarded accordingly and were very, very happy.

We kept our scorecards for about a month, and quietly let it drift off because our goal as parents was accomplished. There was a “shift” in the atmosphere of our house, and all the negativity settled down.

Our family is far from perfect, but that is why we are never “done” as parents. We are constantly having to try new methods and shift things around as our kids grow and change. For us, for now, we are relieved that peace is restored at our house and are breathing in the new sweetness of the fresh air of spring as well as the freshness of great attitudes and harmony around our home.

Parent to Parent:

What Works For You?

Negotiation. And a firm hand. I just plain don’t allow them to fight. They need to be each other’s best allies, not bullies. ~Shelly Wildman, Wheaton, IL.

Those are great moments to teach them how to deal with people in their lives with whom they will want to punch in the face. Learning to settle differences by talking it out and if that doesn’t work, taking a break to cool down. Then to put it all in the grand perspective. ~Renee Crabtree, South Bend

When things get heated between my four, we all get together, and they each have to give the others three put-ups. It always starts off rough, but by the end, they have pulled it off, and are feeling better. ~Julie Schneider,

When our kids were younger and had conflicts, we would sit them down on the couch together and tell them to figure out a solution they could both agree on and then call either Dave or me back in to hear the plan and make sure they both agreed. After the discussion they had to hug. Some times on the couch took longer than others. At 20,18,13, they all seem to like each other today. ~Sue Ferguson, Chicago, IL.

A few words…EXHAUSTION (run them until they’re too tired to fight) OR REDIRECTION (Make yourself their “enemy” ). ~Anthony Hunt, Elkhart, In.

 

This article appears in the June 2011 issue of The Family Magazine of Michiana

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Article link here

 


Jun 15 2011

Refueling

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I’m taking a few days to refuel. What do you do to renew?


May 25 2011

The God of Impossible Dreams

I love this picture. I love the way the sun shines on the clouds in the distance and on the back of Isabelle.  I love how her shadow is long and the grass almost glows.

It wasn’t until I was uploading this picture that I noticed something pretty funny.  Look at the top of the picture, slightly to the right of the center.  Do you see it?  It’s a stone! In mid-flight.  Belle and I took a bike ride-her first long distance bike ride with no training wheels-over to this pond close to our house.  She loves the thought of “skipping” stones, so we practiced for awhile.  If you know anything about skipping stones, you know that normally you try to throw it level, straight and even with the surface of the water.  You notice Belle’s is way up in the sky, not quite even with the pond.

Her stance is so hopeful.  She’s so hoping it will skip across the pond anyway.

As I sat here thinking about it, it made me wonder when I quit believing in the impossible.  I had a friend once who challenged me to pray for one impossible thing a day for an entire year as an exercise in faith.  I did it, and I can not tell you how shocked I was when so many of those prayers were answered.

God is a God of impossible dreams.

“Man of La Mancha”
The Impossible Dream

To dream … the impossible dream …
To fight … the unbeatable foe …
To bear … with unbearable sorrow …
To run … where the brave dare not go …
To right … the unrightable wrong …
To love … pure and chaste from afar …
To try … when your arms are too weary …
To reach … the unreachable star …

This is my quest, to follow that star …
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …
To fight for the right, without question or pause …
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause …

And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I’m laid to my rest …
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach … the unreachable star …

What do you need to hope for today?  Don’t be afraid to hope.  Let go, watch it, wait for it, and you might just see the impossible happen.