Thursday, January 28, 2010

Confessions of a Piddler (and a few ideas) part 1

As I struggle with my oldest child to stay on task during school lessons, I have to admit that he comes by it honestly.  I was a born piddler.  My mother loves to tell the story of when I was first born and still in the hospital.  Apparently, all of the other newborns finished their bottles long before I was done.  It is told that I would sip a little, then stop and look around, then sip a little more and continue this pattern until I was satisfied.  The doctor told my mother I would be a piddler all of my life.  Oh, how right he was!

Piddling begats piddling.  My daughter tries do everything as fast as she can, so I think it's safe to say she did not inherit this habit.  (Although she is only 3 right now and has not started formal lessons.)  My son, however, will be the child to carry this on.  And so, this brings me to our current situation of getting through our school lessons in a timely manner.  I truely understand that, at 5 years old, he is still young and easily side-tracked.  I don't expect him to behave and be as attentive as an adult should be.  (I say 'should be' because I know many adults who don't pay attention very well, either.)  But, it should not take all day to finish kindergarten - or 1st grade - level work. 

It is important to understand sometimes why the piddling is happening.  Sometimes, it's just pure piddling, with no other reason.  Other times, however, there may be something else going on.  My son is a perfectionist, of sorts.  He can get so hung up on trying to make his letters or numbers look exactly like the computer generated examples.  He will write and erase, write and erase, and so on.  You can see frustration building.  I constantly praise him for his efforts and try to remind him that as long as he does his best, that's good enough.  I don't expect his writing to look like mine or someone else's that's had many more years of practice.  It is hard for him to understand this, though.  So I tread lightly, and sometimes on egg shells, in order not to push him to never be satisfied or to just never try at all. 

Other times, the piddling flows out of his creative side.  He has quite an imagination and flare for creativity and it eventually has to come out somewhere.  If I have not provided enough activities for him to use these gifts of God, then he will start making curly-swirly letters and 'bubble' letters, as he calls them, to just simply write his name on the top of a page or when he's supposed to be working on his handwriting lesson.  Obviously, the more complicated you make it, the more time you are using.  His imagination also comes out in the form of questions.  For instance, his reading curriculum has a workbook with illustrations for the words he is to work on.  The other day, one of the words was "take."  The drawing was of someone 'taking' a gift from someone else, with rather determined expressions on their faces.  Instead of just circling, writing, or whatever the direction said to do with this and going on to the next, he started asking, "Why is he taking that from him?"  "What are they fighting about?"  "Is he angry?"  I had to make up reasons to satisfy his curiousity over this simple little drawing.  Since this drawing was used on every page for the word "take,"  I had to answer questions like this on every page and he would not move on to the next word until I answered him.  Again, more time was taken than I would have liked.

So, my first suggestion in dealing with piddling, is to figure out what is causing the piddling.  It could be just that-piddling.  It is a normal childish behavior to some degree, especially in younger children.  But, as you can see, there might be other explainations for "taking forever."   If your child comes home from school with a lot of homework, you might need to let them get their creativity out before they start on their homework.  This might also include physical activity.  Perhaps you have a perfectionist on your hands that you need to be sensitive of.  I hope to study more about how to handle perfectionism in children and perhaps share that with you some day.  Maybe there is some other reason for your child's piddling.  If you home school, spend more time watching them, talking to them, or whatever it takes.  If your child goes to school elsewhere, talk to their teachers to see what is going on in class, as well as talking to and spending time with your child.  If we know our children and what is going on, then we can better help them.

To keep this post from become too lengthy, I'm going to put this subject in two parts.  I hope these insights, so far, might help you in any way.  Please read part two for practical ideas to help with your piddler.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Me, My Kids, and Responsibility

The name of my blog, "Titus 2 Mommy of 2" comes from the passage in Titus 2, verses 3 through 5. It reads, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

Teaching responsibility to children is a direct reflection of this passage in several ways. Part of loving our children is teaching them to have a godly character and to be responsible adults one day. After all, we are not raising them to stay children. We are rearing our children to be adults. It is my prayer and desire for my children to be godly, responsible adults. But, how will they become godly and responsible if I and my husband do not teach them through example and opportunity?

To lay some ground work for a minute, I believe we should teach our children from birth that they are not the center of the family, but a vital part of the family.  Christ should be the center of our individual lives and our families.  When we put our children-or anything else-in His place, nothing will turn out they way they should.  I think it does a great dishonor to revolve every aspect of our lives around the happiness of our children. I have seen so many mothers and fathers drained, weary, and even lonely in doing this. I'm not saying that we shouldn't care whether our children are happy or not. I love for my children to be happy. But, they need to learn to be adaptable too. Schedules are often made around children, and that's okay to an extent. Newborns especially have needs that have to be met around the clock. At some point, and the earlier the better, we need to develope schedules that work for everyone's satisfaction though, not just the child's. For if we revolve our life around our children, I'm afraid they will often become self-centered. They might not learn to be flexible and adaptable and might not learn to be aware of the needs of others.

This brings me to the meat of this post. Giving responsibility to your children is one of the best ways to let them know that they are a vital part of the family. It also teaches them that work doesn't 'magically' happen. Not letting our children help with the housework can actually have more detriments than one might think. Not only will they be ill equipped, but it often leaves them to think that they aren't allowed to help because they aren't good enough, can't do it "right", and/or they will turn out to be lazy slobs.

So, where do we start? Start when they are old enough to sit up on their own. Let them "help" you put their toys away. As they grow older, they can do more things to help you. Let a two year old match socks with you. Three year olds can help you dust the base boards and other surfaces. Hand them a feather duster and let them have some fun. Four year olds can start making their beds. (My three year old trys now, but I do most of it for her, yet.) I still have to help my 5 year old pull the top sheet up, but he can pull and straighten his comforter, fix the pillows and even is picky about how to arrange the stuffed animals so they look nice.

Let me stop here and say this. You have to throw your 'perfect picture' of how things should be out the window. Their made beds aren't going to look like they belong in a catalog. Folded towels aren't going to be neat and pretty, either. Shelves and tables may have a layer of dust on the back halves, and a table setting will look like a 3 or 5 year old did it. Get over it. You will bring so much joy to a young child's heart by letting them accomplish something on their own and not re-doing it to suit yourself. Tell them what a good job they have done. If you need to go back and dust the back parts of the shelves or tables, okay. If you have to secretly redo a few dishes, by all means-please do. But, if at all possible, refrain yourself from redoing everything to make it "perfect." This will only make them think that what they do isn't good enough and it will either cause them to be a 'people pleaser' or not to care at all. The older they get, the better it will get. I promise. If you love and cherish their childish drawings as if they were priceless works of art, then why can't you do the same with their level of household accomplishments?

I also want to say that if they come up with a 'different' way to do a chore (example: folding a towel a different way than you)...accept it if it gets the job done. Don't teach them that things not only have to be 'perfect' from the beginning, but they have to be done "the way I do it." This has caused a lot of fights in new marriages. You know how those begin..."That's not the RIGHT way, here's how MY mom does it..." Don't set your son or daughter up for this. If you teach them to be flexible in the way things are done by being flexible yourself, then maybe-just maybe- you will save their marraige from a few unneccessary fights and heartaches. And who knows, maybe their way is a better way.

There are a lot of websites out there with age appropriate chore lists. Just type in the words 'chore list for children' or something like that, and you will not be lacking. You will find all kinds of jobs around the house that you ought to be letting your children do! Obviously you need to taylor these for your children acording to their own ability. (I have seen a few jobs listed for 5 and 6 year olds that I'm not at all comfortable letting my child do, yet.) I am the mother, but I am not their maid. Share the workload and you might find some free time you never had before, more time to ENJOY your family and children.

One of the best things I have recently found for my little ones are "Chore Cards." I got this idea at  It is cheap and inexpensive. I didn't have to go out a buy anything because I already had envelopes and index cards at home. I'm not going to give full details as this blog site does a wonderful and complete job itself. You can see a couple of pictures of what my own system looks like. I have also listed below my own list of chores my children are capable of doing with little or no help at 3 and 5 years old.

Individual chores for each of them are:
~ brush teeth a.m.
~ brush teeth p.m.
~ make bed
~ dust bedroom (what they can reach)
~ tidy up room
~ put clothes away (when laundry is done)
~ W.I.L.D. card (Walk In,  Look for something that doesn't belong, Do put it up.)
This card idea also came directly from the website - from another's comment.

The daily chores they take turns with weekly are:
~ dust the living room
~ help fold laundry (mostly towels right now)
~ help with garbage (this is mostly my son's job right now, but my daughter will also share this when she is old enough. Girls have to learn to take out the trash too, you know!)
~ sweep floors-living room, hallways, bedrooms (I give them a swiffer because a regular broom is still too hard for them right now.)
~ clean bathroom sink
~ help with laundry (They pull their little step stool over and I hand them the clothes to put in, then let them drop the fabric softner ball in. If they get there quick enough, I might let them pour the detergent in. They also like to help put things in the dryer.)
~ feed fish
~ clear off table after breakfast
~ wipe off table after breakfast (wiping off the table is mostly my son's job right now because my daughter can't really reach very far.)
~ wipe off table after school
~ clear off table after lunch
~ wipe off table after lunch
~ set the table for supper
~ clear off table after supper
~ wipe off table after supper

I even made some pockets for myself! Not only do the kids see me doing my part and it's fun to move the cards with them, but it helps me keep on track. (I can be easily side-tracked!!)  I color-coded the cards so that Joshua's are blue, Emily's are pink, mine are purple, daily chores are orange, and weekly chores are yellow.  I have taken pictures to add to their cards to help with the one they can't read yet, especially for my 3 year old. Hopefully this will allow them to go from one chore to the next without me having to run in the kitchen to read the next card for them every time. I haven't had time to get the pictures on their yet, so I can't tell you if it will work or not. It certainly won't hurt anything though. I will probably laminate the cards once the pictures are on there for durability and 'lastability.' (To laminate, I just use clear contact paper right now until I can get my own laminating machine!)

My children have loved helping me and think moving the cards from one pocket to the next is fun. I still have to do a lot of assisting, especially with my 3 year old. But, I try not to overtake their responsibility and just do it myself. I just 'assist' as needed, then step back to let them do what they can by themselves.

It's never to early or too late to start "teaching what is good" to our children. Why not start today?

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

I recently wrote this article for the women's ministry part of our church's monthly newsletter. I wrote it to myself, honestly. But, I thought maybe others would like a different perspective on making those "New Year Resolutions," so I 'thought them outloud' on paper. I've decided to add it to my blog so that maybe it will help a few others, too. I hope you have a wonderful new year....

Last year, I made a list of New Year’s Resolutions that I was determined to follow through with. Being more frugal happened for about 3 months. We did get the house up for sale. But, finally took it back off the market in November to try again later. (It goes without saying that buying a new house hasn’t happened, either.) Exercising… never happened. I did manage to spend more quiet time with my Bible and my Lord this year, but I know I still could have, and should have, done much better.

Some people don’t make New Year Resolutions at all because they are afraid they will fail. They think, “Why bother?” I often ask, “Why wait until January 1st to make that change or tackle that challenge?” This is what I want you to think about as we start 2010.

If making a list of challenges to keep up with all year long sounds overwhelming, set one goal at a time. Start with the Lord, always. Spend more time with Him in His Word and in prayer, and with trusted Christian friends. He will help you accomplish the rest. One of my very favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” And as the verse in the old hymn says, “Without Him, I could do nothing. Without Him, I’d surely fail.” Even if this is the only goal you set for this year, it is worthy enough.

When you are in a good habit of conversing and learning from our Savior, start the next goal. When that one is accomplished, or the habit is firm, then and only then, move on to the next goal. There is absolutely no reason to try and start 5, 6, or 10 goals all at the same time. No wonder most of us give up within the first few weeks!

One goal at a time. One day at a time. One step at a time. That is all Christ asks of us. That is all we should require of ourselves. Our Lord promised not to give us more than we can handle, so why do we? But, if we don’t try anything, we’ve already failed.

I leave you with another few verses from Philippians, written thousands of years ago, by our fellow brother in Christ, who also understood the trials and struggles we have.
“Not that I have already reached [the goal] or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 12-14. (HCSB)

God bless you, my sisters [and brothers], and Happy New Year!!