All posts by Teri Maxwell

Teri Maxwell is wife to Steve for over 40 years, mom to eight children (three married), and grandma to eight. She loves keeping her home running smoothly and sharing with women in the vein of Titus 2:4&5. Teri homeschooled for thirty years, and she's graduated all her children. In between her other responsibilities, she manages to squeeze in writing time. She is co-author of the popular Managers of Their Homes and Managers of Their Chores. In addition, Teri's written three books just for ladies Homeschooling with a Meek & Quiet Spirit, Sweet Journey, and Sweet Relationships. She has been writing monthly encouragement articles for homeschool moms for 25 years. Find more information on Teri Maxwell and her books.

Prayer and Fasting for the Homeschool Mom

Many of you have things that are heavy on your heart that you pray and pray about. Have you considered fasting alongside praying? Scripture doesn’t command fasting with prayer, but it does recommend it to us by example. Daniel in the Old Testament prayed and fasted when he faced an impossible situation. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). This is what Jesus said when the disciples could not cast out a demon. “And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Here are some short testimonies from moms who have fasted and prayed:

I believe fasting enabled me to be more open to hearing God and receiving the ways He spoke to me and blessed me this week, cleansing me in a gentle way of some of the negative weights and burdens I have been carrying around. 

It was a physically exhausting day but a great day for abiding in Him!

The Lord gave me a different Scripture for each sibling and new understanding and love toward them.

There is a special closeness I feel to God brought about by fasting. 

The Lord truly blessed me in many ways. Way too numerous to count—as always. 

Some women struggle with food-related issues. Here’s what one mom experienced when she did a day-long fast.

I did not receive many answers to the concerns I attempted to pray about. Instead, I was led to pray about other things, and received guidance in unexpected areas, particularly in the area of food. God showed me that hunger is something I can tolerate better than I am led to believe. He showed me how I often allow hunger to attach itself to a negative feeling, when they are not actually related.

I saw during the fast how I quickly fall prey to the enemy’s emotional upsets, and how he follows up by suggesting that eating something will make me feel better. My flesh is attracted to being upset because I can use it as an excuse to eat something. And of course the habit of emotional eating feeds the flesh, instead of crucifying it, as God would like to do. At the end of the fast, I was reminded that I am a sinner when it comes to food, and I need to consecrate my eating every day, by God’s grace, in order to have victory over food-related temptation.

What If I’m Pregnant or Nursing and Want to Fast?

While a pregnant or nursing mom or one with other health issues might not be able to fast from food for a day or even a meal, she could find other ways to deny her flesh and give more time to prayer.

Fasting is physically hard for me. When I fast, I do it because I see the value Scripture places on it, not because I feel like it. I will be candid with you. I greatly dislike fasting! I can come up with a multitude of reasons why I will just pray but not fast too.

Fasting Gives More Time to Focus on Prayer

Fasting makes the time I would be eating available for praying, and if others can do food prep, then I have that time to pray as well. Going to a private place to pray at mealtime in solitude or joining with others in the family who are also fasting and praying is a balm to my heart, drawing me closer to Jesus. 

When I fast, it is sometimes just for one meal. Generally, though, it is a day-long fast where I only drink water and tea. I function relatively well in the morning, but by afternoon, my pace slows down. For me, on a full fasting day, I eat a snack before bedtime so that I can function in the morning. Steve is able to fast through until the morning and can even fast multiple days. 

What’s on your heart? What’s the greatest need? Have you fasted with your praying?

Looking Down the Road to Prepare Your Children

Almost twenty years ago, Steve wrote Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family. At that time, we had two sons who could provide for families, but they were not yet married while the other three were still young enough to be homeschooled. Now four of our five sons live that vision, providing for their wives and children and living in debt-free houses. The fifth can financially provide for a family and owns a debt-free house but is still single.

Spiritual Preparation

The message of preparing sons and daughters hasn’t changed. As parents, we want to be purposeful in preparing our children for mature adult life. That preparation comes in many areas. The most important is spiritually. Are you helping your children to have a relationship with Jesus that is based in the truth of His Word, that seeks His will in all aspects of their lives, is growing and dynamic, and follows Him obediently in glory and virtue? “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). 

Good and Bad Appetites

Are you thinking through what you allow and don’t allow in your children’s lives and the appetites that might set in their hearts—good or bad—in their adult years? We will either give our children appetites for the fun and entertainment of the world or for ministering, working, and being productive servants of Christ. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints)” (1 Corinthians 16:15).

Productive Teens

Are you encouraging your children to learn and work through their teen years? How many young people play and text their way through some of their most productive years when they could be learning skills and starting businesses? “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Servant’s Heart

Are you growing a heart in your children for serving and loving others as opposed to serving and loving self? “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). 

Step by Step

All of these areas don’t turn on with a magic switch at age 18. They start with our three-year-olds hearing and learning God’s Word in family Bible time, helping Mommy set the table, and doing sister’s chores when she is hurt. They move into the nine-year-old who reads his own Bible every day looking for God’s truth, who can make lunch by himself, and who rakes the widow’s leaves with Daddy. As a teen, that child studies the Word because he loves it. He prays and seeks the Lord’s direction. He has joy in his walk with Christ because it is a real relationship. He pushes back from the world—its looks, loves, and activities—rather than embracing it. He already has the beginnings of marketable skills that he is developing and is eager to learn more. He invests his time helping and serving others rather than pursuing his own entertainment and fun.

When to Start?

It is never too early or too late to consider these things and your desires for your children. Solomon asked several times in Proverbs for his son to give him his heart because Solomon had instruction he wanted to share with his son toward a godly and fruitful life. He was looking down the road to his son’s adult years. 

If you could use some encouragement or practical ideas in these areas, Preparing Sons and Buying a House Debt-Free are those resources. We recently released the audiobook of Buying a House Debt-Free, which is on special for $9.99 through August 16th. Preparing Sons is also an audiobook. Audiobooks are super convenient to listen to while driving or doing other activities where one has their hands occupied but not their minds. 

How to Do Bible Time for Preschoolers

During the first day of our visit in their home, four-year-old Alice excitedly shared with us where she was in her personal Bible time and what she was learning. The next day, she showed us her set up: sitting in Dad’s living room chair, computer on a table beside it with an audio Bible CD in it, headphones, and her Bible in her lap. Since Alice was learning to read, she could follow the audio in her actual Bible. 

How to Start Your Child in the Bible

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). As Christian moms, we want to see our children place their faith in Jesus and grow up with a love for God’s Word. We desire that they would hide Scripture in their hearts. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). We hope they will use the Bible to direct their thoughts and actions. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Did you know you can begin that process in your children’s preschool days? One way to do that is to schedule a daily, personal Bible time for them. 

What If She Can’t Read?

You might wonder how personal Bible time would be possible for preschoolers since generally they can’t read. One benefit of our modern technology is Scripture in audio form—no reading, just listening! Preschoolers can listen to Scripture via a computer, or other device such as a smart phone, iPad, or MP3 player. (Most know we encourage using technical devices as tools not toys for children, and this is a good example.) There are dramatized and undramatized audio Bibles available. The ones for devices are free. With ear phones, your child can listen while other things are going on that would be a distraction or to keep them from being a distraction.

There are many benefits that come from a preschooler’s personal Bible time. They begin to learn Scripture and are often quite enthusiastic about what they learn. Preschoolers also have that amazing ability to remember well what they hear. Our grandson, Joshua, memorized the book of Jonah when he was five years old in large measure from listening to it. 

Bible Time as a Child Creates a Good Habit

Preschool, personal Bible time is the beginning of a daily Bible time habit, something we would like to send our children into adulthood with. Whatever is habitual is easier to accomplish than something you have to decide each day if you will or will not do. How many of you yearn for daily Bible time but struggle to make it a reality? What if you had been given a daily Bible time habit when you were growing up?

During preschool Bible time, your child is productively occupied for the amount of time you designate for it, perhaps fifteen to thirty minutes. That allows you to accomplish something you couldn’t do when they need your more focused attention and oversight. 

Could I encourage you to begin your preschoolers on their own personal Bible time? It will take a bit of thinking on your part. When is that time best scheduled? On what will they listen to the Bible? Where will they have their Bible time? Do they need headphones? Once those questions are answered and implemented, you begin filling your children’s minds with God’s Word, perhaps the greatest gift you could possibly give them. Plus you develop a life long habit of personal Bible reading that continually grows and nurtures a real relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The Well Planned, Well-Executed Homeschooler’s Summer

Don’t homeschool moms look forward to finishing their school year and having a change of pace for the summer? Being purposeful today by praying, thinking, and planning your summer means ending it with a sense of satisfaction in what you accomplished rather than with regrets of wasted time.

Begin by Considering Your End-Goal

If you want to finish your summer well, you have to know what that means. What do you desire to accomplish this summer? What goals might you have? Would you like to get ahead in school? Maybe you desire an outing every week. Perhaps you have cleaning and organizing to do that you don’t have time for during the school year. Are there areas of character in your children that you could develop before August rolls around?

Write down those summer goals. Get them out of your head, in front of you where you can review, edit, add, and subtract from them. As you evaluate the goals, pray. Seek the Lord to determine what stays and what goes and how to accomplish what stays. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). 

Summer Scheduling for Homeschool Mom

With a desire to accomplish those goals, consider putting together a summer schedule. Somehow the “wing it” mentality generally brings you to August with lots of plans still on paper but little accomplished. You might find yourself scratching your head, wondering where your summer went. Not so with a schedule. Whipping together a schedule dedicates time for each of your goals and a huge feeling of accomplishment when summer is over.

Perhaps one of your goals for summer is a slower pace than your school year affords. Your schedule helps you set the brakes on the school-year hurry. Simply give yourself more time for activities, and put in the schedule those activities that say “slower” to you. That might be reading out loud to the children, playing games with them, or taking a daily, family morning walk.

When you have a list of cleaning and organizing projects to accomplish, you want to have dedicated time on the schedule to accomplish those jobs. If you only have younger children, schedule these projects at nap time. If you have older and younger children, put one older child in charge of occupying the little ones, and put the other older children to work on the project with you. You might be surprised how fast you move through that “to do” list with just one hour a day dedicated to projects.

With character issues to conquer, chores are your ally. Not only will there be improvement in the cleanliness and tidiness of your house, but your children develop qualities such as obedience, responsibility, diligence, thoroughness, timeliness, efficiency, and concentration.

If school work is a summer goal, whether to catch up from the previous year or get ahead on the upcoming one, schedule that time. As you construct your schedule, you will see places in it that are natural times for setting school work in front of the children, whether it is to quiet them down, give them a break from hot, outside activities, or to keep them occupied while you take a rest. 

No Regrets Summer

Many moms experience discouragement at the end of the summer not because of what they did but because of all they didn’t do. They anticipated those three months without normal homeschooling pressure and all they would accomplish, but somehow it just slipped away. When you set summer goals and then put together a schedule to execute them, summer ends with those goals achieved. Rather than discouragement, you experience the delight of looking back on your summer with the joy of a well-planned and well-executed summer.

Need help making a schedule? Managers of Their Homes is your tool. What about putting together a chore system? Managers of Their Chores can guide you with that.

The Homeschool Chore Team

Are you a super homeschool mom? Can you accomplish homeschooling plus all the household chores by yourself? Most homeschool moms do best with chores when chores are a team effort. Don’t you love the thought of your children working together as a team for the good of your family? If your children are like ours were, though, they didn’t spend their days asking how they could help with what needed to be done around the house. I discovered I had to have a goal—chores accomplished daily by the family chore team and then make a plan to achieve it—chore system

Simple

Start simple to make it achievable. I watch moms get so caught up in developing a perfect chore system with every possible job listed and assigned that they never get beyond the planning stage.

Really and truly, keep it simple. I challenge you to list three chores—start with just three that each of your children are capable of doing every morning like:

  • make bed
  • pick up toys
  • fold pjs and put away
  • empty trash
  • wash breakfast dishes
  • wipe bathroom sink
  • clear breakfast table
  • sweep dining room and kitchen floor
  • wash breakfast dishes
  • dry breakfast dishes

Some of the chores will be the same for every child such as make bed. Others will be individualized based on the child’s age and capabilities. Even a three-year-old can be given a small squirty bottle with water in it and taught how to wipe out the bathroom sink. By the time that child is seven and hopefully mature enough to handle whatever cleaning agents you use, he will be prepared to tackle real bathroom cleaning. Look down the road when considering chores for little children. They might not be able to do much real work now, but you are equipping them with positive attitudes toward work and skills that will soon allow them to be productive members of your homeschool family chore team.

Timing

Set aside a specific time for the chores to be accomplished. If everyone is working at the same time, the distraction of wanting to play with a sibling is eliminated. With just three chores each, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes for these chores to be done, 30 minutes at the most. 

Be a cheerleader for your chore team, encouraging them with positive words about working, telling them how happy you are for their help. Thank them for their work and accomplishments, and praise them for every step toward a chore well done. Work alongside them to mentor them in their jobs and fellowship with them in the process. Keep a smile on your face and sweet words on your tongue, and you can motivate your children to do much.

Build on the Foundation

When you have solidly established those three morning chores to where they are habitual for everyone, you are ready to build on that foundation. If there is more time in the morning, you can add another chore or two. You will likely assign chores at lunchtime and dinnertime. After school is another logical chore time as is just before bedtime. Everyone probably won’t need to do chores during all of those time frames. Use the morning when you are most likely to be on schedule to accomplish the bulk of your chores. Make sure meal preparation and cleanup is covered and then see if there are any holes. Most families find is helpful to have a tidying time just before Daddy comes home from work or as part of the pre-bedtime routine.

The Manager

Be a super homeschool mom by managing your homeschool chore team. What a beautiful picture to have children learning to work and all the character that goes with that while the tasks necessary to keep a home functioning are being accomplished. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27). The more productive your team is, the more time you have for homeschooling and other pursuits God calls you to.

If you need help with a chore system, Managers of Their Chores is a resource you might want to consider.

How to Schedule Your Homeschool Day

I love seeing happy, productive homeschooling moms in action! Could part of their happiness and peace be because they are accomplishing what they know they need to do each day? A key to being successful with homeschooling is having a homeschool schedule that lets you be a dynamo managing your time. Your homeschool schedule helps guarantee that everything is done that needs to be done whether it is the school work, meals, housework, or laundry.

Where to Start Planning Your Homeschool Schedule

Exactly how does one put together a homeschool schedule? Begin by figuring out what time you think is a reasonable start time for school, and then work backwards and forwards from that. Most homeschoolers start school at 8:30 or 9:00 each morning. 

Begin With Your Morning Time

Let’s say you want to start school at 9:00 a.m. Now make a list of what needs to be accomplished before school and how long each activity will take. That might look something like this:

Personal Bible time – 1/2 hour
Exercise – 1/2 hour
Shower – 1/4 hour
Help little children dress – 1/2 hour
Make breakfast – 1/4 hour
Eat breakfast – 1/2 hour
Breakfast cleanup and chores – 1/2 hour

If you total up this time, it is 3 hours. That means you need to get up and be on your feet ready for your first scheduled activity, at 6:00 a.m. To write up your schedule, put each of those activities in a time block beside the time that you want it to start. Simple!

Work with your Afternoon

Most homeschools take a lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00, and then head back to school for another hour or two as needed to complete their curriculum requirements. 

Often mid to late afternoon is unproductive time, but it doesn’t have to be. Put activities in the late afternoon schedule that are important to you, but might otherwise be neglected. This could be time to plan for school or meals, individual time with your children, ironing, or cleaning. What about teaching a daughter to sew or doing craft projects with the children? Maybe you need to run errands one or two afternoons a week after school. Incorporate those activities in your after-school schedule.

Then make sure you slot a time very late in the afternoon to do dinner preparations. When it is on the schedule, you have the delight of a hot, home-cooked meal for your family to enjoy together early enough to have special family time each evening.

End Your Homeschool Day Successful

If you want to get up in the morning to start your productive homeschool day, you must make sure you go to bed early enough to get the sleep you need before the alarm goes off. A tired homeschool mommy is headed for discouragement quickly! 

In our example, if you need 8 hours sleep, then lights out at 9:45 p.m. It will take a few minutes to wake up and get dressed before your first early morning activity starts at 6:00.

To be in bed, ready for sleep at 9:45, you want to have your focus on that goal and manage your evening time accordingly. That means putting the children to bed early enough so that you have some personal down time and also time with your husband. 

Follow Your Homeschool Schedule

The schedule keeps you on track, but only if you follow it! There will be a dozen or more things a day trying to pull you off schedule, from your own laziness to your best friend wanting to have a playdate. Seldom, if ever, should laziness win over your schedule. There may be times that the playdate does, though. This depends on whether you have been faithfully keeping your schedule and doing what needs to be done. If you have, you just might be able to give a resounding “yes” to the invitation. That’s part of the joy of a schedule—letting you do extras because you are keeping up with your priorities.

God wants you to use your time for His glory: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). 

If you want more help with homeschool scheduling, Managers of Their Homes is a practical, proven resource for you.

What to Do?

In recent Mom’s Corners, we addressed dealing with negative behavior in children. We started with our mindset in those situations and then moved to being proactive in prevention. Now we arrive at the nitty-gritty of actual consequences, which is what the original question asked. 

“I would love to see some posts about how to handle things like siblings fighting, whining, talking back, etc. I just need some fresh inspiration for practical consequences on how to handle these kinds of things.” Dana

The goal of a consequence is to get a child’s attention so he will consider a new behavior to be a better choice over the previous behavior. This lines up with Scripture and how God disciplines us as His children. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). 

In our experience, as mentioned previously, it is less about the actual consequence and more about the consistency with which it is used. Plus each child is an individual so a consequence that works great with one child might have no effect on another child. Choosing consequences can be difficult.  

Consequence Criteria

Here are some criteria you might want to consider when evaluating consequences.

  1. Can you live with it? Be careful of consequences that are complicated, take record keeping, or will cause you or a child’s sibling not to be able to do something you should do or want to do. 
  2. Does it de-escalate? It might be that simply given a break from the situation will mean the discipline problem goes away. 
  3. Is it appropriate? You want to find consequences that are age appropriate, and you are looking for consequences that don’t under or over correct the child.
  4. Is it effective? Children are different, and what will get one child’s attention means nothing to another.

Look for something that fits the criteria and works. Remember it is about providing the child incentive to change his behavior. 

Our Personal Go-To Consequences

Here were four of our favorite consequences:

  1. Chair sitting for a designated amount of time. This consequence was one we could live with—no problems while the child was on the chair. It de-escalated the problem by separating quarreling children or ending whining, and it was appropriate for younger children, when we were at home. It was quite effective because our children loved to be active so taking that freedom away for a short time got their attention. Our chair sitting rules were:
    1. Sit up on chair.
    2. No talking.
    3. No playing.
  2. Play alone for a designated length of time. This consequence fit all the criteria, but we reserved it for younger children.
  3. Extra chores. This fits the criteria, but if the child is too young to do chores, it would not be appropriate. Since meal clean up was a daily assigned chore in our home, we would often let children off of meal cleanup who didn’t have consequences and give the clean up to those who did have extra-chore consequences. That rewarded the obedient children and disciplined the disobedient children.
  4. Early bedtime. We could only live with this consequence if we made sure there was buffer time in our evening so a child could go to bed early. It was more effective for older children who understood that they were going to bed early than it was for younger children who weren’t yet time savvy. 

The End Result

Remember when you give a child a consequence, you are doing it with the goal of helping him grow into a mature, godly adult with characteristics that will make him/her a good husband/wife, father/mother, employee or business owner, and also be enjoyable to live with. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). That makes it worth the time and investment you put into finding consequences that work and using them consistently.

Here is another article with more practical consequence information. 

Trusting in Jesus,
Teri

Power in Discipling Children​

In November, we began a series responding to a mom with several children dealing with the stressful issues of sibling fighting, whining, and talking back. She wanted some fresh inspiration on practical consequences. The starting place is in our hearts, and that was November’s theme. If you haven’t read that article, here’s the link.

Before we move into discussing specific consequences, let’s consider some other proactive possibilities for tackling these problems that are quite common to any family with children. Scripture tells us: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Drawing our children’s hearts to Scripture and how it affects their daily lives is part of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

Teaching Time

Take advantage of individual and family time when you can discuss these problems. These times will be emotionally neutral. They won’t be in the heat of the offense, but simply in your normal, daily life. No one is unhappy or upset during the discussion, and no one is in trouble. However, you are prepared with specific instances of problems to bring out, review, and talk through. With the emotion out of the picture, you are likely to have some productive teaching discussions. Remember the Short and Sweet article last year? 

I encourage you not to move into a long lecture but to focus on a set of questions designed to help your children move to correct thinking, and then hopefully actions, about biblical behavior. Jesus often used questions in His teaching, causing His listeners to go deeper in their thoughts and motives. Questions draw your children into the conversation, help them think through what happened, how it affected them and others, why they did what they did, and what options might have been better in the situation.

When these discussions are family discussions, everyone can help with the answers and everyone benefits from the discipleship they afford. Sometimes, though, you will have the opportunity to have a discussion one-on-one, or maybe it is of the nature that you wouldn’t want discussed with the whole family. Remember, though, it is vital that this discussion be held at a neutral time.

Questions

When you have one of these discussions and rehearse what happened, what are some questions you can use? How about ones like these?  

Was this behavior kind?
Were the words kind?
How does the recipient of what was said or done feel?
Is this how you would like to be treated?
Is this how you see Daddy and Mommy acting?
Is this how Jesus would want you to act?

Then you can ask the children if they can think of any Scripture that would apply to the situation. 

Finally, you could ask what other ways there would have been to go through the situation in a positive way. Let your children come up with the good thoughts, words, and actions that would be appropriate. If your children are little, you might have them act out the right scenario as practice for the future. 

What are some good times for these discussions? How about meal times, family Bible time, or when you are working together in the kitchen or another project? 

Another helpful idea is to memorize Scripture with your children that applies to the common problems they are struggling with. That gives you and them biblically right thoughts to have at the moment of conflict. Plus it helps the children with Scripture that applies when that question is asked in the family discussions.

Could you be proactive with your children and their negative behaviors by using non-stressful moments to discuss their problems? Might you use Scripture to direct their thoughts and actions to godliness? My parenting-children days are over, and in hindsight, I wish I’d more often had wrong behavior discussions during the neutral moments, used questions, and helped the children apply Scripture. While that did happen, it wasn’t as much as I would have liked it to. I can’t redo those days, but I can encourage you.

Christmas Joy or Christmas Failure?

It seems that most moms enjoy Christmas, looking forward to the focus on Christ, giving, and family time. It can be a delightful, sweet season. There is something that can happen, though, in the midst of the joy of Christmas that might certainly dampen it.

Have you ever been decorating for Christmas and become irritated with your children’s interruptions, or if they were helping, critical of how they did something? Perhaps you are out Christmas shopping with the children and they begin bickering in the back seat. Your voice belts out a rebuke much louder than you wanted since you are feeling hungry and tired yourself. Those are situations I sometimes experienced, and I didn’t like my responses.

The Lord would convict me after those situations, and I wondered if there was hypocrisy in my heart. I questioned being busy preparing for celebrating of the Savior’s birth, heralding peace on earth and good will toward men while my own children received my irritation, impatience, and criticism.

Can we even avoid these undesirable reactions? If so, how?

In the Word

When you become busier with Christmas do you go to bed later, get up later, and skip your time with the Lord in the Word? Or if it is scheduled for another time of the day, you miss it for various other reasons. Would the Lord Jesus think that was a good trade? We need that spiritual nourishment as much when we don’t think we have time for it and most likely even more. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

On Your Knees

What if you were to ask the Lord to keep you from reacting negatively in your Christmas preparations and celebrations? What if you were to ask Him to replace every thought that leads to a negative emotion with a thought of gratitude, praise, or worship? What if that were your daily and even hourly prayer?

What if when you are in situations you know you have reacted to in the past, you prayed for His strength and mercy to allow you to avoid those ungodly attitudes and give you the fruit of the Spirit? “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Letting Go

What if you were to let go of any expectations you might have for how things would go over Christmas and when they would happen? Could it be that a perfectionistic mindset puts pressure on you that everything must be just so? Does God put that pressure on you? What do you think matters more to Him—your sweet spirit or when, what, and how those Christmas preparations and celebrations are accomplished? “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If you proactively anticipate the emotional pitfalls of the Christmas season, you have the opportunity to proactively avoid them with God’s help. Time in God’s Word, prayer, and resisting perfectionism were keys for me in that battle. I hope they could be for you as well. May we be women with sweet spirits this Christmas contributing to its joy for our families.

Here is a link to a practical article from a few years ago on de-stressing Christmas that goes nicely with this article.

3 Key Steps to DeStressing Life with Children

“I would love to see some posts about how to handle things like siblings fighting, whining, talking back, etc. I have found your materials the most helpful of all the parenting/homeschool resources I’ve used (and that’s been quite a bit!). I just need some fresh inspiration for practical consequences on how to handle these kinds of things. When the squabbles and such multiply across several children, it becomes rather stressful!” Dana

Dana’s children are 16, 14, 12, 8, 6, and 4. Dealing consistently with the negative behavior of children is stressful, wearying, and even discouraging. The results, though, make the investment worth the effort.

At the root of feeling stressed over those situations are our own expectations and perhaps even some self-pity. We want to deal with a problem and have it be solved forever. We hope to correct for wrong behavior and have it never reappear. We desire to have sweet, cheerful, cooperative, obedient, loving children. Those are our expectations. When that doesn’t happen, we feel discouraged, and the self-pity rolls in.

Accepting that bringing children to maturity is a process and then letting go of those unrealistic expectations, frees us to do our jobs as moms. That means breaking up the same squabbles, dealing with whining, and correcting for talking back—day after day after day. I think, though, you will find that if you do that, next year when you re-evaluate, you will see progress in your children.

The second basic tenet is that consistency is key. The actual consequence is less important than its consistent application. When you sometimes correct and other times don’t, the children learn to do something and hope it is a “no correction” moment for you. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17).

Finally, our attitude is foundational. When our children’s behavior causes us to be impatient, frustrated, sarcastic, or angry, we undermine anything we want to achieve through correction. We are behaving like the child who is to be corrected. “The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” (Proverbs 16:21).

I remember when Steve helped me learn to correct our children unemotionally and without discouragement. He suggested I think of what a policeman would do making a traffic stop. He said, “What if that policeman has pulled a motorist over for the third time in one day for the same offense? Will he get angry with the motorist? Will he feel like a failure as a policeman? Will he cry about it? Of course not. He will just write another ticket.” Steve encouraged me to metaphorically write my children tickets by unemotionally giving them consequences.

When you get your heart and thoughts in tune with child raising being a long-term investment with high-stake outcomes, it makes it easier to face your daily battles. If you are willing to tackle them without giving up, it is quite possible that in just a short time you will see significant improvement in your children. At the least, when your heart is set, you approach each day with confidence and peace that you are doing what God has called you to do. Then you proceed, asking Him for His strength and grace for each moment of your day and interaction with your children.