Family summit sets the stage for a successful school year

The school year is upon us. This brings newness to the air. New teachers, new schedules, new goals, and new expectations. So how do we, as parents, help set the stage for a successful school year?

My husband, Tad, and I are a part of a parent coaching group where we learned about family summits. Basically a family summit is a family meeting. In this meeting we sit down and create space for each child to share a few basic, but important, things. Here is the agenda for our meeting:

1. Prayer—We intentionally invite the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be present and active in our summit.
2. Ground rules—We explain that this is a time to share and listen. When you aren’t sharing, you are listening without judgment and without interrupting.
3. Defining success—Give time for each child to think about and write down what a successful school year means to him or her.
4. Share time—Share with the family. It’s amazing how different this can look for each child.
5. Self expectations—Give time for each child to think about and write down his expectations for himself.
6. Share time—Share with the family. It works so much better when the expectations are theirs and not just yours.
7. Family expectations—Give time for each child to think about her expectations for your family. In our home our children didn’t always realize the kinds of expectations they have for each other.
8. Share time—Again, share with the family. This is also a time to talk about what are realistic expectations of themselves and of each other.
9. Mom and Dad time—Tad and I share our ideas of success and our expectations. These include their answers.
10. Blessing—Close with a blessing on our school year.

So often as parents we assume that our children’s ideas are the same as our own. Doing these summits has been eye opening for us. God is uniquely equipping our children to do the work he is putting in front of them. We want to cultivate a discernment that helps them see what that work is. I am humbled when their ideas come out because oftentimes they see it more clearly than I do.

Having these conversations has been invaluable in our home. It gives us insight into their hearts. It gives us direction when we are called upon to encourage and discipline our children. It keeps our desires for our children in check and helps us keep looking to our heavenly Father for guidance as we guide our children.

May God bless you and your families this year and always.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have five children ranging in age from 8 to 16. They are also licensed foster parents.

Five thoughts for moms

Thanks to social media, I was able to poll many, many moms on what they wished they knew when they were new moms. I was able to take the pieces of advice and break it down to five basic themes.

  1. Stop comparing! All of it! Don’t compare how you look to others. Don’t compare what your children have or don’t have to others. Don’t compare how your children behave to others. Don’t compare how you’re parenting to others. Both ways. Do not shame yourself for not having it all together and please, please do not judge other moms for doing it differently than you. There are so many ways to parent, and most of them are God-honoring.
  2. Take care of yourself. First, continue to date your husband. Make that relationship a priority. Get sleep. Seek out your friends. Find time for solitude. Find time to do things you love.
  3. Find a community. Seek out a community of moms. Help each other. Ask for help. Receive it when offered. Cheer each other on and be encouraging. Share with each other. Cry together. If you have a community but they don’t do these things, find another community. My friends have been instrumental in my survival of parenting.
  4. You are fully equipped. You know the Scriptures, and they “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). You know the depth of God’s love for you and your children. You understand forgiveness, and you can turn to the Scripture for guidance. The Scriptures make you “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (3:17). And you are doing good work.
  5. Grace. God’s love lives in you and you can reflect that love in your day to day life. Live in God’s grace. Help your children live in that same grace. Encourage other moms to find comfort and energy in that grace. Remember that our God pursues our children, and he loves them even more than we do. He loves you too. Passionately. There is nothing you can do to make him love you more and there is nothing you can do to make him love you less. Just because you don’t feel that way doesn’t make it any less true. Hold on to truth.

As I look at this list, the themes here go way beyond parenting. They speak to everyday life wherever you are in your Christian journey. Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much.” Trust in his promises. They never fail.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have five children ranging in age from 8 to 16. They are also licensed foster parents.

Embrace the quietness

It seems that we live in fear of quietness. Not only do we as a culture shy away from it, but we don’t particularly like it when our children grow quiet.

I would encourage you to embrace the quietness.

One of the benefits to homeschooling for six years was that I was able to easily incorporate quiet time with God into our day. Now that most of them are in brick and mortar schools, it is a little more difficult, but my children have learned the benefits to taking quiet time.

Jesus modeled quiet time on a regular basis. Whenever his disciples couldn’t find him, it was usually because Jesus took time out to be in solitude with his Father.

What a gift to model to our own children. When we are frustrated, scared, confused, or even full of joy, how often do we find solitude to hang out with Jesus? When my children are angry or overwhelmed, they can learn to take the time to break away from the chaos (or even the perceived chaos) and lean on the True Comforter.

What about when our children grow quiet to isolate themselves in an unhealthy way? Tad and I work hard to create space. Safe space. Space to feel disappointed, hurt, overwhelmed. Let them share without judgment or the need to fix (this is a constant struggle for me). Listen. Really listen. Without reacting.

Sometimes our kids just don’t want to talk to us. I truly believe that is okay. Tad and I have prayerfully asked for guidance to find Christian mentors for each of our children. We found people who foster relationships with our children so they can go to them when they don’t feel like they are ready to talk to us. We intentionally ask people who we know will provide the spiritual guidance that will bring our children closer to Jesus.

One last thing I would like to add is to pray. Pray for them. Not only in the quiet of your bedroom at night, but also out loud in front of them. Maybe pray outside their closed door. Maybe pray in the car while they are strap . . . I mean, buckled . . . in. Maybe even put your hands on them and literally pray over them. Let them hear the words you share with your heavenly Father on their behalf. Maybe pray in their room when they aren’t in there. Whatever it looks like in your home, keep praying.

Honesty is a heart issue

This is a fascinating topic for me. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to identify my core values. Honesty is always in the top five for me. It is a no brainer. Recently I realized that honesty is not a core value for everyone. I was shocked. I wondered who wouldn’t have honesty as one of their core values. (Clearly it still surprises me when people think differently.) I was especially surprised that there are Christians who don’t value honesty.

At different times during the past five years, in addition to our biological children, we have had five other young people live in our home. Because they had different backgrounds than our biological children, honesty was not a core value for all of them. So lies were a common occurrence. As we cared for these young people, I realized that God entrusts me with the goal to make honesty and integrity a core value in the lives of the people in my home. It is a heart issue.

With our biological children, honesty was modeled for them since the time they were babies. Lying has been addressed along with all the consequences that go along with it. With the other children, lying may have been a way of survival, a way of getting what they thought they needed. Sometimes lying was rewarded when it resulted in earthly positive results. Sometimes they lied and it was so normal to them that they didn’t see anything wrong with it.

So now what? What I’ve learned is that we need to call out the lie (oftentimes without backing them into a corner). We call it out and forgive them. When we offer forgiveness, we are letting them know that lying is wrong and we shower grace at the same time. We do our best to model honesty and admit to them when we fail.

Heart issues are so hard. It is much easier to address the behavior without getting to the heart issue. But our God is the change agent. We are his hands and feet. It is difficult to surrender our children and the children God has put in our care to our heavenly Father. But he changes their hearts through the gospel we share.

Let your child feel disappointed

One of the great challenges we face as parents is watching our children suffer or struggle. It is easy to want to make everything comfortable for them. Disappointment is a part of this life on earth. We have expectations. When reality doesn’t match up to our expectations, the discrepancy is disappointment.

I think the very first thing that we must do is let our children feel disappointed. We live in a culture that believes everything should feel good. Disappointment is a bad feeling. Often as parents, seeing our children uncomfortable makes us uncomfortable. We say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Or “Look at the bright side.” The problem with this is that they don’t learn to live with or in the disappointment. We tell them to change their disappointment.

Jesus provided a beautiful example of sitting in disappointment when he wept for Jerusalem. He was very disappointed. He sat in the disappointment and cried. His Father didn’t come to him and say, “It’s okay, Jesus. I’ll make it better. Don’t feel that way.” His Father, our heavenly Father, let him cry.

So how do I teach my children to deal with disappointment? The first thing I do is model what it is like to deal with disappointment. If I am disappointed because something didn’t go my way or someone hurt me, I tell them how I am feeling. I don’t want to hide it from them. I want them to see that I get hurt. I want them to see that I pray in the midst of it. I ask them to pray for their momma as I struggle.

As challenging as it is, don’t try to fix their disappointment. Talk through it. We talk about the expectations and the reality of the situation. Were our expectations too high? Did someone not meet our expectation? Is this an opportunity to show forgiveness? Even if the expectation was unrealistic, the feeling of disappointment is very real. Teach children to put words to their feelings. Let them hear you say you are disappointed. Have them say out loud that they are disappointed.

Finally, let them grieve the situation. Let them be sad or hurt. Invite our God into the hurt and sadness. Let the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do the true healing.

 

Does looking like a Christian parent hinder my parenting?

How does Christianity affect my parenting? How does it not? Maybe there’s a bigger question for me, though. Maybe the question is: How does looking like a Christian parent hinder my parenting?

If you have been a lifelong Christian like me, you may have a mental picture of what good, Christian parents look like. I did.

My picture: They are married. They have respectful and well-behaved kids. If they have to discipline, they do it with love and logic. They send their kids to the Lutheran elementary school. Their children are active members of the youth groups—not only for themselves but for the example they set for the other youth. You could probably put a few more in there. I could too.

If you look at my list, it paints a pretty picture. My husband and I worked hard at painting it. It’s not a bad painting. However, striving for this painting started to overshadow real Christian parenting.

What did we look like to the other families of our congregation? What kind of example were we to our neighbors? These questions aren’t bad questions, but they became more important than questions like: Are we loving God? Are we loving others? Are we modeling those things to our children?

Stripping away our concerns of how we think others view our parenting gives us freedom to live under God’s grace. We find that focusing on our own relationship with Christ compels us to love others and therefore model that to our children. Sound familiar? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Tad and I have since made choices that may not look like what good, Christian parents would do. For example, we just finished our sixth year of homeschooling even though we have a wonderful Lutheran elementary school. We take very seriously the command to “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Our choices are prayerfully deliberated with this as our goal. Because Tad accepted a call to be “The Youth Guy,” he is gone nights, weekends, and chunks of summers. Fridays are his day off, which is when the kids were in school. How can Tad be a part of “bringing them up” if he isn’t home when they are? We realized how much impact we could have if our kids were home with us.

Finally, I learned to be careful of my opinions when others painted a different picture. Just because it doesn’t look like my painting doesn’t mean it’s wrong or even not as good as mine. I know there were people who questioned our decision to homeschool. I appreciated the people who asked me about our decision process or why we chose what we did. Those people sought understanding.

Seek God first. Bring them up in the training of the Lord. Let’s encourage parents, as our picture is always changing.

Defining respect

People want respect, and yet it looks different for different people. We think we deserve respect, and yet Jesus, who truly deserves our respect, never demanded respect from anyone. I am realizing that I use the word “respect” often without much thought to what it really means.

Some very wise women in my circle of friends describe respect this way:

“I believe that respect is attached to value. If you can understand that someone is valuable, whether you agree with them or not, you hold them in high enough regard to allow them to be who they are.”

“Fearless submission. Honoring others above one’s self. Knowing you do not have to protect and defend your ‘self’ but rather live outrageously free in relationship with others because God is on his throne. Respect is not trying to control the outcome but rather letting it unfold.”

“Respect is love in plain clothes.”

“Recognizing the value God placed on another person because of his Son’s life and sacrifice (Jesus died for that person) and deferring to them because of their value to God.”

“I think respect grows from the seed of humility that you plant in his light and care for lovingly.”

Pretty profound if you ask me.

So how do we teach these concepts to our children? Follow Jesus’ example. Model giving respect to others. Jesus showed respect to those he encountered—from the woman at the well to doubting Thomas.

Paul tells us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” What does submitting have to do with respect? Re-read the answers my lovely friends shared about what respect means. It is submitting. It is putting others ahead of ourselves. It is not demanding. It is loving.

Show your children what respect is by respecting them, by respecting your spouse, by respecting our leaders, by respecting the referees at their games. Showing them how to respect others melds into showing them how to love—even the unlovable, even our enemies, even if we think it’s not deserved, even people with whom we disagree and even those who disagree with us. Respect can and does go a long way.

“Be a light!”

It seems like the world is getting darker. Maybe it’s that as my children get older and they are in the world more, my eyes are more sensitive to the darkness of this world. What is the world saying to them? How is it being said?

We know that our children have to be in the darkness. In fact, Jesus says, “My prayer is NOT that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 12:15-17, emphasis added).

The evil one is very crafty. He uses so many regular things, and often good things, to cast shadows. Stress, movies, relationships, books, family, video games, peers, conflict are just some examples of sources of shadows.

It would be nice if we could keep all the worldly darkness out of our children’s, and our, lives, but that just isn’t possible. As parents, we can be intentional with teaching them how to hear God’s voice and see his light. Reading scripture, prayer, and solitude time with God are rhythms we do in our home that still us enough to refresh our light and hear God’s voice.

Not only do we want to teach our children these things, we want to model it as well. It isn’t just our children who are in the world. We are too. We want to be as prepared as much as they are, if not more so, to stand and be a light in this world. When, as a family, we hear God’s voice, we can be a light of His love in this world.

Whenever my children leave to go into the world you will always hear me holler my tagline, “Be a light!” I have found this to be a good reminder for our family to be in the world but not of the world. Light looks different. Light shines. Light attracts. Light warms. Light shows direction. Light reveals.

So the encouragement I give to my children I also pass on to you. “Be a light!”

Our discipline flows from love

Discipline. The past 14 years of Tad’s and my parenting adventure have included many trials and errors. Just when we thought we had it down, a different child, with a different personality—and, therefore, different needs—showed up. But here are a few basic, underlying things that we strive to do.

We start early. The battles when they are little may seem difficult at the time because who doesn’t want to give that cute two-year-old whatever she wants? The earthly consequences when they are little aren’t that big so it is easy to cave. However, that same behavior looks much different when they are in their teen years—and the earthly consequences are much greater. The truth is, disciplining when they are little is much easier than when they are older.

We follow through with consequences. Sometimes that means we, as parents, miss out as well. Although, Tad and I are getting better at picking consequences for our children that don’t punish us in the process.

As our children get older, we let them have a say. As much as possible we share with them why we have the rules and consequences that we do. If they can understand and be part of the process, we believe this helps teach them discernment. This wisdom will be with them even when we are not with them.

We choose what hill we’re willing to die on. Our house rules really fall into two categories: love God and love others. If a rule doesn’t fit under one of these, then we look at the reasoning behind it. Is it because of our personal preference? Because that’s the way we’ve always done things? Because we are concerned about how the outside world will view our parenting?

We let our creative 10-year-old girl go out in public with the most unique choices of clothing. We let our older boys grow their hair out way, way longer than we’d like. If it isn’t a character issue, we won’t die on that hill. If it involves how we love God and/or how we love others, that’s a hill on which we will stand, fight, and die.

We try to model our heavenly Father. He disciplines out of love for us. He wants the very best for us, which is a relationship with him. Our discipline is out of love for our children. We want the very best for them with Christ as the center of their lives. None of this works if we don’t have a loving relationship with our children.

As much as we know these concepts work for our family, we still struggle with our own flesh, our own agendas. Only by God’s grace are we able to implement these things out of love for our children. We know the work pays off. We enjoy our children as they grow in God’s grace.

Which wolf are we feeding?

God’s timing is always perfect. I received an e-mail asking to write about jealousy among siblings right after I received the call from the director of the upcoming young actors’ production. The news came in; Micah didn’t receive a part and his brother Silas did. Micah is the one who has been in a number of productions where he has been in the ensemble as well as main characters. Silas has only auditioned once before. This was setting up to be the perfect scenario for a great article on jealousy. All I had to do was watch and see what happens.

The first day of rehearsal came. Silas got ready to go. Micah got up from his video game, walked him out and said, “Have fun, Silas. You will have a blast.” Wait, what? Where was the drama? Where was the anger? And most importantly, where was the jealousy?

When I had a chance to talk to Micah one-on-one I asked him, “How are you doing it?”

“Doing what?”

“Every day you are watching Silas do something that you love. And you are being so gracious and encouraging. How are you doing it?”

He replied, “I don’t know, I guess I just focus on him more than myself.”

Our conversation led to the old Cherokee legend that talks about the battle going on inside each one of us. In the legend there is the battle between a good wolf and an evil wolf. The battle is won by the wolf that we feed.

As Christians we know this battle. It is the battle between our flesh and the Spirit. One is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego. The other is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which one wins? The one that we feed.

Micah knows who he is in Christ. He gets what it means to love others. He gets what it means to put others before himself. The fruit of this child shows his relationship with his Heavenly Father is living and active. Ah, if only I could “get it” like my 12-year-old son.

This doesn’t mean that tears have not been shed. It doesn’t mean that Micah doesn’t struggle when he thinks about seeing his brother on stage while he will be in the audience. What it does mean is that in these struggles, he knows he has a choice; a choice to walk in the flesh or to walk in the Spirit. Our most important job as parents is to cultivate our children’s relationship with their Savior. The more they know who our God is, the more they know his voice, the more they walk with him.