A Hodge-Podge of Mothering Tips
April 21, 2017 at 8:31 a.m.
I won’t spend a lot of time on introduction because this is already a very long post, but I have a hodge-podge of tips I have collected in recent years, and I thought I’d share some now. Please leave a comment with some tips for me! J
Squeeze laundry in.
I have tried the one-load-a-day, the fold-it-as-soon-as-it’s-out-of-the-dryer method, the all-day-laundry-marathon method… You know what works for this busy momma? Just do the laundry when you can. And do what’s most urgent first. If it all sits in baskets for a few days, don’t worry about it. Wrinkles are always in style! ;-)
But most of all, teach your kids to help. Even a 2-year old can match socks and fold washrags. A 4-year-old can learn to fold pants, stack shirts and underwear, and put things away. By the time he’s 5, he can do everything himself. A 6-year-old can put clothes on a hanger, fold socks, and get the clothes out of the dryer. It takes a bit of work investment up front to teach children how to help, but I am sure that doing one’s own laundry is an important life virtue!
Children learn by play. (So let them play!)
I am no education expert, but homeschool moms, I don’t think you should be sitting down at “school” with your 7-year-old for 6 hours a day. Kids need to learn in the real world. So many more lessons are learned through play and interaction than through sitting at a desk. Yes, some intensive bookwork should occur. How else will a child master good penmanship and mathematics? But SEEING nature and math and history and USING the vocabulary and grammar they are learning is critical to assimilating that knowledge. What good is knowledge that never gets put to use?
Read to your kids.
I am always amazed at the fantastic conversations my kids and I have after we read books. Reading aloud helps them in so many ways. It’s quality time, it introduces new vocabulary, and it puts the English language in the context of different voices, styles, and perspectives. And when your kids ask, “Mom, what does ___ mean?” Take that opportunity to explain and introduce even more new vocabulary!
Include kids in the work.
Most people don’t have a farm, but there is still much work to be done to keep a household up and running. Teach your kids to help with laundry, dishes, cooking, tidying up, dusting, cleaning, vacuuming, putting their things (and sometimes yours!) away. It’s hard at first because they will grumble and complain and the work will be slow and poor quality. But you are their master trainer. Teach them to do a good job with a cheerful heart. “Work as unto the Lord.”
You can’t do this alone, and you shouldn’t. You’ll go crazy, and you run the risk of raising lazy, entitled little slobs! God gave you some precious little helpers who are ready to be trained. Even if you’re not a great housekeeper, maybe it’s time to learn alongside them. Don’t brush tidiness off as unimportant. It is important. I’m a recovering slob, myself, and trust me: Good habits are way harder to form when you’re old than when you’re young!
What good is a highly skilled technician who is dishonest? A store manager with no manners? What good is a doctor who only operates selfishly? Virtue ought to be just as much a part of schooling as anything else. Being kind, doing good, cheerfully helping, telling the truth, observing patience, practicing mercy. Teach your children virtue by living life with them and talking about what is right and wrong. We love to read William Bennett’s Book of Virtues. Not all the stories have happy endings, but they all have a moral principle to wrestle with. We read the Bible together--the nice parts and the ugly parts, so that our children understand what is right and what God thinks about men who persist in doing wrong.
Teach children to get along.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult areas, at least for me, and we are not finished refining here. Kids fight. I don’t know why. It seems silly because they usually fight over trivial things. A little discovery I have made recently is this: When I refuse to referee, my kids seem to fight less. That’s not to say that I leave them to their own devices. What I mean is if one kid is claiming to have been offended by another, I have the “victim” tell the offender why they’re upset. It pretty much eliminates false accusation, at least for my young kids, so that nips a lot of the fighting in the bud. But if the offender really has done something bad, having to face the person they hurt is a whole lot more scary than just facing an angry mommy (for some reason). Conscience kicks in and they reform more quickly! It sure beats trying to chase the truth in toddlers!
It’s the Matthew 18 principle: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
I usually observe this little ritual until things are resolved. And I intervene appropriately if the conflict can’t be resolved. After all, that’s the next stage in the conflict-resolution-strategy, but this first step pretty much ends most conflicts right then. And of course we are always reinforcing the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” rule. Looking at various behaviors through the lens of our own selfishness really helps us learn to do what is right, even when we don’t want to.
Eat and sleep well.
As I observe the non-farming world where every food comes practically ready to eat straight out of the package at the store, I realize that people don’t put a whole lot of stock in what they eat. With so much misinformation out there, it’s no wonder they are confused about what to eat! The Twizzlers have more health claims on them than the cheddar cheese!
But another thing I observe is that most of today’s families have children that struggle with sleep problems, gastric problems, dental problems, eye problems, allergy problems, etc.
People excuse it by saying they don’t know how to cook or don’t have time to cook. But think about it from this perspective: What are the critical components of life? Food, Shelter, and I would add Companionship, which hopefully is vague enough to cover all the truly important stuff we humans seek after. Shelter is covered by having a job to pay the rent and utilities. Companionship is all the stuff we do--vacation, church/religion, hobbies, etc. The remaining component is food. Why is it that we, as a culture, place so much emphasis on the other two and leave food for the budget item that gets slashed first when things get tight? Or we basically ignore our body’s true needs and temporarily satisfy ourselves with shakes that turn colors when you stir them and drinks that are designed expressly to caffeinate us.
It might be permissible if our culture as a whole was robust and healthy. But our collective health is declining and doing so rapidly! Our great-grandparents were strong and healthy, working in the garden into their 80’s and 90’s, many of them. I know 30-year-olds that are more feeble!
Are the fun experiences in gymnastics 6 nights a week worth trading for your daughter’s fertility when she marries in 10 years? Is fast-food for dinner worth thousands of dollars’ worth of dental repairs to your son’s baby teeth?
I’m not trying to be offensive nor am I trying to say that I have everything figured out, but if I leave you with any advice that is meaningful, may it be this: Don’t let your activities ruin your health. Ifyou are doing too much stuff to sit down and eat at least one nourishing, homemade meal per day, you’re doing too much stuff! From-scratch meals are the only way to eliminate harmful additives and control sources of ingredients. Nutrition is to the health of your body as repairing the roof is to the longevity and safety of your house. But it’s so much easier to neglect nutrition because the effects are often subtle, difficult to connect to the cause, and don’t manifest themselves until many years later.
Sleep is equally important! Protect that bedtime, especially if your kids are in school and have to get up early. Food matters. Sleep matters. Limit your activities so your family can eat really well and get the rest they need.