Jun 12

10 Ways to Help our Children be Cheerful

2014 at 8:42 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Cheerfulness doesn’t come cheap. We have to intentionally teach our children how to cultivate feelings of joy and happiness, so they can learn what it means to rejoice in the Lord. Here are a few simple, every day ideas for reinforcing cheerfulness with your children:

1. Memorize a verse about cheerfulness. Print it, color it, post it, practice it, make it the family motto of the month. “Serve the Lord with gladness” Ps. 100:2.

“Do all things without grumbling” Phil. 2:14.

“A joyful heart is good medicine” Prov. 17:22.

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face” Prov. 15:13.

“God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Cor. 9:7.

2. Back up cheerful commands with cheerful reminders about cheerful verses. For example, “Jeremy, I would like you to clean up the toys now, with a cheerful heart! Remember our verse? We are to serve the Lord with gladness!”

3. Require a smile when they come to the table or ask you a question or want something to eat. A smile is the ticket to any treat.

4. Make cheerfulness competitive. Who can out-cheerful every one in the family? Make a chart, offer a prize, and fire the starting pistol! Crown the winner as the most cheerful child of the day.

5. Cheer on cheerfulness. Encouragement is the easiest and most effective tool in our mommy tool belt. Take notice and praise every cheerful response or attitude that you can.

6. Read Bible stories. Spending time in the wilderness with Israelites will highlight the seriousness of complaining, as well as the mercy and grace of God and of their parents.

7. Be a cheerful mom. There is nothing more important than to get our own souls happy in God each morning (Mueller). We can’t offer our children a perfect example of cheerfulness, but we can point them to our Savior who did. And we can offer them a repenting, growing, example of a woman who is constantly striving after happiness in God.

8. Cheerfulness or Consequences. We must give clear commands and be faithful to correct our children when they complain.

9. Minimize temptation. We covered this in the previous post. Look for ways to remove regular temptations to grumpiness and discontent. An added tip: the simpler a child’s life, the happier they often become.

10. Persevere. Progress may be slow and some days kids and mommy will be anything but happy. But let’s get up and try again tomorrow. “Labor is light to a…cheerful spirit, and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing with all his heart, has success guaranteed” (Spurgeon).

Related Posts:

Helping Children Make a Habit of Cheerfulness

The Playroom as Training Ground for Joy

“What Do You Want to Feel When You Grow Up?”

Jun 10

Helping Children Make a Habit of Cheerfulness

2014 at 8:36 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

By the time my oldest daughter was ready for preschool, I was desperate for help to deal with all the fussing and fighting that seemed to fill up my girls’ days. How could they possibly find so many things to complain and disagree about in one twelve hour block of time?

I was working harder than ever to train and teach them to obey cheerfully, but the steady drip, drip, drip of grumpiness was constant and I could not possibly deal with every whiney voice or sister spat. After all, I had to take a shower every once and a while.

But as I have always found in my mothering, when we seek God for wisdom, He is faithful to provide. In this case, wisdom for me came one day when I was serving as teacher’s helper in my oldest daughter’s pre-school class.

Here was a group of about 10-15 five year olds, spending several hours together each day, and they were happy! There were very few fights or frowns. What is the teacher’s secret? I asked myself How does he keep so many children happy? As I watched, I noticed that the teacher was consistently moving the children from one thing to another in an organized fashion. There was Bible time, but before the kids had time to get too antsy they were moving to alphabet time and before they got bored it was craft time. The children didn’t have time to be grumpy or discontent.

So that summer I made out a little “summer schedule” for my girls. It wasn’t fancy; I just divided their day up into chunks in order to give it a little more structure. There was Bible time and chore time, and then playtime followed by rest time and more playtime and cleanup before dinner.

My children needed a little more structure. In their case, idleness was contributing to grumpiness. The routine served my girls by eliminating some of the temptations as they played together every day, all day long. They simply had fewer opportunities to be grumpy or discontent.

The point of this post is not that moms must put their children on a schedule if they want them to be cheerful. One of my daughters was telling me recently how her daughter is thriving without as much structure as her boys needed when they were younger. A routine is just one bit of wisdom that served me with my children at that time.

The point is to encourage all moms to seek God for wisdom as to how to create a family culture that minimizes temptation. In teaching our children to handle their emotions, we want to create an environment that reinforces the habit of cheerfulness.

Related Posts:

The Playroom as Training Ground for Joy

“What Do You Want to Feel When You Grow Up?”

Consistent Parenting Leads to Self-Control

Jun 5

The Playroom as Training Ground for Joy

2014 at 9:11 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

“I don’t feeeeel like it.”

Every parent who has ever told a child to clean up the Legos or go take a bath, has heard these words, almost always delivered in a tone of voice one could call “classic whine.”

My motherish reply might sound something like this: “I don’t care whether you feel like it or not, you are to obey Mommy.”

But according to Scripture, I should care how my children feel about picking up their toys or taking a bath or doing whatever it is I tell them to do. Scripture cares a lot about how we feel about obeying, and as a parent, I should too.

God commands us not only to give, but to give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). We are not just to serve the Lord faithfully, but serve him with gladness (Ps. 100:2).

I am called to teach my children not only to obey, but how to obey cheerfully. “Cheerfulness” is one of the best places to start teaching young children how to handle their feelings.

Now, when a child is two, you are often working just to get them to pick up a toy at all, much less do it cheerfully. But by the time they reach pre-school age, or even before, a child can begin to learn how to obey with a smile.

When we were little, my parents taught us to obey “immediately, completely, and cheerfully.” Sticking with those themes, we are trying to teach our children to obey “all the way, right away, and with a happy heart.”

Notice the key role “cheerfulness” plays in this triumvirate. It isn’t obedience without it.

If we allow our children to cultivate the habit of sharing grudgingly or cleaning up grumpily or holding our hand resentfully, we are teaching them (however unintentionally) that feelings don’t matter.

But if we teach them to say “yes” in a cheerful voice and obey with a smile, we are not only showing them how to obey but how they should feel about obeying. And if they do it enough times, they eventually will!

Our goal is not to churn out a generation of Eddie Haskells, hiding devious hearts behind sickeningly sweet smiles; but rather to raise a generation of “wise sons” who learn to heed our advice to “direct your heart in the way” (Prov. 23:19).

We are not trying to mask unhappy feelings but cultivate cheerful feelings.

The more that our children obey with a smile and a cheerful attitude, the more they will begin to feel that smile and feel happy to serve.

It is in these mundane, seemingly unimportant moments, when we tell our children to put away the Legos cheerfully, that we are preparing their hearts to follow the Savior with great passion and affection, to serve the Lord with gladness (Ps. 100:2).

Related Posts:

“What Do You Want to Feel When You Grow Up?”

Consistent Parenting Leads to Self-Control

When Momma Feels Hopeless

Jun 3

“What Do You Want to Feel When You Grow Up?”

2014 at 9:09 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Recently I asked my kids what they wanted to be when they grow up. I got mommy and missionary, soccer player and sports writer. Sophie said she wanted to be a hair dryer, but I’m pretty sure she meant hairdresser.

As parents we spend a lot of time shaping and molding our children into what we want them to be. We talk a lot about what they should do with their life, and we share important lessons about what not to do.

But as Christian parents we are also to train our children to feel as God created them to feel.

We often overlook this important aspect of parenting. We don’t talk much about how our children should feel when they grow up, do we?

But feelings are an important part of who God created us to be. God is an emotional being and the Bible is a passionate book. Try reading more than a few lines of Scripture without bumping into a feeling. You can’t do it.

We are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30).

We are told to “be wretched and mourn and weep” over sin and judgment (James 4:9).

We are exhorted to “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

As Christian parents, we have a grander goal than managing our child’s emotional outbursts: we want our children’s feelings to explode with affection for God.

We want our children to passionately love the Savior, tenderly love others, and serve the Lord with gladness (Ps. 100:2). We want our children’s hearts to be filled with God-glorifying emotions!

But just as we teach and train, educate and instruct our children to be what we want them to be, we must also train them to feel as God has called them to feel.

We must train up our children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6) and this means we must direct and shape their emotions (not the other way around). If we ignore this critical aspect of our child’s training, I fear we will have failed to fulfill our whole duty as parents.

Only God can take our child’s heart of stone and give her a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26), but he has given us a job to do as parents. He has called us to diligently teach our children how to love Him with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might (Deut. 6:5-7).

As our children transition from the toddler to the elementary school years, this is a critical time to focus on their feelings. How can we do this? Ideas for training a child’s emotions in a godward direction are coming up next here at girltalk.

Related Posts:

Consistent Parenting Leads to Self-Control

When Momma Feels Hopeless

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

Jun 2

When Twenty Times is Not Enough

2014 at 10:58 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Gospel | Motherhood

“Why do you tell your child a thing twenty times?” asked some one of a mother. “Because,” said she, “I find nineteen times is not enough.” Now, when a soul is to be ploughed, it may so happen that hundreds of furrows will not do it. What then? Why, plough all day till the work is done. Whether you are ministers, missionaries, teachers, or private soul-winners, never grow weary, for your work is noble, and the reward of it is infinite. The grace of God is seen in our being permitted to engage in such holy service; it is greatly magnified in sustaining us in it, and it will be pre-eminently conspicuous in enabling us to hold out till we can say, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” ~Charles Haddon Spurgeon

May 29

Consistent Parenting Leads to Self-Control

2014 at 8:18 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Since the beginning of her toddler years, my husband and I had been instructing Caly on how to be self-controlled. The older she got, the more confident we became that she understood how to exercise self-control, but the emotional outbursts continued.

Self-control had become a clear obedience issue. Caly needed consistent, loving, discipline in order to complete and strengthen her wall of self-control (Prov. 6:23, 29:17, Heb. 12:5-11).

Reasonable and kind parenting required that, for starters, we set the bar very low. To expect consistent self-control, we needed to give her a standard she could attain.

First, I simplified Caly’s life for an extended season. I pulled her out of play dates. I ran errands when she was already in bed. I kept an orderly routine. We stayed home most of the time and made Caly’s life as predictable as possible. Careful bricklaying requires a steady hand; I couldn’t build a strong wall of self-control amidst a hectic life.

Second, I sought to eliminate unnecessary temptations. For example, we didn’t insist on certain eating habits, and at times when she was especially tired or vulnerable I would create a place where she could play alone without the temptation of other children. By removing as many temptations as possible, we could focus on self-control in a few simple areas.

Then we had to discipline consistently. We can’t expect our children to learn consistent self-control from inconsistent parenting. When we disciplined—lovingly, patiently, for every infraction—we began to see change in Caly’s life, even more quickly than we expected. This time of focused training enabled us make great progress in helping her build a wall of self-control.

Over time, as Caly learned the daily habit of self-control, we were able to expand her horizons. We began to participate in more activities, go on spontaneous outings, and focus on other training issues (such as eating her peas!). Through consistent discipline, Caly acquired the ability to respond with emotional self-control to all kinds of unexpected situations.

I don’t know exactly when God chose to reveal Himself to Caly, but I expect it was around this time. In his kindness, he has given her a heart to know and follow Him and I pray those affections only grow as the years go by.

Related Posts:

When Momma Feels Hopeless

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 27

When Momma Feels Hopeless

2014 at 7:47 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Church was over, but not Caly’s crying. She had been crying through most of the service, and despite all my efforts, she just wouldn’t stop. I snaked my way through the crowded church lobby with my emotional child, trying to look cheerful and composed.

I found my mom, handed her a crying Caly, and burst into tears.

Raising an emotional child is an emotional experience. I cried a lot in those early years of training Caly. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep or the long, exhausting days or the embarrassing situations, all of which took their toll—most of all it was the feeling of hopelessness that hung over me because all my efforts to teach Caly self-control seemed to be making little or no difference at all.

I was trying so hard to be faithful. Why didn’t there seem to be much progress? Shouldn’t it be working by now?

Caly did eventually learn self-control. But it took much longer than I expected. And then much longer after that.

My mom encouraged me to persevere. She reassured me that my efforts would yield results someday. I had to believe God’s Word that as I was faithful to parent, God would be faithful to bring the fruit.

J.C. Ryle comments on Proverbs 22:6, “Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it”:

“It speaks of a certain time when good training shall especially bear fruit,—‘when a child is old.’ Surely there is comfort in this…It is not God’s way to give everything at once. ‘Afterward’ is the time when he often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace…And ‘afterward’ is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once,—you must sow in hope and plant in hope.”

Sow in hope. Plant in hope. Parent in hope that God will bring the harvest. This is the key to dealing with our fearful and hopeless feelings as moms

Fast-forward six years later to another Sunday morning. The service is over and I am pushing a double stroller with another emotional toddler through the crowded church lobby—my three-year-old son, Hudson. Only this time I have a one-year old in the front and two older girls beside me. It is Caly all over again, with three more children in tow.

Except, this time, I’m not on the verge of tears. In fact, I can almost manage a half-smile. Sure, I’m tired, exhausted in fact; and it is tough caring for another emotional child. This time around, though, I have more hope.

Caly is walking beside me, calm, obedient, and helpful. She is a reminder to me of the faithfulness of God. She is a reminder to me to persevere in teaching Hudson self-control, in hope.

And I have hope, that because of the abundant faithfulness of God, one day—even if it is one day far away—I might leave church and no one will be crying.

Related Posts:

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 21

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

2014 at 8:04 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children

Teaching our little ones how to handle their feelings is some of the “grunt work” of mothering. It doesn’t feel fun, for us or for our kids, but it creates an environment in which we can experience wonderful, bonding, moments with our children. More importantly, we are tilling the ground for gospel seeds. Here are a few practical thoughts on teaching little ones self-control with their emotions.

Model Self-Control: Instead of panicking when they panic or getting angry when they scream, we demonstrate a self-controlled response to the situation. My husband and I often try to help our children by responding with affectionate amusement when they overreact. My husband tries to make them laugh when they cry over nothing; they feel his care and at the same time they learn how to exercise emotional self-control.

Practice Self-Control: Emotional self-control is easier when a child has learned self-control with their speech and actions. Consider: How can you make “practicing self-control” part of your daily life? Listening without interrupting at the dinner table, set times of sitting still and reading, staying on their bed at night, not grabbing toys, or holding your hand when outside—all of these practices will help your children learn the valuable virtue of self-control.

{Don’t Always} Discipline for Self-Control: We must be very careful to distinguish between childish exuberance or exhaustion and true disobedience. An over-tired or teething child who won’t stop crying is in need of a good night’s sleep. A child who is noisy or silly or gets on your nerves might need forbearance more than discipline. On the other hand, we as parents must be discerning and diligent to deal with defiant, repetitive, behaviors that reveal a concerning lack of self-control.

Teach Self-Control: There is a lot to teach your children about handling emotions, but self-control is the place to begin. In age-appropriate ways we can teach our children what God’s Word says about the importance of self-control.

~Memorize Bible verses (Prov. 25:28, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Gal. 5:22-24, 1 Tim. 2:9, 2 Tim. 1:7, 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

~Make learning fun for the whole family by acting out a right and wrong way to respond.

~Sing songs about self-control. To Be Like Jesus and Seeds of Character include songs and Scriptures set to music that talk about self-control.

~Tell and/or read stories that show the blessings of self-control. Saturate their hearts and minds with narratives that highlight the blessings of self-control.

~ Have self-control sticker charts or contests among the kids. Encourage them to notice and encourage self-control in each other.

Helping our children build a wall of self-control is a lengthy, unglamorous, process, but the end goal is beautiful, fulfilling, and God-glorifying for our families. Don’t lose sight of it!

Related Posts:

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 15

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

2014 at 8:53 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Editor’s Note: We’re going to approach this “feelings” series chronologically, starting with very young children. Today Janelle kicks us off by talking about how we can help our toddlers begin to learn how to handle their emotions.

My oldest daughter, Caly, was emotional from day one. If I didn’t want her to cry I had to hold her or turn the vacuum cleaner on outside her room. Those were my only two options. She cried in the car, she cried in her crib, she cried all the time.

This was certainly a sign of things to come. As a toddler and preschooler, Caly was the most emotional little girl I have ever met. We’re talking meltdowns over her dollhouse being moved to a different room, freak-outs from watching Baby Einstein, inconsolable weeping long after her cousin returned the toy she grabbed, every day, all day long.

Caly was the first girl of all the cousins. Up until she was born, my sisters had only boys. And even though my sisters and I were plenty emotional growing up, none of us had ever encountered a girl quite as emotional as my Caly.

Emotional Caly made for extra-emotional Mommy. Oftentimes I cried right along with her, and some days I wanted to scream with her, too. Besides being my shoulder to cry on, my mom also helped me keep my eyes on a single mothering goal: teach Caly self-control.

As soon as she was old enough, Mike and I began to train Caly to control her emotions. Whenever she would start to overreact (read all day long!) we would calmly instruct her to place her hand on her mouth and quiet down. This simple, specific action helped her regain her composure and made self-control an obedience issue. Then we would explain what self-control should look like and instruct her to remove her hand and respond in a self-controlled manner (e.g. ask kindly, play cheerfully, stop crying, etc.).

We didn’t ask her much about what she was feeling. We didn’t have long conversations exploring her emotions. We didn’t try to reason with her. We didn’t plead or manipulate, cajole or bribe. We didn’t even talk a whole lot about how emotions are a gift from God or about their God-given purpose. We were not angry or harsh. We were deliberately calm and tender in how we spoke to her. But we were firm and united in teaching this little girl one simple truth: God wanted Caly to learn to control her emotions.

It may seem like we were stifling a young girl’s budding emotions, but our goal was quite the opposite. We wanted to teach Caly how to control and handle her feelings so that she would be able to experience and express her emotions in the way God intended—as a gift from him for his glory.

The first step was to help her build a wall: “A man [or a little girl] without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28).

Caly was a living illustration of this verse, her little soul an exposed and ransacked city, completely overrun by her barbarian emotions because she had no solid, protective, wall of self-control.

Emotional walls are usually thought of negatively these days. We think of them as barriers erected by emotional insecure or hurting people who try to block themselves off from others or from feeling anything at all. Walls=bad. So goes the conventional wisdom, and in many cases this is probably true.

But a wall of self-control is not like the Berlin Wall, erected to entrap and exclude. It is a wall like that of an ancient city or of a beautiful estate that needs protection in order for the inhabitants to dwell in peace.

Self-control is the wall behind which godly emotions flourish.

We have watched this happen in our little girl’s life. Caly is eight now, and she has learned how to handle her emotions. Not that she doesn’t still struggle at times, but she is a different girl than she used to be.

She is not a repressed or unemotional child, but happy and expressive. She feels things strongly and deeply, and is especially sensitive to the things of God. She prays often, has an insatiable hunger to read her Bible, confesses her sin frequently, grieves over her own sin and the sin of others, gets excited about sharing and loving others and encouraging her siblings and cousins to do the same.

I believe her emotions toward God are so strong because, by the grace of God, they have been able to flourish behind a strong wall of self-control. Behind that solid wall—which was arduous to build, and maybe not so attractive to look at—a garden of godly feelings has grown up in sweet safety and protection.

How grateful this weak and desperate mom is for the wisdom from God’s Word that teaches us how to help our little ones earn to handle their emotions.

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Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 13

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

2014 at 8:23 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Q: My friends and I were wondering if you’ve ever done a series on how we as Christian mums can be helping our children, girls particularly, in dealing with their emotions. It can be such a roller coaster ride and our girls are only 5! I’d love to help them grow in godliness in this area (even as little ones) and how my friends and I can help (ourselves &) our daughters understand their emotions. ~Jodie

A. Great question, Jodie! As a mom of three daughters, I’m a repeat rider on that roller coaster that is a girl’s emotions. Not to mention my daughters have six girls between them now so this is an issue we talk about a lot.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones once observed that “one the greatest problems in our life is the right handling of our feelings and emotions.” I would add that this can be one of the greatest problems in our mothering, too!

Moms are professional problem solvers, but sometimes a young girl’s emotions can be overwhelming: Our teenage daughter’s mood swings come and go like dark clouds over our home or our preschooler dissolves into tears over a hang nail and gets scared by reading Winnie-the-Pooh.

That’s why it can help—in those moments when little girl’s tears or teenage girl’s mood swings put a damper on the entire household—to first remember that emotions are a gift from God.

God made us emotional beings. He created that one-minute-squealing-with-delight-next-minute-inconsolably-crying-five-year-old and that hormone-riding-girl-come-woman to feel and express emotion.

He did this on purpose, and not as a cruel joke to exasperate mothers. God made us emotional beings so that we might enjoy and glorify him.

Emotions are from God and emotions are for God. Emotions have a purpose. They are to assist and aid us in directing our whole being and our whole lives to the worship of our glorious Savior!

But like everything else about us, our feelings have been corrupted by the fall, and if not “rightly handled” they cause all kinds of problems. If we are inclined to coddle our child’s emotions (giving them too much attention or credibility) or if we try to ignore our child’s emotions, either way they (and we!) will experience the consequences.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones laments: “Oh the havoc that is wrought, and the tragedy, the misery and the wretchedness that are to be found in the world simply because people do not know how to handle their own feelings!”

Havoc. Misery. Wretchedness. Yep, to any mother with a teenage girl, this sounds about right. Which is why we must teach our children how to rightly handle their emotions. We must help our kids, at every stage of their development, to understand that their emotions are a gift from God to be rightly directed for his glory.

But God doesn’t simply say to us as moms: “Sorry, I know it’s tricky, but just do your best, OK?!” He gives us biblical strategies for teaching our children how to handle their emotions. So we’re going to take a couple of short posts to consider how God’s Word helps us to help our children rightly handle their emotions.