Back to school. Return to routine. New chapters are beginning. We are in a completely new season of life at our house this August. For the first time everyone is going to school. My youngest will begin preschool in just a few short weeks and my middle kid started kindergarten. My oldest—a school veteran—is transitioning to a homeschool hybrid (school 2 days homeschool 3 days). Everyone is beginning a new chapter. The excitement of new beginnings is booming within the walls of our home. As a feeler, I am a but overstimulated and finding myself fighting the inkling of tears at the edges of my eyes as I process all that is going on in our lives. Newness abounds and God is growing each of us in some awesome ways!
As my middle kiddo, Rachel, embarked on full-time school, it left her younger sister, Lauren without her playmate. These two have created quite a bond over the last two years of being home together. At almost 4 and 6, they have learned to work together, share clothes, toys, and the iPad when given the chance.
The first week of school was only three days, but by Friday I was contemplating putting the youngest on the bus in place of her older sister. Lauren was driving me to the brink of insanity. She had been very destructive and reckless since the start of school. One day of odd behavior can easily be accredited to being tired or under the weather or something…but three days?! I was concerned we were entering a new phase of testing the boundaries. The timing was bad as I am trying to re-establish my school-year routines and get back to writing on a regular basis—re-training my almost four year old in the ways of our household was NOT on my to-do list! As the week drew to an end I was asking God for wisdom on how to handle the behavior she was exhibiting. My instincts said to bring down the gauntlet and punish her. She needed to know that her behavior will bring swift consequences. Although her behavior was not true to her character (in this extreme dose anyway) I wanted to pick up offense and begin seeing this as an act of defiance. Thankfully, I have wise friends on Facebook and as a reply to my post on putting Lauren on the bus in place of Rachel, a friend commented that when things change the younger ones are quick to test boundaries.
A light bulb went off and I stopped plotting to parallel my punishment with her crimes. I spent time in prayer. When I began asking God what to do with Lauren, he said, “Go after her heart.” I felt like he showed me that she was missing her sister and at three (almost 4) she is not able to express the feelings bouncing around in her heart. She was feeling the shift and not handling it well. So on Friday night, I went after her heart.
I decided she needed some time with just me. I put her on the back of my bike and we took off on an adventure. We went to the local dollar store and got a ice cream treat from their cooler and enjoyed every little bite. Then, we biked to the park and played together. I watched her countenance change before my very eyes! On our 1.5 mile trek home, she was laying up against my back with her arms wrapped around my waist and she was repeating again and again, “I love you Mama. I just love you!”
Later that night, I was reflecting on the evening we had and I heard a little whisper of a lie creep in.
“Instead of punishing her you rewarded her. You showed her it’s okay to act the way she wants.”
Thankfully, I knew it to be a lie. I watched a little girl who was feeling overwhelmed with emotions and acting out, calm down and get a big dose of reality: she is loved. She needed to be reassured of her place in the family and that all the attention being put on the other two starting school was temporary. My response to her behavior needs to be through the lens of our relationship before it is put through the rigors of our rules.
This is a HARD truth for me to accept. This is completely opposite of how I was raised and how I have parented up until this summer. I am also not saying that consequences and punishment are not part of the parenting tool box that we tote around every day. However, I am trying to evaluate the situation more closely with the use of Holy Spirit when I can. I want to make a heart connection above all else when it comes to my kids.
We are still learning the flow of our new normal and it will change again in a few weeks when she starts school, but this little lesson will stay with me. When you have a chance to make a heart connection, do it! When behavior shifts, seek God’s wisdom and his perspective—there may be a underlying cause.
We are parenting to the Glory of God and He chose us in our imperfect places to shepherd souls into the future. He knows what He’s doing, even if we just don’t sometimes.
August. Bitter and Sweet, August. You give us a break and break our hearts as we know another year of learning is beginning and being taken away from our hands. I pray that as all my parent readers head into a new school year, you see with supernatural eyes all the things your kids are processing through. Change is different for each person, and even good change can be hard to process. Give grace in abundance and bathe their sweet little souls in prayer!
I just finished the book “Loving your Kids on Purpose” in the first week of August and this scenario was such a cool opportunity to begin to do things in a new and intentional way. I will give a full review of the book in the weeks to come!