Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Easter - part 1

Easter is coming up in just over three weeks (in case you hadn't noticed all the chocolate in the supermarket...).

For our family, that means it's time to consider how we remember Christ's death and celebrate his resurrection.

Some will recall that our family does Advent readings in the lead up to Christmas. In an effort to reclaim Easter in the same way, we also do family bible readings in the lead up to Easter Sunday.

We have a 14-day plan, all from Matthew's gospel, each day has a bible reading, a few questions and a prayer. In addition each day matches to a colourful egg which is opened to reveal a special verse for the day and an item to remind us of the bible reading. See previous posts here and here if you would like more details.

If you would like to do something for your family, there is still time to design your own - we don't start our readings for another 10 days. If you would like to use my material, I'm happy to share - have a look at the resources tab.

If you would like to consider other material, try Easter Unscrambled, a resource by the Good Book Company. It's 3 weeks of daily bible reading notes for children (XTB) and also material for families (Table Talk) to do together. We have used this material before and it's always very good. The XTB part would be good for competent (or almost competent) readers who still like activity books, and the Table Talk would be suitable for all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Angelina Ballerina

Angelina Ballerina, Katharine Holabird, ill. Helen Craig

Some people tend to avoid the books which have become TV series, often I suspect because they have seen the TV series first and aren't that impressed.

Thankfully, we discovered Angelina Ballerina in book form first, and we quite like her (I don't like her as much in the various TV series).

With two girls after a boy, it took us a long time to move out of the Thomas the Tank Engine book phase and find girly books. Angelina adds a very girly dimension to any household. The idea of someone (or somemouse) growing up to be a ballerina appeals to most little girls at some stage, and these books are lovely.

While the stories themselves are good, I think the real strength of these books is the illustrations. I doubt they would be as popular without Helen Craig's brilliant, detailed drawings. They capture Angelina's whole life and details of her home and village.

Our Miss 3.5 currently loves Angelina's Birthday so much we read it every night and she can recite almost half of it - how lovely she is to listen to!

The Busy Christian... Chapter 7

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
Chapter 7: I’m busy because I need to prove myself – the liberating rest of God

The lie: justification by work

In removing God from society, we have forgotten grace. We no longer work (and rest) to glorify God, rather we work, and find value in, the work itself.
“The pressure of time in everyday life is not primarily the result of the development of clocks and watches. More significant were changes in world-view leading to a less God-centred and grace-based approach to life in favour of a more man-centred and work-justifying attitude.” (quoting Robert Banks). This creates the drive to work and work and work. Your identity depends on it. And so we work on, even though it is harming our health, our families and our relationships. (p90)
The concept of the purpose of work has also changed, one used to be able to measure work by the service it brought to God and others. No more, it is now measured by the self-fulfilment it brings, the satisfaction I get from it:
Work is judged not by the service it renders to others, but by the service it renders to me, the worker. (p91)
We are supposed to seek jobs that satisfy us and meet our needs. We are somehow driven to feel that unless we are busy, our lives are not worthwhile or important enough.

Chester then makes some helpful points for those of us in ministry. He notes that those who work the longest hours are often the most insecure, they feel the need to prove themselves. He also gives a warning:
Don’t tell people you are busy. If you tell people you’re busy what they will hear is, ‘I don’t have time for you.’ (p94).
How true that is. Do you find people say to you, “I didn’t want to bother you because I know you are busy.” Partially it’s a misguided assumption that you are important, so you must be busy (which Chester talks about on p93). However, some of it is our own fault – we project busyness, we look busy, we tell people how tired we are, and we struggle to fit them into our diary for 2-3 weeks.

How do you manage this? Do you find yourself hinting to people just how busy you are? Why – do you want to look important? Do you want people to think you are doing your job properly?
What risks are there in this lie for those of us in ministry?

The truth: justification by grace

Jesus offers rest from the burden of self-justification:
We are accepted by God… I am a sinner saved by grace and all I contribute to that identity is the sin bit. (p95)

A still heart

Chester goes on to examine what a still heart looks like in Psalms 130 and 131. At the end of each of these chapters, he turns to a Psalm and applies it to the passage. They are very helpful and I recommend you read them yourself to get the full value.
…with the Lord is unfailing love and full redemption (see Ps 130:7). Unfailing and complete. His love never runs out and his salvation is wholly adequate. Every act of self-justification is a denial that with the Lord there is full redemption. We act as if Christ’s death goes so far, but we somehow need to be busy completing the job with our petty attempts to self-atone. We act as if God’s love will fail if we are not busy proving ourselves worthy. Unfailing love and full redemption set us free from self-justifying busyness. (p97)

I leave you with Psalm 131 to reflect on:
1 My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

Next week – Chapter 8: I’m busy because of other people’s expectations

Friday, March 25, 2011

10 great dates before you say "I do"

10 Great Dates Before You Say "I Do", David & Claudia Arp and Curt & Natelle Brown

As we continue to help prepare couples for marriage, I find it helpful to have books to recommend. This has been a priority for us over the last few years. I have finally read all the books I bought 2 years ago, and I finish with this one.

Like 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged (see review here), this is a very practical book to help couples prepare for marriage. It is structured, as the title obviously suggests, around 10 dates or topics for conversation. It is meant to function as a workbook - you each read the chapter, rip out the page at the back for each of you to work through and then get together and discuss.

They cover most topics I would have thought of including:
  • sharing hopes, dreams and expectations
  • appreciating differences (helpful in highlighting different personalities and how they interact)
  • communication
  • problem solving
  • finances (this made me realise we should be more specific about financial issues with couples)
  • leaving and cleaving (this was a very helpful chapter)
  • intimacy
  • roles and children
For couples who are willing to put time into this book and treat it as a tool, there would be great benefits. Similarly, if are couple are unable or unwilling to do a marriage preparation course, this would be a good second choice. Combined with a tool like FOCCUS or PREPARE, it would certainly cover most issues. Ideally, if this book was the only tool used, one would encourage them to have another couple to talk to about issues raised.

Reading this book has highlighted for me the value of a book like Married for God, which fills a great void. In it, Ash does not deal with the how-to of marriage, but rather the why of marriage, what God's purpose is for our marriage and how we serve him through it. (if you want to read the whole series of posts on Married for God go over to in tandem).

Having said that - couples preparing for marriage also need the practical stuff. This book is another that does that job well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

God knows all about me

God knows all about me, Kate Toms

This book has become my new favourite present for newborn babies.

Kate Toms has created a delightful book perfect for little babies and toddlers. All the illustrations are hand-stitched so they are fun and interesting to look at. The verse is lovely:
From my fingers to my toes,
from my knees to my nose,
God knows all about me...

When I'm good, when I'm bad,
when I'm happy, when I'm sad
God knows all about me...

When I whisper when I shout
when I let my feelings out
God knows all about me...

Fun, and one of our more recent favourites.

The Busy Christian... Chapter 6

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
Chapter 6: Getting to the heart of busyness
People do not feel stressed simply because they have a lot on. Most of us enjoy doing lots of things. We only feel busy when we try to do more that we can. The problem is not expecting to do a lot, but expecting to do more than is possible. (p77)
Yet, the simple truth is God does not expect me to do more than I can. We all have limitations, be they time, energy, circumstances. So, if God does not expect me to do more than I can, the question for us is: Why am I trying to do more than I can?

The answer to that is comes from the answer to this: what are the desires of your heart? The most important step in dealing with busyness is: Identify the desires of your heart that make you try to do more than God expects of you.

The question all of us need to ask ourselves is – is our busyness rooted in sin? It is really idolatry?
We can spot idolatrous busyness because it will eventually cause harm – in our bodies, our families, our churches and our relationship with God. If your health, marriage, friendships, Christian service or relationship with God is suffering because of your busyness then you need to address the idols in your life. (p84)
For the next 6 chapters, Chester will look at some of the lies promoted by the world and the devil that lead people to be too busy. In each, he explores the counter truth – the liberating promise of God which repudiates each lie.
Our struggle with busyness is the struggle to believe God’s liberating promises for ourselves so that they shape our attitudes and actions. We may feel enslaved by our busyness and our schedules. But at the root of that slavery are the lies of Satan which are perpetrated by our culture. If we are to be set free, we must expose those lies and counter them with God’s word. More important than managing time is managing our hearts. (p86).

Next week – Chapter 7: I’m busy because I need to prove myself

Friday, March 18, 2011

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson, D. A. Carson
I have been meaning to read this book for ages, I gave it to Husband for his birthday 2 years ago, and he both enjoyed it and found it quite sobering. D. A. Carson has written the book as a memoir of his father's life and ministry using his journals, letters, sermons and other written material. Tom Carson ministered in French speaking Canada for much of his life. It was a gospel-centred ministry, but one that (in human terms) was not particularly successful, he ministered to people without seeing much growth or many conversions. He didn't run a mega-church. He wasn't the keynote speaker at major conferences. However, he was a faithful man who preached the truth and desired to see people saved and grow in Christ. That is why Carson refers to him as an ordinary pastor. Rather than desiring to be the next big preacher, church-planter, speaker, etc - this is what those of us in full-time ministry should actually be aspiring to. A life of faithfulness for as long as God gives us. Actually, this is what all of us (paid ministry or not) should be aiming for. It's a humbling read of a man's walk with God as he sought to serve him all the days of his life - both in the ministry and his family. At times, Tom struggled with depression or at least despondency over his ministry and it's perceived lack of fruit. There are helpful chapters for others in ministry who feel the same way. The most moving part of the book is the account of the years where he takes care of his wife, Marj, as she declines with Alzheimer's:
"She looked after me all my life," he would say; "it's my turn to look after her. And it's a privilege." (p135)
Carson summarises his father and his life:
He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday's grace was never enough. He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity... He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists... Dad won entrance to the only throne room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man - he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor - but because he was a forgiven man. And he heard to the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord." (p147-8)
By God's grace, so may we all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Calvin - Chapter 12

Chapter XII: How God Is to Be So Distinguished from Idols that Perfect Honor May Be Given to Him Alone

There is one God alone and nothing belonging to his divinity can be transferred to another:
unless everything proper to his divinity resides in the one God, he is despoiled of his honor, and the reverencing of him profaned. (I, xii, 1, p118)
When any other being, be it human, idol, saint or other is revered like a god, we are stripping honour due to God himself.

How might we strip this honour from God today?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How old are your spices?

Have you looked at your spice rack recently? I wonder if all spice racks accurately tell the time that the home was set up? (ie you moved out, got married, etc)

It turns out I have a number of spice jars that are 10 years past their use-by date.

Here is my suggested scenario:
  • you get married/move out and set up a home
  • you decide to try to learn to cook all sorts of new recipes
  • you try a range of new things, some work and some don't
  • the ones which you didn't like still required the purchase of ingredients
  • some of those ingredients, like spices, sit on a shelf for years to come

Which are mine?
  • Ground coriander seeds - expiry 03/02
  • Chinese five spice (used for one meal and one only) - expiry 08/01. Still a very full jar.
  • Ground cloves - expiry 07/01
And the winner is:
  • Sage leaves - expiry 02/01 - used once per year for the stuffing recipe for Christmas turkey, still only half empty
Have a look at your spice rack. Which ones are embarrassingly out of date? If yours are longer than mine, my guess is you set up a house before I did in 1999.

Who has the most out of date spice in their home? See if you can beat me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cecil the Lost Sheep

Cecil The Lost Sheep, Andrew McDonough

One of the best recent series of Christian books for young children is the Lost Sheep series, which starts with Cecil The Lost Sheep. This first book was only published in 2006, yet there are now 20 books (see the website).

Andrew McDonough has a real skill for taking bible stories and making them accessible for children, by using fun creatures, bright exciting illustrations and humour. They are great for groups, as they are fun to read out loud. Our children's programs at church has many of these books now and the children love them.

Cecil is based on the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7. But he adds fun extra stuff to turn it into an exciting and interesting story for kids:
One day Cecil was daydreaming. "Boring, boring, boring. All I do is hang around with sheep, eat grass, wander down to the river for bit of a drink and eat more grass. Maybe I could run away and, and ...get a bike... or join a band!"

Cecil looked rght.
Cecil looked left.
He jumped over his rock and hid.
As with any book series, some are stronger than others and some you will prefer over others - we have really enjoyed this one, Jonah and the Whale, Basil the Branch, Bob the Bird and others. We haven't read them all.

They are cheap (~$5 per book) making them perfect for presents and gifts for larger groups of children. And one final plug for South Australians - they are produced in Adelaide, by a team (I think) of Adelaideans.

Good fun Christian books for kids.

The Busy Christian... Chapter 5

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
Chapter 5: Glorify God all the time

Sometimes we ask - how can we serve God when our lives are already so busy? We need to question the validity of such a question,
in the biblical worldview all of life – ‘ordinary life’ can and should be lived for God’s glory. We struggle to find time for God when in fact all of our time can be lived with him and for him. We feel guilty about not doing more as Christians when we are already spending 24 hours a day as Christians. (p61)
Glorifying God does not mean withdrawing from society to only read the bible and pray in quiet. It means glorifying God in all of the normal things of life:
the goal of biblical spiritual is conformity to Christ. It is to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. And the cross was not a place of serenity. It was a place of selflessness and sacrificial love in the midst of hate and violence. Even client, every customer, every colleague presents us with an opportunity to show love. (p63)

We should take delight in our work just as God takes delight in his work. We exist because God is a worker and continues to work today. Work is commended in the bible as a good thing. We do not need to separate work from more spiritual things, all things can glorify God:
the path of Christian discipleship is not away from the world. We can serve God as we change nappies, write emails, lay bricks, spread plaster, research essays and so on. If we do these things ‘in faith, love and holiness with propriety’ we will persevere in our salvation. (p67)
But, it is also true that we can find work frustrating, oppressive and idolatrous. Sin has affected our work, just like all other parts of life on earth. Work involves toil, it can be frustrating, workers can be exploited and people can use it to bring glory to themselves.

However, Christians find a renewed commitment to working for the glory of God. The attitude of Christians to their work, as well as their conduct, is to commend the gospel.

Chester finishes by challenging us to stop compartmentalising our lives. Our mission field can be at work, our leisure can be spent with work people, and we can have church friends and non-Christians over at the same time. When we seek to glorify God all the time, the boundaries between work, church, family and ministry become blurred and we are less concerned about separating them.

Some things to think about:
  • Does it help to realise that you already live 24 hours a day as Christian?
  • In what areas do you need to grow in godliness as you glorify God all the time? At work? As a spouse? As a parent?
  • In full-time ministry, work and ministry/mission are combined. Does that make it easier or harder for you to see the value in your work?
  • Do you feel you understand the pulls on your congregation members who have to manage work as well as ministry, yet still give time to their families? Are you sympathetic to their challenges?

We’ve seen that what we do & how we do it matters more than how much we do. Next we begin to turn to why we do it – getting to the heart of our busyness. Chapter 6 – next week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Confident Parenting

Confident Parenting, Jim Burns

This book has been on my 'to read' list for about 2 years now, I started it once or twice and never finished it - very frustrating. In an effort to clear all parenting books off my shelf for a while, I have finally bunkered down and read it.

It's a useful book with good ideas. Really it's an introduction and it does well at raising issues, and starting to solve them. Those who want specific ideas of what to do next might want to read further. However, when thinking about the main things that affect parents, it's a good tool.

Burns' basic idea is that you need a plan to parent, if you just go at it day to day, you are unlikely to define, let alone attain, any goals for your children.
If our goal is to raise responsible adults (not simply make our kids happy), it is very important that we develop a plan and purpose to follow... Start thinking about what you want your children to be like when they you grow up... What I'm talking about is a parenting plan that will help develop character, integrity, faith, responsibility, discipline, a servant's heart, moral discernment, and so many of the other most important inner qualities of a healthy soul. (p25)

Then he deals with some major challenges for parents:
  • overcoming negative family patterns - choosing to change the bad patterns of the past
  • recognising our overcrowded lives and choosing to replenish them instead
  • communicating with affection, warmth and encouragement (this sounded very familiar, until I realised he is also the author of this book)
  • balancing grace and discipline in the home
  • taking responsibility for spiritual growth in the home
  • leaving a legacy for your children (a spiritual legacy, not financial!)

I've read so many parenting books over the last few years, I have to say they are all starting to sound the same - however, this is yet another one that is good.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Calvin - Chapter 11

Well - I did say I was hoping to get back into reading Calvin this year, after it all fell apart last year. I had managed 10 chapters, so now resume with Chapter 11. Follow this link to see all previous posts. I'm happy to see both Cathy and Meredith also seem to be trying again too (although I think they are a little ahead of me)!

Chapter XI: It is Unlawful to Attribute a Visible Form to God, and Generally Whoever Sets Up Idols Revolts Against the True God.

We have good reasons for rejecting images in worship:
  1. The Bible forbids any pictorial representation of God
  2. Every representation of God contradicts his being
  3. Even signs of God's presence (eg. clouds, fire, smoke, dove) given no justification for images - for the restrict our minds to only one aspect.
  4. Images and pictures are contrary to Scripture. Isaiah 44:12-17 clearly shows how at odds it is for one to use some wood for a fire to burn bread and some of the same wood from which to carve a god to pray to.
Calvin then takes some time refuting the Catholic doctrine on this matter. He takes offense at the claim that images are used to teach those who otherwise cannot read and understand the truth for themselves. This, he claims is the church's own fault - for they did not teach them the truths of the gospel.

He touches on the use of art and sculpture as gifts from God, but is clear that they can easily turn into idolatry as well.

This was a very long chapter and I'm not going to go into any more details.

In the end, the point is - God is God and no-one but God can ever comprehend how powerful, majestic and holy He is. Therefore, how could we ever hope to confine him to an image created from our minds?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Are you guilty as charged?
It’s amazing how we spend nine months coming up with beautiful names for our children, and the only time we call them by that name is when we are angry. (Kids are worth it!, Barbara Coloroso, p213)
I am sometimes!

(photo from stock.xchng)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Where is the Green Sheep?

Where is the Green Sheep? Mem Fox, ill. Judy Horacek

We return to another Mem Fox book this week, which has also topped the family favourite list for the last 5 years or so.

An extremely simple concept, using the ideas of opposites and matching ideas, one keeps looking for the green sheep, nowhere to be found amongst many others:
Here is the blue sheep.
And here is the red sheep.
Here is the bath sheep.
And here is the bed sheep.
But where is the green sheep?
Judy Horacek has created wonderful illustrations - fun, vivid and simple.

What I love about this book is that babies love looking at it and hearing it read, toddlers will memorise it and pretend they are reading it, and early readers will gain confidence from realising they actually can read it. A great books for older children to read to younger siblings.

The Busy Christian... Chapter 4

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness
Chapter 4
: Sort out your priorities

Paul exhorts his readers to ‘redeem the time’ or ‘make the most of every opportunity’ (Col 4:5 and Eph 5:16). Does that mean we always need to be busy? We can’t relax or take a break? No. Paul is not talking about the minutes and hours of our days, but the ‘times’ we live in and the opportunities we have.
To redeem the time is not to fill our days with activity. It’s a call to live as children of light. We are to live in a way appropriate for the time in which we live, and the time in which Christians live is the coming new age that is breaking into the darkness. It is about what we do, not how much we do. (p50)
To get our priorities right, we seek to put the kingdom of God first. We are to be gospel-centred. Paul and Jesus at the end of their lives could say they had completed the job they were given. They did not have long lives, they did not finish the to-do list yet,
Jesus and Paul could speak of speak of completing the work not because they had completed a defined task, but because they had worked faithfully throughout their lives… The ‘success’ of our lives will be measured not in what we have ‘achieved’ but in our faithfulness. (p52)

Chester suggests that most people order their lives in this way:

lifestyle => job => home => church => ministry

That is, you choose the lifestyle you want, then the job to fund it, then the home nearby, then a church that works, then a ministry we might do. He calls this leftover discipleship – the time for Christian community comes from what is leftover at the end of the week.

To put the kingdom of God first is to reverse it so that church and ministry are first:

ministry =>church => home => job => lifestyle

Once you have thought through your church and ministry, keeping service (not just my gifts) at the forefront of our decision making, then we can consider when we may live which assists our ministry, followed by a job that allows us to do our ministry and a standard of living that allows us to serve God. “Discipleship means living for Jesus and letting everything else fit around that.” (p57)

For many of us in full-time ministry, we may feel like we have already made this decision. So, the question may become – do you find contentment in this, or do you wish for more? Have you decided to work to enable an increase in lifestyle? Do you resent those in your congregation who have the home or lifestyle you would like?

He concludes with some comments about ‘me-time’ and family time.

For me-time – we need to be careful that ‘me-time’ does not become an excuse to self-indulgence. “We are called to balance work and rest. But we are not called to balance service and self-indulgence.” (p58)

As for family time, consider your aspirations for your children, for that is where our true values surface. ‘Do you hope your children will be comfortable and well-paid? Or do you hope they will be radical, risk-taking gospel workers?’ (p59) He challenges us to think about making service the thing that unites us as families, doing something together for the good of others.

Things to think about:
  • Are you able to view your success as a measure of faithfulness not achievement? How do you measure on that scale?
  • How is your life ordered? Does some of the order need to change?
  • Do you tend to overindulge in your me-time?
  • What are your true dreams for your children?
  • How do you talk to others in your congregation about these things?

We’ve seen that what you do matters more than how much you do. Next week we turn to how you do it matters more than how much you do. So, the next step is: Glorify God all the time. Chapter 5, next week.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kids are worth it! part 2 of 2

Kids are worth it! Barbara Coloroso

Yesterday, I covered the area of discipline which Coloroso outlines and which I appreciated.

Some other areas she addresses are:
  • money – teaching kids to manage money
  • teaching children how to manage anger
  • helping children solve problems themselves – when something is wrong, giving them the skills to fix it
  • encouragement, feedback and discipline
  • chores
  • sibling rivalry
  • big problems – dealing with kids in jail, drugs and attempted suicide (at this point, I was surprised she didn’t talk about STDs and pregnancy)
There are some really helpful things in each of these areas – some of which you hope you’ll never have to deal with, and others you certainly will.

As with any book though (especially any parenting book), there will always be things we disagree with. My hesitations are:

1. I was interested to note that I disagreed with most of her principles for younger children – sleep, toilet training, food, etc. The way she espouses was not the way we did it. However, I am happy with how we managed those stages. Which made me wonder if I’ll disagree with the stuff for older children more when my kids are older (but I suspect not).

2. Because it’s a secular book there’s a lack of any overarching philosophy or reasoning. Kids are worth it! Why? No real reason. It ends up rather self-focused – you are worth it, your kids are worth it. For those of us who believe in a creator God, I think we can say that kids are worth it because they, like all of us, are made in the image of God. I have no idea what her faith is (she was a nun, but is now married), but she appeals to any and all faiths and philosophies to make her points, which for me makes it weaker.

3. Throughout the book she has three kinds of families – brick wall, jellyfish and backbone (can you guess from the descriptions which 2 are bad and which one is good!?). I could see her point with this, but again and again these descriptions and the illustrations surrounding them grated with me – they were often so extreme. You could see parts of yourself in some (we would tend towards being a brick-wall – lots of rules - family). I found it alienating at times, rather than helpful. I suspect some readers could just end up offended.

However, I still think this is a book worth reading – it will make you think and even if you disagree with her on some points, it will help you define why.

I think it has value for two main groups:

1. Parents of children and teenagers (rather than babies and toddlers). There are things of value for younger children, and if you agree with her principles you would want to adopt them early on, however most of the issues she deals with are related to older children.

2. Non-Christian parents. Most parenting books I read are grounded in a Christian framework. That’s not to say I agree with them all, but their authors are Christians and unreservedly so. This makes recommending such books to non-Christian friends a little inappropriate at times. This would be a good book to give to non-Christians.

So, thanks to the friend who recommended it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kids are worth it! part 1 of 2

Kids are worth it! Barbara Coloroso

As more people read my blog, more people suggest reading material (which I love, by the way). Someone has even given me a book and others have given me book vouchers – what a treat! A while ago a parent of teenagers suggested this book. It took me a while to find the revised edition, but I have done so and have finally read it.

Kids are worth it! (subtitled – giving your child the gift of inner discipline) by Barbara Coloroso has some great suggestions, ideas and principles.

Today I’m going to go through some of the main strengths of the book, and then tomorrow I’ll make some more general comments and mention some of my hesitations. I’ve spread it over two days so that the posts aren’t too long!

Her three overarching tenets for parenting techniques are as follows:
  • Kids are worth it (which includes all kids, not just your own)
  • I will not treat a child in a way I myself would not want to be treated
  • If it works, and leaves a child’s dignity and mine intact, do it. (p3-4)
The main area where I liked what she had to say was with discipline. It helped me to see a more helpful framework for considering discipline in our home. Her four steps of discipline are:
  1. Show children what they have done wrong
  2. Give them ownership of the problem
  3. Help them find ways of solving the problem
  4. Leave their dignity intact (p79)
She goes on to outline consequence – discipline involves ‘real-world consequences’. “It deals with the reality of the situation with the control of the adult” (p80). If real-world consequences are not life-threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy – her theory is let the child experience the real-world consequences. (eg. if a child spills their drink, they need to learn to clean it up and have a plastic cup, rather than be sent to their room. Or, if a teenager smashes the car, they need to organise and pay for the repair, and take the bus until repairs are made, rather than being grounded.)

However, sometimes the natural consequences aren’t there or they don’t add much to learning – so then it’s time to consider reasonable consequences. For this, she used RSVP as a way to check if a consequence is reasonable:
  • R – Is it reasonable? Does it make sense? A toddler couldn’t sweep up the broken glass, but she can get out a plastic one to use next time.
  • S – Is it simple? You don’t need detailed lists of rules – but rather the idea of ‘if you have a problem, you need to have a plan for solving it’.
  • V – It is valuable as a learning tool? Having to replace a damaged library book is more valuable that saying you can’t borrow books from the library any more.
  • P – Is it practical? Saying you can’t go to school until your bed is made isn’t practical. Saying you won’t be able to play after school until your bed is made is practical.

She finished the chapter on all this with this quote from James Hymes:
building a conscience is what discipline is about. The goal is for a youngster to end up believing in decency, and acting – whether anyone is watching or not – in helpful and kind and generous and thoughtful ways. (p89)

I found these principles helpful and they made me think about how we can choose natural and logical consequences for behaviour or other problems. Really helpful stuff.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I read parenting books

Why I read parenting books

Regular readers will know I have reviewed a number of parenting books over the years (they are all listed and some summarised on this page).

Some people hate reading parenting books because it makes them feel guilty and inadequate. I perfectly understand that. There’s no better way to feel bad as a parent than read what you said to your children this morning as an example of what ‘not to do’!

I don’t read parenting books to find answers, rules and ‘you musts’. I don’t think it’s possible that any one author has everything right nor do I think there is only one right way to parent.

However I read them because they keep me thinking. They give me ideas and suggestions and make me evaluate what patterns we have subconsciously fallen into.

Reading parenting books helps me to think freshly again. I know my children better than anyone, I know their areas of sinfulness and I certainly know my own! Sometimes I can’t see clearly anymore. A fresh idea can help. Also, everything changes so quickly with parenting. Mr almost 8 is in a composite class this year, so some of his friends will be turning 10 – which is almost puberty for some these days. I don’t need to think about sleep or toilet training anymore, but I do need to think about chores, money and sexuality.

The book I’ll be reviewing over the next two days has got me thinking about having older children – details tomorrow!