Letter to my child

Dear Friend,

I’m super nervous about sharing this post, but I’ve really felt compelled to be an authentic parent. So, here goes…

Recently I had to write a tough letter to one of my children. I had to go the letter route since it seemed my spoken words were falling on deaf ears. And in our household,  “I didn’t hear you” or “I forgot” is not a valid excuse for wrongdoing.

I’m sharing this letter because there may be some of you out there tearing out your hair not knowing what to do with kids that are too big for a timeout yet too little to benefit from having the car keys taken away and being grounded. Here’s our middle ground and how we felt the “punishment fit the crime”, so to speak, in a recent discipline situation that we found ourselves in.

Dear child,

Recently I asked you not to read any further in your school library book unless you were reading it out loud with either Dad or I.

Because of the fact that you did not to what I asked and instead you chose to continue to read the book on your own, you have lost my trust. This is a big disappointment to me. The good news is, you can regain my trust, but it will take some time and extra effort on your part. (I’ve made a list below)

What we read influences us. It can be for good, like when we read the Bible or an inspiring story. Or it can be bad, too, if we choose to read things containing bad language, violence, unkindness or in this case a series that talk a lot about sorcery and witchcraft. It is so important that we make wise choices in how we spend our time, and what we put into our minds by reading.

In the Bible, Phillipians 4:8 tells us “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

We want to encourage you to read good books that are well-written and fit the verse above–that they are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

Dad and I have decided that this is what you need to do as you work to regain our trust:

1. Return ALL library books and materials–to school and to the public library.

2. Only read books from our home or that we have picked out for you from the public library.

3. Keep a book that Dad or I have approved in your backpack to read on the bus/at school.

4. When you check a book out from the school library, you may not read it until you have brought it home and checked with Dad or I first to make sure it is appropriate for you to read.

5. Within one week, please use a dictionary to look up and write out the definition of the 8 words listed in Philippians 4:8.

6. Memorize Philippians 4:8 and be able to recite it whenever we ask you to. We will memorize it along with you. (You might want to write it on a notecard and use it as your bookmark, practicing it every time you pick up your book to read)


We love you very much, dear one. It’s your choice whether or not you want to apologize for making a bad choice and going through the process to make it right by working hard to earn our trust back.

If you have any questions or want to talk to us about anything in this letter, you know where we live!

Love,

Mom

I had Dan review the letter and agree that it was appropriate and the he was on board before I printed it out and laid the book and letter on my child’s bed so that they could discover and read it privately and process it quietly in their room.

The “discovering the book that was not-supposed-to-be-read yet was still-being-read-covertly” event unfolded  at night as our child was headed to bed (and so were we). It was the end of the day and we were all tired, so being tired + being disappointed = NOT the right time to figure out an appropriate consequence. In my scant 8 years of parenting, I’ve come to realize that it’s ok if it takes some time for you to figure out a logical consequence for the older, wiser kids. And although I  truly wish there was an app that would allow me to type in a child’s “offense” and have it tell me how to react and discipline/train/redirect my child, there isn’t. There’s just me and Dan and God’s word and a myriad of parenting books and the wise counsel of community peppered with common sense and our God-given ability to parent the children we have been given.

Each of my four children are complicated. Each one needs to be parented differently, according to their unique and individual temperaments. If I were to give this same letter to any of my other children, the reactions might vary from a dramatic scene of a slammed door with wracking sobs of anguish to be heard for at least an hour while I wouldn’t put it past one of my other precious darlings to rip up my letter and eat it while staring daggers at me, then releasing a mighty, rage-filled scream before causing damage to a wall in our home followed by drenching us in a few hours of silence and angry stares.

But because I’ve studied my children, I know that this child needed exactly this. A clear explanation of what went wrong, how to ask for forgiveness and the steps to restitution.

We love each of our kids way too much to let them slip in small ways in these younger years. You might read this and think, “man, this is harsh. It was just a little book!” but we feel that if left undisciplined, we could be setting our precious child up to think it’s alright for them to slide through the doorways to bigger, badder decisions with worser consequences in their tween and teen years.

So although this morning was tough as my child realized an unfinished book they desperately wanted to read and look at had already been returned to the library per the consequences of last week’s actions, I am hopeful that in the long run they  might someday look back and be thankful for parents who cared enough to correct and re-direct in their younger years saving them from worse consequences than having to choose books from mom & dad’s reading list for a few months.

I have to admit, this “punishment” has been a great reminder to me that I need to be modeling wise choices, reading things that are good and lovely and pure and …well, guess I need to keep working on memorizing that verse too. I enjoyed spending some time at the library the other day looking for the “good” and “inspiring” books not just for my child, but also for myself.

I’m so thankful for a God who knows I will make wrong choices and disappoint Him, yet every time I mess up He allows me to say I’m sorry, immediately forgives me, and gives me a chance to take the steps to make it right with Him. That basic principle has been key to how I parent my kids, and I hope you’ll find it helpful in your next parenting dilemma too. Because there’s sure to be one coming…they never stop coming!

Stay close to the Lord,

Jenna

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5 thoughts on “Letter to my child”

  1. I feel embarrassed (and inspired to do better) that I am not as perceptive w/ Ewen as you are with your children. I’m still at a quandary most times with how to deal with him. I’ll have to try and study this super-smart stubborn control-freak a little better. If you have any suggestions with how to deal with too-smart-for-their-own-good super-stubborn control-crazy children, let me know!

    1. Oh Amy, I’ve had 8 years to work on this child, but I admit I’m still stumped on Mr. T. Lots of prayer. Lots and lots of prayer for starters. Look for some books on raising strong-willed children and/or boys as well, they might help provide some insight and strategies. We have found that if you have a plan, things work a lot better than simply reacting. The problem with that strategy is that things come up that you never planned for (like my story about the covert-“illegal”-book-reading), but reacting in a calm and logical manner then staying consistent always beats out my bad knee-jerk angry reactions. Plus I don’t have to go back later and apologize for those ones!

      1. Oh, yeah. I really have to work hard at controlling the temper. And that’s exactly what he’s trying to get me to do. He seems to love getting me to blow up! Lately, what has been working best is to not give him the opportunity to disobey. For instance, “Do not do that again or you will go to time out (sit there longer, lose your i-pod, get a spanking, fill in the blank.)” He will almost ALWAYS choose to take the punishment, because then he has the control (even though we always follow through.) If there is no option, he seems to be better behaved. For example, “You will NOT do that again! Do you understand me?” He will usually not do it again. I really should read some of those books about strong-willed children. I wonder how MY parents handled it! haha! (They didn’t have my personality. That’s how they handled it! Ewen and I are waaaay too much alike!)

  2. Awww, Jenna…thanks for sharing this! We desire to parent this same way…though I must admit, often I react not-so-calmly at first (like I’m shocked I was lied to by a kid I trusted…forgetting they’re still kids, and human!), and then I have to go back and ask them to forgive me for MY sinful reaction. 😦 Our boys do a lot of reading a chapter and writing out the verse or two that speak to their situation. 🙂 I like how you left it for the child to process on their own first…my 8-yr-old would appreciate getting to process it that way, so I will tuck that idea back. 🙂 Great example! ~Angela

    1. Hey Angie! Yes, giving time to process is HUGE–that’s what I need too. Although I want everything resolved, wrapped up, and finished ASAP, I have been learning to be patient and give time and space so that there is a lot less of the me needing to go back and apologize for my heated “in the moment” responses. I’m so thankful that there’s hope for the next generation because there are parents out there doing their jobs and raising good, God-fearing kids/future adults!

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