Monday, October 28, 2013

Finding Joy in Motherhood - How God Used Discipline to Change My Heart



Recently I was asked to speak to a group of mothers on discipline. Below is my transcript from that event. As I say below, If you have struggled with finding joy in motherhood and parenting, weary with knowing how to discipline, listen to my journey and see if it can be an encouragement to you. 


Hi, my name is Heidi Cooper and I have been married for 18 years to my husband, Tony. We have three kids: Evan-who is 12, Addie-who is 8, and Isaiah-who is 5.  I always wanted to be a mom. My mom did an excellent job showing me the importance of motherhood. I went off to college with the intent of finding a good husband and then starting a family and staying home to be a mom.

Pre-motherhood is full of big dreams and great intentions, your kids are going to become great missionaries who save the lost people of Africa and you have weekly games constructed to prepare them for life in the bush (or whatever your dream may be). But even the best prepared mom quickly realizes a few short weeks into motherhood that the days are longer and harder than you anticipated. Soon those long days with the struggles of doubt of raising a newborn, gradually become seeds of impatience with a learning toddler who thinks everything belongs to her and should be available to her at all times, which grows into frustration towards a messy preschooler who resembles a small indoor tornado leaving a mile-wide path of destruction wherever he roams, and next thing you know, yelling empty threats is becoming a part of your daily schedule to your disobedient 9 year old who has developed a keen sense of knowing what and whose buttons to push at the perfect time.  You know theoretically that you are the one who is suppose be in charge around here so you hastily bark out something, anything to get their attention. 
Stop yelling at your brother!

Why can’t you remember something as simple as flushing the toilet?

Is it so hard to put the shoes 1 foot farther to the right so they are actually in the closet?

Do you know how hard I worked to get us ready for this vacation and all you can do is fight with your sister? Now get in the car, we are going to go have fun as a family!

You know what is spewing out of your mouth is wrong, but at the same time you do not even care because you feel the need to release your venom!

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Certainly not the description of the Proverbs 31 woman! Well, I have good news and I have bad news for you. The good news…you are not alone! Don’t believe everything you see on Pinterest and Facebook.  Not all mothering moments are instagram worthy!
The bad news… kids copy what they see modeled for them, so it’s probably your own fault. At least that’s what the Lord showed me. If you have struggled with finding joy in motherhood and parenting, weary with knowing how to discipline, listen to my journey and see if it can be an encouragement to you. 
Three years ago, God began to move our family in a new direction. He moved us from sending the kids to a private Christian school to homeschooling. This meant having them home, all day, all year, and being responsible for their entire education.  At the same time, we felt Him leading my husband to quit his full-time computer programming job and go to seminary full time. This added the challenge of no money and less dad time.

My shortcomings surfaced real quickly. And I was fairly certain we were going to all hate each other by Thanksgiving. You’ve heard the saying “Be sure your sin will find you out?” Well, you can also be sure your kids will be the ones to bring them out and point them out! And now with them home all day they had plenty of opportunity!  I knew this new season of life was going to be a time of sanctification for me. And God used the task of disciplining my kids as the main tool of reform.

Colossians 3:16 says,  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing  one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Well, the word of Christ was dwelling in me sometimes, and I was most certainly not singing psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs in my disciplining moments. I had the admonishment part down, except that it was not in wisdom or with thankfulness in my heart. It was with sarcasm and anger. God was revealing to me some sin in my life in regards to mothering. I was being selfish, discontent, impatient, angry. I was not using self-control, basically the opposite of all of the fruit of the spirit. What struck me hardest was realizing what example I was being to my kids, especially my daughter. Was the way I was parenting encouraging Addie to one day want to be a mom the way my mom did to me? Would she know that God created motherhood to be a joy and not a burden? I knew He had, but joy would not be the word I would have chosen to describe motherhood so far. Weary was more like what I was feeling.

God showed me that places where I would get frustrated are a good place to start changing. Why was I getting angry when the kids were disobedient? Why did my heart seek revenge in discipline? I realized my sin came from the attitude of "you have gone against MY rules and here's what I have to say about it!" when it should have been "you have gone against God's rules and let's see what He has to say about it." I had been deceived. I had misunderstood the repetition of daily pulling weeds of sin in my kid’s life as well as in my own life. I was seeing it as failure instead of basic Christian living-a means of grace to teach us to become Christ-like. Repetition is how we learn. It gives us another chance to improve. It helps us master what we are learning. Paul says in Philippians 4, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”  Paul learned contentment through repetition. God repeatedly put him in different situations so that he could master contentment. It didn’t mean failure. It meant sanctification. It meant learning to rely on Christ, because he continues in verse 13 with, ”I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength. 

Sin like old habits die hard. I needed a plan. I wanted the Bible to guide my disciplining, but I needed a cheat sheet to know where to find the right scripture to help me when my patience was thin.  I also wanted an idea for a consequence that fit the crime as a prompt to guide my disciplinary action so I wouldn’t blurt out empty threats like “No more electronics for a month!” or “If I step on another Lego, I’m going to throw them all away!” Tony and I spent a weekend working this out and I came up with a discipline chart. I had it printed and it is posted in our kitchen. We spent several meal times going over it with the kids so we were all clear on what was expected, and what they could expect if they disobeyed.


The chart has 3 columns-Behavior, What God Says, and Consequences.
I came up with a list of the most common “offenses” such as Arguing/Causing Trouble, Abusing other’s property, foolish talk, etc... and then looked up several Bible verses for each sin. I printed out the full scripture of my favorite verse that I felt described best how God says we should act in each situation, and then listed several others as references that we could look up if we needed to add variety.
The third column is a list of consequences. This is mainly an idea listed of how I could handle the punishment. We quite often add or subtract from the listed consequence based on the situation and the child involved. Some of my children feel more sorrow from electronics time taken away than a spanking, and another child of mine will come and confess on her own her wrongdoing even though I would have never found out and a look of disappointment from me will cause tears of sorrow.

So, for example: Complaining/Whining-
Philippians 2:14-Do all things without grumbling or questioning.
Psalm 19:14-Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Ephesians 4:29
The consequence idea listed is additional work or do not receive what was whined for.

As we began implementing the chart I soon saw that as I would speak truth to my kids about being impatient, God would speak truth to me about my impatience. As I would read verses about laziness to my child, God would shine a light on my own laziness. I must say, when we are consistent with using our chart for times of discipline, mothering is more joyful. My admonishing was coming from wisdom, not anger. And it was also turning into a sweet time of teaching them about God. God was changing me and my kids. To take the time and think about how our actions were wrong and what God says about it in His Word and taking the time to give our kids the gospel and point them to Christ goes so much farther than "why can't you ever pick up your toys when I ask you to!" It has really helped to discipline my kids with the mindset of “I know that I am not worthy to be obeyed, I mess up just like you, but God is worthy to be obeyed and he has asked you as kids to obey your parents for it is right, and it will go well with you, so let’s look to God’s word and see what he has to say about …lying or arguing or whatever the situation may be.”

I had also been deceived by the hard work of mothering. I was tired of dealing with the same things every day. The fatigue and repetition of the mundane were perceived as discouragement and hard. But God showed me that the valley days of motherhood doesn’t mean I lost my way. The times that the work is hard is where the change takes place. Opportunities to bless may be most present when we don’t feel like it. Just like exercising, the results are seen when it gets hard. If you give up every time the running gets hard and you don’t feel like running, you will never grow as a runner and will never see results. I always thought the passage in Hebrews about running with endurance was for missionaries or pastors. It says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” But it’s not just for missionaries; it is for moms too! Our mission field is our kids. We are the ones teaching them daily about the gospel.  It is hard to stop supper and go downstairs to correct wrong speech each time. It’s hard to function on 3hrs of sleep because you were up with a sick child. It’s hard to put down my crafts to play nail salon or help build a Lego helicopter. It’s hard to get out of your warm bed and stay up with a sleepless child. It’s hard to take the time to discipline with wisdom instead of yelling, “Everybody just stop it!” The days that the race set before us travels through a valley is where you learn to trust in Christ. But, what does it mean to trust in Christ? Christians say that all the time. Or,” just give it to Jesus.” That sounds great! I’d love to, but how do I give my whiny child to Jesus?  Believe me there are days I would LOVE to give my children to Jesus!

John Piper has helped me understand this concept with the acronym APTAT.
 A.P.T.A.T. stands for Admit, Pray, Trust, Act, and Thank.

Let’s set up a scenario and run it through APTAT.

It’s 5:00, that witching hour when everyone is hungry, you are trying to get supper going, and waiting for your husband to get home from work. Your 5 year old comes to you complaining that his brother kicked him! His brother responds with, “that’s because he was poking me while I was trying to play a game and was making me lose!”
So, I take a deep breath and quickly run through APTAT in my head.

A-Admit that you can’t do it. I tell God, I can’t do this right now. I am making supper and  I want to just yell at them, but I know that isn’t right.
P-Pray “God, help me! I need you!”
T-Trust a specific promise like, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Or “My God shall supply all your needs.” Or” If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God and He will give it to you.” Yes, that one sounds good for this, because I don’t have a clue what to say! This is where letting the word of Christ dwell on you richly comes in handy. You will know what promises are available to you!
A-Act You act! You don’t want to take the time to discipline right now, but you slow down and do it knowing God will help you. So you gently ask the boys to come look at the chart with you and say, “Evan, was it right to kick your brother?”
And he says, “no, but he kept poking me even after I asked him to stop twice!”
” Isaiah, was it right of you to poke Evan?”
“NO, but he wouldn’t let me have a turn.”
So it sounds like you two are causing trouble and fighting. Let’s see what the Bible says about that.
We go over to the chart and read-Arguing/fighting/causing trouble
2 Timothy 2:24-25- And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
You guys are the Lord’s servants and he says that you are not to quarrel, but be kind. Were you being kind to each other? And it says you are to patiently endure evil, correcting with gentleness. Evan, did you endure your brother’s evil and correct his wrong behavior with gentleness?
“I asked him nice twice…”
“It doesn’t say correct with gentleness twice and then try kicking!”
“You guys are brothers. You are going to be brothers forever! Evan,  Is it more important to have a good score on a game or to treat your brother with love? Isaiah, is it more important to have your turn on the game or wait patiently for Evan to be done?
You two need to apologize to each other and your consequence for causing trouble is that you have both lost the rest of your electronics time for the day, and I want you together to come up with something to play in your room with each other until supper is ready.

T-Thank God. Thank him for faithfully helping you again! Thank him for helping your child understand where they were wrong and for giving them a repentant spirit. Thank him for helping you discipline rightly and giving you words to correct wrong behavior with and giving you the strength to endure another squabble.

This to me is what giving it to Jesus means.

God has promised to bless those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. He says they will be satisfied! So go to Him. Humble yourself. Ask for His help. He promises to satisfy you.

So mothers, Let us not grow weary in doing good; for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. There is hope! Our kids do copy what they see us do. So let’s start modeling kind words and forgiveness and repentance and self-control. Let them see you asking God for help. And one day you will begin to notice that those piles of shoes thrown about the entryway that used to lead to anger is now first stirring up thoughts of thankfulness in your heart to God because it means you live in a home full of children you love.
We will not be mothers of little children forever. They will grow. And move away. I want to know what it is to be content when I have plenty of children at home and when I have none. God is not training you for no reason. Practice. Practice. Practice. And then you will see that the Proverbs 31 woman won’t look so far off anymore.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:


If you think a Behavior Chart would be a useful tool to help you discipline your kids or grand kids consistently, they are available at https://www.etsy.com/listing/156526656/behavior-chart

10 comments:

Tori said...

Wow, this was fantastic! I don't have kids yet, but this is the kind of heart, thoughts and plan I want to have! Thank you for sharing!

Heidi said...

Thanks Tori! I'm so grateful this encouraged you. What a great blessing to have this mindset already before kids. God is Good!

Christine said...

thanks so much for this, heidi! i wish we lived closer together. i know there is so much i could learn from you just like my mom learned from yours.

i was just telling joshua today that things that are hard take practice. and then i see the reminder for me, that there are things i need to practice, too!

i'm going to share this w/my friends. i know it will encourage so many moms.

Heidi said...

Hi Christine! So nice to hear from you. It would be fun to be closer and learn more from each other. Praying for you as you find more joy in motherhood!

Kelsey said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. Especially with the specific example. Many times in parenting I feel like I've been given tools but then in the moment I'm left wondering how to use them! I can definitely relate to God revealing my own sin while I'm quick to rebuke my kids' sin.

Paula Dobbs said...

Good evening, I have really enjoyed this post. I would like to purchase a chart. Do you have anymore? This would be prefect for our family.

P. Dobbs

Anonymous said...

God bless.you Heidi for these tremendous words of wisdom. Truly this is a word in season especially for me right now. I believe the Lord led me to your post and I am trendously blessed by your message. I have quite some.homework to do based on what you have taught me. Thank you. More grace and wisdom to your life and ministry. Blessings. Irene H.

Heidi said...

Thank you for your kind words. I pray the Lord will bless you as you look to Him for joy in your mothering!

Rosa Karp said...

This article was a sip from God's living water to my soul in this season of my life (as a mother of 3 young boys)...I know God has put the desire in my heart to be that kind, loving, joyful & wise mother he designed me to be, yet it is hard to not fall back on old patterns...this article takes the pressure off me and allowing my Lord to take His rightful place in our home & to receive all the honor & praise. Thank you for taking the time to encourage and offer tangible tools for many mothers,like myself!

Heidi said...

Thank you, Rosa. I pray God would bless you during this season of motherhood to see his beauty and purpose in it!