Homeschooling Mom, Are You Stuck in the Comparison Trap?

A Bear Trap

Imagine a bear trap closing on a human leg, bone crunching, blood spurting, immeasurable pain.  Not to mention being stuck.  Stuck in pain.  Stuck in one place until someone comes and releases you from the trap.
What does a bear trap have to do with homeschooling?  What doesn’t work for me is the comparison trap.  It’s a lot like a bear trap.  It’s buried, you don’t see it, but once you get caught in it, you are stuck and in immeasurable pain.
Four of my children are adopted and had traumatic beginnings.  When they came home, their emotional ages and physical ages didn’t match up.  Their development was delayed and each of them had some learning challenges, all of that topped with learning a new language.  On a scholastic number line, they were in the negative.
Comparing a kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf.  It drains the lifeblood right out of you.

I Was a Late bloomer

One night at the dinner table, Rafal shared that a boy in his Royal Ranger troop isn’t athletic and the commander encourages him along.
“I wasn’t that athletic as a child,”  I replied.
“You weren’t?”  he asked incredulously.
He was surprised.  I roller blade, ice skate, swim, climb around on rocks with my kids. I’m still not coordinated, but don’t tell him.
I was a late bloomer.  While my sister was ready to train for the Olympics in gymnastics, I was doing what I did best at the time- stumbling and falling on my face a lot!
“What did you do back then?” he asked.
“Well, I was little and skinny.  So I RAN. AWAY, mostly from other kids.”  Laughter.

AGes and Stages

Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates.  Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays.  Get help for your special needs child if you need to. Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him.  I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children.  I want my children to reach their potential.  I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.
  • If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare.  CELEBRATE!
  • If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid.  CELEBRATE!
  • If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered it. CELEBRATE!
Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap. It’s a painful place to be, instead enjoy each age and stage your children are in!

Idealism Versus Reality

Grab a cup of coffee, sit with me for a minute  Let’s talk. With some personal introspection, I realize that I am an idealistic Mom living in a realistic world. Are you? When I’m writing a blog post about nutrition and eating whole, God-made, natural foods, I forget the fresh fruit my child ate at lunchtime and beat myself up for not always eating healthy food like so-and-so. Huge idealistic mistake. The reality in this scenario is adding more whole food to our diet, not arriving at perfection in just one day (or week or month).

The Social Media Trap

Social media can paint a perfect picture of others’ lives. Guess what? Facebook lies. So does Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. Social Media only shows part of the picture. The viewer can walk away with a false sense of reality– an ideal, so to speak.  The lie is that everyone else has a perfect life. I listened to the results of a study on social media on a radio talk show. The study had found that people who frequently check Facebook (or other social sites) are more likely to be depressed. I think this is because they get a false sense of reality. They walk away believing the lie.

Blogs can have the same effect. I read blogs to get information and encouragement. That is great if  I take the advice with a dose of realism. The blogger who posts a great recipe with glorious photos still struggles with day-to-day living just as much as I do. Do you fall into the comparison trap?  Does everyone else’s life look better on media sites than yours?

Moms can be deceived into thinking that everyone is doing a better job than them. Todd Wilson, author of Lies That Homeschooling Moms Believe, asks:

Do you believe the lie that everyone’s…

  • Kids are smarter than your kids?
  • House is cleaner than your house?
  • Meals are better, healthier, and more organic than your meals?
  • Life is more disciplined and more spiritual than your life?
  • House is more peaceful than your house?
  • Marriage is better than your marriage?
  • Doing a better job than you are?

If you do, you are believing a lie. It’s a trap that can keep us stuck in depression and anxiety. Instead we must believe we are the best Moms for our kids. We are working toward ideals without getting stuck on perfection. Remember, we’re looking for progress! Not a comparison trap full of lies.

This list applies to all Moms

This list applies to all Moms, but there is especially pressure on stay-at-home moms. Moms who jump off the career path to stay home may believe that their home should be perfect. It should be organized and clean, meals should be organic and healthy, their spiritual life should be top-notch– just because a household administrator is their full-time job. But those ideas are ideals to strive for, not a measuring stick to JUDGE by.

Moms Raising Kids With Capital Letter Syndromes

For Moms raising children with any of the capital letter syndromes (FAS, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, RAD), the burden of daily parenting can be overwhelming. Exhaustion gives way to self-judgment. When Mom is too exhausted to clean the kitchen completely because she has been helping a child through a meltdown, she tends to think other moms have perfectly pristine kitchens. When a busy schedule results in a fast food dinner, Mom imagines every other mom is preparing organic food from her backyard garden. A busy few days resulting in no clean underwear for the kiddos can send Mom into a tailspin after watching a Tide commercial: surely, every other Mom has all the laundry clean, folded, and put away? Her own laundry hangs out on the family room couch. Add a layer of stress from what is going on in the world, and we can believe others are coping better than we are. While we take a nap every day or watch movies in the afternoon instead of clean, we are sure everyone else is out there solving all the world’s problems. Throw that sort of thinking off. Take it captive and replace it with “I’m doing exactly what God called me to do right now.” If you feel as if you need to do more, ask God to open a door and wait, not worry, compare, and carry the weight of the world on you. Jesus already did that.

Encourage One Another in Love

Sisters, we must all press on toward the goal (Philippians 4:14) and forget what lies behind. We should encourage one another in love, giving advice or suggestions, but not heaping condemnation on ourselves or others.  I share my experience and my failings.  In no way have I arrived.

 We confess our failings to Him, He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). And our failing here isn’t our inability to maintain a perfect house or parenting well– it’s diminishing ourselves needlessly in the midst of REALISTIC daily life. Let’s admit it, girls, we are the worst when it comes to slamming ourselves. We cannot be introduced to another lady without doing the self-judgment assessment- Look what she is wearing, I don’t own any trendy jeans like that. She is thinner than me!  Prettier!  I bet she makes homemade, organic bread.  She is so put together.  I bet she can do math in her head instead of on a napkin.

Leave Self-Judgment Behind

Let’s leave the pit of self-judgment behind, confess our sins when we need to, and move on. Don’t let your ideals guilt you to death. Plan out your priorities according to your day, and then use it or lose it. When you can’t use your schedule perfectly, use it imperfectly, and thank Jesus for His grace and progress.Let’s continue to encourage one another and press on to the ideal, but let’s live in reality! 

Training (Practicing Outside the Moment) – How To

Training or Practicing Outside the Moment

Practicing outside the moment is exactly what it sounds like — you practice something in a quiet moment that exists outside the situation you’re training for.

Training precedes behavior and allows a child to practice before the scenario occurs. Redos (see “Instead Of” Tips), on the other hand, are a way for your child to try again. Both are ways to practice outside the moment. Think of training and redos like bookends: kiddos get training before and a chance to redo after.

Invest in your kids by practicing outside the moment

Invest in your kids by practicing outside the moment. When teens or adults start a new job, they go through training. Usually, this training is practiced outside the moment. Training is not introduced when an employee is melting down over not knowing how to use the computer system (although that can happen). Practicing outside the moment allows you to teach a child when his upstairs brain is activated, instead of waiting until he flips his lid. (Remember the upstairs and downstairs brain?)

I did lots of practicing outside the moment with my kiddos before we went somewhere. My funniest story using this tool is practicing to go to the library. My newbies had recently come home from Poland, so I had kiddos aged 12, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 1. Four of them had never been to a public library before, so we practiced at home. We pretended the bookshelves were the library. I showed them how to get a book, whisper, sit down at a table, and look at the book they had retrieved. 

Our town had a small library with an unusual practice. When you got a book out, you replaced it with a ruler to mark your place in order to return it if you didn’t check it out. My kids loved this practice a little more than I realized. When we got to the library, they used all of the rulers to mark places and got a giant stack of books

An Underutilized Tool

You may have thought it was strange if you had never heard of practicing outside the moment. And now, you may be wondering why I am bringing it up again and devoting an entire series to this tool. 

The idea of practicing outside the moment deserves to be repeated. It’s so underutilized and such a powerful tool. 

Does it take time to practice? You better believe it! It’s definitely an investment. Do your kiddos always want to practice? Nope! But is it worth it? Yep. It’s my favorite parenting tool. 

Just one word of caution: Practicing outside the moment must be done with a happy, playful spirit on your end. Otherwise, you won’t be able to achieve connection, which is a necessary component of this tool.

How Do You Do a Training Session?

Gather all the kiddos. Give simple instructions, and remember that training sessions can be short. 

The first session I implemented focused on the kids obeying simple commands like “Come.”  Because we were still working on English, I said it in Polish. If the child immediately walked across the room to me, I thanked him and said, “Good job.” 

Then I moved to calling a child when he was in another room. If he came right away, I repeated the praise. If he didn’t, I went to him and told him to come. Then I required him to go back to where he came from, and I called again. 

“Come the first time I call you.” I repeated this as many times as it took for the child to come the first time. I did not yell, cajole, whine, cry, or complain. I expected. 

After the kids got the hang of coming, I instituted the “Guire Report,” an idea I gleaned from the book, Cheaper by the Dozen. I would simply stand in the kitchen and call out “Guires, report!” All of the children were expected to come down and line up and wait for instruction. Of course, some of the younger ones required assistance, but the older ones always helped. In a large family, this is such an important skill to have.

Some people think this sounds too militant, but it works so much better than yelling, running up and down the stairs searching for someone, or taking half an hour to round everyone up just to get out the door. Believe me — I tried. Before instituting the Guire Report, it was exhausting and nerve-racking to convince everyone to stop whatever activity they were doing and come. 

With this approach, the parent retains the authority, and the child complies. There are no bad feelings on the part of the parent — only on the part of the child who does not comply. Often, the reprimand comes from their siblings. “Where were you?  Mom called. We had to stand here and wait.” 

The next step in obedience was to follow other simple commands. We played drill sergeant. The kids lined up, and I issued commands. “Do five jumping jacks.” “March in place.” “Go up the stairs and then come down.” 

Of course, their favorite part was playing the drill sergeant themselves. I let each kiddo have a turn. 

Tomorrow – Training With Sweets!

*This article is a group of excerpts from How to Have Peace When Your Kids Are In Chaos- Grab your copy here.

A New Way of Living and Some New Goals

I’ve been sharing a series on social media on “Mistaken Goals.” These are goals our kiddos (and we) can get stuck in. These mistaken goals don’t produce the outcomes we desire nor are they from the foundation of truth.

Today, in honor of good Friday, I’m sharing some new goals we can help our kiddos aim for and we need to aim for ourselves!

New Goals

Once we have identified our children’s mistaken goals and beliefs, we must work to replace them.

“In many cases the child’s erroneous ideas and mistaken goals underlying his misbehavior are so well entrenched that it may take more than a correct response to the various acts of provocation. One may have to work toward a deep reconstruction of the child’s basic assumptions, of his personality pattern.” – Children: The Challenge

Here’s a quick list of the new goals we should strive for:

1. Constant attention —> I am valuable even if you are not always paying attention to me. I am a son of God and therefore a sibling of Jesus and heir to the promises of God.

2. Total control —> I am not in control of everything, nor do I need to be. God is in control and He will take care of me. I can submit to some authority and trust God is in control.

3. Retaliation and revenge —> I do not need to retaliate. I can forgive, and I am forgiven. I do not need to stay in an angry, defensive state. I need to strive for trust and acceptance.

4. Giving up —> I do not need to give up on life. I have a purpose. God created me to do good works, and I will do them regardless of my past circumstances. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

“For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ] the Anointed one, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with Christ).

There is [now no distinction] neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And if you belong to Christ [are in Him who is Abraham’s seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and spiritual heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:27-29)

This is a new way of living that says, “I can’t act the way I feel like acting anymore. I can’t act impulsively. I cannot run around in survival mode and be a functioning member of a family.”

Survival Mode

Most of us came into the family of God in survival mode — i.e., still in the flesh, although born of the Spirit. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The adoption decree is sealed. We legally belong, but our assumptions haven’t caught up. We don’t believe it.

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) and have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.

If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward, walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit].” (Galatians 5:24-25)

In order to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, we can no longer be controlled by the flesh. In this letting go, there is a dying to old ways and habits. This is important, because the habits of the flesh lead to death (spiritually and physically). 

Children from hard places — as well us converts — need to know that in order to live the abundant life, we must let go of the past. The problem is, too often we let our past and their past dictate our present. It has been absorbed into the core of every part of our “old unrenewed self” (Ephesians 4:22), who we carry about like a huge rag doll on our backs. 

How do we know this new creature we have become? Oh, if it were only a few simple steps to victory, we would be there in a moment. But, for us and for our children, the attachment to this new father figure is gradual. We renew our minds by studying the Word. They renew their minds by studying us. If we continue to react in our old ways, bearing the fruit of the flesh (enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, and selfishness), then we will all remain enmeshed in a war.

*This is an excerpt from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos.

Moving Toward Critical Obedience

In my last post I talked about -When we are acquaintances with Jesus –

  •  We pray before mealtimes
  •  Say please and thank you
  • Recite prayers
  • Put the empty grocery cart away
  • Replace the empty toilet paper roll

These are all good foundational practices. We just can’t stay there. Staying in the acquaintance stage is like choosing to remain a five-year-old your whole life. Then you stay stuck when it comes to obedience because you can’t hear His voice. You only do what you know which has come through rote memorization.

My Sheep Hear My Voice

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27

The first time I heard the voice of the Lord, I was a teen who needed a miracle. My family had returned from a weekend trip to find our yard covered in snowdrifts. I was half asleep when I stumbled from the VW van to the backdoor mudroom. I took my coat and boots off and went straight to bed. The next morning, I couldn’t find my glasses. I can’t see two feet in front of my face without them. Mom helped me look. They weren’t in the van, my bedroom, the bathroom, or anywhere. I stayed home from school. I sat in a rocking chair and read The Secret Garden for the thousandth time. I had a severe headache all day. I prayed for the Lord to show me where my glasses were. 

Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw them at the bottom of a snowdrift behind a snow shovel. I got up, walked outside, picked up the shovel, stuck my hand into the snowdrift, and pulled out my glasses.

Obedience Bumper Cars

I wish I could tell you from that point forward I walked in complete obedience and relationship with the Lord. I haven’t. It’s been more like a bumper car ride. I have an inkling of what He is saying and I reason myself out of obedience. Then I bump into consequences. 

Just last night, I was feeling super exhausted. I knew I was heading into a CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) crash zone. I asked the Lord why I couldn’t stay in the zone – feeling good physically- instead of piece of pummeled meat. With CFS, I have to keep some pretty wide margins to feel the way most people do on a daily basis. Normalish – not as though they are walking through quicksand. 

A Smaller Yard

It’s as if I have a smaller yard than everyone else. If I stay in the fence, I’m fine. If I leave the yard, I’m not. If you read my article the other day, you know I’ve been overdoing it a lot and bumping into some consequences.

I do hear the still small whisper telling me to slow down, stop, and rest. Then I just want to paint one more wall, watch one more lecture, clean one more room, and guess what happens? I don’t hear the voice as much. I’m too busy praying for God to heal my body and relieve me of the circumstance.

This lesson is one I’m still desperately trying to learn. It’s completely different and even more critical than big obedience. The big obedience will flop if the little ones don’t happen. By that I mean, my relationship with God will stalemate. I’ll be too physically ill to do what I’ve been called to do and that’s so sad – all because I wanted to paint one more wall.