Setting a Godly Example

This morning, while driving to a meeting at church, I received an unexpected call from a friend whose six-year-old daughter was having a temper tantrum in the parking lot of our church.

“She’s still in her pajamas and refuses to get out of the car because she doesn’t want to go to preschool,” the mom said as her daughter screamed in the background.

“I’m almost to the church and will pull up next to you,” I replied.

Feeling like a fireman without a ladder, I had no idea how I was going to talk this little girl off the ledge of her own hysteria. I never claimed to have all the answers when my daughters were her age and, after writing on numerous occasions about my own incompetencies as a parent, felt highly unqualified to help. When I arrived, the little girl was hysterically throwing things as her mom jumped out of the front seat to avoid the blows. After watching several CDs and other loose objects spew from the belly of the vehicle, I said a quick prayer for guidance and walked around to the passenger side to assess the situation. My first instinct was to gently, but firmly grasp the girl’s arms to keep her from picking up anything else.

“I’ll let go when you calm down and promise to stop throwing things,” I said as she screamed louder and fought to free herself from my grip. When it seemed like she would never stop writhing in anger, I remembered something that Mayor Rudi Giuliani said after the terrorist attacks on 9/11: “My father, when I was very young, used to say to me, ‘If you are ever in an emergency, if you are ever in a fire and everybody gets very excited, very emotional, then you become the calmest person in the room'”(1)

My friend’s daughter was definitely on fire as I looked into her determined eyes and quietly repeated that I was not letting her go until she let up on the screaming. I could tell that I was making progress, but it wasn’t enough. Something was missing. Something that kept her guard up and her mind closed to the possibility of letting go of the rage. That something was an emotion, and as soon as I showed empathy, the anger melted away.

“You must be exhausted,” I said quietly.

The little girl nodded.

“I am too. Would it be okay if we put this behind us and went inside?”

Another nod.

I don’t know who was more surprised when the girl quietly exited the vehicle, her mother or myself.

“Great job at calming down,” I said. “Give me five!”

After slapping my hand, she gave me a big smile and headed toward the church. As her mom and I followed, I thought about what had just happened and realized: If I’d waited until I knew what to do to help my friend’s daughter, I never would have tried. I had to take the first step before God would lead me to the next one. Knowing that I could find myself in similar situations in the future, I reflected on what worked in the hope of duplicating the outcome and came up with the following three ‘E’s of Crisis Management. Each one is followed by a quote from the consummate of calm: Rudolph Giuliani.(2)

1. Engage: “During a crisis, leaders must be out front rather than running or hiding from the ordeal. They must go to the scene of disaster and stand front and center – to accurately assess the situation as well as show their concern, while also demonstrating confidence that the group will persevere.”

2. Empathize: “You must speak up and take charge of what people are thinking and feeling at the time. You must reassure them and give them a simple yet specific plan that will get people through the crisis. Outline important action steps that they can take immediately to help themselves and the team.”

3. Encourage: “As difficult as the crisis can seem, remind people that there is hope.”

These steps, together with prayer and personal reflection, have the power to help even the most perplexed parent set a Godly example that all of God’s children can follow.



If Yes Then Press

While attending a women’s conference one weekend, speaker and event founder Jill Savage shared a parenting
technique she used when deciding which battles to pick with her kids.

Jill first explained that, whenever she had to decide whether to stand firm on an issue, she would
ask herself: “Will this matter in fifteen years?”

“If the answer is yes then fight,” she told the 5,061 women in attendance through clenched fists that
made her look like a boxer ready to face an opponent.

“If the answer is no, then let it go,” she added while relaxing her hands and moving them in the same
way that an umpire does when he announces that a batter is safe.

Little did I know that I would be applying Jill’s technique when I arrived home to find that the custom curtains installed in our living room while I was away did not look like the ones I had ordered.

“The panels are supposed to have a strip of lighter-colored fabric along the edge to match the cornice,” I told my husband.

“I wish you’d have scheduled the installers to come on a day you were going to be here,” Bill replied.

I do too, I thought to myself as I stared at the curtains and wondered what to do next.

“God promises to use bad for good,” I said after calling on Romans 8:28 for comfort, “since the curtains are covering more of the window than we thought they would, maybe this means we should order tie backs in the lighter-colored fabric instead.”

Bill agreed with my assessment and headed upstairs as I checked the doors and turned out the lights. Knowing that “God works for the good of those who love him” should have been all that I needed for a good night’s sleep. Instead, I tossed and turned as I thought about how someone else’s mistake was now mine to correct.

The more I thought about this newest item on my To Do list, the more irritated I became. To calm myself down, I remembered what Jill Savage said at the conference and asked myself: “Will this matter in fifteen years?”

Knowing that the answer was no, I took her advice and let it go. The technique worked so well to clear the mental air  that I decided to turn it into a rhyme that I teach to my children. I offer it to you in the hope that it will help you while parenting yours:

 

To reduce stress and minimize tears,

ask will this matter in fifteen years.

If yes, then press. If no, let it go.

Stupid Arguments

“You’ve been up for twenty minutes. How can you be fighting already?” I asked my daughters after joining them in the entryway.

“Katie said I used a purse as my backpack when I was in Kindergarten and I didn’t,” Hollie cried.

“Why are you fighting about something that may or may not have happened three years ago?”

“Because I know she carried a purse instead of a backpack,” Katie insisted.

“I did not!” her sister shouted back.

“We need to go or you’ll be late for school,” I warned as I opened the door to the garage. “Just get in the van.”

The tension between the girls escalated as Katie squeezed past Hollie’s seat, elbowing her in the process.

“Mom, Katie hit me!”

What verse can I mention to convince them to get along? I wondered while backing out of the driveway. Not good about committing anything to memory, I knew that the information I needed would not come to me while driving so I reached for the business card holder that I kept in the van for times just like this one.

“Katie, this is full of verses,” I said while handing it back to where she was sitting. “Why don’t you find one about fighting?”

“I am not looking up anything.”

“Then I am not dropping you off at school. I’ll just drive around the block until you do what I asked and you’ll have to explain to your teacher why you were late.”

“Fine!”she huffed as she grabbed the holder from my hand.

“I think there’s one about foolish arguments in there,” I suggested. “Do you see it?”

Always up for a challenge, Katie searched for the verse I was talking about.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels,” she read after locating 2 Timothy 2:23.

“What’s a quarrel?” Hollie asked.

“It’s another word for fight,” I explained. “That verse is telling you that it’s foolish to argue about something that happened three years ago and doesn’t matter today.”

Hollie thought about what I said for a few seconds before turning to her sister to say: “I’m sorry, Katie.”

Both girls were in good spirits when I stopped in front of their school, having received their first lesson of the day from the greatest textbook ever written.

The Logic Of Being Lazy

I am genetically encoded to be efficient and fear that my oldest daughter has inherited this trait. How else can I explain the night Katie tried to sleep on top of the covers to avoid having to make her bed the next day? This penchant for putting forth minimal effort also sheds light on her knack for avoiding daily chores in the hope of getting out of them entirely.

One of Katie’s simplest assignments is hanging up her coat and putting her shoes and backpack away after getting home from school. For longer than I would like to admit, I allowed my oldest to drop everything in the entryway if she promised to come back after finishing her after-school snack. Like many parents in similar circumstances I learned that later is not an hour of the day and—unless I got after her several times—later never came.

Dr. Phil once said that there are no victims, only volunteers. With that in mind, I decided that it was time to teach mine children about the logic of being lazy.

“Don’t forget to be lazy,” I called out when they arrived home from school.

“What do you mean?” Katie asked from where she stood just inside our front door.

“Lazy people want to do as little work as possible,” I explained, “and it’s less work to hang your coat up before you come into the kitchen for an after-school snack.”

“No it’s not,” Hollie argued. “It’s easier to just drop it here on the floor.”

“Not if I call you back to the entryway,” I replied. “Then it will take more steps and more time than you would have spent if you had walked over to your cubby and done it right away.”

The girls did not buy into my reasoning immediately. Only after counting the extra steps that it took to return to the front door did they begin to see that, by doing a task right, they could avoid the futility of doing it over and the annoying lyrics that I sing when they refuse to comply with my request.  If your children are also in need of some vocal entertainment, the following words work best when sung to the Elvis classic, Heartbreak Hotel:

Verse 1:

Weeeell, it’s important to be lazy; to save a step or two.

Put your things away, get more time to play.

It’s the right thing to do.

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.

Verse 2:

And when you get home from school, I don’t find it very cool.

Throwing things on the floor; You should care more.

What’s a mom to do?

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.

Verse 3:

And when you turn in for the day, I shouldn’t have to say:

“Clothes don’t go on the floor, find a basket or drawer

or I’ll take TV away.”

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry. 

Stuck In The Mud

While meeting a photographer one morning to take pictures for my website DiggingOutTogether.com, I was struck by how beautiful the area was that we had agreed on for the photo shoot—and how difficult it was to get to. At one point, I even considered turning back when my boot disappeared into the mud and refused to resurface.

What am I doing, trying to look nice in a place like this? I wondered while freeing myself from the brown sludge.

As I continued to make my way through the marsh, I was struck by how much time people waste trying to look good in the mud. Time spend smiling for the camera as if nothing is wrong after wading through a world of hurt to get to that point.

Just last weekend, I was knee-deep in sludge as I yelled at my daughters for thirty minutes after they refused to stop playing for long enough to pack for a trip to visit relatives. Only after we were on the road did I calm down enough to ask Katie and Hollie for forgiveness.

As soon as I  did, “mean mommy” left the vehicle and the rest of our trip was picture perfect. We sang “Happy Birthday” to my nephew, attended another nephew’s last home football game, and spent a gorgeous afternoon at a local pumpkin patch.

Why can’t all moments be stain free—where what we do in public is an accurate reflection of how we behave in private? I want to talk to my kids in the voice normally reserved for cute babies at church. A voice that sounds a lot like Supernanny when she comes down to a child’s level and tells her in a stern, but loving way to “stop that behavior.”

Because of sin, none of us will ever fully achieve this goal. Every picture perfect moment may require wading through some mud to get there, but when we do our best and let God do the rest, He can be trusted to clean up our act from the inside out.