- Has your parenting style changed since you first became a mom? If so, how?
Jaclyn: I think one thing that has changed over time for me is the perspective that my children are fellow image-bearers of God with me. As image-bearers they are worthy of honor, respect, and dignity and they should be treated by me as such. There’s no place for shaming them in discipline, embarrassing them for the sake of a few laughs, or belittling them. They are my closest neighbor that God calls me to love as I love myself. The classic “treat others how you would like to be treated” applies to how I treat my children, as well. I don’t like when someone barks orders at me, assumes I’m always stirring up trouble, or yells at me. I’m more gracious now than when I began my journey as mom. When an issue surfaces, I’m learning to ask questions like “is this child tired? hungry? is there something else going on that needs to be addressed? am I being reasonable in my expectations of them?” Obviously there are still sin issues that arise in my kids and I need to do the work to draw them out and parent at the heart-level. But I’ve also learned that my kids aren’t robots that just need programmed and reprogrammed. They may have other needs and I need to look at them as a whole person.
Michelle: I’m more relaxed now; I’ve learned to pick my battles. God has used parenting to reveal my sin. The older I have gotten the more I see the need for my absolute dependence on the Lord. He holds my kids. I can trust Him to work on their hearts just as He continues to work on mine. He’s patient with me so I can’t get impatient with the work He is doing in my kids’ hearts.
2. How have you continued to infuse your parenting with the Gospel? Are there any specific resources you use with your family?
Genae: The amount of discipline may change as your kids age, but the need for the Gospel doesn’t. Paul Tripp discusses in Chapter 14 in Shepherding a Child’s Heart the circle of blessing- If not in obedience, not safe and not in communion with God and those you’ve hurt. Messes are ok to make around the house, but you can’t leave them that way- same with relationships: There will be brokenness, but repent-ask forgiveness-make it right.
Resources: Shepherding a Child’s Heart
Pilgrim’s Progress is great to read in the evenings with the kids as it talks about the burdens Christians face, and the pitfalls and need for help in a story form.
Tales of the Kingdom is a great series similar to Pilgrim’s Progress, but for the younger audience– SO well done.
Jaclyn: The best way I have found to infuse my parenting with the Gospel is to be infusing my own life with the Gospel. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. When I’m in a state of feeling the weight of God’s grace that has been poured out on my life, it is a natural outpouring of Gospel grace that is extended to my children. It may be stating the obvious, but continue to fight for personal time with the Lord. Even when you go months and months of experiencing drought in your spiritual life, keep fighting for intimacy in your relationship with the Lord. You cannot give what you do not possess. And when you are learning and growing, share that with your children! Recently we were reading a children’s devotional bible and the story of Noah and the ark comes along, as it does in nearly every children’s bible. But I had recently learned new things I hadn’t thought about before regarding that specific story and was able to dialogue with my kids in a new way over a story that after hearing for 12 or 9 years has become rather dull to their ears. As far as specific resources, there are definitely some that are better than others (Jesus Storybook Bible, Exploring Grace Together by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, the New City Catechism for kids), but nothing is going to be a substitute for your kids seeing you find joy in knowing and loving Jesus. Much more is caught than taught!
3. What are some resources that you use personally to fill your mind with truth (podcasts, books, blogs, etc)?
Genae: Let’s Talk podcast— real-life women’s issues (friendships and conflicts, taming the tongue, people pleasing…) discussed with a Biblical mindset (Jackie Hill Perry, Melissa Kruger, Jasmine Holmes are the speakers). Broken Bread–I struggle with a right relationship with food and body image and this was really helpful to have a Biblical understanding of who I am and how to care for myself (and my home) as a woman. The Bible 😉 Scripture memory has been SO good for my soul and my mind. Plugging in to a Bible study has also been a *precious* treasure. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry— I also struggle with the balance of doing *all* the things and finding rest. This was so good my husband read it too and we made some pretty substantial changes to our schedules.
Jaclyn: I’m currently using the Bible Recap to read through the Bible this year. It’s a reading plan that you use through the Bible app and then each day there’s a podcast that summarizes each day’s readings. I recently came into a season of increased busyness and this has helped me stay in the Word until I’m able to get back to a place of deeper study.
The Knowing Faith Podcast is my absolute favorite if you’re looking for something to challenge your thinking! And if you’ve been doing either the God of Covenant or God of Promise Bible studies by Jen Wilkin, this season has been all about the book of Genesis and would be a great corresponding resource! I love the way they study God’s word together and challenge each other to dig deep in the text. It’s also full of humor and banter. I’m in a season of not being able to listen to many podcasts right now, but I really try to carve out time for this one!
I try to continually keep some resource in front of my face that regularly reminds me of my role in shepherding my kids and encouraging me as a mom, whether that’s from Risen Motherhood, anything by Paul Tripp, parenting specific articles or interviews with Jen Wilkin. I’m often receiving those resources just through Facebook or Instagram.
Summer: A weekly Bible Study – Accountability to stay in the Word and dedicated time to be still and know that He is God. The World and Everything in It True journalism that speaks of the realities of the world we live in with hope. AWANA – Memorizing with my kids helps me to saturate my mind with truth. Childproof: Parenting by Faith Not Formula is the best parenting book I’ve read. Faithful parenting equals success before God. Pray like crazy and be faithful. Plus tons of practical help for parenting kids from all kinds of backgrounds
4. What advice do you have for new moms or moms with new babies?
Michelle: Hold.your.baby!!! Snuggle, nap with them, NO guilt! The season you are in may seem like it is going to be here forever, but it’s not. There will be the “last time” you do something (for example, my youngest didn’t sleep through the night for a very long time. But there did come a day when it was the last time I nursed her at night. I can’t remember the date, but that season did pass…and all too quickly!). When the days are hard or you are in a difficult season, intentionally find something to in your child that brings joy; capture & treasure these memories – see Luke 2:19
Summer: Treasure these years. Build trust by meeting needs, pray for a transfer of the trust from you to God someday. Meeting needs consistently and warmly helps kids know that “I am heard. I have value.” Holding basic standards with toddlers helps them learn that “Authority is safe and strong. I don’t have to protect myself by controlling my world.” These are major developmental milestones that help to wire a child’s brain in a healthy way. God’s design is amazing!
5. What do you do when you are feeling “burnt out” as a mom?
Genae: Ask. For. Help!!! We are the church and we desire to help those struggling! There is no shame in having needs. Don’t mother alone!
Jaclyn: To start with, do what you can to keep from getting there. Because we all know once we’ve gotten there, things can get real ugly, real quick! To keep from getting to that point is going to look different for everyone. Figure out what charges your battery and make it a priority. I’m with my kids all day (since we homeschool) and I get worn out pretty quick. During the week, everyone in my house has rest time every afternoon. It has to happen at the same time so I can also have downtime. My oldest is 12 and I’m still doing this. It’s also a priority for me to get showered, dressed, and ready everyday. But that’s just how I’m wired. You’re different. You may need to get daily exercise, sleep until 7, have a clean kitchen, or sit with a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, don’t feel like you’re being selfish by making it a priority.
The other encouragement I would give is to figure out what you really enjoy doing with your kids and do it often. If you loathe playing Barbies for hours on end, don’t do it! Tell your sweet child that mommy will play Barbies until the timer goes off and then you’re going to do something else. I love reading to my kids (but not every book qualifies) and having dance parties to loud music. I don’t love crafts, pretend play, or watching kids’ shows so I limit how much time I spend doing those things. If the mom life is making me feel weary then I try to spend more time doing the things that cause me to delight in my kids.
If you’re feeling burnt out right now, choose ONE thing that’s causing the most stress and brainstorm with OTHER PEOPLE some things you can try to help ease that stress. Avoid the pitfall of trying to overhaul everything at once. It doesn’t work!
*Skipped question 6-7*
8. How has what your child needs from you changed as they have grown and matured? How has your role as a mom changed as they’ve moved into the primary and middle school age years?
Jaclyn: My kids have needed me to let go and chill out. As kids grow and mature their unique personalities, strengths, and weaknesses come out more and keep branching out from kids their own age. My kids have needed me to meet them where they are instead of making demands on them of where they “should be,” which is an arbitrary standard. They need me to support them, back them up, and give them what they need to succeed. They need to know I am FOR them.
Additionally, I think the temptation as kids get older is to become more hands off at a relational level as you’re becoming more hands off at a physical level. Fight that temptation and press in even more at the relational level. So even though my twelve year old no longer needs me to help her brush her teeth or get her a bandaid, we still benefit from enjoying a book together or laying on her pillow before she goes to bed to talk about silly or serious things.
Michelle: They still need you! They need more independence (gradually!), more responsibility with choices (& their consequences). They need a safe environment to make mistakes…prepare to show grace! Help them navigate how to problem solve when issues arise. Keep talking to them! Encourage them to trust God & pray for things on their hearts.
9. How do you go about keeping lines of communication open as your kids get older? And how are you intentional about continuing “tough topic” conversations?
Genae: There is going to come a day when they aren’t coming to you for their every need. They’re watching you for how you respond to them *now*. Are you listening? Are you available? Be an example of how you want them to give you their attention 10 years from now when they potentially have a phone in their hand. Put your phone down, get down, and give them full eye contact. If you show them you care now, they will know and trust you to come to you later. We also use a “Mom and Me” journal– a way for my oldest to communicate things that may be harder to communicate verbally that’s just between the two of us. If there is something on her heart, she writes it out and sticks it under my pillow. Then I have the opportunity to read and digest and respond before putting it back under her pillow. We have had some really sweet conversations with this.
Tough Topics are just going to come up– Give time and space for those conversations and be available to listen when they do.
Summer: Read books together that reflect real life. Sonlight has great book lists. You don’t have to buy the whole curriculum but pick a few books and give it a try. Answer questions truthfully as they come. Adventures in Odyssey has a fantastic set of adventures about God’s design for the family. Carve out time with your bigger kids to talk.
10. What has been your favorite age/stage so far, and why?
Genae: *This* one!! The kids are a bit older (11, 8, 6), not as needy, and oh so fun! Yes, we still have to bring them back to the Gospel regularly–there is still a lot of training, but that stage of disciplining (seemingly) constantly is behind us and we are enjoying the fruits of our labors. Spending time hiking or camping or biking with them is really fun right now. Our relationships are growing, and it’s just *sweet*.
11. What is one thing you have learned about God through your motherhood journey?
Genae: I’m not in control (still learning). I need time with Jesus. My worth is not in what other people think of my parenting style.
Jaclyn: I have learned (and continue to learn) that God has created me to be the right parent for my children. For many years I wanted to be more like someone I was not and I would try to replicate the same things people were doing that worked well for them. But it did not work for me. I finally surrendered to the fact that God knew what he was doing when he made me and when he gave me the unique children that I have. They don’t need me to be a different person. I can be the person God has uniquely made me and trust that he knit my family together just as he intended. He knew it would include a mom that’s disorganized, doesn’t care about dust, and can’t sew an Awana badge on to save her life.
Michelle: God is faithful. He is in the business of purifying His bride. He knows what I need. I would not pick the trials that I have gone through, but He has used them in my life. -See Deut. 7:9 & 1 Cor. 10:13
Summer: The Holy Spirit is with me every moment of my days. He wants to be with me and guide me.
12. How did you and your spouse work together to make decisions regarding school and activity choices?
Genae: Less.Is.More!! Home is a priority. It’s really hard to have deep relationships and good conversations with our kids if we are always running to the next activity. BUT we love to be with people, so multiple times a week (pending pandemic situation), we have people at our table *with* us. We invite others to join our lives, which has been so sweet and a learning opportunity for our kids as well. For example: They’ve learned how to prepare meals, community matters, napkin folding, respect for guests, etc.
Resources: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
How we made our school decision is a whole separate question! I taught in the public schools before becoming a mom and vowed to NEVER homeschool (selfishness and vanity were primary reasons), but as I became pregnant, God softened my heart (isn’t it funny how we make our plans???). I remember being extremely convicted in my motives for school, and my husband was in full agreement– it became more clear that homeschooling was the best path for our family. If anyone wants to talk personally about how we chose the curriculum we did, I’d be glad to chat sometime 🙂
Resources: Teaching From Rest and For the Family’s Sake
Michelle: Communicate! Get on the same page. Decide what your family needs/can handle. What are you prioritizing? Have you made margin for rest? Count the cost. For example, our family takes the winter season off of sports completely. It is time that we have prioritized for rest. In addition, we have weighed out the pros & cons of travel soccer for a few of our kids. For us, it was the right decision not to have the kids try out. We determined that it would split our family in too many directions and cause more stress than we were willing to take on.
13. Now that you have kids past the toddler stage, what advice would you give a mama of a stubborn or strong willed toddler?
Jaclyn: DO. NOT. GIVE. UP. The verse that comes to mind is Galatians 6:9. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
As hard as it may be, thank God often for your child’s strong will and pray that it would be used for their good and His glory in their life. I look at my child who was a strong-willed toddler and she has more drive and determination in her pinky finger than I have ever possessed in my life! It can be exhausting, but those qualities can make for a child that will floor you with what they’re able to accomplish and who they can be one day!
As far as advice, I would say to determine what battles are worth fighting. Whatever you choose is a battle to fight, you must fight harder than your child. God created us to live under authority and you are wise to unrelentingly teach that to your child. By teaching your child to live as God intended you are offering them abundant life. Hold onto those truths as you fight the same battle day after day.
Summer: Speak well of their strong will as a gift from God to serve others. Choose your battles very carefully. Pray for them during meltdowns. God is the only one who can change their heart. Lose of the privilege of choosing or of freedom is a fantastic consequence for many strong willed kids. “You are loved. You are not in control.” Holding a consistent standard (the rule doesn’t change), but mixing up the consequences for disobeying may help keep the child from asserting control by trying to make you give them the consequence. “You do not ever get to control the consequences of disobeying.” Exercise has been a huge help in our family.
14. Any advice on how to decide whether or not to add another baby to your family? How do you know when you’re done?
Genae: Each story is different, so: Seek Counsel. Pray. Weigh/Consider your husband’s thoughts heavily as he is responsible for you and what’s best for you/your family. Rest in his leadership.
Summer: There is no formula. God is interested in motives. Know that we live in a culture that is kind of schizophrenic about children. Devaluting them as an option when convenient, after certain work goals, when they fit. Overvaluing providing every opportunity under the sun for them.
The truth is God creates every individual child. They bear his image and are immensely valuable to Him. Valuable enough to die for.
Please don’t automatically rule out unconventional ways of adding to your family. The need for families is bigger than most people imagine. And the blessings of adoption are vastly bigger than I can express.
15. Any tips on the incorporation and use of technology as kids get older? What does device and technology use look like in your family?
Jaclyn: I wish I had guiding principles to think through. But this topic is hard to navigate and it’s going to look different in every house.
We moved from having a set screen time as just part of our kids’ day to something that had to be earned. I chose to do that through a chore system. I was finding that screen time was becoming an assumed right of my children, so that’s why I chose to move it to something they had to work for. And it ends up that it isn’t quite the priority for my kids as I thought it was!
Michelle: This is such a tricky one! We are still navigating this. Again, communicate with your spouse. Here are a few thoughts we are working through (from a great resource called Taming the TechnoBeast by Todd Wilson). Is technology an idol? (This is a question for parents, too!) Are there things that we are sacrificing to that idol? (Playtime, school time, family time) Are we substituting that which is real with that which is virtual? (Are face-to-face relationships a priority?)
Also, pray & ask God to protect their eyes & give them discernment. Use filters, limits, talk to them about internet safety. A few guidelines we have…There are established “technology days” & “non-technology” days. We approve games/apps. On “technology” days, they must have their school done & chores done