Parenting With Grace-Book Study: Chapter Three

(Intro here, and Chapter One, Chapter Two)
Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted.  These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember

Chapter Three:-Tools of the Trade: Everyday Discipline That Makes a Difference

Everyday discipline is what keeps homes running smoothly vs. Corrective discipline (next chapter) which gets things back on track-if you use everyday discipline correctly and consistently the less you will have to use corrective discipline.

-Authors stress that every parent wants to know what they can do to their kids to make them behave, but this book is about "how to disciple your children through a loving relationship so that they actually want to behave."

-Nothing will "work" if you don't have a plan to help one another as a family become more virtuous-first three chapters most important!  (which is all about showing your love and giving your time!)

Everyday Discipline goals: strengthen relationship parents have with children, and proactively teach values and virtues

-They rank high on the self-donative scale.

-They teach us how to use ourselves as parents to nurture growth and change in our kids.

Four parenting "musts" represented by acronym: C.A.R.E.:

-If everything is negotiable, from homework to chores to bath time, you will be giving your children the chance to drive you insane with arguments.
-If consequences aren't enforced consistently they will never know when/if to take you seriously

Consistency is helped tremendously by:

ESTABLISHING FAIRLY REGULATED ROUTINES!   (I've been thinking so much about this lately  This is so important I think for every age, I only know that because it has kept me sane when I enforce it, and makes me bonkers when I'm not consistent (darn!) with it.  I think my generation has taken this for granted and have lost the art of routine which keeps the sanity of family life, especially the mother's!,  in tact.  It gives less chance for those arguments, rebellion, but why? whining I think.  It's so much harder to go back and reestablish than just to be consistent all the time!  Kids crave routines-they thrive in routine. 

i.e.-going to Mass as much as possible at the same time every week, Saturday chores every Saturday, getting homework finished after school every day, Sunday is always family day, etc. (and there are many etc.'s!)

 A=Acquire a Firm but Gentle Style

"You shouldn't hunt bunnies with an elephant gun".-address children's misdeeds in the least offensive, most respectful, but also most efficient manner.
"Good discipline is a balancing act."
(The book contains a quiz that lists traits of each style-firm and gentle.)

R=Remember Not To Lead Your Children into Temptation

-We need to understand, respect, and compensate for developmental abilities.
-Don't give them more than they can handle (i.e. a toddler in a room full of knick-knacks) then punish them for accepting the temptation invitation.  (I have found this to be a sanity lifesaver-we should have high expectations, but not completely unrealistic expectations also!)

E=Expect the Best from Yourself and Your Children

-We have a responsibility to expect our children to be the best they can be at each stage and age (keeping in mind what is developmentally appropriate)
-To parent well, we must parent deliberately

Useful Technique Ideas for Everyday Discipline
(remember this is just a brief outline, the book explain much better and uses real life examples)
1. Build Rapport
(Help children want to behave and respond quickly to correction)
-What previous chapter was all about.

-Physical affection is more attention getting than yelling...taking a younger child on lap and correcting him quietly or sitting down to a calm conversation with adolescent has much more power than yelling ever will.

-Uses an example of a mom of eleven who, every day, makes an intention of planning one small thing to do for each child (with her husbands help) to say, "I was thinking about you."

-Building relationship and rapport is not about being children's "buddy"-they will have plenty of those, it's about being a teacher-a wise, lovably affectionate, even fun teacher.

2. Write It Down
(Never repeat yourself again!)

-State clear parental expectations! 

-Uses example of a mom who was having a hard time with children who were constantly breaking house rules, mom spending too much time yelling and arguing with them. (Did they look in my windows? :) She realized that the younger kids didn't really know what the house rules were.

-Sit down with children, have a family meeting, review and write down rules on paper, sign names, and post on fridge.  (exs: speak respectfully, do house chores without being asked twice, food only in kitchen, etc.)  (I will add, have as few as possible, too many I think would be overwhelming and easily forgotten)

-Instead of constantly correcting children say "Please go look at the rules list."  or "Please go look at the list and tell me what you forgot"-for a routine/chore list.  Instead of having to nag and lecture they can figure out themselves.

-For little children use pictures instead of words!

3. Redirection
(Stop kids from returning to the thing you said no to!)

-It isn't enough to tell a child to stop doing something-suggest something else.  "If you want to use your outside voice, please go outside-or if you'd prefer not to go outside, what could you do that would let you use an inner voice?"

-Substitute this for yelling 'no!' again and again.

-Kids learn to channel their energy into productive, respectful, appropriate channels.

-There are times when you must say no period, but most times it's possible to find the context to do the thing the child wants to do or help child find something he would enjoy doing more.

-Takes more effort than yelling no, but teaches a child to practice internal control and make good choices.

4. Restating
(Stop disrespect in its track!)

"Child: "Give me that toy!"
Parent: "Let's try that again."
Child: "I want that!"
Parent: "How about, "May I have that, please?"
Child: "My I have that, please?"
Parent: "Thank you. Much better.""

-I remember reading about this in Linda and Richard Eyre's parenting books also-they said, "Start over again please", when the child/teen began request/answer with a disrespectful tone.  

-For whining someone taught me this gem-"I can't understand your words when you whine, can you please use your normal voice?"  Works wonders.

5. Do-Overs
(Stop inappropriate behavior in its tracks!)
-Just like restating but action
-Ex. if child throws a toy at his brother, "please go pick that up and hand it gently to him. Thank you.  Now please say, "I'm sorry."

A good Do-Over has two steps:
1. Tell child what to do and how to do it (for younger ones show them what you mean.) ex. gently, more slowly, carefully.

2. Supervise till he fulfills request to your satisfaction, as many times as necessary (not being super picky, just sincere.)  Be gentle. Be firm.

-To change some behavior, you must have him practice the more appropriate alternative every time. 

-My note: for little ones especially, be pleased when they do it the right way, so they are encouraged to keep up change.

6. Choices
(Banish whining for good.)

-Extremely important to teach children they are responsible for the both the choices they make and the consequences of those choices.

Uses example:
"If you choose not to eat your meal, you will not have dessert."  "But I want dessert!"  "Then you should choose to eat your meal.  It's your decision."

-Use technique when it appears child is making poor behavior choices.
-It reminds child of the consequences he is facing, and he has complete power over the choices he makes and then consequences he experiences
-Helps increase internal control

You can say, "I'm very sorry you made this choice, if you are unhappy with your decision, please choose differently next time."

-Instead of consequences coming out of nowhere, this teaches that consequences are what they are, and a person has the power of choice to choose pleasant consequences.  This is the essence of internal control.  

-Teaches them that the power of their choices affect their happiness throughout life!

7. Reviewing/Rehearsing
(Stop having to correct the same behavior over and over again!)

-My notes: this has worked SO well for me when I remember to do it-something my smart mom told me

-Kids need to have review for clear understand of expectations of behavior especially in situation where they will be "tested" (i.e. friends house, Mass, wedding, ceremony, party, etc.)

-Practice if you have to-going out to eat-"restaurant manners", sitting still at library time, but it could also just be reminders  "I expect you to sit still and not talk, this is an important event", or, "I expect you to remember there is no running in the aisles, or you could hurt someone, or knock down boxes.", or "Remember when you open your gifts, thank each person, and never say, "I already have this!"...

8. Manage Transitions
(Prevent many tantrums and increase cheerful compliance!)

-Children have ability to get lost in their own worlds and do not do well moving from one thing into another without warning. (And either do adults!)

-By walking in on your children and saying "Time to go!", or "Time for bed!" or "Say goodbye to your friends!" is like the mental equivalent of tying a rope around your kid's neck and yanking really hard....a recipe for disaster.

-Give warnings!  Five minutes, two minutes, one minute reminders.

 9. Be a Supermodel
(Establish yourself as the expert in your child's eye!)

-The power and importance of modeling cannot be underestimated!

-If you want your child to be more polite, more respectful, more responsible, or more anything, you have to do it FIRST on a daily basis.  They see and hear and watch everything you do and say!

-If you kick toys out of the way, call someone an unkind name, sit around watching TV when you should be doing something else, talk in a nasty tone to your child,  remember! they are watching.

-We are not perfect, we all have slip-ups and mistakes, use these experiences as teaching moments about making choices and responsible ways to live life in general.

-The personality traits we most dislike in our children are often the same traits we despise in ourselves.

-"Partnering with your children to overcome shared flaws reinforces that each person in the family is responsible to help the others grow in holiness, and it respects the God-given authority you have over your children without neglecting the fact that you, too, are a child of God who struggles with imperfection."

10. Use Your Emotions
(Respectfully remind children that their actions affect your relationship with them.)

-It is OK to show our children grateful and approving feelings but also sad and angry feelings when they disappoint us.

-It is not inappropriate to show your angry, sad, hurt feelings to a child, if done sparingly and respectfully and intentionally-it can be important part of teaching child the relationship-consequences and also model emotional control.

-Remember ratio of at least five times as warm and affectionate as compared to "negative" emotions such as disappointment and anger.

11. Labeling
(Teach children the real meaning of specific virtues.)

-Make sure kids know what virtues mean in "real life".  What does responsibility or irresponsibility look like? 

-Use example of real life, example of others, TV programs, or movies, pointing out virtues as you see them.

-Cute idea for younger kids: write down virtues on stones, bingo chips, etc.  Put in jar and have child pull one out a day, that is the virtue for the day that everyone works hard at.

12. Rituals and Routines
(Give your child a strong sense of family identity.)

-So many studies show the incredible power of (simple!) family rituals and routines for well-behaved, mentally healthy families.

-Rituals and routines are like an "anti-biotic" that helps keep families safe and create peace, happiness and harmony.

-The more a family does together, the more a family will stay together and be happy about it-create a team

-Doesn't matter if all the children agree on an activity, just do them.  Walks, meals, games...

13. Storytelling
(Improve your child's capacity for insight and awareness.)

-I love the lesson of a good old-fashioned story!  We went to Mass during a Level 3 snow emergency the other weekend, and my kids were coming up with a million and one ways to get out of it, praying (ha!) that the church was closed, saying we'd be arrested, etc.  I remember my Uncle Joe telling me a story about my Grandpa making him and another uncle-his brother-walk to Mass one morning because the storm was so bad the roads were closed-for miles of course :). They thought they would get out of getting up early, but learned a lesson about obligation!  (Although my kids do roll their eyes a little when I start in on "back in my day..." it never stops me, and I could be wrong, but I think the kids like hearing them...and I and Jeff both like telling them.)

-Author's suggestions of good resources besides the Bible itself (especially Parables):Veggie Tales, The Nancy Rue series of historical fiction (4th grade to junior high read-alone level, but excellent for read-aloud), Gladys Hunt's classic books-Honey for a Child's Heart, Honey for a Teen's Heart. 

"..stable families with consistent rituals and routines, intentional discipline, and orderly, affectionate homes encourage children's brains to be very resilient to stress, generally happier, more intelligent, more peaceful, and more well-behaved."

"Parents too, as they become more experienced learn how to put away all the creative punishments, all the star charts, the token economics, the spanking, the bribing, the cajoling, and all the other more "techniquey" ways to "make" their children change, and become more skilled in how to use their relationship with a child to nurture change on a daily basis in the simple interactions of every moment.

Fresh Air and Weekly Menu

(Thank you Rose and Andy for the sweet hat you gave Janey!)

 Well, it is a balmy 35 degrees outside today and I felt like after our morning chores were finished and lunch was eaten, we needed to fill our lungs with some fresh air.  It felt good!
We are ready for February, the month of love, aka the month of chocolate-which also seems to be the month of October (trick or treat), and then there's Easter with the eggs and the bunnies (although Lent sometimes puts a damper on that one), and December isn't too shoddy of a chocolate month either. February should most definitely not be the month of chocolate for me, it should be the month of diet and exercise.  Oh, for a little motivation!  

Here is my menu for the week.  (Last week New Recipe update: I made the broccoli cheese soup but I pitched it, not because it wasn't good, but because I waited too long to put it in the crockpot, and then tried to make up time by using the stove, and then burned/curdled it, and then quickly through together a pretty lame dinner.  The creamy chicken enchiladas were delicious, and I had to substitute something for the Honey Mustard chicken (snow days really through me off) so I can't report on that one.

Bloomin Onion Bread (new recipe)


Spaghetti with Meatballs (I use Prego and frozen meatballs)
Garlic Bread (store bought)



Pizza night

Rice Crispy Treats
Fruit Salad 


Parenting With Grace-Book Study: Chapter Two

(Intro here, and Chapter One,)
Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted.  These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember

Chapter Two-We are F.A.M.I.L.Y.-Daring to Discipline the Catholic Way

Discipline vs. Punishment
Discipline comes from word "discipuli" which means student.
Punishment comes from word "punier" which means "to inflict pain".

Punishment-police/suspect relationship.
Discipline-teacher/student relationship.

-Discipline is more than stopping bad behavior.

-Researches at Yale noted that the more parents use punishments (yelling, spanking, inconsistent/improper time-outs, rash consequences), the more they need to punish-children become less compliant in response.

-Relying too heavily on punishment forces parents to seek our more and more ways to shield children from the world.

-"The opposite of punishment is NOT permissiveness.  It is discipline."

Discipline allows parents to: (Answer spells out acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y)

1. F-Focus on a vision
-develop a"family identity statement"-Why?

-it is a lesson plan for the values you want to teach your children-Christian mission to live out Christian virtues.

-the Church encourages Catholic homes to be schools of virtues-to teach children to not just avoid bad, but more importantly to do good.  

-virtues aren't just adjectives they are TOOLS and RESOURCES for parents (virtues are brought up often in the book)

-it helps redirect a child instead of just harping and criticizing-"This would be a good time to practice (insert virtue-responsibility, generosity, respect-Johnny." -important to teach practical application of virtues too

-it helps develop kid's internal control-develop their own inner moral conscience.

-the daily family life becomes a spiritual exercise in Catholicism-you can integrate our beliefs into every part of the day 

-it builds family as a team-"In a family, every one's behavior affects everyone else's behavior."  "Wouldn't it be nice if, for a change, you could all influence each other for the good?"

-parents are accountable for their character flaws also. (I love this!)

"When parents work to set and safeguard the values and ideals their family stands for, they are exercising proper parental authority.  
When safeguarding these values and ideals 
includes a willingness to subject oneself to the same, even at the risk of one's own pride, 
then parental authority is being exercised "with wisdom and love."

(The book contains a work sheet to develop family mission statement based on Catholic virtues.)  This reminds me of my friend Shawni's family motto-same idea, different faith.)

A refresher course:  Because I need one!  We learn these at Confirmation time, and I remember the three older kids memorizing them, but will now make them a more integral part of parenting. The book does a good job of explaining what each one means in the practical sense, here is another source.  I also found a sweet home school mom that has a little series on how she teaches virtues in her home to her younger kids.

The Theological Virtues
1. Faith
2. Hope
3. Love

The Cardinal Virtues
1. Prudence
2. Justice
3. Temperance
4. Courage (aka fortitude)

The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit
1. Charity (self-donative love)
2. Joy
3. Peace
4. Patience
5. Kindness
6. Goodness
7. Generosity
8. Faithfulness
9. Modesty
10. Self-control
11. Chastity

Other Virtues of Value (listed by authors)

Solidarity, Hospitality, Openness, Knowledge, Creativity, Respect, Intimacy, Obedience, Service, Attentiveness, Wisdom, Compassion, Counsel, Piety

2. A-Act Proactively, Not Reactively
-parenting has to be more than stopping bad behavior which is the least rewarding way to parent-it's "like plugging leaks on your ship"  -you need to guide that ship, especially in storm, to get it where you want it to go. 

-address problems early on, instead of waiting to point of crisis management.

-to be effective Catholic parents, look for opportunities to practice virtues.

-look for ways to compliment children when they DO do something-create opportunities to learn virtue then make sure they know you are paying attention.  

-discovering intention behind bad behavior is the first way to change it.  Why is child doing this-what are they getting out of it, etc.

"If punishment is mostly concerned with stopping bad behavior once it starts, 
the cardinal rule of good discipline is that it is nine billion times more important 
to teach a child what to do in the first place  
than it is to teach them what to stop doing."

3.M-Make Relationship, not Manipulation, the Agent of Change
-think of relationship with child as it were an emotional bank account.  Positive things (all the things in last chapter-spending time together, compliments, catch them being good, working together etc.) making deposits.  When you correct, challenge, criticize, you make withdrawals which is OK, but you shouldn't overextend you credit.

4. I-Imitate Christ's Way To Command Obedience
-punishment/technique oriented parenting can lead to "blind-obedience"=obedience based on fear (fear of getting caught, being punished) instead of out of respect, love, consideration.

-effective discipline builds a strong relationship, takes time to listen and understand and TEACH, and then can command obedience.

(I have found this especially true for teenagers-if they understand why for example coming home late (tired mom, baby wakes up, Dad has to work next day early, we can't sleep because we worry about you, because we love you) so much more effective than "because I said so, if not you are grounded for weeks". Kids respond if they know love is the reason.  When I think more about it though-it's every age, not just teens.  Toddlers learn to not hit or throw a block, because it hurts and makes other sad.  Kids learn consideration for others this way also-the Golden Rule.)

5. L-Look for Ways to Train the Will, Not Break It
-Parents with punitive mindset can view misbehavior as innate badness or manipulativeness of children-leads to heavy handed parenting-baby crying at night must be ignored, misbehaving child must be punished "so that he know he can't get one over on the parent."

-Catholic response to will is to respect it and teach it, not break it

-A police officer probably doesn't care about why someone committed an offense-that's not their job, but our job as parents is to be the best teacher to our children and be concerned about the intentions of bad behavior so we can better teach good, godly behavior.

6. "Yes" to Methods That Increase Internal Control
-internal control=building own conscience

-reminds me of Parenting With Dignity book by Mac Blesdoe, one of my favorites-kids aren't going to be around US forever, all the time, we only get so many years with them as parents.  They will make their own decisions without us for most of their lives!  It is up to us to lay that foundation.

-"The more you use punitive methods with a child (lecturing, removing privileges, spanking, grounding, screaming, etc.) the more you set yourself up as your child's conscience, so he or she never learns to develop his or her own."  

-sometimes punitive methods are necessary (grounding, loss of privileges, a lecture) but should be used appropriately so that children can develop and exercise own strong sense of right and wrong

-effective discipline strategies rely less on exterior scaffolding (fear of punishment) and more on interior structure (child's conscience) to uphold moral character of the child.

-self-donative discipline is not as flashy as all the newest punitive methods-but it works better. i.e. self-donative discipline never has a cure-all, 'just read this book and magically have a new kid in 3 easy steps' sort of mindset.  It requires LOVE and TIME.

"The ultimate fruit of discipline is self-discipline."
Fr. Leo Trese


Parenting With Grace-Book Study: Chapter One

(Intro here.)
Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted.  These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember

Chapter One-Perfecting Your Kids In Love: Twelve Ways To Raise A PK

-As Catholics it is not our mission to raise perfect kids-it is our mission to raise kids to be "perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect"-perfect in love-that they will know how to love and be loved by others and by God

-How? "everything depends upon your kids knowing you love them and teaching them how to love you in return."
-Success as parent depends on attachment (to you, not peers) at every age and stage.
-Without that level of attachment, all best discipline strategies will fail.

Parent-Child Rapport Ratio (SO IMPORTANT!)
-Studies show that marriages are in danger of divorce if minimum positivity to negativity ratio of 5:1 is not met.  (Five positive interactions to one negative interaction.)  Strongest couples 20:1 ratio.

Same goes for parent/child relationships-yelling and defensiveness increases, discipline breaks down, etc. if that 5-1 minimum is not met.
20-1 is the ideal!!!
Positive-compliments, affection, support, encouragement
Negative-criticism, nagging, confrontation
This is foundation for effective discipline.

Affection Rapport Builders (there are twelve, the book goes into detail about each one)-
1. Say I love you and I'm proud of you at least one hundred times a day, say it until they are sick of hearing it, and then say it one more time.
-Seek out ways to comment on strengths and accomplishments. Be specific and genuine.
-Don't complain ever about them publicly-do it privately and respectfully to them if you have to.

2. Show them love-affection, time.
-Ask yourself every day what is one thing you can do that day to give a little more of yourself to your children.  (Real love-reciprocal-children should be taught to ask this too of themselves, for others.)

"Remember for your child, five extra minutes of playing with you 
or sitting and talking with you 
is worth a million times more than all the toys and trinkets you could ever buy."

3. Keep your promises.

4. Play together-invest in your relationship with each child.
-Can not be overstated, so important.  (Not just games, but any fun together.)
-One day a week should be family fun day.
-Once a month, special one-on-one time with each child-really listen-one of best ways to build a relationship with each child.

5. Work together.
-builds their competence, lets them see how you value their help.

6. Pray together.
-blessings morning and evening-special gifts from God
-special time each week outside of Mass for prayer/Bible/catechism.  (Whole other chapter on this.)

7. Be there.
Important things-big games etc, but small things as much as possible.
Catholic parents are called to be saints and raise saints.  Like Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II, and St. Pio-all knew how to make you feel as if you were the only person in the world that mattered when speaking to you.  Teach PRESENCE.  Look them in the eye, ask questions, really listen.  (I think more than ever kids these days don't get this-with cell phones, other tech...ick!)

8. Be welcoming.  
Make home safe place for friend's to hang out, especially teens.
(References book I really like called "Hold On to Your Child"-Gordon Neufeld-building strong parental bonds than peer bonds.

9. Respect their space.
Gives them opportunities to spread their wings while still under your protection-"room to grow".

10. Rapport Goes Both Ways
Every family member is called to serve each other as able-teach this lesson by modeling it.  Ask children to deliver same level of respect/service in return.

11. Family Meetings
Begin with prayer, express gratitude-thank each one for specific way to helping make life better for family, raise concern, discuss questions, close with prayer, have fun/meal.  (Establish rules.)

12. Know Their Relating Style
This one reminds me of Five Love Language for Children by Gary Chapman, but simplifies it somewhat. (There are quite a few pages in book one this subject-these are super brief notes.)
Know how each child feels love so that you can be sure they feel YOUR love...so important because kids need to feel that love connection and they all do in different ways.
Parents need to be "multilingual" to meet needs of different styles.
Some are visual-in that case, love letters, card in lunch box, etc.
Auditory-talk and listen, tell them how much you love them, respect their need to talk out problems when stressed.
Kinesthetic-physical affection, working on projects, hobbies.

Catholic families are called to create a "civilization of love".

"Affection is the fuel that makes a family run well."


Parenting With Grace-A Book Study

I recently found this book (I don't remember how), waited forever for it to come into our library, and then loved it so much I went out and bought my own copy.  I have read it, and re-read it, and have highlighted, turned down corners and created some notes for myself that I want to remember.

The book is called Parenting With Grace-The Catholic Parents' Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Greg and Lisa Popcak.  

The first time I read it, I told Jeff that the book, in essence, combined every favorite book I've read on parenting (from infant to teen), baby care, child development, education and Catholicism.  (It has a foreword written by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears.) It is deep and thoughtful, but useful and practical.  I have no idea how many readers of my blog are Catholic, and although this book is deeply rooted in our faith, I think that many parents of different faiths would find it as inspirational as I have.

I thought I would share my general notes from each chapter as I write them (and as time allows) because I think this book contains powerful messages about parenting-different from what we parents often hear today. I highly recommend this book, and I am a little worried I won't do it justice-I have so much highlighted!, but I want to stick this information into my brain.

Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted.  These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember

Introduction Notes:
What's So Special About Catholic Parents?
(this is a long heavy chapter just to warn you)

-If a television crew filmed in your home would the viewers be able to see that your Catholic Faith formed the way you talked to, interacted with, taught, disciplined, played with and responded to your kids?

-Parent kids as the Church parents us-the family is called the "domestic church".

-Our primary job as Catholic parents is to foster the kind of attachment with our children that makes them want too look more like us than they do their peers (just as we want to look more like His children and model Christ.)

-Self-donation: a virtue (mentioned often in the book) that is a kind of heroic generosity that empowers us to use everything God has given us: our time, treasure, talents and even our bodies to for the good of the people in our lives....to work for the good of our children and to raise saints.

-High Standards/Gentle Discipline-The Church has high expectations for our behavior, on the other hand, when we fail, she is an extremely gentle disciplinarian-like the parable of the prodigal son, her discipline strategy comes consists of strengthening our relationship with the Father so that we will never want to leave "home" again.

-We rely on two Holy Books-our lives must be grounded in the Sacred Scripture but we are different in that we recognize that there is another source of Divine Revelation-the "Book of Nature" (Father is the Author of nature)-or science.  "...while the secular world seeks to bend creation to its will, Catholics seek to use the knowledge we gain from science to learn how to cooperate with creation and use it in the manner God intended."-this is called natural law.

-We "can have a clearer picture than ever about what the "Book of Nature" says about the kind of parenting methods that lead to healthier brain development, stronger moral reasoning, and a deeper capacity for intimacy and empathy in our children."

-Theology of the Body (insight of Pope John Paul II, reflection on how God made the human body) is known for is mainly applied to husbands and wives but is much broader and Pope never intended it to be restricted to that context, but for all relationships between people, including parents and children.

-Many evangelical Protestant literature on child-rearing often refers to children's wills which are oppressed and evil and must be broken or subverted.  (James Dobson-"infants are inherently evil")...a negative view that usually leads to corporal punishment.

Catholic Church has more optimistic view of human nature:
Best way to corrects bad behavior is not to tell the child what NOT to do, but rather teach the child to DO instead-actively teach instead of merely punish.  Catholic will must be taught, disciplined and channeled but never disparaged or broken.  DIGNITY of human person important.

"There are no bad boys or girls.  
There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example and bad thinking." 
 Fr. Flanagan

On Obedience:
Obedience is a relationship "between persons of equal dignity."  Obey is not a four letter word.

St Therese wrote "that she never wanted to do anything to offend her parents because the love and service they showered upon her compelled her to offer nothing less than her best behavior."

Christian parents must "command" obedience the same way St. Therese's did-"by demonstrating self-donation in meeting their needs, responding to their cries, giving generously of our time, our bodies, or energy and our love, and leading them to do the same in return."

Attachment is the source of obedience, not just for babies, but for every stage and age-position yourself as the person most tuned in to your child's needs and most capable of helping those needs get met.  Your child will offer her obedience to who she is most attached whether it's you, a caregiver or a peer.

Attachment/Self-Donative parenting NOT spoiling-parents who spoil don't expect much, if anything, from their child.  Self-donative parenting serves the child to inspire and teach child to serve the family, community, Church and world.

Detachment-world we live in attempts to seduce parents into making out babies cry it out, training to be more convenient to us in other ways-to put our social and work schedules first instead of our responsibility to our children.

Great Catholic educators have led us: St. John Bosco, St. Maria Dominic Mazzarello, St. John Baptist de la Salle, St. Benildus, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Maria Montessori, Boy's Town Fr. Flanagan, Fr. Leo Trese, Dr. Herbert Ratner (force behind La Leche League) and Pope John Paul II's writings on family.

Why all parenting advice isn't equal-
-different parenting styles support a particular culture's values  (cites Dr. Meredith Small, Our Babies, Ourselves-I want to read this-so interesting to me!)

-Attachment vs. Detachment styles-quests to inspire "individualism", "self-reliance" in modern parenting practice don't do so, but create problems.

-Our Western culture has so many material blessings but we have a disposal attitude towards others-"culture of death" towards youngest, oldest, weakest members of society-the more detached a child is, more likely to exhibit depression, acting out, promiscuity, estrangement, criminal behavior.

-In US family life has been significantly devalued since 1960's-could 300 percent increase in adolescent suicide rate between 1960-90?  Parents spend 40 percent LESS time with their children than they did in 1960?

"You've heard the saying "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world".  Once upon a time this maybe have been true: but perhaps the more appropriate sentiment for contemporary civilization is that the world is being rocked because no one has time for who's in the cradle."

Is there a Catholic way to parent?
-there are some "values that stand at the heart of Catholicism"
-training a child in Faith is done in daily family life, not just prayers, rituals, customs, doctrine
-and the greatest value is LOVE

Self-donative love is a specific kind of love-like the "self-gift" of Jesus Christ-it can make us "squeamish" requires us to make personal sacrifices, but more more too-it is about "finding ourselves" by doing the work God created humans to do.

-"we believe that any parenting method that wants to call itself "Catholic" must be one that invites parents to suck the marrow out of every stage of family life."

"No man or woman can deem himself or herself a success in life, 
no matter how far up the ladder they have climbed, either socially, mentally, or materially, 
if they cannot say that they have the confidence, comradeship, and love of their children."  
Fr. Flanagan


On Weaning

Reader Question: Are you planning to let sweet Janet pants self-wean? Have you done that with all your littles? Mine is 1 soon and weaning terrifies me-but so does another year or two of nursing! Any tips or experiences you can share?

I have nursed all my children for at least a year.  I was able (see tips below) to gradually gently wean (no baby angst-I can't take baby angst, it hurts my heart!) within a few months.  So that means generally give or take I was finished breastfeeding by about 15 months with the five (exception is Janey, more on that below).  As much as I am passionate about breastfeeding and know in my heart its deep importance health-wise and emotionally-wise for both mom and baby, I wanted to throw a nursing- bra burning party in my back yard each time!  But that would be weird.  Can you imagine the invitation?

I know this for sure:  Nursing is time consuming.  It ties us mommies to our babies-we are irreplaceable-we are what keeps them alive.  It's very very selfless.  It takes lots of energy, physically and emotionally.  It makes us sit down, and slow down.  It rearranges our priorities.  And that is EXACTLY what nature intended.  I know that my babies needed not just the nutrition of the perfect food for babies, but also the emotional "nutrition" also.  I think it's best for both parties-mom and baby-to take weaning slowly and to be aware of the baby's needs, whether they fit in the "mold" of our culture or not.

For me I need a little plan to be consistent with the weaning process.  Just like potty training I want to be consistent to make it as stress free as possible for both of us.  It's not complicated: I take the feeding that is most easily "forgotten" about and drop it. I distract during that time, make sure the baby is being fed enough in meals and snacks, and avoid at all costs my nursing chair or even nursing room.  Springtime and summer is great for this because I can take a stroller ride and get outside during that time and the baby doesn't even notice.  I just gradually did this until only the nighttime feeding was left. (I don't have a perfect memory but I think all my babies woke up at night at least once even at one year to nurse.)  This is the hardest feeding to drop, because it's difficult to distract in the middle of the night.  All of my babes but two took a pacifier so I would just wake up with them when and offer them the pacifier-maybe the first night or two they would protest a little but no hard crying.  I would rock them back to sleep and after one or two or three nights that was that and they were weaned.

Janey, 17 months, is a big nurser...she still nurses 3 or 4 times a day and at least once or twice at night.  She never took a bottle or a pacifier.  I feel like right now, my mom gut tells me that she needs a little more time. I am thinking this spring we are going to work on dropping day time feeds slowly and then we'll work on the night time.  I never planned to nurse this long, honestly.  I said at her first birthday, "My goal is to be finished this month", then I said by Christmas, and now I am saying by spring.  I just know she needs to take this slow, and that's OK with me.  

For more help I always refer to Dr. Sears-I love his books-The Baby Book was my first year reference book for all my babies,  and I think he is right on spot with just about everything from birth to breastfeeding help to discipline.  Here is a short article of his on weaning. 


Menu For The Week

I'm trying some new recipes this week!

Broccoli Cheese Soup (new)
Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (new)

Four Cheese Bow Ties (I didn't make them last week)
Garlic Bread

Honey Mustard Chicken (new)

Meatloaf (an old favorite recipe)
Mashed Potatoes

Pizza Night


Ordinary Days

I'm tired of being cold.  I'm tired of the boots and hats and coats and scarves littering my home.  I want the snow to melt.  I want kids outside playing and open windows.  I want the smell of spring.  I want green!

I want to look out my window and see this:
It's heaven on earth!

Only a few weeks (months) to go right?

Last week Janey had a visitor...a  friend who was born just days before her, and whose mom happens to be a good friend of mine.  And my age also.  And has the spread of ages that I do. But this little one is her eighth!  

Here they were as babies, just a few (more than that) months ago.

Today I am grateful for:
The promise of spring. (See photo.)
Good friends. (Camaraderie and support.)
A warm house. (Zero degrees outside.)
A mission accomplished this week. (Abbey's room clean-out..looks spic and span!)
Healthy kids. (Knock on wood.)
A little organization. (I re-printed my cleaning schedule because I need the reminder to stay on top of it all.)


Menu For The Week

Minestrone Soup
Homemade Bread (in bread maker)

Zucchini Crab Cakes
Egg Noodles with Parmesan or Four Cheese Bow Ties

Asian Chicken Salad
Baked Potatoes
Fortune Cookies

Beef Stroganoff (from Our Best Bites)

Guacamole (I make my own with avocados of course, a little salt and a little chopped onion and cilantro)


Answers to questions from last week:
I have a bread making question: do you make all of the bread your family eats (including sandwiches)? I am wanting to take the plunge on a bread maker but am interested if it is as economical as I imagine. Thank you!
Definitely not!  I love my bread maker but I buy store bought bread for almost all of our sandwiches.  I do love grilled cheese on the bread maker bread-it's thicker and not as soft so my kids wouldn't love that with just their every day peanut butter and jellies.  I use it mainly for bagels, and buns, and "side dish" breads.

Question: I thought I read you were a vegetarian awhile back. Do you alter your family menu for yourself? I ask because I would like to become a part-time vegetarian and am looking for recipes the family will eat too
You did read I was a vegetarian awhile back.  I have been on and off for 20 years. Since I was pregnant with Janey I have been eating meat, and although I try here and there to cut down, since I'm still nursing, I just feel like my body needs it.  When I have eliminated meat from my diet in the past, I have either made the whole family a non-meat meal, or made myself something separate-maybe a huge salad, or whole wheat pasta topped with tons of sauteed veggies (that's my favorite).  


Menu Planning

Here is my simple menu planning process-so simple I feel funny writing a post about it!

I have been doing this for more years than I can count and nothing, I repeat NOTHING, has saved me for hassle, money, stress, than this simple process.  It also prevents me from being eaten alive by hungry children. :)

All week long I have a piece of notebook paper hanging up on the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets.  As I notice we run out of something or someone needs something, I write it down.  I shop most of the time at a large grocery store once a week and I try to make this my one errand a week if at all possible, so this list holds just about everything I need from food to a school supplies or cleaning supplies or diapers.

My grocery shopping day changes depending on what works with my schedule at the time, but right now I usually go on Fridays.  On Thursday, I get my cute little pad of paper with the days of the week out (or I just use a piece of notebook paper), and think of dinners to make, along with maybe some desserts or snacks.

I own a few cook books, and also like AllRecipes to source meal ideas.

I try to mix it up with tried and true favorites and maybe one or two new things.  Friday is usually pizza night, Saturday I don't plan for, because we might go out, or stay in, or teenagers might have plans or not, and I just play it by ear.  I also look at the calendar to see what the week holds for me, and how much time I have for preparation that day.

I add to my grocery list the ingredients that I will need to make the dinners I have planned, checking my cabinets to see what we already have.

My days of the week chart is not set in stone of course, I change things around because I might forget to defrost the meat, or have a really busy day with a fussy little one, and go for the easy meal instead of one that requires time, but I always know I have six meal ingredients on hand.