It Takes a Village?

The expression (straight from this area of the world, I think) it takes a village to raise a child is now common place and often quoted in support of the need for community in raising children.

I agree, and I disagree.

There are a lot of children in this village, and lots of family in community here. So very often, the children are allowed to go from place to place without their parents. Just one example: a boy of 2-1/2 years whom I’ll call “Tommy.” Tommy visited our home with his mother and played with our children a few times. Subsequently, one morning he showed up at our door and walked in without invitation and without parental accompaniment. I watched, bemused, as he engaged our littles with some toys, saying nothing the entire time. Once bored, he wandered off toward his grandparents’ house. Later, I saw him returning toward home with a cup full of beans and corn. About an hour had elapsed, during which time I believe his mother was doing her wash. I don’t know if she knew for sure where Tommy was the whole time.

Very often in the morning (during our school time) Jane will come and say hello. She sometimes invites the littles to go to her home or to see her parents (they all live right next door). Since the littles are occasionally uninvolved during our academic mornings, and since the children enjoy playing with the animals there and sometimes interacting with Jane’s young son, I allow them to go for a while. Frankly, I hesitate to offend by refusing, since everyone knows it takes a village and all.


This is a safe place to be, all things considered. Most of the families here are in community and are “good” people. I don’t really worry about the children’s physical safety when they’re apart from me. My hesitation in giving them more freedom is not about that at all. The problem is that though most of these folks are “good” people, there is a chasm between them and us in terms of world view. You don’t go very far before you encounter the community witch doctor and see various “shrines” set up in people’s homes and yards. Ancestor worship is alive and well here. The Bible says that our battle is not against flesh and blood and that there are powers and principalities in high places who are opposed to Christ, and I believe it. I also believe that our children are spiritually vulnerable to attack. If I do let them go visiting, it is not without praying for spiritual protection almost the entire time they’re gone.

If the spiritual issues aren’t enough of a consideration, I’ve also seen some of the fruit of it takes  a village. One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is the children. The ones who have nothing better to do than line up at our fence for hours on end are the biggest trouble makers. And where are their parents? Letting the village raise their children.

I won’t say that it doesn’t take a village. But I will say, you should take a good look at the village and make a considered decision about whether or not you want it raising your children.

Ideally, the Body of Christ…the family of Kingdom Christians…IS the village. And in that case, community is, indeed, a benefit and a blessing. But don’t be deceived by the worldly concept of it takes a village. Be vigilant to supervise, love, and disciple your own children. Keep them close, and be thankful for the Body of Christ when you find true community to support you in raising your children and chasing after Jesus.


Children Should be Seen and Not Heard?

We’ve probably all heard the expression, children should be seen and not heard. But in America, I don’t see that as being true. Most parents are concerned with teaching their children proper respect and manners, but children are generally integrated into social situations and taught to interact appropriately with different types of people in various situations.

As we were reading a “Culture” book about Kenya in preparation for our move, it noted that the adage children should be seen and not heard was generally alive and well here. I wondered how our children would compare with theirs. Wonder no more–our children are most certainly seen and heard.

Kenyan children, even while at play, generally do not yell and scream (at least from what I have heard). Even the babies seem quiet; they are carried, held, and nursed what seems constantly  and are quite content for the most part. The only time I have heard a baby cry is early in the morning, upon their waking (our neighbors are all quite close, so not much is secret!). When adults are conversing, children generally sit quietly with their parents or in the background. They seem not to seek entertainment but patiently endure what must be quite boring.

In contrast, while adults are talking, our children may be asked to sit quietly for a while, which they do without complaint, but at some point we will excuse them.Once released, they will wander off into another room or outside, where their happy-but-loud noise generally carries throughout the house (one benefit of having no ceilings and a tin roof!). I hesitate to reprimand them, but the difference is certainly marked. I’m not sure how our Kenyan counterparts react to our children’s ways, but at the same time I don’t know to what extent we will try to conform their behavior.

What is your feeling about children being seen and not heard? Is it better for children to be brought up under this expectation–what are the advantages and disadvantages, for them, for the family, and for society? To what extent would you try to train (or re-train) your children if a cultural or social expectation was at odds with your practices?

Training to Make a Tight Connection

We’ve written before about the importance of child training in various areas: lining up, doing chores, baby care, and so on. We have a new “training module” in the Carrier family: navigating the airport. The children are already trained to line up quietly in order to take directions (good for walking through the parking lot or any other public place). Now, we’re working on putting on the backpacks and doing the same. After a couple of days of this, we’ll add the wheelie bags to the routine and see how we might do at getting ourselves through a crowded airport. Less than two weeks and counting down to Kenya! Here’s the video…try to ignore the chaotic mess left behind as we sort and pack our possessions (but that’ll be another post). 🙂

We don’t Use a Chore Chart Any More

We are firm believers in training children to help around the house. It teaches them practical skills, encourages diligence, and helps them to participate in serving others in a tangible way. (You can see this post for more.) We used to use a chore chart, as I felt that it helped me in home management and helped the children to take more responsibility for their daily work without me constantly hovering over them, having to tell them what to do. (That chore chart is still available as just one of our freebies when you sign up for our email newsletter. I’ve also seen a lot about this free online chore chart lately, but haven’t tried it.)

However, it has now been over two years since we’ve used a chore chart. At first, it was because we were trying to sell our house. As a result, we cleaned when we had a showing and it was an all-out effort rather than doing a bit each day as we usually did. Everyone pitched in and did whatever was required.

After we sold our house, I frankly found little use for a chore chart. We had moved from a 3,000 SF house to a 1,400 SF house and there was a lot less to do in terms of maintenance and management. In part because of the down-sizing and also because we prepare our home for fellowship each Sunday afternoon, I found that a once-a-week cleaning on Sunday morning made a lot of sense.

When might you find a chore chart useful? If you have fewer children and/or a large number of chores to split up between them, a chore chart might help with getting things done consistently. Particularly if you do not have a specific “cleaning day” each week, but rather do certain tasks on certain days, a chore chart is excellent for maintaining order.

When will a chore chart not be as helpful? If you, like me, have fewer chores to go around (or more children to split them up between), there might not be as much need to schedule everything.  If you prefer  once-a-week cleaning rather than doing it bit-by-bit each day, likewise a chore chart will likely not be necessary, except if maintenance during the week necessitates it.

Chore chart alternative: In my home management binder (which contains emergency and other contact information, homeschooling records, and recipes), I have  included a page that summarizes our daily routines. A second page details what needs to be managed for the “cleaning day” and during daily morning and afternoon chore times. I’ve also specified which children can be assigned which jobs.Yet another addendum describes the children’s homeschool assignments in greater detail. Sometimes I need this to help me to remain organized, although for the most part it’s all pretty routine. My older children are  able to check the binder if I or my husband are not available for immediate direction. I think it is also a good record to have on hand in case someone else is caring for the children and needs to know “what to do.”

Here’s a simplified version of our Daily “To-do’s”:

(All children dress, brush hair, and neaten beds and rooms upon waking.)

  • Daily: empty dish drainer and wash previous day’s supper dishes
  • Daily: carpet sweep living room and hallway
  • Daily: let the chickens out (this is coupled with another job, as it needs to be done but is not really a “chore”)
  • Daily: set table for breakfast; change little one’s diaper/clothes if Mom hasn’t already done it
  • Breakfast: older children may be asked to make oatmeal, cornmeal, or eggs
  • Check dryer for “leftover” loads to fold and put away (this is unusual but happens occasionally)
  • Older children check laundry baskets and bring full loads to the laundry room. Put in one load.


  • Daily: empty dish drainer and wash dishes from breakfast and/or lunch
  • Daily: check carpets/floors (including kitchen) and carpet sweep/spot mop as needed
  • Daily: Fold and put away laundry, as needed
  • Midweek: Clean toilet and sink in main bathroom; scoop litter box and sweep floor
  • Help with dinner preparation
  • Clear and set table for supper
  • Work on outdoor chores for Dad, if needed 
  • Bedroom pick-ups

I work alongside the children during chore times attending to meal preparation, laundry, sheet-changing, or whatever else needs to be done. The above list acts as an outline for what often needs to be done during chore times, and is good to fall back on, but I often provide direction for other tasks that are a higher priority. By attending to these smaller chores during the week at regular times, we are able to keep the house in good order after the thorough weekly cleaning. 

Feel free to share your methods and systems for home management!

When You Feel Like Banging Your Head Against a Wall…

…yeah, that’s a good way to describe how I felt yesterday. Ever have one of those days?

The past few months have been particularly challenging for me. Marc went back to work full-time after working from home for most of the past 4 years. Not only that, but he has a 3-hour, round-trip daily commute and so is gone for at least 12 hours. For many of you, that’s reality…and I’ve gotten used to it, but it was a difficult transition given what our situation had been.

Right at the same time, I was experiencing my first trimester of pregnancy, with extreme tiredness and day-long nausea unlike any of my other previous pregnancies. Again, not something that other ladies don’t go through, but combined with the transition to “solo” days with our brood of seven, I was pretty exhausted and drained.

Then Marc and my oldest son went away for three weeks to Kenya. I praise God for everything that was accomplished in terms of training and Kingdom Expansion while they were there, but…that was a l-o-n-g three weeks.

I figured after the holidays things would normalize. But I forgot how active my children are, how much they love to be outside…and how STUCK INSIDE we all are during winters in Indiana. Our 1400 SF house seems smaller than it used to. And it’s loud.

With all of these transitions, and with my sickness and tiredness, I haven’t been as consistent as I both want and need to be in the discipleship of the children and in relationship-building. I can see that some things are suffering a bit as a result, although I am thankful for the Lord’s grace in enabling me to “persevere” and actually come out of a trying time on a pretty good note overall. Still, we’ve gotten into some habits that need to be reversed or replaced, and that will require yet another period of transition for all of  us. I’ll be honest, I want to see better fruit but the amount of effort that I think it will require is a little intimidating.

I was a little discouraged in contemplating all of this yesterday, after an unexpectedly overwhelming afternoon. However, I had the pleasure of reading this morning from Habakkuk 3:17-19:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,  he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

This verse reminds me that even if we don’t see the “fruit” we desire..even if things are challenging…we can and should still rejoice in the LORD. He is our strength. Let us persevere in Him!

"I’ve been trying really hard to do it God’s way…"

Yesterday was “one of those days.” Can’t explain why exactly, but it just seemed like everything took longer than it needed to, involved more arguing, whining, and complaining than usual, and…ultimately resulted in me yelling at the children, which we all HATE. Of course, the words were barely out of my mouth when I apologized and tried to re-set things. Even so, I ended the day feeling discouraged for a variety of reasons, the least of which was because I was feeling like the children just weren’t “getting it.”

You know what I mean…it seems like we invest so much, so constantly in our children. We want to impart in them a godly character, but we want that not to come from duty but out of a heart of love that is surrendered to Christ. That’s a lofty goal for little ones, to be sure, and I’m usually pretty realistic in my expectations. Even so, I felt like even my older children were struggling more than usual and I was exhausted by the effort.

The kids knew I was discouraged. After our evening time of prayer and Bible reading, my nine year-old son put his head in my lap and said, “Mom, I’ve been trying really hard to do it God’s way.” But then he kind of chuckled and said, “Well, not really, I guess I just do pretty good most of the time.” And he’s right…he is usually pretty compliant and quiet. He encourages his siblings to do what’s expected of them. He “goes with the program” pretty well. On the other hand, I can readily admit that I have a few other children who are not like that. If they’re not really striving to please the Lord, it is more than obvious in their behavior.

This made me realize how easy it is for me to let our quiet kids “off the hook,” in the sense that they don’t go through as many “teachable moments” as their other siblings. They don’t consistently get called on the carpet for their misdeeds (or worse yet, I don’t always address occasional troubles with their “heart condition,” because it doesn’t necessarily result in acting-out behaviors). I have to admit, in the hustle-and-bustle of every day, I tend to correct the obvious problems and let the “little things” slide. Trouble is, it’s usually my quiet kids that do the “little things.” As a result, I don’t think they’re as likely to be “convicted” and see their sin as sin, because they’re comparatively “better” than others…and likely, they have a harder time understanding their need for repentance. But, as I told my son upon reflection this morning, Hell is going to be full of a lot “good” people.

I hope that as parents, we will all challenge ourselves with this understanding and apply it well as we disciple our children in the Lord.

The Infamous "Sand Fit"

I’m so bad about blogging regularly. We’re moving at the speed of life here, and so often I do not feel as though our daily doings are that inspiring. And, I’d rather focus on discipling my children and whatever else the Lord would have me do than just filling up words in cyberspace. But every once in a while I know there’s something I just need to share…and the infamous “Sand Fit” is one of those things.

Our 16 month-old daughter is so sweet and such a joy…it melted my heart when she started giving really slobbery kisses at about 14 months, and we all cheered her big accomplishment of learning to throw garbage in the garbage can at about the same time. She was learning to respond to the word “NO,” particularly when it came to keeping her little fingers out of the cat food dish. Of course, as she gets older there are a few other things she’s told “NO” about, like putting things in electrical sockets and climbing up on top of boxes that are precariously perched. For the most part, she’s learned to obey when she’s told “NO,” but she doesn’t always like it. So she sometimes lets us know how she feels…in a “passive-aggressive” sort of way. 😉

Once in a while, she’ll be told “NO”…and she’ll obey…but she’ll protest a bit by throwing a “fit.” She already knows better than to scream and cry, so she’ll simply throw herself on the floor and plant her head down in front of her–in a way that has always reminded me of an ostrich burying its head in the sand. Eventually I coax her out of it and ask her to come put her head in my lap to hug, pat, and reconcile. She’s happy to oblige and then we carry on as normal.

Over Columbus Day weekend we were blessed to enjoy a brief family vacation at the beach. Everyone had a blast–even Jubilee! She dug in the sand, walked on the beach, splashed in the water, and watched the big kids play with kites. Of course, I insisted that she stay close to me and our usual spot was pretty high up on the beach, away from the water and waves.

At one point we were up on the beach and everyone else was down in the water. She wanted to follow along but was told “NO,” because I was enjoying a conversation with my sister and didn’t really want to interrupt it to move down to the water. Jubilee obeyed, but she wasn’t happy. So imagine a sunscreen-coated (literally from head to foot!) 16 month-old stopping, throwing herself down in the sand, and burying her head in quiet protest! I unfortunately didn’t have my camera on hand but my sister captured the moment and later emailed me the infamous “sand fit” photos. They still make me smile.

Head in the sand.

Coming to Mom.

Reconciliation and comfort.

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the clean up. That was not fun!

Work, Work, and More Work?

Here’s a story (title: “Worck Today”) written yesterday by my seven year-old:

Some days it just feels like it’s work, work, and more work, doesn’t it? I commented about the girl’s smiling face, and my daughter said, “Work is fun! We work a lot.” My husband and I have been getting a good chuckle out of this one. And, no, we don’t actually have a horse. The rest is pretty accurate, though. 🙂

The Strong-Willed Child

I’ve posted before about my strong-willed daughter (here and here…and here, too); our oldest son has a bit of a strong will as well, although any “issues” we have with him as a result of his personality are few and far between these days.

In a recent email communication, one mom commented, “what is your advice for that “strong willed” child. I know you had mentioned that you have one and I do too and have had a hard time dealing with it!! …any advice would be so helpful and greatly appreciated!!!” I decided to sit down and address that one at some length, then figured I might as well post it to the blog. I hope you will add any of your ideas that might be helpful to other moms and dads with strong-willed children.

Easy things you might already be doing:

  1. Offer choices when possible. Don’t make everything a matter of the child’s choice, but when possible, give some freedom: what to have for lunch, which game to play, whether to do dishes or laundry for his or her daily chore, or whether to start the homeschool day with Math or Language Arts. These choices, when offered within reason, allow the child to make choices over non-essential things so that when you (the parent) need to ask something that does not involve choice, there is more willingness to comply because of the give-and-take.

    However, do not let this strong-willed child question your authority when decisions need to be made. If I have a habit of letting the child “choose” certain things but see that he/she is being rebellious, I will often remove the freedom to choose. Children should be aware that they exercise freedom within boundaries, and that their privilege in this area is just that–a privilege. They should understand that rules are for their benefit, and that they are blessed when they show respect to their parents.

  2. Establish solid routines: I believe that all children, and those strong-willed ones in particular, thrive on routine. Not necessarily a firm schedule, but a good routine. Children benefit from understanding expectations and knowing when their times of work (and the reward of play) will be. A good routine will include short periods of work (30 minutes or so), followed by about 10 minutes of “rest”/down-time if possible. This may include reading a book, playing an active game, making a quick phone call, or sitting down with a cup of water or juice (which in our house is always watered down!) 🙂

    If you have younger children, don’t let their will dictate whether or not they will take an afternoon nap. Little kids need naps–or at the very least, an enforced “rest period.” They don’t know that they need it, but they do. My strong-willed 5 year-old still naps every other day, but she would rarely choose to do that. However, after going “no nap” at age 5, I saw that she really needed the alternate-day rest period and implementing this scheduled nap has made days much less dramatic for everyone.

    Make sure your routine includes breaks for snacks or hydration as well. Don’t over-do the snacks, and make sure they’re healthy–but hydration in particular can make a great difference in mood.

  3. 5-minute warning: Every child (but, again, those strong-willed ones in particular) appreciates having a 5-minute warning when an activity is coming to an end–especially if they are having fun. But let your “five minutes” be pretty close to an actual 5 minutes, or they’ll learn not to take you seriously.

The “more important” things:

Doing the “practical” things above will likely help keep the battle of wills from becoming an issue quite so often. However, I’ve found that focusing in the externals (the “doings”) very often misses the heart. It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Instead, there are some deeper and more intensive things that will get to the heart of the issue of will–these are the “spiritual” steps that will have a more lasting impact.

  1. Pray. Perhaps obvious, but don’t neglect to do it. Pray for your own (parents’) wisdom in every situation. Pray not just for your child to be submissive or obedient, but for all of you to learn to have an eternal perspective about daily events and grow in your relationship with the Lord so that love, unity, and His glory would be everyone’s ultimate objective in every situation.

    Pray with and for your children. Ask them how you can pray for them, and pray aloud with them.

  2. Focus on the eternal and the important. It’s easy to make mountains out of molehills and succumb to the “tyranny of the urgent.” When you’re involved in a battle of wills, the temptation is to think that you must “win” the battle–but if your focus is not where it should be, you may lose the war. It’s not worth it! Think first, about what God’s desire is for each and every incident, and how you can glorify Him. Think about how you can grow through trials, and how you can encourage your child to do the same. Pick your battles.

  3. Build relationships. Don’t let your child’s strong will determine how you will view him or her. Resist the impulse to label him (even in your mind) as “the trouble maker,” “the difficult one” or something. See him as a unique individual with God-given gifts, and loved by God. Find the good. Spend time building your relationship with this child in a positive way so that when you do have to provide correction, it will be more than balanced by loving and joyful interactions. Find out your child’s “love language” and focus on those areas, but always look for little ways that you can express caring.

    Don’t engage in relationship-building activities contingent upon your child’s “performance.” They need your time and attention, regardless of their behavior. In fact, their behavior might be improved if you make it a point to regularly invest in them.

    Decide to give grace sometimes, and “reward” a child with special time or a special treat because you love them, not because they deserve it. I don’t even mind pointing out to my children that these “little blessings” I occasionally bestow on them aren’t merited…but just because I love them.

  4. Encourage. It’s easy to pounce on the bad attitudes, the disobedience, the forgetfulness, and all the other wrong behaviors. But don’t forget to liberally encourage. And by that I don’t mean the “puffed-up,” artificial self-esteem type of stuff. Encourage them about what they are doing that shows progress, pleases the Lord, or blesses others. There’s almost always something good about every situation, if you can find it.

  5. Disciple, with grace. Model good attitudes, patient endurance, and cheerful service for your children. Then you will earn the right to disciple them in these areas when they struggle.

    Proactively teach God’s Word and help everyone in the family to apply it to real-life situations, especially in relation to attitude (but also, by extension, anger and other emotional outbursts). Through this consistent exercise, you can create a more consistently joyful home atmosphere. Your strong-willed child, in particular, needs this foundation! If you have read and discussed applicable verses during family time, it becomes simply a reminder to the children when attitudes or anger flare, to share one of the verses in an encouraging manner and say something like, “This is what we talked about the other day (or last week, or whenever)…this is one situation where you can choose to obey God’s Word.”

    The approach of meditating on God’s Word and using it during life’s “teachable moments” is not an instant-fix, but it gets to the heart and will prove more effective than other “band-aids” in the long run. The consistent teaching and application of the Scriptures has been the one thing that I would say has affected the most change in the atmosphere of our home and in dealing with our strong-willed children. So I encourage you to turn to God’s Word to correct bad attitudes and other outbursts in your home; pray with and for your children as you minister the encouragement of the Word and trust God that His Word will not return void!

Feel free to comment about anything that has worked in your home; this post is by no means exhaustive. 🙂

It’s not what THEY do, it’s what YOU do about it that counts

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

It’s not what they do, it’s what you do about it that counts.

We went to the St. Louis convention this past weekend and it was by far the best digs we’ve had yet for parking the travel trailer and working the convention with all 7 children in tow. My only complaint would be the small size of the booth. Under normal circumstances it would be fine but when I was crammed in there with all the children while Marc was doing his Project Management seminar…it was a l-o-n-g hour. Praise God for Curt and Morgan and their family at the Miller Pads and Paper booth across the way…they blessed us with a HUGE box of F-R-E-E stuff and the children had an absolute blast doing scratch art, coloring color-by-numbers, and making paper airplanes.

Anyway, to the point…

While the little ones napped in the trailer on Saturday afternoon, I asked Marc if he minded if the four older children sat in the booth with him so I could take advantage of the quiet and nap myself. (Jubilee wasn’t very cooperative about her sleeping arrangements in the trailer and I was up a lot for the first two nights.) He said that was fine so I dropped the big kids off after lunch and settled in for a quick nap before returning to man the booth during Marc’s afternoon session.

I was concerned about our middle daughter. At age 5, she still naps every other day and tends to be very contrary when she doesn’t get her odd-day rest periods. As it is, she can be strong-willed, so I hoped that she would be cooperative in the booth. One of the things we enjoy about the conventions is the opportunities for networking, conversation, and ministry…and I didn’t want the children to be disruptive if people came with questions or comments.

Of course, Marc had opportunity for some awesome, Spirit-led discussions. And also, inevitably, a couple of children took advantage of the opportunity to be a bit more boisterous than they otherwise might have been. We are very proactive about our child training practices and I would love it if my children were always well-mannered, demure, and obedient. Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, they are not. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

It’s not what they do, it’s what you do about it that counts.

So on my agenda for this week (along with cleaning up the trailer, cleaning up the fall-out from our departure and re-arrival at home, and catching up on laundry) is addressing this issue of distraction and disobedience with the children. I want to remind them that we’re all serving Jesus together, and that their part in serving the Lord is sometimes just learning to be content to sit in a small booth for an hour or so, and behaving in a faithful manner while Mom or Dad is engaged in a meaningful conversation. I don’t want them to think that we want them to behave to make us look good. I want them to understand that they have a part to play in cooperating with God’s purposes–and they get to choose whether or not they will be involved in that plan. Our aim is to glorify God in all things, at all times. Sometimes we all need a reminder of that. So, we press on…

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)