Did you think about Aretha? Are you about to lift that pointer finger and swivel your hips? Well I am asking the big question “find out what it means to me?”
Making a family of fourteen children is a big undertaking. There are so many dynamics of personalities to manage. The family psychologists and experts out there would gasp at the audacity of what we have done. It is an amazing petrie dish for psychological learning and observation.
I don’t need anyone in Uganda to write me a report to tell me that the fourteen children in our home have settled into patterns and rhythms that are natural. I also can guess the honeymoon phase of becoming a new family with drastically improved conditions has lost its luster and is feeling like a comfortable blanket that’s been around for a while. So it goes that fourteen children are going to argue and hurl words that you can’t take back. They are bound to bicker, argue, take sides, tattle, sneak, and establish some sort of pecking order.
These children had nothing but the rag on their back, and then suddenly they had many many things to take care of and protect, and call “mine”. If you have nothing you can’t get in trouble for leaving it lying around, or mad because someone took it. There are some children who are intelligent and able to manipulate to get their will accomplished. There are some who are bossy, a few who can be sneaky. Others are compliant, quiet, and passive. I am crazy about all of their personalities and eager to help them grow in the way that God has created them. But…
What I know is that children left to themselves will destroy one another with words and selfish ambitions. That’s why we have a good team in place to monitor their every choice, behavior and word. They’ve been on holiday for a few weeks and the team is working full time with the tutoring. (it must be exhausting! I love their dedication.) When I planned our mission trip we didn’t even have these children! I wish we were able to have been there when they weren’t in school.
Kia is tutoring them, especially the younger ones who struggle more with school. And she’s able to see them make better progress. She’s taken on the positive reinforcement system I introduced. I brought a roll of blue tickets and suggested that the children be given tickets when they are caught doing something good or right. When they have a set number of tickets they can choose a prize. This is now in place and they are earning their tickets and learning when they do what is right they will get rewarded.
They get disciplined when they are naughty. This is a culture that does not accept misbehaving children. Stopping bad behavior is one part of the equation. Our goal though is to feed their heart with so much of Jesus that they ooze the goodness through their mouths, hands and feet. We’ve got to penetrate the hearts with teachings that serve “the inner man” as Robert called it.
Robert requested a cd player for the new van because the music on the radio is unwholesome. They want the children to be singing songs which are good, true, and right. I love that. I can remember times when my own children were small, and recently Kira, that I listened to all children’s bible songs in the car. Children are absorbing and learning every minute of their waking days. I am so thankful our team is feeding their hungry minds and souls.
What we need to teach them is a set of House Rules for being a family that respects one another. I’m thinking of a few, “ask before you touch someone else’s belongings”, “use your quiet voice in the house”, “help others if you are helping yourself”, “use polite manner words” etc. I would love it if anyone could share the effective house rules for sibling rivalry that help maintain peace and order in your home. Please leave us a comment! It’s been a long time since my children were small and rascally and annoying each other with every breath. I was tough on them. I drew a strict line and held it so no one would use unkind or hurtful language with anyone in the home. I was constantly pointing my finger in their faces with my angry face.
When I asked my kids what rules they thought would be useful Kevin said, “I think you should post on the wall where the children could see it the commandment Jesus gave ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. That should solve all the problems.” Indeed it should. It’s just easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one of them. Isn’t that the truth? I learned it as the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m still learning to do that and I get it wrong more than I get it right. So let’s thank God for his grace, that he doesn’t give us what we deserve, but instead second chances and excessive love. Ultimately God is the teacher for how to be a good parent. What he does for us is the model of how we can love, guide and discipline our children.