377 | Help Your Children Be Children, Part 2 (Sean Allen)
In part one of this series, I discussed how important it is to maintain a healthy balance between helping our children grow and mature and extracting all the joy that can be found in their present age. In this episode I will offer some practical suggestions on how you can actually put this into practice in your child's day to day life.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
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Sean Allen Hello. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Since you're listening to this, I'm guessing you already know that homeschooling is both incredibly challenging and incredibly beautiful. Every week we're here doing a little guidance, some helpful counsel, and a whole lot of encouragement your way as you navigate this busy, yet blessed journey of educating your children at home. Now, even though the show is called Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every homeschool related question. But if you come away with nothing else, our hope is that today's episode will point you to Jesus Christ and that you will seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Well, hello again to each and every one of you, whoever you are, wherever you are. Thank you for joining us today on the Homeschool Solutions Podcast. Well, I am going to continue on from my last episode, and if you haven't heard that, I would encourage you to go back and listen to it. I feel it's an important topic to consider, and the short of it is I try to encourage each of you to look at your children through the lens of being a child and to try to do our utmost to first remember what it was like to be a child, but also to help them retain their childhood while also reaching forward into adulthood. And you're able to do both of those things. And I think that too often we place too much of an emphasis on just reaching forward towards adulthood. Like, why can't you be more responsible? Why can't you be more mature? Why can't you be effectively more like me? And I really think that that's counteractive to our desires. That's the ironic thing about it. It's kind of a paradox. Like the more that I think that you help your child to maintain a retention of who they actually are, that is a child, the more effective your efforts at helping them to become more mature and responsible are. It's very strange, it's a very strange thing. But the short of it is your children—this is a newsflash for you—your children like being children. They like being four or six or ten. I know that when you get into...they get slightly older and they're always wanting to be one year older. When they get into the teen years, they want to be 18, they want to be 21, whatever. But I also think, or at least this has been my experience with my children, is that they have something of an inkling that perhaps adulthood is not everything that is chalked up to be and maybe they want to kind of enjoy where they are right now.
I think that's what I've noticed with some of my children as well. They still want to grow up, but they're also just like, yeah, I don't know. And you need to help them to understand, you know, that's not really...there's a time to be 25 and there's a time to be 40, and that's not right now. So help them to be children. Help them to be 5-years-old while they do their school. Maybe you don't do schooling at 5-years-old, and you know what? That's all right. Let's pick a safer age that perhaps we could all agree on, let's say eight. Help them be an 8-year-old, folks. Oh, my goodness. I am so sad that I have not made a greater effort to help my children be children. And I don't want you to misunderstand me. If you didn't hear my last episode, again, go back and listen to that. But I want to be clear. Your children need to grow, they need to mature, they need to become more responsible, they need to become more diligent with their responsibilities; we all would agree on that, but goodness gracious, don't present those tasks and those responsibilities in such a way that it's just purely from an adult perspective.
And I mentioned this in my last episode, it's like when you tell them to fold laundry, you're both hearing two different things. You're hearing folding laundry is easy, it's just a cakewalk and it's wonderful, you know, to have your laundry folded and to have your house clean and have your bed made. Oh, my goodness. It's just so wonderful because that's what Chip and Jo do. No, I'm joking here. That's what mature adult adults do. And all the homes that I see in the magazines and that I see on the shows and what have you, they...Oh, if I could just have that. And you know what? You're standing between me and achieving that goal. And so I need you to be responsible. I need you to be an adult now. And you're...it's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. You're going to have...I mean, you might be able to scare them half to death into complying with your wishes, but that's not true obedience. And you're certainly not going to be partners. You're going to be helping each other out in that task. It's going to be like a reverse bribery kind of situation, that's what I like to call it. You're reverse bribing your child into helping you achieve the life that you've always wanted. You know what? That's really not your job to call upon them to help you achieve the life that you always wanted. Now those things don't need to be mutually exclusive. But really, your first job is to help them grow into the person that the Lord intended them to be. And if along the way, they're able to help you in the economy of your life, then that's just a win-win situation. And that is the way it works, by the way. It's not as if, again, those are mutually exclusive. They can take place simultaneously. But you're going about it backwards if you're looking at your child and you're saying, you know what, you're here, you don't have a choice, you have to do what I say, and what I say is you're going to help me clean. What I say is you're going to help me whatever. You're going to help me to progress in my life.
And we forget that true progression in a home where there are children is to see your children flourish and to prosper. That's progress. And they're never going to flourish and prosper unless you help them to discover the joy in every age that they find themselves in. So no matter how old they are, where's the joy to be found in this? And that's what we're really struggling with, I think a little bit with our teenagers. We struggle with it more, again, as they get older. But they're always looking ahead. And they should. They should, but they're always looking at that future date with such a longing. Almost to the extent and often to the extent that they lose sight of the beauty that is 15 or 16 or 17. Like you're 17, you're not 19. And those are two totally different ages. There's a lot that can happen in two years. We try to explain that to our teenagers. We try to explain that even to our 10-year-old or 11-year-old because they see their older brothers and sisters and they want to be 13/14. Like 10/11 is very different than 13/14. And there are things that the Lord wants to show you at 11 that would perhaps be lost on you at 14. He wants you to experience the joy of being 11. He wants you to experience the joy of being 18, not 21. And it's our job. Nobody else is going to do this for them, okay? Because they don't know. They have this sneaking suspicion when they're 16 that 18 is going to be much better. And again, I think that's also mingled with a little bit of a sneaking suspicion that perhaps it's not all that it's cracked up to be, but nevertheless, they have this, I think, God-given need for momentum in their life, and it needs to reach forward. They have to do that. That's not wrong. But we don't want to do that to the exclusion of all that is to be unearthed and all of the treasure that is to be discovered in the age that they are now. Nobody is going to do that for them. You have to do this.
The reason why you're the perfect candidate for helping them to retain a joy or to experience a joy in the age that they are now is because you're able to look back and you've probably said to yourself many, many times, Oh man, I wish I would have...I wish I would have made better use of my time when I was 18. Or I remember when I was in college and, you know, you think you're just so insanely busy in college because every age is busier than the last. And so you're thinking, This is as busy as it gets. And you're so unaccustomed to it, you're so unaccustomed to it that it's about all that you can manage at that point in time in your life, but the Lord gives us grace and allows us to grow into seasons of greater busyness. Like I've said before, I just don't...there hasn't been a year in my life that I haven't grown busier than what I was the year before. I think it's going to stop at some point, I don't really know when that will be. Maybe that's at the point in which I take my last breath. And even then, I don't think...I think there's still more work to do, but nevertheless, that's where they are. And so we have the blessing of perspective to be able to look back and say, Yeah, I was busy in college, but my goodness, I didn't have any dependents. I didn't have any other people that were looking to me for food, for clothing and for all of those sorts of things. And so I could have read way more than what I did. I could have studied, goodness. I could have listened to more beautiful music. I could have gone on longer walks or any number of things. Yeah.
So endued with that perspective, we should be able to go back to our children and say, Look, look, I know you want to be...you're 12 and you want to be 13, but it's okay. It's good to be 12. It's wonderful to be 12. And so let the Lord bless you at 12 while He prepares you for the blessings of 13. That's our job, folks. Nobody's going to do that for you. And it's such a tragedy when they're the ones longing at 12 to be 13 and we're there right there by their side saying, Yeah, yeah, you're 12. Well, if you could be 16, that would be really great because then I would have to deal with your little 12-year-old issues and I wouldn't have to deal with, you know, whatever. We could just fast forward this thing. And we always assumed to ourselves that, well, at 16, you're going to be so responsible and so mature. And here's the dirty little secret: if you haven't helped them to gain a perspective throughout the various ages of their life, when they grow to be 16, they're not going to want to listen to you then either. They're not going to want to do what you ask them to do then either. You need to be in their corner and being their corner in this sense, looks like helping them to unearth the treasure of each unique season of their life. Help them to be a child. So, I'm adding that to my last episode. I'm sorry. If you listen to my last episode, you're probably like, Well, I think you've already gone over this. But there's a few things, a few of the things that I wanted to say. I just feel so strongly about this. And I want to tell you, I'm going to try to do a better job at this, because even though you know this, you know, knowing is one thing and actually put it into practice is another. I really want to try to help my children with this because I feel so sorry for them. You and I would probably jump at the opportunity to be 5 again just to see, you know, just to go back and to be 10 at home, you know, certainly high school age, I would. The reason for that is I'd like to go back and have a do over. You know, there's some things that I really wish that I could have done better with some added perspective. But let's not dwell on that.
So I wanted to give you some practical suggestions. And these aren't any...this isn't anything too revolutionary, but I just want to give you some practical suggestions on how to help your children to be children, how to help them to be 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, whatever age that they are. Help them to be that, and to be it fully. To fully be a 10-year-old girl. To fully be a 10-year-old boy. Isn't that such a wonderful season of life? To be a 4-year-old boy, to be a 4-year-old girl. Isn't that such a wonderful season of life? We've got a little 2-year-old right now and sometimes, you know, you just look at him and the things that he's doing, it just makes your heart want to just pop. Now, there's the other things, too where he just makes you so frustrated you want to pull your hair out. But you can't deny the beauty and the joy. And I'm so happy that he's 2. And I want him to be 2. I don't want him to stay 2. Well, maybe there's a part of me that does, but you know what I mean. He's growing into 3, and that'll be wonderful too.
So here are some practical ideas. First of all, stop and listen to your children. It's a rat race. You get to a certain age where it's just like you're jumping into this rushing torrent river and there's nothing you can do to stop it. You're just flowing down this river and you're bumping against rocks and you're bouncing off the banks of the river and there's all these obstacles and you're trying to keep your head above water, and you're just constantly rushing forward. And in that state of affairs, it's really hard to stop and listen to the calm and the placid waters of childhood because they're not like that. They're not rushing forward, they're just kind of existing. Well, today I went outside and I dug a hole in the ground with this shovel. And then I put the dirt back in the hole and then I dug another hole. And then I picked up a stick and I whacked some dandelions. And that's what I did today. And I think today I might go out and dig another hole. I mean, that's what we're talking about when they're that young. And as for us, we've got to see progress, we've got to move forward. And that's fine, that's good. But you don't want that to obscure the opportunity or to, I guess, rob your children of the opportunity of just being. So stop and listen to them. Stop and watch them for extended periods of time.
And when I mean listen, this is not easy, because lots of times they're talking to me and I've got three other things in my mind and I'm looking at them, but I'm not listening. You know, they get to the end of their little rehearsal of what they did or what happened and say, I really don't have any idea of what you just said there. But you nod and you say, Yeah, yeah, good. And then they go off their way and you go your way and you're like, Okay, I got off of that. But helping them to be a child means you've got to stop and to listen, and listening to them helps you to appreciate them. And you discover that the stuff that's going on in their little minds is a lot deeper than what you expected. And it's a lot more nuanced. Sometimes it's very complex. And they see and understand and grasp things that you didn't think that they were capable of. The reason why you didn't think they were capable of that is because you were too busy living your own life. So stop and listen. You can't listen to them for hours on end, but when you get a chance just look them in the eye, open your ears, push everything else out of your mind, you know, you'll come back to it later, and listen to them for like 5 minutes. And this will help you. This exercise will help you because, again, it helps you to gain a deeper appreciation for where they are and who they are. And when you gain a deeper appreciation, you will be less inclined to disregard what's going on in their lives or what they have to say. Because if you're glossing over all of the chatter and, again, those instances in which they're trying to gain your attention and to tell you something, if you're glossing over that all of the time, you're becoming more and more convinced that there's really nothing important. There's nothing really serious there. And so you could just go on glossing over what they're trying to tell you, but when you listen, you find that's not the case.
So there's a lot there. I just had a conversation with the young lady at church the other day and it was just the two of us upstairs. Everyone had gone downstairs to share in a meal and I was upstairs tending to some business and here this little girl comes upstairs. She's probably 5-years-old. And she said some of the sweetest things and the level of her understanding, it really surprised me. And how she's viewing her life and how she's thinking about heaven and she's thinking about hell and she's thinking about Jesus and she's thinking about being a good girl and obeying. And all of this stuff came unprompted. I didn't have to dig it out of her. She just told it to me. It really surprised me. And so when you gain a deeper appreciation for them, you're going to be less and less inclined to tune them out. Sometimes you have to tune them out because there's just no way around it but you'll do that less and less. So stop and listen to them.
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And the next thing, the next practical suggestion would be read, read, read, read, read. Read. Read to them. Read them books. And read books that are above their level. And this is no newsflash either, your children love hearing you read. They just absolutely love it. I was surprised the first time when I had my first child and just they have this insatiable appetite for listening to you read. I never knew that. I didn't know that. You know, I was raised on video games and TV, so I didn't do a lot of reading. And I don't think I was...I was read to when I was very, very young. Here's this truth again, this eternal truth is like retaining a comprehension or a recollection of what your childhood was like will help you help your children do the same. Okay. Because I look back on when I was very young and I remember my grandparents reading to me, I remember my parents reading to me and I remember how much I enjoyed that. And so, you know, I'd lost sight of that. I'd forgotten that by the time that I had my first born child. And then I'm reading to him and he's like, okay, Dad, another. And then, Dad, another book and another. And you could read all night. And he just couldn't get enough until he just fell asleep in your lap is what would have happened. And your children are like that and they just love that. It's more than just taking up time or passing the day. There is such a bond that is created there when it's you and it's them and you have a good book. And if you've got a 12-year-old in the room and then there are ages on down from that, you know, read a book that's suitable for 13 year-olds or at the very least, at the very most 12-year-olds, and everybody will get something from it. And those younger ones who can't quite grasp what you're reading, they'll ask questions and you can answer them later. But they understand more than you think they do. So read just slightly above their level. Find a good book. Gather everybody up and read.
Particularly when you feel that you are succumbing to this rut of, you know, the adult approach to schooling and the adult approach to keeping house. And again, that's this militaristic approach to getting stuff done—when you find that setting in and settling over your home like a dark cloud, it's time to drop everything and to gather up and read. That can really help. Just lightens the mood. It's very low stress. Now, I know you got stuff swirling around in the back of your mind like, I could be doing this, I could be doing that, here I am reading, but you got to shut that off at some point. You've got to stop and read to them. And it'll just bless you, it'll bless them, it'll bless your relationship with one another. And I can't say enough about that. And so we could always do more reading. And they're learning while you're reading, if you're finding a good book. You find a good book and they're learning stuff in there. They're probably learning more than what they are by just their basic studies. So there's no harm in that.
This third thing is related to the first one is one-on-one time. And it is, again, for the purpose of appreciating who they are and where they are. So you're stopping and listening, you know, if you're having one-on-one time, you have to stop and listen. Well, you don't have to, but it's a lot easier to stop and listen. So go out and get something to eat. Go get an ice cream cone. Go find a nice path or nature walk nearby and walk together and talk. Go on a bike ride. Do something just the two of you. Put everybody to bed a little early and stay up with them 15, 20, 30 minutes, maybe an hour, and spend some one-on-one time with your children and you'll gain a deeper appreciation for who they are and where they are, and that's going to help you throughout the day to pay more respect to them at 4, at 6, at 12, whatever age it may be. You will be surprised. I do this quite often. I don't do it as much as I need to, but for the longest time I have made an attempt to try to be available to do this and also to spend time with my children one-on-one. And I'm still constantly amazed at what they say. So it's just inevitable. It really is an impressive thing. And really probably the fact that we are amazed by what they say and what they're thinking and who they're developing into, the fact that we're amazed by that is probably a sign that we don't spend enough one-on-one time with them, really. And some of them are kind of closed up tight, you know, they don't necessarily want to share with you or me. They find it difficult to maybe talk about themselves, but just keep trying, keep sitting down with them, keep talking. Maybe the first conversation's 5 minutes, and it'll grow. It'll grow. And you're building trust with them, and you're going to need that in the long run, particularly when they get older, when they get into the teenage years, you need a storehouse of trust to draw from. And you can build that now, starting today, you can build that now.
Well, here's another suggestion for you. So maybe you're at loggerheads with, you know, school, various responsibilities, any number of things...you just cannot seem to make any headway. You cannot get them to comply, it's a source of contention, It's just kind of raw right now. And your method of addressing this issue up to this point has been to punish them, to shout at them, to tell them how displeased you are with them, perhaps, or spanking them, perhaps you're grounding them or whatever. And it's getting worse and worse and worse and they're just not responding the way that you want them to. Well, try something different. And I know many of you parents out there aren't going to like this because you're going to think, well, this is giving in and I've got to win. And no, you don't. You don't have to win. This isn't a war; certainly not a game. So set a goal before them. Set something enticing out there in front of them. This isn't bribery if you do it properly. If you do it with the right intent in your heart and you're doing it for the purpose of blessing them and helping them to grow, it's not bribery. If you were doing it just to get something out of them for yourself, that's bribery. But set a goal in front of them, give them something inspirational to work towards. Like, I know you're struggling with math, I know you're struggling with keeping your room clean, I know you're struggling with mowing the yard once a week or whatever, I know you hate doing this, but it's important. Here's why it's important. I don't expect you to understand that right now, but I'm going to keep talking to you about this. So until you gain an understanding, why don't I give you something to work towards? You can really do this to good effect, and it's very inspirational to them.
And this is related to the last practical thing that I want to share with you is help them build a habit. Help them build a habit. And oftentimes you've got to set a goal before them before they can actually gain the experience of what it's like to be diligent, to be responsible, to be tidy or honest or whatever it may be. Help them build a habit. And so the goal engages them in the practice, right? So you're asking them for a period of time, whatever you've set before them—for a week, for a month, for a year. Like, I need to see you do this on a consistent basis, and if you do this, this is what is in store for you. Maybe it's a thing, maybe it's some time with you, maybe it's a trip, maybe...it could be any number of things. Could be something small, it could be something great. It really depends on the size of the dilemma, I suppose, or how long you've been wrestling with this. But you could really use this to good effect and you know your children, you know what appeals to them. And so you're like, This, I know my daughter would love this. I know my son would just...this would really spur him in this area, so I'm going to extend this out there. And it's a show of...please don't think of it as a bride. Please don't think of it as this is the only thing that is going to get them to be compliant in this area. Think of it as a show of your appreciation. Think of it as a means by which you are expressing your gratitude to them. So I've done this many, many times. My parents did this with me, and looking back on it, I really see how it communicated to me how thankful they were for what I'm doing for my good efforts. And here's the thing, you have to be consistent, all right? You want them to be consistent, you have to be consistent. So you get right there by them every single day and you help them do that thing. You want them to do it, you've got to go and do it with them. Because again, getting back to the last episode, they don't understand. They don't get it. This doesn't make sense to them. This is not a priority in their lives. You're going to help them to gain an appreciation for it being a priority in their lives. And you're doing that through a goal or through an extension towards them of something that will spur them on in the practice of or the responsibility that you're trying to help them to acquire. So it's really okay.
So, these are some of the practical suggestions that I want to give you to help them to be children, help them to enjoy the season that they're in, the unique season that they're in. So stop and listen to them. This is going to help you and it's going to help them. Take some time every day. Every day. Maybe it's just 5 minutes—listen to your children, let them talk and really consider what they're saying. You'll be surprised. Read, read, read to them. It's going to help lighten your heart, it's going to lighten their heart. And lightheartedness is one of the most telltale signs of a truly vibrant childhood. And so there's nothing wrong with lightheartedness. One-on-one time with them is getting back to stopping and listening. So the stopping and listening is maybe the smaller component of this larger exercise, and you can't necessarily do this every day, but try to carve out some time throughout the week, certainly every month, at least, to just the two of you sit down and talk. Spend some time together, play a boardgame, just enjoy one another's company. Not in a way that you would prefer, you know. Well, we're going to spend some one-on-one time scrubbing these floors. I mean, there's one-on-one time there, too, but try to center it around some things that they would enjoy. And really the thing that they're going to enjoy the most is being with you. But make that enjoyable so that you can better appreciate where they are. Give them a goal to work towards. If they're struggling in a certain area of responsibility in their lives, and they inevitably will, give them a goal to help them build a habit, because the habit is the thing that will sustain them up until the time that they understand or can appreciate the importance of the thing that they're doing. And again, the simplest example that I can give to help you understand what I'm talking about is like cleaning their room, you know. But it can really be anything. And so they don't really care about clean rooms. Help them build a habit, and eventually it will click and they'll be cleaning their room just because they like the room clean.
So I'm going to leave it at that for today. I hope that these suggestions help you. I hope that you feel encouraged in assisting your children to lay hold of and keep a grasp of their childhood, regardless of what age they are. And they have plenty of incentive or that internal momentum that is built in them to reach forward, I think the difficulty is in hanging on to what is now, you know, that portion of it that you need to keep a hold of. Obviously we don't want childish 18-year-olds and certainly not childish 24-year-olds, but there is an intrinsic value that cannot be found in any other place or any other time in our lives to be found in childhood. And it's our job to help them keep a hold of that while we try to do the same. And so I hope that this has spurred some thoughts in that direction for you and I hope that these practical suggestions will help you to that end. So God bless you each and everyone, and we will talk to you again soon. Bye bye.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschooling.mom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the Homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topic, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I'll be there. I hope to see you there too.