Tag Archives: Parenting

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 2

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Chapter 2: Getting Started

The authors of “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” encourage their readers to begin changing their lifestyle to better reflect the life of the Church, but they implore the reader to do so gently. This second chapter of the book offers suggestions of ways to bring the Faith to life in our own homes in a very basic and focused manner. Too much too soon can easily burn a family out, which is not at all the goal. The goal is to grow, and to continue growing, not to flash into a flame that quickly extinguishes.

The reader is encouraged to consider the maxim that Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory was given when he was a young, enthusiastic college student: “Go to church; say your prayers; remember God.” (p. 37) The authors encourage their readers to consider that statement important, because it’s short but full of wisdom when it comes to living the Orthodox Christian life. These three actions will greatly strengthen our little Church. They can be carried out in different ways, none “better” than the others. But our priority should always be that we attend the Divine Services, pray, and keep God foremost in our minds.

The chapter offers suggestions from parents and grandparents of ways to begin doing these things. It shares wise suggestions from Fr. Seraphim Rose as well. Again and again, the reader hears that they should go to church, pray, and remember God. Each suggestion recommends applying gentleness when starting new Orthodox practices, and that families be gracious with themselves and each other along the way. The chapter closes with the admonishment that when we fall, we need to get back up again every time.

 

If you have a parenting question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors, you can connect with Elissa here https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 2:

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“The two things all Orthodox families should begin doing immediately are very simple: Pray and go to church.” (p. 36, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Begin by committing to attendance at every Sunday liturgy, rain or shine, and begin to schedule your extracurricular activities around church. If your family expects you at Mother’s Day brunch, tell them you’ll hurry over after church. If the soccer team always plays on Sunday morning, let them know that you’ll be in church. Make the firm commitment to attend church every Sunday.” (p. 38, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Many saints’ lives teach us that simple humility and fervent prayer bring us closer to God. Trust in this, and don’t get lost in an effort to do everything all at once. Begin to build your little church by laying a foundation of prayer and church attendance, and then build it up layer by layer, a little at a time.” (p. 41, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Learn first of all to be at peace with the spiritual situation which has been given you, and to make the most of it. If your situation is spiritually barren, do not let this discourage you, but work all the harder at what you yourself can do for your spiritual life. It is already something very important to have access to the Sacraments and regular church services. Beyond this you should have regular morning and evening prayers with your family, and spiritual reading—all according to your strength and the possibilities afforded by your circumstances.” (a quote from Fr. Seraphim Rose, as shared on p. 42, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Ask God and His saints to help you as you shepherd your family along this path. Pray that all of you will grow in your love for Christ, that each of you will come to yearn for Him and for a life in the Church. This is the most important thing you can do to help your little church grow.” (p. 43, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“‘Don’t force children to pray, because that might make them become bitter towards it. Instead, just pray in front of them and ask them to participate. If they refuse to join in, then just pray by yourself and try again the next day. Lead by example.’ —Sophia, mother of two” (p. 44, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle 6: Teach the Joy of Repentance

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, “Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing.” Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/gleanings-from-a-book-parenting-toward-the-kingdom-by-dr-philip-mamalakis/. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/.

Principle #6: Teach the joy of repentance

Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” is filled with wisdom and encourages godly parenting. The sixth and final principle, “Teach the joy of repentance,” is yet another challenge towards godliness, and is as invaluable to the souls of the parents who follow it as it is to those of their children. He begins with a chapter on repentance, then discusses the joy of repentance, and closes with the encouragement that Orthodox Christian homes nurture repentance and confession.

The chapter on repentance begins by encouraging parents not to focus on “doing” parenting, but rather to focus on loving God while responding to our children. He emphasizes that only a saint would parent perfectly, and that we should not expect ourselves to be able to do so. Rather, we should expect ourselves to learn and grow, just as we expect our children to learn and grow. The Holy Spirit will raise in us the fruits necessary to be the parents we must be. If we want to best reach our long-term parenting goals, we need to labor to acquire the Holy Spirit. As we work towards living a Godly life, it is important that we not cover over our mistakes; but rather that we use those mistakes to teach our children the joy that is found in repentance. Since repentance is at the heart of our Christian life, it follows that teaching repentance should be at the heart of our parenting.

Dr. Mamalakis begins the chapter on the joy of repentance by stating that joy and repentance are not usually associated with each other. However, he continues, it becomes apparent that learning to repent brings about healing in our lives, and that healing in turn, brings joy. When we make mistakes, it is important that we reflect on what we’ve done wrong, repent, and have a plan for how to learn from that mistake. When we do so, our children learn that Kingdom values/virtues are real as we are teaching them how to attain those values and virtues.

The final chapter of the book encourages us to nurture repentance and confession in our home. He suggests that including forgiveness with our other parenting interventions is an appropriate way to nurture such an atmosphere. He encourages the reader to be quick to forgive and to only keep track of our children’s misbehaviors so that we can better figure out how to help our children work through them, not in order to use those misbehaviors against our children. He recommends that families regularly ask each other for forgiveness as part of their Saturday evening preparation for communion. This sets the stage for a natural affinity for confession, wherein we restore our relationship with God by asking His forgiveness for our sins. He encourages the reader to nurture a culture of prayer in the home. Prayer helps us to better parent while also allowing our children to personally experience God’s grace. He reminds the reader once more that the ultimate goal of Orthodox parenting is that when our children are grown and leave home, they carry with them Christ and His Church. Repentance, confession, and prayer along the way will help us achieve that goal.

Have a parenting question for Dr. Mamalakis? Ask him here (at the bottom of the page): http://www.drmamalakis.com/contact.html

Here are a few gleanings from the chapters related to Principle #6:  

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“Ultimately, children need to be loved. If we are more focused on parenting the right way than loving our kids, that’s not good for our kids.” (p. 281; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“The truth is, we don’t have the patience, kindness, gentleness, wisdom, and self-control to be the types of parents we might want to be, but God helps us acquire these virtues as fruits of the Holy Spirit. If we focus on trying to do everything perfectly, we will fail. If we focus on acquiring the Holy Spirit, the values and virtues of the Kingdom of God will fill our hearts and our homes.” (p. 284; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“The ascetic self-denial required of parenting is an act of love directed at our children and, we believe, toward Christ. We, as parents, are invited by Christ in every parenting interaction to turn away from our own impulses and desires and draw close to Him… As we respond to God’s invitation, we teach our children how God is inviting them, in every interaction, to love.” (p. 287 ; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Our children don’t need us to be perfect to teach them the right way to live, but they do need us to admit when we’ve fallen off the path. The very act of admitting we made a mistake teaches our children that there is a right way, and we blew it. When we repent we show our children both the right path and how to get back on the path when we fall off.” (p. 288; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“When we embrace repentance and forgiveness, our mistakes and failures are no longer fatal. Repentance, confession, and forgiveness are the antidotes to sin, hurt, and our human failings Sin and failures are a fact of our human condition and of family life… We can either give our children a legacy of our sins or a legacy of repentance. We don’t need to be perfect families, but if we want to grow, learn, and  be perfected as families, we need to be repentant.” (pp. 292-293; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“As we understand the true nature of repentance and confession, we can see that it is more about love, joy, and freedom than sin, criticism, or blame. It only makes sense to learn to do this as often as possible.” (pp. 296-297; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“…the goal of parenting is to have children internalize the joy of repentance as one of the greatest gifts we have to thrive in marriage and in life. Children don’t need consequences as much as they need repentance in their hearts. .. When our children experience the joy of reconciliation that follows the pain of sin and repenting, they learn that our sins are temporary, but God’s love and mercy are eternal.” (p. 298; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“It can be difficult for our kids to see that we are human Our mistakes hurt and confuse them. But if they see that we are repentant humans, they learn that we really love them and that repentance is real. Consider how you want your children to respond when they misbehave, and model that for them when you misbehave… Even in our failures—particularly in our failures—we can teach our children how to thrive in life.” (pp. 302-303; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Teaching children to ask for forgiveness allows us a pathway to address misbehaviors when there are no consequences or when consequences don’t make sense. If we hand out consequences for every misdeed, family life becomes nothing but a series of consequences for mistakes. Rather, if we require our children to ask for forgiveness, family life becomes filled with constantly getting back on the right path.” (p. 305; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“When our children misbehave, we need to be quick to forgive them as we take the side of their feelings and set limits to their behaviors. Forgiving our children means letting go of our feelings of fear, hurt, shame, frustration, anger, or resentment when they misbehave… Forgiving our children is about healing our hearts as our children learn and grow. It is an inner disposition in our hearts that says, ‘I will not hold your misbehaviors against you. I love you no matter how long it takes you to learn how to behave. And you have to learn how to behave.’” (pp. 307-308; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“When our children see that we are trying to live out the Gospel in our homes and going to regular confession as part of that journey, they make the connection between the Gospel they hear in church and the struggles and learning that happen in the home. In this way, our children learn that God and His Kingdom are real. Parenting is not about stopping misbehaviors but about shaping children’s hearts and minds according to the Gospel and God’s Kingdom.” (p. 314; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“We don’t always know how to respond to our children, where to set the limits, and what the consequence should be, but we can always pray. As we learn to turn to Christ in prayer and to parent with prayer, we will discover the endless love of God, which enables us to parent in peace and raise our children in peace, joy, and love.” (p.316; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“To parent toward the Kingdom requires us to improve the way we interact with our children in every situation and to connect our hearts and homes to Christ and His Church… That doesn’t solve their problem or make their lives easy, but it does allow them to internalize the reality of God and the values and the virtues of His Kingdom deep within their hearts. That way, when they leave our home, they carry within their hearts Christ and His Church to guide them toward the Kingdom.” (p. 319; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

 

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle 5: Teach the Joy of Obedience

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, “Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing.” Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/gleanings-from-a-book-parenting-toward-the-kingdom-by-dr-philip-mamalakis/. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/.

 

Principle 5: Teach the Joy of Obedience

 

Dr. Mamalakis encourages his readers to teach their children the joy of obedience in chapters 14 and 15 of his book “Parenting Toward the Kingdom.” Chapter 14 focuses on the joy of obedience, and ch. 15 encourages parents to nurture a culture of listening. Parents need to be attuned to both to successfully teach their children the joy of obedience.

He begins the chapter about the joy of obedience by acknowledging that it is difficult to get our children to listen to us and to obey. He states that while obedience is important, it is not the end goal. Our end goal is for our children to be strong enough to follow God, and demanding obedience from them can damage the strength of their will, reducing the likelihood that they could be that strong when they are grown. We do have authority over our children, and we are responsible to help them learn to obey. But we should not take our authority and abuse it, forcing obedience from them. Instead we must utilize our authority to nurture a home environment that allows our children to learn and grow in all of the virtues, including obedience. Obedience shows both faith and love when it is lived out, whether in the home or before God. The more fully our children know that we care, respect, and love them, the easier it is for them to live within our guidelines and obey us. It is important that we model obedience to our children by genuinely living the Faith in our own home, and by prioritizing peace, repentance, and love in the process.

Dr. Mamalakis goes on in the next chapter to encourage his readers to hone their listening skills. He writes that if we expect our children to listen to us, it follows that we should model that by truly listening to them and to our spouse. It takes self-denial to truly listen to others, but when we do, they see their value to us as icons of God. When we truly listen, our children feel that they have a voice (even if it doesn’t change our direction) and affirms that we respect them. When we listen before we take any action, we successfully model the way we want our children to live: respectfully and virtuously. So, first we connect with our child; then we are in a position to correct them. It is important that we continue to teach our children about listening in the non-emotionally-intense times such as bedtime, mealtimes, etc. so that our discussions about listening are not limited to when tensions have escalated. The key to teaching listening is to model it effectively in the way that we interact with our children.

Have a parenting question for Dr. Mamalakis? Ask him here (at the bottom of the page): http://www.drmamalakis.com/contact.html

Here are a few gleanings from the chapters related to Principle #5:

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“Children need to learn obedience just like they need to learn patience, kindness, and self-control. Because they are learning, we need to be teaching, not just demanding, obedience. (p. 254; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Demanding obedience does not work in the long term because, while we do have authority over our children, we do not have the authority to crush their wills. That is disrespectful. They will need their wills to be strong as adults to make good decisions and to follow God, which is our long-term goal.” (p. 255; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Our goal is not to raise up robots who just do what they are told. Our goal is to have our children internalize a spirit… of obedience to God and His commandments by the time they leave our homes so that they will choose, with their own will, to be obedient to God.” (p. 256; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Obedience teaches our children to let go of getting what they want, when they want it. Our long-term goal is to raise children who align their wills with God’s will, rather than live enslaved to their impulses and desires. ” (pp. 258 – 259; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“God’s love should fill our homes with joy even in the midst of our struggles. The gospel is called the Good News, not the Oppressive Rules. Our job is to try to parent in joy, with joy, as our children struggle to listen.

More effective than demanding obedience is modeling obedience and having close relationships with our children.” (pp. 262 – 263; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“As children observe the parents living the sacramental life of the Church, they will internalize the life of the church as real. If they experience this life as joyful, they internalize the joy of obedience.

Keep in mind, however, that if the external practices of the Church in the home are not accompanied by love, caring, and connection, children will develop a distaste for these practices. Prioritize peace, love, and repentance as you do your best to connect the Church to the home.” (p. 265; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“The best way to teach listening is to listen to our children. We venerate our children (and our spouses) as icons of Christ by listening to them.” (p. 267; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Listening is an act of love. Real listening requires that we resist the temptation to ignore, interrupt, give advice, criticize, or react. It requires selflessness and is an ascetic act of self-giving. When we listen to someone, we make ourselves present and attentive to what the person is saying. It is a type of self-denial and a real act of love.” (p. 268; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Listening first with questions like, ‘What’s going on? What happened?Tell me what you were thinking,’ or even, ‘Why did you hit your sister?’ is respectful and invites children to reflect. Listening to children does not mean we don’t set limits and give consequences. It means we check in with them before we do anything. That is our struggle: to model respect and teach them that they are icons of Christ by listening before we set limits or give consequences.” (p. 272; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“If our child’s angry, childish reactions are met with angry, childish reactions from us, we end up escalating the conflict, and it is not clear who the adults are anymore. When we react, we lose our authority as parents.” (p. 274; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“…we use our God-given authority not to silence our children, but to set the expectation that the home is where we are all learning to listen. We should be strict about requiring listening but stricter about modeling listening and focusing on connecting with our children as they are learning.” (p. 277; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“It is more effective to get your child’s attention with a gentle touch than to repeat yourself.” (p. 278; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Beware, it is very difficult to teach listening if our children to don’t see or experience the adults in the home listening to them… We don’t need to force this issue with each parenting incident, but we do need to nurture a household in which everyone is learning to listen.” (p. 278; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle #4: Separate Feelings from Behaviors

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, “Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing.” Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/gleanings-from-a-book-parenting-toward-the-kingdom-by-dr-philip-mamalakis/. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/.

Principle 4: Separate Feelings from Behaviors

 

Dr. Mamalakis encourages parents to separate feelings from behaviors in principle 4 of Parenting Toward the Kingdom. This is a very important principle, as demonstrated by the fact that it takes almost one-third of the book to speak to it. He addresses this principle across seven chapters: Take the Side of Feelings, Set Limits to Behaviors, Strategies for Setting Limits, Setting Limits With Your Child, Responding to Pushback, Understanding Consequences, and Giving Consequences.

Dr. Mamalakis begins by encouraging parents to take the side of feelings. Our children’s feelings and behaviors require different responses, and as always, our children are learning by how we respond to them. It is thus important that we stand with our children and help them learn to manage their feelings, so that they are not controlled by them. When we help our children learn to manage their feelings, they learn to behave correctly even when they don’t feel like doing so. When we name our children’s feelings, we can nurture connection by also empathizing; but all the while holding steadfast to our expectation for right behavior. Sticking firmly to limits while helping our children learn to manage their emotions nurtures a respectful culture in our home.

Dr. Mamalakis continues by commending parents to set limits to behaviors. He says that children learn best when their parents have done well at setting limits. The limits that parents set will be good ones if they are clear and non-negotiable, shaped by God and His Own limits for His Church. These limits must be respectful and effective, and should work towards the family’s long-term goals. While the limits are being established and enforced, parents need to be careful to connect with their children.

Dr. Mamalakis next offers strategies for setting limits. He acknowledges that there are many ways to set limits, the best limits are clear and consistent, and steadfastly enforced. While “no” is simple and firm, it can often lead to a power struggle, so it is not necessarily the best way to begin to set a limit: instead, Dr. Mamalakis recommends “not yet.” Another option is to offer the child a pathway to getting a “yes!” (ie: “Yes, after you have done x [thing that needs to be done] you may do y [that thing you just asked if you could do].”) Giving directions and instructions is another way to set limits, but we must be careful not to misuse or overuse it. Along the way, sharing information with our children, directing them to the kind of behavior we want to see, breaking tasks into smaller ones, and incorporating fun into the directions/instructions makes easier for our children to understand and complete them. Giving directions straight up (not disguised as questions) and giving five-minute warnings for transitions are among other effective strategies. Above all, parents need to allow their children to struggle with the limits, not rescuing them or getting angry when they struggle; but lovingly supporting them in the struggle.

Dr. Mamalakis goes on to discuss setting limits with your child. Because a parent’s goal is for their children to grow up to make their own decisions and live within the limitations of the Faith, it makes sense for the children to gradually help to set their limits; to make choices and be responsible as is appropriate for their age. As parents set limits together with their children, Dr. Mamalakis suggests the following strategies: give choices, collaborate, brainstorm solutions, prepare your children beforehand, and follow up with them later.

Dr. Mamalakis gives ideas of ways that parents can respond to pushback. He tells his readers that it is normal for children to resist/argue/protest limits; and it is how they test to see if the rules really are firm. He suggests that, in response to pushback, we check in with our children; stand firmly by our rules; describe the process; walk away to give our children time to pull it together; apply the parenting strategies we know; reinforce any positive effort we notice; only explain our reasoning behind the rules once; give a “pull yourself together” time out (not as a punishment); and set limits to the pushback. If our children push beyond the limits that we have set, we will need to respond with consequences; but consequences are not the first response to pushback.

Dr. Mamalakis writes that consequences should be the last resort when our children do not behave. They should help our children learn that our limits are firm, and teach our children about how life works. While we give consequences to our children for their behaviors, we need to be mindful of how we do so, in order to continue communicating that we love them unconditionally. We need to allow our children to experience natural consequences, demonstrate limiting behavior by limiting our own, and be prepared to give logical consequences when needed.

The final piece of principle 4 is that Dr. Mamalakis talks parents through giving consequences. He writes that logical consequences range from tightening the limits to asking forgiveness to removing privileges. He warns parents against using vague or empty threats, and encourages his readers to be willing to sometimes “lose the battle to win the war,” so to speak.

May God help us all to learn to separate feelings from behaviors!
Have a parenting question for Dr. Mamalakis? Ask him here (at the bottom of the page): http://www.drmamalakis.com/contact.html

Here are a few gleanings from the chapters related to Principle #4:

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“Children typically know the right thing to do but misbehave because they can’t control their desires, impulses, or emotions. To help our children learn to manage their emotions and control their desires, we need to learn to respond to their emotions, not just their misbehaviors.” (p. 129; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Naming feelings, when done respectfully, communicates respect for our children. By taking an interest in their feelings, we communicate that we are interested in them. If we respect our children as equal to us as persons, as icons of Christ, we need to respect their emotional world. We name their feelings with statements like:

‘You seem overwhelmed.’

‘Are you mad?’

‘Are you sad the day is over?’

‘Do you miss your mother?’

‘Are you mad at me?’

Are you frustrated with your brother?’”

(p. 135; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Paying a little attention to our child’s inner world is far more effective at helping our children navigate the disappointments of life than saying something like, ‘Why are you in such a foul mood?’ or ‘What’s wrong with you?’ or making statements of fact, like ‘Life’s not fair.’ ‘Not everyone can make the team.’ Or worse yet, ‘Did you upset the coach?’ Nothing hurts more than when your parents seem to turn against you when you’re in pain… Parenting is not about always voicing the right answer but about communicating care and respect.” (p. 142; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“When children misbehave, the temptation is to look for a consequence to stop the behavior… Parents need to use consequences, but that should not be the first or only thing we do when children misbehave. Consequences may stop their misbehaviors in the short term but undermine our long-term goals. Our goal is to raise kids who know how to set limits to their own behaviors and live their lives within God’s limits for salvation. We need to learn how to give consequences in ways that work toward these long-term goals for our children.” (pp. 152-153; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Rather than giving our children love and limits, we need to think in terms of love as limits. Setting appropriate limits communicates love to our children. Kids should be left neither alone nor in charge. They do best when they experience our love as unconditional and our limits as non-negotiable.” (p. 154; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Vague commands, instructions, and limits, inconsistently enforced or based on our mood at the time, are ineffective at helping children learn. Imagine playing tennis or volleyball and not being able to see the lines on the court… Imagine how confusing it would be if the rules of a game changed during the game, or if the referee was lazy on the rules when he was in a good mood but added rules arbitrarily when he was upset. In order to learn how to lay a sport, children need clear lines and rules, consistently enforced.” (p. 157; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“If we correct, command, direct, or react to our children before connecting with them, it communicates that we are more concerned about where cleats and balls go than we are about who they are.” (p. 165; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“The best way to teach our children to listen to our words is to accompany then with action. When I say something, I need to be prepared to act. The more my kids know that my words will be followed by action, the more quickly they will learn to listen when I speak.” (p. 174; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

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“Setting limits with our children helps them learn to set limits to themselves as they grow. Working with our children around our limits helps them understand that we are on their side, that we care about them as we set and enforce the limits. The better you get at setting limits with your kids, the less you’ll have to tell them what to do.” (p. 180; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Before you tell your child what to do, you might want to ask yourself if he already knows what to do. It’s common for parents to fall into the trap of constantly telling their children things they already know… By the time your child is old enough to think through limits with you he’s probably heard the limits many times before… There are hundreds of examples of things we say to our children that they already know. They know what they have to do but just don’t want to do it or don’t want to think about it. Asking them instead of telling them sends the message that we expect them to think and to already know.” (p. 184; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Patiently allowing children room to fail or misbehave while calmly setting limits communicates our expectations for good decision-making and respectful behavior. If we’re too afraid to give them autonomy or too critical of then when they fail, how can we expect em to learn? Of course, all parents make mistakes, being either too strict or too lenient or sometimes both, but we can adjust. Children will make mistakes, and they will adjust. The goal is to do this together.” (p. 193; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Parents are tempted to think they must give a child a consequence when he pushes back or the child won’t learn. ‘He can’t just get away with that!’ I hear. Actually, your child can still learn even if we don’t give a consequence for every pushback. Or we might believe that it is wrong for children to push back. Kids should just do what we say, the first time, without complaining, arguing, or getting upset, right? While that’s true, what’s more accurate is that our children are learning to live within our limits. In order to learn, they are going to push back. We need to resist the temptation to react and be prepared to respond in a variety of ways that work toward our long-term goals.” (p. 198; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“I have found that the best response to… painful statements [from our children] is to ignore them in the moment and bring them up later when things are calm. We should take our kids’ frustrations seriously, but if we allow ourselves to react to these childish, angry statements, we give them more credence than they deserve. It is not okay for children to talk to parents like this, but reacting in the moment is not the best way to teach.

It’s also not okay to let this statement go without following up later. But we want to keep our focus on the person of our child rather than her crazy actions and words.” (p. 217; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Consequences work best when they are used to reinforce the limits rather than to stop kids from misbehaving. We want our children to develop good judgement and learn to live the path of life in Christ. Consequences alone cannot do this.

Speeding tickets do not teach people how to drive, and consequences are not enough to teach our children how to succeed. Because it’s so easy to focus on stopping bad behavior instead of teaching life skills, it is easy to misuse or overuse them…” (pp. 219 – 220; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

(with regard to natural consequences:) “Never make decisions for your children or tell them what to do when they can figure things out by themselves. Letting children experience the effects of their decisions respects their intelligence, their ability to learn, and their developing judgment and autonomy. Kids learn better from first-hand experience than from our telling them what to do, anyway.” (p. 227; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“It’s tempting to look for more intense consequences when our children repeat the same misbehaviors so that ‘he never does that again!’ Parents need to resist the temptation of adding onto these consequences with a lecture, a lesson, or emotional intensity. Logical consequences work well when we implement them consistently as often as needed…. Children learn best from logical and natural consequences when we issue them the same way each time. They will learn, over time, that it is not worth it to disobey. More importantly, they will learn that we love and respect them. If we respect our children and want to teach them that their choices have effects, we simply issue the consequence patiently and consistently each time. Or, actually, as patiently and consistently as we can.” (p. 238; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

 

On Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing: Principle #3: Understand Struggles in Terms of the Values and the Virtues of the Kingdom of God

Note: This series of blog posts will focus on principles important to Orthodox Christians who are raising children. The series will feature a closer look at Dr. Philip Mamalakis’ book, “Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child Rearing.” Each week we will take a closer look at one section of the book, which is divided into 6 basic principles of child rearing. Find an overview blog post about the book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/gleanings-from-a-book-parenting-toward-the-kingdom-by-dr-philip-mamalakis/. We thank Dr. Mamalakis and Ancient Faith Publishing for giving us permission to share his wisdom with you in this way. Purchase your own copy of his book here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/.
Principle #3: Understand Struggles in Terms of the Values and the Virtues of the Kingdom of God.
Dr. Mamalakis’ third principle of parenting encourages parents to understand struggles in terms of the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God. This principle is covered by two chapters in his book “Parenting Toward the Kingdom.” The chapters encourage parents to name their child’s struggle and to separate their own struggle from their child’s.

Dr. Mamalakis begins addressing this third principle by reminding the reader that if we are truly parenting toward the kingdom, we need to name our children’s struggles and frame every struggle that they encounter in the context of the kingdom. That is, we must look at each struggle in terms of the values and virtues of the Kingdom of God. Every struggle our children experience is an opportunity to help them learn those values and virtues. God has placed each of us into our family to struggle and learn together about His kingdom: that is what family life is all about. We parents need to watch our words, and choose carefully what messages we engrave on our children’s souls with the way in which we speak to them. Dr. Mamalakis offers real-life examples from his family, as well as suggestions of wording choices that point our children toward the Kingdom instead of cutting them down. Naming our children’s struggles and having them brainstorm ideas of ways to accomplish whatever is causing the struggle teaches our children how to do what is right on their own, instead of forcing them to comply to our own will. Along the way, we also are teaching our children the following: to connect Church life and home life; how to rightly view (and treat) their siblings; while demonstrating our delight to be struggling together with each of our children. It is important that we note their effort in their struggles, especially when they are making good choices in the face of those struggles. In order to be able to step back and name our children’s struggles, we first need to take a look at our own struggles as parents.

Dr. Mamalakis continues to address the third principle with a chapter encouraging parents to see our own struggles and to separate our struggles from those of our children. He helps the reader to understand that the way that we go about struggling to help our children with their struggles teaches them much about the Kingdom of God. He notes that children need their parents to stand lovingly beside them while they struggle and as they learn to pick themselves up. Children do not benefit from parents who just jump in and rescue them from their struggle. But neither should we abandon them in their struggle: we need to learn how to join them, to be with them and support them while they struggle and get back on track. It is not our job as parents to take away our children’s struggles: it is our job to help them learn to succeed in their struggles. As we do so, we must be continually mindful of our own struggles and how God is standing beside us in our struggle. Our own struggles help us to grow closer to Him and His Church.

 

May God help us all to learn to understand our family’s struggles (both our children’s and our own) in terms of the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God.

Have a parenting question for Dr. Mamalakis? Ask him here (at the bottom of the page): http://www.drmamalakis.com/contact.html

 

Here are a few gleanings from the chapters related to Principle #3:

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“Children learn important skills of life as they struggle to wait until after dinner for dessert. God gives us the struggles of dinner before dessert, and all the struggles of childhood, to help us acquire the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God. (p. 89; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“In the home, in the struggles, is where we are learning patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, sharing, taking turns, helping others, and, essentially, selfless love. It is in the home that we are working out our salvation, being perfected in Christ, and being made holy.” (p. 89; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“What does sibling fighting or a child’s misbehavior have to do with the Kingdom of God? …These struggles catch me offguard all the time. In fact, I never have time for [my children’s] fights. However, I have to remind myself that this is what my time is really for.” (p. 91; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Consider what comes out of your mouth when you react to your children’s misbehaviors. Most of us end up saying the very things our parents used to say to us, no matter how much we swore we would never do that. It’s instinctive. Our parents’ statements are written on our souls, and what we say to our children in these moments will be engraved on their souls. We can choose the messages we want our children to carry with them their whole lives. Choose wisely. It is an act of love toward our children to engrave godly, biblical messages of truth on their souls.” (pp. 93-94; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Mistakes are understood to be part of the learning process—at school, at least. Why not at home? …If we say ‘You don’t listen,’ or ‘Why do you always lie around?’ or ‘You’re mean to your sister!’ these messages will end up etched on the souls of our children. We don’t want that. We want to engrave things on their hearts that will be useful for them the rest of their lives. ‘Listen to each other’s words.’ ‘First we clean up, then we rest.’ ‘Be kind to your sister.'” (p. 95; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“We want the language of the home to be filled with the virtues of God, even in the midst of the struggles. When children are distressed, they are not able to listen, and short statements go a long way toward communicating what is true. Remember, these struggles will happen all the time, and we have a long time to form our children by what we say. In the struggle is when they learn the most, and what we say in those moments is what they will remember the most.” (pp. 96-97; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“The art of parenting: Name their struggle. Keep the limits firm. Brainstorm. Repeat.” (p.101; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Naming their struggle, when done with compassion, communicates empathy and respect and allows us to join our children in their struggle without rescuing them. Parenting is not about getting children to do the right thing or making their life easy, but trying to walk close to them as they learn how to struggle to do the right thing.” (p. 103; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Allow each child to struggle in his or her unique way and delight in them, even though they struggle. One of the most powerful messages we can communicate to our children is that we are glad that we get to be their parents—and the best time to teach that is when they make a mistake or misbehave. We communicate that love and respect as we respond by naming their struggle, keeping limits firm, and giving consequences. Help everyone in the home recognize that we are all on the same journey, each of us struggles with different things along the way, and we’re glad we get to struggle with them.” (p.;107 “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Children don’t need to be praised or told that they are great, because those are empty words. What they do need is to have their efforts and good decisions recognized. This keeps the focus on the path we want them to keep walking on.” (p.109; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Our kids’ behaviors affect us in all sorts of ways. Our struggle as parents is to resist the temptation to react to misbehaviors and to respond at all times in the best interest of our children Our struggle is to focus on our long-term goals in every interaction with our children, no matter how we’re feeling… Their misbehavior might disturb our peace and our plans when they misbehave at home, or disappoint and embarrass us when they misbehave in public. That is our struggle, not theirs. It is not their fault they are children, and it is not their fault we struggle with their behaviors. Parenting is the intersection of our struggle as a parent and their struggle as a child.” (pp112-113; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“…to succeed as parents, we need to keep our struggle separate from our child’s struggle, and respond based on our child’s struggle, not our own. As we struggle to respond to our children, we model for them how to struggle and to respond to their challenges. As we cultivate the virtues of the Kingdom of God in our parenting, we teach our children how to live according to the virtues of the Kingdom of God.” (p.113; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Children need us to be close to them when they struggle, not to rescue them from the struggle. If we love our kids, we want to prepare them to succeed in life, which means helping them develop the capacity to get back up when they fall, dust themselves off, and ask for help if they need it.” (p. 115; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Just as the only way to strengthen our muscles is by stressing them, the only way for children to become strong is through struggling. This is where growth happens. However, we don’t need to abandon our kids in their trials or create trials for them. Life provides ample opportunities for children to struggle, learn, and grow. We need to learn how to join them in these struggles.” (p. 117; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Being alone in the struggle is what leaves lasting painful memories. If we want to raise disciplined and motivated children, we need to allow them to experience the normal hardships and struggles of life. If we love our children, we join them in those struggles. Children need struggles in order to thrive. They just don’t need to go through them alone.” (p. 121; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

“Taking time out to learn about parenting, giving yourself a time-out when you are about to react, and going to talk to someone about your struggles are great steps toward attending to your struggles. Once we recognize that the parenting problems we face are invitations for us as parents to grow, it opens up a whole pathway for our own healing… As we learn to attend to our struggles, resist the temptation to react, and learn to respond, we walk the path of healing and salvation. In fact, it is through the struggles of parenting that we can acquire the Holy Spirit and the virtues of the Kingdom of God.” (p. 124; “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis)

***

 

Gleanings from a Book: “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Mamalakis

I was so excited when I learned that this book was in the works! Before reading it, I had great expectations: I anticipated that it would be filled with gentle nudges towards godliness based both on years of education and personal experience. I knew that the wisdom in this book would be presented in a practical way backed by the in-the-trenches research that life with 7 children offers to their parents. And once I received and read the book, I was not at all disappointed!

My expectations for this book were the result of personal experience. Our family had the privilege of meeting the Mamalakis family at Family Camp at the Antiochian Village years ago when they were the featured presenters for the parent sessions. We learned so much from Dr. Mamalakis (and from his lovely wife, Georgia) while we were together. My husband and I could step out of the parent sessions and immediately apply the concepts we had just discussed. Our family is the better for having learned these principles, however imperfectly we have applied them. (An aside: We also benefitted from watching the Mamalakis parents apply the principles they had shared, as they interacted with their children over the course of the family camp sessions. It is a joy to watch these parents lovingly guide their children using the principles! There is an abundance of love in Mamalakis family, and these principles allow them to parent their children in the context of that great love. It is a joy to experience.)
But I digress. Let’s get back to the book. “Parenting Toward the Kingdom” outlines the principles that the Mamalakis family has followed:

  1. Always parent with the end in mind.
  2. Respond, don’t react.
  3. Understand struggles in terms of the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God.
  4. Separate feelings from behaviors.
  5. Teach the joy of obedience.
  6. Teach the joy of repentance.

Each principle has a chapter (or four!) of the book dedicated to it. Every chapter takes an in-depth look at the principle and cites personal experiences or related stories. The stories and examples make this book very accessible to its readers. The principles can be immediately applied, just as my husband and I experienced when we sat under the Mamalakis’ teachings at Family Camp. I would highly recommend this book to any parent or educator who wants to lovingly guide the children in their care in a godly manner. The book would be a great Adult Sunday Church School curriculum, parish book study, or parenting class text.

“Parenting Toward the Kingdom” is easy read. However, its principles will take a lifetime to apply. May God help (and forgive!) all of us as we parent, grandparent, godparent, and otherwise raise His children towards His Kingdom!

Here are a few quotes from the book, to give you a taste of its contents. Purchase your own copy at http://store.ancientfaith.com/parenting-toward-the-kingdom/.

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“Parenting cannot be reduced to a series of steps, techniques, or strategies. The goal of this book is to help parents understand how the daily challenges of parenting relate to our journey in Christ and  our child’s journey in Christ, intimately connected to the life of the Church, and how that connection can inform our responses. Understanding this, we can put all the techniques and strategies in this book in their proper context. Using this book requires that you take a genuine interest in your child and reflect on your own personal spiritual journey. Understanding this, we can put this book in its proper place.” (pp. 12-13)

***

“Thinking long-term means thinking about how  you want your children to conduct themselves when they are on their own, away at college, or married with children of their own. What type of adults do you want them to become… As parents… we want our children to be successful in life. As Christian parents, we need to be clear about what we mean by successful. That’s where God’s perspective on success becomes important.” (p. 19)

***

“Parenting is not about stopping misbehaviors or getting children to listen to us. It is the process of shaping and guiding our children’s souls in and toward God’s love through the tasks that need to be accomplished and the struggles of daily life. We are teaching them about the spiritual life and the path of holiness as we break up sibling fights or get them to clean their rooms. We are walking with them on that path, on the journey, of growing closer to God in daily life.” (p. 24)

***

“We would never deface an icon, yet when we get angry, attack, criticize, or mock our children, we vandalize the icon of Christ. We don’t worship icons, either, yet when we are lenient or indulge our children’s desires, giving in to their demands, we are worshipping our kids, not Christ—which is equally destructive.” (p. 36-37)

***

“Learning how to parent is not about learning how to get our children to behave; it’s about learning how to get ourselves to behave. Remember, modeling is the most effective way to teach our children. The goal of this parenting book is to invite parents how to learn to act like adults, no matter what childish behaviors our kids present to us.” (p. 51)

***

“While some children act up because they want everyone to look at them, I’d like to suggest that most often our kids are looking for a connection with their parents, not for mere attention… Connection is central to our human nature, and children are wired to seek it.” (p. 66)

***

“If we correct, command, direct, or react to our children before connecting with them, it communicates that we are more concerned about where cleats and balls go than about who they are.” (p.165)

***

“Time-outs are most often misused as consequences by parents… A time-out is not a consequence, just a good idea. It is, in fact, exactly what a child might need at that moment… Sports teams don’t take time-outs as punishment but as an opportunity to slow down, regroup, and make a plan for going forward… Kids need time-outs when they cannot control themselves or their behaviors. In fact, taking a time-out is something we all need to learn to do when we feel out of control.” (p. 210)

***

“Never make decisions for your children or tell them what to do when they can figure things out by themselves. Letting children experience the effects of their decisions respects their intelligence, their ability to learn, and their developing judgment and autonomy. Kids learn better from firsthand experience than from our telling them what to do, anyway.” (p. 227)

***

“We teach the joy of obedience by helping our children see that obedience is not something just for children. Obedience to God’s commandments is the path for all, parents and children alike… When children feel connected to their parents and see their parents living in obedience to God, they internalize obedience to God as the path of life.” (p. 264)

***

“If we are trying to love our children and grow in Christ, then our mistakes become just another opportunity to teach. Remember, our children will learn ore from how we live than from what we say. Children learn how to handle their mistakes by watching how we handle our own… When we repent we show our children both the right path and how to get back on the path when we fall off.” (p. 288)

***

“To parent toward the Kingdom requires us to improve the way we interact with our children in every situation and to connect our hearts and homes to Christ and His Church. In this way our children experience the love of God in the home and encounter Christ and His Church in the center of it.” (p. 317)

After Orthodox Christian Summer Camp is Over

An Orthodox Christian summer camp experience is a life-changing opportunity for our children. If you have not yet sent your child(ren) to an Orthodox camp, find a way to do so next summer. Orthodox Christian camps offer our children a taste of living in heaven on earth. What more do we want for our children than for them to successfully live their faith and surround themselves with friends who do the same?

What exactly is it that makes Orthodox Christian camp so wonderful? First and foremost, although it seems obvious, an Orthodox Christian Camp is so wonderful because it is ORTHODOX. Camp may be the only place besides church where our children are surrounded by other kids who are also Orthodox Christians. In this era where some Christians’ very beliefs are being swayed by whatever is currently popular in the culture, it is imperative that our children have friends who are also remaining steadfast in their Orthodox faith. Camp offers our children a safe and fun environment in which to meet these friends, worship together, and practice living out their faith each day of camp. It is a beautiful, heavenly experience.

And then all too soon, camp is over and our children need to leave there and come back home. Home to where everything is the same, despite the change they have undergone inside. Home to chores, to squabbles, to “real” life. It is not always heavenly, and our children, besides missing their camp friends, are also missing the peace-filled, Christ-centered atmosphere of camp. How can we help them to successfully make the transition home again? Better yet, what can we do to improve ourselves and our home so that the learning and growth can continue rather than stagnating until the next camp experience?

We want what is best for our children, which is why we send them to camp in the first place. So it is important that we not just write camp off as “a great chance for our kids to be in an Orthodox setting for a time.” Rather, we need to talk with our children about their experience after the fact. And together we need to make a plan for maintaining as much of the growth that they’ve experienced as is possible, and even growing it further, throughout the year.

The purpose of this blog is to offer some ideas of ways to do so. It is our hope that these ideas will help all of us. We also hope that you will share your own suggestions and ideas as comments below! My son reminded me that every camper is touched at camp in his/her own unique way, so there is no true “formula for after-camp success.” But here are a few ideas that can help to that end:

An excellent place to begin is to listen to our children’s stories from camp and ask questions about their experience, their learning, and their growth. Once we get a good sense of what our children have experienced, we can begin to get an idea of how to best support them in the days ahead. It is important that we ask them for their ideas of how to continue that learning and growth. They will be able to help us to think of ways to incorporate that learning into our family life.

It is important that we do everything that we can to encourage friendships that our children have made while at camp. We need to provide stamps, allow phone calls or skype/facetime chats, encourage emailing, etc. After all, God has provided our children with these fellow Orthodox friends, and we need to make it possible for them to maintain these friendships. Mind you, they will likely pick up right where they left off when they get back to camp again, but maybe they don’t really have to “let off,” if we afford them the opportunity to stay in touch throughout the year.

If possible, we can visit other parishes where camp friends attend. We can also visit a parish where one of the camp priests is the priest. What a joy to watch our children interact with these friends and spiritual leaders outside of the camp context! It is well worth the effort.

One friend said that sometimes her sons came home from camp missing all of the services and wishing for more. She suggested that we can help our children to adjust after camp by taking them to additional services such as vespers or matins. Along the same lines, we can go through our family calendar and block in all of the services that happen throughout the church year, prioritizing them in the family schedule and attending as many as we possibly can.

One of my friend’s sons suggested that one thing that has been helpful to him (both as a camper and a camp counselor) to stay strong in his faith after camp is to establish and maintain a prayer rule. My own son also suggested that it helps him to set up a prayer routine during the day. When children are younger, we can do this together as a family. As they age, children arrive at the point of being able to take over this responsibility for themselves. We can allow them opportunities to help with family prayers.

Correspondingly, we should provide anything that our children may need to set up a quiet place of prayer in their own room. We can purchase icons for them to establish their own prayer corner. We can provide them with prayer books, prayer bracelets, perhaps even candles. We must also allow our children some time in their schedule to be prayerful and quiet each day.

It is important that we help our children to gain access to Orthodox Christian books, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc. that can continue to stretch their faith. As we listen to their “after camp” talking, we will hear what they’ve been learning and perhaps a theme or a book that they began studying at camp. We can use these ideas as cues to know what to provide for them, and help to find/provide resources that will continue their learning.

We can send our children back to camp throughout the year, if the camp offers additional programming. The camp that my children attend offers a winter camp over a long weekend in the middle of winter. They also offer family camp for whole families to attend together during Memorial Day weekend. These “mini-camps” can be just what our children need to help them on their journey. (The anticipation of a weekend at camp during the school year, along with revisiting memories of the weekend after it is over, is well worth the extra effort it takes to get the children to camp on that weekend!)

We can also invite some of the camp staff to visit our parish at some point during the year. While they are there, they can offer a taste of what it’s like to go to camp within the familiar setting of our home parish. This is especially helpful to families who have not yet sent their children to camp because of the time commitment or the uncertainty of whether or not their children will like the camp experience. But a camp-at-our-parish visit is also helpful and encouraging to the children in the parish who have already attended camp, since it reminds them of what they have learned/gained at camp, and acts as a “booster” to help them continue growing in that direction.

All of these opportunities allow our children a chance to continue to walk in the great blessing that they receive at camp. As we pursue these and other opportunities for continued growth in their lives throughout the year, we will help our children not to “lose ground” on their spiritual journey. We will also likely be challenged to be better people ourselves, and to grow in our own faith along the way.
Author’s note: many thanks to my family and friends, all camp veterans and enthusiasts, for sharing their input as I prepared this blog. Their insights were heartfelt, and their ideas are invaluable. Some of them are friends that I met at – of all places – church camp!

The following links can help with the adjustment back home after camp. What other ideas or suggestions do you have? Please share them with the community!

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Find an Orthodox Christian camp near you here: http://orthodoxcamps.org/directory

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“Orthodox Summer Camp was a changing factor in my life story.” ~ Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros, in http://myocn.net/whats-your-summer-camp-super-power/

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“…Camp offers a simple lifestyle where the focus is living in community as Christian brothers and sisters. There is only one option for meals, church services are offered twice daily, and eight to ten campers live together in one cabin, sharing a bathroom. Yet it is a haven of joy for our young people.” ~ Khalil Samara, from http://www.antiochian.org/content/works-order-action-learning-christian-living-through-orthodox-camping-experience

***
“Eternal salvation is the goal of our earthly life. This goal requires our constant striving to live as Christians—a task, in any age which is difficult to accomplish. The influences of our contemporary world with its atheistic, humanistic and secular approach to all aspects of human life has made it extremely hard to live as a true Christian. The parish church and the home are the only bastions where God can be praised, glorified and entreated. These are the only places where Christianity can be taught and where one can gain the courage to begin living a Christian life.” ~ from “Marriage and the Christian Home” by Fr. Michael B. Henning, http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/xc_home.aspx

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Prepare for listening to your teen’s camp experiences with these helpful hints: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/tips-for-parenting-teens/tools-for-listening-to-your-teen

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Listening to this podcast from the Antiochian Village Camp can be one way to help our children stay in tune with the spiritual side of their life which they nurtured at summer camp: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/avillage

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Listen to this interview with Fr. Philip Rogers, director at Camp St. Thekla in South Carolina, on CAMP (Christ Awakens My Personhood): http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/goforth/camp_st._thekla_2015

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Listen to Elissa Bjeletich’s ponderings on her experience with Camp St Sava in Jackson, CA: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/raisingsaints/camp_st._sava_talking_about_miracles_and_the_butterfly_circus

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Find an audio snapshot of camp life from Camp St. Raphael here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodixie/gotta_go_to_camp_now

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The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children

While we are still thinking about mothers and Mother’s Day, having just looked together at the Theotokos as Mother, it seems apropos to take a look at one of the Akathist hymns, The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children.

 

The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children is a prayer for children which should be prayed by mothers to the Mother of God. (Simple word changes can make it a prayer fathers can pray for their children, or that parents can pray together for their children.) My husband and I pray a part of this Akathist together every evening until we’ve prayed the whole thing and begin again, and I pray the entire hymn several times a week as I am able. The more times I pray this prayer, the more I ask the Theotokos for help, the more I realize how carefully she cares for my children, for me, for the Church, for all of us. I also realize how much we all need her intercessions. Glory to God for providing a Mother for us all!

The hymn begins with this kontakion:

Victorious Leader and Good Nurturer of the Christian race, we Thy servants, delivered from evil, sing out grateful thanks to Thee. But as Thou hast invincible might deliver my children from all dangers that with tears I may cry to Thee: Raise my children (names), to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and make them heirs of eternal blessings.

Let’s ponder what this part of the hymn says, phrase by phrase. The Theotokos is truly a victorious leader! She has set the example to us all of how to live one’s entire life in submission to God, as she was victorious over her own passions. She leads us humbly, by her own example. She nurtures us by providing sustenance to us all in the form of her Son, Jesus Christ, and also by her intercessions on our behalf. Because of her willingness to become His Mother, we are all delivered from evil and therefore it is appropriate for us to thank her. She truly does have invincible might – she has the ability to pray without interruption, to pray perfectly, directly before Our Lord Himself, and therefore she is the perfect person to ask to pray for our children’s deliverance from all dangers! Who better is there for us to ask to raise our children – both physically and spiritually, as she raises them in prayer to Christ Himself – than the Theotokos? She knows what they need in order to be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. She knows how to ask that they become heirs of blessings that last forever. She is truly our best ally in prayer for our children!

The hymn continues with this ikos:

Intercede with Thy Son and God, O most Holy One, that an angel from heaven be sent to my children, just as to Thee was sent a most mighty protector, the Archangel Gabriel; and vouchsafe me to cry to Thee thus:

Raise my children to be earthly angels.

Raise my children to be heavenly men.

Raise my children to be Thy servants.

Raise my children to cry out to Thee:

“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord with Thee!”

Raise my children (names), O Lady,

to be made worthy of the Kingdom Of Heaven

and make them heirs of eternal blessings.

This part of the hymn not only asks that the Theotokos pray that God will grant spiritual protection to our children, but also that they will act on that protection. It asks her to pray that an earthly change takes place in our children, so that they live not just “protected” spiritual lives, but physical lives in which their very bodies reflect the protection that God is granting them. It asks her to pray that our children live in a way that shows the world that they belong to God; that their lives be full of praise to God; and that their lives be directed towards the Kingdom of Heaven and towards blessings that are of true value.

The hymn goes on with 11 other kontakia and ikoi. Each is unique and focuses on a different theme important to the Theotokos and her intercession for our children. Each verse asks the Theotokos to take our children under her protection, to ask her Son to enlighten their lives, to raise them to live the Beatitudes, to travel with them throughout their earthly life, to unceasingly pray for them, etc. We will not look at all of them in depth, here, now. Rather, as we pray the Akathist, let us study each verse as we have time, and really think about what we are praying!

I especially love Kontakion 13. Repeating it three times helps me to focus on what I am saying, and gives me the opportunity to pay attention to what I might otherwise have missed. If you have no time in your schedule to pray the entire akathist, at least consider praying this kontakion for your children. It summarizes the rest of the prayer well, and succinctly puts our desire for our children’s salvation into the Theotokos’ capable hands:

O All Hymned Mother of our Sweetest Jesus! Accept this small hymn of supplication for my children as a sweet fragrance and take them under Thy compassionate protection. Grant them to think, know, hear, say and do, only that which brings them close to Thee and Thy Son, and helps them attain eternal salvation. And send them in this present life all that is profitable for the salvation of their souls, that they may cry to God: Alleluia.

The older my children become and the less I can physically do for them, the more I realize how much I need to pray for them. I wish that I had begun praying this prayer much sooner, asking the Theotokos to mother my children. After all, she is the best mother that ever was! And my children have needed her prayers from Day 1. (Mind you, she has been praying for my children since Day 1! But praying this prayer reminds ME of that fact.) Every part of this hymn speaks to a need in our children’s lives, and the Theotokos knows how to perfectly pray for those needs. I am so grateful to her for her intercessions for my children and for all Christians, and so glad for this way to participate in that intercession.

Most Holy Theotokos, intercede for our salvation! Amen.

Find the Akathist at http://www.serfes.org/orthodox/nuturerofchildren.htm so that you can pray it for your children, as well!
Here are additional links about the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children:

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Find a printable copy of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, set as a service to be prayed in church, here: http://www.stgabrielashland.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Akathist-to-the-Mother-of-God.pdf.

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Buy the booklet The Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/akathist-to-the-mother-of-god-nurturer-of-children/

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Listen to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green’s reading of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, here: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/frederica/akathist_to_the_mother_of_god_nurturer_of_children

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Purchase a cd copy of the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/cd-akathist-to-mother-of-god-nurturer-of-children/

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“About nine years ago, a group of mothers in my parish discovered an Akathist to the Mother of God, called “Nurturer of Children.” We banded together to pray these prayers and were greatly comforted and encouraged. While spontaneous prayer from the heart is always blessed as well, the supplications of the Church are particularly good for verbalizing exactly what it is we need for our salvation.” Read these words by Virginia Nieuwsma, and more on her take of the Akathist, here: http://pemptousia.com/2012/07/praying-the-akathist-for-our-children/.

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This week’s note is an article written by Judy Pappoff, and was originally published in “Faith and Family,” Dec. 2001, p. 18. Its suggestions are still very current and applicable. May God help us to lead our children in godliness in all seasons, especially during the holidays!

 

What Does Your Family Call December 25th?

The day has been called: “Christmas,” “The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” “The Day Santa Comes,” “Baby Jesus’ Birthday,” “The Day We Give/Get Presents.” As parents, we have the responsibility of “naming” the day for our families.  Orthodox Christians celebrate the nativity, or birth, of Jesus Christ.

Most of us also participate in traditions of our society: food, decorations, socializing, presents.  What understanding do we want our children to have?  Holiday or Holy Day?  How do we tame the monster of materialism so that our children focus on the spiritual truth of the feast?

First, let’s examine our purchasing practices.  If the family has a video game system that works, does it need to be replaced?  We must set the example, and explain our actions.  Children will not see what is wasteful unless we bring it to their attention.  Then challenge them with “How might the money be better spent?”

Second, keep the focus on giving.  Let’s look at why gifts are part of this holy day.  It is because God gave us His Son – the greatest gift of all.  Then teach your children how to give, and think outside the “box” – even the Grinch realized that Christmas doesn’t come in a box!  Spend time as a family, giving homemade gifts to one another, and gifts of love to those in need.  Lavishly praise your children for these valuable gifts they give you and others.

Finally, let’s make sure our children know how to receive, with the gift of God’s Son as our example.  We accept and are thankful for Jesus Christ.  When your children light a candle at the Nativity service, remind them to say “thank you” to God for His Son.  Thankfulness is the response to all gifts, large or small.  Seasonal movies such as “The Little Drummer Boy” teach this.  Know when these will be on.  Stop your busy-ness, watch these together, discuss what is good; and in that quiet moment, remember also to say “thank you” to God for the children He has placed in your care.

by Judy Pappoff,  Faith and Family (Dec 2001 pg 18), found online at http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/whatdoesyourfamilycalldecember25th

Here’s another article in the same vein: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/articles/giving-receiving

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Below are links to articles and ideas of ways to help our children combat materialism and consumerism during the holidays.

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“Lavishing our children with gifts deprives them of something far more valuable: shared time and experiences. In our overscheduled lives, we are often too busy or tired to do a family art project, play a board game or bake cookies. I can’t remember ever roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but it’s always sounded like a lovely idea. Most families say that what they need more of is time – not stuff. And getting in and out of shopping centers steals your time.

Overabundance of holiday gifts offers a short-term payoff, but the long-term consequences are high. Mary Bellis Waller, author of “Crack-Affected Children,” likens materialism to cocaine addiction. Buying stuff stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, which creates a temporary high, but ultimately leaves one unsatisfied. The bottom line is that substance abuse is substance abuse.

Not surprisingly kids who are overindulged materially tend to have the worst relationships with their parents. Money can’t buy love, but it sure seems to finance some serious familial discord.” ~ from http://www.progressive.org/do_not_ruin_holiday_season_with_materialism.html

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“The primary message of commercial culture is that the things we buy will make us happy. In fact, that’s not true. Research tells us that our sense of wellbeing depends on relationships, a sense of community, spiritual nourishment, and/or job satisfaction, not on acquiring “things.” Children who are more materialistic are less happy, more depressed, more anxious and have lower self-esteem.” Read about researchers’ findings here: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/sites/default/files/materialism.pdf

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“‘The gimmes’ are all around us during the holiday season. It can be hard for kids — and parents — to look beyond all of the product-driven hoopla and remember what the holidays are really about.” So begins an article titled “Making the Holidays Less Materialistic for Kids”, found at http://dcmcegrowingtogether.com/issues/2012/december-2012/making-holidays-less-materialistic/.

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In the brief article “Minimalizing the Materialism of the Holidays,” found at http://drconklindanao.com/minimizing-materialism-holidays/, Dr. Deanna Conklin-Danao offers suggestions of how to scale back on giving our children stuff; including suggestions for different age levels, as well as a reminder that grandparents/relatives need to also be informed of a family’s decision to minimalize on material gifts.

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Find 10 suggestions of ways to help your teen let go of holiday consumerism at http://www.postconsumers.com/education/teen-holiday-consumer-tips/.

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Find reader-suggested ideas for hands-on ways to help children combat materialism at the holidays at https://www.parentmap.com/article/9-holiday-traditions-that-replace-materialism-with-meaning.

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“Very few childhood memories actually include the gifts I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever?” Read more, including a list of 35 non-material gifts that your children will never forget, at http://www.becomingminimalist.com/35-gifts-your-children-will-never-forget/

St. John Chrysostom On Raising Children

Having children is a matter of nature; but raising them and educating them in the virtues is a matter of mind and will.” ~ St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom’s teachings have carried through the centuries and are still applicable today. Here are a few of his teachings on raising children.

By the duty of raising them I mean not only not allowing them to die of hunger, as people often limit their obligation toward their children to doing. For this, is needed neither books nor rubrics, for nature speaks of it quite loudly. I am speaking of the concern for educating childrens hearts in virtues and piety—a sacred duty which cannot be transgressed without thereby becoming guilty of the childrens murder, in a certain sense.”

If the Apostle commands us to take more care for others than for ourselves, and if we are guilty when we neglect their benefit, then is it not a much greater guilt when this concerns those who are so near to us? Was it not I, the Lord will say to us, Who gave place to these children in your family? Was it not I Who entrusted them to your care, making you masters, guardians and judges over them? I gave you complete authority over them; I placed all care for their upbringing in your hands. You will tell me that they did not want to bend their necks to the yoke, that they threw it off. But this should have been averted from the very beginning; you should have mastered their first impressions placed the reigns on them before they had the power to break away from them…

The youth to whom you give a good upbringing will not only enjoy general respect, he will also become dearer to you yourselves! Your attachment to him will not be a mere natural attraction—it will be the fruit of his virtue. For this, during your old age, you will in turn receive from him the services of his filial love. He will be your support. For just as those who do not revere the Lord also have contempt for their own parents, those who revere God, the Father of all men, will have every respect for those who gave them life.

Read a meditation on further teachings on parenting, by St. John Chrysostom, at http://dce.oca.org/resource/246/. More of his quotes can be found at http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/parenting.aspx. Thanks to both of the above sources for sharing his wisdom with all parents.

St. John Chrysostom, please intercede for us parents, and for our children, that we may be saved.