The Curries

The Curries
Keith and Patricia

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RELATIONSHIP: Teens, puberty, and clueless parents

     The clueless parents in this story are Keith and Patricia. When Anna and Patrick, our two oldest, were eleven and twelve, we thought we had parenting figured out. By the time they were thirteen and fourteen, we were crying out to God for help. What had worked no longer worked. Two happy, cheerful, contented children had become more moody, more withdrawn, and less communicative. At first, we thought they were the problem and told them so. As time went on, we discovered that we were more of the problem, and we needed new tools and strategies. Fortunately for us, there were answers.
     About that time we were introduced to two books by two brothers: Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Tedd Tripp) and The Age of Opportunity (Paul Tripp). We were challenged to do two new things that changed our approach. First, Tedd challenged us to focus on the heart not the behavior. Secondly, Paul helped us see that every problem in a teen’s life is an opportunity for God to reveal himself to them.
     Our own educational training in child development backed up what we were reading and learning. What we eventually realized was this: PUBERTY IS HUGE! Puberty is almost like a second womb when God does a new formation of the child and ushers him/her into adulthood. Instead of becoming mature children, our young teens become immature adults.  It is as drastic as the caterpillar that emerges from the cocoon as a butterfly. Their bodies are given adult capabilities, their thinking becomes more abstract, their emotions are set on fire, their awareness of others is intensified, and they perceive of themselves as adults.
     When these things happened to Anna and Patrick, we were still treating them like children. Although we recognized the physical changes, we did not realize that we needed to be developing their adult thinking, we did not ratify their emotions, we did not willingly receive their allegiance to their friends, and we did not see them as young adults. That’s why I say we were clueless. (If I am overstating the case, it is only to emphasize the point. Anna and Patrick came through their teen years because other trustworthy adults stepped in and helped them interpret life. We are grateful to the Lord and to those who gave their time to them.)

So what did we change?
“Give rules and require obedience” became “Listen more and interpret life.”
     I know that this is probably an oversimplification, but the germ of truth is there. Teens who have passed through puberty need a different approach from us. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” This is how we deal with adults, even immature adults. We listen and draw them out.
      With our next four children, we have attempted to do better. We have not succeeded all the time, but we have had a clearer sense of our role as parents. We believe that it has made a difference.

Such has been our experience. We hope that it helps you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

DISCIPLINE: Foolish or childish?

     As we had instructed them, Patrick and Will were not throwing the ball in the house. Literally, they were being obedient. But just barely. As a matter of fact, they were throwing a bear, a stuffed bear. As boys often do, they were tossing the bear back and forth, then hitting the bear back and forth, then getting wilder and wilder until the bear sailed too high and hit the light fixture on the ceiling. Down came the bear and the fixture, glass shattering, bringing mom and dad quickly down the hall.

     Were they being foolish (rebelling against authority) or being childish (acting in ignorance)? We considered this event childish and put in place logical consequences. The boys had to work to pay for the fixture and help dad in the repair (which, at their age then, basically meant “hand dad the tools.”) They also received front row seats in a lecture series given by mom and dad; they have attended numerous times.

    The foolish/childish distinction we learned from Gary Ezzo in Growing Kids God’s Way.  At the time, we needed that concept because we were treating everything like a heart issue. In this case the boys were not being rebellious, just being boys. They still needed consequences, but not punishment.

    Disobedience, disrespect, disregard of authority all fall in the foolish-heart category and need the rod along with a lot of explanation. “The rod and reproof bring wisdom.” Proverbs 29:15

    Ancient wisdom pointed out that we are all born fools, insisting on our own way instead of embracing God’s way. The Bible calls it sin, and it needs to be addressed because it is destructive. If we love our children, we will discipline them when sin raises its ugly head in their cute and valuable little lives. We know that sin left unchecked grows UGLY.

    At the same time, we are all born ignorant; at first we just don’t know. We have to be taught and guided along. Children will make mistakes, break things, lose things, cherish the cheap but despise the prize. That is why children need parents, so that we can instruct them in the ways of God, correct without condemning, help them fix what they break, find what they lose, and learn to value what is really worth something. In this process, we allow them to experience consequences that follow out of their acts of ignorance. When we do this, our children learn wisdom. They learn that the pain of self-discipline is a whole lot better than the pain of consequences caused by neglect and ignorance.

    We encourage you to take time to determine whether your children are being fools or whether they are just being children. If you punish them, they will need to know why. If you give them logical consequences, they will need to know why. Either way will require your input, your explanation, your instruction. Either way will require your time.
    Let's not raise fools or ignorance!

    Thanks for reading our thoughts. We’d love to hear yours. Feel free to make a comment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Working with Father

SPIRIT TRAINING: Working with Father

Sweet Anna was a typical middle school student. Making her way through the hormonal minefield of 7th grade was challenging -- for Anna and for her parents. In the fall of that year, Anna won the annual school spelling bee contest. This wasn’t her first win and she knew what was involved for the next level of competition. Probably for a variety of reasons, Anna was struggling. She did not want to be involved. But, she had won, and it was the right thing to do for her to go to the competition and represent the school.

As our children have grown, we’ve encouraged them first of all to be readers. We tried to get each of them reading as early as possible, primarily so that they would be able to begin the habit of daily time with the Lord, themselves. One of my goals, and maybe the most important one is to unveil the Father, to pass to my children the kingdom of God, to enable them to establish their own knowledge of and relationship with the Lord. So, as I was encouraging Anna through this difficulty, I wanted her to know that God was concerned about every detail of life that she deals with.

“Psalm 46 is so good, Anna. It tells us that the Lord is our Refuge. Hide in Him. He is your Help. He is a very present help. He will be with you as you go through this spelling bee. You will not be alone.”

This truth from Scripture is very clear to me because I have had to rely on the Lord so many times in troubling circumstances; and I have found Him to be present, to be with me, to enable me to make it through.

I wanted Anna to know this truth foundationally in her own walk with the Lord.

When the day of the bee arrived, I had so many little ones still at home, I wasn’t able to take her. All I could do was intercede. The spelling bee started; and one by one, the students spelled and either sat down or kept going. The play by play had begun and it was getting closer and closer to Anna’s turn.

She stepped up to the microphone, her palms sweaty. She waited. The announcer spoke. “Your word,” he said, “is REFUGE.”
REFUGE? Are you kidding? Was God sending her a message? Can God speak through a spelling bee announcer?

Anna easily spelled it, but the relief she experienced was not from knowing each letter. Her relief was knowing in a very tangible way that Father Himself was concerned about her, loved her, and would see her through.
As a parent, I saw that God is working in the life of my child using me, using circumstances, using other people. Her confidence in God grew and so did mine. We are workers together with God.
Perhaps this week you might share a comment on how you and Father have worked together in the lives of your kids.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DISCIPLINE: Fill Your Toolbox

    I had taken a year off from teaching, relocated to Mobile, Alabama, and tried my hand at selling insurance. Throughout that year, the realization grew in my own heart and mind that I needed to be in the classroom teaching. On the Sunday evening before school started, I received a phone call hiring me to teach an inner-city classroom, middle school, 100% Afro-American. I was about to cross three cultural barriers—with a briefcase full of ignorance. I found out on the first day. The next six months were warlike: me against them. They resisted; I punished. I was losing; so were they. Lose/lose situation.  Many times I would drive home in the afternoon, tears running down my face, pouring my heart out to God.

    One particular day, a seventh grader Yvonne was being particularly disrespectful. Seeing red, I walked to her desk, knelt down and stuck my finger in her face, saying, “If you ever do that again, I will . . .” I stopped, not knowing what to say next. I never finished that sentence, got up and walked away. She laughed.

    Then I attended a workshop on discipline that gave me another tool. This question was asked: Why should they obey? What benefit do the students get in your classroom? I changed. I gave them a promise of reward. If any individual obeyed me five days in a row, he would earn one day off. On that day off, he could choose to go to PE or to the library. His choice. The difference in my classroom was miraculous. We began to like each other, most of my students and I. On my next evaluation, my supervisor asked, “What did you do to get your classroom so disciplined?”

    “Disciplined?” Did she say “disciplined?” I began to realize that discipline was more than punishment. Since that time, I have come to see that discipline is more like discipling or training. Punishment is only one tool of the training process. Yes, it is an important tool, but only one tool. A reward can also be a tool.

    A good parent has a toolbox with many tools much like a good carpenter. Can you imagine a carpenter with only a hammer? His partner asks, “How long is that board?” Since he has no tape measure, the hammer-only carpenter lays his hammer down end-over-end eleven times. “Eleven hammers long,” he answers. Imagine that: using a hammer to measure! I would not hire that crazy carpenter to build my house.

    Sometimes as parents, we get in a rut by using only one tool—whether it is the right tool or not. We spank them, or we ground them, or we take things away, or we send them to their room, or we verbally rebuke them. Any of these things can have a rightful place but using only one tool is CRAZY. We have to fill our toolboxes with several different tools to be effective family-builders.

Choosing the right tool for the right situation is an important part of being a wise parent.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LONG-RANGE VIEW: A Journey of Love

    Patricia is having surgery. An old bridge in her mouth is deteriorating and needs attention; actually, it needs replacing with a whole new system. So she is having surgery. I get to be the nurse for a few days. So I sit here waiting and thinking about this woman God has given me. I’m thinking about our journey.

    I realize this truth: love grows in the journey. We have gone through so many things together. A fairytale romance. (At least we thought so). The births of six children, each birth amazingly different. We never wanted to know gender ahead of time; we wanted the surprise. Will was born in the car on the way to the hospital. That was a surprise. It was also my fault. With Judith, we barely made it in time. Not my fault. With Jean-Luc, we just had him at home; and Dan, outpatient. The last two were her choices. In the process of it all, some of our most stressful surprises are now our best memories, our fodder for stories and laughter.

    Of course, having six little ones at home all ten and under had its adventures. There were times when a “bug” would sweep through the whole family. For days we would be up nights, cleaning bedding and carpets and clothes, and praying for God to deliver us from the “pit.” When Judith spent ten days in the hospital with spinal meningitis, we prayed and cried together, pleading for God to be merciful.

    Since Patricia stayed home with the children, our financial struggles were ever before us. We needed clothing for the kids, shoes, and more. God provided, but seldom in the same way; it seems He was always challenging us to trust Him in a new way.

    When we could manage it, we took trips to California to see Patricia’s parents and family. We would check airline prices looking for a real deal. We packed the car and drove a few times. We rode AmTrak across country, coach the whole way. At that time Judith was the baby, and I hemmed her in between my legs and bags and seats. “Are you sure she can’t get out?” Patricia asked. “Not a chance,” I assured her. A few hours later, we were awakened by a total stranger carrying Judith from seat to seat, asking everyone on the train, “Is this your baby? Is this your baby?” That was not one of my shining moments, but I think that Patricia has finally forgiven me.  We bought a pop-up and traveled across the west seeing all the sights we could in as little time as possible. It just doesn’t look that far on a map.

    As the kids got older, Patricia came to work with me in the school. Trying to balance this husband/wife-employer/employee thing was often just that—trying. Yet we have walked and talked our way through it.

    Learning the difference in how we think and how we react to situations has been a challenge. Forced to communicate through these things—because we had made vows before God to stay together until death—seasoned us. We each have had moments when we thought death might be better.

    In the whole journey, we have grown together, we have cried together, we have prayed together, we have laughed together, and we have stuck together. We have learned to love one another, and we have come to see that it is the incredible stresses that we faced together that strengthened our love. Lilies appear through mud, flowers through dirt, rainbows in storms, and love in the journey.

    It is our prayer that your marriage would grow as you journey together. My closing thoughts today are a poem I wrote along this theme. I hope that you enjoy it.

How is it that this Beauty
                            That we call Love
                            Is giv’n to dust-made man
                            From Breath-Above
And calls him out of self and earthly urge
    To live for someone else?
                                This heavenly surge
                                                           Is key
                                                           To life and joy!
I do not fully fathom
        Love in its prime;
                       But this I know:
                                             Love blossoms over time.
As circumstances lash and would destroy,
As man and wife must all their strength employ
                    To guard Love’s root . . . .
                                                          Love blooms.