Monday, August 24, 2009

September Niche Article...Confessions of a Non-Perfectionist

If you know me at all, you know that I am not a perfectionist.

The bottom of my children’s socks are stained. I am not going to spend hours scrubbing socks when few people see the bottom of them. (Okay, I admit that I have been embarrassed a few times when they went to the chiropractor with stained socks!)

I don’t panic if there are a few bread crumbs in the jelly. In addition to this, our silverware is always mismatched. (In fact it amazes me that anyone even notices when their silverware is not matched or that there are a few crumbs in the jelly jar.)

Where I store something in the kitchen cupboards all depends on where I can make it fit.

My philosophy on both interior decorating and fashion is, “Hey, it doesn’t clash!”

If you stop by my home, unannounced, on any given afternoon, you will probably find me on the couch reading to the children, completely ignoring several stacks of paper and clutter on the piano and bookshelf that should be taking my time and attention. There will probably also be a basketful of laundry sitting on the floor that hasn’t quite made it downstairs to the laundry room yet. I know those messes need my time and attention, too, but I just can't be bothered when I have more important things to do!"

Though it used to bother me greatly that I did not do things as well as other people, it no longer does. In fact, I am thankful that my personality does not stress over having everything perfect. While I greatly admire homeschooling moms who manage to run their homes so perfectly, I, personally, don’t think I could live like that. Having said that, however, there are some areas where I try very hard to be a perfectionist. Some things are too important to leave undone. Here are a few of them:

Scripture Memory: Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is top priority at our house. How many times have you been tempted to sin and a verse came to your mind, pricked your heart and you made the wise decision not to indulge in that sin? How many times has a passage of Scripture comforted you in your darkest hour? How many times has the Lord brought a particular verse to your mind when you were faced with a difficult decision. If we do not have Scripture passages memorized, they can not help us in these situations.

We begin every school day in prayer and going over memory verses. It is amazing how many verses you can learn in one year if you repeat them two or three times every morning. Jeff, my husband, has always encouraged me to make the Bible the top priority in our daily routine. Occasionally, math, reading and other subjects do not get done for various reasons but we try very hard to begin every day by memorizing God’s Word.

Godly Character: They say confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation. Perhaps I am putting my reputation at risk when I admit that I am not as much a perfectionist in the area of my children’s character as I should be. There are times when there will be three or four squabbles in one morning between the same two children before I actually do something about it. There are times when I am so busy with daily life that it is easy to overlook a bad attitude. And, much to my shame, I admit that I have occasionally even allowed my children to treat me with disrespect.

However, I am constantly seeking ways to improve in this area because it is very important to me that my children have a Godly character. I often tell my children that they represent our family, homeschooling and most of all our Savior. I remind them that if they behave in a selfish, ungodly way it will make our family, homeschooling and Christianity look bad.

One of the best ways to build Godly character in our children is to read God’s Word to them, help them memorize Scripture and constantly pray for them. Something else that is very important is to have consequences for ungodly behavior. If the consequence for negative behavior outweighs what ever satisfaction the child receives as a result of their sin, they will think twice about doing it over and over again.

We have one child who struggled with a bad attitude during school time. One thing this child did is what I call “playing dumb.” Though I knew this child understood the material perfectly, they would pretend not to get it. After praying about it and talking it over with Jeff, I settled on an approach. The next time this child didn’t “get it,” I said, “Oh, I am so sorry that you are not understanding it. To make sure that you understand it better, we’d better do extra math problems today.” After doing this three or four times, this child suddenly began to understand it the first time. The negative consequence was worse than the satisfaction of trying to get out of school work.

Praise is also very important. I think that many of us parents neglect this. We are always after our children for their sinful behavior but fail to praise them for their Godly choices and behavior. Proverbs tells us to give honor where honor is due. When we praise our children and say things like, “I saw the way you were nice to the boy at church after he called you a bad name. It pleases me so much that you chose to return good for evil. And even more importantly it pleases God” it will encourage them to make Godly choices in the future.

Family and Personal Devotions: I am so thankful to be married to a husband who makes having family devotions a top priority. If you call our home between 7:00 and 7:30 each evening, you will nearly always get our voice mail because during that time our family is having our family devotions. We read the Bible, read Bible stores, pray and sing. I realize that not every husband takes the time to do this with his family and that can be very frustrating to the wife. However, instead of “nagging” her husband, which will probably not do any good anyway and will only cause tension in the home, a mom can still take the time to read the Bible and pray with her children every day, even if her husband is not involved.

Jeff is also a wonderful example to our family of someone who spends time in God’s Word on a daily basis. It is a very rare day that Jeff does not spend time praying and studying God’s Word. I confess that I have struggled with this more than Jeff, but over the past couple of years, I have learned to make my private time alone with God very, very high on my priority list.

Personal Bible reading time and prayer for each child is written right into our daily schedule. They may choose what part of the Bible to read and they may choose how long to spend in Bible reading and prayer, but I know they are in God’s Word each day and that is very important to both Jeff and me.

Conclusion: As you begin this school year, try not to worry about the little things. Life will go on if your child goes out in public wearing one blue sock and one white sock. If you wonder why there are fifteen glasses between meals when there are only five in your family, perhaps you need some sort of system, but don’t have a nervous breakdown over it. If your pastor’s wife stops by when your living room is cluttered, life as you know it won’t come to an end. If you don’t manage to get science and history done that day, don’t panic, your child will not grow up uneducated.

However, if your child grows up and does not have God’s Word hidden in his heart to call upon when needed, that will be a true tragedy. If your child does not make spending time in God’s Word a top priority, they will not be able to live a truly Spirit filled life. If your child is selfish and mean spirited, that is truly a heartbreak.

So, while I don’t normally encourage people to try to be a perfectionist, in these particular areas, I encourage you to strive for perfection. May God bless you as you become a “perfectionist” in what is truly important to help your child become more like Christ.