by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
In my childhood mind, summer meant sleeping in and chlorinated hair and too much TV. It meant that Cheetos for dinner with a side of Brady Bunch was a viable choice.
There is nothing like summertime, especially if you live life on the merry-go-round known as the school year. However, these days, most parents are lucky to squeeze in 60 days of break before heading back into that August-to-May calendar. Therefore, most of us throw the schedule out the window and embrace a much more relaxed approach to our days. This is a good thing.
But with the relaxed schedule can also come the temptation to shove everything requiring any type of work or self-discipline or concentration aside. After all, it’s time to play! My husband and I call this approach “credit-card parenting”. You can pay now or pay later — but if you choose to pay later, it will come with interest. We learned with our kiddos that if we took away all the rules, all the chores, all the discipline—we were going to end up with very crabby children.
As adults, we have (mostly) learned to adapt to this kind of seasonal change, but the boundary of routine is a comfort and security for children. This is because children thrive with routine, even in summertime. As much as we freestylers might resist it, the concept of routine brings the blessing of predictability. Do we like surprises? Sure—but not at the expense of never knowing what to expect.
Even a loose routine affords us the opportunity to look below the surface; there is enough order in place to not completely avoid the realities of life with children. In the absence of routine, we can blame our children’s attitudes and behavior on a myriad of excuses—they are tired, they didn’t go to sleep until 11 o’clock last night, they ate popsicles for breakfast, etc. Without this scapegoat, we are faced with the harsh realities of credit card parenting. Could there be a different approach to summer?
Bret and I learned that summer was a great time for character inventory. Because we weren’t worried about the next school assignment or sports practice, there was space and time to consider character issues, bad/good habits, and cycles of struggle with obedience. Bonus: I discovered that I had much more emotional energy during the summer to recognize and address these issues.
In a previous BreadBox, I’ve referenced a list of questions that Bret and I would use to periodically assess each child individually on a range of issues. We would sit down every few months and discuss the ups and downs with each child, their patterns of struggle and what we could do to help them grow. Most of all, it helped us to acknowledge the problems and present a united front.
But even without a list of questions, in this season of summer one question might be worth asking: what is the one glaring character issue with this child that needs to be addressed? Just think—if you choose one issue for each child that you can work on this summer, August could see an easier transition back to “real life” instead of the war that can ensue when limits or boundaries are imposed once again.
My husband would go one step further: he would say it’s less about the chaos of returning back to school and more about the hearts of our children and keeping long-term goals in mind. Within the daily fray of parenting small children, a little routine can go a long way in helping us grow our little people.
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.