Tag Archive | children

Reader request: having a gentle and quiet spirit

              Today I am addressing a question from one of my readers, Theresa, on how to conduct oneself as a “quiet and gentle spirit.” The phrase “quiet and gentle spirit” is taken from I Peter 3, an epistle from one of Jesus’s disciples turned apostle, Peter, to the early Christians. It is important to look at context when defining a biblical phrase, so I’ve included verses 1-6 below:

              “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:1-6, ESV). [emphasis mine]

              So we can see from the passage above that the admonishment for a woman to have a gentle and quiet spirit is in the context of a wife interacting with her husband. Beyond a blanket mandate that a woman submit to her husband, Peter is advising Christian women on how they can influence their unbelieving husbands to become followers of Christ. He wisely puts emphasis on her heart attitude rather than external moves to convince her husband of the change God has made in her life. He is not advising against a woman’s wearing hair braids, precious metals/jewelry, or certain clothing, as I have heard this passage preached out of context, but instead he is giving those particular examples as what she should not do in an attempt to convince her husband to become a Christian as she is. Truly, I have heard of women who became believers and used their newfound faith to bring about many external changes into their lives, often dragging unwilling and confused husbands alongside them. Though following Jesus does bring noticeable differences in one’s lifestyle, Peter is reminding women here that converting their husbands cannot and should not be done through external lifestyle changes, either hers or her attempts to change him.

              Perhaps you already knew the context of your phrase in the question, Theresa, but I’m sharing it for the benefit of all the readers. Also, I don’t know most of my readers’ experience regarding the “one believing spouse, one unbelieving spouse” situation. Some of what I have heard is from preaching and most is anecdotal (not personal). But it seems in my experience the most common thing for a believing wife to do is to annoy, badger, insult, or attempt to force her husband to participate in her religious practices with her, sometimes very “sweetly” and “nicely.” And usually she has what I’m sure are the sincerest intentions, but in the end she does not abide by the Scripture’s instruction to be a character example and instead relies on taking actions to evoke change. And it nearly always leads to resent and conflict, from what I’ve heard.

              So how does a Christian wife influence her unbelieving husband to possibly win him to Christ? According to the apostle Peter, by “be[ing] subject to [their] husbands,” having “respectful and pure conduct,” and adorning her “heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” That’s it. No nagging him or telling him everything he’s doing wrong, no making comments about how much better she is. No shaming him for not attending church with her. No arguing about how to raise the kids. Even if he was to hand down a mandate that she absolutely could not speak of her religious faith in the house or in front of the children at all, which I have never heard of actually happening, there are ways to display the goodness (and God-ness) in her heart by her behavior. So this actually gets to the crux of your question, Theresa: ways a woman can display that gentle and quiet spirit.

              The spirit shines through in all of one’s interactions so having a quiet and gentle spirit will influence every aspect of behavior from speech to body language to facial expression. It manifests itself in a sweet smile, a soft touch, respectful eye contact, straight posture, quiet and unhurried breathing, flowing movements. It is as if a river of tranquility flows through her body. The quiet and gentle spirited woman will not humph or grump, roll eyes, speak sharply or shrilly, handle roughly, slump over or breathe heavily. More importantly, she will not treat her husband harshly or unkindly. She will not pick a fight nor return antagonistic behavior. She will respect his opinions and viewpoints, showing kindness indiscriminately. And I truly believe that such strong character may indeed make a difference for Christ where forced church attendance may not.

              On a side note, dear readers, if any of you are of the Christian faith or any other faith and are considering marriage, I strongly advise you to pick someone of your own faith if you think it will be an issue for you to have an unbelieving spouse. I had this friend in high school with whom I have lost contact. She was raised Christian but lived according to society’s normal standards for awhile. She lived with a man and then married him, but after two years they got divorced. The last time I saw her the divorce came up and I expressed sadness for her. She replied, “Oh, K. wasn’t a Christian, and I kept asking and asking him to become one, but after two years he didn’t, so I divorced him.” It left me flabbergasted! Truly, if my friend had felt that differences in faith might ever become an issue in their married life, she should not have ever entered the marriage in the first place. I believe that Peter’s passage is likely speaking to women in marriages where both were originally unbelievers and the women became Christians after they were married. So that’s different than willingly entering an interfaith marriage. Another anecdote: I had an acquaintance from church when I was a teenager, a Christian woman who fell in love with a Muslim man. He assured her that the differences in faith would be no issue and treated her with the utmost respect and love before marriage, but as soon as they were married he began abusing her (emotionally and mentally) and refused to consummate the marriage and allow her to have children until she converted to Islam. After two years of hell she was finally able to divorce and escape the situation. I am not trying to be judgmental; if you’re in a respectful interfaith marriage I applaud you and I do not like to ever give opinions on whether anyone should divorce. But again, if you are unmarried and you feel strongly about your faith I would encourage you to talk to a potential spouse about it before marrying. It may save you both, and any future children, a lot of heartache.

              Thank you for your question, Theresa, and thank you for reading the well bred woman in progress!

Love, not legalism

               Ah, this blog. I have enjoyed writing on it, both expressing my opinion and charting my journey to become a better version of myself. The way my brain works, I don’t really understand something until I write about it. The understanding increases when I read back what I write. Anyone else like that? It works on a lesser scale with talking; I think something, talk about it, and then listen to myself discuss it, and the light bulb clicks on. My husband (and nearly everyone else I know) just think I talk too much. So a lot of times I have quiet discussions in my head. I’ve been writing a lot of meaningful blog posts lately, but they’ve all been in my head. Sometimes the reason I don’t post is because I think my post is too short, or about something I assume is incredibly obvious to most people; sometimes, I just don’t get the time. I’m in my second week of home schooling the oldest two children in first grade. But today a thought popped into my head, and out of both guilt that I seldom post and hope that it may be encouraging, I am sharing before I make dinner and get distracted again.

               My oldest child has been called many things by well meaning parents. The term I hear most often is “strong-willed.” When I look at him I don’t see a problem to be fixed, nor even a challenge greater than the challenge of raising the other three. I see my beautiful, tiny baby boy—maybe just a bit bigger these days. I think he himself faces challenges the other children seem to glide through, but then he has his strengths, too. Anyway, today my eldest and I clashed again; there are a few behavioral traits I disapprove of, and lying is one of them. We had a talk. I feel weary of constantly correcting him but I know I can’t condone unacceptable behavior at some times and condemn it at other times. Still, it’s hard when you’re trying to raise a disciplined, well-guided child without resorting to legalistic tactics. And the more guiding a child needs, the harder it is to avoid becoming a legalistic robot, in my opinion. So this happened.

               We had our talk about being honest. I said smart things, earnest things, simple things. I wondered if any of it was getting in his mind. Then we finished up school and had free time for the afternoon. He made a craft. It was a card for me. It looked like this:

I luv yo mome :)

               He was sorry for everything, but I feel that he still doesn’t grasp the importance or necessity of telling the truth. He’s young. I expect that will take time. But the one thing he was keenly aware of was that he had disappointed me. So the point of the card was to let me know that he still loved me, even though he had done a bad thing. He proudly held it up, pointed to the words, and said, “Does this say—I think it says—I was trying to write—” and I looked at it closely, and said, “It says, ‘I love you, Mom!’” And he beamed. Yes! That was it. Did he spell words wrong? Of course. He’s only in first grade. So the thing I learned—From my experience, some parents are overreaching when it comes to their expectations for their kids. If the child spelled the word “mom” correctly in spelling class yesterday, why shouldn’t he be expected to spell it correctly from here on out? But that’s the entirely wrong approach. At that moment, what was happening was a parenting moment. A being-a-kid moment. A bonding, loving, emotional, healing moment where my small son was making peace with me. It would have been beyond inappropriate for me to correct his spelling at that moment!

               Reading this over I again come to the part where I’m thinking, “Should I even post this?” because my readers probably think that I’m messed up to be realizing, as part of my journey in progress, that legalism has no place in love. Really, it’s humbling that I should even have to realize something like this and not just already know it and be acting on it. Nevertheless, now that I’ve embarked on this search for truth, I find there are lessons to be learned almost every day, and this was the one I reviewed today.

               Thank you for reading the Well Bred Woman in Progress!

Teaching our children

               One of my young sons just brought me some tiny stuck-together Legos to unsnap.   As I helped him, it occurred to me that he had asked for me help instead of trying it himself because I am an adult and, in his mind, more capable than he.

               But then I remembered that even as a child I used to unsnap rows of thin, tightly connected Legos for my brothers.   I guess it’s something I’ve always been good at doing.   Since I was efficient at the task, they continued letting me do it, and I was glad to help.   After all, the way my brothers treated me growing up lead me to believe that my worth–my value–was intrinsically linked to how useful I was.   That is, I felt that what I could do for others was what endeared me to them and made me worthy of them.   This harmful notion hindered me when I began dating;   coming of age, I slowly began to recognize how harmful and objectifying this view is.   No person’s worth or value should be judged by their behavior.   In a world of economic significance–checks and balances and bottom lines–it often seems that one’s abilities, skills, and character become one’s currency for material measurement.   But the interpersonal relationships that ought to be crafted between us, specifically the sacred ties of families, marriages, and intimate relationships, ought not depend on the false notion that what one has to offer determines how much one is valued.   These days, I am happy to have finally begun rejecting this notion as I endeavor to teach my children that they are intrinsically valuable and worthy, no matter what they do.   Next to imparting the principles of my faith that I hope they will accept as their own, the single most important thing I wish to teach my children is that their worth is not dependent on their behavior nor on what they can do for me, their siblings, or society.

               What is the most important thing you want to teach, or feel you have taught, your children?

Greetings and interpersonal skills

                Suppose a male acquaintance you are not close to summons you loudly across a room and stretches his arms wide for a hug.   What should you do?   In order not to embarrass him needlessly, I would give a brief sideways hug and wrap up the interaction as quickly as possible.   However, in a relationship it is best to wait until both parties are comfortable enough with each other to engage in hugging;   when in doubt, ask.   It is inconsiderate to maintain a one sided view that “I am just a hugger, so if I want to I will hug people.”   If you do not know for sure, stick to an arm or shoulder pat or a handsqueeze (more intimate than a handshake, but not as invading as a hug).   Remember, the epitome of being well mannered is to seamlessly move through life leaving everyone feeling as pleasant as possible under the circumstances while portraying your best character.

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                Someone pressures you to become an ambassador for her particular MLM (multilevel management) company.   You are not interested, but she keeps asking.   You do not want to give detailed reasons for your refusal, nor should you have to.   If she asks again, decline politely but make it clear that you are not refusing out of ignorance or a wish to be convinced.   Over this past week I dealt with such a situation by letting my friend know that I had thoroughly researched the company and concluded that the types of products they sell are just not for me in terms of using or selling.   Though I have great reservations not only about MLMs in general but particularly the product my friend was peddling, I did not list any specific reasons because many MLM salespeople have been trained to combat such statements and I did not wish to debate.   (Something I have slowly been realizing over the past few years is that the goal is not to walk away from every encounter leaving the other person in full ownership of my personal opinion.   The well bred woman pursues the life best suited to her goals and style without trying to change others forcibly.)   The bitter pill at the bottom of the sweet glass of the “Join my MLM as my ambassador” rhetoric is that the person who draws you into the company makes money off every sale you make.   That is, in part, what fuels their persistence but knowing this can help a person look objectively at the situation when deciding.   With MLMs taking the States by storm, I know by past experience that it is easy to get in and hard to get out, and the more money you put into it the worse you feel about quitting.   So unless that type of sales experience and those particular business ethics suit you, and it does work for many people, declining an MLM invitation is something that needs to be done politely but firmly and preferably as soon as possible.

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                A stranger randomly starts talking to your child, beyond a mere hello.   Expecting a cute reaction or a response, they just keep talking to your child even though you as a parent can tell the child is uncomfortable (compounded in children who have been taught not to talk to strangers).   What do you do?   Usually I gently pull the child to my side (to make him feel safe) and while keeping a hand on the child explain, “We teach our children not to talk to strangers.”   That might sound cold but every time I have said it, no one has become visibly upset;   usually they either apologize or laugh and agree that it is a good policy.   Even now I remember incidences as a child where I had to deal with unwanted attention from a strange adult and I still remember how empty and scared I felt not to have a trusted adult step up and say something to make them stop bothering me.   Yes, children need to learn communication skills, but these are best learned within the safety of the family, friends and community acquaintances that the parents place in their child’s life.   The only thing that a child should have to say to a stranger asking them things like where they go to school and what their favorite color is “None of your business.”   There are far too many bad people in the world nowadays for parents to have to endure a stranger interrogating their child.   For me, if I see a child staring at me I sometimes smile or make eye contact but that is all.   I usually just let them stare and go about my business;   it is child’s job to observe adults and learn from them, and it is a bit presumptuous for me to take a child’s notice as an invitation to go and speak to them.   If anything needs to be said to or about the child, the proper channel is to address her parent or caregiver.

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                Speaking of addressing others properly, when meeting and greeting at a function, if a person you know is present with their spouse or another guest, remember to address both your friend or acquaintance and their spouse or guest.   After making eye contact and hand shaking the person who is known, you should briefly turn to their partner and at least smile.   That gives your friend an opportunity to make introductions, and it is the least a person can do to acknowledge everyone within the same space.   I am flabbergasted by how many times an acquaintance of my husband has addressed him, yet never even made eye contact with me as I stood right next to him!   Another thing to remember is not to assume that you know who the other person is or how they are related;   if I had voiced my assumption a few months back, I would have referred to my church pianist’s daughter as his wife!

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                And on that note, less said is better.   Countless needless things, sometimes hurtful but often simply unnecessary, have been said because too much was said.   Less said is always better and you do not have to take back what was not said.   Smiling at and making eye contact with those around you is a good way to stay on top of your surroundings while learning more about the situation through observation and listening.   One need not begin every interaction with her tongue.   This is wisdom that I hope to find.

Seven well bred habits to develop in children


               In parenting my young children, I often marvel at the life lessons they teach me in my pursuit of mindful, mannerly living.   After noticing several recurring incidents in which my children showed a tendency toward well bred behavior, I compiled the following list of ways that well bred behavior burgeons in small children and how adults can develop these inclinations.

1 Critical thinking

               It has been said that “early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise”;   while this is part of it, I believe that being able to think well is also critical to acquiring and maintaining good health, wealth, and wisdom.   After all, one needs to be able to filter through all of the information that they hear, applying it to their beliefs and experience of what they know to be true.   Thinking about why one does things a certain way is a good habit, although it is often neglected among adults, particularly in the US where peer pressure is a kind of god.   However, children do far more of it than adults might realize.   Their naturally curious disposition leads them to ask “why” about nearly everything, as children’s care givers know.   Though the question comes a hundred times a day, the child is not trying to annoy;   he really wants to know the reasons behind actions.   As for me, I tell my children as often as I can why we do things for two reasons:  one, I don’t want them to view me as an arbitrary parent who dictates unreasonably and sets no basis for my authority, and two, I want them to learn how to make decisions on their own someday by modeling the thought process behind my decisions.   It is very simple as in, we wash our hands to keep dirt out of our food because we do not eat dirt.   Or we do not stare at other people because it makes them feel uncomfortable.   Instead of viewing a child’s habit of constantly asking “why” as an annoyance, consider it an opportunity for coming up with age appropriate explanations as often as possible, though there will be some times when one has to say, “because I said so.”   But taking the time to satisfy a child’s curiosity will build rapport with him and increase his respect for his caregiver, parent, or educator, as well as giving the caregiver insight into what exactly she is doing and why she does it.  For example, doing things out of fear, habit, obligation, greed, necessity, peer pressure, or mindlessness is not the proper motivation, but all too often it is the underlying reason.

2 Honesty

               Children are honest;   they blurt things out.   In public, they repeat the bad words they hear at home and the closet opinions their parents have of such-and-such or so-and-so.   And as soon as they do their mother gasps in terror and contradicts them:  “Mommy didn’t say that! Mommy doesn’t think that!”   as if she can fool them…and thus teaches them to lie.   Or maybe the child says something hurtful, although innocently, such as calling a handicapped person “funny looking” or “weird.”   It is certainly not appropriate speech, but mother quickly intervenes:  “Oh no, they look normal! Just fine! Stop saying such ridiculous things!”   But the child knows that there is something different about that person, and in the parent’s embarrassment to cover for her child’s thoughtlessness she does not validate the honesty that was behind the remark.   It would be better to have a conversation in private shortly thereafter explaining why the person looks different and that one should not make comments about other people’s appearances.   Another example:   children know when people are sad or upset;   when they mention it, a parent who does not feel like dealing with it may deny it:   “No, no, mommy’s fine”–again teaching the child that it is okay to lie and mask their feelings.   In this last case I have found it best to acknowledge that yes, mommy’s sad, but I will be okay again soon and I still love you, or something like that because for a child, a parent is their whole world, and any signs of trouble in paradise will make that world seem very shaky.   However, instead of denying the trouble, showing them how to work through it with a positive attitude is best.

3 Dressing up

               Children love dressing up and being “fancy.”   A small girl loves to watch her mother put on her makeup or fix her hair and dress herself.   Boys admire outlandish outfits, shiny gold buttons and braid, and bright colors.   But some parents dress their children in terrible combinations, like infinitely immature combinations of trucks and lizards or pinks and hearts, or t-shirts and jeans for every occasion, or they always make the boys wear browns and blacks and navys.   They scour thrift stores or yard sales for old stuff with just a little life left in it (thinking that they cannot buy nice clothing for a child because he will not keep it nice).   Or they let the child lead in dressing himself, because he “wants” to, resulting in terrible color and pattern combinations, instead of capitalizing on a child’s inclination for the beautiful by teaching him how to dress and behave properly.   One can start early to point out things like coordinating colors and patterns, while gently taking the lead in picking out the child’s outfits.   While it is good to have a lot of easily washable cotton clothing for daytime play, it is not a bad idea to dress the child in nicer items for events such as eating out, church activities, holidays and occasions, and meeting relatives, taking the necessary precautions such as using bibs or banning outdoor play in certain outfits.   Children love feeling fancy and dressing up, and this love can be applied to owning and wearing a few real life nicer outfits instead of merely satisfying them with gaudy dress-up sets of pirates and princesses (of course, many children will love this, too, but it is my opinion that a well bred woman does not bring her children out in public dressed in “dress-up” clothes).   My preference for my children’s clothing is the mini-adult look, where they mostly wear smaller versions of the same things their father and I wear, such as button down shirts, wool suits or velvet dresses, patterns instead of graphic prints, and a sensible range of colors (as opposed to all black, blue, or pink).

4 Attention span

               What?   Children have an attention span?   Here in America, it is often said that they do not, or that it is very limited.   If that is so, why do children always want their parent’s attention, seemingly never tired of a word or look from Mommy, or a cuddle and a bounce from Daddy?   The truth is that they do crave our attention and often we find ourselves modeling the limited attention span, pushing them away in favor of our phones, computers, paperwork, housework, or adult conversation.   While those things are necessary, setting aside a designated amount of time and devoting it to our children can not only increase our attention span but theirs as well.   Also, it teaches them the well bred habit of focusing on one thing at a time and making time for what is important to us, which will gradually lead to an increased attention span over time.   Along these lines, helping a child to finish what he has started also increases an attention span by placing importance on following through with a task.

5 Orderliness

               When they are very small, children have a black and white view of morality, and along with it a natural tendency toward putting things in their place.   Especially with babies who were raised on a schedule or rhythm, children crave order and stability and often tend to put things back where they belong or “fix” broken things.   This inclination can easily be lost if a parent does not diligently practice the habit of helping the child tidy up regularly.   Teaching the child by example from an early age how to properly store and care for things, eventually inviting him to help in doing so, can go a long way toward establishing the well bred habit of orderliness and tidiness in a child.

6 Reading

               Small children love to be read to, and the earlier and oftener a parent begins reading to a child, the more enthralling he will find it.   Indeed, it is better to have established reading as a regular habit before introducing children to the television.   I began reading to each of my children around 9 months old, or right past the point that they would grab the book and try to eat it. 🙂  Like a small child voraciously gobbling the knowledge of storybooks and picture books, the well bred woman will be ever reading, pursuing the knowledge needed to create and maintain the life of her dreams.   In addition, the mental stimulation that comes from reading will keep a woman’s intellect sharp, her wit keen, her dialog interesting, her mind open, her sensibilities stable, and her personality vibrant.

7 Love

               Children have big hearts full of love.   They love animals, their toys, certain foods, really all kinds of things;   as they get older that love transfers to people, too.   Likewise, a well bred woman allows her heart and life to be filled with all kinds of love, not just the love of children and spouse.   It is good to love things too, and to love experiences and feelings and situations, such as art, fine eating, nature, craftsmanship, music, talents, hobbies, friendship, and industry.   Such love of life will lead to a pure enjoyment not unlike that of a little child, who sees joy and beauty in everything around him.   Children miss the big picture because they admire the detail;   adults focus too often on the dismal aspect of the big picture — it is so big and full of what if’s and why’s — when a closer look at detail might reveal lovely intricate happenings in life that are nothing short of miracles.

               Learn from a child, whose well of love and wisdom is bottomless.