High Alti-TUDEs Make It Hard for Everyone to Breathe

1 Nov 2001

Embracing a bad attitude is like going on a mountain climbing expedition. The moment you lay claim to the bad attitude a transformation process begins. Picture it with me. You start by dressing out in full hiking gear and then begin an unyielding journey to the highlands—your front pocket safely securing your newly adopted “'tude.” Momentum builds as your determination to ascend fuels your super-mom strength. The higher you climb, the hotter that harboring attitude becomes. Only upon reaching your destination do you stop to catch your breath. Smugly folding your arms, you commend yourself for a job well done. And now, upon this pinnacle, basking in the glory of your eminence, you conclude that you, have indeed, arrived! From this vantagepoint you have an aerial view of the valley and all the little peons scrambling about, dutifully trying to accomplish their daily tasks. "Ahh, too bad," you cynically whisper with a smirk, "They haven't attained my level of success.”

Then, quite unexpectedly, a gradual feeling of disappointment interrupts your newfound euphoric state. At the moment you begin to question this unwelcome emotion, your peripheral vision suddenly catches a glimpse of movement at your feet. Lowering your head you gasp as you discover your children, clutched to your pant legs, and barely moving. Reality sets in as you realize that you unknowingly dragged them up the mountain. As they struggled to keep up with your pace, their little legs gave out halfway through the climb, and the reduced oxygen level has deduced their cries to a faint, collective whimpering sound, barely above a whisper. The Wind of Conviction now whirls about you, as you stop to comprehend the price that was paid to secure this lofty position.

Finding yourself at the crossroads, you must now choose. Knowing that resistance to the Wind will, no doubt, bring about eminent disaster, do you allow the wind to gently blow you back down into the lowlands where you and your children will be safe? Or, will you succumb to alti-TUDE sickness and allow it to choke the life out of everyone?

The word "attitude" means "posture" and is derived from a Latin word meaning "fitness." Our environment, associations, and circumstances all influence our attitudes. Attitudes have the ability to manifest themselves without a single word ever being spoken. Think about it. How long do you have to be in the checkout line before the cashier's appearance and posture reveal her attitude? If you can discern a stranger's attitude in such a brief moment, how much easier is it for your children to discover yours? Many of the behaviors we see in our children are mirror images of our own.

So how do we create a healthy home environment where good attitudes are encouraged to grow and bad ones are snuffed out before they have a chance to adhere themselves? Let’s learn some things that will help us to develop and nurture good attitudes. By doing this we will successfully avoid trips to, what I call, the High Alti-TUDE Zone.


Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Stay focused on what you are doing and why you are doing it. One way to do this is to write out your purpose for homeschooling. Your purpose may be altered as time and experience brings you to a better grasp of your convictions. On days when you feel like giving up, your purpose will encourage you to persevere. Good relationships are the main thing in our home. They are the foundation upon which we are building a spiritual heritage. They are the standard by which every choice is measured, from entertainment and friendships, to service and chores.

When I began homeschooling, I made a sign with our school's name on it and placed it in a prominent place. Choosing the Hebrew word for "teach" as part of the name regularly reminds me of my calling, and each time I see that sign it says "teach" to me. It helps me to stay focused when I see clouds of discouragement forming, and I feel the temptation to climb. The Biblical mandate in Deuteronomy 6 and 11 charges parents to love God with all our hearts, and to train our children in His ways. When we know our purpose and adhere to this commission, it is much easier to keep the main thing the main thing.


Cultivate a Thankful Heart and Lips That Praise

The Bible says, "out of the heart the mouth speaks." The first step in ascertaining a thankful heart is learning to captivate our thoughts. God's word tells us in II Corinthians 10:5 to "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." You will have a hard time thanking God for Jenny's accidentally spilt milk on your freshly mopped floor if all you can think about is mopping the floor over again. Your actions are the direct result of your thoughts, and too many times we react to a situation before we have taken the time to evaluate the circumstances. You have the ability to bring every thought captive and change it's direction before it becomes an action. Doing this will avoid later regret.

Look for and seize moments for praise. Most opportunities will present themselves in the daily, seemingly little things. Witnessing your daughter sharing her snack or your son opening the door for someone should be acknowledged with an approving smile. Have everyone shout three cheers for Mary when she experiences victory over a complicated math concept. Hey, if we can get excited over our favorite team's victory, can’t we express some excitement over Mary's winning moment?


Establish and Maintain Control

"I can't teach these kids! So and So's kids were just born perfect. Mine just don't listen. I've had enough of this homeschooling thing!" How many times have you heard these types of statements? When a well-known speaker was asked by a mother what she should do to start homeschooling?" She responded by asking, "Do your children obey you?" This wise woman's question, and subsequent counsel, was foundational if this mother was going to be successful in building an environment for teaching and learning. If your children don’t listen and are used to having their own way, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to establish and maintain an environment for learning.

Constitute the authority structure within your home and then enforce it. Make sure that your children know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Dad and Mom rule. They are a united force to be reckoned with, and they will not be divided on issues. Stability and consistency give children a sense of security, even when they know they've stepped beyond the boundaries. Hold children accountable for their actions and discipline consistently.


Be Cautious with Your Expectations

We shackle our children and ourselves when we have unrealistically high expectations. We sometimes expect them to look, perform, and be what we have envisioned. Think about the proverbial parents who expect Junior to own and operate the family furniture store. Every first-born son for three generations has managed the store. It’s Junior’s turn now. What happens when he wants to be a pilot instead? Rather than considering their son's gifts, his vocational desires and God's plan, Junior’s parents have prearranged his destiny to fit their expectations. Disappointment will likely wound this parent/son relationship.

I learned this lesson well when my son (at age fourteen) told me that he wanted to test drive racecars. Although I have learned the value of expecting nothing (in the little things), this announcement rendered me speechless. Good thing too, because, at that moment, it wouldn't have been wise for me to voice my thoughts. I could feel myself donning my hiking boots and gearing up for the climb. My heart anguished over my son's newly discovered life's purpose. I had thoughts like, "What? I have spent the last fourteen years teaching you, and now you want to drive cars at record-breaking speeds. You're going to crash and die!" But, instead of slamming him with all of the reasons why I thought that this was the most ridiculous idea he had come up with in years, I forced a silent smile. Capturing my thoughts, I asked the Lord for help. He revealed a plan to my husband and me that, over the course of the next three years, would set our son directly on the path that He had planned for him. Not only did God do that, He also transformed my heart in such a way that if my son truly wanted to test-drive race cars, it would be OK with me. Now that is truly a 'tude reversal!

The unrealistic, self-imposed expectations that we have for our children will only disappoint us in the end. We must learn to keep our expectation at level zero because then we realize that everything above zero is a blessing. When we seek God's direction for our child's future it enables us to testify, as David did in Psalm 118:23, that "The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes."


Become Healthy Trees That Grow Good Fruit

Don't give up just before the harvest. You may have a child that is a continual challenge. He may have tested your patience every day since the day he was born. You may be tempted to give up, especially if the successes have been few and far between. I have seen what happens to homeschooling families who grow weary and faint just before the harvest. Discouragement is nothing new. Look at David's experience. He became so discouraged that he cried out to God in Psalm 12:1, "The godly man ceaseth... the faithful fail from among the children of men." Sometimes the circumstances of life overwhelm us to the brink of despair. It's easy to want to climb up to a high, unreachable place; yet God plants us by rivers of living water. He reminds us that rivers flow in the valleys and that He is the source of life producing water.

How many times have you asked God to give you patience? Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but patience is not a gift; it’s a fruit. If you desire to see the fruit of patience in your life, you must realize that you are the tree, that God is the Master Gardener, and that He will prune you in order to produce the best fruit. The strongest tree is the one that perseveres through storms, droughts, floods, pruning, and pests. That's right… bugs! Let not your heart be troubled, though. The Master Gardener made sure that you were strong enough to survive the transplant, and produce. You’d have never made it out of the greenhouse otherwise. He knows that your fruit carries the seeds for tomorrow's trees. Let patience have its perfect work in you


“I Know I Can't," Rather Than "I Think I Can!"

Have you ever found yourself completely out of strength, frazzled before you even get started? Algebra, chemistry, biology, phonics, art lessons, music practice, park day... how will you, how can you, how do you? Add to the list, housekeeping, garden tending, marriage building, and shopping. You would like to prepare at least one daily, nutritious meal, and cereal with added vitamins doesn't count. We wonder about extra time for outside ministry. Need I even mention what happens to our day when the unexpected happens; the baby gets sick, the car has a flat, and hubby has to work late. Twenty-four hours in a day, and I heard once that eight of them were supposed to be for sleeping. Imagine that!

Often we find ourselves trying to imitate the Little Engine That Could, slowly climbing that mountain chanting, "I think I can, I think I can." Tell me, what good does it do to finally make it into the station, on our "I think I can positive mental attitude" only to find after arriving, that we were climbing the wrong mountain, on the wrong track, bound for the wrong station?

I am reminded of a time when I was completely drained of all steam. I had taken my poor-pitiful-me 'tude up to a high place to sulk about how I just didn't have enough time to do it all in twenty-four hours. I was miserable there. A friend's loving rebuke is what brought me back down to reality. After she had patiently listened to my lamenting she said to me, "God gave you twenty-four hours today, knowing exactly what you needed to accomplish. If you say that it's not enough, then what you are really saying is that God messed up. He must not have realized that you would need more time than that." Ouch! I mean, ouch! Someone give me some dynamite; I've got a train to blow up!

It's time to change our chant to, "I know I can't, I know I can't!" The positive mental attitude mentality is a counterfeit that needs to be exposed for the lie that it is. The truth is that you can't do it all when you are relying on yourself to get you to the station. Without God's strength and His help it's not going to get done; no matter how hard we push. May I remind you that God doesn't call the qualified—He qualifies the called!


Learn That Juggling is Easier With Balls Than Bricks

Juggling is an inevitable part of every homeschool mom's job description. If we're not careful we’ll over commit ourselves and the stress 'tude will begin to whisper our name, enticing us to adorn our hiking boots. God designed us with the innate ability to juggle what He gives us (round, lightweight balls). Isn’t it interesting that our juggling isn’t stressed until we begin to throw in a few bricks? We upset the balance when we attempt to add more to our routine than He designed. This causes everything to eventually topple around us.

The over-stressed homeschooling mom is ensnared in the trap of busyness when she sets out to prove something to the world. For fear of being accused of isolating her children, she burns up the highways trying to juggle it all. With each new set of tires she finds herself sport’n a major stress 'tude. One by one, the lightweight balls fall away because the added bricks become heavier, requiring more effort to juggle.

Now I ask you, is there anything scarier than seeing a stressed out homeschool mom behind the wheel of a fully loaded, moving vehicle? You know her. She’s the one who’s late for a field trip because she was trying to cram six sandwiches into her brood, find matching socks for everyone, pack up her son's overnight bag (he's going home with a friend.) and change the baby who doodled in her diaper while being strapped into the car seat. Yikes! That's a recipe for disaster. The important things that really matter, one by one begin to fall away because all of her energy is spent in trying to prove something.

Did you know that Daniel 7:25 tells us that in the end times the enemy would "wear out the saints of the Most High." Train yourself to recognize bricks. You are not isolating your kids from the rest of the world; you are insulating them. Our culture wants you to believe that in order for your child to reach adulthood intact, you must allow him to experience every opportunity that avails itself along the way. Hog wash! Determine to keep your load light and serve that stress 'tude its marching orders!


Let Contentment Bloom in Season

"To everything there is a season…” If you live in the past you will dwell on your mistakes; if you live for the future then you will lose the investment that you can make into your child's life today. Do you know what the women in Naomi's community said to her when Ruth gave birth to Boaz's son? In Ruth 4:15 they exclaim, "May he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age." Naomi's past could have left her pretty hopeless. Her husband and sons had died. All she had left was her loving daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi may have wondered if Ruth would abandon her after marrying Boaz. However, God was faithful and promised Naomi restoration and even nourishment in her old age through the birth of Ruth's son. Do you see your children as God's gift of restoration to you and nourishment for your old age?

Don't allow yourself to pick up an unsettled, hopeless attitude. If you do, you will never experience true contentment. You've been called to the primary ministry of training your children during this season of your life. Ministry means service, and anything that is worth having is worth working hard for. "See to it that you complete the work that you have received in the Lord" (Colossians 4:17). Be content where God has planted you. It won't be long before you and your children are blooming.


Finish Well

Our human nature causes us to be objective oriented. We tend to head towards a strategic position, directing all our energy toward it (like the mountain climbing expedition). God is, however, process oriented. He is more concerned about instructing us as we go, so that by the time we reach our destination we are spiritually "fit" and our "posture" is like that of His Son's. In this season of raising our children God wants us to put on the garment of praise as He positions us in the valley: the land of the living. He will be our source for strength, a balm for sore muscles, and peace for our troubled hearts. Jesus has already blazed the thorny trail. His call for us is to simply walk in His footsteps. Godspeed!

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