Getting to Know Lisa Whelchel (Part 2 of 2)
- Jill Bartlett Crosswalk.com Family Living Editor
- 2001 23 Sep
Lisa: Yes -- my son has ADD, and we read so many parenting books and were doing everything "by the book," but he wasn't cooperating. So it was out of desperation that I would just call out to the Lord, "I don't know what to do -- I've done everything I know to do and it's not working. I don't know what to do!" The Lord takes us really seriously when we call upon Him, even in desperation. He began to answer me every time I would have a conflict with my son. I'd just say, "How do I handle this?" and He would give me an idea. God is a very creative God, and He is our parent. He had some creative parenting ideas for me. All of my friends kept saying, "You've got to put all this down in a book; I would never think of doing what you're doing!" So, that's how the book came about.
Jill: So what are some of the different things that have been successful?
Lisa: Well, one of my favorites is the incentives and rewards. My son loves Lego's and you can buy Lego kits to build a big pirate ship or a space station. They're pretty expensive, so I wasn't going to just go buy it for him as a toy. But I did buy it to use as an incentive. The kit had over 300 pieces, so I just tied a condition to it that he could put the first ten pieces together when he got home, but after that, every time he took the initiative to do the right thing without having to be reminded, then he could put the next ten pieces together. And, you know, instead of walking over his sock, he would pick it up and put it in the hamper and go put ten pieces together. And instead of just grabbing the last piece of a cookie or a cake, he'd ask his sisters if they wanted it first. Of course, it was just to get the Lego pieces, but at the end of the month he had built not only a great pirate ship, but he'd built a really good character trait as well.
Jill: And it probably took away the necessity for nagging!
Lisa: Absolutely. And his behavior was coming from within.
Jill: That's great. Why do you say that discipline just by itself isn't enough -- that you have to also "train up" your children?
Lisa: Well, because it's important to set a foundation for them to have a healthy fear of the Lord and of their parents. If they only do the right thing because they don't want to get in trouble, then as soon as they get out from under your covering they'll just go do what they want to do. So, that's why it's so important to make the transition and to teach them why you're requiring it of them. That's why I use Scripture a lot, too; so it's not just because "I'm the mom and I say so, it's because this is what God says about your behavior." Therefore, they can make that transition to doing the right thing for the right reasons. The goal of discipline is self-discipline, so we have to teach them that God has good reasons why He requires things from us.
Jill: How do you creatively teach your children Scripture without them tying it to a punishment? Some parents do that -- they'll make their children memorize Scripture in relation to punishment and then the kids grow up and they rebel spiritually.
Lisa: You know, sometimes I'll be talking and I'll say, " Tucker, if I had a hundred dollars right now, would you be paying attention to me if I was trying to give you the money?" and he says, " Yeah, Mom." But, you know wisdom is like silver and gold. You try to teach them that what we're giving them is our wisdom and that their correction is from love. The Scripture is taught because God knows what makes their life work and we love them and we want life to work for them. You know, discipline is supposed to be painful or it won't work. So whether they enjoy it or not, they will know that it's because we love them and it's because we're giving them gold and silver.
Jill: Have you found that your three children can be disciplined the same way and that you can use the same correction tools, or are they three completely different beings?
Lisa: They're all three totally different. I wrote the book more for my son -- ways to discipline him; but in the process, I realized that each one of them were different and deserved to be disciplined according to the way the Lord had made them. So, I have found that some things work better with one than the others.
Jill: What do you say to the parent who has the completely rebellious child where traditional things are not working? Is it a matter of just hanging in there and relying on the Lord's strength or is it looking to do something different?
Lisa: I think it depends on the age of the child. You know, when they're young enough, if you skip that stage of the healthy fear of the parent and the disciplining of the flesh before you teach the heart, you need to go back and get that. I think there really is a point for spanking; there's really a time and a place for really being the strict parent and I think it's easier if you establish that when they're young. But, if you haven't, you can't miss a stage and expect it all to build up without crumbling. If necessary, you can go back and establish that authority in your home through pretty strict discipline. If they are past that point, then prayer would obviously be the number one thing. It's important to not discipline or yell or threaten in anger. But, you know, that's something the parent has to work on first. Before you discipline, make sure you realize that the Scripture says "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." If you realize that whatever you're saying to them, it probably won't get through if you're speaking in an angry tone, so you're wasting your breath and your emotions ... wait until you and the children are calmed down.
Jill: How do you do that when they're especially young and they need to be disciplined right then and they don't understand later what they've done wrong?
Lisa: Well, when you can, I think it's very important to discipline as quickly as possible. Although there are some situations when you can't -- if you're on the phone, if you're getting something hot out of the oven, if you're talking with other people, you can't. I send my kids to the bathroom. If I'm in the middle of something, I'll say "You go wait for me in the bathroom." And that has a few purposes: first of all, it starts the correction immediately, it's like a time out. So immediately, the correction has begun. But also, it enables me to finish what I'm doing, to quickly say "Lord, how do I handle this?" and it enables them to calm down and think about what they're doing and then begin the punishment.
Jill: How can God continue to mold children after they're grown up and the parenting role changes? What do you feel like is your role as a parent after your children are grown and gone? Can you still train them?
Lisa: All I can say is that I have grown. I've been a Christian since I was ten years old, and a committed Christian all that time, but I grew exponentially after I was 25 years old. I do believe that we obviously need to train them up in the way they should go. But, I also believe that they become more accountable, stronger in their faith, making decisions on their own and being responsible for their decisions. I think that the majority of their growth in the Lord, and in life, is going to come after they're grown. At least that's how it was for me.
Jill: So in some respects that's almost when your role really begins; you can also be mentor and friend.
Jill: Who has been your greatest mentor in mothering?
Lisa: My mother. I write a chapter in my new book called "Love Mom" and it's a collection of letters my mom has written to me over the years. Everybody will be able to see when they read those letters that I am my mother's daughter. She was very creative, she was very encouraging, she was fun. She's got a wicked sense of humor. So, my mom definitely is a wonderful mother and now she's doubled that as a grandmother. She's amazing.
Jill: Tell us more about this new book, The Facts of Life and Other Lessons ...
Lisa: Well, I'm very excited about it. It's a collection of stories from my life and how my Heavenly Father gave me very practical parenting in everyday decisions from teaching me who to marry to how to raise kids, how to spend money, how to save money, how to get through puberty, etc. -- it really illustrates a really loving father/daughter relationship between my Heavenly Father and me, and how He desires to be intimately involved in the details of our lives.
Jill: You're getting ready to start national driving tour. Is this a work opportunity, is it purely a vacation, or do you consider it a home schooling opportunity?
Lisa: It's a combination. We leave Thursday in a motor home donated to us by Tiffin Motor Homes in Red Bay, Alabama. And we are going to go around America for a year and on Sundays I'll be speaking in churches, Fridays I'll be doing bookstore signings and media and all the rest of the days we'll just be seeing America together - like historical sites, factory tours, national parks, and just enjoying the adventure.
I'm also writing a book called Finding God in America along the way, and a lot of that will come from my journal. Every night, I will be writing in my journal and then the next morning I'll upload entries from the journal and a couple of pictures for the day so that families can visit my website and live the family dream vicariously through us. I'll be doing on-line chats with Crosswalk.com readers, and I believe they're going to post a lot of those entries at Crosswalk.com also.
Read Part 1 of our interview with Lisa.
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