As Mom: Q & A with Barbara Rainey
About the Guest
Barbara Rainey, answers your most perplexing questions about parenting.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey, answers your most perplexing questions about parenting.
As Mom: Q & A with Barbara Rainey
Bob: How can a wife communicate with her husband about needs that she sees for their family without nagging him or trying to control him or usurping his leadership? That's one of the questions that was recently put to Barbara Rainey. Here is how she responded.
Barbara: I think you have every responsibility to communicate what you would like to see but do it in a way that—“How can we work this out in our family? What would you like for me to do? How can I help?” without you taking over. Because communicating is so much of everything in a marriage—it’s understanding where you're coming from, so that he knows your needs and understands what your desire is and what your heart is, but in a way that's nurturing to him so that he can be the leader.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today how Barbara Rainey responded to some questions that were put to her recently by a group of young wives and moms.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.
Dennis: Bob, you know what? I've been reading some of the mail from our listeners—
Dennis: —and they want you and me out of here.
Bob: What do you mean?
Dennis: They want us off the broadcast.
Bob: Well, but this is what we—
Dennis: —as in, “Take the pink slip and leave, Cleve.”
Bob: This is what I do. This is my job. Are you telling me I’m fired?
Dennis: No, we’re both fired. Our listeners want to hear from Barbara, my wife.
Bob: Oh, okay.
Dennis: I mean, they have written, they appreciate the fact that we’re now empty-nesters, and that we’re including her in on an increasing number of broadcasts here on FamilyLife Today. So, frankly, some of them have been so bold to say, “Have you guys thought about a second job?” (Laughter)
Well, I haven’t—but you know she is good, I have to admit. So, today, Bob and I are out of here.
Bob: It's all up to Barbara today.
Dennis: We're just going to pass the microphone to her. She's actually not here in the studio. Actually, what we want to share with you is a question-and-answer session that she had with a group of young moms in Nashville, Tennessee, at Fellowship Bible Church in Franklin. They invited Barbara to come over and spend some time with the young moms over there; and, fortunately, someone pushed the record button on a tape recorder. So, you and I are out of here, Bob.
Bob: She was doing her Titus 2 best that day. So, we’ll turn it over to her.
Dennis: I'm leaving.
Bob: We'll turn it over to her. Here's Barbara with some young moms:
Dennis: Tell me when it's over.
Bob: Okay. (Laughter)
[Previously recorded audio begins]
Moderator: Our first question is with being a mom—and I know you have invested so much in your family and family time. One of the moms asked, “How can we teach biblical principles throughout the day to preschoolers? And what does spiritual training really look like?”
Barbara: Well, I think spiritual training is really parenting.
I was thinking about some of the things that we teach our children throughout the day and the spiritual principles that we're teaching. For instance, we teach our children to obey. Well, that’s Ephesians 6:1 where it says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” So, when you’re teaching your child to obey you and to do what you say, to come when you call—all of those things—you’re teaching a biblical principle; and I think sometimes we forget that.
Another one is the whole idea of giving thanks. When we pray over our meals, we’re teaching our children to be thankful. When we teach them to say “please” and “thank you”—which was always a big deal for me with my kids—we’re teaching them to be thankful and to have the right attitude; and that’s a Christian attitude, that’s a biblical perspective. I think sometimes we just think it’s a kindness.
Well, where does kindness come from? It comes from God. We wouldn’t be kind if we didn’t know God, and I think we forget that; that we are teaching biblical principles on a daily basis in some of the small things that we do.
Another one I mentioned, too, is the whole issue of forgiveness. Ephesians 4 tells us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Well, children aren’t naturally kind; they’re not naturally tenderhearted. They are tender—and I don’t want you to think that I’m saying they're not, but they have both.
We have to train that tender side and reward the tender side and teach them when they’re not tenderhearted and when they’re mean and when they take toys and when they hit and bite and those kinds of things. We have to teach, we have to discipline, and we have to teach the forgiveness side.
So, in all of these little daily things—and there are so many daily things about parenting—but in the process of doing those things, you’re teaching your children to be kind and to be tenderhearted to their siblings and to forgive. That’s the basis for what you’re doing. Sometimes, we don’t quote the verse to our child when we’re doing it; and we might not be thinking—we’re just thinking, “This is right” and “This is not right.”
So, I think with toddlers and preschoolers you can be doing a lot of biblical training, but you’re not necessarily memorizing Bible verses.
Moderator: This next one, I think, is something that most of us struggle with. How do we balance making time to play with our kids with all the other things that need to be done? Anybody who can relate to that?—cleaning, laundry, all the things to catch up on? What’s the answer?
Barbara: There isn’t an answer. (Laughter)
Here is how I think about balance—and I think about it in all areas of my life—I think about a pendulum. I don’t know why I think about a pendulum; but, you know, something that's hanging, and I think about it swinging. How often is it really in dead center? It’s usually here, and I’m out of balance, and I go, “Okay, I’m out of balance here. I’ve got to go this way.” So, I go this way. “Okay, I’m out of balance this way. I need to go this way.” So, I go back this way.
Balance is something that is perfect, dead center. Well, are we going to ever be perfect? No. So, you kind of need to let yourself off the hook on that. You need to realize that it’s the balance of your overall life. It's the sum total of what you’ve done with your children. It’s not necessarily this minute or “Am I balanced this minute” because you’re probably not going to be. Am I balanced today? Maybe not.
I mean, your house may be a mess all day for a week; and by the end of the week, you decide, “I can’t stand it anymore. I’m going to clean it.” You clean all day long and that kind of thing. You can’t maintain a balance of everything every day. It’s impossible. So, I want to say that in the beginning, to let yourself off the hook, because you can’t. It’s okay that you can’t, I think. I really do.
So, the other thing that I would say is that in finding that balance, there are two things you need to decide. One: you kind of need to know yourself. Are you a task person, or are you a relational person? I think we all tend to sort of be one or the other. I tend to be more task-driven than I am relationship-driven.
So, I always had—that was my struggle in balance is that I was so frustrated because I couldn’t get my tasks done; because I kept having to stop what I was doing to spank somebody or to clean up the spilled milk or to get the laundry in the thing or somebody had a dirty diaper. I just couldn’t stay focused, and that was a real frustration for me.
But then, there are people who are more relational-oriented. They won’t get any of the tasks done because they’re having so much fun playing. So I think you need to sort of know yourself and know which direction you need to lean.
Moderator: What battles are worth fighting? (Laughter) Which are not? Like, you know, we face battles every day: whether they want to put their coat on, what food they’re going to eat, are they going to eat any vegetables, any fruit? You know sibling rivalry. I mean, what is it that really we need to say, “This is a battle worth fighting?”
Barbara: Well, I wasn’t really sure on that question exactly what direction you were headed. So, my—this is a super-spiritual answer, so you can kind of take it for what it's worth.
The first thing I thought of is really the things we need to fight for are the things that God values. I know that’s not getting into particulars—and we can go there—but I was thinking about one of the two things that are going to last for eternity: God’s Word and people.
Sometimes, I think I got caught up in the real picky things, like eating vegetables and some of that kind of stuff, when it really didn't matter; and I would forget that it was the relationship with my child that really mattered. That was more important than whether or not he did exactly or she did exactly what I thought they should do.
Your children obeying, that’s worth fighting for. Respecting their dad and respecting you, that’s worth fighting for—being kind. So, those biblical values, those things are worth fighting for.
Moderator: One of the moms asked, “What is the best way to transition from being a mommy to the wife that my husband needs and that I would love to be?”
Barbara: I think this is probably one of the most important questions that we’re going to talk about today because there were some things that I tried to do. The first thing that I think is essential: You have to decide, is your husband going to be number one, or are your kids going to be number one? That's the starting point. If your husband is really going to be the priority—and he really should be the priority over your children—you’ve got to first make that decision and then go from there.
Then, secondly, what am I going to do about it? Okay, he’s number one. How am I going to live that out in my family? How is he going to know that he’s more important than the children?
Because if you figure it out—even if you’re working part-time or full-time—your child still is going to get probably more actual time if you measured—counted minutes and hours just because of the demands that it takes to bathe them and feed them and take them to the doctor, and all of the things. They’re still going to—the hours are going to add up that your child is going to win.
But what can you do to communicate to your husband that he is still number one in your life? That’s what you've got to figure out.
One of the things that I did is I tried, even when my kids were older—I tried to save energy somehow. A lot of times it meant taking naps in the afternoons instead of getting my things done—and I'm a task person. It might mean for me—and it did, many times—that I let my projects go; and during the afternoon when I might get something done that I wanted to get done, I took a nap or just rested—maybe not sleep but rested and did something so that I could save energy for my husband.
And that was a hard decision, because it was denying myself those precious hours that I had that I could spend some time doing what I wanted to do.
Another thing is we made getting away together a priority: going out in the evenings or getting away for weekends. I would highly recommend that you get away for a couple of weekends a year, if you can—even if you swap kids with another couple, so that you can get time away for a weekend.
It was always easier for me to focus on my husband when my kids weren’t around, because they just want Mom. So, it was easier for me to focus on my husband when I was away from my children, because then I wasn’t so aware of their needs and so drawn to them. It was easier for me to give my husband my attention and the affection and stuff. So that was another practical thing that we did to try to keep that relationship healthy and alive and growing.
Moderator: We would love to know, “What are some of your family traditions that you started, and how old were your kids when you started them?”
Barbara: Well, I think we tend to think of traditions as just being holiday-related; but traditions can be so much broader than that, and I just was thinking about it on a broader sense.
One of the things that I think we started early on—that some of you I know do with your children—and that is just bedtime prayers every night with our kids. That’s something that we started when our kids were little, tiny. We don’t tend to think of that as a tradition because I think we do tend to think along holiday lines; but that’s a tradition in your family that your children count on. It becomes a comfort and a security for them to know that these things are going to happen repetitively in their lives—so doing prayers.
I remember when our oldest one was about four or five months old. I remember getting angry at her when she was tiny, and just being so shocked that I would get angry at this tiny helpless newborn. But I remember thinking when I experienced that, that I also needed to deal with it. I looked at her, and I thought, “She doesn’t understand what I feel, and I can’t really ask her to forgive me;” but then I thought, “Yes, I can,” even though she can’t respond.
So, I thought, “I need to begin the practice and the tradition of asking my child to forgive me when I make a mistake even though she can’t respond to me.” That’s another tradition that we started early on with our kids before they even could understand it—apologizing when we did things wrong, so that they would see that as an example; and we could begin to teach them that whole process of dealing with wrongs and learning to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.
One thing that we did that was holiday-related—I remember thinking when my kids were little that I didn’t want my children to grow up thinking about Christmas in a real selfish way. I didn’t want them thinking for months ahead of time—like I had done, and my brothers had done.
I remember when I was little, we’d sit with the catalog and we’d flip through the pages and mark everything we wanted. It was all about me. It was all about what I wanted and what I was going to get. It was such a self-focus, and I didn’t want my kids to grow up that way. So, one of the things that we decided to do is that we wanted our kids to focus on giving rather than receiving.
So, we had this little tradition—and Stephanie can comment on this because it’s different—but we still give gifts for each other. We're now into the drawing names stage, but back when our kids were little, even when they had 50 cents, we helped them think about what they were going to give to each other. Then, on Christmas morning, what we do is everybody gets the presents that they purchased that they’re going to give.
So, my kids are sitting there, and they’ve got five or six or seven presents sitting around them. Then, we take turns giving. So, I would give my present that I got to Stephanie; and then, it’s her turn to give. So, the whole emphasis is on giving and not receiving; and it’s really been fun to watch my kids. They are so excited about giving, and they can’t wait to give those presents. It’s not that they can’t wait to see what they’re going to get—and it really has sort of worked.
I mean, they’re still excited when they’re little about what they get. I mean, they still were kids, and they still loved that part; but it’s just a shift in thinking that I think we can begin to do as moms. So, that’s one of the things that we did when they were younger.
Moderator: How young do you think they can start doing that?
Barbara: Probably, three or four or five because you can start helping them. I mean taking them to the dollar store and saying, “What do you want to give Daddy this year?” It was fun.
One of the things we’ve done is we’ve made a big deal of Thanksgiving at our house. Every year, we write down the five things that we’re thankful for—and I started doing that when Laura, our youngest, was about two. Of course, she couldn’t write.
I’ve got this piece of paper—it’s just a lined notebook paper, 8.5x11 notebook paper with three holes punched in it. I remember asking her, “What are you thankful for this year for Thanksgiving?” She said, “I’m thankful for my blankie and my Mimi”—and I can’t remember—so, I wrote that down. Then, she scribbled all over it; and I still have that. So, even though she couldn’t write and she was only two years old, I started—we just started that tradition.
So, every year at Thanksgiving one of the things that we do is everyone writes down five things that they are grateful to God for, for that year. And you can start that with little bitty kids. They may say, “I'm thankful for my toys,” but it’s a beginning. As they get older—we’ve had some wonderful times when our kids would share how grateful they were for a sibling or something; and as a parent, you go, “Oh, hallelujah, they like each other.” (Laughter)
Because you see all the sibling rivalry and you see all that stuff, then, you’ve got this moment where they have some clarity in their thinking; and they say, “I’m grateful for my brother”—especially my boys, when they said they were thankful for each other, I went, “Oh, maybe they will not kill each other.” You have those islands of hope.
Then, I saved all those. So, it’s really been a treasure to have those cards that my kids have written on every year and see their handwriting change and see the maturity as they go from being grateful for their toys to being grateful for their brother to being grateful for God’s Word. I mean, it’s just been wonderful to see the progression. So, that’s just kind of a smattering.
There’s a new book out—I gave it to all my kids for Christmas—and it’s on traditions. It’s by Noelle Piper. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not. It’s called Treasuring God in our Traditions, and it might be something you want to get.
She talks about everything from nightly prayers and all those kinds of, just, little rituals—reading books, I did a lot of reading to my kids ,that kind of thing that we don’t tend to think of as traditions—to holiday kinds of traditions and how you communicate the truth in Scripture to your children. So, I’d recommend that.
Moderator: Our family started doing that after hearing about your tradition, and it has been such a special thing just in the last year. We started last Thanksgiving—
Barbara: Oh, good.
Moderator: —to start a book, I thought, to see the progression, like you said, of what they have done. I also wanted you to tell them about the book that you’ve written about Thanksgiving. Because someone gave it to us, and I spent some time reading through it this Thanksgiving; and it’s something I want to be part of reading to our kids. Would you tell them about the book you wrote specifically for Thanksgiving?
Barbara: Okay, I can do that.
I wrote a book for Thanksgiving, and it’s a read-aloud book. It’s a book that I hope families will read. It’s very pretty, it’s got beautiful pictures, and it looks like a coffee-table book; but I’m hoping that it will be a book that’s used, not just set out for display.
But it’s the story of the pilgrims and how our country was founded and how these people endured incredible hardship as families to come to America. It’s the real story of the Christian heritage that we are all enjoying today. I knew my kids weren’t getting it at school. They just weren’t getting it anywhere, and I wanted them to know and understand what they’d been given; because when you understand what you’ve been given and the sacrifice that it cost other people, it’s so much easier to be grateful.
So, we read that story every year at Thanksgiving. We read about them riding on the Mayflower, and the children not—I mean when you see the replica in Plymouth, it’s just astounding that those people survived anyway. And once my kids hear that over and over again, they go, “Gosh, I do have things to be thankful for.”
So, the goal is for families to read this every year—just like we read a Christmas story every year—to read the Thanksgiving story every year and remind our children of our heritage and what it means to really be grateful.
[Previously recorded audio ends]
Bob: We've been listening together to Barbara Rainey—
Dennis: I put the headphones back on.
Bob: I actually stayed here, so I could listen to what your wife had to say while you went and did some other work. Were you making phone calls? Trying to find another job?
Dennis: No, I was listening. I was out around the corner listening.
Bob: You were?
Dennis: Yes. It pays to listen to your wife.
Bob: It does pay to listen to your wife. She was giving good advice—
Dennis: Great advice.
Bob: —to moms about marriage and about family. Again, this was recorded in a local church setting in Franklin, Tennessee, at Fellowship Bible Church there.
You could tell these moms were paying attention, they were listening. I think younger moms really want to hear from a woman who is a little farther down the path from them.
Dennis: I think there are two points of application, besides what Barbara said here.
Number one, if you are a mom whose journey in raising children is about over, you need to start thinking about investing downward in the next generation of moms and giving them courage and cheering them on.
And, secondly, if you’re one of those young moms and you don't find someone like a Barbara Rainey that can come alongside you, begin to pray and look around your local church or a Bible study you might be in; and see if you can’t find someone that you could set up for a question-and-answer like they did with Barbara and just pick her brain a bit and find out how you juggle all these demands of life and keep priorities and values in proper tension with one another.
Bob: Many of our listeners have heard us talking about the project that Barbara has been involved with recently—and this really ties into her heart for young moms. She wants to provide resources that moms can use around the home, so that the house speaks to the reality of who God is. The house declares the glory of God.
Recently, she’s developed seven really beautiful Christmas tree ornaments. We call them Adorenaments®. Each of the seven is a different Christmas name of Jesus. There’s Jesus, Christ the Lord, Emmanuel, Mighty God, Savior, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace; and these ornaments are a way to decorate your tree, so that the tree keeps pointing you toward Jesus during the Christmas season.
I’d encourage our listeners: go to FamilyLifeToday.com to see what Barbara’s been working on because it really is beautiful. I’ve been in a room where Barbara’s been speaking to a lot of women and talking about these ornaments and showing them; and the women are all nodding their heads. You can just tell they’re going, “I want that for my house. I want my house to reflect our love for Jesus.”
So, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Find out more about Barbara’s new set of ornaments, the Adorenaments that she has created. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to take a look at them. You can order all seven, or you can order each different ornament individually if you like. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can also call for more information; or if you’d like to order by phone, 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Ask about the Christmas ornaments from Barbara Rainey when you get in touch with us, and we can let you know about them and make arrangements to send some to you.
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If you are able to make a donation this month, we’d like to send you a two-CD set that features a conversation that Dennis and I had with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who has written a book called Choosing Gratitude. We talked about cultivating a heart of gratefulness and cultivating that in our own heart and in our children’s hearts as well. The two-CD set is our thank you gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I CARE,” to make an online donation and request the CDs; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation over the phone, request the CDs when you call, and just be aware that we really are grateful for the part that you play in the partnership that we have here at FamilyLife Today.
We want to encourage you to join us back tomorrow. Bob the Tomato is going to be here. Our friend, Phil Vischer, is going to stop by to talk about a new project he’s been working on helping children understand why we call it Christmas. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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