Today I had the privilege to speak to the MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) that meets at our church. Each year I challenge myself to put together a message based on the MOPS theme. This year's theme is: "Developing a Mothering Strategy is somewhat like playing a game---and this year's theme is appropriately game related. Have fun being a mom! Playing games involves being bold and taking risks, loving those in the game with us and being sensible while figuring out what works and what doesn't."

I must admit the description made me cringe. GAMES, I thought! Why games? Those who know me well, know I am not a big game player. But then I remembered the games I loved to play when I was a little girl. The game SORRY was my all time favorite! I think it had something to do with having permission to wipe someone off the game board, all the while yelling, ''SORRY!" (See my post Colors on my palette) The game Monopoly was my second favorite. With new inspiration, I began to imagine the dynamics of a game and sure enough a message for mommies began to evolve.

I don't know about you, but whenever our family received a new game we tore into the package and discovered all the parts of it. My kids would unfold the playing board, examine all the pieces and quickly claim the game piece they wanted to represent them. Next, they found the list of rules, and our rule keeper explained the instructions to the others. This child kept the instructions close by so that he/she could explain them exactly and as often as necessary. And finally, we settled down to the business of playing our new game. There was always healthy competition, often roars of laughter and occasionally friendly squabbles as we learned to play our new game.

When I looked at the stages of playing a new game, I recognized a pattern I could use to encourage moms to be a winner in the "game of parenting." The first step is to know your game. What does your family look like? Who are the players? What are the components that distinguish your family from all the others? As I thought back on my own MOPS days, I remembered that the most important thing I did was to learn to know each family member. I studied and learned about the temperaments, love languages, learning styles and birth order. I carefully watched each child to discover where they were gifted, what their strengths and weaknesses were and how best to train, correct and discipline them. The insights I gained and the information I learned helped our family to work and play better together. Proverbs 22:6 (Amp) says, Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Just like learning a new game, I decided the second step was to follow the rules. Of course, there are many rules to follow in the "game of parenting." But for me, the rule I needed to learn and follow the most was, "I am the boss." My peace-loving personality wanted my children to like me. I didn't want to be too hard on them. And my college, child-development classes taught me that you had to reason with your child and always be ready with an explanation. WRONG! I had to re-learn that it is okay to say, "Because I said so!" Period! The End! And by the way, this goes for dad too.

Mom and Dad are the head of the home, the leaders of the family and the coach of their team. Proverbs 6:20-23 (NLT) says, [Children] obey your father's commands, and do not neglect your mother's instruction. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp and their instruction is a light; their corrective discipline is the way to life. I love this admonition to parents. We are to command, instruct, and counsel our children. Our words are to lead, protect, advise and be a light to them. That said, it has been my experience that moms and dads often do this very differently. I believe God designed it that way. And we parents need to remember in our differences we are on the same team. When dad and mom work together instead of trying to divide and conquer, they discover that the differences are necessary and even valuable.

Remembering you are the boss, the third step to be a winner in the "game of parenting" is that one must practice good sportsmanship. As the leader of the family, you are the role model. Mom and dad set an example that their children will follow. The old adage, "Actions speak louder than words," is true. Good questions a parent can ask are: What am I modeling to my children, in word and deed? Do my words and actions match up? There is no short version to this game as there is in Monopoly. Also, there is no whining, no temper tantrums, no storming off, no silent treatment and absolutely NO QUITTING! In I Thessalonians 2 there is such a beautiful description of a mother and father's role with their children. I imagine this is what practicing good sportsmanship looks like as we parent our children. Verses 6-12 read: We never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren't aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly...You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you...With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into His own kingdom, into this delightful life.

Of course, being a parent is much more serious and important than playing a game. But like a game we can learn to be winners at parenting. We need to take the time to get to know all about the children God has given to us as well as how our family is unique and works best together. It was not luck or chance that you are the parents to the children in your life. God chose and entrusted you with these precious ones who now call you mom or dad. And the good news is that we can call on Him, the Creator of our child, the creator of our spouse and the Creator of you and me to ask for the "rules"---the wisdom, discernment, understanding, insight, skill, ability, love, patience and whatever we need to be the head of our family, to lead them well, and to train them in God's ways! And as we learn to know our children and to follow the rules God has laid out for us, we must practice good sportsmanship. Then, we will model it to our children and be an example that we will want them to follow.

You may enjoy listening to the original message. You will hear many more stories:)

Being a Winner at the Parent Game by Cathy's Heart