As I said in my last blog – so much depends upon parents really taking their role as parents seriously and not out-sourcing their responsibilities. There are so many avenues to discuss here that I will limit myself to just a few practical realities. These are issues that have crept up in my own parenting experience and I see others dealing with the same struggles.
1) Know how to effectively punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. First of all, punishments don’t have to extreme – they just need to be consistent and followed up on. As a matter of fact it is a good hallmark of excellent parenting that a person doesn’t need to resort to drastic measures but rather sets realistic demands on their kids, communicates those expectations, and then insists that they are accomplished – making necessary adjustments when other issues intervene. I have found that for young children a slight swat on the hand or bottom will get a point across in an emergency – if they have a tendency to run out into traffic, for instance. Time-out alone from everyone, really alone – no game playing or whining, is often a great follow up. They don’t need to get swatted repeatedly – just warned to behave before a punishment comes into play. Then follow-up on making sure they understand what they did wrong and what is expected next time.The key here is doing what you say your going to do! If you say that they will get into trouble for doing….then you better be ready to make good your word! The same logic is true for rewards. Rewards do not have to extreme or extravagant. As a matter of fact, it is much better to make rewards simple joys that do not take a lot of time and energy from the parent or you’ll find yourself less and less eager to reward. I find opportunity for choice to be very rewarding. I’ll allow a child to pick from 3 options of what we will have for a meal. Or I’ll give them the option of bath or shower that night. Or I’ll allow an older child to pick the Friday night movie (from an approved selection). For much older children I allow them to make more serious choices because when they behave responsibly it only makes sense that they see the fruit of their right thinking.
2) Children should respect the adults in their life – especially their parents. If you have an issue with this then you need to take a long, hard look at what is wrong with this picture and fix it. Children have a right to have excellent role-models in their lives – if we fail them in this - expect it to come back and haunt you later. If you are doing the best you can and trying to be an excellent parent then your child had better learn to appreciate your efforts. No child should critique the parent. It is simply not their place. The 4th Commandment reminds us that we should honor our parents – not role reversal with them. No talking back. No snide commentaries. No eye rolling. No whining when asked to do something. No demanding this, that and the other thing as if they pay the bills and run the house. Kids are in training to become great adults but they are NOT adults – they do not bear the burden of serious adult responsibilities so they need to learn to appreciate not denigrate what the adults in their lives do for them.
3) Look for opportunities to have your kids help and serve you and the family. Once I head a very wise man say “Don’t be afraid of disturbing your kids!” Get them off their backsides and have them become part of the home improvement team. Have regular jobs they do on a routine basis – based on ability – not necessarily interest. Frankly, no one likes to clean the bathroom – but it needs to be done. Expect a lot from your kids and watch as they achieve far more than you could have ever hoped. But be prepared for less than perfect work the first few times. Too often parents give up when the job isn’t done perfectly and just take over. DO NOT DO THAT. Live with imperfect while they get good at doing better! Teach them to do better by making them do it over a few times. It will take time and holding back all sorts of grunts and groans but hold back and keep your cool. You are their mentor, teacher, trainer and parent. If you don’t do your job – who will? Remind them that you will not live forever and what ever they do to improve the house and their environment will be theirs. Let them gain a sense of ownership and pride over what they can do. I have some kids who take care of animals – some who fix things, some who cook, some who take care of the little critters who need special help, everyone cleans certain areas….the list goes on and on. They change jobs as needed but everyone can be great at something. Let them be great at helping out at home.
This is just a partial list of ways that we can discipline ourselves and our kids so that we can have great families who work, play and grow in holiness together. Remember, we are preparing for Eternity. Think to yourself – I am in training to become a Citizen of Heaven. Now there is a noble challenge for us as well as our kids.