Assignment #2 – Who’s in charge around here?
My hope is that you are seeing a little fruit from teaching your children how to calmly and politely get your attention from Assignment #1. That fruit should be in the form of a slightly more peaceful home environment as the kids learn that there is an acceptable and effective way to get your attention.
In proactively practicing with your kids, they are gaining control over self, which is evidence of increasing maturity. Now let’s tackle Assignment #2, which makes use of some of that self-control. But before we do, let me be clear about my earlier emphasis on having a peaceful home. It isn’t so that others will be impressed. It’s so that we can truly enjoy the company of our children as they are on the road to maturity. Every time our children replace what they want to do with what we require them to do, they are gaining self-control.
The next Assignment is based on the principle of correctly appealing to a person in authority. It’s the process of making sure everyone has all the relevant information to make a good decision. A toddler might be a little young to fully understand the requirements, but you could begin teaching them this habit.
It looks like this: Let’s say Johnny is building Legos and you need help setting the table. You say, “Johnny, please come and set the table for me.” You don’t know that Johnny is almost finished building a ship he’s been working on all afternoon. He responds to you, “May I appeal?” You have two choices – yes or no. “Yes” means that you don’t have anything going on and you don’t need the table set right at the moment – it could wait. “No” means that for whatever reason, the table needs to be set right then – perhaps you have an unexpected commitment right after dinner and everybody is going to have to move quickly to make it happen. Let’s see how the options work. You respond, “Yes, you may appeal.” Johnny says, “I’m working on this ship. I’m almost done. Can I finish first?” You probably would decide it’s okay for him to finish what he’s doing and then come set the table.
Let’s examine the other option. You respond, “No, there’s no appeal.” That means there’s something going on and you need to have this particular chore done right away, with no discussion. So Johnny has to stop what he’s doing and set the table.
There are times in our children’s lives when they need to learn to accept “No” without an explanation (or meltdown). A parent is not obligated to explain every decision to a child. In fact, falling into the habit of justifying our requests of our children only serves to delay the obedience and give kids the idea that everything we request is up for discussion. I can’t think of a single time when a kiddo of mine has wanted an explanation for my decision, and after I gave it, they replied, “Oh my, I see the wisdom of your logic. I’d be happy to do what you request.” No, not once!
Of course, as our children mature, we will want to offer explanations for our reasoning, after they have obeyed our instruction. This is where we begin planting the seeds of Biblical wisdom in their hearts. But if they haven’t learned to obey our instructions yet, what makes us think that they will be moved by our explanations?
Let’s get back to our assignment. You probably already see multiple areas for this to go south. This isn’t the time for Johnny to tell you that he will do it later; he’s finishing up his model. Neither is it the time for him to try to persuade you to allow him to appeal. He needs to get up and do the chore. He may not comply at all in the beginning. The point of the exercise is to give you a ‘script’ to follow in a proactive way, rather than in a corrective way.
You approach this as everyone learning a new habit, mom and dad included. You acknowledge that it will take some time to get the hang of it, but that it’s something the family is going to work on together in order to have a home that is more enjoyable for everyone. If your children are in the beginning stages of learning to be obedient, this one will take some work.
It’s quite possible that your kids (even your young ones) might see this as a threat to their authority. You heard that right. If your children have been ruling your house through the use of tantrums, tears, yelling, and causing everyone to tiptoe around trying not to ‘set them off,’ then they’re in control and acting as the authority in your house. You’re not. Even if you explode when you can’t take it any more and lay down the law, they know you’ll only be consistent for a little while, and they’ll just wait till the novelty wears off and they are back in charge.
I’m suggesting the slow approach of these ‘assignments’ because it’s fairly non-confrontational in nature. You’re after good habits for everyone – you being consistent, kind, and calm, and your children being obedient – immediately and cheerfully. It’s likely that all of you are learning new habits, and we want to stack the deck in your favor for success!
Remember that kids lack wisdom and maturity to direct the family. So don’t let them. You are the adult. You’re the one that God has put in authority, and that means you’re in charge – even in your imperfect humanity! If you yourself lack wisdom and maturity to direct your family, ask God for it! James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Copyright (c) 2019 Beverly Parrish