May I make a suggestion?
I’ve encouraged you to consider goals for your family, to think about what you want to see in the lives of your children when they leave your home. Hopefully it’s something beyond ‘get a college degree in a field that pays well and has a good future.’ I hope you’ve thought of things relating to your children’s character and spiritual life, as well as your family relationships and home life.
I want to propose some possible goals for your consideration – just to get you started thinking. The first one I’d like to propose is that you work toward a peaceful home environment where your kids actually do what you ask without whining, kicking, screaming, pouting, or otherwise making everyone around them miserable.
Sound impossible? It’s not. Despite the fact that you may never have seen it, it is possible to tell your child to do something and have them do it – even a little one like a toddler – without all the noise, commotion, and drama you’re probably used to seeing. It is possible to teach children polite behavior that is respectful to those around them and is pleasant to be around – to wait their turn, not to grab another child’s toys, to be quiet for a short period of time when necessary, the list goes on in ways that might astound you!
If you’re the parent of young children, you’ve probably been told that you simply have to endure these young years, somehow appreciate them because they go by so quickly, and at the same time delight in the ‘antics’ of these little humans as they seek to impose their will on everyone and everything around them.
I suggest that you at least entertain the idea that it is possible to enjoy rather than merely endure your children. Even if you’re certain that it is not, just dream with me for a moment.
What if you could say to your toddler, “Johnny, sit on your bottom – don’t stand in your chair please,” and he did it? What if you could say “Suzie, we’re going to leave in a few minutes, I need you to pick up your blocks,” and she did it without a fuss? What if you could say to your six year old, “Robert, please come sit down, dinner is ready,” and he didn’t ignore you and continue with what he preferred to be doing? What would it be like to go to the store and not dread the check out line or the aisle where you know there is something your child wants?
Perhaps it would help to think of it this way: what if your child responded according to your instructions even if it was something they didn’t want to do? Most kids will go along with you without a fuss, as long as they’re happy about what you’re asking them to do. Big deal. Life (even the life of a child) is more often full of opportunities to do things we’re not really crazy about.
The question I’m asking you to consider is whether you’d like it if your children responded well when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do. Might you find that your home was more peaceful, and a place you and the rest of the family actually enjoyed?
Let’s talk about this honestly. I’m not suggesting that our children will always behave perfectly. They’re children, for one thing, and human for another. They’re born with the tendency to want their own way over anyone else’s. If you’re a follower of Christ, you recognize this as our sin nature. It’s part of life. Neither am I suggesting that you must adopt my standards for acceptable behavior. I’m suggesting that you adopt some standards for behavior that make life in your house (or others’ homes when you bring your kids there!) pleasant.
So ask yourself, if you had a choice, would you rather have your children act in a way that is pleasing to be around or not pleasing to be around?
If you said you’d rather they be enjoyable company, but you’re quite certain that there is absolutely NO WAY your kids could ever behave any better because you’ve ‘tried everything’ and nothing works, hang with me for a while.
I’m going to guess that you really have never had a plan to get to the place where your kids are pleasant people. I’m going to guess that you’ve probably never thought through just what is required to make it happen. I’m going to guess that you’ve spent more time thinking through and planning how you’re going to get out of debt than you have thinking through and planning what might be required of YOU in order to get your children to the point where you actually enjoy being around them.
So there are a few ‘parts’ to raising kids – there’s the basic, keep them alive until they reach adulthood part, the teaching and coaching them on behavior that you feel is acceptable part, and the sharing your faith with them, so they begin to make God-honoring choices with their lives part. You can see right off the bat that each of those is pretty important! I think we might get ourselves mixed up sometimes in thinking the method to achieve one ‘part’ is the same one to achieve another ‘part.’
What I’m getting at is this – teaching your kids how you’d like them to behave is a proactive process, just like keeping them alive and healthy and sharing your faith. It seems to me that often parents feel that if they just create the right home environment, share their faith and extend grace to their kids, that their kids will behave in a manner that makes them pleasant to be around. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not wait until my children possess the cognitive and spiritual maturity to behave in a way that promotes a peaceful atmosphere at home.
There are in fact specific things you can do to teach your children how to be pleasant. Full disclosure, though, it takes an enormous amount of time and energy. They’re complex individuals and their sin nature isn’t naturally tuned to polite and pleasant actions! You can count on investing effort if you want this outcome. But I can tell you it is possible. It’s hard work; it takes consistent effort and TIME; it takes a commitment to the goal of pleasant kids and a peace filled, rather than chaos filled home.
So do you want your home to continue to be filled with tears, tantrums, pouting, yelling, and arguing, or are you ready for something different?
We’ll talk about that next.
Copyright (c) 2018 Beverly Parrish