Last time I wrote about getting a vision for a home filled with a calm, peaceful spirit, and after the response I got from many of you, I know you want a bit more information about how to achieve this mythical peaceful home with kids! Let me just say right up front that there are no magic bullets to make this happen – just plain old, no frills hard work. Settle it in your mind right now that if you want a peaceful home where you enjoy your children’s presence – it’s going to take some effort and a few new habits of parenting.
I hope you’ll be inspired by the possibilities of this new relationship with your kids and that you’ll do some serious, intentional reading to flesh out your philosophy of parenting. It is one of the most important things you can do.
Get ready for something different. Not new, mind you, just different from what you’re doing. If what you were doing was really working, and your home life was what you always hoped it would be, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. The principles I’m going to share are found in God’s word, and have been written about by other authors for decades. I’ll put their information in a resource list for you later. What I’m going to tell you is a scaled down version so you can get a head start on diminishing the chaos and drama that is likely present in your home.
Initially I’m merely addressing behaviors. Of course you want to be able to win your children’s hearts – you don’t just want perfect little robots obeying your every command without thought. But personally, I’d rather teach my toddler how I’d like him to behave than wait for him to gain the maturity to control himself and his actions on his own initiative. (There are young adults in my home that still struggle with that – so it would have been a really, really long wait!)
Think of your home as a classroom; you’re the teacher and the subject matter is how to be a polite kid, respect other people, and be kind and thoughtful in your actions.
This first principle is workable even for toddlers. However, you’ll need to keep in mind as you begin that you DO NOT have permission to get angry or frustrated with your kids while they are learning this. There is no yelling, no sarcasm, and no emotional or spiritual manipulation (“God doesn’t like it when you behave that way,” “Why do you make mommy so mad at you by not doing what I ask?”) If I may be frank, if you’ve never attempted to proactively teach your children how you would like them to behave, then you are at fault, not them. We humans don’t come hardwired to behave well; we have to be taught. So if you haven’t taught them, then you can’t expect anything other than what you’re seeing.
Are you ready?
Assignment #1: Teaching your children how to wait for your attention
News flash! Kids have needs, thoughts, and feelings that they want to share right now! As parents, we want to know those things, but let’s face it, life is busy and we can’t realistically pay immediate attention to their every whim. But we can help them learn to get our attention in a polite and respectful way. It’s a win-win situation!
Sit your kids down and tell them something along these lines: “You have important things to tell me and show me, and I want to know them. We’re going to work on something new that will help me listen and help you learn to wait until I’m available. Here’s how it works: if you want me and I’m in the middle of something like talking to Dad, reading a book, doing school with big brother or sister, do this: put your hand on my arm. No words, just put your hand on my arm. That tells me that you have something to say. I’ll put my hand on top of yours to show you that I know you want me. When I get to a stopping place, I’ll let you tell me what you need.”
Now you’re probably thinking, “there’s no way that will ever work in my house, my kid would never stand quietly with their hand on my arm!” You’re probably right. In the beginning your kid is going to be testing you to see if you really mean it. I’m going to guess that you’ve been inconsistent in the past with your parenting ideas, and your kids know it. They’re going to expect you to be inconsistent.
You’re really the one that’s on trial here, not your kids. It’s up to YOU to respond as you have said you’re going to. So when your child comes up to you and interrupts, stop what you’re doing and remind them of how the new plan works. If necessary, guide their hand and put it on your arm. Turn back to whatever you were doing and let the child practice for a few moments waiting for your response. They’re probably going to talk. Stop what you’re doing, and remind them that all they need to do is to put their hand on your arm and wait for your response – no words needed. Don’t get mad or frustrated. You’re both learning something new, so don’t give up and quit. Now, don’t drag this out and make them wait until you’re really done with whatever you were doing! Help them succeed by interrupting yourself quickly (try to choose a moment when they are actually quiet!) and say, “Well done! You got my attention just like we talked about! Great Job!” End on a success! You want them to see that this new thing works! They can get mom and dad’s attention without acting up, getting in trouble, making a commotion, or whatever they’ve been doing in the past.
Let me help you with your expectations – it’s likely to be slow going. If your children are already a problem, then you’re going to be taking back lost ground – ground that they think belongs to them, and it might not be pretty. Don’t give up! The reward of your diligent efforts will be worth it. Remember that we’ll talk later about the ‘whys’ of what I’m suggesting (which are vitally important), but I hope you will work on this Assignment #1 right away.
You know, even if you didn’t do anything else but give your children a way to interrupt you calmly, politely, peacefully, you’d already have a nicer environment in your home! Think about it. Then get to work!
Copyright (c) 2018 Beverly Parrish