Parenting Children Well
Parenting children well requires adults to demonstrate the discipline and patience we desperately want to impart to our kids. When our children are being disrespectful or disobedient, often our first instinct is to snap at them with a quick and stern “No, ma’am! You do not talk to me that way!” And many times that approach to parenting children appears on the outside to work.
Children acquiesce in the face of fear and the negative behavior stops, at least momentarily. The problem lies when our pattern of parenting children is based only on reactionary threats of perceived misbehavior.
Through the trials of navigating years of my youngest child’s out-of-control behavior, I was forced to learn a lot of things that eventually resulted in a complete transformation of the way I parent my children altogether.
Well, these days if I perceive that my child being disrespectful, my tendency is to look behind the behavior before reacting. For example, I tell my son to go clean his room.
He then responds with a, “No. I don’t want to clean up my room!”
Of course my natural instinct is to snap back and say, “Oh, you better clean up your room!”
However, I’ve learned better.
The reality is that I am the adult and he is the child. So in that moment, he’s acting like a child seeking his own self-interest. He does not want to stop the fun of what he is doing to “work.”
As a 41 year-old woman, I rarely want to stop what I am enjoying to work on something tedious. And I am an adult. So of course it makes perfect sense that my son would have a more challenging time transitioning to mom’s demand that he clean his room.
Relationship Before Obedience
Of course the goal is to teach our children to learn how to respect authority and take instruction and direction. This is termed, “obedience.” Yes. We want them to obey Mom, Dad, teachers, police, and other trusted authority figures.
However, I truly believe that we cannot effectively do that without building relationship with our children first. Why?
We want them to obey Mom, Dad, teachers, police, and other trusted authority figures.
Do we want our children to blindly obey all adults because of an age difference? Is this a wise goal on our part? In general and especially when our children are young, we parents make a conscious choice as to which adults we place in a position of authority over our children. We decide which teachers, coaches, pastors, small group leaders, neighbors, and families that we allow our children to spend time with. Ultimately, our goal is to place our children in the charge of other adults whom we deem trustworthy to care for our children in our absense.
If it is important for adults to have a certain level of trust with those whom we take direction from, it is just as important if not more important for children to be able to trust those whom they are to take orders.
Who was your favorite teacher?
I always ask my mom friends and clients this question. The answer to this question sums it up best.
My favorite teachers were my high school history teacher and one of my college professors. When I think back to why they both stand out to me as the best teachers I ever had, it really has very little to do with academics and everything to do with the relationship I had with these two trusted adults.
Both teachers treated me with care. They sought to know me as more than just a student who needed to regurgitate their correct answers in order to like and care for me. It is because of these two adults taking the time to know me, my life, my troubles, and my interests that fueled my desire to do well in their classes. I truly believe that I put forth more effort for these two teachers because I respected them and trusted them. I longed to serve them well by doing my best in their classes.
We must focus on our relationships with our children in order to have the greatest influence on their hearts, beliefs and behavior. – Lindsay Leiviska, MAT
Relationship is Our Greatest Teaching Tool
I am convinced that our first goal is to build relationship so that we can influence our children. This is especially critical as our children grow older and begin to think more abstractly for themselves. Our children will grow into adults and spend the majority of their lives as adults. We only have a couple of decades to lay a foundation that will serve them well (or poorly) throughout their entire lives.
If we are in a pattern of constant correction and battle of wills with our child, it only makes sense that children will develop the belief that he or she is not good enough. That belief often pushes our children far away from us physically but also and I would argue most importantly, relationally.
I want my children to know that I am in their corner. Like my favorite teachers influenced me through their obvious care and interest in me beyond a letter grade on a test, it is crucial for our children to know that we see their value beyond behavioral expectations. Yes, we want them to learn how to appropriately behave but in order to do so effectively and for the long-term, we must be able to influence our children in a way that fosters trust and mutual respect.
It is the quality of the relationships with our children that will allow us the most influence in their lives.
However, remembering the goal of relationship takes discipline on my part. It takes effort for me to override my desire for immediate obedience. I need to lean in to my own self-control when I really want to scream at my child for repeated offenses. That, Friend, is not easy. However, doing anything of value is never easy, right?
Do I want immediate obedience or do I want to raise a healthy adult?
This question helps me to remember what my goal needs to be with my children. The answer to this question points me to Christ. Throughout Scripture we see God’s people repeatedly fail to consistently obey right away. Because of our inability to perfectly obey and live a holy life, God sent His Son to live the perfect life, take on our sin in death, and raise to new life. His finished work on the cross allows those who believe in Him to live in the freedom of relationship with Him despite our constant failures.
Personally, it is important for me to understand the immense grace of Christ in my own life so that I can come alongside my own children and point them to Him. Immediate obedience is should not be the goal. Yes, it is an important skill to learn, but as God has shown us, it is learned through relationship.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8
We did not earn relationship with God. He graciously handed it to us through His Son while we were still sinners. If we could erradicate sin or disobedience in our children on our own, why would we need to point them to Christ? Adults know that we will never be perfect and yet God loves us just as much when we see our own failure as He does when we are on cloud 9. He influences His children through deep relationship. Our choices, beliefs and behaviors are changed to reflect Him more as we spend time with Him, right?
Let’s do this with our children and see how He uses His relationship with us to grow them nearer to Him. This reminds me of my near epic failure with my teen daughter. Read more here. Yikes!
Current State of Parent-Child Relationship
If you are in a season of parenting where your child could possibly feel like a constant disappointment, I enourage you to take a deep breath, pray and then focus on rebuilding joy in your relationship with your child. And know this… there is incredible grace. We have all had harder seasons with our children. I am not suggesting anything that I have not had to do with my own children and I have failed and blown it with my own children so often.
“Kids, I am simply a person doing the best that I can. Forgive me.”
This apology is my default. I will fail and disappoint over and over again. Just like my younger, immature, less-experienced children. Grace upon grace.
Think about the things your child(ren) excels at, is passionate about or just enjoys doing.
Use those things to build relationships.
Take time to go into your son’s room and ask questions about what he is doing. Endulge him as he tells you all about his Minecraft world or his latest Lego creation.
Let your daughter draw for you or pick out an episode of her favorite show and pop popcorn and laugh together.
Spend some time connecting and building up trust. That trust is a building block for relationship. Relationship is a building block for your ability to influence your child for a lifetime.
Ask your child questions and show interest in who your child is and not what you think your child is supposed to be. This requires discipline on our part.
When our children are interested in things that we deem silly or childish, the last thing we want to do is to spend time focusing our energy and limited time on them. However, employing this personal discipline to focus on our children and their hearts, is exactly the grace that leads to deeper connection and relationship.
This adult discipline, just like the discipline we want to create in our children, will not be easy and won’t be perfect. I blew it this morning with my son. In fact, I blow it all the time. That’s ok. I just pick myself up, dust myself off, apologize and we move forward. That is what God asks of us. As Paul tells us in the book of Romans, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death.
What might God long to do in your child’s life?
Just thinking about these ideas will ease some of the pressure of unrealistic expectations that we as moms often place upon our children and ourselves. If you want to dig a bit deeper into how to navigate your child’s more challenging behaviors, grab a copy of the FREE Behind the Behavior Intro Bundle.
What are your thoughts, Friend? In what ways do you need to use your own self-discipline in parenting?