Teach your children to do one random act of kindness every day. Allow them to partner with Jesus in deciding who and how but encourage them to be on the lookout daily for someone to be kind to.
Life with Littles
The BIG world of a small child
Teaching character in the earlier years is so important because you will spend the rest of your parenting years building upon it. When your child is around 7-9ish and fails to complete a task that you asked of them, change your language from “I asked you to do _____” to “Is there something I asked of you that you have not completed yet?” It makes their mind think on their own, which is a muscle that needs to be exercised and used. I would say things like, “Oh, I don’t think you are ready to eat dinner with us,” and it would make them stop in their tracks and remember. It is amazing how quickly their minds can recall it when forced to think for themselves. This takes the pressure off of you to be their mind and eliminates the frustration of a child who is not being faithful with responsibility.
When a child makes a mess, we are called by God to HELP THEM. Oftentimes parents are limited in their understanding of their call to lead and believe that every time a child makes a mess, their only role is to discipline or punish in response to the mess. While there is indeed a time and place for healthy discipline, a parent’s role should always be to help INCREASE THE CHILD’S CAPACITY. As if to say, “Hmm, that didn’t work out so well for you; let me give you some additional tools and training so that next time you can experience greater success.”
The child has two choices: Whine and complain OR allow the experience to increase their wineskins to hold onto more. HERE’S YOUR KEY! The tools of control, fear, dominance, punishment, judgment, shame, and isolation rarely, if ever, reap growth. The tools of correction, connection, teaching, equipping, training, believing in, championing, and encouragement create an environment of growth and increase their capacity to do better next time.
You pick – do you want a family of whiners or new wineskins? You will reap the fruit of your leadership.
Children, like you, need downtime to recharge and regroup. Schedule daily time for each person to have time alone by themselves. Establish the rules ahead of time for what is and isn’t acceptable and the consequences for not honoring the time (perhaps double time the following day). I strongly encourage you to explain this during a family meeting, so everyone knows what to expect. Start with just 15 minutes and keep adding minutes each day until you have reached an hour. I suggest starting out with everyone on their beds. It helps establish a clear boundary. Once they have honored the time and can manage themselves, perhaps, you will allow them to play in their room. Make sure they all go to the bathroom ahead of time and have a water bottle, so there is no need to come out. They can use this time to take a nap, read a book, or play with Barbies or Legos quietly on their beds. Have them gather a bin or basket of items they can choose from. The key is not to make this feel like they are in a time-out or being disciplined. It is a time of relaxation and refreshment for everyone.
Trust me, some kids will be so grateful to have siblings to play with when the hour is over!
**If your child simply cannot comply with this activity, and there are no other obvious reasons, it could be that they sincerely need help growing in self-control. This is something that is taught and a life skill that transfers to all other areas. The worst thing you can do is give up and conclude, “My child just can’t spend 15 minutes alone in their room.” It is okay if you need to go after this and really work with them.
Do you have preschoolers or toddlers at home who are extra whiny and demanding? Consider that older siblings are now home from school and your time and attention are not fully on them anymore. This is a big deal to small children, and their hearts matter, too.
I walked into our pediatrician’s office for my twin’s one-week appointment; he must have read my face and dared ask how it was going. I mustered a half smile and told him I breastfed 16 times in one day, and that was just for one twin. I was exhausted and had serious doubts that I would make it another week, much less the next eighteen years. Maybe I really wasn’t cut out for this motherhood thing. He smiled at me and said, “Your first week is a freebie while everyone gets caught up on sleep. It is now time to parent.” I am not sure why that shocked me. I knew my job was to feed, burp, change diapers, and repeat, but I thought parenting, real parenting, came when they were much older. It never dawned on me that I would be proactively parenting so early. It awakened something inside of me to get in the game and do this thing called parenting with a verb – a lot of them. I left empowered to own my role as a mother. I began to see that what I was sowing today would be reaped tomorrow. I want to encourage you that you have got this and that you are enough to raise powerful, confident children who are a joy to be around.