FIRST – When an issue comes up, you must ask yourself, “Have I taught, trained, and equipped them in this area?” That means, have you proactively taught them how to handle disappointments, the difference between right and wrong, how to handle when someone else wants your toy, or how to respond when someone is being unloving before the conflict? These things require intentional parenting in times of peace. This is where you get to cuddle, connect, go on dates, have family meetings, etc. You get to fill up their love tanks by connecting through intentional teaching with Mom and Dad. Much of the early toddler years are spent doing this very thing – some days without ceasing! It is the heart that says, “Hey, son/daughter, I have something to show (or teach) you.”
SECOND – Look for opportunities in real life to apply the thing you are trying to teach. This is where the training part comes in. You practice, practice, practice with real-life situations. Will a 2-year-old master self-control in the first week? Nope! You will be an intentional parent for 18 years and will need to teach and train them in the area of self-control in every stage of their life. Perhaps with a 2-year-old, your training subject will not be getting the toy they desire. When they are 10, it will be about completing their homework each night, and perhaps when they are 18, it will be having self-control with the opposite sex. These character traits should be something we build upon as they get older.
THIRD – You now have a foundation upon which you can build. Say you have already laid the first and second part of the foundation in the area of self-control. Now, when you take them to a meeting where they need to sit quietly, you can pull out that teaching and training to prepare them for what you expect from them. You can begin role-playing in certain situations. I would often park the van at the grocery store parking lot to do a quick family huddle about what was expected and how we could proactively use the skills I had just taught them. Here’s what it would sound like: “Hey guys, who wants dinner tonight? Okay, we are going to go into the grocery store for food, not toys. Hudson, will you get the door for us? Lauren, do you want to push the cart? Emma, will you be my big helper and put the food in the cart for me?” I am now leaning into the skills that I have taught them and cashing in on them. I am building us all up for a successful shopping trip. We are all doing our part while we are connected and creating fun family memories versus an unfruitful and frustrating experience for all.
LAST – When a foundation has been established, THEN you can add discipline, such as time-outs, consequences, removing privileges, etc. Can you see how confusing it would be to a child when parents keep disciplining them for the ‘NO’ behaviors but never spend time teaching them what IS acceptable? You could say it looks like this:
- An issue arises that you want to see a change in (every family will be different on this).
- Proactively teach during times of peace, using it as a connecting time to get to their heart.
- Now coach them by role-playing that issue in real-life situations.
- Look for opportunities where they can proactively apply that skill.
- Discipline is now appropriate if the child chooses not to use the training you have established for them.
Here’s another real-life example: Let’s say you are shopping, and your kids are touching everything, running crazy, and having a meltdown for a new toy. You have a few options. You can: #1. Conclude your children aren’t old enough for an outing to the store, and thus put the burden on yourself to either pay for a sitter or go late after they are in bed. #2. Get mad, yell, scream, and then feel awful! OR #3. Teach and train your children what it looks like to have self-control at the store. I heard a story of a mom who was so fed up with her grocery trips that she sat her kids down and explained to them what was required. Then every single day for an entire week, they would go to the store, not to buy anything, just to walk up and down the aisles so the kids could practice! That mom is now reaping the tasty fruit of grocery shopping in peace. Oh, did you hear that? What was the Kingdom of God again? Righteousness, peace, and joy! What is a specific area you need to intentionally go after in teaching and training your child?