Parenting is an investment, and whatever you put into it, you will get out of it. You will reap what you have sown. What you go after and invest in when they are one, you will reap when they are two. What you go after and invest in when they are two, you will reap when they are three. What you go after and invest in when they are three, you will reap when they are four. Going after their heart and character and honoring God TODAY will reap fruit tomorrow.
Empowering children to obey fully and completely the first time (Deuteronomy 28:1). Expose your child to horses, whether that be taking a field trip to a horse farm, simply pulling off the side of the road near one, getting a video from the library, or finding them on the Internet. They are so beautiful and powerful. Talk about how a horse is powerful on their own, but when the bridle is in its mouth, they are trained to obey the rider right away. All the rider needs to do is gently move the reigns to the left or right, and the horse automatically goes in that direction. They are not stubborn or demanding of their own way; they simply follow the rider’s commands. Explain to your child that God wants us to respond this way to His instructions. He doesn’t just want us to obey in the end but wants us to do so fully and completely right away.
In the days ahead, when you need your child to follow your instructions, remind them of the character of a horse. Often when my children were younger and not following the instructions I had given them, I would simply say, “Mama needs you to be a horse right now,” and they all knew that meant they were behaving in a way that was the opposite of what I had instructed. It was an excellent tool for when we were in public as it spared them the embarrassment of being called out in front of others.
This is a great way to teach and train young children. When you need to instruct/correct them, instead of staying where you are and calling out to them, STOP what you are doing, go to them, and get down on their level. Place your hands out and tell them to put their hands on yours. You are not forcing them, grabbing their hands, or controlling them. You are giving them the command (as many times as it takes) to put their hands on yours. Then you instruct them to look into your eyes. If they remove their hands or lose eye contact, in a gentle but firm voice, instruct them to put their hands/eyes back on you. When they have achieved that, you give them your short command of what you want. “Mommy wants you to come to the table,” “Mommy wants you to put your clothes away,” “Mommy wants you to pick up your toy.” It is important that they follow up with a “Yes/Okay, Mom.” The purpose for that is when kids come into agreement by verbally saying “Yes/Okay,” something happens in their brain where they accept ownership. The key to using this tool is to speak to them in a gentle but firm way. It does not work well when the parent is angry or controlling, nor does it work well when the parent caves if the child does not respond right away. Few people enjoy being disrespected, and it can feel very frustrating when children ignore us. If, as the parent, you feel frustrated at their lack of listening, I encourage you all the more to go after this. Good character does not come with age; it comes with intentional parenting. Stay in the game and help your child overcome their weakness. Give them tools to grow in their capacity. This requires extra effort from you upfront, but you will reap the JOY of a child who responds to your voice.
When a child misbehaves, you first have to ask yourself this question. “What have I done as the parent to teach them?” If you have never talked to them about lying, stealing, hitting, disobeying, etc., and discipline them for their choice, it is nothing more than punishment. When you see a behavior you do not desire, you can correct it, but that is your clue you need to be proactive and teach them on their level right and wrong. Take a recent issue that came up. Ask yourself, “What have I done to proactively teach them in the time of peace how to respond? How have I taught them how to succeed in that situation?” There is a difference between the child who is being foolish and has never been taught how to respond appropriately and the child who has been taught and willfully chooses to disobey. Sometimes a child’s behavior is a reflection of where we need to do our part to teach, empower and equip them.
Fearing we will harm our children if we cause their discomfort can actually harm them more!
I realize we are all first-generation parents stewarding the world of technology with our children. We will hit some home runs, and we will make some mistakes along the way. One day my son asked if he could take his phone with him on our family outing. I usually have them leave them at home because it is our time to connect, but I allowed it. He was playing a Spanish app and engrossed in it and barely said a word. I had to run to Walmart, and he asked if he could keep playing on it while I was shopping. I agreed to make an exception. The trip was chaotic. He was always a few feet behind us and not paying attention as he bumped into others due to looking down on his phone. I was in a bit of a hurry and was trying to find something for Ellie. I asked him to stay by the cart while I ran down the other aisle, and he absent-mindedly walked away, leaving my cart and purse unattended. I asked him to go back to the cart. A few moments later, Ellie came to me upset because Hudson was snapping at her. He was attempting to push the cart but ran into something because his eyes were on his phone. A few minutes later, I asked him to help me with something, and he had an attitude with me for ‘interrupting’ him. It was so chaotic and stressful. I went to him and held out my hand, asking for his phone. We finished and when we got into the car, I reminded him that I had raised him to be a helper, to see others, to be kind, to jump in where needed, to be a gentleman, to serve, be aware of his surroundings and to be a blessing. I did not raise a son whose eyes were locked looking down on a screen, walking around aimlessly without seeing a single person or contributing to the task. Every parent needs to make their own choice about technology, but for me, when they were younger, going to the store was our training ground for character, and I was not going to let a phone undo all that work. I care more about his development than his entertainment. I care more about the man he is becoming than his comfort. I care more about him seeing others than what he is watching for himself. The phone is not your friend if it is breaking connection with those around you.
It is very difficult for a child to release the Kingdom at the store if they are on the floor pitching a fit because you did not buy them a toy. They will have a harder time hearing God’s voice if they haven’t been taught to listen to yours first. You will have a greater challenge getting them to be ‘others’ focused if they have been taught that they are the only ones that matter. Character matters!
This may surprise you, but not getting along, striving to be first, seeking their own way, being demanding, and focusing all on themselves is NORMAL for every child. It is called living in a fallen world. As Christians, we believe in harnessing our natural fleshly desires and learning to partner with the character qualities of heaven, such as power, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (James 4:1-10 & Galatians 5:17).
Going to the library with four little ones was no small task, but I was determined. I discovered this glorious thing called “Toddler Story Time,” which to me meant someone else could take the lead, at least for a few minutes anyway. I was mortified at what my eyes saw. The senior librarian welcomed the children, but not one person in the room responded. She sat down to read the book, and chaos broke out. Kids were running all over the room as loud as they could be. No one seemed to care that she was trying to read to them. My shock morphed into judgment when a child began to play tug of war with the book that the librarian was trying desperately to read, and the mother did not feel led to assist the librarian in getting her book back. Before I knew it, my four joined the circus. I vowed I would never come back again. A week later, we were at the movie theater, and the same thing happened with kids running all over the place, making it impossible to actually watch the movie. Suddenly I realized what Proverbs 22:15 meant when it says, “A child’s heart has a tendency to do wrong, but the rod of discipline removes it far away from him.” Many of us know the ‘spanking’ part of this verse, and we get lost in the debate if children should be spanked. We need to zoom out of that debate and see the bigger picture. Children are foolish by nature. They are selfish by nature. They are immature by nature. Their brains aren’t even fully developed by nature. My job as a parent is to lead them in the direction of honor, respect, kindness, and self-control. This is not a post on spanking, but it IS a post on parents guiding their child’s behavior as a shepherd cares for their flock with their rod. When a sheep is wandering outside of the safety zone, a shepherd uses his rod to guide him back and lead them where they should go. The heart of this verse is about helping our children move away from foolishness through corrections and guidance. If you want to decrease their foolishness, you have to increase your teaching.
What makes chores an actual ‘chore’ to a child is when we have taught them that they do not need to help out or be an active part of the family. If they are taught that it is Mom’s job to do everything, then, of course, they will resist when you ask them to pitch in or do something. It becomes an inconvenience for them to help you. Teaching them that tasks around the house are vital to keeping a home running and soliciting their help empowers them to belong to something greater than themselves. Empowering them when they are young is key but be encouraged that it is never too late to instill the character of serving, helping, and being a blessing.
Teaching your child to confess their sin robs the enemy of his desire to wrap them in shame. Humility is taught, not to condemn but to FREE us from the sins of our flesh. It looks like this: There is conflict, and you ask, “Sweetie, what did you do wrong?” They tell you their part (confession), and then you help them ask for forgiveness. “Jesus, I hurt my brother. Would You please forgive me?” If they honestly can’t tell you what they did wrong, then YOU haven’t done your part as a parent to teach them what right living (righteousness) looks like in that situation. Teach and empower them in times of peace what right living looks like. Forgiveness isn’t a blank credit card for our sins. It is a GIFT that needs to be acknowledged, honored, and intentionally received. When children mess up, they carry the guilt, which can easily become shameful if not dealt with. Helping them confess brings peace to their heart.