TRAINING GROUND

TRAINING GROUND

Sibling conflict is God’s training ground. Use it for their good.

WHAT HAVE I DONE?

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.

FIGHTING SIBLINGS

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). 

NOT SO SWEET

Is anyone noticing an increase of bickering, cranky kids, and sharp tones in their family? I know I have, and let’s call it out – it is ANNOYING! There is nothing more grinding to my ears than listening to my children use unkind tones with each other over trivial things. As I was exploring what was going on in my family, I remembered ALL of the sugar they had been consuming. Normally I let them enjoy their Halloween candy for a day or so and then collect it all, but I had forgotten to do that. I told them to get their candy, and I was mortified when I saw the massive pile of SUGAR sitting on my counter, waiting to be consumed. Yeah, NO. This will not go well to allow them to have a steady drip of this much sugar. We are mind, body, and spirit, and we cannot feed our bodies poison and expect to produce sweet results any more than feasting our eyes on violence and expecting peace. Or allowing our ears to consume gossip and slander and expect connection. In one day of removing the sugar, I noticed a massive shift in kindness, care, and gentle words!

STRONG-WILLED?

Would you consider your child to be ‘strong-willed’? Then you need to be a stronger-willed parent in your resolve to equip them. Yes, these are the children who are born leaders and champions, but if they do not learn how to lead in love and submit to others, they will hurt people with their strength.

TRAINING GROUND

How else will your child learn how to relate to their future spouse, boss, or friends unless they are taught? The day-to-day issues between siblings are your God-given training ground to equip them. The conflict can be used for good when you see it as an area in which they need help growing.

HONEY VS. HORSERADISH

Do a teaching with your children on our mouth and taste buds. Explain that our tongue tastes things that are bitter and sweet. Next, blindfold the children and lead them into the kitchen for a science experiment. Place a tiny dab of horseradish on their tongues and ask them what they think and then place a drop of honey on their tongues. They will probably beg for more. Share with them Proverbs 16:24 and discuss how our words need to be like sweet honey, not bitter horseradish. Practice role-playing some scenarios: What would words full of honey sound like when someone takes your toy? Is in your space? Has hurt you? How can you use words of honey to encourage others? Show honor to your parents and teachers? The goal is not the absence of negative feelings or reactions but to respond in love despite being upset or hurt. You can also take the opportunity to teach them how to be intentionally ‘sweet’ with their words as opportunities arise to bless others. In the days ahead, when you hear harsh tones and unloving words, call out, “Oh, that sounds like horseradish to my ears!” When you hear them speaking kindly, you can say, “Oh, I love the honey coming out of your mouth!”

This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

HELPING KIDS LOVE

I often buy fun treats or trinket toys and give them to one of my children to give to their siblings, adding their own ‘creative flair’ to communicate love. For example, my oldest made some lovely notes for her siblings and put some sweet treats on their beds for them to come home to after school. I believe that by assisting them with ideas that communicate love to one another, they are strengthening their sibling relationships and learning how to communicate love to their friends, future spouse, and their children someday. I want them to be people who know how to love well!

TRAINING A CHILD TO HEAR YOU

It is important to teach a child’s brain to learn how to engage, not just to listen. If he is watching TV and you shout out from the other room to do something, chances are his ears heard you, but his mind didn’t. Especially when they are younger, this requires intentional effort on your part, but you will reap the fruit for years to come. Stop what YOU are doing, go to them, get down on their level, hold out your hands, and tell him to put his hands in yours. You aren’t controlling him, forcing, or using anger to make him obey. If it takes 5 minutes for him to put his hands in your hands, that is okay. He is learning. Once his hands are in your hands (and you don’t hold on to control – he has free will), tell him to look at your eyes and then state what you need/want. When you start this, it can feel like you are spending so much time just getting his attention to say one sentence, but really you are sowing into teaching him about self-control, respect, honor, and engagement. If at any time he pulls his hands away or stops looking at you, cease talking and be silent until he returns his eyes to you, then instruct he puts his hands back, and the moment he does begin speaking again. It is okay if this takes time and practice. The other thing is that when kids are required to respond with a “Yes, Mom/Dad,” they are much more engaged in completing the instruction than when they do not respond. I worked really hard on this when they were younger, but it soon became the norm.

DON’T/DO

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.

GRACE AS A PARENTING TOOL

When my kiddos were younger, I was learning about God’s grace. That sweet, love-filled gift of grace. I was so moved by His grace towards me that I decided I would give my children grace when they acted out… and all hell broke loose. I was perplexed that my kindness and goodness were being met with utter chaos. God showed me that grace without authority is nothing but entitlement. My children did not know how to handle the grace given because they had not yet fully been established under my authority. Let me say it this way – if you give grace to your children as a parenting tool BEFORE you have established your authority, you are not giving grace but empowering their flesh. Grace can only be received in the backdrop of understanding what they are given grace for. This is why character training is so important. It establishes for the child right living and positions them under your authority and covering. Do not mistake ignoring, avoidance, or checking out as giving them grace. That is laying down your God-given role to teach your children about His Kingdom structure. Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.