When parents make the shift from controller/dictator/punisher to mentor/teacher/leader they will stop trying to control behavior and will start trying to teach why and how to behave. Kindness in this process is not weakness. Kindness toward our kids also does not automatically mean the kids run the show. It simply means that we recognize kid’s experiences are different from adults and we will walk alongside them and give them someone safe and sane they can rely on when they are struggling.
It is crucial for adults to remember that they are already “in power” because of their age, size, experience, role in the home, etc. It’s not a position of power that requires reminding over and over again. Demanding respect is an easy way to lose respect.
Exploding on a kid who is having a melt down, being difficult, or even defiant does not lead them to better solutions. It’s like spanking a kid for hitting his friend – I’ve never understood that. Let me hit you to teach you to not hit … It just doesn’t make sense. Adults losing control of themselves and yelling, name calling, and pushing around kids is kind of like saying “Let me lose control to teach you to not lose control”. It just really doesn’t make sense.
If we want to teach our kids how to navigate the ups and downs, day in and day out of life, we need to show them our maturity and our self-control. When we model the behavior we are trying to teach our kids, we give them something to look up to, a goal to reach for, an example to follow.
I’m not saying they don’t learn when we explode – but if you evaluate what they learn, can you honestly say that’s what you want to teach? When we explode they learn that we aren’t in control of ourselves, and expect more from them than from ourselves. When we explode, they learn they cannot trust us to help them navigate what they are feeling or facing. When we explode we break connection. And if we don’t apologize when we make mistakes, then we often place the burden of repairing the disconnect on the child.
This is a terrible injustice. As adults, we have more relationship experience. And if a majority of our relationships in our adult life have been broken then it’s time to do the hard work of finding out why and how to fix it. We cannot, however, expect our children to “behave good enough” for us to connect with them. We cannot expect our children to set the tone of the relationship. We cannot expect our children to grovel or beg for our attention.
No, this is all backwards. Our kids should already be good enough for our time and attention – because of who they are, not because of what they’ve done (or not done) in a day, week, month. It is possible to set healthy boundaries, to enforce necessary consequences, and to still shepherd their hearts and connect with them. It’s not always easy, and it requires that we look deep within ourselves, and also ask ourselves how our actions today will affect our future relationship with our kids.
Sometimes, in a hard moment, I ask myself, “How do I want them to remember this moment?” Do I want them to remember that mom flew off the handle, bit their heads off, and then was emotionally unavailable until they redeemed themselves with enough good behavior to earn my affection?
Or do I want them to remember that mom knelt beside them to right the wrong, clean the spill, navigate the situation, and remained emotionally available, behaved calmly, and lead them through with maturity?
I want the second scenario, hands down. It’s become extremely important to me to consider how they will remember things. As I realize how big our kids are getting, I also think about their adult lives – I want to be able to share in their adult lives. I want to be connected and able to enjoy meals, running errands, and game nights together. No, I don’t want to spend every waking moment with my adult children, but I want to see them regularly, often even. I look forward to being able to relate and connect, and not needing to correct anymore.
So to recap, since I feel like I carried on and rambled:
1. Lead, teach, and train your children instead of trying to control them into submission.
2. Model the behavior you want to see – such as self-control, patience, kindness – you know, fruits of the Spirit.
3. Apologize when you blow it. It’s okay to blow it. We get to make mistakes. But apologize. Do not leave the burden of repairing the relationship on your kids. Don’t expect them to behave good enough to be worthy of your attention.
4. Slow down. It’s okay to pause, evaluate, ask yourself what can be taught vs. caught and how you want them to remember this moment in the future.
Until next time,
A Prayer to Share:
You know this parenting thing is hard. Please guide me as I guide my kids. Please soften my heart and help me build a lasting connection with them. When correction is necessary, help me find loving ways to correct them that help them grow and mature. Help me point them always toward You and help them to see Your light shining in me, first in how I care for them, then in how I care for others.
In Jesus’ Name,