No one really likes to hang out with a miserable, pouting, jerk. I think it’s pretty obvious that if you fit that description, you will not have many friends. What happens though, if you are forced to be near someone like that every day? Co-worker and roommate horror stories can no doubt confirm this as an experience to avoid. Dealing with someone who always behaves that way will cause you to resent them over time and that can lead to other, more serious, relationship problems.
Here’s a thought: What if that self-centered jerk was your child?
Not my kids!
Let’s assume that you are willing to accept that your children are (like you) sinners standing in the need of God’s grace. Every child is at some point in their life a selfish jerk. They can be that way to you, their siblings, or even their friends. This isn’t your fault necessarily. Children are born with an uncanny ability to do wrong – no instruction required. However, over time if that behavior persists into a habit, what was a small isolated incident is now a big problem and one with consequences that you may not realize.
Parent-Child relationships are also Human-Human relationships
This seems like an odd statement, but it’s true. The Bible does outline certain conditions and rules that make a Parent-Child relationship different than most others. Parents have authority, and children should submit. Children should give respect and honor to their parents. These are Bible principles that help define how a home is supposed to work. But these precepts are a layer built on top of the fact that Moms and Dads are essentially people interacting with other people (the kids) inside the home.
There are Bible principles that govern general Human-Human relationships as well. Ephesians 4:1-3 sums it up nicely:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
If only those verses described the average American home!
When we are constantly scolding our children all day for things they do wrong, and they are pouting, crying, and stomping in return, it doesn’t sound like “unity in the bond of peace”. This may seem unavoidable! After all, if your child does wrong a lot you will need to respond to it in equal proportions.
The problem that often crops up here is that although you are doing the right thing on a Parent-Child level, on a Human-Human level the relationship is beginning to spiral out of control. After weeks of constantly being disappointed in your child’s behavior and seeing him or her fail at the same thing over and over, you start to feel negativity towards your child. This is the same outcome that we discussed in the opening paragraph, but instead of a coworker getting on your nerves again and again, it’s your own child.
Is this happening to you?
If it is, be careful. There are some pretty bad consequences here. It is likely over time, that your child will return the sentiment. You may even begin to show favoritism to your other children that may be acting less “naughty”. When your relationship with your son or daughter is defined by the stress and hassle they cause you, it’s time for a change.
What should I do?
The difference between your child and a co-worker is that you play an active and vital role in determining the behavior and emotional disposition of your kid. If little Johnny is constantly getting on your nerves, you have a chance to change it. Imagine this scenario:
Mom: “Go get your shoes on so we can leave.”
You then resume getting yourself ready to go. When you return you find that your child has become distracted doing something else:
Mom: “How many times do I have to tell you, get your shoes on!”
Five minutes later, they’re still not on and in a sigh of frustration, you supervise the efficient application of shoes to the feet before rushing out the door.
Does this sound familiar?
Proper training can help both you and your child. When you are finding yourself say, “How many times do I have to tell you…” to your child, it’s time for training.
Training is a purposeful activity and it is different from discipline. Discipline is more of a reactionary process that occurs when your child violates a previously known rule.
In our shoe example, you can spare yourself a lot of headache by creating a training exercise with your little ones. Take some time when you are not rushed or hurried and gather the kids. Explain that you are about to give them a command to put on their shoes and that they need to do it quickly and without delay. Explain that failure to obey will result in immediate discipline. Give the command. When everyone is done, have them take the shoes back off and start again. After only a few minutes and several repetitions, you can plant the seed that will eliminate what was a stressful moment for you that caused you to build negative experiences with your child.
Over time, the more you purposefully train, the less you will need to discipline.
When this happens, your relationships with your kids will be less about always getting in trouble and you can focus on the next step.
Purposely create happy times with your needy child.
Last thought. Sometimes you will have a difficult child that will always be needing discipline even if you are properly training. They might be stubborn, strong-willed, or overly curious. However there are only 24 hours in the day and if you are spending most of those hours constantly dealing with their bad behavior you will reap the same consequences we have discussed previously. One great piece of advice is to make sure you spend some positive happy time with that child.
Do not let your relationships with your kids be defined by their bad behavior. Find something they like to do and do it with them. Forget about the dishes, they can wait. Play blocks with your son or daughter, read them a book, jump in the leaves with them. While you shouldn’t cease to train and discipline, don’t forget to form happy memories as well. They will help your child know that you love them, and it will keep you from becoming resentful of them during periods of seemingly constant trouble.
Your turn! Do you believe that child training can in fact improve your relationship with your child? Do you find yourself doing more discipline or training in your parenting?
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