Can I have a do-over?
It’s the end of July and the kids are getting antsy. Summer break is coming to a close and it’s time for them to go back to school. Every parent knows what this is like!
Your 8-year-old son will not leave you alone. He just keeps saying, “I’m bored. I have nothing to do.” Each time he says this you feel your frustration level rise. You’ve been able to control yourself…until now.
Suddenly, you open your mouth and begin to yell at him. You can see your son recoil a bit as you start listing all the things he could do if he put his mind to it.
Because of your anger, you also say things you shouldn’t have said. Your words are cutting and immediately he starts to cry and runs to his room.
Have you ever lost control like that? I have…and I’m not very proud of it.
As parents, we must do all that we can to discipline our children in a way that is Christlike. Admittedly, this isn’t easy at times, but it can be done with His help.
Here are some preventative actions you can take that will help you stay calm when that moment arrives.
1. Make sure you are disciplining for the right reason.
Unfortunately, as parents, we sometimes discipline our children for the wrong reasons. Take the opening story for instance. The parent’s response to her son’s boredom was driven by anger.
Was his son doing something wrong? I guess you could argue that his whining was not the greatest of choices. However, this child was not being defiant.
Certainly, his dad’s explosive emotions went way beyond what a typical parental response should be.
Ginger Plowman makes a good observation about disciplining our kids. She says, “Our children can sense when they are being violated by impure motives, and God knows the motives of our hearts.
If our motive is sinful, we will give reproof in a sinful way, and our children will view it as a personal attack or an act of vengeance. This may result in your child becoming angry instead of repentant.”
She goes on to say, “Pray through your motives before you reproof your child if you feel that they are in question.” Great advice!
So what is the right reason to discipline your children? I believe the best example we have is the way God deals with us. God disciplines us because He loves us.
Without question, sometimes His love is tough. However, God never says or does anything to break our spirits. Instead, He focuses on making our character stronger.
2. Determine the best time and place to discipline your child.
When it comes to confronting your children about something they did wrong, DO NOT do it in front of other kids or adults. This only causes shame and humiliation. Remember, love should be our motivation.
My parents were intentional about making sure they were not shaming me. If we were at a public place or a friend’s house, they would sternly look at me and say, “We need to have a talk.” They would then usher me to the bathroom where their discipline would ensue.
Even when I was home, they disciplined me in private. I’ll never forget what it was like to wait in my room for my dad to discipline me. Minutes seemed like hours!
3. Give your kids the tools they need to communicate with you.
When our kids were young, we had a problem with them interrupting us when we were having a conversation with another adult. I remember them pulling on my pant leg and even starting to cry as they raised their arms in the air.
Instead of continually reprimanding them for interrupting, Cheryl and I decided that we would give them the tools they needed to communicate with us when we were talking.
We taught our kids to stand close to us and catch our eyes so that we knew they wanted something. They were then instructed to wait patiently (the hardest part!) until we decided to pause our conversation and acknowledge them.
None of them had a perfect record, but for the most part, it worked like a charm.
4. Avoid the trap of yelling at your children.
Yelling at your kids is never a good strategy.
The technical name for this is Harsh Verbal Discipline (HVD). In layman’s terms, HVD is defined by parents who yell at their children about things they do not like in an effort to make them feel bad about themselves or what they are doing.
A couple of years ago, the Wallstreet Journal reported on a team of psychologists who studied nearly 1,000 two-parent families over the course of a few years.
The researchers, from the University of Pittsburg and Michigan, found that 13-year-old children whose parents yelled at them or made demeaning remarks were just as likely as kids whose parents had hit them to face an increased risk of depression and aggressive behavior at age 14.
But Ken, it works so well! My kids do what I say when I yell! Of course, they do! However, as the old saying goes, “The end doesn’t justify the means.”
Unfortunately, when yelling becomes the norm, children tend to become angrier, more irritable and more belligerent. Rather than feeling nurtured, they frequently become suspicious of their parents and feel the need to defend themselves.
This often leads to even worse behavior.
Here’s a great article that was written on this subject in Charisma News. It’s called 9 things Parents Should Never Say to Their Children.
5. Choose your battles and use them wisely.
I think this one is pretty obvious, but at times I still find myself sparring with my children over the dumbest things! As I stated earlier in this article, we need to be able to discern the difference between truly bad behavior and annoyance.
Let’s face it. Our kids will drive us a little crazy at times…that is if we let them. The worse thing we can do is waste much of our emotional energy over a shirt that doesn’t match or a ball that went through the kitchen window.
Recently, someone came to me who was dealing with a behavior in one of their children. For some reason, their child no longer feels that it is necessary to pick up their clothes, school bag, or anything else.
His parents have firmly told him on many occasions that he needs to pick up his clothes. Unfortunately, their words seem to be going in one ear and out the other. No matter how frustrated his parents get, it doesn’t seem to bother him.
This was my advice. I told them to tell their child that every time they find his things on the floor, they will take 10 minutes of his media time away that day. They went home and clearly explained this expectation to him about a week ago.
You know what? It’s working! And they don’t have to yell or get all upset.
6. Do not hand out punishment in the heat of the moment.
Let’s face it! We are human. As parents, we will feel anger at times toward our children, especially when they are misbehaving.
Have you noticed that you can’t think clearly when you are angry? It’s not your imagination. It’s a physiological fact.
When you get angry, blood rushes to the part of our brain that is responsible for rational thought, making decisions, and behavior.
This clouds your ability to think clearly about your situation.
This is why it’s hardly ever good to dole out the terms of your punishment when your emotions are raging. Inevitably, you wind up giving out a punishment that is not equal to the offense.
Your daughter shouldn’t spend the next 2 weeks in her room for not getting her homework finished!
7. Pray that God gives you self-control.
This is a dangerous prayer to pray! God has a way of answering this prayer by putting you in more situations that are potentially frustrating.
With that said, self-control is also a fruit of the Spirit (Read Galatians 5:22-23). God wants you to grow in this area so you can be more like Him.
God can use your frustration as a parent to shape your character.
Yes. Another do-over!
At the beginning of this article, I asked a question that all of us can relate to, “Can I have a do-over.” I have good news for you. God is a God of the second chance, that 70th chance, and the 1235th chance. You get the idea.
Look to Him. His mercies are new every morning!
A Call to Action
So, which area of your parenting do you need to ask God for help? I hope your answer is “All of it!” Cast your cares on Jesus. He will never fail you.
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