The other day someone came and asked us for advice on how to discipline his child. Vic and I were a little shocked and thought "us". Now don't get me wrong I do not think our children are uncontrolled brats or anything. We work very hard with Caleb and Simeon to shape their hearts, minds, souls, as well as help them have good behavior. However, they are curious children and do try things that they shouldn't, have trouble with their attitudes sometimes, don't get along once in a while, etc. Basically, in general they act like children. Then when I think about me as a mom and how many times I have let something slide that I should not have or did not practice enough self-control to keep from yelling instead of instructing, or the times I have been too tired and did not serve a well-balanced meal while settling for merely food in their stomachs, or the other day when I did not realize until the end of the second day that Simeon had worn and slept in the same clothes for two days in a row. The list of my own weaknesses could go on. I am so far from the perfect mother and pray that at the end of my job that I have done it right. So now this person is asking us about child discipline.
After talking for a little while with this man it became apparent that he is making a mistake that I believe many families in America do and that is not having a whole picture of parenthood. Discipline, correction, and punishment are important parts of parenting, but I believe so many focus on this that they miss the more important parts (and the parts that make the three aspects mentioned above easier). Parenting is so much more. A parent needs to not only discipline and correct, but needs to also build a positive relationship with his/her child, as well as train, instruct, have discussions where the child is listened to as well as challenged, give unconditional acceptance, and develop a certain level of friendship with the child God has blessed this parent with. I am not advocating a buddy-buddy relationship where the parent is merely one of the child's peers. I am saying a deep abiding mutual love that is built out of respect. It is that respect and influence that is built that will give you as a parent influence in your child's life.
If this relationship is built correctly and on the firm foundation of Christ then when those important questions in life come up, then I pray my children will come to Vic or I. I have discovered sadly that so many children believe that their parents do not love them and are against them. These parents have lost their influence in the lives of their children. I want to build this relationship so that Caleb and Simeon are not led astray by someone who does not love them concerning important things in life.
Then comes another part I think often gets missed in parenting as well-- training our children. One of Caleb's weaknesses is that he struggles to pay attention. We have worked with him on this for years. About 4 months ago it occurred to me to ask him if he knew what it means to pay attention. He could not tell me. How many times has he been corrected and punished for not paying attention when he did not know what it was that we were expecting. So we spent some time explaining what paying attention is as well as what some of the opposites were such as distraction. Then we talked about ways to pay attention in the midst of distraction (for example learning how to ignore distractions). Then we played some games to practice these skills. I am not going to tell you that Caleb now miraculously has no struggles with paying attention, but I can tell you he does a tremendously better job of paying attention. Training is not only correction, but is making sure that our children understand what is expected of them and then doing what we can to help them develop those skills. We have also worked with Caleb and Simeon on the matter of trust. We have talked about trust. We talked about what it is, what it means to be trustworthy, what the benefits of being trusted are, what it is means to be untrustworthy, what some negative consequences of being untrustworthy are, then we talked about ways to act trustworthy. Then we have given them some opportunities to be trusted. We have corrected when necessary. Both boys have had some times when they acted in trustworthy ways and times when they have not. They were then given the consequences that went along with both. We are encouraged to see progress as they seem to be becoming trustworthy in ways that they are capable of at their ages. We are also working with obedience and having a cheerful attitude as well as treating people with honor.
Being a parent is hard work, but it is also rewarding work. It is also part of the legacy we leave behind so is well worth the time. The man we talked to needed to work on building a positive relationship with his child and address the training issues so that discipline was easier. I can think of many areas I need to do the same.
What are some ways you build positive relationships with your children? What are some ways you train your children? We can all benefit from sharing and grow in our skills as parents. We are shaping the future of the world after all.