Ever notice how when you get a new car you suddenly see dozens of them on the highway, just like yours? Same color, same model, everything. It’s not that you suddenly became so cool that everyone around you wants a car like yours, but when you acquire that specific car your brain becomes tuned to notice those features (model, color, etc.) in other cars you see. I don’t know about you, but before I had children I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to other people’s kids, but I sure do now. I just can’t help it – it’s hard-wired on the brain.Some parent walks by me in the grocery store aisle, a 2 year old in the buggy, a 4 and a 6 year old walking behind. I can’t help but give them a once-over. How are the kids behaved? Are they throwing things and bickering with each other? Are they respectful to their parents? I know it’s not fair, because we know we aren’t perfect parents either and any moment with kids can turn into a bad one at the drop of a hat. But if you observe long enough you see patterns, patterns that sometimes are obviously ingrained and not just a momentary lapse.
The fact is, kids are HORRIBLE these days! The sight of an exasperated dad practically dragging his screaming child by the wrist through the toy section of the store, past the wake of destruction the child has left in the aisle, toys scattered from here to yonder, is laughable because we’ve all seen it. The temper tantrums in restaurants, parking lots, public gatherings, the panic-stricken looks on the faces of parents who would like to just crawl in a hole, but instead find themselves an object lesson for the decline of society as a whole. Today, it’s quite evident that it’s not the parents who rule their households, but the children.
How did it come to this? They aren’t STONGER than us, are they? They aren’t as smart, as wise (‘wise’ being a subjective term). How did these little half-pints come to dominate and control people over twice their size (or more!), people who once brought them into the world and powdered their rears? I’ll leave the answer to those questions to another blog, because what I would like to talk about here is how to FIX it – because if we don’t there will be dire consequences for society as a whole.
Let me begin with the caveat that we are far from perfect and do not consider ourselves ‘better’ than others. If you know us and see our kids acting out, feel free to smile a little (yeah when you put yourself out there in a blog like this you have to expect some ribbing from time to time), but don’t laugh too hard because let’s face it, you can be virtually perfect parents (news flash – we aren’t) and still turn out kids who do bad things. We’re all SINNERS, after all. But there are some principles that, if parents practiced them in earnest, would result in more respectful, more behaved, more obedient children.
1.) Be consistent – To quote the old saying, let your yeas be yea and your nays be nay. If your child even gets a WHIFF of the notion that once he asks for something the 2nd time, or the 10th, or the 100th, and you will cave, he will ask 5, 10, 100 times – however many it takes. If you change your mind, there had better be a good reason and you should explain that to your child in no uncertain terms. The fact is, it should never get to that 2nd time because after the first time, if the answer is no, there should be consequences for asking again. Most parents today, frankly, are too lazy to be consistent. We’ve certainly been there. But it’s a trait we must develop in order to raise our kids properly.
2.) Teach them respect – This begins, of course, with respect for their Creator because, after all, the ‘fear’ of God is the beginning of wisdom. Teach your kids to fear, to respect God. He loves them. He wants what is best for them. It flows down from there – respect for parents, respect for teachers, church leaders and others in authority over them, respect for siblings, respect for peers, respect for their things, other people’s things, the land, the culture, and everything else that is in our lives and that make our lives so fulfilling and wonderful.
So much flows from, depends on, children learning proper respect. We certainly don’t look down on parents who don’t do this, but that’s why we make our kids say ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am.’ It’s a tough habit to instill and even now they don’t do it all the time, but the practice instills respect for adults and those in authority. Don’t allow ‘backtalk,’ pouting, or temper tantrums. There is a right way and a wrong way to say everything. A child could be completely in the right but communicate something the wrong way, a way that is disrespectful. There should be immediate consequences for this.
3.) Put kids to work – As soon as they are able, give them age appropriate chores to complete. We did a blog post on this not long ago so I won’t go into as much detail, but the fact is, kids won’t truly appreciate anything that they didn’t have to work for.
4.) Punish rebellion more than mistakes – Obviously there are points where repeated mistakes should result in negative consequences to train a child to pay attention, but the bottom line is we are trying to mold our children’s attitudes, and there is nothing worse than the attitude of rebellion. Go to war with it. Eliminate it from your child’s ‘arsenal.’ There is room for mistakes at our house (we’ve made more than our share!), but there is no room, not even a tiny corner in the basement, for rebellion. There’s an old parenting saying that applies pretty well here, ‘break their will, but not their spirit.’
5.) Set boundaries – Author Jim Cunningham wrote, “A study was once performed of school-aged children antics on the playground. When the recess bell sounded they flooded the playground. They lined the fences and laughed and played. Then the fences that lined the playground were removed. The change was remarkable. The next morning the children huddled to the middle of the playground. They were anxious and insecure. They did not roam and play as normal. Then, the fences were put back in place. Do you want to guess what happened? The next day they were all over the playground again, happy and secure.”
Children, deep down, do not want to live in a world without limits. They want parents to set boundaries for them, to protect them, nurture them and guide them into adulthood.
6.) Within the proper boundaries, allow children to follow their own ‘bent.’ – Often parents expect children to be little versions of them. Such expectations usually lead to disappointment. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This literally means to allow them to follow their own natural ‘bent.’ Not every child is athletic, or a book-worm. Teach them morality, respect, the basics… but personality-wise, let them be themselves!
7.) Encourage positive behavior by looking for good things a child does, then making a point to encourage and praise those actions. – It has been said to praise 10 things before criticizing one. That can be a difficult thing to do (especially for some kids!!) but surely we should praise more than we criticize.
8.) Never let a child pit one parent against another. – If Mom says no but the child knows he can run to Dad to get what he wants, he will do it every time and there will be instability in the home. Children should be taught that both parents are on the same page and a ‘no’ from one is a ‘no’ from both. This is especially difficult in divorce situations because children tend to have more leverage (what if Johnny wants to go live with Dad!?), but for the sake of the children both parents should put aside their differences and be on the same page.
9.) Practice the behavior you expect from your children. – Children model their parents’ behavior. If they see you lie, cheat, curse, steal, or even make unhealthy lifestyle choices, they are likely to think it’s OK and do the same. If you and your spouse resolve arguments by shouting, don’t be surprised to see the kids doing it. Be the ultimate role model for your children!
10.) Withhold not correction – We won’t tell you how to correct your child. Each child is different, and effective methods of correction could differ for each age, temperament, and offense. But, I’ll just go ahead and say it – the parent who refuses to correct his child is a failure as a parent.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15
There are lots more! We’ll write about those and even go into more detail on the ones listed, but the fact is, children rule because parents refuse to. It’s time to take back the ‘scepter’ from kids who aren’t qualified to rule their own stuffed animal bin, much less the households of America.
Some of this article is adapted from an article I wrote last month for NaturalNews.com – http://www.naturalnews.com/036199_parenting_tips_children.html
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