In my last post I discussed the possibility of over-focus on child-training to the point of excess and negativity. I quoted H. Clay Trumbull’s description of parents “who seem to suppose that their chief work in the training of a child is to be incessantly commanding and prohibiting; telling the child to do this or do that, and to do this, that, or the other. But this nagging a child is not training a child; on the contrary it is destructive of all training.”
No one wants to become an in-home dictator, nor to exasperate their child (as the Bible forbids) through excessive focus on parental authority or obedience. The question then becomes: what’s the line between training and exasperating? If we do want to maintain high expectations for behavior and be consistent in addressing misbehavior, then how do we moms do this well without overkill? In short: how do we determine the right amount of emphasis on training, and ensure that our homes don’t become households of nit-picking?
After reflection, here are my top-of-mind thoughts:
1. I strive to be intentional when I instruct my children and ensure that, whatever ask of my child, I am prepared to follow through. I find the oft-quoted parenting adage to “pick your battles” to be excellent advice… when it refers to thinking through in advance what action steps I do or don’t want to give my kids. When “pick your battles” means, “Be selective in what you ask your child to do – or to refrain from doing – so that not everything becomes a possible point of contention,” I’m all for it. Because anytime I do direct my child to do something, I want to follow through to she that s/he consistently obeys me. Some, however, say “pick your battles” and mean, “Don’t follow through on everything you ask your child to do; let some things go.” For example, I recently saw a father instructing his son to thank a stranger for returning a stray ball, which the boy didn’t want to do. The father repeated the instruction three times, saw that the son didn’t want to do it…. and then let it go. The dad may have thought, “Well, this is a small thing so I’ll let it go. I’ll pick my battles.” To me,that’s a misapplication of battle-picking. The time to pick the battle is before the instruction is given – not afterwards, when the child’s obedience is in question.
2. I correct whenever the need arises (i.e., when a child disobeys or sins), but I don’t focus on or emphasize correction any more than necessary to get the job done. Just deal with the issue clearly and thoroughly and then move on with the day.
3. My goal is to cultivate an environment in my home that’s pleasant, affirming, and fun. If kids enjoy the time they spend in their house – mom is attentive and kind, relationships with siblings are pleasant, an atmosphere of peace and harmony pervades – then it seems to me that correction finds its rightful space without being the central theme. I’ve been thinking specifically about this occurs in the most authentic and helpful ways, and this is what I’ve come up with so far:
–Be silly with my kids. Goof off with them from time to time; tickle them; sing whatever songs they’re singing with them (including hand motions!)
–Plan fun stuff to do with my kids each week. Since I’ve carved out a specific ‘craft time’ for my kids once a week (and overcome my fear of Michael’s in the process)- very low-key stuff here, mind you- I’ve found that I am thinking through what stuff my children are apt to enjoy more regularly. It’s like an accountability check that keeps me considerate of their interests and enjoyment on a regular basis.
–Hug my kids as often as I think of it.
4. I seek to keep grace in the forefront of my mind as I mother and pray regularly that God would show me opportunities to extend grace to my children in ways they can understand and embrace. I found this post by Jess at Making Home, “the grace-filled home,” helpful in this regard.
Other thoughts, girls?