I see it all of the time. A parent in public, frustrated, on the brink of insanity, trying to get her child to do, or stop doing, something. She’ll give warning after warning to no avail. Then the counting begins. “If you don’t obey by the time I get to one, you’re going to be in BIG trouble!”
She’ll slowly but loudly yell out, “THREE, TWOOOOOO….I mean it! I really, really mean it…”
Then she will glare intently with lips pursed and eyes wide, unblinking, her head cocked slightly to one side.
And since the child still isn’t obeying her, instead of saying ONE, she pretends to leave.
“Okay fine, if you’re going to act like that then I’m leaving. Bye! See you later!” And then mom attempts to disappear to create enough fear in their child to convince them it’s FINALLY time to obey.
This scene and others similar to it have become normal, common, and routine. But I wonder, if we really stopped to think about it, would we decide this is the best way?
I would love to encourage you in a better way. First, let’s look at five things we really should stop doing as parents:
- Stop counting. When we count, our children are indirectly being taught to wait to obey. This isn’t best because we simply give them more time to stall, more time to do as they please, and more time to decide if they would like to respond.
- Stop threatening. When we do not follow through with what we say, our children are being taught that mom and dad are not being honest. They hear us say one thing and then we do another. We don’t want that for our kids! We want to teach our children that we are truth-tellers. Honesty in life is critical…and we must live by example.
- Stop scaring. When we take a step back, I’m sure none of us would intentionally teach our children that it is acceptable to use fear as a tool to get what we want. And yet that is what we often do. Our methods teach our children to hold off or completely reject what we say until the volume and/or hand is raised.
- Stop manipulating. We can come up with the most outlandish manipulation tactics in order to coerce a child’s obedience. Everything from “I’m leaving you” to “I’m disowning you” to “You just wait until dad gets home.” We would never truly desire for our children to learn from us that they can use whatever means necessary, even if it is dishonest and manipulative, to get what they want from people.
- Stop ignoring. What we say without saying anything is that it’s alright as long as I didn’t see it. We cannot continue to teach our children that because we are tired their disobedient actions are alright. It is sometimes easier to simply look the other way, but by doing so we are unintentionally teaching our children to hide, or worse still, to wait until mom is too exhausted to care.
Now, let’s consider what it looks like to raise the bar for ourselves as parents and for what we expect from our children. Obedience should be the response of our children without counting down, empty threats, or fear. Obedience should be free from all truth-twisting manipulation. Our perfect Father doesn’t treat us like that and we shouldn’t parent like that.
Our God is a loving, perfect Father, and He does not use any of these tactics to get the job done.
He is loving and gracious, slow to anger and full of grace. He is abounding in goodness and is perfect at His very core. And if I asked you if that’s the kind of parent you want to be my guess is you would answer without delay, “Absolutely!”
Your word, the simple giving of the command, ought to be the expectation.
Our role as parents is to remain calm, to lead by example, to remain steadfast and self-controlled.
The Bible makes it clear that we are to train up our children in the ways they should go. And while that could simply be a cute refrigerator magnet, God intended so much more. Parenting is a high calling. We are to teach and train in a manner which makes evident, or mimics, the character of the Lord. And we want that. We really do.
But maybe you’re also thinking: If I’m slow to anger my child will NEVER obey.
If I can’t threaten, there’s not a chance I’ll get their attention
And maybe you’re asking…HOW???? How can there be any other way?
If you’re anything like me, you need to know, practically, what this looks like. We need to learn what to do with the bedtime temper tantrums and what to say when our precious kiddo does not want to put their shoes on. We can wear our WWJD bracelets, and yet honestly, sincerely and legitimately just not know what Jesus would do!
Parents, there is hope. There is a better way! I’m here to help.
I have recently written a book called “With All Joy” about parenting, which includes all of the practical help I can offer as a fellow mom of seven kids. I share big Gospel-centered ideas but also very tangible and practical help that will give you the steps you need to walk forward with hope and clarity. I offer you a better way to begin to parent in ways that breathe new life into your home.
The methods I share are intentional and proactive. I give step by step guides and personalized plans for every home in how to teach and instruct our children ahead of time before a problem ever arises.
These methods will give you a new language and a new outlook for what is possible within your families. And my hope is that this style of parenting will become your new “normal”…and will give you great joy!
If you want to know the “how” you can pick up a copy of the book “With All Joy” here.
Meg is a pastor’s wife, mother of seven, writer, fitness model and professional goldfish sweeper upper. In 2016 Meg began a lifestyle blog with a focus on real life, faith, fashion, fitness, and family with the hope of encouraging women to live purposeful, beautiful lives to the glory of God and the good of others. Her new book, “With All Joy,” is available now.