GOAL: To learn positive discipline while guiding your children through their growing-up years; guidance versus controlling your children being the optimum end result. By Bobbi Reed
We can be ready for being a parent by making sure we have all the material things we need for a baby; stroller, crib, bottles, diapers, etc. There is another more important piece of being ready; emotional maturity. Many times we do not give any thought to this. Are we at a place in our lives that we will not put ourselves first? After all, when a baby comes into our lives, they will be first most of the time. While we still need our pauses and breaks to refresh ourselves, for the most part that baby will be occupying most of your days. All of their needs will be dependent on you, at least for the first years.
Being ready to be a parent also means starting to think about what you will invest into your children. You are not only responsible for their physical needs but as they grow, you will be responsible for their emotional and mental growth.
“To make a baby is one of the actions for which you need the least skills. It takes almost no experience, talent or expertise. Even people who can’t throw a Frisbee, switch on the video machine or keep a job can make a baby.” **
More importantly being ready has to do with having a softened heart. You will learn about a new kind of love and you also have to be able to receive help in the process. You should know that you are not ever going to be “the end all, be all” of parenting. Many influences will be in our lives as we raise our children. There will be the obvious of our family, our church, our friends and God. I have learned after all these years of raising my four children, mostly without their fathers; that I will deserve neither all of the blame or all of the glory. Each day is a journey in experience and learning as we go along. You can read many books that can give you knowledge, and they truly can help you along the way. Believe me, in the early days with my first and second children, I spent endless hours pouring over Dr. Spock’s many manuals of child-rearing. They were helpful, but I found that experience and spending time getting to know each individual child was more effective.
We need to sort out some deeper things within ourselves as we start and continue along this journey. We will need shaping all this process as we shape our children. Our past can either be a great example and role model for our parenting, or it can be the opposite. It can be a motivation to be a better parent because we did not have a great role model. We will need to turn to God at every turn of parenting to make sure we are present, have our priorities straight and we know our purpose as parents.
When we have those times of feeling overwhelmed, sometimes the first people we seek for advice are our family and friends. Rarely, do we seek the Lord first. He knows our hearts and the hearts of our children the best. It is wiser to go to Him first. We need to ask Him for patience, wisdom and discernment about what is the best thing to do at that moment.
Firstly, we have to calm ourselves down. I found that when I was most upset with my children; when they disobeyed, talked back or whatever, it was best to spend time calming down. Many times I yelled and reacted out of anger which is not best for any of us. Speaking to your children from a calm place instead of anger is key. Unfortunately, when we yell or scream, sooner or later they tune us out. It is only natural because it is hard to hear what someone is really saying or feeling through loudness and rage.
Once we are calm, then we can pray for direction from the Lord. One we get the wisdom on the next steps to take, we can proceed calmly and with patience. First, we need to assess how serious is the offense? Is this something the child did willfully or because “they did not know better”. Do they have the skills at this age to think through what they just did? What was the intention, if any, behind their actions? It is important to assess all of this. If they have the skills to think through what was done and it was done to be rebellious or disobedient, then the way you react will be different.
After assessing what was behind the action and finding it was purposeful, then a set reaction can take place. At some time before this, a conversation with your child should have taken place. It is wise to let them know what consequences will happen in advance for each type of behavior. If this has not yet happened, please do this immediately. It is very important to be clear and concise in this area. When an occurrence has taken place, then they should know what will happen next. If you are consistent in as many instances as possible, then as time goes on they will possibly weigh out whether they want the consequence before they act out. That certainly is the goal on the way to curbing bad behavior.
Let me give you an example; lying. If each time you catch them lying, and have previously discussed that a time-out will happen, or a device will be taken away, then that needs to happen. Of course, this has to be age appropriate. It is very important that you be consistent in consequences. If you allow your child to debate, plead or cry their way out of a punishment, soon the guidance “system” will fall apart.
If the behavior was due to their age, lack of maturity or lack of development, then the consequence will be different. After the time of calming yourself down and praying to the Lord for wisdom and discernment, there will be a conversation. Teach your child what their action caused, why it is not acceptable and show them a better action. Through this you will teach them knowledge, patience, understanding and that throughout everything, you love them unconditionally. Yes, I know this is hard. Believe me, as a single parent of four children for over 30 years, many times I reacted out of disappointment and anger. Hindsight of course is always 20/20. This is why I am giving you this advice; having learned it from the school of experience.
One of the most important lessons I learned through raising my children is that I cannot control them. I can guide them, help them and teach them. One of the reasons I feel now that I got so upset when they disobeyed, was because “they were not listening to me”! I felt out of control. I felt disrespected, especially when this happened when they were teenagers. Why weren’t they listening, and why did they seem to not care? I think that I truly did not give it time to calm down and assess what I thought was really behind their behavior. I did not seek guidance from the Lord first, for sure. I complained to friends and asked them what to do. While that can be helpful, they were not there when the event happened. They did not see what emotions my child was feeling or reacting to. For sure, reacting out of anger or feeling out of control is not going to be good. You will strike out physically or verbally. That is a given and standard reaction. Give yourself the time to think, calm and seek prayer first. When we mete out the consequences, and have a discussion with them after, it is always important to end the incident with love. Let them know that no matter what happens, you will always be there for them and love them.
Another thing to understand besides the age, maturity and knowledge of your child, is what they are feeling. Are they overwhelmed, tired, hungry, feeling rejected or hurt? This is an important piece of the total picture. Did they react out of one or more of these things? Is their action a way to let you know that they are overwhelmed? Are they feeling low, depressed, under-appreciated or lonely? I know these are many things to consider. You know your child the best, so it is important that you take the time to run through a mental list of what may be happening.
I totally wish now in hindsight that I had taken more time to assess the actions of my children. I was working two jobs along with being in the Army Reserves and college for many of those years. Irregardless, this is not my children’s fault and they should not have to pay for it. I realize all of us do the very best we can with the situation we are in at that time, but there are always areas to grow and do better. It doesn’t take a long time to change, and much of this is adding prayer to the mix. Seeking the Lord’s direction; asking for wisdom and discernment, and assessing the purpose behind the child’s action, can help immensely.
Another important thing I learned through this journey, was that we could make a difference in how often my child would repeat certain behaviors. For example, if they continued to do something that was irritating, and I “rewarded” their behavior with giving in or giving them something good, that bad behavior would happen more often. For instance, when a child is whining or throwing a temper tantrum, we just want it to end. So to “shut them up”, we give in or give them a treat. This will assure that this behavior will happen often. This is called negative reinforcement. It is reinforcing the behavior because it gains attention and a reward. It is really hard to work through this and learn about positive reinforcement instead.
When they obey, act kindly to another, or listen right away to something you told them to do, praise them. Over time they will seek to repeat the behaviors instead. I know this makes great sense and seems so obvious, but in the heat of the moment, it escapes us. After a time, this will become more of a positive habit, as you do it more often. It is amazing how it will change their behavior for the better.
Now, I cannot write this chapter without recognizing that there are some children that are more rebellious by nature. I know from experience, I had one out of my four that was this way. It was very difficult to learn how best to respond to this child. It seemed that nothing worked. I know that, as with other children, consistency was still important. It took some other research, much prayer and experience to figure out what works best for this type of child. Underneath, even the rebellious child seeks to be loved and accepted. Just like any other child, inside they are the same. Their motives and behaviors might be different, but reacting with patience, praise, and guiding remains the same.
As our children grow, our roles change a bit. You go from your children being totally dependent on you, to you teaching them how to do some things by themselves. Even though our roles change, we are always there for them to fall with and to advise. As we go along this journey, we all gain wisdom and closeness. We let our children know the consequences for certain behaviors, enforce consequences consistently, and love on them all the time. Remember to show grace often, as our Lord shows us daily. Emphasize with praise when they please us and downplay with consequences when they disappoint.
Be wise to understand that raising our children and building a life with them is so important. Accumulation of wealth or things is never to be the goal. I understand that we all want to try to make our lives comfortable. There is a big difference in being comfortable, kids fed and clothed than striving to get ahead for material things. What are your priorities when it comes to your family? I know this can be tricky, especially as a single mom. Many times in raising my children, I felt guilty. I wanted to be with them much more than I was able to. I was always conflicted between working to feed them/pay the bills, being at parent-teacher conferences, sports activities and taking time to be 100% present with them. It was a continuing struggle. Again, take all of this to the Lord. He knows our heart and our struggles. It is seriously a struggle that we will have throughout their childhood. Priorities will constantly need to be reviewed, assessed and adjusted. It is difficult, I know, but keep in mind what your end goals are. You want your children to know they are loved, to have great self-esteem and to be people of great character.
Lastly, I want to remind you that the Lord made each of your children unique. He places a calling on their lives and guides each one along their own specific journey. We are like a gardener in the way; we are to tend to each child but they will have different needs and visions. Different things will make them happy and drive them. Be careful to find out each of your child’s visions, beliefs for their future and what drives them. Don’t raise them to be what you want them to be, except for all of them to have great characters. As their parents we are to identify what is the God’s given design for each one of our children and support that. We, like the Lord does to us, are to prune each child so they will grow into that design that the Lord has called them to fulfill.
Raising children is a very daunting task as we all know. I hope that this has helped you with some wisdom and suggestions. Throughout the journey, please remember to seek wisdom and leadership from our Lord. He understands your heart and the hearts of your children. He understands and has made each one of them with different talents and natures. Don’t have a one-style-fits-all approach to child rearing. Enforce consequences consistently while letting your children know that you love them unconditionally. Let them know they can always come to you and you will always support them even when you may not be happy with something they have done.
Above all else, know that our Lord has chosen you especially to raise each one of your children. They are always a gift from God. He has placed them in your lives for you to raise with His help. They have God-given designs and callings on their lives. Being a parent is a lot of hard work, but there are many great rewards along the way. It is amazing to watch them grow and develop into wonderful human beings. It is very fulfilling to know you had a part in that and that you worked hard to do your part. Show yourself much love and grace along the way. Do what is best for your family and do not compare yourselves to anyone else. Our Lord made us all differently and has given us various callings. Do what the Lord says to do while always putting Him first in your lives. Remember, each day is a new day. A new day to be the best parent and person you can be. Don’t forget to spend quiet time renewing yourself and taking a mental break. If you don’t refresh yourself regularly, you will be operating out of an empty place. Your children will not receive your best. Focus on what positive things you have in your lives each day, and be grateful. Don’t focus on what we don’t have. We have much more than we realize. Make the best of what you have been given, knowing that you are blessed and favored.
- Are you prepared to be a parent? Are you prepared to grow and mature selflessly?
- What kind of people do you want your children to develop into?
- Do you realize that each child has a specific calling and God-given design on their live?
- Who will you seek first in time of being overwhelmed?
- Are you taking a few times out of each day to be quiet and pause? How are you refreshing yourself on a daily basis?
- Are you ready with a softened heart and know that you will have to continue to grow along with asking for help in this process?
- How can I be a better parent?
- What are my priorities for my time each day? Where do my children fit?
- Assess what our role model was for parenting as we were children?
- How can this role model affect our parenting styles? Will we repeat it or be careful to do the opposite?
- Have we sat down with our children and discussed consequences for each specific behavior that is appropriate for their age?
- Are we consistent with our discipline? Do we reward bad behavior?
- Assess your priorities, knowing they will need to adjust often.
- List your child’s God-given design on their lives. Assess your treatment of them and make sure you are “pruning” them for these callings.
- Take the time during each day for you. Pause and spend some quiet time with the Lord. Take time to listen to His direction.
- Continue to grow in knowledge and experience, helping other moms as you go. Meet in a community/group to support each other.
- Know that this journey is not easy and give yourself much grace and love. Be kind to yourself. Realize that your role as a mom is very important but it is only a part of who we are.
1 Timothy 5:8
1 Timothy 3:4=5
**Erma Bombeck: “Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession”, 2006