Last time I talked about why I have recently been working so hard to become “meaner” to my kids. My tough love really feels brutal to them, but if I control myself and don’t get angry, they are able to see my love in it and understand…eventually. We know there are great reasons to give tangible consequences to our kids..but HOW?!
The how is the hard part. It is so easy to just ride the waves of life…letting the current take us where ever it wants. So often I don’t even think about the answers I’m giving to questions that my children are asking me. “Can we watch Jimmy Neutron?” “Sure.” Never mind that they’ve already watch 3 episodes, the chores aren’t done, and their rooms are a mess. Never mind that if they don’t turn on the TV, they’ll probably build a fort, play together, or draw. “Sure” is the easy answer that keeps them “happy” and occupied. So, I think to implement the “how”, we have to make a plan…chart our course, so when the wave hits us we’ll know what to do!
Set Clear Expectations
To the best of your ability, let your kids know your expectations in advance. They cannot be expected to read your mind.
Try having a family meeting and lay down your base of expectations for them. Include which chores you expect to be done and by when. Talk about how you expect them to treat their siblings and how they should talk to adults. You can even involve them in making those expectations. Encourage them to think of behavior goals based on what the Bible teaches. Talk about your expectations on school work responsibilities. Make realistic and attainable expectations.
I hesitate to call these “rules”. The law breeds rebellion. Instead, recognize the expectations as places where consequences will be given to help each child learn and grow. They do not “fail” if they don’t meet the expectation. They just have to deal with the consequences and learn from it.
Natural consequences still apply, even when the expectation wasn’t set up in advance. Do you ever give in or let your kids get away with things because you didn’t clearly define “exactly” what you wanted. Kids are very clever and will try to twist things so you won’t give them a consequence. They’ll try anything, so be prepared. They’ll say things like “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do that” or “You didn’t say I couldn’t“. So, if the child’s choice reflects a lack of wisdom (or common sense) a consequence can still be valuable to teach them for next time. However, consequences for willful disobedience can and should be stronger.
Plan Out Some Consequences
What are your go-to consequences? Time in their room? Writing sentences? No TV or video games? No playing with friends? Extra school work? These can and should be tailored to each child and circumstance, but it is nice not to have to think too hard in the moment you need them. Does anyone have any creative ideas? One friend of mine commented that she didn’t do her chores when her kids didn’t do theirs…no dinner tonight I guess! Share your ideas that have a powerful way to teach below in the comments.
Embrace Natural Consequences
Life has a way of giving consequences for our irresponsibility. I have a habit of wanting to save my children from those consequences. I don’t want them to lose friends or get bad grades or go without a forgotten lunch. I want to replace the money they lost or toy that got broken. Now, when I pray for my children, I pray that I would be able to let them fail. I want them to learn from their own mistakes. I pray that God teach them as they go through it so they come out stronger on the other end. Even while letting them suffer, I can sympathize with them and encourage them through the challenge. That’s how God does it with me!
Respond, Don’t React
Believe me, I know this is hard! I need to bite my tongue sometimes or give myself a time out. It seems like our children’s bad choices are directly aimed at us and we shoot back. We need to pray for divine intervention in controlling ourselves when disciplining our children. Try to respond to the situation in a calm and collected manner. You can still be firm, but you must protect yourself from raging anger.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20
Redo If You Need To
I mess this up all the time. Sometimes I need to apologize to my kids…not for consequences, but for for the way in which I give them…or even if I fail them by not giving consequences at all.
Last week my daughter had a planned overnight with a friend. I told her she needed to clean her room. I went out to the treadmill and when I came in she was watching TV. Her excuse for not making any progress on her room was that she needed to ask me a question…”Where is my overnight bag?” Wait, what?…I am right out in the shop, come and ask me if you have a question. If she had finished cleaning her room she’d have found the bag jammed in the corner under a bunch of stuff…and WHY is it okay to watch TV if you can’t ask me a question. So, yes, her brain had momentarily quit functioning. I just couldn’t believe she had been that dense, so I got upset. I didn’t give her a consequence at first…I just got angry. I didn’t want to make her stay home because I thought that was punishing her friend.
I caught myself though…I stepped back and got my own brain functioning. I did a “redo”. I went back in to her and apologized for my anger. She recognized she had made a bad choice. I calmly told her I would have to give her a consequence for this instead of being angry, because that didn’t do anybody any good. I called her friend’s mom to see if it would be terribly damaging to break the date, but she actually figured it was good for her daughter to see others getting consequences. In the end, my daughter was devastated to not be able to go spend the night, but she actually learned something. Next time I will even take one extra step and have her call and apologize to her friend for ruining the plan.
Recognize we all mess up. It is good for our kids to see us acknowledge that and move on to a better way. Don’t be afraid to do a “redo” to make things better.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 (NIV)
Some, like me, err on the side of no consequences until a blow up. Some err on the side of never giving any grace. Our job is to teach boundaries to help our children survive and thrive in this world. We need to do it in a balanced and godly way, so that our ways point our children to His Ways…and God can help us along the way if we ask for his intervention.