Parenting Fail/Success

I got myself into a bit of a bind this morning. I'd made one of those stupid parenting ultimatums. You know the ones:
'You are not allowed off this chair until...'
'You can't have anything else to eat until you...'
'You'll never be allowed to [insert favourite activity here] again unless...'

Yeah. You know the ugly statements that are ridiculously unenforceable and that you just have to hope your child breaks before you do because in reality you are not going to make them sit on that chair if they need the loo, you won't starve them until they eat that thing they hate (well, not long term anyway. It might go mouldy before they agree to it...) and you secretly enjoy taking them to that activity and it would be such a shame for the whole family to stop it over one silly, stubborn incident.
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Anyway, I got myself into one of these with a child who is a stubborn as I am (he get's it from his dad...? maybe...?) and after nearly an hour and a half of screaming I rang my sister for help.

'What can I do? He won't back down! I know I shouldn't have said it, but now if I let it slide it's like I'm admitting that screaming will get you what you want...'

She had some great advice. It involved losing a little of my pride and just backing down.

The reality is I shouldn't have made the threat in the first place. My anger got the better of me and I said something stupid. I'm human. My kids should know that. I'm not God and I make mistakes, and as we are homeschooling they are probably going to see a whole lot more of my mistakes than most children get to see of their parents. It's good for them. Admitting I'm not perfect helps them to admit that they aren't perfect either.

Anyway, back to the advice. Christine thought I should try to phrase stuff more carefully. Instead of 'you can't do this because...', say something like 'I'm not letting you do this because...' It puts the control squarely back where it belongs, with the parent, reinforcing that you are not in charge, whilst also being something polite enough that you wouldn't mind hearing your child repeat it to someone else ('I'm not letting you snatch my toy' is better than 'don't snatch!')

Christine recommended I take away the thing that was upsetting him and let him leave the situation, but tell him I'm really upset with the way this has turned out.

I did exactly that, and you know what? He turned around and said 'okay then, I'll do it.'

No tears, no tantrums. He. just. did. it.

I'm still slightly in shock, and I'm so glad I have a good christian sister who I can turn to when I do lose control of a situation with my kids.It happens to all of us, but here are some ideas that may help to evaluate when you do:


  • When you lose control because your child because they are being disrespectful or disobedient, whose agenda for your child has become most important? Yours or Gods?
  • Are you concerned that they are disobeying Gods will? or just yours?
  • If there are other people around, are you most concerned for God’s reputation or your own? Are you concerned about your child's character development or your embarrassment?

When your agenda, your will, your desires, and your reputation become more important than God’s, that’s a sign you are trying to be your child’s god. Whether you thought about it or not, you want your child to treat you like God.

It’s easy, as a parent, to confuse your agenda with God’s agenda. God does think that respect, obedience, and gratitude are important. And God does call parents to hold their children accountable and to discipline them. 

But there is a bigger picture. 

Since God tells your child to respect you, isn’t your child really disrespecting God (since he’s ignoring God’s commands) more than he is you? So when you discipline your child, are you thinking about how he is disrespecting God? If not, then the way you treated him was more about how he ignored your demands, than it was about his violation of God’s commands.

Children’s hearts are not won by force, as I learned this morning.  Parenting, as with every area of life, can tempt us to focus on obtaining some good part of creation instead of worshiping the Creator. The apostle Paul explains it this way: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised” (Romans 1:25). 

When we set our hearts on loving what God has given us more than we love him, we are rejecting God and making ourselves into gods. When we make ourselves the center of the world and look for meaning, purpose, and direction in people instead of in him, we end up with ruined relationships (Romans 1:29–31). 

How does this happen with our children? When you lose control with your children, you are communicating to them that their priority is to wrap themselves around you. They must give you what you want or pay the consequences. You are, in reality, demanding their worship. Instead of teaching them to live according to every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, you are teaching them to live according to every word that proceeds out of your mouth (Matthew 4:4).

This type of control only works as long as your threat of anger and punishment is big enough to suppress your children’s desire to rebel. They may change their behaviour to avoid the consequences, but not because they desire to love and honor you.
When your children are physically, emotionally, and socially mature, their true nature and attitude toward you will come out. You have taught them that their relationship with you is not built on Christ and his ways, but on you and your rules. When they reject your rules, it is likely they will also reject you, and you will be left without a relationship with your child.
Is there any hope? Yes! 

Jesus came to free you - even from the demands that turn his good gifts into your 'rights'. 

Jesus won’t remove your good desires, instead he will reorganise you on the inside so that your ungodly demands will become godly, righteous desires.

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