I love running around and doing life shoulder-to-shoulder with other moms. It’s been so uplifting and so wonderful. The thing about being around other moms with all these little people, it sometimes makes conversations, well, impossible.
But moms are quick learners. We have to be. So I’m not surprised when I say that I learn the most about people by watching them with their kids. How they interact. Teach. Listen. Discipline. Help. Encourage.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I come away from most play dates thinking ‘Hm, I hadn’t thought about trying it like that. Would that work for me?’
One thing that we’re always tweaking as parents is about how to discipline our kids. How to teach them. How to get them motivated to do the right things. How to punish if we need to. What that looks like.
I hear a lot of parents using the word ‘obey’ with their kids. I think there has been a lot of that preached and taught in the Christian communities in the last 5 years about children obeying their parents. This article for example, is awesome on why it is important that children obey their parents.
So there are a lot of moms and dads out there reading this stuff, taking it in, and it is, it’s good and important stuff. And then they go to use it. And it looks like this:
A 5 year old is running around like a wild man, jumping off chairs and knocking over his sister. Mom says “Stop!” and he doesn’t so she says “You need to obey me!” and he continues.
A 2 year old is walking in the parking lot, lets go of mommy’s hand, and takes off. Mommy grabs her quickly and says “You need to obey mommy and hold my hand.” 5 seconds later she lets go again. This time, she gets too close to a moving car. Thankfully the driver sees her and slams on his brakes. Mommy yells at the 2 yr old for not obeying.
What’s missing from these situations?
Well, I’d like to take a crack at this one.
My daughter has a little CD we listen to in the car. There’s a song on it that I don’t know the words to even though I’ve heard it probably thousands of times. But I do know the chorus. It goes:
Trust and Obey. For there’s no other way. To be happy with Jesus. Than to trust and obey.
And there it is. Because sometimes how kids see and understand and ‘get’ stuff is a good way to ‘get’ it for us too – trust and obey have to go hand in hand.
What does that look like?
I think we have to start training our kids as quickly as possible to trust us. And guess what? You’re already doing that by being a good mom – when the baby cries and you pick her up, you’re building trust. When you encourage you’re new walker, you’re building trust. When you give them a bed time routine, you’re building trust.
But we can’t just hope that’ll be enough. We have to let them know that we love them more than anything (except for God and our husband) and that we want them to not get hurt. That we do our best to put their best interests at heart.
Here are some things to try.
- Teach them early to respond with “Yes Mommy/Daddy” when you tell them something. You ensure that they hear you and you are building a response in them that is favorable. That way when your 2 yr old decides to hit her brother, you can say “We don’t hit our brother” and she will know the right answer. And as they get older you can ask questions where the correct answer is “No mommy” but teaching them to respond is important. I have even seen this work when my daughter is screaming and in tears from fatigue or from being 2. She knows the right answer is “yes mommy” and says those words will make her change the actions which have gotten her in trouble.
- -Give your child expectations for your next activity. “We are going to go to the play ground. I expect you to run and play and have fun. Remember that we don’t use the yellow ladder because we aren’t quite big enough yet.” or “We are going to the store. Today you will not get a treat. I expect you to help me get what we need quickly so we can go.” or “Tonight you are sleeping at grandma’s. I expect you to listen to what grandma says and to go to bed really well. You will have so much fun.” As kids get older, let them share in the brainstorming. “We are going to a wedding today. What do you think is good behavior for a wedding? What kinds of things shouldn’t we do?” or “We’re going to be in the car a long time. Go pick 4 things to bring along to do in the car.” Be sure to model these behaviors for your children.
- Give them warnings for time. Instead of getting to the end of TV or playground time and just announcing it, give them a 2 minute warning or try 5 minutes and then 1 minute. Then you can leave without a battle. You can even add this to your expectations from above.
- Use timers. Microwaves. Egg timers. A cool alarm clock. They know that 5 minutes is real and what it feels like when you use timers.
- Talk to them about why something is important. “When we are in a parking lot, you need to hold my hand. There are lots of cars and people won’t be able to see you.”
- Encourage them when they get something right. “That’s a great way to play with your brother. I’d love to see more of that.”
- Let them be the age they are. Is a 2 year old going to do some stuff that just blows your mind? Yes. Is it always bad? No. They need to be able to express themselves and do some things on their own. This may mean that if you take family pictures outside, there will be some running around. Make sure your expectations are reasonable for the situation.
- It’s ok to give them chores to help with. This will teach them to build into the family and trust that other family members will too. Have them help as much as they are able – which might be more than you think! (Click here for a post on some chore ideas.)
Can you think of others? I’d love to see them in the comments!
What do all of these things do? She knows she can trust you. She knows what to expect from you. You are saying to her little heart “I will do these things for you. You can expect them from me.” I know we aren’t perfect, but as we keep trying, we’ll keep getting better.
And, I’m sure you noticed, each of the examples called for the child to obey without ever using the word ‘obey’. The word ‘obey’ doesn’t mean a thing to a child unless they are taught how to do it. And the how is the trust.
As you build your child’s trust, they will realize there’s a reason you are asking them to obey in a situation. That you have their best interests at heart. That you have a reason for your rules and the things you ask of them.
Getting kids to obey is about working the ground of their hearts to grow trust and obedience together.
They have to go together.
[I got the idea for this by reading through the Psalms (my reading plan is here) and seeing how God interacts with the children of Israel – by making sure they can trust Him as He leads them, asking them to obey out of their love and trust for Him.]
Continuing to use the word ‘obey’ but not giving them a way to be successful at it might lead your children to be angry, distrustful, embittered, or exasperated.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Think about your own faith journey. Are we ever just able to jump in and follow the rules, especially the hard ones, without first trusting that God has our best interests at heart? That He wants us to be safe and loved, as His holy and precious children?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. I won’t lie – this was a tough one to write and put out there, but I know this has been growing in my heart, and that it could be so useful to others.
P.S. Have you checked out our blogging team? Nina, who wrote the book, blogs about marriage, and parenting, and doing life. And Debbie talks about applying respect with our teen, tween, and twenty-something children. Pretty cool, huh?
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