Moms, when you are not sure how to deal with your children, when discouragement sets in and you fear that “this child is the one” that will walk away,
and you can’t seem to get through to their heart, can I offer you some advice?
Instead of giving way to fear
remember God’s promises and pray.
In our own home, I can recall several nights that stand out in my mind with a stubborn toddler who just wouldn’t respond to correction. When bedtime came, I fell into a heap of discouragement because I felt I had failed reach my child’s heart and I was scared for her.
At that moment, all I could do is pray. Pray. In a heap of exhaustion on the floor, my head in my knees as I cried in frustration for guidance, I’d pray to God (beg, actually) for HIM to soften her little heart so that she’d be inclined love God’s ways. (By the way, He did answer! My “little rebel” is learning to walk a God-dependent life today, by His grace!)
Some hope for moms of young ones:
1. Pray for wisdom. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for wisdom one night and the very next day God sent me an answer in the form of a book, a conversation with an older woman or my own Bible reading. God promises to give you what you need in the wisdom department if you ask!
2. Deal with the problem and then move on. Yes, you must deal with sin and “call it” as God calls it.
“Rebekah, NO, you may not sneak to get what you want. God is truth and he doesn’t want us to deceive others. ”
“Matthew, when mommy calls you to come wash your hands for dinner, and you ignore her, you are disobeying.”
“Emily, we don’t laugh at other people because God tells us to be kind. Would God laugh at another person and mock them?”
We do need to call sin what God calls it and not downplay it. A child who is allowed/trained to shrug off God’s commands when young will never deal with their own hearts. They’ll constantly blame outside circumstances. Our greatest problems are not around us, but inside us.
But once you’ve dealt with the child, clear the air. Don’t allow any residue of negativity to remain. It is easy to get frustrated with childish behavior, but you’ll drive your child away if you hold a parental grudge, give them the feeling that they are “always” a problem, or if you allow the atmosphere of the home to be strained and the child senses that you have smoldering resentment for them. Love doesn’t hold grudges.
3. Train in the positive more than in the negative. Nobody wants to hear “NO,NO,NO” all day. If this is the extent of your “child training,” your kids will eventually block you out and stop listening. MOST of you training should be instruction during everyday talk.
“Isn’t it great to be able to go visit Mrs. Hart in the nursing home kids? God says that when we care for our widows, it is like caring for Him!”
“Kids, when that man cut me off in the car this morning, my heart wanted to say something bad to him, but God’s word says no to repaying evil for evil. That’s really hard, isn’t it?”
“I know you want the front seat again, but remember what God says about treating others the way you want to be treated? What do you think you should do?”
“Kids, you need to chose before hand how you are going to respond when so-and-so is unkind to you again. You have two choices here: pleasing God or pleasing self.”
4. Don’t discipline your child over childish behavior. If it’s not intentional, why treat it as if it was? Spilling a drink, running and knocking over another child, coloring on top of moms bedspread and the ink runs through, breaking one of moms expensive antique flow blue pitchers whilst throwing a ball in the house (that was Peter! ;)) tipping things over…these are all things kids do. They’re immature kids. You can train them and tell them not to do it, but don’t punish them for it. Punishments should only be given when a wrong choice has been made.
If a child is punished one day for one thing, but not the next day, a child does not know what the boundaries are and that is just not fair to the child! A child want to know where they stand and what their boundaries are. There is security in that. If you say no, mean it–today, tomorrow and next week, or don’t say it at all!
6. Treat them the way you’d want to be treated. Don’t confront or correct a child when you are angry, frustrated or irritable. Honestly, that is just cruelty. If you are going to give your four year old a verbal tongue lashing, then YOUR sin is much bigger than theirs. They don’t know any better; an adult does know better. Correction/disciple, although sometimes necessary, should never be done when you are angry.
7. Remember that this is just a stage. Life with toddlers is so hard. It gets easier, I promise. My life now with teens is a breeeeze compared to life with toddlers. Do the hard work when they are young and they’ll be a blessing to you when they are older.
8. Remember that every circumstance, even parenting, is meant to point us to God. Our parenting is ordained and we are stewards of these kids. That means that the child training is not about us. We don’t do what is easiest for us or what we feel like doing. We answer to God for the care of His children.
9. Never bribe a child.
“If you stop screaming, I will give you a cookie.”
Don’t make them do the right things for the wrong reasons. Don’t aim for just good behavior. That is such a superficial goal. The heart is the goal. (not to mention that you’re teaching them to manipulate people.)
10. Make a study of your child. Every child is different, so your approach will be different, but that doesn’t mean that standards are different for that child.
Each child should be taught to know and follow the rules of the home. You may need to figure out how to help each child differently, but house rules and especially God’s rules are non-negotiable.
So, making excused for your child’s sin because of their temperament is not doing anyone any favors. “Oh, they just say whatever comes into their mind.” “He has a short fuse and blows up like that. That is just him.” Well, it may be just the way they are, but God had given us the ability to have victory over our sinful impulses.
Your child MAY struggle for the rest of their life with their tongue, or self control, or anger, and that is okay, as long as they are actually fighting it. Those works of the flesh have to go, and we are taught to fight against our flesh, bring it into subjection.
God does not expect perfection, but he does want obedience. When we sin, we have an advocate. We can confess it and move on and try again. This is grace– God enabling us to live as he commands!
Be faithful to do your job. Train them up in the way they should go. But remember that only God can change a heart. Why not ask him to intervene?
Your turn. What have you learned along the way? Share with us by leaving a comment!