Photo: Eden, Janine, and Jim | Flickr
Pretty much every kid loves to experiment with chaos: dropping food, smearing things, investigating cupboards or containers, throwing toys — you name it, a toddler has probably gotten into it.
It can be easy to get aggravated when your child gets into yet another mess. But if we expect kids to just stop when we say “stop,” we’re probably not going to get very far.
Why? Because we’re fighting their brains.
“What does Connected Families teach about obedience?” Hannah, who was exasperated with her defiant preschooler’s flighty behavior in a parking lot, explained the context for her question:
When I was leaving Bible study I asked my 3-year-old to stay with me, or hold my hand, or I could carry him. He said he wanted to walk next to me, but then ran off several times, despite my request to “Stop now, and come to me please.” Each time I would pick him up, remind him to stay with me if he wasn’t going to hold my hand. He bucked his body and threw his hands in my face. When I got him to the car my anxiety escalated into an angry lecture – which he ignored, while his big brother giggled at the whole fiasco. Help! What could I have done differently?
Connected Families believes that learning obedience is a long process rooted in love, trust and a parent’s wise guidance. This follows the biblical model of how we learn obedience to God — not out of fear but out of understanding how much God loves us, combined with experiencing the natural result when we disobey his wise commands (Galatians 6:7). The more we learn, the more we trust that God has really good reasons for what he tells us to do.
So let’s put that theology to the test with a feisty 3-year-old going A.W.O.L.
Parents often find themselves at a loss when kids are particularly discouraged or struggling.
It can begin to feel hopeless when everything you’ve tried to motivate them past the challenge has failed. You may start to feel more and more disconnected from the child as you know less and less what to do when they struggle.
This is when we get particularly strong about a principle that almost always helps parents find new hope.
Recently we wrote about helping kids value sharing. If your child needs some practice sharing, and you want some practical ideas, consider following in the footsteps of this thoughtful dad:
When our kids hurt their siblings, our sense of justice compels us to punish them. But sometimes punishment is not the best way to teach responsibility and wisdom. Check out this story from Jess:
Did you know that one of the most critical times for a parent to affirm a child’s talents is when they misbehave? It’s true. We are all born with giftedness–but even good gifts can get twisted by sin (Romans 7:21 reminds us, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”). The challenge for parents is identifying the “gifts” within the misbehavior; what we call “Gifts Gone Awry.”
Gifts That Have Gone Awry
All talents or gifts can be used for God’s purposes, but they can also be distorted by selfishness and sin and used to serve misbehavior. When this happens, the gift is still present, but it’s gone awry. To punish the misbehavior without affirming the talent behind it may both reinforce the child’s identification with the sin (I’m bad!) and stifle or weaken the talent’s use in honorable ways. It is therefore critical when correcting a child’s misbehavior to also affirm and find a positive use of the gift that fueled it.
Need help identifying the gift behind your child’s stubborness or stealing? It can be tough, but here are some examples of common misbehaviors and some gifts/talents that tend to drive them.
There is no more important time for kids to know they are loved than when they misbehave. If the love message misses them then, they will grow to
believe that love is conditional or earned. People who believe that love is earned tend to rise and fall with their performance, and compromise themselves for approval. Not what we want for our kids.
One way children know they’re loved is if you simply say so, not in a condescending way, but from your heart, right there while your kids are misbehaving. (Sound crazy? Just try it!) But another powerful, perhaps less-well-known way to express love is by expressing understanding, or empathy.
Every parent wants their child to choose good, right behavior. Every family consists of real, mistake-prone people. No one is perfect. How do we teach our children to learn from their mistakes and help them grow up well? Discipline often consists of merely correcting wrong behavior when it should also enable inward, heart transformation. In order to discipline wisely, we must make grace our central principle. The Connected Families framework arises out of the need for effective correction and centers around grace. Read on to learn the four powerful messages that parents have the opportunity to communicate to their children when disciplining them in order to guide them effectively.
We begin by asking the question: How do we help our kids grow into the adults God is calling them to be?
Here are four powerful messages that parents can focus on as Biblical goals when discipline challenges hit the fan. When kids grow to believe these messages are true, their hearts are much more open to their parents’ teaching and discipline.
Playing games with our kids can be a fun way to connect. But what happens when one or more of the children struggles with losing gracefully?
Enjoyable playtime can quickly morph into a frustrating outburst.
Kids are upset, other players are uncomfortable, and everyone may begin to tiptoe around the “sore loser” — or even be tempted to let them win all the time to avoid a meltdown! Parents may even begin to worry about their child’s future life as a “sore loser”. If he can’t lose a simple game of checkers, what will happen when he doesn’t make the basketball team? Or when he doesn’t get the promotion he wants?
It can be scary to watch your child spiral out of control — but there’s a better way, a way that can help you reclaim the fun of family game time while also helping your child learn to lose gracefully.
Recently, on a weekend when all our kids were home, we dug out the family videos for a trip down memory lane (or, in the case of our daughter-in-law, a crash-course in Jackson family history).
Our kids’ childhood antics were rather hilarious – particularly their clumsy attempts to steal the spotlight when a younger sibling was in the picture. In one scene, little Noah is being coaxed to try his first steps across the living room floor. When he hesitates, Daniel and Bethany literally plow him over in their attempts to prove to both parents and camera that “I can walk too!”
“Mom! Mom… Mommmmmmmm…”
In hindsight, attention-grabbing toddlers can be amusing. But in the moment, it can be frustrating for parents to deal with the annoyance of a child who demands constant attention.
So how can parents respond lovingly to their attention-guzzling children without “giving in” or creating spoiled children?