Monday, May 27, 2013

Discpline : Your kids

I've been really contemplating this subject for the last few days, feeling like the Lord laid it on my heart to share some thoughts with you on discipline. It may be long, but I promise making sure you're on the right track with your kids is worth the time.

This is definitely not going to be a blog written about the types of discipline i think a parent should use, that is totally a personal decision, hopefully one made using the bible- but again they are your kiddos, you know them best.

My heart is actually to address the importance of discipline in a culture that believes indulging selfishly allows us to lead a fulfilling life.

The past few months I have had a unique opportunity through a part time job to really watch parenting styles. In trying to keep being a stay-at-home-mom but also knowing my children had a weakness in not knowing how to play with other kids- I got a job working at a health club in the nursery where i can bring my girls with me and watch peoples kids while they exercise. The club I work at is a premiere club, so the members pay a high monthly membership and have access to a lot of reeeallly nice stuff. Thus the type of people that come in and out of nursery are varied as far as income, life experience, age, and definitely parenting styles.

It has come to my attention, however, that parents think they are loving their child more by allowing them so many freedoms and not standing firm with any rules. I have seen children that hit and kick and spit and throw so many fits (these are 7 and 8 year old's) and when you tell their parents they are not even surprised or even sorry that their child treated you like that! It honestly amazes me.

Trust me, having three myself, I understand that standing up to your child is not comfortable, convenient, fun or relaxing, however ignoring the problem is only going to make for horrible displays of defiance in public places. Not to say my children haven't done their share of public displays of defiance, but I can assure you if I state " If you scream and throw a fit one more time i will take you to the car " you'd better believe I WILL do it.

My mom always taught me, don't say you'll do something you have no intention of carrying out. Even if you didn't mean to say it, or the punishment is harsh, you have to keep your word and learn from those mistakes because your children have to know you mean business, you train them to respect you and to trust you by keeping your word with discipline.
I appreciate that advice so much now, and I've seen what happens when i don't do what I've said I will.

When we're getting older and dreaming about marriage, having children, we imagine those well behaved beautiful kids that everyone wants to be around and watch. The ones that can sit still in church, don't interrupt, eat their meals, don't lie, hit, or steal and always share. We want the children who clean up their messes, wash their hands, and use manners each time they request something. We want to take peaceful children to the store and have people say "oh my your children are so well behaved!" We want smiling, happy, loving, intelligent children. BUT generally we DON'T understand that EVERY one of those things are TAUGHT. 99.98 percent of children have to be taught those behaviors through consistent discipline. That involves attention and resolve, but it can be done and is not as bad as you'd imagine.
I personally think dealing with a child who is constantly throwing fits and fighting for their own way is much more taxing to deal with then the time it takes to teach a child as young as 8 months how to begin behaving.

A good place to start is thinking about what you're teaching your little ones with behaviors of your own- do you eat all of your food and expect them to as well? Do you use your manners? Do you make sure you're choosing a good attitude even in rough situations? Can you sit still when someone is speaking for a longer period of time? You are your child's role model, if they can't see it in you they definitely won't see the benefit in learning it themselves. When we say one thing and act a different way themselves "because I'm the mom" that seems really untrustworthy and like we cannot follow our own advice and rules, therefore they can be broken but only by someone who holds authority. I think that contributes to kids having issues with authority, they are not taught why the rules are a little different and so they believe it's a "i want this power over you, or I'm better than you" thing and they really defy that. I know parents have good intentions with that, because really as an adult we should be able to make whatever decision we want, but with little prying eyes that question everything we do we just cannot afford to say "because" anymore. They need to understand why. They need to know we can spend the time explaining the differences in our lives and theirs when it really confuses them. When we pass it off and don't actually address it,the question is still there it is just now accompanied by the feeling that we have no time for them, we don't care that it bothers them and we're just going to keep doing it. It does not communicate respect to dismiss your child's inquiries.
My mom also made sure to teach us early on that even as children we deserved to be respected as well, but all too often parents and adults do not respect children, thus leading them to confusion and frustration because they do not hold value any longer when they feel they have something important to add or ask. Somehow we are surprised that they don't already know that "obvious" piece of information so they feel inferior and stupid for wanting the answer.

I know I have written before about the importance of what we speak over our children, it is absolutely vital, but we also need to make sure we're respecting, loving and disciplining them.
Many parents want to avoid telling their child "no" so often, and so they find ways to distract them or put away the object they're tempted to touch, anything to keep from telling them "no," the problem i see with this is the importance of learning how to say no! We HAVE to learn how to say no to others, and that things that belong to other people need to be asked before touched, things that are dangerous especially need to be taught or else children will have no understanding of risk and danger! We cannot spend our parenting indulging what they want by removing the things they cannot have and distracting them with gifts and toys and things we keep buying to pull their attention away. It does not teach them how to make wise decisions and rewards intrusive behavior with gifts.

Guilt. Parents do a lot out of guilt. I have seen more parents give their children anything they want from guilt about a divorce, or daycare or whatever they feel guilty about they then overcompensate by buying the child anything they want. Taking them out to fast food every night, letting a five year old listen to Justin Bieber and watch Twilight, buying them every toy they ever wanted and making sure they bring them to show (not share) other children. I do not think buying your kids stuff is bad, or letting them choose new things to experience, but are any of those healthy habits for your kid? What are they learning? When they are mad, they get what they want, when they know how to make you feel awful, they manipulate you into getting them stuff. Those behaviors are not loving to your child, they are teaching them unhealthy ways of thinking and that they can manipulate a situation to get what they want.

Children are born sinners like the rest of us. You can see at just a few months old, once they are cognitively making choices, they start manipulating situations. I don't mean to say they're little con artists trying to make you do what they want, but they know that when they cry you will come get them. So whenever they want you to come, they cry. They may not need fed, changed, played with, burped or anything, they just know that when they cry you will come. Obviously that is good as well as sometimes frustrating, they learn to count on you and that when they are in need you will be there. They also learn, as they get older, that when you walk away if they want you to come back they can cry. They don't need anything, you just played with them for 30 minutes and you need to make them lunch, but they have learned they can tell you they "need" you to come. So starts teaching them the difference between "need" and "want" and the importance of learning to be independent an entertain oneself. It starts from birth and if we can't be consistently on it from that day on our children will catch up and speed ahead of us and then catching up to them is very difficult!

To become healthy children, the dreamy ones i already talked about, they need consistency and discipline, which teach them their world is safe and they are loved. Kids push boundaries to test and make sure they are still safe, you will still keep them accountable, and they can relax and know you've not forgotten them. A child who tests boundaries only to find they don't have any feels insecure and acts out because they have no idea who will catch them when they make a huge mistake and often no one does, they just clean up the mess and cover it all up. They cannot see any barrier between themselves and floating off into oblivion never to be found again and so they desperately kick and yell and spit and beg that someone let them know they are accountable and loved and required to act as part of a healthy family. A child who is disciplined is loved, a child left to their own devices, given whatever they want feels neglected and often cannot adjust well to new things, feels lost and often acts out in defiance.

Over time I have found that even providing small discipline (sitting in time out for hitting) consistently and doing what I tell them I'll do, these children I've experienced at work have really opened up to me about their life, the things they like, and after months of hating me they have come to be happy when they come in and know they'll be with me two hours. I don't mean to say I'm so great and everyone loves me, moreso that consistency somewhere in their life makes them feel safer and like I care about their life.

Bryce reminds our children often- and I LOVE this- "You only get to choose one thing and that is your attitude" Because a child may not get to pick their own food, their own clothes, their own bed times- but they do get to choose how they will react to those things and that is where the character building comes in, that is where the discipline of not being free to choose everything teaches them life is NOT fair and they'd better choose a good attitude and enjoy the small things they get to choose. As they grow older they get to be responsible for more, but not until they prove they can handle it and that they know how to make wise choices.

I know this was lengthy, if you held with me the whole time- thank you! To all of you soon to be moms, or brand new moms, discipline is a good thing to start thinking about right now. The things around your child, mostly at home, will shape them into the young people they will become. We control what those things around them are- so make sure you project forward what you're teaching your child and what it will look like in five years. If you want well behaved kids, it starts now with your brainstorming how to teach them to be well adjusted young people. We are shepherding hearts, teaching little ones how to become healthy happy adults, it is vital that we think through how we raise them from birth to see that we're on track for their best chance of success!
Much love and blessings to all of you parents, it is HARD work and you will fail and lay in bed counting your own mistakes, but it is the most important job on the planet, the least recognized, but the most influential in a persons life.