We’re a hockey family. And a school yard-style, neighborhood version of the Stanley Cup happens in front of my house on a daily basis. The other day my middle son came storming into the house, whimpering, sniffling, and plopping on the sofa with a huffin’ and puffin’ sound. He was MAD. Someone had done something to him he thought was not right and he was ready to explode.
I used to handle this several different ways…none of them really having any fruitful, meaningful, or lasting effect. Yelling, ignoring, playing judge & jury, overprotecting, or punishing everyone involved were epic fails.
I’ve learned that my reaction will do far more in setting the tone of what will follow than simply trying to get my son to behave in the way I want him to behave. It’s taken many years, but here are a few things I’ve learned:
Learn to ASK questions rather than make STATEMENTS—We parents are really good at “telling” our kids what we want them to do, how we want them to behave, and how we think they should react in conflict situations. But where’s the learning in that method for the child himself? When we ask questions, we are giving our children freedom to think, process, and consider the situation. By allowing them to have some of the control in the situation, we open the opportunity for them to develop self-control. A more important reason is that when we ask questions we are bestowing respect to our children. We are connecting with their hearts. Our engagement with them says, “You have value, you matter, you are unique, and I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.” Above all else, we want them to consider the ramifications of their choices. Think about it: if we never allow our children the freedom to make some choices and then guide them through the consequences of those choices, why should we be shocked or disappointed when they’re older and they turn belligerent, rebellious, or incompetent in correct Biblical thinking?
As far as questions go…
Get in the habit of asking your child, “How does that make you feel?” It’s taken me a long time to discover the power in this question. We make choices based on how we’re feeling . Our feelings and emotions come from what we’re thinking and believing. If I can understand how you’re feeling I have insight into what you’re thinking. Therefore, if you’re believing a lie it will affect your emotions, which will result in unhealthy behavior. Most parents begin with trying to correct or control behavior. This method might work sometimes, but it doesn’t address the heart of the matter. Right living (behavior) is a result of right thinking (beliefs). The Enemy seeks to attack us in our thinking. It is in our mind where the battle rages (Romans 12:2). As parents, our job is to nurture our children in right believing. Notice I said “nurture”, not order, control, manipulate, or punish them into obedience. I should know- I’ve ventured down these paths many times to no avail.
What about you? What’s your M.O.? Have you, like me, had occasions where you’ve gotten what you wanted from your child—obedience–but felt no heart connection? What is gained when we win the individual “battles” but lose the war? Next time your child finds himself in conflict ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight to ask and listen; to focus on how they’re feeling, not necessarily how they’re behaving; and to guide them through the choices and consequences that are available to them. Remember the goal–heart connection!