Have you ever noticed the kids who know how to play their parents? A huge aspect of parenting which is missing in our culture is the idea of follow-through. How many times do you have to tell you kids to stop misbehaving? Do they listen, or do they *pretend* that they don’t hear you?
I was asked the other day what to do in a parenting situation when a child was only *slightly* misbehaving (which was a dramatic improvement from the norm). The parent asked, ‘Do I push the issue that they are still misbehaving, or do I just let them be since this is better than normal?… What do you think?
How would you answer?
I told them to praise the heck out of their child, and then, encouragingly say, ‘Hey, do you know what would make this even better…?’ And then gently tweak the areas where they are still struggling.
With situations like this you have to look at the heart and intent of your child. Is your child intentionally trying to behave and act within any sort of boundaries, or are they testing you to see what they can get away with? If your child is exhibiting any form of self control, and it’s not their *norm*, praise them like crazy – they need to know that you saw them try – and then softly and lovingly clarify their boundaries. If you hammer down on them and just show them where they are wrong, then you haven’t parented them—you just tried to modify their behavior in that given situation, and more than likely discouraged and possibly embarrassed them.
If you just ‘let them be’ (since maybe it is better than their *norm*), then you haven’t parented them either—you’ve tolerated them, and at best confused them on what is ‘appropriate’. The best thing to do is to always clarify what is expected and what is acceptable; that way their hearts can be revealed – are they being defiant, or have they genuinely forgotten the boundaries?
If your child is testing you, then realize, they aren’t just testing you for now- they are testing you for later. Often, your child will risk getting disciplined now, to see where YOUR lines are and how much you will let them get away with in the future. Don’t let exhaustion and frustration distract you from the most important job you’ve ever had.
And, one last final thought as we get ready for the weekend. Follow through isn’t just important on correcting your child; but it is a MUST at random times when you catch your kid behaving appropriately. My wife and I consistently stop our kids and say, ‘Wait a minute!! You DID it! That’s what I was talking about! You’re doing the right thing! Way to go!’
Follow through when correcting your kids is SO important, but so is following through on the praise when they have actually learned something and they ARE obeying.
This weekend intentionally watch your kids and praise them for doing the right thing…
photo credit Thomas Hawk