I want to start with the word "model". Modeling is the strongest form of teaching we can do as parents. We can tell our kids all day long, "Quit rolling your eyes at me, or I'll pop them right out of the socket", but as long as we are rolling our eyes at the waiter who brought our food out a little cold or the driver who started creeping in our lane... those little eye rolls will continue to keep rolling right under our skin.
I want my kids to learn from respectful parents. Parents who teach through the love we have for them and not through fear. I want our kids to learn how to love themselves and the world around them. To know how to handle consequences and life when it gets a little shaky (because we all know this life is a gigantic ball of drama).
It all starts with our attitudes towards them and those around us.
Cussing at the crazy driver beside us... does nothing but teach our kids to disrespect those who make mistakes. Screaming at our husbands for leaving his dirty boxers on the floor for the 100th time does nothing but teach our kids this is how you handle a situation when someone does not do what you say.
Our attitude towards our children need to be focused on how we can help them and not how we can change them. The infamous line we CANNOT change anyone but ourselves comes into play. All we can do is teach by example.
As a mother, I have made more mistakes than I can even start to count. Recognizing those mistakes and learning from them is what keeps me going.
1. Love yourself for your kids.
The first step to teaching our kids through modeling is to love ourselves which leads us to loving others. We all have our own struggles with self confidence, but for our children we have to learn to focus on the best in ourselves.
When we feel insecure, we tend to release that insecurity by pointing out another's faults or just being negative in general (when you don't like yourself, it is hard to like others). Our children will see right through us. Not only will they begin to view us in this ugly light (insecurity and jealousy are like cancer to the bones), but we are teaching them to look down on others due to their own insecurities. For example.. let's say we go to Outback to order the juiciest steak known to man, and we receive a small midget steak (that pretty much taste like they rubbed the steak right between their booty crack). We quickly snap at the waiter (even though they obviously were not the one who cooked it), and demand to talk to the manager because we are now determined to receive a free gift card from someone else's innocent mistake.
What does that teach your child who is clearly soaking it all up? It is teaching him to look down on others when they make a mistake instead of looking at the positive of the situation and taking life as it is. Instead we can say, "I bet they are having a rough and busy day. A little A1 (because A1 is the bomb) will fix it up." Come on... we all know the phrase "when life hands you lemons, make the best dang lemonade possible!"
Why this is important: The most important trait we can have is LOVE. Love will impact how we feel about ourselves, others, and our attitude towards situations. Do we want to raise a Charlie Brown or Winnie the Pooh? Life is going to happen..... we have to teach them to love themselves which will teach them to love others... which leads to taking situations in a positive light. Simple as that.
Mark 12:31- The second is this "Love your neighbor as yourself". There is no commandment greater than these.
2. Stop trying to change your child instead focus on the positive
I want to stop trying to control my children, but instead work on controlling my own behavior. If we go through parenthood with the mindset that we can control our kid's thoughts and behaviors, well we will end up being disappointed over and over (which leads to us feeling negative towards our children). We need to focus on modeling the behavior we want our kids to have. Talking to our children in a calmly fashion when talking to them and helping them make right decisions. Teaching our kids to act appropriately starts with focusing on the positive in them. If we consistently focus on the negative, we will get NO WHERE. I think about myself when I say, "I am going to stop drinking those energy drinks next week." Well what ends up happening? 75% of the time I end up drinking those same energy drinks (the ones that have 49 g of sugar... yes more than a 4 stick kit kat). This happens ever year when I create my New Year's resolution list of the "I will NOT do anymore." Instead I need to focus on the goal and the positive end result. Same thing works with kids. The more attention we give to the negative... the more negative behaviors we will receive.
Why this is important: I have been the mom who has tried to change my kid's behavior over and over.... it is exhausting and frustrating when the end result doesn't turn out in your favor. My son would cry and whine A LOT when something wasn't going his way. Sometimes I had NO CLUE what it even was. I did everything I knew to do to make him stop whining. It NEVER worked. Finally I realized, I needed to let him know it is okay that he is feeling that way instead of getting frustrated with him. Getting frustrated gives him the impression that he is wrong for being upset. I would tell him something like this, "Brooks... it seems like you are upset that the puzzle won't fit together the right way. Mom will help you. It is easier to show mom when you are upset." This shows him that he is not wrong for having those feelings, but there is a better way to handle it. Sometimes when kids hear the phrase "don't __________" they only hear what is in the blank. For instance, if I tell my daughter... do not get those rocks out of the fireplace. What does she do? She gets the rocks. Instead I can change my whole phrase to "I see those rocks. Wow... look at these blocks. You want to build with me?"
Romans 15:7- Accept one another, just as Christ has accepted you.
3. Choose to discipline with love instead of fear.
I have always heard that scaring your children into behaving is the right approach (I mean them being scared of you is the only way they will mind right?). I have to disagree. I think it is respect versus fear. It all goes back to modeling. Scaring our kids come in different forms such as physical or emotional. If we literally beat (not spank) our kids for all the minor and big mistakes, how do you think they will use that in the real world? They may (not saying always) end up being the kid who is expelled from school every year from fighting the innocent nerd in the hallway for running into him accidentally. It really breaks my heart when I have to correct a child at school, and they would flinch because they are used to getting hit.
Emotional fear can also have a strong impact on our children. Screaming at our children (giving the crazy eyes with it) can not only make them accustom to that environment to a point they won't even notice it anymore, but it can create a feeling of worthlessness. For instance, screaming "YOU STILL DIDN'T PICK UP YOUR STANKY CLOTHES?? WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY? YOU LAZY KID!!" Hmmm... is it just me or does that kinda make you cringe? Talk about a kid who wants to climb in his shell.
Why is this important: If we teach our kids to react to life by screaming or physically scaring others, then we may be setting them up to fail. We definitely want to discipline our children, but there is a right way to do this... I am a strong believer in disciplining our kids in a loving way. One of my rules is to NEVER punish my kids when I am angry. If I am worked up, I will say or do something I know I will regret.
James 1:19- You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
4. Maintain a calm and peaceful demeanor.
I want my kids to view me as a peaceful woman of God. A mom who never loses her temper and is slow to anger. In order for that to happen, I have to maintain a peace of mind. Figuring out it is all about my attitude has really helped with this. Even though it takes me reminding myself constantly, I have figured out that my mind controls my feelings. If I tell myself, "Ew they are driving me crazy!".... well guess what... they will probably drive me crazy. Reminding myself that I am okay... breathing deeply... and accepting it as a learning tool.... helps me maintain peace.
Why is this important: We want our kids to learn to be calm in society. (Warning... an exaggerated example here)I don't think there is a parent in the world who dreams of their kid being on the news for throwing cans of corn at the cashier when he finds out it is .50 more than the price tag? Heck naw! We want them to be able to calm themselves. To take life as it is handed to them.
Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
5. Own our mistakes and accept them as a learning tool.
Kids enter this chaotic world with no manual, so it is our job to teach them right from wrong and accept their behavior as a learning opportunity. First we have to own up to our own mistakes as parents to show our kids it is okay that we make mistakes. This can be hard for some. We have to humble ourselves in order to teach our children how to be humble. We will make mistakes as parents, and it takes a stronger parent to apologize to our children for those mistakes. When we do make those mistakes, we can use them to learn and grow. Sharing those growths with our kids can make a lifelong impact on our children. We also need to take their mistakes as learning opportunities for us as parents to teach them right from wrong. Especially at the earlier years. Instead of letting ourselves get worked up over the permanent marker that made it's way on our white walls (very hard not to want to cry about that), we need to take that moment as an opportunity to show them where it is appropriate to draw. Even though we tell our kids, sometimes it takes us showing them.
Why is this important: Our kids need to know they will make mistakes as long as they are living, and it is okay. It will not be the end of the world. Kids who cannot accept their mistakes as a learning tool end up being the kids in the corner who lets their whole day crumble from one mishap. Teaching them this will help them get up and try again when they fail. It will help them with their confidence and outlook on life.
Proverbs 24:16 For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.