My 7 year old niece was a bundle of energy the other night. She would not settle down to bed. My husband asked her if she wanted to settle down, or if she needed something to do. She ignored him and continued her rambunctious actions. He calmly requested she accompany him into the other room where she would be given something to do. Somewhat confused at the request, she followed, unsure of what awaited her. He picked up a broom and dust pan and handed it to her as she pensively looked up at him. At his request, she began to sweep the kitchen. He checked on her in about five minutes and asked her if she was tired now or if she needed something else to do. She was tired now.
Danny Silk’s book Loving Your Kids on Purpose provided the illustration of how to lead children without resorting to threats and punishment. He teaches how to avoid the “I’m bigger than you, so you have to listen to me and do what I say.” My husband and I have borrowed from the instruction we learned in this book on multiple occasions with our nieces and nephews. The difference is astounding. It really works.
The two biggest principles illustrated by Silk are to give children safe choices rather than telling them what to do. Secondly, he advocates allowing the consequences to be received by children rather than punishment. For example, his daughter leaves her lunch at home that she was given the responsibility to pack and take to school. She calls her mom. Guess what? Mom is going to allow the consequences to fall upon the child. She will not drive the lunch to school. The child now has to learn how to procure for herself a lunch by either speaking to the office about loaning her money for her lunch, or sharing lunch with a friend. She chooses the latter. Moreover, she never forgets her lunch at home again.
She never had to face an angry parent who was displeased with her. She never had to be grounded. She simply endured the consequence of her action.
Adults primarily live in a world of consequences rather than punishments. If we fail to pay our electric bill, the electric company will simply turn off the power. If we fail to show up for work, we will lose our job, not as a punishment, but as a consequence.
Children are fast learners and they are very smart. Allowing the consequence to befall them will enable them to learn early in life that each action has either a positive or negative result. If they are sheltered from the consequence they will not learn to develop maturely in that area. If they are met with disdain and punishment they will only fight harder to do the thing which is forbidden. Such is the rebellious human nature.
If however, they are met with unrestrained permissiveness where all behavior is permitted unchecked and without consequence, they will become unruly undisciplined adults. Consequence is good and helpful in maturing a child into a responsible adult fully capable of managing their own freedom, hence adept at self-governing. Such an adult will not encounter the consequence of the law of the land, for he has learned to govern himself without need of anyone parenting him any longer.
There is a proper place for punishment, but it is typically reserved for out right rebellion rather than child like behavior. Rebellion is not something that is good for the child and proper punishment fitting to the level of rebellion should be delivered out of love for the child struggling with this in his heart.
The job of the parent is to prepare the child to live in freedom thereby being one who does the right thing when no one is looking. Moreover, the parent is to cultivate this into their child’s very being rather than just their external behavior by protecting their child’s heart. They do this by having their child’s trust and respect, for a child who honors and respects his mother and father will enjoy a long and prosperous life. This attitude of the child speaks both to the parents’ and the child’s character and heart nature.
The atmosphere the parents cultivate for the children will be reproduced in their lives. If the parent cultivates an atmosphere of royalty where each child is a Prince or Princess in training to be a King or Queen they will grow up to be thus. However, if an atmosphere is created where the children are managed as inferior members of the household and are seen as more trouble and hard work then that will be the reality that defines their identity.
The parents set the tone for what kind of atmosphere will be reproduced for many generations onward. Many times, parents have their own atmospheres that need adjusting before they can extend a healthy atmosphere around their children. In order to make this adjustment they need to take time to get their own hearts and perspectives in line with what is true first.
Children are treasures from heaven. If you cannot look at them and have hope and joy for who they are and who they are growing up to be, something needs adjusting and that something starts with the parents and then is reproduced by them into the children. Today is a new day to start fresh with a true perspective and right heart.