Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Don’t Sabotage your own Discipline

Do you realize that you may be sabotaging your own discipline of your children? Many parents do not even realize that the way in which they handle the rules of the house, has a direct impact on the effectiveness of their parenting.

Passionate Legacy Principle #4: Make the rules of the house clear and consistent. Have only a few rules, and make sure they are clear to everyone and enforced without fail. They should be written, posted, and reviewed often. Choose your “hills to die on” and stick with them. Don’t make rules just for your convenience, every rule should have a strong basis for its existence, whether safety, morality, or respect for others.

Ephesians 6:4 says not to exasperate your children. Colossians 3:21 says to not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

There are several ways we exasperate our children and sabotage our own discipline.

Unclarity
One way that we can exasperate our children is by not having clear rules and guidelines. Parents need to make sure that their children know what specific guidelines they are expected to live by. They should be written, posted, and reviewed often. Children are exasperated if a rule was never communicated but they are punished for breaking it. Children also need to be aware of what consequences will follow if they do not follow these rules. If you communicate ahead of time, then they are not surprised by the consequence and will be more likely to understand that justice is being done. They ‘earned’ the consequence by choosing not to follow the rule. Being obedient is an impossible task if they are unsure of what the rules are. Children will not determine in their heart to follow the guidelines unless clear guidelines have been communicated.

Inconsistency
Billy is standing on the coffee table while his mom talks on the phone 10 feet away. Fifteen minutes later, mom hangs up the phone and says, “Billy, get off that coffee table!” Billy has now learned that standing on the coffee table is okay as long as mom is busy talking.

It can be exasperating to children when parents allow them to break the rules sometimes, but not other times. We must enforce all rules consistently. This is important because if sometimes they are punished for breaking a rule and other times it is overlooked, they will not take the rule, or the rule-giver, seriously. It will seem to them as not actually wrong if their parents only see it as wrong part of the time. They will be exasperated that the parents knew about it and overlooked it the other times but now they are being punished. This will be seen as fair - and it is! If they feel they are being mistreated they will become embittered.

Joking is another means of inconsistency. Authority is not a game. Never joke in your use of authority. It sends a confusing message. It makes it hard to trust and respect your words. Make your word valuable by meaning what you say and saying what you mean, if you don’t, your word means nothing and your rules are powerless. Your consistency will make your words either garbage or gold. Children will eventually learn to overlook your instructions if you earn a reputation of not really meaning what you say, joking about being angry, or joking about abusing your authority. It makes your authority into a mockery and you will lose the trust of your children.

Too many rules
Too many rules can also be exasperating. If your child is failing in 17 different areas he will have no motivation to change because it is too overwhelming. Focus on only a few problem areas and carefully consider if you should really make rules about small things such as: turning off the lights, clothes in laundry, etc. Focus on the biggest issues in your child’s life such as lying, stealing, not doing homework, etc. Wait until he is doing well in the big areas before you focus on the small issues.

Arbitrary, selfish, or “because I said so” rules
Arbitrary rules can embitter children. Demanding that they serve you just because they are smaller will embitter them toward your authority. I have seen parents who are watching TV, tell a child, “Go get me a pop from the fridge, now!” This was not asking politely for a favor, but a harsh demand. This parent is teaching his kids that authority figures use (abuse) their power for personal, selfish interests. Making rules only for your convenience rather than morality or safety will also embitter them. If you cannot think of a good, meaningful reason for a rule or a request, perhaps you should reconsider it.

Jesus made our rules pretty simple, “Love God with everything you are, and love others as yourself.” We should take a page from His playbook with it comes to keeping things simple for our kids.