OOOPS! Two weeks ago I started a two part article on laying a foundation so our kids will know what to do when they messed up and totally forgot to post part 2 last Tuesday for the Springboard for Your Family. Sorry about that. I hope all of you who showed up last Tuesday for this second part will forgive me and accept today’s posting in penance.
4 More Keys to Lay a Foundation So Your Kids Will Know What To Do When They Mess Up
We’ve already learned that we aren’t going to raise the next Jesus. Our kids will not be perfect. If we keep training them in perfection, we are only going to increase their toxic shame when they come face to face with how imperfect they are. Instead, we need to lay a foundation for what to do when they realize how imperfect they are.
In the last installment of this series, we learned…
- Be emotionally, mentally, spiritually healthy yourself.
- Don’t discipline out of embarrassment.
- Share your own mistakes with your kids.
- Say you’re sorry and seek forgiveness when your mistakes were with your kids.
Here are 4 more keys.
5. Don’t lecture and browbeat.
I’m writing this point for me more than for you. This is my discipline method of choice when I’m just running in natural mode. My kids do something wrong and out comes the lecturer. I don’t know how many times Marita has had to say, “You just don’t know how you sound when you talk like that.”
This form of discipline says I’m going to harshly talk my way into your heart and browbeat you into submission on everything I say about this. It will brook no disagreements. It will allow no responses. It will simply keep hammering away at you until you are whimpering out a “Yes Sir.”
I’m certainly convinced that when I get into that mode, my point is correct. The problem is I’ve never gotten anyone to agree with me when I take that approach, especially not my children. Rather, what I do with each harsh statement, with each shaming name, with each verbal barrage is teach my kids to take their medicine and get to the “Yes Sir” so they can escape. They haven’t learned anything. They haven’t agreed. They haven’t change. I’ve simply vented my spleen on them, made them feel small, and sent them on their way.
There is certainly time for talking. But lecturing and browbeating doesn’t work very often. It may produce a momentary submission, but it doesn’t help the child know how to really deal with sin.
6. Let them know God can overcome sin when they can’t.
I remember one time with Tessa that I so wish I could take back. She was in trouble for mistreating her brother and she said, “I try, Dad, I really do. I just can’t seem to help myself.” Back then, in my spiritual immaturity, I said, “You can do it. You just don’t really want to. You need to try harder.” The problem was at the time I was telling myself that exact same thing about the sins I was trying to overcome and it wasn’t working for me. Why would I expect it to work for her? Sadly, this is the approach Christians take all too often with everything.
Since then I’ve learned that I can’t overcome my sins on my own (cf. Romans 7:14-25). But God can. If I’ll just turn my life over to Him completely, Jesus Christ will conquer my sins through me. That is the message I needed to convey and am now trying to convey to my kids. Tessa is absolutely right. She can’t overcome the sin that she has honed to a “nature of wrath.” But God can. God has promised to free her from that sin if she’ll simply turn her life over to Him every day.
Don’t simply tell your kids to try harder. Don’t simply tell them to choose better. Tell them to turn to God to overcome. Let them know God’s plan for forgiveness and victory over sin.
7. When they actually talk, let them do so without fear of reprisal.
I certainly struggle with this. I do believe that even when people admit what they did was wrong, sometimes there still needs to be disciplinary measures taken.
However, at the same time, our kids need to know they can come let us know what they did when they sinned. Trust me, if our kids think the only response they’ll get when they admit their sin to us is a lecture and a spanking, they are not likely to let us know what they did-even if they are scared, penitent, remorseful. They’ll either internalize it or they’ll go to their peers. As we said in part 1, they won’t get good help from their peers.
Our children need to know that we know they’ll make mistakes and when they come to us with penitence, we’ll forgive them and help them overcome.
Allow me to share one approach that has worked for us on occasion. When one of our children penitently admits to doing something wrong, we thank them for their honesty. Then we talk through why they sinned. We talk about the natural consequences of the sin. If this was a violation of a rule for which we believe discipline is necessary we then talk with them about what they think is a fair discipline considering what they did and where they are mentally and emotionally with the sin. I’ve been amazed how maturely our children handle the discipline even in these situations.
8. Always reaffirm your love for your children.
I don’t care what your children did or what kind of disciplinary measures you have had to take. Always reaffirm your love for your child. This is not a codependent spluttering apology because you are afraid your child won’t love you because of the discipline. If that is what you are doing, refer back to point one in the first article.
Your children need to know you love them. They don’t just need to hear that when they’ve done good things. They need to hear that all the time. They need to know you are proud of them all the time. They need to know you are glad they are in the family all the time.
When they say things that have shocked you, let them know you love them. When they have embarrassed you, let them know you love them. When they mess up big, let them know you love them. When they are behaving properly, let them know you love them.
Do not do this in an aren’t-you-lucky-I’m-so-loving way. Just let them know that you love them.
I certainly don’t think there is a fail-proof way to parent. All too often I get caught up in my own crazy making of wondering how my kids are going to turn out. Some days I think they’ll be wonderful. Other days I think I’m ruining them. However, I’m convinced they won’t be perfect. When they aren’t, they need to know they can come to me and find the help and support they need to overcome.