Last Tuesday, we learned there was only one Jesus and our kids aren’t Him. Every single one of our kids is going to grow up to sin, just like us. We won’t stop that. We need to quit making the attempt because it only puts undue pressure on us and our kids. Don’t read that to say we should quit trying to influence our kids for good. I’m simply saying we should quit trying to train our kids to be perfect and instead lay a foundation with them to know what to do when they are not.
I’d like to share 8 keys I believe will help you lay that foundation. By the way, these aren’t the 8 things we do in our home and wish you would do. These are things I’m trying to work on so I can be better in my home. I hope they help you. I’ll give the first four today and next Tuesday we’ll finish up with the others.
1. Be emotionally, spiritually, mentally healthy yourself.
If you’ve got emotional, mental, or spiritual imbalance, you’ll pass that on to your kids. If I’m compulsive about what others think, I’m going to inappropriately discipline my children when I think they make others look down on me. If I’ve filled with pride, I’m going to incorrectly discipline my children when they make me look bad. If I have codependency issues, I won’t discipline my kids properly when they need, fearing that they’ll abandon me. Of course, then when they push me over the edge, I’ll go over the top and they might just abandon me.
Before I even try to discipline my children, I need to be working on cleaning up my side of the street, working on my issues.
2. Don’t discipline your children out of embarrassment.
I’ve heard people say repeatedly you should never discipline your children when you’re angry. I’m not sure I agree. I think when children rebel, it should cause a healthy anger. I don’t think you have to wait until you are no longer angry to provide an appropriate discipline. I think it is possible if you have a healthy anger to still discipline them appropriately. Surely, if your anger has you out of control, wait until you can see clearly to administer discipline.
However, you should never discipline because you are embarrassed. We need to remember that discipline is intended to help our children grow to maturity. It is not a chance for us to vent our embarrassment. Like that time when Ryan was 4 or 5 and saw a man who had some deformity. He said, loudly, “Mom, that man has a hole in his head.” An embarrassed parent might yank the child up from by his arm, take him to the car, and whip him and he never even know what he’s being disciplined for. Granted, in that situation we all know he didn’t do anything wrong. He was just curious and curiosity is not wrong.
Even when the child does do something wrong, more often than not overboard discipline comes from embarrassment. After all, we want everyone to think we are the best parents ever. They’ll only think that if our kids never, ever do anything wrong. Therefore, our discipline is often from a point of embarrassment and not from a point of helping them learn and grow. Junior says a cuss word and we are suddenly worried the whole world thinks we are rotten parents. We give them a spanking that they’ll never forget. Or perhaps little 8-year-old Suzy wet her pants in front of some other parents. Or maybe little Bobby back talks a teacher.
Before you discipline ask yourself, “Am I doing this because I’m embarrassed? Or am I doing this because this is what will help my child grow?”
3. Share your own mistakes with your children.
We are so afraid to let our kids know we were anything less than perfect. We fear if we let them know all the wrong things we did it will be giving them tacit permission to do them too. That really isn’t the case. Oh, I’m sure some children will pull that defensive maneuver when they are trying to get out of some discipline. However, the benefits far outweigh that little difficulty.
The benefits are when your children know you weren’t perfect, they are much more likely to talk to you when they’ve messed up. If they think you were perfect, they’ll think you can’t possibly understand why they made a mistake. They won’t come to you for help. They won’t come to you for forgiveness. Instead, they’ll turn to others. They’ll turn to peers. Be assured, they are not likely to get great advice for overcoming mistakes from their peers.
Not to mention, when your children think you are perfect, that just increased their toxic shame all the more. When they know you messed up, they’ll be able to see that mistakes are normal and can be overcome. They can grow up to be a decent person even though they committed some sin. They can go to heaven even though they screwed up royally.
I don’t know how many times I’ve spent 10 or 15 minutes letting my kids have it for something they did or didn’t do or some way they have acted only to remember at the close of it that I did the exact same thing as a child. I don’t know how many lectures I’ve given my son about being lazy. When I’m done, I remember, “Oh yeah, I got those same lectures. They didn’t help me very much. Wonder why I think they’ll help him.” The whole thing would probably be better if I let him know I understand how he feels, share with him the consequences, and then work with him to come up with an action plan to overcome.
4. Say you’re sorry and seek forgiveness when you’ve wronged your kids.
Tied in with sharing your mistakes with your kids is telling your children you’re sorry when your mistake was against them. Ask them to forgive you. Yes, you heard me. When you’ve wronged your children you need to ask their forgiveness.
Why? First, because you need their forgiveness. Second, because a rift has come in the relationship and they need to go through the process of forgiving you so that rift can heal. Third, because your children need to see you set the example about how to act when you’ve made a mistake or committed a sin. When they see this example, they learn that they can come to you in just the same way, saying they are sorry, and seeking forgiveness. Further, they’ll learn they can do that with God.
Here’s the heart of the matter, you think you can hide your wrong from your children, but you can’t. Your children will see you at your worst and they are smart enough to know when you’ve done wrong. If you carry on a pretense like you haven’t done wrong, they’ll only see hypocrisy. The usual response is not for kids to grow up and decide not to be hypocrites by always sharing their wrongs and overcoming them. No, usually their response is not to be a hypocrite by just not caring about what is right or wrong.
The best way to overcome this is to display what being a growing person is really all about. It is not about being perfect. It is about recognizing and repenting of our sins.
If you work on these four keys, you are well on your way to laying a foundation to prepare your children for how to deal with their own mistakes and sins. Trust me, that will be way better than leaving them shamed and broken because they realize they aren’t perfect.
Make sure you come back next week for four more keys to preparing your children to deal with their mistakes and sins.