I waltzed into parenting with a lot of confidence.
With years of childcare under my belt, I was fairly certain that I knew what I was doing. Because I had worked with children for so many years, I had a lot of ideals about what my kids would and wouldn’t do:
* My kids would not whine
* My kids would not be picky eaters
* My kids would be obedient
* My kids would not be sassy
Just to name a few. Oh yes, there were more. Many, many more.
And while the first day home from the hospital with my first born shook that confidence a little, I continued to attack parenting with zeal.
Disobedience and sass were met with instant discipline, because I was determined to nip them in the bud.
And while my oldest is naturally more compliant, I do believe that my approach with him laid a foundation for the wonderful boy he has become.
Most times a directive by me is met with, “Okay mama”.
And my heart smiles.
But along came our second-born. Otherwise known as our “Son of Thunder”.
He is the hurricane to our firstborn’s compliance.
I was exhausted for most of my pregnancy with him and much of my parenting approach in those early months could be summed up as “survival techniques”.
And that wasn’t necessarily wrong.
The problem arose when my survival techniques continued on through the first year, and the second year. They couldn’t legitimately be termed as “survival” any longer.
No, they were now a habit. A bad habit.
It had never really sunk in that my parenting style had regressed into severe passivity until I read this article by Christin Slade. I was suddenly keenly aware of how I’d become that parent.
You know, the one I used to shake my head at in daycare.
The one who could out-whine their 2-year old child. “Tommy, pleeeeaaaase put on your coat! We’ll be late to the doctor!” (like a 2-year old actually cares about the doctor….or knows what it means to be late).
The one who threatens their child multiple times in a row. “Tommy, I told you stop jumping on the bed. Stop it now or you’ll have to sit in time out. I mean it. I really mean it this time. Once more and you’ll go to your room. Stop it NOW! Okay, if I have to warn you again….”
The one who gives a directive, then shrugs and walks away when it is completely ignored.
I was guilty of all of these and more as obedience suddenly became optional.
What I had failed to realize was that while “survivor mode” may have been a legitimate choice when my second born was an infant, now that he was a stubborn, self-willed toddler it was putting a lot of stress on our home.
The lack of obedience, the shouting, the multiple threats – it was all causing a lot of turmoil and frustration with my husband and me, which in turn affected how we reacted to our children.
There are three things I have begun to do to combat my passive parenting
1. I give my children 3 chances. Because my children are still fairly young, they still need training in how to obey. I will give the directive the first time. The second time they get a warning. The third time they are reminded that after #3 their disobedience will be met with appropriate discipline.
2. I stay consistent. Overall, this was my biggest problem. It seemed easier to just let it go, but in the words of an old gospel song from the early 80’s “taking the easy way isn’t an easy way”. It is much harder to remain consistent now that my children don’t expect me to be consistent.
The thing is that they are now learning that when mama says to do something, she really does mean it. And because they didn’t get away with it this time, they wont get away with it next time either.
Along with this consistency is teaching them what God’s Word says about their behavior.
3. I reward good behavior. This is a new part of the system we are starting today. I recently wrote an article about “screen bucks” at The Multi-Taskin’ Mom. I’ll be using screen bucks with my oldest as a reward for first-time obedience, sharing, and chores. With my youngest I’ll do a sticker chart.
I think it is important to teach children that obedience and good behavior is rewarded. Even the Bible teaches this. Obedience and respecting our parents is rewarded with long life.
One thing I am often reminded of by Courtney at Women Living Well is
Parenting isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
We have to be in this for the long-haul and not check out partway through.
We have to train their spirits, not just their behavior – whether by focusing too much on proper behavioral results or by our passivity.
We are our children’s first picture of God. How they relate to us as parents is how they will relate to God as they mature; so if we somehow convey to them that obedience to us is optional, disrespect is tolerated, and consistency is non-existent, they will approach their relationship with God from that same standpoint.
It is in these early and formative years that we must lay in them a foundation on which they can build a healthy and durable relationship with God.