The Compliant Sibling

Kit's iphone 001 (5)I love gleaning from older, married couples who have adult children who still respect their parents. Occasionally, I’ll have the privilege of meeting a family where an obvious significant investment has been made, and Grandma & Grandpa are being paid the dividends of children and grandchildren who just adore being around them.

Today, I was making mental notes as this particular older and wiser man offered nuggets of wisdom: Don’t give the extra work to the more compliant child just because their sibling is harder to work with.

We’ve all noticed that our children have uniquely different personalities, and could probably identify right now which child is the more compliant one. He’s the one who just does it. He wants to please you, doesn’t feel the need to argue, and does the job the way we like it to be done. Then there’s the hard-to-put-a-saddle-on-child who has a tendency to complain and argue about the job that you know could easily be knocked out in five minutes by the compliant one.

Don’t give the headstrong child’s chores to the compliant child because it’s less of a fight.

If you run the easy route, and have the compliant child do his sibling’s chore because I just want it to get done! then you will be doing both personalities a disservice. The headstrong child will figure out, If I push back hard enough or perform poorly, I won’t have to do it. Their laziness will be rewarded, and they’ll grow up learning that “someone else will do it.” The compliant child will unintentionally be punished for being a better worker. He may grow frustrated or embittered for having to carry the weight for the majority of the work.

Instead, put your gloves on and zone in on your headstrong child. Discipline, teach, train, set an example, develop a warmer relationship; do whatever needs to be done to instill a better work ethic and a willingness to help out. Both personalities will be blessed by your effort to maintain fairness in the home.

Do all things without complaining and disputing…   Philippians 2:14

Selfish Children

076Other people’s selfish children can be annoying. But when it’s your own child being selfish, it can be downright disheartening. It’s embarrassing to see your child shamelessly display incredible self-centeredness in public.

I believe the best way to teach your children generosity is by example. Jesus is the ultimate example of generosity, and if you are not following His example, probably your children aren’t either. Do your children hear you calling them, “Hey guys, come here! I have a treat to share with you!” Or are they used to, “No! Get away from that! That’s mine, don’t touch it!” Does your home teach your children the joy of generosity, or the burdensome task carefully guarding your stuff for yourself?

Secondly, children need to have the freedom to be selfish if they are to learn genuine generosity. If they are being forced to share their stuff with others, then they are not really learning to do so. They will likely spring back to selfishness as soon as the authority figure leaves the room. They need to know their stuff is theirs. Theirs to keep. Theirs to give.  

When selfish hearts get vocal at our house, the envied toy automatically goes to the person to whom it belongs. The other child may then politely ask for permission to play with it. The owner of the toy gets to make the ultimate decision whether to share or not, but they are strongly encouraged to do so. Here are some questions I often ask to get them thinking about generosity:

  • “Do you like it when I share my ice cream [or other item you’ve recently shared] with you?” (Of course the answer is, “Yes.”) “Then you should also share your stuff with your brother.”
  • “I think it would really bless your brother if you let him play with it. Would you like to bless him by letting him play with it for a little while?”
  • “You can say ‘no’ if you want to, but that’s called ‘selfishness.’ It’s wrong to be selfish, and it makes Jesus sad when we’re selfish. Would you rather share like Jesus shares?”
  • “Jesus is very kind to us, isn’t He? He always shares His stuff with us, and He says that we should be like Him and share our stuff with others.”

When children are given the freedom to share and the freedom to be selfish, they will better own their decision. As you point to Jesus’ example of generosity and imitate it yourself, you will likely see your children follow in your footsteps.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us… Ephesians 5:2

Stop Repeating Yourself A Gazillion Times

20130421-233827.jpgWe’re usually blowing a head gasket before we realize we’ve been repeating ourselves for the last hour. It creeps up on you. You may be giving out a task to your children as you go about your business, but you don’t realize it hasn’t been completed until you pass by your child- still idle. You remind your child of the task again… and again, only to find out it’s still not accomplished. Eventually, your blood pressure rises and you find yourself asking, “WHY ARE THERE STILL TOYS ON THE FLOOR!?!”

1. Make sure your voice isn’t background noise. Put your hand on their shoulder, squat down, and look them in the eye. Once they are looking back at you, then give them direction.

2. Go for the awkward silence. After making eye contact and giving them their chore, keep looking at them and wait for them to start. They will realize that you are waiting for them to get on it, and begin to move.

3. “Yes Sir/Ma’am” Chart. I got this idea from the Duggars. That fantastic family of 19 well-behaved children. Each child gets a blank chart, and every time they respond with a “Yes, Ma’am!” or “Yes, Sir!” they get to mark an “X.” If they fill up all their boxes, they get to choose a prize out of our “prize bucket” (which I fill with dollar store treasures). This has two great effects. First, it teaches your child that beautiful phrase, “Yes, Ma’am/Sir,” and secondly, it encourages cheerful obedience.

4. Check their work. Create a habit of following up on their work. The more often you check to see if they did it right (or at all), the more often they will follow through correctly.

5. Mean what you say. Let’s admit it. We say a lot of things that we don’t really mean. Ask yourself, do you really care if they follow through or not? If it’s not that big of a deal that they pick their blanket up off the floor, communicate it that way. “I don’t really like looking at your blanket, would you mind putting it away?” But if it’s essential, choose your words differently. Use your “Please go do this now” tone sparingly. If your serious tone is overused, then it won’t be taken seriously.

6. Enforce. Name a consequence that will be given if the chore is disobeyed or ignored. Maybe a spanking, or a removal of privileges. If they don’t complete the task in the allotted amount of time, follow through with the consequence. (But remember, don’t threaten if you don’t intend to follow through!)

7. Praise generously. Nothing will motivate them to want to work hard for you like making a big deal out of their obedience. Hoop and holler, give out hugs, kisses, high fives, and loud “Well Done’s!” They will learn to take pride in their work if you are proud of their work.

You’re The Gardener

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“As soon as my husband came home, I’m like, I’m outta here! Have fun with the kids!”

This is something I once heard a mom jokingly say. In fact, I regularly see moms demonstrate irritation with having to deal with their kids. We laugh about how annoying our kids are, how we can’t wait to get away from them, and compare their absence to something like Heaven.

Truly, parenting can be tough, and it’s sometimes tempting to pity ourselves for having to deal with unruly children. But in reality, your children are the garden, and you’re the gardener. If weeds are growing wild in your garden, making it unattractive to spend any time there… You’re the gardener. If animals are coming through, stealing all the fruit you’ve worked hard to grow… You’re the gardener. If your plants are bearing fruit that you weren’t expecting… You’re the gardener.

As parents, we need to take responsibility for our children’s behavior. 95% of the time, their behavior reflects our parenting.

Don’t try to be the parent who is constantly trying to escape her responsibility to tend her garden, secretly (or not so secretly) hoping that someone else will come over to weed. If your child is a “problem child,” then get to the root by starting to examine the ways you’re interacting with him. Humbly correct what you’re doing wrong first, and then watch your child follow in your footsteps.

Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. Ps. 128:3