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

Cut Out Whining; Use A Timer

20130905-091125.jpgYou know that loud, whiny protest you hear when you announce to your kids that it’s time to clean up? Or when it’s time to leave? Or when it’s time to turn off a video game?

Oh, I do.

The anticipation of the crying, “Noooo’s” and “I don’t want to’s” are enough to make a mom want to lock herself in the bathroom surfing Pinterest on her phone instead of having to deal with disrupting the kids by telling them something they don’t want to hear.

One helpful tool for avoiding the dissent of your children is a timer. My iPhone’s timer works great. Give your children a fair warning before it’s time to change gears by announcing, “In ten minutes it’s time to clean up our toys!” I often spell it out for them so there’s no confusion: “As soon as you hear the bell go off, that means you have to stop playing, and start putting your toys in the box!”

You might be surprised how a little countdown followed up by a bell curbs your kids’ whiny objections!

And here’s a little bonus timer-tip for free: Use the timer to motivate children who are dragging in cleaning up a room. Tell them, “Okay, I’m going to set the timer for 7 minutes, and when I come back all the toys should be put away! See if you can finish before the timer goes off! Ready? GO!”

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.

Telling Them “No”

2012-09-29-14-51-51.jpgDo you ever find yourself turning your kids’ requests down? Then come the inevitable appeals of whining, crying, arguing, tantrums… You dread everyday situations where you have to tell your children “no.” You simply don’t have the energy to fight the battle you will face when you have to tell them they’re not getting what they want.

I deal with this in a few ways. I try to say “yes.” I explain the reason. And I do not permit crying (this includes tantrums) when they don’t get what they want.

I try to say “yes” whenever I can. This means I will sometimes alter their requests so that  I can say “yes.”

“No, you cannot have anything else to eat before bed, but when you wake up, we can have pancakes!”

“No, you cannot wear your Spiderman costume to church, but as soon as we come home, you can put it on.”

“No, you can’t have any candy before dinner, but if you help clean up afterwards, I’ll give you one piece.”

Having this attitude of wanting to grant their requests teaches them that you want to bless them. Sometimes their requests are unreasonable. And if we say “no” to everything, they can get discouraged. Developing an attitude of wanting to grant their requests is a good alternative to snapping at them, “No, you can’t!” It is also representative of God’s character, who humbly blesses us with every good gift.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.      James 1:17

I also try to explain to them the reasons for declining their petition. Try to help them to understand what’s best for them.

“The reason we can’t eat too much candy is because it isn’t good for us, and can make us sick. Do you want to be sick?”

“The reason you can’t step into the street is because cars drive there, and you can get very hurt if you get hit by one.”

“The reason you can’t watch another TV show is because when you watch too much TV you get a bad attitude. I don’t want you to get a bad attitude, so let’s turn it off and find something else to do.”

Explaining our reasoning to our children helps them know that we aren’t just trying to rain on their parade. We train them to think the same way we do, so that they start making these same decisions without us constantly having to get on them.

Finally, I don’t put up with crying when they don’t get what they want. Even if I’ve tried to be positive about what they can do, and I’ve explained reasonably why I must decline their request, they may cry, whine, argue, or throw tantrums. They do this because, just like me, they are selfish human beings who want what they want. For any of these actions, they receive discipline and a consequence. The idea is to help them recognize their selfishness, and encourage them to respond respectfully. Even as early as 2 years of age, it’s important for them to begin learning that it’s unacceptable to cry when they don’t get what they want. The sooner you instill this in their hearts, they more you will enjoy your children as they grow!

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Mt 7:11