Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Keeping the Destination in Mind

Today I was in the gas station stocking up on provisions for a road trip. I'm so desperate for a change of scenery that I drove 100 miles up the turnpike for the pleasure of lunch with Melanie and Shannon. Also in the gas station was a woman with a preschool-aged boy who wanted a toy and some gum and a candy bar and a soda and a box of matches (!) and on and on and on. The woman told him no...no...NO...NO...I SAID NO AND I MEANT IT DO YOU WANT ME TO BUST YOU RIGHT HERE THE ANSWER IS NO! To no one's surprise, he started to cry. Loudly. So the woman grabbed a candy bar, slammed it on the counter, paid for it and jabbed it at the little boy. The crying subsided, and the boy was obviously torn between the sweet taste of victory and the stinging of the harsh words.

We've all seen it. Some of us (me) have done it. Instant-gratification-type parenting decisions that will not bear pleasant fruit down the road, such as giving in to a child so that the whining/screaming/flailing/cursing-like-a-sailor-on-shore-leave (ZOINKS) will stop. Where does that get us? In my experience, it creates confused, demanding children and resentful parents. Is that the destination any parent has in mind? Of course not.

My husband and I are determined to correct, encourage, exhort, discipline and, when necessary, punish our children with our desired end result in mind. This means taking the time not just to talk, but to train. Not just to punish, but to examine motives (ours and theirs). When we're on our game, it goes something like this:

Call the child to us. This serves two purposes, first requiring the child to bend his will to ours and second, keeping the exchange private.

Name the offense. "I told you before we came today that you would not be getting a toy from Target. When you keep asking, you are insisting on your own way by badgering me. Badgering is not allowed."

Name the consequence. "Because you were badgering, you will go to bed 30 minutes early tonight."

What happens next depends on the child's response. If he begins to whine and complain, the bedtime will be moved up in 30 minute increments until he relents. There's nothing like going to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon to give you time to consider your ways. Here's the point where I get tempted to get off track by saying to myself, "...but we have karate tonight, and we've already paid and I hate for that money to go to waste and the belt test is next week and...". If my desired destination is having a child who doesn't demand a toy every time we go to the store, I have to be willing to put that goal above his earning a purple belt. Which one will serve him best in the long run? So, yeah, we'll be skipping karate, he'll eat an early dinner of a sandwich and milk, be in bed at 4:30 because Mama means business.

My point is that our driving concern, our Prime Directive if you will, is raising ADULTS who think, act and speak properly; who know right from wrong and choose right, even when no one is looking. There really isn't anything I won't forsake in pursuit of that goal. I will leave a full shopping cart, bail on a birthday party, and get up in the middle of a haircut if one of the children behaves in a way that requires attention and training. I don't have a more important job than training these 5 eternal souls entrusted to my care. It doesn't matter if other people think I've gone off my dot, or if my kids think I'm mean. It does matter that we see results that indicate progress, that we continually evaluate our strategies and make adjustments as necessary according to each child's temperament, needs, strengths and weaknesses. Our kids deserve to be parented purposefully. All children do.

21 comments:

  1. Very, very well said!! I love your blog - you have been such an inspiration to me!! Thank you so much.

    I'll be following! =)

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  2. This is a great post. I totally agree and although everyday does not go as smoothly as i like and sometimes both i and the kids lose our temepers i know that things will be ok. I have always said that kids do not get to choose their parents so we owe it to them to be the best we can. We were blessed with a gift of life and we have to do right by that life we have been intrusted with.

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  3. Extremely well said, Dana. Those hard choices on the front end do end in sweeter reward on the back end. All the back ends.

    A question I often ask myself is, "Am I raising this son to be an asset or a liability in the kingdom of God?" The answer alone drives me to my knees.

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  4. I know all this, Dana, but it's good to have a reminder. Like, every day. Like I tell my kids, usually the right thing to do is always the one that's less fun/harder. Those trips to the holy refinery are painful, but awesome, indeed. You are doing a fantabulous job. No wonder you needed a 100 mile away lunch! :)

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  5. I'll add my voice to the chorus of agreement. And it is infinitely harder to be the type of parent you describe. I don't succeed at being that parent all the time, but that's what I strive to be.

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  6. ROFLOL! 4:30? Really? I'm giddy with the idea! ;)

    I'm refreshed by your exhortation here, Dana. I pray your words stay with me throughout this day.

    But let me ask you: how do you handle it when only one of multiple children require training, but in doing so ALL the children will suffer
    (i.e., a lost outing).

    And what if it happens often? Where do you, personally, draw the line between positive peer pressure and exasperating siblings to wrath against one another?

    It really is the hardest job, isn't it?

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  7. Ah, such a great point. I find purposeful parenting is so much easier to intend to do than to actually do and maintain. But I'm still learning. Good for you.

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  8. GB, I'll be answering those questions in a later post, because it is a real balancing act as you know!

    gosduck, it IS easier to intend than to actually DO, isn't it? It helps to have a point of reference though. If I know where I got off track, I have a much better chance of getting back on, y'know?

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  9. So true!
    Often it is me struggling with myself - like you said about karate - and trying to not punish the other kids.

    Keeping my eye on the goal!

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  10. Thank you for your encouraging words today. It is hard, but so worth it to train our children for today and tomorrow.

    By the way, I linked to your post about not yelling at your kids on my blog. It really impacted me in a way I had not thought about before. Thank you.

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  11. What a great post. Your children are very lucky to have such a wise momma! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

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  12. It does pay off! I did all that when the kids where little and now that teenhood is on the doorstep I can see it's been worth the time and effort.

    While I can say yes I did good here there is still a lot of guilt where I didn't do things right. Any ideas on how to slay the guilt monster?

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  13. Well said. Standing ovation. Persevere all of you. You never get it perfect. Trust the Lord to fill in the cracks and stay on your knees.

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  14. Awesome. You nailed it, girl.

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  15. Amen sister. So well said and clear. I've seen some pretty ridiculous stuff. I don't mean that out of judgment, but I've been at stores and just stood in shock at parents who take the easy way. I totally understand the easy way seeming easier, but it probably won't be easy when the kids are older and have no desire to respect their parents. I'll get off my soapbox now.... :)

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  16. Do you always have to be so right? Dang. and Ouch.

    Love you!

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  17. You said this very, very well. All this taught the child was to throw a fit to get what he wants next time too.

    Blessings,

    Sher

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  18. And this is why your children are so well behaved;-) You know I wouldn't mind watching them again so you and the man can go out on a date....I am finding that I have to really mean what I say with mine because raising them alone isn't easy...but they are good kids and I just need to make sure they stay that way lol

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  19. What a clear-cut definition of what it means to parent. I love the line, "There really isn't anything I won't forsake in pursuit of that goal." That draws the battle lines pretty clearly, does it not?

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  20. Very well written! And I needed that encouragement tonight! :-)

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  21. Living this one today ...great post!

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