The Parenting Short List: Rule #2
This particular parenting rule is something Todd and I came up with very early on. We believe it to be a very practical application of the principle behind Matthew 5:30. Trust me when I say that this rule has saved us more arguing, convincing, explaining, second-guessing, confusion, hurt feelings, spankings, tears, spouse contradiction, rule modification, etc. than you can imagine.
Use it. You won’t regret it.
2. Make anything that causes your child to disobey disappear.
This goes for toys, privileges, experiences, and friendships. Any time your child breaks a standing house rule or a specific command you have given them, look to see what they chose over your directive. Was it a toy? The approval of a friend? Free time? Candy? A phone? A movie? Their pet? (These are all things we have taken away, among others.)
Whatever it was, take it away calmly with only a brief, unemotional reminder that anything that causes them to disobey disappears. If they aren’t sure how the thing you are taking away interfered with their obedience, explain it so that they understand, but don’t respond to whining, arguing, tears, or pleading and don’t let the conversation drag on. If you do, you’ll give the impression that the rule is open for debate or change. Moving on with life lets your child know that it’s not.
It only takes a few applications for this rule to take effect. After your children know you mean business, all you will have to say is, “Is something causing you to disobey?” Not only will they evaluate their own actions, identify the thing interfering with their obedience, and put it away themselves, but they will follow through on what you asked them to do with gusto to make sure the thing they value doesn’t disappear.
It’s up to you whether or not you allow your children to earn back the thing that they lost. If it’s a silly little thing like a Happy Meal toy, just throw it away. No need to make a big deal out of things all over again.
If it is something that you need them to have, like a phone, or if it is a part of your family’s routine, like watching movies on movie night, let them earn it back after a set, age-appropriate amount of time that YOU determine. The bigger the offense, the more time it should take to earn the thing back. Let them earn it by consistently choosing obedience over other things or their own preferences.
If it’s a friendship, you have some thinking and praying to do. Your decision will not only affect your child and your family, but other people. Remember, although we are called to be salt and light in this world and your child must interact with others in order to be salt and light, your first priority while your children are living under your roof is their spiritual health. Protect it at all costs, even if it means that your child spends time alone. Who knows? Maybe they will learn that Jesus really is their best friend.
Next week, check back to find out how to stop the whining and begging…