How do you get your children to do what you want and need them to do?
For many parents, this is a daily challenge. Here are a few ideas and tips for parents that I hope will make your lives better and easier.
1. Know what you want. If you don’t know what you want of them and your family, they can’t even begin to fathom how to obey you or please you. God set up parents to lead and direct their children’s care and training. It is best if both parents get and stay on the same page about their goals for their children and family.
2. Remember that your children do want to please you. Sometimes it is deep, DEEP, DEEEEEP down. Most of us at a base level want what we want because we have a sinful nature of self-gratification, but we also know deep down that isn’t good for us. Children ultimately want to be loved, accepted, and appreciated. When children are respected and respectful as well as obedient to the authority and leadership of their parents, life is so much better and often easier.
3. Once you and your spouse decide what you want and expect for your children. Stand your ground and stick to your plan. Your children will challenge you to see if you really mean it. This requires perseverance, patience, and often a lot of prayer. Parents can’t do what they need to do by being wishy washy with their children. Children are more healthy and stable both mentally and physically and feel more safe and sheltered emotionally when the borders of behavior and boundaries of family expectations are consistent, strong and in tact.
4. Explain and let your children know what you both expect of them. Sometimes it is as simple as saying, “Mommy and daddy want you to eat your beans.” Or, it can be a formal as a family meeting together with a discussion and a designed family plan, goals, and rules written out and signed by all as a family contract that all (parents and children) agree to abide by together.
5. It is not a bad idea and can be important to let your children know the ‘why’ of what you ask of them. Saying, “Because I said so.” can be enough, but not always. Other times, explaining that eating the beans helps the child be well-nourished to grow healthy and strong to do the things they like to do. Giving a child the ‘reason to your rhyme’ can be helpful. If a parent is capricious in their demands, children will often rebel and reject their authority. Sometimes the child doesn’t get to decide. A parent knows that their child sometimes needs an injection of medicine to get well. The child may absolutely not want the medicine, but it is the parent’s job to do what is right for their child in spite of how the child “feels” about getting the injection.
6. This brings me to why parents do what they do. Most parents deeply love and care for their children. We give them rules and instructions to help them have safe, healthy, and productive lives towards becoming independent, skilled, competent, and self-sufficient adults who contribute to family and society in a positive manner. So don’t forget and always keep in mind the ultimate goal. Most parents want to launch their children into adulthood. To prepare them for that time, it is easier if parents begin these steps when children are very small. Do you want your child to have a faith? How will you pass that on to them? Do you want your child to make their bed? How will you teach them? Do you want your child to have appropriate appetites for food, work, pleasure, rest, and recreation? You must show them and teach them. Do you want them to have manners, values, and ethics? Parents must teach all these things. Another HUGE thing to remember is what you do SHOUTS and SHOWS your child so much louder than what you may say. In most cases, your child will end up and look a lot like you. Go to the mirror. Take a long look, and see if you like what you see. How do we, as parents, look in the mirrors of our children’s eyes? If it’s not a pretty sight, no problem. We can always make changes for the better in ourselves anytime and anywhere. We just need the will to start and keep trying to become our best selves.
7. Next, realize that your children are smarter and more capable and imaginative than you really know. The statement, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ has proven true over and over again. This applies to both your will and theirs. Help them choose to do what you want and believe they should do. Make it easy for them to choose to do right and choose the better option of behaviors and consequences. For example: If you want your child to make their bed, say, “It’s time to make your bed.” Don’t ask them if they “want” to make their bed. Many of us don’t want to make our beds or do the work we should do. Children are no different. Training them to have a good work ethic, however, is an important part of preparing children for adulthood. Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as you let them know your requests and appreciation for doing what you want and expect. If the child doesn’t want to make their bed when asked, offer the child a choice of two good options you are willing to stand up for that will still result in their bed getting made. For example, if a child initially refuses to do what they are asked, parents can offer their child a choice between making their bed or staying in their room and delaying breakfast or playing or whatever else the parent thinks the child may wish to do UNTIL they make their bed. Don’t argue with the child about it. Let them know that they have a choice. Children like adults like having a choice. It helps them feel empowered. Selecting, even between two unattractive options, is often more palatable than only one unattractive choice. Children will usually pick the right thing in these situations and be more cheerful too.
8. Hold your children to the behaviors and standards you set and establish in your family including consequences for disobedience and disrespect. James Dobson said many years ago that the only time to hand out disciplinary punishment is for one of two reasons. One is deliberate disrespect and the second was for deliberate disobedience. Once a child knows the “family rules and expectations,” and deliberately disobeys or disrespects a parent, you are now dealing with rebellion. Rebellion in the family must not be tolerated or allowed. It goes to the core of what is wrong in this world. When a child or society believes “anything goes” and that they can do what they want because it is what they want, you have chaos, treason, and anarchy. This is not God’s plan. This is not right. Rebellion against authority is not good for any child or any family and is ultimately the demise of all civil societies. Children will make mistakes. Children will have accidents, spill the milk, or break a precious treasure. They will also break the rules when they don’t know what the rules are. All these require attention, explanation, love, training, and care, but they do not call for punishing discipline. It is appropriate for children to help clean up a mess they made or even repair or replace an item they break or damage, but these accidents and sins of ignorance do not require punishing/penalizing consequences. In contrast, both deliberate disobedience and disrespect DO require immediate attention and action to curb and eliminate these behaviors. God’s word teaches in Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” God commands children to be obedient to parents. When children disobey their parents they sin and are not doing what is right. When our children were small, we taught them that God gave us, as parents, the responsibility to raise our children up in the Lord’s will and training. (Proverbs 22:6). We explained that we were responsible and under the authority of God to raise and care for them as He directed. In the same way we explained that children are responsible and under the authority of their parents to obey them. Our conduct results in consequences, just like with our rights come responsibilities. Some consequences of our actions are tough and unpleasant when we don’t act rightly. We often incur additional requirements, responsibilities and restrictions when we are disobedient and disrespectful. This is an important lesson that every child needs to learn. If a child does not respect and obey a parent, they won’t obey a teacher, a public official or police officer, or anyone else in a position of authority up to and including God Almighty.
9. So what do you do with a child who doesn’t want to obey or is disrespectful? First you need to be prepared for your children to be disobedient and disrespectful. We all were disobedient and disrespectful as children (and sometimes we still are as adults now) so your children will be disobedient and disrespectful too. Don’t be surprised. Be prepared. Only Jesus Christ lived a perfect and sinless life. I don’t know how He did it – except to say, “He is God. And we aren’t.” We will mess up and so will our children on purpose and also not on purpose. On that note, it is right and a humble thing for parents to apologize to their children when wrong, if disrespectful to their children, or are disobedient in what we should be obedient to in life. Once a parent decides a child has been deliberately disobedient or disrespectful, only offer solutions and consequences that you and your spouse are personally willing to carry out and stick to enforcing. If you promise they will be grounded in their room day and night for weeks, be ready to follow through and monitor that penalty. Sometimes the consequences parents hand out are more inconvenient to the parent than the child. Remember the goals. Discipline with discernment and to do what works best for the child and to promote what you want and your family plan and goals. Even Jesus learned obedience. (Hebrews 5:8)
10. Never negatively discipline children in anger. This almost never works out well and causes anger and resentment. Remember, the goal is for the child to learn and remember to obey and follow the parents’ lead. It is not to hurt them, but it is to help them be the best person they can be.
11. Teach that children that it is okay for them to be angry even with their parents, but it is not okay to sin in their anger. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Children will not always agree with the leadership of their parents. It is okay for children to dislike or disagree with their parents and how they are parenting. It is not acceptable for children to disrespect or disobey parents. Ephesians 6:1 makes this clear.
12. Lastly and most importantly, teach the children that everyone needs Jesus. Children need to know that everyone falls short and sins in their behavior and even their expectations of themselves. We have all rejected and rebelled against God. Fortunately, God’s Son, Jesus, took upon Himself the penalty and punishment we each deserved for our disrespect and disobedience to God. When we accept Jesus’ free gift, we have hope, redemption, and reconciliation with God. Parents are a ‘type’ of God in the eyes of their children. As such parents teach and show by their actions hope, grace, and mercy. No matter how bad we may be or may think we are, we all need to know that there is hope, grace and mercy. So many are hopeless and feel discouraged and defeated. It is because they don’t know or have a relationship with the heavenly Father. I’m glad that I haven’t always received the penalties and punishments I have deserved for my bad behaviors. It would be discouraging. I’m so glad there is hope in Christ. Children need to know there is always hope and a graceful and merciful God who loves and will help them through all the trials of life. Our children really need to know that.
Robin House 1/14/2021