Several years ago, in the hopes of retaining my sanity, I investigated what might be going on in these impasse moments. I discovered that character growth was oftentimes the root cause. You can’t see or touch character – BUT it is being hardwired into our children’s brains. Character development is processed through our children’s actions and heart.
- Action is the external development your child receives through experience and practice.
- Heart is the internal processing of those actions to become a part of his/her personality. Therefore, your child’s actions serve as an indicator light about heart issues.
When I see a bad attitude, I am seeing a crack open up into my child’s inner self. When I interact with my child on a heart level, I will often find that what seems to be the problem really isn’t the problem.
The amount of time your child spends with you is important. Growth is happening constantly. Since children internalize things from the outside world as they grow, you are there, ever present, to monitor the things they internalize. Children also need to grow in relationship with another person to develop character. Your child needs to experience all aspects of him/herself with you. When you spend time with all aspects of your child, he/she is able to integrate all of those hidden aspects of him/herself into relationships.
The Coram Deo model provides an opportunity for me to help my child develop healthy character.
At-home days will spark three character battles in your children. These inner battles will lead to bad choices/attitudes. If you can get to the root of these struggles, more often than not disciplinary action can be averted.
1. The Battle of Imperfection
Parent Motto: “It’s an imperfect world. Show reality.”
The first reality children have to face is that they are not perfect. They are flawed people who will make mistakes. Born perfectionists, kids don’t like to be reminded they aren’t. They often think they have the power to avoid making mistakes and can judge themselves harshly when they are not able to perform as they would like. However, frustration is a key ingredient for growth. If we don’t struggle, we’re not getting better at what we do. Kids want to avoid the pain of that momentary struggle. They have to learn to grieve their lost perfection and accept mistakes. They need to realize that life is not about avoiding suffering, it’s about learning to suffer well.
Let the failure be what it is. Don’t rescue. Let them be angry and let that anger give way to acceptance. Our empathy helps make living on this side of Eden okay. Coax them to talk about their frustration and anger. Their confession and your understanding give children the safety to own their feelings and resolve them constructively. Then, renew their mind with the truth. “You are not perfect. Only Jesus is perfect.” “You are going to make mistakes. Frustration means you are learning.” “Just because you don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.” Coach them how to handle their feelings in a healthy and respectful way. If this doesn’t diffuse the moment and they continue to act out inappropriately, let them experience consequences. Praise them when they take ownership of their behavior.
P.S. ‘It’s Hard’ versus ‘I Can’t’ – Kids see ‘being unable to’ and ‘being uncomfortable’ as the same thing. Therefore, what they don’t enjoy, they think they can’t do.
2.. The Battle of Responsibility
Parent Motto: “Develop responsibility without your child’s permission.”
From the beginning, children have no interest in becoming responsible. They may eagerly bond with you, depend on you, but in taking up their cross of life’s burdens (Luke 9:23), your kids will be your adversary – at least in the early stages. This is because by nature, humans are ‘anti-law’. We always protest this reality at first. Children have tantrums, whine, defy authority, or say, “It’s not fair.” Have compassion for their struggle to develop responsible character. Although it can be hard on you, they are in lots of pain themselves. They are protesting because they are being forced to give up an entire way of looking at life. “Don’t worry, let them do it” is being replaced by, “Worry, it’s going to cost you.”
Empathize and validate their feelings first, whether they are realistic or not. Coaxingly dig up why they feel this way right now. Then, renew their mind with the truth. “This is your job now. It’s not going away. You have to accept it.” Coach them how to handle their feelings in a healthy and respectful way. If this doesn’t diffuse the moment and they continue to behave inappropriately, let them experience consequences. Praise them when they take ownership of their behavior.
3. The Battle of Competence
Parent Motto: “Work is good, important and expected.”
When children are provided with the right environment, they can internalize the reality that work is good, important, and expected. The Coram Deo model promotes the character of competence. At-home days teach our children they need to make friends with work early in life and understand it is just as much a part of life as family and friends. At-home days help to normalize work for our children and teach them work is expected for most of their life. Through empathy, coaching and consequences, we teach our children to organize, time manage, work with minimal supervision, and grumble with a good attitude.
I am happy to report these insights helped me. I hope they benefit you too.
Material collated from:
Raising Great Kids – parenting with grace and truth by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Jacque Younger heads up the Parent to Parent Ministry at our Flower Mound Campus. She has two boys in G8 and G5 this year. The Younger family have been at CDA since their eldest started Kindergarten 9 years ago. They choose CDA first and foremost because of the classical curriculum through the lens of a biblical worldview and second because they weren't ready to send their sweet 5 year old to school 5-days a week.