How to Make Your Kids Tune You Out

Most moms I know, including myself, would make great professors. We’re naturally skilled in the art of lecturing. The words flow effortlessly and profusely from our mouths, especially when we perceive a character flaw in our youngster. We practice verbose correction, and we hone our techniques.

Take the recent “Episode of the Dirty Socks.” I have this thing about dirty socks going in the laundry basket. My boys, in particular, really know how to dirty up a sock! The expansive muddy swamp near our home does nothing but contribute to our laundry horrors. After multiple incidents picking up the slimiest socks in existence, I was fired up. I lined up my boys and, believe me, they got quite the earful about the importance of keeping their dirty socks off the carpet, and properly dispensing them into the dirty laundry basket.

I gave all the reasons in the book about protecting the carpet, the difficulty of stain treating the carpet, the value of keeping those dirty socks put away, and the need to avoid spreading germs. I really was on a roll. Since the “Episode of the Dirty Socks” had really inconvenienced me, I felt it was an ideal time to launch into teaching some valuable character lessons.

I correlated the effects of boys who pick up their dirty socks with men who can hold down a job and be effective in their careers. I made a federal case for the fact that no woman is going to marry a man who throws his dirty socks on the floor, especially not slimy ones! I expounded on the importance of initiative in taking care of one’s socks, the beauty of orderliness, and the need to show consideration for others.  I finally took a deep breath, satisfied that I had made my point loud and clear, and proceeded on my day.

And all my effort was completely ineffective. Socks ended up on the floor less often, but I had lost the ears of my boys. What I didn’t realize is that they had tuned me out five minutes into my carefully worded monologue.

Let Your Speech be Accompanied with Grace

About this time our family was working on memorizing a passage from 2 Peter 3 with all of its lists of qualities to add, and this verse jumped out to me: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs. 8, ESV). I was in a place of really feeling my ineffectiveness, and these words crept deep into my heart. I desperately wanted to have my knowledge – my life -in the Lord to flow out in the way I mother. I started being more attentive to the qualities in 2 Peter 3 and sought to include them in the way I related to my children.

I started looking for ways to change how I passed on the importance of character to my children. I sought to stop reacting, and started to apply faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love to the conversations I had with my children.

In my search for effective communication of godly character, I began to see positive results from the conversations I had with my sons and daughters when I wasn’t in confrontational mode.

I’ve learned to take advantage of a positive moment – a cheery moment, when the sun is shining, and you’ve just pulled fresh baked cookies out of the oven. Proactive instruction will bear godly fruit that far outweighs a negative approach to instruction. Yes, sometimes we need to find a teachable character moment in a disciplinary situation, but the positive training should be happening much more frequently.

With that cookie in hand, when mom is relaxed and a child is receptive, discussions about honesty, truth, personal responsibility, kindness, integrity, generosity, repentance, etc., can be shared in a more meaningful, interesting, and concise way.

Once a child knows what is right and wrong (having been instructed in a positive teaching moment), long-winded lectures, droning on and on, will not help the child to behave more positively. Once clear boundaries of behavior have been established, a parent can simply implement corrective discipline (for the good of the child) without resorting to theatrics and emotional outbursts.

Model the Right Behavior

Remember, you as a parent are teaching far more through your own actions than you are with your mere words. If you are behaving badly, that will be what your children will remember, not the words of instruction that are coming out of your mouth. If you want to instruct your children about godly character, the first step is to allow the Lord to work those lessons out in your own life. If you want your children to learn about patience and kindness, you have a blessed opportunity to teach it to them through your own example.

While no parent is perfect, we need to demonstrate to our children that we are continuing to grow and learn ourselves. When we blow it, we should confess our fault to our children. Our example of humility will help them to learn to be humble themselves when it is their turn. Most of all, remember to pray for your children. Ask God to change their hearts and draw your children to Himself. It is ultimately when God has captured their hearts that they will have the desire to do the things that please Him. Demonstrate joy and gratitude to the Lord as you live each day before your children. May our Lord continue to teach us each how to become less like our own fleshly tendencies, and more like our humble and gracious Savior.

Brook Wayne and her husband, Israel, are thankful to be the parents to eleven children. Brook is the co-author of the book Pitchin’ A Fit!: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-out Parenting.

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