Before I was a parent, I thought I knew some things about raising children. You may wonder what made me so presumptuous, but with a lot of experience working with children and their families and observing how my parents raised the five of us, I thought I knew a thing or two. While I suppose those experiences have helped me quite a bit, they haven't helped as much as I thought they would.
I thought that if you were consistent and firm, training your children young in Godly ways to be obedient and polite, by the time they were the ages of let's say 6 and 8, you would be reaping the rewards of your efforts.
Well, the jig is up. Perhaps this is supposed to be a secret of parenthood or something so that people will actually continue to have children. But I'm going to spill the beans.
This is not true!
For several years, I banged my head against the wall in exasperation for even with all of my consistency and training, my children would still not obey! They still acted rudely! They still threw fits! And I have spoken to many parents who have made the same discovery. What the heck?!
In really hard moments, I would despair, feeling so discouraged about my failure as a mother. What was I doing wrong? Why was this so hard? Is my yelling sometimes when I lose my patience the reason Joshua struggles so much with self-control? Do the boys not treat each other consistently with honor and kindness because I am too hard on them? Am I going about this all wrong???
After many recent conversations about this topic, it has occurred to me that I hadn't accounted for something. Something big. Something innate. Something called original sin, or the tendency all of us are born with to sin that was passed down to us from Adam and Eve. When I was a child, the story of Adam and Eve seemed far-off, distant, not applicable. But now when I see one of my children get that look in their eye and then do something they know not to, I realize that I'm fighting definitely something bigger here.
This means that no matter how much I train my children, they will continue to disobey! They will continue to be rude! They will continue to bicker incessantly! They will continue to hit each other! They will continue to throw fits when they don't get their way, even sometimes at 8 years old!
Parenting is a whole lot harder than I had thought.
When talking about the story of Adam and Eve with Joshua, he said, "Well, I wouldn't have eaten the apple." :) A good thought.
But then I asked him, "Oh really? Is there any rule that your dad and I have given you that you've never broken?"
"Ummm, well, no. I guess not."
And there we have it. Original sin. Or perhaps we just shouldn't give our children any rules so that they can't break them and they will just instinctively know how to behave in a Godly way? I think not.
Well, in the past few weeks, the bickering, the backtalk and the fit-throwing were out of control around here. I had had it!
In a dire attempt to find some guidance, I began looking for books. I am now waiting for Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children to Live Together So You Can Live Too to be delivered to our library for me.
Also, I was doing some research online and discovered a wonderful web site called Kidspointz.com with a lot of tools that we are now using. We now have the following:
- Chore charts
- Pet care charts
- Honor charts
We also have:
- Charts for what needs to be done each morning and evening
- Behavior contracts that point out areas that the boys need to work on
- Sibling contracts that explain how they need to treat one another in times of conflict
- A self-control contract for Joshua, who has a difficult time controlling his voice and that little body when he's angry
Both of the boys are for the most part beyond the time-out stage of discipline. I remember a year or two ago, I put Joshua in a time-out for something. While he sat there, I was working my butt off getting housework done. I looked at him and thought, "Why does he get to sit down?!" Thus endeth the time-out. Now if the boys can't behave, they can at least lighten my load by doing a chore or two that I would have otherwise done.
We had a family meeting to go over all of these charts and contracts, explaining it all and answering questions. The boys responded well and have been doing a good job with it so far.
I realize that this will not work forever, but it's helping right now and that's good enough for me. As I truck on down the road of motherhood, it seems I have to pick up many tools along the way. Some work. Some don't. Most often, the tools simply help me to feel better because I then have a plan of attack.
And while this original sin is inevitable, as parents we have to keep fighting back!