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Friday, February 16, 2007

How do you do it?

We get many questions relating to caring for and managing so many kids. I would have to say the most frequent is about how we manage to get them to be quiet, courteous, and well-behaved in public. There are many aspects to this, starting with the age of the child when he or she comes to live with us. It is MUCH easier to train a baby from the beginning than to try and re-mold the heart of a 9 year old. So since it is so vast a question and has so many possible answers, I decided to pick the one 'theme' that would answer most any of them:

Mean what you say!!!!!

I have seen so many parents who warn a child repeatedly, threaten, bribe, excuse, and make light of a child's disrespect. The bottom line is that the child knows there is always a way around it. Not in my house. That's the difference. My kids are not brainwashed, genetically programmed (and the refuting evidence for those who think good kids are just born to lucky parents is the fact that we have kids who are not biologically related to one another or us as parents), or just extra-cheerful kids. They are kids. But they know I mean business. When I say anything, there is weight to my words because I have proven that I will follow through. I do not say "sit down or I will smack your butt" only to say "I said sit down" 30 seconds later. This is also why I do not believe in giving 1st, 2nd, and 3rd warnings or counting to 10. There is an established space of grace in those tactics (I can misbehave until she gets to 9).

One of the troubles we were having for a while was the attempt at trying to get away with something because others are around. I do not wish to embarrass my children or myself by disciplining in front of others. It also makes an adult nervous to be in the middle of a parent and child during a correction. But my kids picked up on this and tried to use it to their advantage. We did speak to them en masse once about the fact that disobedience in front of other would not be a protection. So when the two girls decided to pinch one another at the end of the church service, I directed each one to a corner to stand in. Now this is not the way I would handle it at home. And although these were my girls, we must be very careful about any corporal punishment in public because as foster parents, we are held to different rules for those in our care. But I knew enough that having to walk over to that corner and stand in it with the people of the church socializing around them would be enough of a weight to show my intentions, and it worked. I did not have to do it a second time.

To avoid the image that my kids are cowering in fear, I want to explain that most of our approach is centered in the grace of God, and in camaraderie. We both hold ourselves accountable in front of the children for God's commands, and evoke their sense of belonging and teamwork to gain their cooperation. They take great joy in having others come up to us and comment on what a nice family and what wonderful children we have. We have explained to them that this is a very powerful witness to the world, and they love God and want to both please Him and share the gospel with others. As young as they are, they are careful not to call bad attention to themselves because they know it will tarnish the name of Christ. Is that amazing or what?

And our kids have plenty of time to be kids. They play in the mud and snow and rain. They laugh out loud, and in snickers when they have a funny surprise waiting for me. They are not being deprived of anything by being expected to behave. In fact, I would argue that they are being given more. They are learning now to control themselves, rather than being let go to do as they wish only to grow up into a world full of rules. They know why we require what we do, and that we mean it, and that takes away the need to try and figure it out. We would all rather know what is expected of us, wouldn't we?


Fruitful Vine said...

Very true Amy. I am not consistent and that is what I have been cracking down on lately, my consistency. I talk a lot less than other parents around me but the point is not to be better than others but to train my boys in self-control. Thanks for the friendly reminder that I need to keep on cracking down on my inconsistency.

Kay Bratt said...

Very good advice-- wish I had followed it before my girls were too old!

Just hoppin' through.


Anonymous said...

good advice. I too am so inconsistent. Raised my older 4 to adulthood but my younger two??? Constant battles and I am worn weary.
your post was a wake up call. Does it help that you have a backbone to start with?? I probably need major spine surgery in that case.
not wanting to sound flippant I really enjoyed your post and will dwell on your sentiments.
Thank you and bless you,
Sandra in New Zealand