Alas, motherhood would be so much easier without resistance, rebellion, and whining. Wouldn’t it be awesome if our children just did what we told them to do?
We want to encourage our children to think for themselves and have a voice of their own, but we also want them to respect authority and obey God’s Word. Often, our children must do what we say for their own safety and well-being. We can help our children to be more content, reasonable, and obedient.
Here are three principles that can set your child up for success and help them to do what you say:
1. Believe the Best About Your Child
In many ways, our children are trusting us to tell the story of their lives. When we believe the best about them, they believe us and are more apt to do the right thing. Conversely, when we assume the worst about them, they believe us, and it affects their behavior negatively.
It all comes down to our attitude as their mother. When we ask God for the ability to live according to “love always hopes,” we influence our children in radical ways.
To get your wheels spinning about how your hopeful attitude could transform your home, here are examples of how this has played out for me on the best of days:
- When my two-year-old shows up with scissors in his hand, I try to say, “Thank you for finding them! I’ll put them up high so that no little children get hurt.” Nine times out of ten, he hands them over without a fuss. If I jump at him in anger or alarm, he runs off with the scissors.
- When my seven-year-old is concerned that a younger sibling will ruin his LEGO creation, I say, “Of course she won’t ruin your creation. She loves and respects you. I know that she will take good care of your hard work.” That younger sibling hears my trusting response and usually tries extra hard to respect her brother’s LEGO scene.
- When the breakfast dishes are cleaned up and we are ready to begin schoolwork, I simply say, “Okay, everyone! Let’s get started on schoolwork.” Then, I gather the little ones for our story time and I don’t look back to see whether or not the older children are getting started on their work. I don’t want them to think that I’m doubting them. My confidence that the older kids will do their work frees them to do it.
- When a child is frustrated with schoolwork, I try to assume that he or she wants to understand the material (and isn’t just being lazy or whiney). I try to come alongside and help solve the problem, identify obstacles, or direct them so that they can succeed.
2. Prepare Your Child for New Circumstances and Expectations
This is a tool that every parent can use from the early days through high school. When your child is about to enter new circumstances or when expectations have changed, prepare your child for the adjustment. Talk about things ahead of time and practice skills that your child may need to succeed. One of our most significant jobs is to prepare our children for life, including the things that happen on a daily basis.
Here are some examples that have worked for us:
- When we pull into the church parking lot, a friend’s house, or a new environment, we talk about what the kids can expect from the situation. We aim to set them up for success, telling them who will be there, how they should behave, and how they can thrive.
- When we are starting a new book or activity, I explain the context and share my expectations.
- Whenever I modify our schedule, I first talk about it for a couple of days and ask for feedback, then I print out the new schedule and post it on the refrigerator. I often use breakfast to talk through the plans for the day. The kids can ask questions, propose changes, and express their concerns. It helps to address these things before they become opportunities for conflict and resistance.
3. Focus on Your Child’s Development and Discipleship
I regularly need to remind myself that neither motherhood is not about checking boxes or impressing people. Our main responsibility is to disciple our children, guiding them step by step in God’s ways. By respecting the tendencies and trajectory of child development, we will approach frustration, resistance, and whininess as part of our call to nurture and disciple our children. We’ll learn about their areas of weakness and do what we can to set them up for success and invite them into the peace of God.
Although we aim to create peace, harmony, and faithfulness in our children, we also recognize that weaknesses will come up from time to time. God cares about each of us when we are facing a a stubborn, resistant, or disobedient child. And he cares about that sweet child, too. He will guide us each step of the way, even if the journey is long. We can pray continually for the atmosphere in our homes, asking the Holy Spirit to reverse the trend of darkness and to shine His life and light in us and our home.