January 26, 2012

Why Bother?

Interactions with even a very young child – a beginning crawler who sees something enticing across the room – should be enough to convince anyone that children don’t naturally choose to demonstrate appropriate behavior. First, of course, that child must learn the meaning of the word, “No.” But, even after we’re certain she understands that, she’ll often choose to very obviously ignore us in favor of pursuing what she wants.

And correctly training children to consistently demonstrate appropriate behavior is hard work. So much so, I’m afraid I’ve seen far too many parents abdicate the responsibility and choose, instead, to go to one of two extremes: either letting a child run wild or doling out punishment, sometimes brutally. The former obviously does nothing to provide training in good behavior, but neither does the latter.

But real training is so hard that we might wonder if it’s worth it. Can’t we just leave it to the schools? Isn’t that why we pay taxes?

For those seeking to live biblically, the answer is unequivocally no, since passages like Deuteronomy 6.6-7, Proverbs 22.6, and Ephesians 6.4 tell us that the training of our children is a parental responsibility. And, for everyone, there are also practical reasons for parents to step up and do the job.

First, our children imprint on us, their parents. Even if you employ full-time childcare from an early age, kids know their parents, and their parents matter to them above anyone else. Thus, what we do as parents makes the greatest impact, for better or worse. I can tell you as an experienced childcare provider that my instruction only goes so far; the difference between children who behave appropriately and those who don’t lies in the parents’ attitudes and approaches toward the matter.

Second, the earlier we start, the better off our kids will be. Thus, those who send their children away from home for school cannot simply wait on behavior training until they’re school age. If our kids are older and we realize we missed the boat in the preschool years, we can still make course corrections. But, just as it’s easier to guide a sapling toward straight growth from the beginning than to re-direct an older tree once the woody stem has set, so, too, children’s behavioral habits are best set early. And, speaking as a former classroom educator, I can tell you that teachers wish more than anything for kids who come to them with good habits so they can focus on teaching content rather than putting out behavioral fires.

The bottom line is that we need to train our kids in appropriate behavior because it’s our responsibility as parents, and it’s in our kids’ long-term best interests. What other reasons could we need?

Photo Credit: dog ma


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