“My days are full of correcting, scolding, and disciplining.”
These were the recent words of a frustrated young mom, upset because her “almost five-year old” doesn’t make her bed without reminders, do other daily chores without help, and respond with first-time obedience every time it’s demanded. Knowing that many of her expectations are developmentally inappropriate, my heart ached for the mom...and her child.
Parenting is really hard work – and the first several years are especially physically exhausting and mentally draining. It’s not unusual to fall into the habit of feeling defeated, fearing that all the effort will never pay off. Maintaining hope that kids will ever choose consistently good behavior is difficult.
However, making the decision to pursue optimism is crucial in helping kids eventually reach the goal of having willing-good character. Through all the hard work and over the long haul, they must know we believe they can eventually choose to do the right thing even when it’s hard and no one else is looking.
One of my daughters was extremely impulsive as a little girl. She rarely meant to be “sassy.” But she was curious and failed even more than other young children to consider the consequences of her actions, so she tried things that were inappropriate or risky. For example, she crawled onto her highboy dresser when she was only two, and she put her fingers around the prongs of a plug as she was turning on Christmas tree lights – despite having been warned otherwise – because she wondered what it would be like to “be ‘lectrocuted.” Though she tended not to repeat the same “experiment” once my husband and I addressed the situation, I did worry that she’d never be able to think before acting.
That said, I also knew it would be wrong to make her think I didn’t believe in her. So I worked really hard to maintain overall optimism with and about her. I guarded my tongue when correcting her, sticking with the immediate situation at hand and avoiding global statements like, “You always...” or “You’ll never...” And if I found myself falling into a pattern of negative thinking about her, I scolded myself and shook myself out of it.
My child is 16 now and recently became a certified lifeguard after being recruited for the job at our local fitness center. Her new boss had noticed not only her strong swimming skills, but also the grace and gravitas with which she now carries herself, and asked her to pursue certification. Her new job requires both maturity and an ability to react quickly. So, interestingly, that means that both her childhood propensity to be always “on the move" and the ability she’s developed over time to think before acting impulsively have worked together for her good.
It was really hard work to regularly redirect her without crushing her spirit. I wasn’t sure all the time if I was doing things right – and I’m sure I didn’t always. But my focused intention was always optimistic consistency, and I’m so blessed now to be seeing fruit for my efforts.
You can see that too, in whatever way it will play out for your child. Focus on positive, pro-active training, and aim especially to guard your own heart in regards to your attitudes about your child, and you will get there.