Last week during Parenting Through The Phases we discussed rediscovering our children at the phase they are in by engaging in the most important basic need during that particular phase. Here’s a quick recap:
Preschool: Embrace their needs - This is the “Am I?” phase
Elementary school: Engage their interests - The “Do I?” phase
Do I have your attention?
Do I have what it takes? – to get my work on the bulletin board, to get on the team, to get in the club
Do I have friends?
Middle school: Affirm their personal journey – This is the “Who am I?” Phase
High school: Mobilize their potential – This is “What, Where, Why, & How?” phase
Where do/will I belong or where do I find acceptance?
Why should I believe you about anything? “I know somebody that tried it and it seemed like it went ok…”
How can I matter right now, right where I am - not in the future, but how can I matter today?
What will I do next?
We jumped right into discussion talking about things we love about the parenting phase we are in right now. It’s a cool group in that we are all in different stages, from the very beginning of parenthood to the very hairy edge of emptying our marble jars. We are overlapping in some stages, but reminiscing about the younger stages of parenting has shown that we older parents have forgotten some of the madness of the early years. I guess it’s like child birth, our minds selectively forget the ninth month of pregnancy and labor only to remember how we fell instantaneously into deeply attached, unconditional love with our new little human mere seconds after he or she was born.
We were all entertained by one of the discussion questions, something about …What has been the most surprising change that you observed in your kid? This led us on a loopy path of conversation, jumping from one funny situation to another and landing on lying.
When Cole was 3 or 4ish, we called him “Little Larry Lies A Lot.” He could weave a tall tale and believe every single word of it. Once I added to his tale and gave it an unsavory ending and Cole became intensely aggravated that I messed with the images in his mind and suddenly cut me out of the whole thing by telling me that he was kidding, “It was only a dream” and that I wasn’t really in it. Go figure.
As Christians, we talk about kids being born as sinners. How can this be? They are so innocent and sweet, and they smell so good (most of the time). But ask yourself…you are a good parent, right? Did you teach your child to lie? Did you teach your child to hide things when they don’t want to get caught? Did you teach your child manipulation? Oh those precious sweet faces manipulate us, you know they do! Toddlers know that they are cute!
One Christmas Little Larry Lies A Lot was curious to know if the glass ornaments on my Christmas tree would break if he squeezed them. So he proceeded to squeeze between 12 and 15 of them …with his hands…and he hid them under his Thomas the Train table. When I was vacuuming his room, I found this rather large pile of glass. I was like what in the hell, fire, and brimstone is all this?! Without over reacting outwardly, I casually asked Little Larry Lies A Lot about this pile o’glass…he lied. He claimed he didn’t know. He thinks Jenny, our little dog, has done this. Eye to eye, as parent faced as I could be, I informed him that he had one more chance to tell me the truth without getting into trouble. If he did not speak the truth to me, his consequences were going to be highly unfavorable. I then reinforced that he had one chance, that’s it, one… to speak the truth. He received this message clearly and spilled it along with a good many tears. I am 100% sure the tears are not sorrow for the broken ornaments but for getting caught and hiding them. He is speaking the words that convey he is upset about my ornaments but his eyes and body actions, as he’s red and embarrassed, are saying I am caught and ashamed.
I tell this little tale on Cole not so that you will know that he was a pistol of a toddler boy, because we all know he has grown into an extremely nice young man (whom we now call the Cuss Word Cop by the way). I tell you this because it brings to light a big parenting situation that has lasting consequences.
IF it had been my habit to overreact and to over discipline through all of the bad situations my children have done or will do, I would have effectively shut down all open conversations and/or truth telling sessions. Through the years I have learned to take a step back and regroup before confronting my children. This has kept my emotions in check and given God the opportunity to reign in my thoughts so that they align properly with His. This has afforded me many hard, open, and brutally honest conversations. It’s given me (and Derrick) the opportunity to give Christ honoring parenting advice and guidance without my children fearing that we will judge them and fall out of love with them. Does this mean that my kids always tell Derrick and me everything…absolutely not. Nonetheless, I am convinced that the consistency of our discipline, making sure that our punishment has “met the crime,” has conveyed to our children that we are not tyrants. We don’t lord over them and they are not afraid of us. The kids trust us enough to tell the truth, the first time; because it’s understood the outcome is always more positive and works for their good.
The child is no longer floundering around in the chaos and confusion in their mind because the weight of their conscience has now been relieved. They have the ability to see clearly how to move forward positively and understand that taking responsibilty for their behavior is part of learning how to do life.
All this to say, parents, come to the table prepared to not only listen to your children, but to hear them. Be prayed up before you turn up! Start this in the early years so that when they get to be teenagers, telling the truth is a habit. When the time of confrontation comes, and it will, they'll trust you... because you are wise.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,
slow to speak, slow to anger. - James 1:19
Listen to advise and accept instruction, that you may
gain wisdom in the future - Proverbs 19:20
P.S. Cole's hands were fine. Amazingly, he managed to not cut his hands, not even once....again, go figure.