Why do you want your children to behave? Should be an easy question to answer right? But it is a question that tripped me up when I heard it years ago. Because the true answer was not one I really wanted to admit. I wanted my children to behave to make my life easier, more enjoyable, and so that others would look at them and ultimately me and think, “Wow, she’s a great mom.” It was all about me.
I wanted my boys to be quiet when I was on the phone so I could enjoy my conversation. I wanted my boys to go to bed easily so I could have a relaxing quiet house. I wanted my boys to get dressed and not throw a tantrum about tags and buttons on their clothing because I didn’t want it to take 45 minutes to put their clothes on. I wanted my boys to play nicely with other kids so I didn’t have to supervise too closely and I could talk to the mommies. I wanted my boys to leave a play area quietly and calmly and not throw a tantrum because I didn’t want to be embarrassed.
And you know what? Really those aren’t bad reasons. There is nothing wrong with wanting a peaceful, enjoyable, non-embarrassing life. But the thing is, when those were my main motives in wanting my children to behave, I’d find myself getting angry, frustrated, and depressed. In the past few years, I’ve been shifting my motivation. As some of you know, my oldest son is on the Autistic spectrum, diagnosed with Asperger’s. A very real conversation my husband and I have had is where we see him in 15 years when he’s 25. Will he be able to have a job? Will he be able to live on his own? Most likely he will be. But questioning that has caused me to reassess why I want my children to behave. I want them to develop the qualities and characteristics that they need to be happy, productive, well-adjusted, relational members of society.
I want my boys to be quiet when I’m on the phone so that they learn to be patient and respectful of others. I want my boys to go to bed easily so that they learn how to live within boundaries that are established for their health and well-being. I want my boys to get dressed and not throw a tantrum about tags and buttons so that they learn to adapt and problem-solve when something is uncomfortable or not how they want it. I want my boys to play nicely with other kids because I want them to be kind and considerate and to be concerned about the needs of others. I want my boys to leave a play area quietly and calmly so that they learn to handle the many transitions and changes that we have in life.
When my focus is on growing these characteristics in my boys, my discipline and training is much calmer, rational, loving, and effective. I also find that I’m much more prayerful in my discipline when my motivation is growing my boys into men of character and not just making my life easier and making me look good. So, as you are disciplining your children, I encourage you to think about what your motivation is. Why do you want your children to behave?
P.S. Thanks for reading, I find that writing these posts is very therapeutic for me… and an added bonus of being able to write on a forum where others read is if they are encouraged, can relate, or feel like someone else understands them. As always, I love to hear your thoughts!
P.P.S or is it P.S.S? Anyway… MOPS moms, if you even bothered to read all the way through… sorry for taking a shortcut this morning and just using the article from last week’s newsletter. But I liked what it said, and well, it’s a Monday morning, and I don’t have anywhere to be, so the thought of climbing back in bed for a little bit is pretty appealing 🙂