As parents, we tend to think after parenting for a few years that we are “experts” .
That’s quite a scary place to be. When we think we know it all, we stop being humble, we stop learning. I’ve fallen into that trap too…Particularly as a parent blogger, the pressure to act like I’ve got it all under control is ginormous; it’s very real. So I’m thankful for the existence of real experts who dare to speak the truth.
Most truths hurt. They don’t aim to flatter. They aim to reveal the points of failure or insecurity in our lives, not to put us down, but to help us grow and make changes that are most needed.
I attended Paul Tripp‘s seminar at ARPC last weekend. And here are some of the truths that I picked up.
1. The target is the heart, because the problem is the heart.
Parenting books and websites often dish out expert tips to deal with this and that behaviour. But as we’ll find, using external rewards, guilt, punishment, consequences, and threats work temporarily at best.
I often focus on behavioural control too. I guess it’s easier to try to fix what we can see. But the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. We need to draw the connection between their behaviour and the thoughts in the heart, in order to reveal the ugliness of what’s in there, and point them to the need to ask God for help.
“Behaviour is an overflow of the heart. Lasting change in your child’s behaviour always travels the path of the heart.”
Dr Tripp provided us with questions that can help us to make the heart connection with our children:
- What was going on? (Just to have a brief understanding of what happened)
- What were you thinking and feeling as it was happening? (Getting into the thoughts of the heart)
- What did you do in response?
- Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish? (Revealing the motives of the heart)
- What were the results?
I tried this on Vera one day, and she was able to articulate her feelings. Specifically, she used the words “confused” and “sad” when I asked her how she felt when JJ had the chance to turn off the lights at bedtime, and she didn’t (and she started to whine because of that). She then went on to share that because it was something she liked to do too, but she doesn’t get to do it because of her brother.
I haven’t tried this with JJ, and I think he’s not yet at the stage where he’s able to verbalise or describe his feelings. But I hope to try this soon nonetheless, even if I have to provide him with some words to help him along.
2. The battle is about authority. This battle is best fought when young.
Daily battles about food, sleep, or whether to buy the toy or not, are not actually about food, sleep, and toys. It is about authority. Whenever our kids push the boundaries that have been set, they are challenging our authority.
Sure, there are some things that can be negotiated and some that have room for compromise, and we don’t want to exasperate our toddlers with excessive rules or “No’s” with no reason as well. But when it come to the crunch, they need to know that parents have been appointed as authority figures in their lives. They need to learn appropriate submission to authority.
3. Parents have an ambassadorial authority.
I think Dr Tripp said it most eloquently:
We are the visible representation of the invisible authority of God. So each time we exercise authority, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God.
Questions to ponder: What picture of authority are we giving our child? What do they see in our face, tone of our voice, feel from our hand, when we exercise our authority?
4. Discipline is the other hand of love. Discipline is love.
That is why we shouldn’t discipline out of anger, as it’s inconsistent and scary for a child. Discipline is about bringing our children from a place of danger back to the circle of safety. Its purpose is rescue and restoration, not to express irritation or anger.
Children need firm, loving discipline. Discipline that is not careful and restrained hurts the child.
Here are some tips from Paul on how we can exercise restrained, loving discipline.
When to discipline?
- only in instances of clear rebellion to authority
- take a minute to get our heart right before meting out discipline, to ensure we are not reactive
- invite your child to a private place (try not to do it when others are around, not even in the presence of family)
- set your child on your lap and discuss the offence (make sure he understands what he did wrong)
- secure an acknowledgement, give your child an opportunity to confess what is wrong
- pray aloud for your child, ask for grace and tender obedient heart
- announce number of spanks or another appropriate consequence (to set ourselves limits)
- administer the discipline
- comfort and speak love to your child so he understands that discipline is love
5. It takes character to go after character.
Parents need to examine ourselves too. Perhaps one of the biggest lies that we’ve bought into is the belief in self-sufficiency – That somehow by trawling and accumulating all the modern parenting wisdom floating around on the internet, we are able to do it on our own.
The truth is we all need grace to bring up children of character. And we need to be humble and open to correction ourselves.
I’m really glad that I managed to attend this seminar; I’ve never picked up so many gems in one sitting! If you’re keen, you can check out his parenting books and DVDs here.
Now it’s your turn. What have you learnt this week? What has life or your kids taught you? Hope to hear about your lessons every Thursday. 🙂
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