Three Parenting Battles and How to Prepare for Them
“Battle” is a strong word. We don’t want to have battles with our children, but sometimes the way they respond makes it feel like a battle. Here are some ideas to reduce the tension, increase the cooperation, and prepare yourself so that conflict doesn’t escalate.
Remember, don’t be surprised by your child’s resistance. This may sound simple, but some parents seem to have unrealistic expectations. It’s as if they expect their child to say, “Thanks Dad for saying no to that movie. I really appreciate the limits you set for me.” Or “I appreciate it Mom when you make me clean up my room and make my bed.” If you expect your children to always appreciate your discipline, then you’re going to be frustrated, feel a lack of appreciation, and take resistance personally.
Kids don’t often appreciate the discipline of childhood right away. Many times the gratefulness comes when they’re adults or when they eventually have their own kids. Parents must have an internal confidence that they’re doing the right thing in order to persevere every day. Those who feel uncertain or are always second-guessing themselves feel confused, often resulting in frustration and anger toward their kids. Of course, the poor parenting that results from anger further complicates the situation and parenting problems get worse.
Being mentally and spiritually prepared for parenting challenges can mean all the difference between progress and setbacks in a child’s growth. This may seem obvious, but many parents take personally the reactions of their kids.
One dad said, “When my son disrespects me, I realized that I was telling myself that he doesn’t listen to me and it reminded me that people don’t listen to me at work. Even growing up, I don’t feel like I received much respect from people. So when my son treats me this way, it brings back all kinds of memories and I end up with a poor response that makes things worse. I now know that I’m tempted in this way and I realize that my son doesn’t have all of these motivations that I imagined. He’s just immature and needs discipline. I’m the parent. I need to do the job. It’s a much more freeing position for me as a parent.”
Disciplining kids is hard. It’s frustrating at times and difficult both for the child and for the parent, but kids need it. The hard work of parenting produces results although those results might not seem apparent immediately. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Resistance on the part of the child usually requires a correction response from the parent. Correction is an interruption to the work of family life. It can then quickly become an irritation and frustrate even the best of parents. It’s best to have a plan to deal with resistance. Expect it, and be ready for it. Resistance from children often happens in three arenas.
1. Getting Things Done
The first and most common area of resistance takes place when parents give instructions or are just trying to get things done. Children often don’t like to be interrupted from their play. They want life to be easy and many kids believe that their primary job in life is to have fun. Consequently, your instructions get in the way.
Part of your job is to teach children that their primary job in life is to be available to cooperate, not just to get things done or to make life easier for you, but because they learn valuable lessons about work, relationships, and giving up their agenda for someone else. Heart qualities of cooperation, flexibility, and responsiveness to authority are learned when parents teach their children to follow instructions.
The resistance to your instructions is an indication of a heart problem that needs to be addressed. The most effective way to change patterns of resistance in this area is training, not just correction. Practicing good responses and doing what’s right is the best way to bring about change.
The second area where resistance is common happens when kids are off track. They react out of emotions, lie, or even get distracted from what they need to do. Kids often don’t want to admit that they’re wrong or accept responsibility for their part of the problem. When kids are off track they must step back, settle down, and prepare their hearts before they return. Your persistence when children are off track teaches them that correction is part of life. In fact, many of the lessons of life are learned through correction. It’s a tool that God uses to teach old and young alike.
When children learn to respond well to correction, they learn humility, responsibility, and how to handle guilt. When children have a poor response to correction they’re missing out on one of the ways that God provides growth and training.
When children are off track it’s best to have them take a Break, settle down, and change their hearts before they continue the dialogue or address the problem. Instituting some kind of Break in the interaction can prevent the problems from escalating.
3. Accepting No as an Answer
The third arena of resistance is when children are given a “no” answer to their request. When kids can’t have what they want they sometimes become demanding, disrespectful, and belligerent. Children need to accept no as an answer, and the job of many a parent is to teach a child that lesson by being firm.
By learning to accept no as an answer, kids learn contentment and graciousness. Furthermore, they learn the spiritual skill of living within limits so that they’ll be able to say no to temptations in life.
Don’t allow arguing, badgering, or complaining to set you off. Refuse to continue to dialogue about the issue when a child engages in one of these actions. The answer is no and the child needs to learn to accept the no answer.
Get Your Plans Together
If parents can learn to anticipate resistance, they can better prepare themselves to remain calm but firm. Sometimes the resistance is an indication of something else going on and requires a listening ear. The parent who is surprised by opposition can easily resort to anger in order to overpower the child into submission, missing a valuable teaching opportunity.
Don’t let a child’s poor response dissuade you from what you know is best. Remember that your job isn’t only to help your children be happy. You also want them to grow and mature. That sometimes means experiencing the pain of wrong choices. Allowing them to experience the discomfort of discipline can be a very loving thing to do.
So, when you need to discipline your child, and that child responds poorly, remember that discipline isn’t intended to be fun. Although you want to look for creative ways to teach and make learning a joy, sometimes a child needs to experience a negative consequence to learn a lesson. Anticipate resistance by being prepared, but persevere because you know that what you’re doing is best for your child. The discipline is a valuable part of your child’s growth.
When your children are having a hard time accepting correction, remember that their immediate response isn’t an indication of the effectiveness of the discipline. You are disciplining for long-term benefit. This truth can help you persevere. It can be quite freeing when parents recognize that discipline is unpleasant and that children often won’t respond with gratefulness. Sometimes parenting isn’t pleasant but discipline is a necessary part of the job.
The idea of developing plans for various challenges children present is taught in the Motivate Your Child Action Plan. This book has 12 chapters, 12 audio sessions, and 12 meetings with your child. You’ll learn how to be much more effective as you think about strategies and develop plans for challenges your child faces.