Parenting Game Changer: Training Vs Correction
If you’re doing a lot of good parenting but your child isn’t changing, then it might be time to think differently. That’s not to say you’re doing something wrong, but your child likely needs a different approach. Many children have a hard time changing even when parents try to remain positive, correct consistently, and set appropriate limits. So, if you want to refocus your parenting, here’s one solution that can make all the difference.
Kids Get Stuck
Some children are strong-willed and others are highly emotional. Still others have physiological issues or social problems, the list goes on and on. The challenges children face can come from a variety of sources including personality, biological differences, past experience, and of course a sin nature that complicates life considerably.
The heart of a person addresses tendencies or patterns. The heart is where desires, emotions and beliefs come together to form attitudes, make decisions, and develop passion and drive. Parents who focus on the heart of a child can motivate deeper and longer lasting change. But what does that look like on a daily basis when it’s their behavior that gets them into trouble?
Jack is ten years old. He continually picks on his younger sister. It’s frustrating living with Jack because of the tension he creates in family life. Mom and Dad have been correcting Jack for years. He doesn’t seem to change. They set limits but he goes right past the guardrails they’ve set up and continually makes unkind remarks. The problem is such a pattern now that Dad and Mom feel like they are correcting all the time. The stress in their home is continual. The problem? Jack is stuck.
The Value of Training
Dad and Mom made a major change in their parenting a few months ago. They started emphasizing training rather than correction. They were drawn to the fact that God helps us change using the scriptures in four ways. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” As Dad and Mom evaluated their own parenting they realized they were doing much more rebuke and correcting and not enough teaching and training.
Four things happen when parents emphasize training over correction. What Dad and Mom did for Jack made a major difference. Here’s how it works.
1) Parenting Becomes More Positive
Let’s call the problem area Point A. When parents focus on getting rid of point A they use rebuke and correction as their primary tools. Of course, this isn’t wrong. Those are two valuable tools that we all need and God uses them with us as well. But if parents instead focus on Point B, where the child needs to go, then good things happen. That involves both teaching and training and enables you to balance firmness with relationship.
In Jack’s case, Dad and Mom determined that Jack needed to develop more kindness. This would be demonstrated in “others-thinking,” thoughtfulness, and initiative in positive ways. They had a meeting with Jack and explained the value of kindness, what it looked like specifically for Jack and how they would be helping him to work on it in his life. They began doing practice sessions to exercise his heart in areas of kindness. They even asked Jack to help them come up with ideas that would help him develop this life skill.
2) Parents become Coaches instead of Policemen
Dad and Mom felt so much better, focusing on where Jack needed to go instead of where he was. It was a tremendous relief for them. Their comments changed. Their conversation changed. Even their correction required that Jack practice something different. Coaches practice. They do drills. They have strategy meetings.
Mom determined to set her phone to beep every hour to remind her and Jack that it was time to practice. At those moments, Jack would need to stop what he was doing and do a kindness drill. Look for a way that he could make his sister happy, care for her, serve her, or just be nice. Sometimes Jack resisted and Mom would require him to take a Break until his heart was ready to do the right thing.
Several times Jack surprised his mom with ideas that came from his heart. She saw his initiative prompting ideas that worked. He saw his sister smile and began to enjoy her positive reactions as well. Now it’s been three months. Dad and Mom are reporting a big change in their son. The meanness has definitely decreased substantially. And, they’ve noticed that Jack is being more kind and respectful to others as well. They are so hopeful about continued work and growth in their son.
Training to do what’s right is a powerful way to bring about change and reduce unwanted behaviors.
3) The Parent Child Relationship Improves
Let’s face it. Correction involves tension. Training also takes work, but it’s much more positive. The relationship between parent and child grows stronger. Jack and his mom now have moved the problem from tension between them to a target they’re both working on together. Jack’s dad had a conversation with his son and was surprised to hear him say, “I feel like you guys are on my side now, not just on my case all the time.”
Children who are self-focused often resist training. It takes a lot of work, and some kids repel work at all costs. But the change in perspective on the part of the parents positions them differently. Now the parents are moving toward a positive goal, instead of focusing on the problem.
4) The Child Learns Life Skills
Challenges children experience are the garden where character can grow. The child who is easily angered can develop flexibility. Disrespect can grow into cooperation. Poor response to correction can lead to developing humility. In Jack’s case, his meanness became the opportunity to build kindness, but it likely wouldn’t have happened without intentional work on the part of his parents.
The beautiful thing about moving from correction to emphasizing training is that it models the way God works with us. Certainly he corrects us but he also sets a Point B in front of us. We are all becoming more like Christ. The challenges we face are producing character in our lives. Romans 5:3-4 says, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” A training approach is encouraging because it produces hope not just in the parents but also in the child. We are going forward and God wants to do something big inside of us.
Parents are in the business of change. Kids are changing whether we like it or not. The question is, “Are their changes moving them in a good direction and how can you guide them?” Training is a powerful heart based strategy that helps children for the long term, not just for the present. Paul exhorted Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, “train yourself to be godly.” That statement provides some good thinking for parents as well as they choose their approach.
Jack is not only feeling better about himself as he learns kindness but so will all the other people he will relate to over the years. If your child is stuck and not responding to the normal good things you’re doing, try training. It can make all the difference.
Listen to Dr Turansky’s podcast on How to use Consequences Strategically.