Don’t Waste Your Words
He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind, And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
Don’t trouble your house with inconsistency. Children learn quickly if their parents really mean what they say. How many times have you seen an adult threaten a poorly behaved child with a punishment they never give. Other parents will warn their children over and over about poor behavior without doing anything about it. The whole process infuriates the parents and exhausts them emotionally. And I’ll guarantee you the kids feel the same way.
Children thrive in structure. They like to know that they have rules and that those rules will be consistently applied. Rather than stifling them, consistent discipline helps them to explore the positive areas of their world.
In most cases, warning children over and over again teaches them that they don’t need to think about their own behavior because their parents will think for them. While many parents feel that repeatedly warning their child shows grace, it most often leads to exasperation. Repeated warnings usually happen when selfish parents will not stop to instruct children until they have lost patience. The inevitable impatient exchange no longer models Christ but selfish anger, and it harms the parent/child relationship. Consistent, loving discipline focuses children on “right and wrong” rather than the parents emotional state. If kids can obey after the fourth warning, they can obey after the first.
Obedience in Public
With most of our toddlers, we had one public testing. Kids learn quickly that misbehaving in public often doesn’t get quick discipline like misbehaving at home. Inevitably, each of our children would misbehave in a cart full of groceries, as if they thought we would endure their sin to save our time. When they discovered that we would leave a cart full of groceries at the store and go home for discipline, only to return and start all over again, obedience improved drastically. It only needed to happen once.
Parents can only create a culture of listening and obedience by requiring them. If you want your children to value your words, you must value your own words first by following through. If you have instructions for your child, make them stop and listen to your words. Have them verbally acknowledge that they understand you. If they disobey, punish them after the first offense without any warnings. It will show them that they need to listen and control themselves. You just taught them that your words matter because you acted on them. If children need to be reminded of a standing rule, simply ask them, “What is our rule about . . .”. When they answer you, they have instructed themselves.
Do this, and you will help keep the frustration of inconsistency out of your home.