By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate parenting classes for several years. Often, I hear parents describe how they’ve utilized parenting techniques gleaned from their childhood only to find spotty success at best. One dad even exclaimed his frustration at not being able to just tell his child to do something and have success. I feel their pain! Before we make an assumption that this generation of children has evolved beyond the use of these old fashioned parenting techniques, we should try to understand a few basics.
Parenting is not an exact science. There is not a parenting system or technique that works for every child in every situation. Our children are unique, special, and complicated. They are going through different stages of growth. Each stage has some general characteristics, but variance is normal.
If you combine a new stage of development or phase of behavior with other common variables in a home such as over-extended parents, illness, travel, a new sibling, or just about anything, then you can find a technique that worked 100% of the time in the past suddenly doesn’t work at all.
So, what’s a parent to do? Some people just keep doing the same thing or start yelling louder or acquiesce to certain behavioral patterns.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some encouragement. Think of parenting behavior issues like getting a car repaired. When your car has an issue, you take it to an automotive repair shop to have them diagnose the issue. Even with computerized technology, a mechanic may not be able to discern what is causing the issue. Some mechanics will just start trying to repair or replace various parts until they have success. Most of us don’t like this method because it can get costly. Other mechanics will try to pinpoint the cause of the issue and fix it.
As a parent, I found it easier to want to fix the problem than discern the cause. When you are in the midst of busyness or juggling multiple kids, the last thing you want to do is figure out why a behavior keeps reoccurring. I found myself often throwing every parenting technique or trick or consequence I could think of at an behavior issue hoping I could find something that worked and be done. It wasn’t until a few years into parenting that I realized there are some underlying issues that can cause a child to misbehave or act out while other times the way I was parenting became an issue.
I’m one of those lucky ones that have been told my car repair was my own fault. It turns out that some of the ways I was driving or not taking care of my car increased the wear and tear on my vehicle and led to various repair issues.
In a similar way, we can get into lifestyle patterns that can add to behavior issues. We may have given in a few too many times on dessert, ignored certain behaviors because we didn’t have time to address it at that moment, or any number of things. It can be helpful to step back from a reoccurring behavior issue. We can reflect on our patterns, check on age-level characteristics to see if this is common for this age, or seek input from other parents or teachers. Once we determine a behavior needs our intervention, we can then decide the best course of action.
In car repair, there are certain tools that can be used for a number of different repair needs. For example, a wrench or socket set is a good general-use tool. Some repairs require specialized tools, and a wrench just won’t work no matter how you try. This is the same with dealing with behavior issues. Some issues can be addressed with general parenting tools, such as providing a consequence or motivation for good behavior. Yet, there are some behaviors that require a specialized technique or a modification of a tool we’ve used in the past. For example, if a child is hurting other children on a regular basis, you may need to do more than provide a consequence.
Be encouraged though! While parenting can be difficult and even overwhelming at times, it can also be rewarding and amazing, as well. Children can be horrible one minute and doing something amazing and loving in the next. They are growing and learning. They are discovering their own identity. Their biggest job during childhood and adolescence is to become an independent and thriving adult. You are providing the foundation to their success. As they get older, they will push back more, become more independent, rely on peers more and more, and eventually, leave home. You have a wonderful role, and I’m sure even in the midst of wild behavior issues, your children are thriving and growing. When you are dealing with the next big issue, take a few minutes to reflect and assess a reoccurring issue. Then decide which tool or tools will work best to intervene and reset their behavior to be on track again.
Parenting with Love and Logic provides wonderful articles on a variety of behavior and discipline issues free on their website.