Sunday morning dawned with deep freeze temperatures. Azure and Zane, 5 and 2 year old grandkids had spent the night. They were coming to church with me. My church is a parking lot away from my front door. We got our breakfasts and pulled on our clothes and were soon ready for the short hike to church. As we stepped out the door the snow plow went by piling the snow into a meter and a half high mound all along the curb. The trail was not yet trampled down by school kids so we were going to have an adventure walking to church.
I had just joined a little neighborhood church. One sweet old lady introduced herself to Azure. She kindly explained that she knew her mom and dad and grandpa and to tell them hi for her. Her friendliness was met with cold rejection as only a child would dare.
When we came home after church my daughter made hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows for the children. I asked Azure why she hadn’t been nice to the kind lady at church. She said, “well, sometimes I’m shy.” I responded to this teachable moment with gusto.
“No Azure, you were not shy. You were snotty. When someone is talking to you need to smile and say hello and be nice.” I ended this teachable moment with the expectation that she would do better next time. I knew that my coaching had reached her heart when I overheard her teaching her marshmallows to be friendly.
I frequently babysit preschool kids and use these opportunities to build character. My heart is burdened by all the instant parenting I observe. Looking back on my childhood, I wish my parents and relatives would have loved me enough to invest in my character. My impression is that teachers and parents don’t want to be bothered with that level of involvement.
I do not know of another adult who enjoys small children like I do. I believe the difference is that kids are lovely to have around because I teach them how to behave. For example, when I decided to change Zane who is two, he protested as he often does for his parents. When I made the announcement that I was going to change his diaper and clothes for church he started a fit. I continued regardless expecting him to become compliant when he realized that his fit would not stop me. But his carrying on continued so I said sternly, “Stop it” and he did.
I have had a few such moments with his sister now five. That behavior has become extinct with me because she only receives the needed attention if she asks properly. Instead of rescuing her from her bad attitude, I coach her. For example; she gets frustrated if I don’t do everything for her. I coach her with soothing phrases like; sit down, use both hands, you are doing good, keep trying, be patient, and we have lots of time.
I learned from Kevin Lehman when my daughter was little that children know if they can push you and just how far. In his book, How to Make Kids Mind Without Losing Yours, he instructs parents to allow children to experience the consequences of their choices. The result is very little fuss when I address misbehavior.
With some common sense and wisdom children really are pure joy just as the Bible says. Interestingly kids are happiest in an environment where they must contribute in attitude as well as behavior. Building character makes parents, teachers, grandparents, and especially the child content. A child whose elders have invested in building character will be honored by the child.
Instant pudding or parenting seems easy but in reality grows more complex and discouraging each year. The world says the child will grow out of their selfish ways on their own. God says that discipline equals love and that we must do it awhile they are young.
Correct your children and they will give you comfort; they will also delight your soul. Proverbs 29:17