Have you ever wanted that child who just says yes and does what you asked? The one who does as they’re told? There’s two sides to this… what are we telling them to do and what are they doing about it. In this blog I want to address the first, how the children respond will be the topic of a later blog.
Do we say ‘don’t…’ too often? A list of don’ts is a reason that many people avoid church. They think that the church is all about rules and negative ones at that. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t gamble, don’t talk about sex, don’t have sex and certainly don’t enjoy it. Don’t blah, blah, blah. The truth about the church is far different but still that is what some people hear.
Sure the church has some rules, given by God, to keep us safe. ‘Don’t murder’ works well for my safety and my peace of mind. ‘Don’t lie… or use false scales’ Great when I’m shopping. ‘Don’t cheat with your neighbour’s wife’. These are good policies for society. But not many people want to put themselves under ‘The Rules’ of the church, yet their children are captured by rules everyday.
‘Don’t leave that on the floor.’ ‘Don’t whinge.’ ‘Don’t be rude about Gran.’ Oh, those don’t happen in your home? How about, ‘Don’t touch.’ ‘Don’t run across the road.’ ‘Don’t pick your nose.’
What if there was another way?
When the people of the day asked Jesus what was the most important instruction from God, he answered them in a way that blew them away! He said that we need to love God – that is the most important – all other commands are summed up by loving each other. (I love that about Jesus. You ask for one good thing and he gives you two!)
How would that look in your home? If, instead of saying WHAT NOT TO DO, we gave our children an idea of WHAT THEY CAN DO. Fill them up on positive actions. Give them words and permission to learn how to deal with their world. You see, many times it has been said that children are great observers and poor interpreters. They know anger, for example, when they see it and then they feel it; often they don’t know what to do with it.
We put the rule, ‘Don’t run on the road,’ into place. It is a worthy rule. A great idea and for their own safety. But usually we are giving that rule to three or four year olds who don’t have either the eyesight, coordination or language to process it quickly. In fact, most of them only hear, ‘Run on the road.’ REALLY.
Put into their mind what you want them to do. How about a positive action as a command? Say, ‘Stand on the footpath.’ Or ‘Wiggle your toes to the edge of the grass and wait there.’ Give them permission to DO SOMETHING and then praise them when they obey you!
When you get into the swing of this it is actually fun (and much more positive for YOU!) ‘Don’t hit your brother,’ becomes ‘Put your hands on your hips and show me your angry face.’ Just watch. Not only are you giving them something to do with their anger and frustration, you are also helping them interpret your actions when you put your hands on your hips.
How about, ‘Speak nicely to Gran on the phone. Tell her what you did/ate/saw today’? How about, ‘I listen to your quiet voice. I really like understanding you.’ And my personal favourite… NOT DON’T TOUCH but ‘Put your hands behind your back.’ Seriously, works! I had to laugh a few years ago, as we entered into an unfamiliar shop both my (then) 15 and 14 yr olds automatically put their hands behind their backs, and they didn’t even know! Bless.