I was browsing the aquarium gift shop with my kids happily following along when we were almost plowed over my two young boys about 9 years-old running through the store, screeching. I looked around to see if a responsible parent would stop them before they ran by me again. No such parent was in sight…the mischievous boys zipped by me again, careless and oblivious to other shoppers. It really was appalling behavior, conduct I’ve never seen in my own children…because they always knew there would be serious consequences if they even attempted anything so ill-disciplined.
Now, my children are not perfect…far from it. But they have always known that running around a store in such a manner would not be tolerated by me. Here are some things we did in order to train our children how to behave appropriately during outings.
Whenever I took my kids out, we went over expectations of behavior before arriving at our destination. We would talk about staying near me at all times and absolutely no whining. We would talk about the consequences of not behaving when we were out. One time, I had to leave my shopping cart full of groceries in order to take my child to the car for a discussion. Eventually, my kids were so familiar with the expectations that I would have them tell me what the behavior expectations will be. Doing this helps them to take ownership of their choices.
Paul tells us in Galatians the expectations of a believers behavior through the Fruit of the Spirit. We are expected to show love and kindness. We are counted on to have self-control! Are these not the same expectations we ought to be instilling into our children? If so, then we better make sure we are living by the same expectations.
As followers of Christ, there are certain expectations for us…we are expected to live holy lives. Our children are never to young to begin understanding this truth.
Rewarding the Good Times
When they did behave well, I made sure they knew how proud of them I was. Sometimes I’d buy them a special treat or promise them something fun when we got home. I would also make sure my husband found out their good behavior that day.
I often explained to the kids that when they are well-behaved on outings, it makes incredibly happy to take them on outings more often. This not only encourages the good behavior, but it also helps them to take ownership of their behavior and choices.
Be proactive instead of reactive. This means you don’t wait until there is a problem to teach and admonish. Begin teaching good character habits early on. Have regular discussions on what it looks like to respect and honor others above themselves. How can we show love and kindness to those around us? What does self-control look like?
Being proactive will help to prevent many problems later on.
Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
I am a huge believer in building kids up before the need for discipline arises. Let them know you believe that they can make good choices. Sometimes it is so hard to make the right choice – yes, even for us adults. But it sure helps when we know someone has our back, right? Make sure your child knows you are cheering him on.
Everyone needs a ‘second chance’ – or more. We all mess up. It is good to know that there is a way back when we have made mistakes. Encourage your child with something like, “You made the wrong choice this time but I am confident that you will make a better one next time.” There is always room for redemption. Don’t go on and on and on about it (believe me, it doesn’t work…I’ve tried). Let them experience forgiveness and redemption.
Let Them Be Responsible
Let them be responsible for their behavior. Don’t make excuses for them. Every single parent has to deal with misbehavior. It happens. It is part of raising kids. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed – just deal with the misbehavior appropriately and move on. They made the choice, therefore, they need to be responsible for it.
It’s A Heart Issue
Lastly, remember that misbehavior is a heart issue. There is only one heart changer that I know, our Heavenly Father. And He longs to be the Abba Father of our children. Through prayer, hearts change. Through meditating on His Word, hearts are healed and redeemed. Through worship, hearts are made new. Jesus promises to give us a heart of flesh in place of our hearts of stone. This isn’t any different for our children. A changed heart is a heart that rests at the feet of Jesus. Our kids are never to young to sit at His feet.
Back At The Gift Shop
My husband tried to tell them to stop running, but they refused to listen. One of the employees finally had to step in after these boys were throwing several stuffed toys around the store – and I mean from one end to the other. Armfuls of stuffed toys were being placed back on the shelves as fast as these boys were taking them off and hurling them throughout the store. One employee told them to stop running and that if they hadn’t purchased the items, then they couldn’t take them out of the store. With one last toss, they ran out of the shop…parents still nowhere to be found and staff were left to clean up the havoc.
As my children witnessed this event, they stood in disbelief and disgust that these boys behaved so badly. They also expressed their gratitude that we never allowed such behavior from them. They were thankful for our parental discipline now even though they likely did not years ago when we would enforce it!
Maybe you are looking for some resources to help you parent and develop Godly character in your children. I will be blogging over at A Little R & R in July about my favorite discipleship resources. Stay tuned…
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