We started going to church earlier this year and the boys have been attending the kids ministry. We are a family of faith but we rarely freely talk about faith and religion. With the boys learning more at Sunday school, we are getting questions about God and Jesus. Although this makes me extremely happy, I worry how I can talk about a topic I know so little about. I am thankful these kids have an amazing dad who can discuss religion and faith with them. What I have been doing is bringing up the topic of God when disciplining the children. And with headstrong boys who want to exert their authority in a power struggles with mom (translation: acting like maniacal heathens), I get lots of opportunities to touch on God during "teachable moments".
This morning was a rough start for S. I asked multiple times for him to brush his teeth and when I asked for a 6th time, he made the poor choice of throwing a fit and then throwing an iPhone up the stairs. I was in another room when I heard the bang against the wall but I knew exactly what he did. My blood was boiling because this was not the first time he has thrown things in his rage. As soon as I walked up to him, he knew he was in trouble. I started to yell but then looked at him hoping for a sign that the talk this time would sink in. I sat down and he sat on my lap. It was 10 tear-filled minutes for Sam as I talked to him about his behavior, anger, lashing out, respect, apologizing, God's love, and asking forgiveness. He was crying hard and felt so bad that he didn't know how to ask Him for forgiveness. He finally was able to look at me and apologize, then I helped him start his own prayer, asking God to forgive him for behaving poorly, throwing the phone, and disappointing me. He hugged me tightly wanted to sit with me while he cried himself to sleep. I never get a chance to snap a photo during our tender moments because he always acts like a big goof. As soon as he heard me snap a pic, he woke and was back to his normal hammy self. I realize that teachable moments like these won't always end in hugs and kisses so I was glad to have this as proof that it is possible to hug and make up.
I wish parenting trials were few, talks with our children were easy, and teachable moments always ended positively. But that's not real life. The hardest job as parents is helping our kids prepare for life mentally stable, physically strong, and emotionally intelligent. I am hoping for minimal disturbances in the force as they continue to grow and that I won't ever have to bail them out of jail.
My tips for teachable moments.
- Remain calm. If you feel your blood boiling and you need time to cool down, tell them you both need a time out. Talking to them about their bad behavior will not be effective if you do it in anger. Remember to lead by example by speaking calmly and in a low tone.
- Praise something about them, a trait that is positive or actions they do that make you proud. Leading with a positive and following with the (negative) action that is unacceptable, helps diffuse volatile emotions for both parties. Kids worry that the love stops when we get mad.
- Keep it simple. Don't bring up past bad behavior and roll it up into a present talk. This is not your spouse and bringing up past or more incidences that may not be relevant to the current discussion can confuse them.
- You will always love them but you don't like their behavior, poor choices, attitude, etc. God's love for us never fails, that even when we do fail, his grace forgives us.
- Lead them in prayer. Pray over them and in their ear so their focus is on your words. Then, help them pray in their own words with minimal word feeding. A simple way to introduce prayer to your children by using the Five Finger Prayer.
- Always end with lots of hugs and kisses.