Dealing with Misbehavior
Should a parent focus on a child’s behavior?
Absolutely, but not solely. A parent must keep his own actions in sight, not just the outcomes in his child.
Those parents who see the two sides of the parenting coin – their own behavior and the behavior of their children – increase their chances of being more effective with the outcomes in their children.
When we obsess over the child’s misbehavior and take our eyes off our mature responses to that wrongdoing, we decrease the odds that we will effectively correct their disobedience. For example:
- If we yell at our child to stop yelling, we are exclusively looking at their bad behavior and closing our eyes to our own. This renders us less effective with the outcomes in our child.
- If we lose emotional control in the face of our child losing emotional control, we are solely eyeing their misconduct while blinding ourselves to our own. Again, this reduces our say and sway with the child.
- If we humiliate our teen who just humiliated us, we are the kettle calling the pot black. Though we halt their degrading comments toward us, we lose their heart. In the long term, they close their spirit to us and that is not the outcome for which we pray and parent.
Here’s the problem for many parents: yelling can get a child to stop yelling and losing one’s cool can settle a child down, but we are using unholy means to achieve a holy end. This will not work over time.
Even though the harsh, angry reaction seems to get the instantaneous results we want, we must recognize that a godly and wise reaction to the child’s misbehavior will help the child change over time more than an ungodly and foolish reaction does.
Yes, in 30 seconds we can yell at the child to stop yelling, and the child stops yelling.
However, we must not parent to the short term, but to the long term.
To do that effectively, we must keep the two sides of the coin in mind: my child’s behavior and my behavior.
Of course, when we do this, it takes more time. That’s why we must decide: is this about my challenging calendar or my child’s character?
Every parent must make various commitments. For example:
- I will not let my child’s misbehavior cause me to misbehave as a parent.
- I will not let the apparent success of my misbehavior as a parent convince me that I am effectively parenting and achieving worthy outcomes in my child.
If we keep reacting in angry and threatening ways, and our children end up doing what we bark, we deceive ourselves.
We may be winning the battles, but we will lose the war.