Don’t make me count to three! Parent Trap #1
I recently heard *the* Ted Tripp at the South African Shepherd’s Conference where he taught on parenting. Don’t you just love your parenting errors pointed out to you? Tripp did it in a very gracious and thoroughly biblical way. I was humbled and challenged. Just like falling over a trip wire, you get a bit bruised, but you learn your lesson.
When children need to be
made motivated to do the right thing, parents reach into their arsenal of weapons they have found to work. But just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s right. Just look at tofu.
The most common error parents trip over is inadvertently conditioning their young child to believe that he/she need not obey until they receive a certain signal. Common cues to obey may include: a raised voice, a threatening glance, a throbbing vein in the forehead, or the number three.
To say “Obey me! I’ll count to three then you will get a spanking!” Is tantamount to saying, “Please disobey me the first time I speak to you and then keep disobeying for three long seconds.” Is this really the response you’re after? You had better count quickly when he is toddling into traffic.
The opposite of this conditioned disobedience is what the parenting pundits sardonically call “first-time obedience.” This is how it works (in theory)…
Step 1: “Johnny, put away your toys it’s time for lunch.”
Step 2: Brief pause to ascertain if the command is being obeyed. If obedience does not follow immediately, proceed to step 3. (Also, if there is an “Aawww mom” protestation in that brief pause, or a disgruntled sigh or hiss or other demonic sound while the command is being externally executed; that is not obedience. See step 3.)
Step 3: “Johnny drop what you are doing, we need to make a trip to the bathroom for a reminder.”
Step 4: Crime explained, reminder forewarned, reminder executed, pause while emotional, teary response settles, hug, prayer, reconciliation.
Step 5: Start again at Step 1.
Repeat cycle ad infinitum, until ‘first-time obedience’ is attained. Yes, this will take incessant, committed, diligent parenting (Deut 6:7), but it won’t last forever. Kids are quick learners. That’s how they figured out the throbbing vein signal so quickly in the first place.
Although I am frequently tempted to underscore my instruction to my kids with a signal of seriousness, I eventually learned how to exorcise that demon from my parenting by reading Ginger Plowman’s superb little book, “Don’t make me count to three!”
There are at least three more pernicious habits which still haunt my parenting.
I’ll share them tomorrow.