What do your children hear when you correct them? Could it be ‘Blah blah blah’? Do they switch off and just stand there as if they were listening but you know they hear nothing! How frustrating. To be honest – how frustrating for the both of you!!
Frustrating for you because you’ve got something pretty important to say, and
Frustrating for them because it doesn’t change their situation.
We could learn something if we just pause and consider why they switch off
- They don’t see what you have to say as relevant. They do see that your reaction is about you, not about them.
- They’ve heard it all before (and it was irrelevant then too)
- You are angry (and shutting down protects them – or so they think)
- They are angry too (and you haven’t listened, so why should they)
I don’t presume to know every reason a child turns off – but these four points are good starters!
Why Anger means ‘blah blah blah’
I used to think that I didn’t get angry. I never kicked the wall in after all. Yes, I’d raise my voice, but not angrily! Then I did a little word study and came up with the following synonyms: annoyed, irritated, heated, indignant, exasperated, peeved, bad-tempered, snappy, cranky, tetchy, sharp, impatient, abrupt… the list could go on. The thing that struck me is that I get all those things and yet, they are at their base: anger. The degree of anger isn’t the issue – the fact is, I get angry.
Anger is all about me. When I’m angry it is because of something within me. We like to think it is the other person’s fault – they made me feel this way – but truth is the anger is our issue. Yes, there may well be something happening that is wrong but anger is always my issue. I cannot change the other person but I can change myself – or control myself. I cannot by the force of my emotions make my child behave or make better choices – but I can control my emotions, and help my child learn and grow themselves. Anger won’t help!
The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God
In the book, Good and Angry by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, they lay out that anger cannot fix the problem, but it can identify that there is a problem there. They list the five following reasons we get angry:
- Physical Pain
- Blocked Goals
- Violated Rights
- Unmet Expectations
Can you connect with any of those areas? I can connect with all five at different times. I know when my back hurts I am a lot less patient and I react in anger. When we are running late (my goal being to be punctual) I get angry. When I keep getting interrupted while in the bathroom – surely I deserve some peace and quiet!! When I feel like I’m the only one working around here or when I come home and things are a mess – I expected differently and I am disappointed (and react).
So when your child does something and you explode – or maybe just become annoyed, cross or frustrated (remember degrees don’t really count) you should step back and see why you are reacting that way and address the real issue not just the outworking of that issue. So often we simply address what we see but really there is a root cause of that – a heart issue. If we just address the top layer – the things that the kids do for example – like losing shoes, dawdling, forgetting tasks, teasing their brother etc then we will not help our children at heart level – we will only be conforming their behaviour (which is external).
Our Reaction makes it Irrelevant to our Child
It is because we don’t connect at heart level that the kids tune out. This is the issue of relevancy. While we are ranting about the shoes they don’t get what our problem is – they could after all go barefoot! (may be this is just a reaction from kids who grew up in the tropics, I don’t know, but they’ll have some good reason why losing their shoes is no big deal!!) While we rant about them dawdling they don’t get the point of rush, they’ll get there – chill mum!! While we rant about them forgetting what we told them, they are thinking if you’d just be quiet maybe I’d remember!! While we rant about teasing, they are rising up on the inside knowing that the other sibling started it first. When we ignore the cause, when we ignore the heart of our child, we just make our words irrelevant.
The key to getting our children to listen to our instruction is to come from the point that their heart – their responses, character, will, emotions, attitude, etc is their responsibility. While we rant and rave we act as if it is ours – but it isn’t – it is theirs, and we need to help them respond in accordance to God’s ways, to choose character, to determine their will in accordance to ‘what would Jesus do’, to keep their emotions and attitude where they honour God and respect others.
Download free parenting poster to help you Respond instead of React.
How to help our Children Hear Our Correction
So when we find ourselves in a situation where we need to correct our child we need to take a deep breath and think this through before we get angry at them.
- Why am I starting to feel anger (this is a check on where I’m at) – I need to deal with this before I can go any further. Maybe I need to take a break before I continue with my child. I also need to consider is the issue something that I have done or something the child has done – for example if I haven’t taught them to be orderly, I can’t correct them for not being orderly, if I haven’t woken them up with enough time to get out the door, I can’t correct them for not being on time. Am I doing the teaching and training that I need to be?
Then we can think through…
- What is the real issue here – what is in their heart that is making them react this way
- Is my child ready to take responsibility for their actions and/or attitude? If not they need a break away from life, away from all interruptions and distractions, so they can consider their attitude and get to a place where they know it is their issue
- How can I help my child take responsibility for their issues – sometimes this may include a consequence, sometimes it may just mean a verbal correction, sometimes it may mean more teaching and training.
When we get angry we short change this process. We dump our issues onto our kids and/or we take their issues as our issues. How complicated!! The truth is that when things go wrong in our house we all need to take personal responsibility – responsibility for our heart (our attitude, emotions, character, will, and beliefs) and responsibility for our actions (which is how we live out what is in our heart).
When stuff goes wrong in our house we all need to take personal responsibility – including the parents.
So if you think your kids are hearing blah, blah, blah, then it is time to take stock of how you are responding to their wrong choices, to curb your reactions and start responding.
I like comparing those two words – reaction and response. Reaction is instinctive knee-jerk comeback to what happens, a response though is a carefully thought out and executed reply. There will be death in a reaction; there will be life in a response. Think about how you can respond to the things happening in your home not react.