Will. You. Just. Stop! How often I have said this to my kids – usually because I am very frustrated. These words quickly become the catch all phrase that parents use. I reckon there would have been a few times when I did this when my kids were younger that they’d look at me with a blank stare not having a clue what I was talking about! But they tended to go quietly and stop doing anything and everything just to cover their bases. Not a real effective parenting strategy. It is effective at changing their behaviour – for a short time – but it doesn’t touch their hearts, it doesn’t change them long term, it doesn’t change them from within.
My goal in parenting is to teach their heart – that is to teach beliefs, values, character, convictions, passions that will direct their path in years to come.
So instead of saying “Stop” we need to say “Do”.
- Instead of saying Stop making that noise! we can say, Please play quietly.
- Instead of saying Stop annoying your brother! we can say, Please find something productive to do with your hands.
- Instead of saying Stop dawdling! we can say, Please focus on what you are supposed to be doing.
- Instead of saying Stop arguing! we can say, Please listen to each other.
Of course, depending on where you are at in training in any given situation sometimes a prompt like such a request is all our kids need; a reminder to do the right thing. Other times they need us to not only give them an alternative, but they need us to help them see what that actually looks like. Sometimes they even need us to help them change their heart – their anger, their hurt, their distraction, so that they can walk in the right response. When we just throw out a ‘Stop!’ we don’t walk with them through this process instead we leave them there floundering in frustration not being able to change (though knowing you want them to).
When we take the time to remind, instruct, encourage our kids to respond appropriately, we give our kids a life skill – or we at least help develop that life skill in their life. We enable them to be successful. I get great pleasure out of seeing my kids stop doing something negative, or destructive (not just to property but to relationships), pause and think, and then choose to respond with life and purpose. Somewhere along the line, they start stopping themselves, and choosing a better alternative. This is self-government. This is choosing right for themselves, not because I’m there telling them to stop, but because they value right responses to people and situations themselves.
So next time you want your kids to stop doing something – instead of saying ‘Stop!’ think of a way that you can instruct, remind, or encourage them to do the right thing. I’m sure you’ll start hearing yourself
So what annoying things are your kids doing today, what could you say to them that would help them make a change?
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