Tag Archives: discipline

Curbing the Competition

Today, my home is filled with the unbelievably loud antics of my kids playing with each other.  Most of the time it is goofy wrestling (and believe me, that’s not just the boys).  Sometimes it is the made up family game of “Can We Make Them Laugh Hysterically”, with one of my kids who laughs really easily as the main target.  It could also be playing card or board games, playing on the Wii, or any number of activities.

It wasn’t always this way.  Just a few years ago, the kids were constantly operating in strife, angry with each other, so easily offended, and very competitive.

One of the tactics that we employed to end the sibling strife was to cut down on the competition.  One of the phrases that we heard around the house was, “That’s not fair.”  If you hear that statement floating around your house, that is clue that there might be comparison between your kids, and comparison births competition.

As I analyzed where the competition was coming from, I realized that I was treating my children as a group.  When we went anywhere, we went as a group.  If we went grocery shopping, my goal was to get all 4 into the store, get all 4 to keep their hands to themselves, and to have all 4 not screaming at the same time. Keeping them alive, safe, and quiet was a huge task, and thinking of them as one unit instead of four little individuals allowed me to wrap my brain around my overwhelming goal.

I called them my herd.  My herd went in, my herd went out.  My herd went to bed, my herd got up.  For me it meant that each one had been grouped as a collective to make my job easier.

Recognizing this, I started to change the way that I talked and thought.Instead of giving time to the herd, I started pulling each one aside for individual time.  Instead of planning my days with all of them involved in every activity, I started scheduling outings so that I could take just one or a couple with me.

I also started calling them out individually.  Instead of calling them all to dinner, I started by inviting each individually to come.  Instead of assigning a general clean up time, I started assigning specific chores to specific people, listing them out by name.

What each child wants is to feel individual, unique and special.  When you treat them as individuals and focus on each child alone, you’ll be surprised at how much comparison and competition is limited in your family.

I’m not saying that this simple change of thought – from the herd to individuals – will stop all arguing and fussing in your home, but I am suggesting that it is a good place to start.  After all, we like to be thought of us special and contributing something unique to the family.

In the family of God, He knows us.  He says that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that we’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), and that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26).   He says that we were wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).    I could go on and on – the Bible is full of references to how He special He thinks that we are.

Give it a try!  Make a practice of treating your kids, or kids around you, as unique and special individuals, without trying to treat them all equally or the same. Tell me how it makes a difference!

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Raising the Opinionated (Strong Willed) Child – Part I

I was one of those mothers who’s firstborn child made her look really good.  My firstborn was (and still is) a really easy kid, really laid back, and geared at pleasing.  When my eldest was very little, a friend shared that she seemed to be an ornament that I carried around with me to make the world more lovely.  She made me look so good that I had almost come to believe that I was the world’s greatest parent.

As a matter of fact, my first two children were really easy.   When the second one came along and was equally obedient, polite, gentle, and brilliant, he confirmed my suspicions about the world’s greatest parent thing.

What I asked them to do, they did.  When I told them where we were going, they were excited about it.  When I told them to go to bed, they did without fussing.  They made eye contact when being introduced, were quiet when I needed them to be, and were flexible with my schedule.

And then my third came along.  He was different from day one.  He was born with opinions about everything.  He cared about when he ate, he cared about the condition of his diaper, he cared about who was holding him, he cared about the position of his head and how he was being held.  He wasn’t a cranky child, per se, but just one that came into the world with ideas about how the world should listen to him.

He made parenting an adventure.

And then my fourth came along.  From day one, she ruled the roost.  She was a healthy baby, but from months 3 – 10, she cried constantly if she wasn’t being held.  (I’m not kidding.  I played a “game” with her during that time where I could pick her up and the crying instantly stopped, or I could put her down and the crying instantly started.)  And being that she was my fourth child and I had 3 others to care for, she wasn’t held all that often.  Those months were very, very loud.

If I thought that my third born had opinions, I found that I was redefining what that meant based on my fourth child.  My youngest came born to rule, and she let everyone know it.

Very early on in the life of my youngest, we realized that we had to completely relearn how to parent.  Things that I took for granted with the other 3 were now complicated.  Ways that I enforced discipline had to be modified.  Styles and tones of communication had to change.

For example, through some unspoken but modeled form of communication, the older 3 knew not to talk to waiters when we ate out – it complicated the ordering process.  We, as parents, found out what they wanted and, in a streamlined manner, ordered for them.   And if the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, we eliminated the screaming of “I do!  I do!” by communicating on behalf of our whole family.

However, when our youngest was old enough to talk, she spoke to waiters, bypassing the system that we had honed for 7 years.  She didn’t see a difference between herself and the adult in front of her.

And boy, did she have opinions.  They were vocal, insistent, and strong.

Some people call kids like my 3rd and 4th strong willed.  I choose to say it is having strong opinions.  The difference to me is perspective.

Strong willed has been portrayed as negative.  A strong will is just asking to be broken, to be put in its place.  It is a challenge to the authority of adults and must be taught who is boss.

But I believe that the opinions, leadership, and strength of a classic strong willed child are gifts that will lead them directly into the will of God.  If we break them, sideline them, or communicate how frustrating they are, then we are running the risk of destroying the very gift that God has placed in them to accomplish things greater than we can imagine.  Their passion, emotion, stubbornness, etc are exactly the kind of traits that can be used in radical ways – and I want to be able to step back and know that I did nothing but encourage and shape those gifts.

In the next post that I publish, I’ll give some specific examples of how I believe that can be accomplished.  I hope that you hang in there with me (it is a long post) to read what techniques can be used to keep yourself positive in the face of combativeness, and how to steward the gifts of the kids in your life!

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