Lately I have seen a whole bunch of quotes that look an awful lot like this one:
"We expect children to never have bad days, never be grouchy, never lose your temper. Yet we do this all the time, why do we expect things of them we don't expect of ourselves?"
On the surface, this is a great quote, but something about it bothered me when I first read it, and now I have finally realized the issue with this train of thought.
Yes, children have bad days, and yes, children get grouchy, and they lose their temper. But there is a big, big difference between someone having a bad day, and someone using that bad day as an excuse to sin. My problem is not when my daughter has a bad day, my problem is when my daughter has a bad day that leads to her being sinful.
The other day, Wiggle woke up very grouchy. None of us know why, she just did. So we let her be grouchy, but throughout the day I corrected the sinful behaviour that came from her being upset. She threw her toys when told 'no'. She got corrected. She hit me when she decided that I was mean for not sharing my food, I corrected her. She got down on the ground and threw a hissy fit, I corrected her. Do you notice something? I didn't correct her for having a bad day, I didn't correct her for being choosey about what she ate, or for not smiling enough.
I chose to correct the attitudes that were sinful. Because these things aren't things that are ok for me or her. Why would I let my child get away with something sinful and give them the excuse "Well they had a rough night last night so she's tired today?" God doesn't give the order "Be angry and sin not... unless you're really tired, then it's ok."
As parents, our job is not to coddle our children into spoiled young adults who expect the world given to them, and expect people to understand they had a bad day and that's why they're mad. Our job is help them grow in Christ, and that means that we hold their attitudes and actions to Gods standard. And yes, we will make mistakes, and the battle seems kinda uphill a lot of the time, but that doesn't mean we don't do it. This world seems to be under the impression that because it's 'natural' it must be right. This is completely contrary to what God says. He says our very natures are sinful, and thus our 'natural' is wrong. Why would I for one second not help my child step towards Christ for the sake of her attitude being 'natural'? I won't. I will push my child to dwell in his shadow, in the warmth of his wings. Even if it means correcting her behaviour when she's tired and grouchy, because while anger is ok, sin is not.
With Flash we have had this problem previously, and here is how to we dealt with it.
1. We made it clear that attitude is a choice.
Sure, you can wake up feeling stinky, but that doesn't mean you need to have a bad attitude about it. Contrary to what most people think, if you honestly decide that you're going to be happy today, you most likely will. Your attitude is determined by you. This applies to children as well.
2. We laid out a plan for him to deal with this anger.
If Flash was having a bad day, we would tell him whenever he felt angry, he could have some time to go to his room and calm down, and when he was ready to talk nicely we would listen. This left the responsibility to deal with his anger on him, and thus if he chose to not calm down, the consequence of his anger was justified.
3. We didn't tolerate excuses or "Well he!"'s.
So often you see people make excuses for their anger "Well he was mean" or "Well then he shouldn't act like____." This is just plain old stupid. The Bible doesn't say be angry and sin not unless someone else irritates you, does it? No. So with Flash we have a no excuses policy. I don't care what he did, I care how you reacted.
4. We apologized if we reacted in anger ourselves.
When I was a child there seemed to be this stigma on parents apologizing to children, as if apologizing and admitting you were wrong was somehow going to undermine authority. But it doesn't. Having a double standard does. If you react in anger, apologize to your child and admit you were wrong it will go a long way.
5. We always give an outlet for talk.
If Flash wants to talk, we are always there to listen to him about why he's angry. If it was something we did that we were wrong in, we fixed it, if it was something we did and he didn't like, we explained why it had to be that way. Never discount your childs opinion, this will just make them feel undervalued. But be clear that you are the parent and the final decision will always be yours.