Manage better; punish less.

Happy or sad? photo

Last year, we were fortunate to see Will marry Maria. At their wedding the photographer looked around for fitting backgrounds for the bride and groom pictures. In the chapel, outside, near the door, in front of trees, in front of fountains, and on and on. He took a lot of time on the background, but when the pictures came, we didn’t really notice the backgrounds. We noticed the couple.

Here’s the point: the background supported and focused on the real object of the picture, the bride and groom.

As Patricia and I grew and matured as parents, we realized that certain structures supported our relationships in the home. Order enhanced our lives together. We choose to call these background disciplines. These background disciplines are the unnoticed sentinels that maintain the peace and harmony within a home. The better you manage, the less you punish.

The first one is this: Parents are in charge. In Ephesians 6:1, Paul says it this way, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This is the foundational building block for the home with children. This is how God runs the universe: He started it and he sustains it. Colossians 1 says that he holds it together. Parents do that in the home. The other background disciplines follow out of this one.

The second one is this: Build attentiveness. Patricia tells the story of running out the door and calling out to Will over her shoulder to empty the trash while she is gone. When she returns, the trash is not empty. She realized that  attention had broken down on two levels, hers and his. She had failed to pay enough attention to him to make sure that he was listening and to get a response. Consequently, he never really “heard” her instruction. So build attentiveness on two levels: parent to child and child to parent.

The third background discipline is this: Schedule their activities. As adults, we usually know our plans for the day; but the kids don’t. Without realizing it, we jerk them from one thing to the next without preparing them for what’s coming. Try taking your most hectic hour of the day and dividing it into fifteen minute flexible segments. Show it to the kids, hang it where they can see it. When God created the universe, he set the sun, moon, and stars to mark the times and seasons. Just do that on a small scale.

The fourth one is this: Teach the procedure. Teach your kids how to do things. Too often we just expect them to know how to do things. “Clean your room.” “Put away your clothes.” “Pack your bookbag.” “Make your bed.” Take time to show them how and you will spend less time being frustrated. Just a note: you will probably need to show them how more than once. They are learning. Repetition is necessary.

All of this takes time. So does punishing them. The better you manage, the less you have to punish. How do you want to invest your time?

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