You know how you have that friend who you really look up to as an example of grace and wisdom in her home? I’m not talking about having delusions that she has everything perfectly put together and can’t do anything wrong. But rather, her life is a testimony to faithfulness and her speech is marked by kindness and wisdom. I am blessed to have a friend like this and I hope you are too. My friend is busy with all of her responsibilities in her home which means that we don’t get to talk often, but the times that we do get to talk are incredibly refreshing.
I have learned a lot over time from this friend. She was the friend that I mentioned last week who encouraged me to start cooking whole chickens. She also was the first person who helped me learn how to make bread. She has taught me to be the kind of friend who asks good questions and listens to the answers. Before we had children, my husband and I benefited immensely from watching her and her husband care for their children.
Whenever we talk, I know that I will come away encouraged and with a better understanding of whatever is on my heart. This very thing happened several weeks ago.
We were still in the middle of the never-ending winter doldrums. My kids were restless and high spirited. And my parenting was, dare I say it, a little lazy. Oh, and I had a newborn. So maybe not so much lazy, but distracted.
Too many videos, not enough exercise, and a significant adjustment of having a baby in the house meant that my boys were struggling– a mix of disobedience and the general disorder that can come with small children.
It was a season. A season in which I gave myself and my children extra grace. Because we needed it. Because circumstances warranted it. But I knew that I wanted to try and reign things back in and get our home back in order.
This friend shared with me three simple rules that she was working on with her children. (Because even wise, faithful moms have energetic children who need reigning in). She gently reminds her children of these rules at the breakfast table, setting the tone and the expectations for the day. The rules are simple and her children can repeat them and remember them. During the day there are more reminders as needed.
Three Simple Rules:
Stop, look, and listen.
1. Stop, look, listen. Teach children to stop what they are doing, to make eye contact, and actively listen when someone is talking to them.
This is very important when giving instructions. I have been in the habit of giving instructions from another room, or repeating instruction three or four times before even making sure my kids were listening. I want to teach my children to be good listeners and to follow through with instructions promptly. In order to do this, I need to make sure that I am setting them up for success by making my expectations clear and teaching them what they should do.
2. Don’t interrupt.
My oldest son is almost four years old. And this is an hourly reminder for him these days. Most often he tries to interject his defense or desires when I am disciplining him or giving him instructions. Simply asking him to listen and wait until I’m finished is enough.
The urge to interrupt also happens while people are normally conversing. We try to teach the boys that when they need to say something while we are talking, they need to put their hand on one of our arms and wait until we ask them what they need. Trying to be understanding and not making them wait very long is helpful.
3. Always respond. Asking for a response is a simple affirmation that your instructions were heard.
I try and teach our boys to respond with a simple “yes mama” after I give them instructions. It is another easy step in helping them follow through, be respectful, and be active listeners.
I know that there will be many times I will neglect following through. I know that this will be a process for my children to learn. But I also know that it is a goal worth working towards.
Really, these are just basic guidelines for living in community with people. Teaching our children common rules of politeness (and following them ourselves) is important. I often need to remind myself not to interrupt. I know that if I don’t ask my husband for a response, then chances are very good that he didn’t hear what I said in the first place. And we all would be better listeners if we stopped what we were doing, made eye contact, and actively engaged.
So the next time I remind my children of these rules, I will remind them that these are rules for us all to live by. And then we will work at it together. Over and over and over again!
Have you instituted any simple practices in your parenting that help your kids grow in listening and obeying?