Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

Why don’t you listen?!

on October 14, 2012

As a Children’s worker, I’m blessed to meet and teach all kinds of kids. There are the kids who memorize every verse, the kids who engage in worship, the kids who excel in inviting and bringing other kids to church, and then there’s the kids who just don’t listen…ever.  The kids that misbehave no matter the disciplinary actions, the positive reinforcements, or the talk with parents. This has made we wonder on several occasions, why don’t you listen? What makes your little brain tick and why won’t you engage with or respect others?

In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Kevin Leman asks similar questions, but in relation to parenting. “Why is it that these days that so many children tend to diss their parents, to act disrespectfully? Why are so many parents caught in the roles of threatening and cajoling and never getting anywhere? What’s going on here?”

I know what a lot of you are thinking – it’s that crazy music kids listen to these days, or all the hours of t.v., or of video games. But, what I’ve come to find out is – kids will always misbehave as long as adults let them. For example – having a behavioral system that empowers my leaders to speak to parents about difficult children will only get problems resolved if the parents discipline their children for their unruly behavior.

Leman’s comments lead to several pointed questions: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to take charge of your family? Are you willing to look like the “bad guy” at times in order to parent your children so they will stop rolling over you? Are you ready to be an assertive parent, helping your child become all he can be?

First, let’s look at three ways that we enable children to have bad behavior:

1) No parenting game plan – Parents lead kids much like a coach leads a football team, and to experience victory, parents need a good parenting game plan. Part of having a plan means defining the attitudes, behaviors and character traits you want your children to possess. When you can define these, you’ll be able to begin to develop a plan to become a super parent.

2) Inconsistency –  I’ve learned that children have brains like elephants — they will latch onto even your smallest promises (positive or negative) and remember them a day, week, month or year later. Therefore, I learned that consistency was of utmost importance in discipline. If I say I’m going to make a phone call to a parent due to behavioral issues, I needed to deliver rather than make threats or promises I didn’t intend to keep. And if you don’t do what you say you will, kids won’t respect you.

3) Power Struggles – If your child wants to wear a shirt/skirt combo that makes her look like she dressed herself in a dark closet, and she is very strong-willed, you may ask yourself if it’s worth fighting her to get her to change her duds. On the other hand, if she wants to spend time with a boy in a dark closet, you might want to make a big deal out of that. The battles that you choose to fight will directly affect your child’s level of misbehavior — especially if your child is strong-willed.

Reality Discipline

The first thing to remember about Reality Discipline is that you want your children to learn to think for themselves and learn to become more responsible through guidance and action-oriented techniques. In an article from First Things First, Dr. Leman says, “Action-oriented discipline is based on the reality that there are times when you have to pull the rug out and let the little buzzards tumble. I mean disciplining your children in such a way that he/she accepts responsibility and learns accountability for his actions.

Here’s the little bit of ice cream example from Dr. Leman – Say a mom goes to pick up her son from school, and every day he runs from her to the play ground. If her son ran from her the next time, she should ask another adult on the playground (that she trusts) if they would be kind enough to keep an eye on her son for a few minutes. Then she should drive away, go to the nearest ice cream shop, purchase a cone for herself and drive back to the school to pick up her son. Then, when her little guy got in the car and asked, “Where’s my ice cream?” the woman should cheerfully say, “Well you could have had some ice cream, but you ran away; so I had to go get some alone.”

One point for mom; zero for Junior. That’s Reality Discipline. No ranting. No raving. No warnings. Just cool, collected action with some quick, clever thinking to make your point loud and clear.

Okay, now here’s some basic principles of the Reality Discipline System:

1) Don’t focus on creating a happy child. Focus on creating a responsible child.(It’s okay if your child throws a tantrum for a few times when you start this…they’ll catch on very quickly, and will become more responsible people for it!)

2) Understand your child’s reality. (Example; in my husband’s house growing up, each child had a chore list. And all of the children loved saving up their allowance to buy nice things for themselves. So, their reality was that they valued money. My in-laws decided to implement a system that you received your allowance at the end of each week. The chore list was posted and everyone knew their jobs.  When one child’s job was left undone for the day, another child could complete the job and would get their money out of the first child’s allowance. Talk about staying on top of your chores!)

3) Make sure that the Reality Discipline is grounded in love. If you find that you are a permissive parent who is afraid of “pulling the rug out from under your child” as Dr. Leman suggests, remember that Reality Discipline is not unkind. Instead, when it’s motivated by love to help your child mature into a responsible adult, it’s a very good gift.

Begin working on this, and we’ll talk about building your child’s self-esteem in a healthy way next week!


2 responses to “Why don’t you listen?!

  1. missy says:

    Dr Leman,

    My son is recently off his ADHD meds because it was causing terrible moodswings. I’m trying to keep him off but the teacher called to let me know he was flying paper airplanes and talking too much. I’m trying too keep him off meds. I already run myself crazy trying to ensure he gets a good education and the school doesn’t want to recognize or help him with his learning disabilities. I pay taxes and the education is public. The teachers make a ton more than I do with a masters degree. I can not afford any more testing and therapy. I also can’t afford for my seventh grader too go over the deep end on aderall. I’m hoping they will see the seriousness of the situation and help soon. In the meantime what consequences are fair when my overly energized kid isn’t acting the status quo in class?I can’t afford a special school that deals with this.

    • Missy,

      First, I’m sorry that you’re dealing with such a difficult situation. In our family ministry we have more and more children diagnosed with different learning and emotional disabilities where the schools are not aiding in the solution, only in diagnosing the problem. I would suggest that you read Dr. Leman’s book and to seek out the counselor at your child’s school with your concerns. They may be able to help you solve the problem of how your family can take full advantage of different programming and aids that either the school or your local government provide. for instance; some states offer an iPad to children with different diagnosed disabilities or disorders with programs on them to help the children with their concentration and problem solving skills.Please know that our family ministries staff at Trinity Church will be praying for you and your family!

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