One of the parts of discipline that I’ve been noticing I need more work on is instruction. I often err by assuming my children should know some thing or another, and as a result become angry when they don’t meet my expectations. One simple solution is to take the time to teach what I expect. Sharing Scripture is essential, but I’m finding that there’s often a practical component that is useful to share as well.
David and Bethel both like to tease each other. Sometimes the teasing is welcome, but lately I’ve been getting a lot of the unwelcome teasing around here. We’ve talked about how love behaves (from I Corinthians 13): love is kind, love is patient, love is not selfish, and so on, and I try to make the connection between their behavior and the Scripture. Not all teasing is unkind and selfish, though, so I’ve been trying to be more consistent when I respond to actually make the distinction. I do ask, Is that teasing kind? or Is David enjoying that teasing? and I try not to expect them to know ahead of time what teasing is going to be welcome. Still, it’s been a recurring source of tears around our house, and I’m thinking that maybe my lack of instruction has been a part of the problem.
Last night after dinner, Lee was handing Bethel a very much desired segment of orange. Each time she reached for it, Lee pulled it away as Bethel giggled. After a few times, Lee handed her the orange. In a flash of inspiration, I asked David, Was that good teasing or bad teasing? How do you know? I received the light in his eyes and a smile as he answered correctly. I realized that I’ve been teaching from the bad example only (don’t do that) instead of also using the positive example.
We’ll see if it makes a difference!
Vivian Butts says
Good point Michelle, thank you for that. Viv
Jay Younts says
Michelle, Great observation! Matthew 7:12 works well here. Humor, teasing and laughter are a part of life. They can bring joy or tyranny The issue is how do they fit with everyday life. It is not just emphasizing the positive, but even more to the point of being other centered. Your husband was doing something that was enjoyable to your daughter. Yet in another situation this same action could have been seen as taunting and cruel. So, the emphasis is on bringing joy to someone else. This becomes one way to address perhaps one of the more challenging aspects of parenting – how to impact and change our children’s motives. For young children, it will be frustrating to address this from a formal teaching perspective. However, by making application of the concrete as you did, you begin to open the door to this vital aspect of parenting – changing motives. It is not about me having fun first, as in it is fun to tease my sister. Rather it is about bring joy to others first, as in my sister is having fun.
Matthew 7:12 is exactly right; I hadn’t made that connection. In fact, Lee and I were talking about the incident and the realization that the reason it was fun for Bethel was that she had confidence in the love of her father, and in the knowledge that she would indeed receive the orange. Without that trust and love, it would be a cruel game. I think that’s part of why teasing can be difficult for children to interpret. They do not have that trust and love built, and consequently are unsure of the intent of the teasing.