I’ve noticed that none of the good child rearing manuals tell you what you should do when the best instructions don’t go according to script. We might be tempted to grow frustrated with the incomplete instruction, but that wouldn’t be wise, would it? I felt this frustration yesterday. I know that asking questions is a good way to teach. Jesus taught with questions all the time. My mom (and others) emphasize good questions as a teaching tool. But I don’t know what to do when my questions get the wrong answers.
I’m not worried about Bethel. When I ask her questions (age 2 and a half), she often gives me the wrong answer. Was that kind? typically receives a bright yes! Asking her How can you love your brother right now? often results in her responding Please stop, will you forgive me, or any other in the litany of correct answers. I’ve started to view this age as one of definitions: this is what kindness looks like, that was disrespectful, this is whining. I still ask the questions, but I also give the answers, and I’ve stopped worrying about her incorrect responses.
David (age 4) is another story. He knows what’s kind, and his language development is mature enough to know what response goes with what offense. Perhaps this is why I was so frustrated yesterday with the questions and answers I was giving and getting.
I’m trying to help him understand that his excessive teasing of his sister is wrong. I’ve talked through First Corinthians 13 with him, and told him that laughing about or enjoying his sister’s displeasure is not loving but sinful. When I ask him questions in an attempt to lead him to understand what he is doing, he insists he is being kind, even though his sister might be wailing and he was running away giggling with some object in hand.
I’ve got some options for responding to this problem.
Perhaps I have not explained or taught the concept. I do think he is capable of understanding it, but it is possible that I’ve assumed knowledge that is not complete enough to draw upon in the middle of a conflict. Maybe I should do some role-play with them. This might be a good thing to suggest to Lee that we do one week for evening devotions.
Perhaps there’s a better way of asking questions. When children are young, the sentence structure of questions can be difficult to understand. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out the best way at eliciting the child’s understanding. (David’s pediatrician used to ask him, Does your mother throw you out second story windows? and then enjoy my discomfort when David answered yes. He was intentionally teaching me about language development.)
It’s also possible that what I’m doing is fine, and I should continue what I’m already doing.
Tomorrow I’ll take the time to think through this some more.
Shelley Gallamore says
I think there is a third option and that is that he understands the question and understands the sin, but doesn’t want to ackowledge the sin…so he avoids or misanswers the question. But, it sounds like you are doing good with your part. It is hard to wait on God to move in their hearts. As my kids have gotten older, they have gotten more vocal at admitting that they are aware that what they are doing is wrong and they don’t care. That is hugely frustrating. However, James tells us that the “anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God” so I have to often deal with myself at that point. And pray…a lot.
Yes, that’s something I’ve thought of. But that gives me a new set of questions…. Should I discipline as though he’s guilty? Should I continue to nag until they repent? Should I immediately drop the issue? It’s enough to drive a mom to the Bible, isn’t it?!!
I heartily agree with your last point (Perhaps there’s a better way than asking questions), especially for middle-aged toddlers. (Being a mom of 4 means that “toddler” is a very wide age bracket! lol) And, as you alluded to, role-play has really helped with some of mine when they just don’t “get it”. With the ones who do, consistency has been key for me. Sometimes my consistency is challenged by my physical/emotional endurance, however(!), but nothing’s more rewarding than to see your child get the concept and choose obedience instead. Whew!