They say it’s the little things in life that often bring the greatest joy. This is true of the hour I spend first thing each morning with three toddlers so their mothers, all fellow volunteers from the Family International with whom I live and work, can get on top of their day. I must admit, though, that this hasn’t always been the case.
It was a great plan in theory, but with all three still in diapers, one or the other of them usually had a smelly “surprise” for me upon arrival, while another would be a bucket of tears, crying over the fact that her mother was leaving her with me for a while. “Believe me,” I often found myself muttering, “I wish this wasn’t happening more than you do!”
The need for loving, consistent discipline
Parenting is more than comforting children when they fall down, or making sure they get proper nutrition, and brush their teeth, and so on. Parents are responsible for their children’s spiritual training as well, and the foundation stone of that training is loving and consistent discipline—and when I say “loving,” I mean reasonable, even-tempered, and nonviolent. Children begin forming behavior patterns and their ideas of right and wrong very early in life, so the earlier you can start teaching them, the better.
Question: My daughter is almost three years old, and she’s started something new: the “Mommy, I’m scared” phase. For example, she has become frightened of dogs—even our docile old family dog—and she asks questions like, “Does the dog have sharp teeth?” and “Do dogs eat little girls?” Even the sound of a dog barking in the distance is enough to send her running indoors. No amount of reassurance seems to help. How can I help my little girl overcome her fears?
One thing that kids do all the time is argue amongst themselves. Often it is more a matter of contradicting what the other has said, almost for the sake of contradiction. Other times they do it to show that they’re superior, to show that the other is wrong and to make themselves look better. Children do that all the time, almost constantly.
They need to be shown that trying to put themselves up by putting down others is wrong. Maybe they are right sometimes, maybe their point of view is right—usually they think they are right, if they’re arguing—but whether they’re right or wrong, they need to learn it’s wrong to argue.
Your children will never forget the special times they spend with you. Aren’t those some of the memories you treasure most from your own childhood—when your parents showed their love in the form of time and attention?
Children thrive on personal attention, and if they don’t get it, just like the rest of us, they feel bad, unimportant, or even rejected. You don’t always have to spend a great deal of time with children to make them know you love and appreciate them, but you do have to spend some—and the quality of that time is just as important as the quantity.
I was a scrawny, asthmatic eight-year-old living in India with my family in the early 1980s when an old family friend visited and informed me with a smile that she had taken care of me when I was a baby. I felt a special link with her. As she reminisced with my parents, I knelt behind her and silently braided her honey-colored hair. It was my first attempt at braiding, and it turned out quite loose and unsymmetrical. But when I finished and I asked her how she liked it, she felt the back of her head and said, “It’s lovely! And it’s much more comfortable in this heat. Thank you for doing that for me.”
An eight-year-old who thought she wasn’t very good at many things gained a sense of worth and learned the reward of helping others in little ways.
When my daughter Karina was preschool age, I wondered what I could do to help her learn to not misbehave. She would often make a big scene, whining and crying when being corrected, which left me frustrated.
Then I had an idea that helped Karina over this hurdle. When she acted unkindly to her little sister, or was disrespectful to her father or me, or fussed or cried without reason, I would take her by the hand and explain that what she was doing was not very nice. Then I would lead her to a quiet adjacent room, where I would explain that she needed to stay there for a while in order to think and pray about her actions, as well as how she could remedy the situation if it involved someone else.
Question: Lately my children have become quite disrespectful. It also seems that whenever I try to correct the situation, I only make matters worse. What can I do?
Answer: The first step in correcting such misbehavior is facing the hard truth that it’s partly your fault that your children got into that state. As with most problems, you need to start by examining your own attitudes and actions and determining to make whatever changes you need to make first, before you can expect to help others change.