Wow, it is no easy task raising children! I’ve had the blessing of raising three. They’re all grown and married and they’re raising their own children today. As I watch them, I just think to myself, “Oh my goodness! That takes so much work and effort. Did I actually do that?” Because now as a grandfather, I don’t have what it takes any longer. I can love them and leave them and that’s about the extent of it.
But when you’re raising kids, you have the stamina. At least you hope you do. And they can be a huge challenge. They’re cute, they’re fun, but they can be demons if you let them, because they come built-in with the potential to absolutely ruin your life.
I see poor moms and dads, for example, in grocery stores, dealing with little children who are not that big but are throwing temper tantrums and screaming and making their parents’ lives just completely miserable. And those poor moms and dads, who are so embarrassed, hate even to go out in public with their kids because their kids are clearly the ones who are in charge.
Preventing or Stopping Your Child From Being a Brat
So how can you prevent that from happening? If it is happening to you, how can you put an end to it? I’m happy to tell you that I’ve got the answer that you’re looking for.
Proverbs 22:6 says that we should train up our children in the way that they should go, and when they’re old, they will not depart from it.
The key word in that verse is the word train. It reminds me of training a dog, for example. Or training any animal to do what you want that animal to do. And how do you do that? You do that by positive and by negative reinforcements. Of course the positive ones are much more fun than the negative ones.
Training Your Child with Positive and Negative Reinforcements
Whether parents realize it or not, they’re already doing this, but they’re probably having it work against them. They’re doing it the wrong way if their kids are brats or if their kids are controlling their lives and making their lives miserable.
Why do I say that? Here’s a prime example. Consider a little child who throws a temper tantrum and screams. And Mom says, “Stop that! You’re not going to get what you want.” But the child just screams louder and throws more of a tantrum. Depending on how much patience Mom has, she finally gives in. Unfortunately the more patience she has, the worse this is going to work against her.
If she lets that kid scream for three minutes and throw a temper tantrum for three minutes, guess what? If you give in after three minutes, you just taught your child that if you want something, all you have to do is scream for three minutes.
So kids learn that. They think, “I want what I want. Whatever it takes to get it, I’m going to get it. You’ve reinforced my negative behavior by giving me what I wanted when I demonstrate this negative behavior in the past and I’m going to repeat that.”
How to Respond to a Temper Tantrum
Here’s what you should do in these cases. When your child throws a temper tantrum, just completely ignore the child. If you can, walk out of the room safely. And as you do, say, “I can’t see you and I can’t hear you when you do that,” and walk out. And determine that no matter what that kid does, you’re not going to reinforce that negative behavior.
It’s really a funny thing when kids think that they can manipulate parents by holding their breath. I love that one! You have biology on your side. And hopefully you have a bigger brain than that child, and you would never be fooled by that child holding their breath as if they’re going to hold their breath until they faint and die. Their body won’t let them do that, so just look at them, smile and say, “Okay, hold your breath. You’re not going to get what you want because that’s not how this family operates.”
Ignoring that negative behavior squelches it. Kids learn pretty fast that if it doesn’t get the desired results, then there’s no sense wasting their time doing it.
How to Use Positive Incentives with Your Child
Then of course, you can use the very positive incentives. When they train the dolphins at Sea World, you notice every time that they do a flip, they come up to the surface and they give them a little bit of food.
I’m not advocating that you should withhold food from your kids, or necessarily reward them with food, because that can create a negative cycle in their life when they’re always associating good behavior with food.
But still, positive reinforcements, like praise, are effective. Everybody likes to be complimented and encouraged and praised. You can’t ever get enough of that. When your kids do right, make sure you tell them how proud you are of them and give them those hugs and kisses and reward them in any way that you can. That’s reinforcing positive behavior. Ignore the negative and reinforce the positive.
The Danger of Distant Rewards
There’s one thing you have to be careful of if you’ve got a rewards program going. And that is setting rewards too far out into the future.
Better to say, “If you keep your room clean, we’re going to keep track of that. And you do it seven days in a row, then there will be some positive reward.”
You can’t set the reward too far out into the future, because kids aren’t oriented way toward the future. They’re pretty much living in the here and now.
So if you say, “Well, if you’re good all through August, when it comes to Christmastime, we’re going to get you that new whatever,” kids can’t operate under that kind of incentive program as maybe adults can, thinking in a longer-term reward program.
Objections to the Rewards Mindset
Some people object to the whole rewards thing because they think it’s bribery. No, it’s not bribery. Bribery really is an enticement by giving an incentive to do evil.
Offering rewards is really imitating the Lord. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Nothing wrong with imitating Him on that! I’m so glad that the Lord gives us positive incentives to do what He wants us to do.
Of course, He also disciplines those whom he loves, and that’s a whole other side of it.
The only time you want to discipline your child, that is punish your child, is for defiance, not for childish irresponsibility and so forth. But when your child crosses the line that they clearly understand that they shouldn’t have crossed, testing to see if you will keep your word and, as you promised, punish them, you’d better follow through. That’s a real key. Be consistent. Be consistent.
We’re out of time. Thanks so much for joining me. Hope to see you next time on Little Lessons.