Are you allowing your children to engage you in a battle of reason? Do they question your authority when you say, "It's time to go," or "Come with me," or "Put that down," or "Give that to me." How do you respond, when, after telling your child what you want her to do, she says, "Why?"
Many years ago, my kids (then 7 and under) were busy getting their shoes tied as we prepared to leave the play area at a fast food restaurant. A man came up to me from a nearby booth and, gesturing toward the children, questioned, “How in the world did you get them to do that?”
“Do what?” I asked.
Silently thanking God for my many Christian mom mentors, I filled him in on what I called the ten-minute rule. "Ten minutes before I’m ready to leave, I give my kids notice. I’ll quietly go over to the play area and tell each of them, You have ten minutes. I make sure they are looking at me, and I wait for them to answer, Yes, ma’am. (I live in the South. We say that.)
"If anyone argues, moans, or groans," I continued, "he or she must sit with me immediately while the others play for the remaining ten minutes. (But that only had to happen once for them to all know I was serious.) Their ten minutes gives them time to wrap things up, go down the slide a few more times, and say good-bye to any new friends."
Have you ever seen a parent in an unsuccessful attempt to remove a child from the play area when it is time to leave? Usually, that parent will have allowed the child to lure her into reasoning. The child wants to know: Why it is time to go? Why can't I stay longer?
So Mom begins to offer excuses. We have to pick up brother, she might say. Or, I need to go to the store. That simply allows the child to continue with his questions: Why can't someone else pick up brother? Why do you have to go to the store?
When disciplining a young child, logical reasoning simply opens the door for debate. “Parents who try to reason with a young child normally end up frustrated and, quite often, outwitted!” says my friend Ginger Plowman, author of the best-selling parenting book, Don't Make Me Count to Three: a Mom's Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline. “Reasoning with small children in an attempt to get them to obey causes confusion. It erases the line of authority between the parent and the child. It places the child on a peer level with the parent.”
Remember that you are training your child for her ultimate position as a child of God. When God tells us something He wants us to do, we are to obey, without questioning--especially when those questions are stall tactics or attempts to go around what we know to be His direct mandate.
Young children need a clear understanding of your authority--because eventually they will need a clear understanding of His! You're the mom! Don’t surrender your God-given position of parental authority by allowing for arguments in the early years.
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