In years past, I remember asserting that I would never pursue a career as a teacher. I had good teachers over the years, but I thought my life would go in a different direction. When the call came to homeschool, I decided that, in order to be a better teacher, I should always put myself in the position to be a student, learning something that did not come naturally to me. One of the things I discovered was that not everyone who is in a teaching position necessarily knows how to teach.
A good teacher is one who has a vision for what she wants her students to achieve, and has a plan for how that will be accomplished. What makes teaching a group of students a challenge is that not all children of the same age necessarily have the same level of development, or the same strengths and weaknesses. Assessing the goal and determining how far along the path to that goal a student is, allows for an incremental approach tailored to the particular student.
This same concept applies to parenting, since parents are the first teachers of their children. Yet, I see many parents of young children who show that they do not have a clear vision of the skills or behavior they wish to instill in their children. Moreover, for those that do know what they want to achieve, they fail to patiently work on incremental steps that will eventually lead to the overall goal. Instead, they try to accomplish the result immediately without the necessary foundation, and frustration dominates the process.
For example, imagine you wish to be able to take your baby or toddler to a restaurant. The first incremental step is to choose a restaurant where your child will be able to succeed in behaving the way you hope. A place that is not averse to noise and that will serve the food in a timely manner is a better selection than a fancy restaurant, or one with limited seating, that caters mostly to business people or adults. Next, it is important to attempt this when the child has napped sufficiently or is not especially cranky. Doing dry runs will build up the habit of acting appropriately, understanding your expectations. Then if/when, a situation arises that you need to stop and eat out unexpectedly, the child will already have some practice at knowing what is acceptable, and small corrections should be enough to get him back in line.
In other situations, such as during a church service, traveling on an airplane, or shopping in a grocery store, the likelihood for failure is real if adequate preparation for success is neglected. I can always spot parents who do not have a clear plan in mind (or have not practiced in the confines of their homes) in these circumstances. They fall into one of two categories—the oblivious parent or the especially loud, correcting parent.
The oblivious parent tunes out the child and hopes that the “village” will understand just how difficult children can be, and thus makes no effort to correct the child. The loud, correcting parent wants those witnessing the out of control child to know that she really is a good parent and demonstrates this by issuing commands non-stop or struggling with the child without success. It is tempting for onlookers to view these situations and conclude that the children are behaving poorly. Truthfully, the parents are the ones behaving poorly.
Our society already has a disdain for children, as evidenced by the astronomical numbers of children butchered in the womb. This disdain continues when parents do not make it a priority to instill in their children the requirement that they learn self-control and self-discipline. If we wish to silence the foe and the enemy (Psalm 8), we must recognize that our children are those God has ordained to be witnesses to His love and grace. Verse 2 of this psalm reads,
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
While it is unrealistic to expect children to behave flawlessly in social situations, there is a way to ensure that they are on the road to lasting improvement. To reiterate: have a goal for how you wish for your children to behave; establish incremental steps for them that will help achieve overall success; and prepare to enjoy the time you spend with them both inside and outside your home.