Cowboy takes a bow
Cowboy takes a bow

Anyone can teach a dog to do tricks, and often times in parenting that’s what we teach our kids to do … tricks.

I firmly believe that when we teach people to do something just for the sake of doing it, or to make them look good or fit in society, we aren’t giving them life skills.  We are teaching them tricks.  Now I fully admit that teaching them tricks is easier and can be done from behind the wheel while racing to school and everyone is still eating breakfast in the car.  I know, I get it.  But what I’m saying here is that I’ve seen some results of my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-parenting, and I’m not impressed with the results.

I don’t want to teach my kid tricks anymore. I want to do heart-work with him, not behavior-work.  Behavior modification is exhausting and he still misses the toilet anyway.  And YES, I know this will take time and I will have to put my phone down to do it.  In fact it might even take prayer and seeking wise advice from those who have already been through this parenting stage.

So …how do we do it?
That’s always our next question. (Other than, how long will this take?)

As school ramps up, don’t teach your elementary aged kids the trick of keeping their mouths closed while the teacher is talking. Instead talk to them about what it feels like when someone talks over us.  Because I am an awesome parent and I read “all the books”, I’ve been known to turn the table on my child every now and then.  When he gets in trouble for being disrespectful at school, I’ll shake things up at dinner and talk over him for about 3-5 minutes.  When I can see he is getting the picture, we talk about how it FELT to be talked over and interrupted.  Prize winning parenting?  Probably not.  A new found understanding of empathy?  Score one for mom. 

I stink at praising my son for HIS work – he loves to draw, I love to draw… perhaps you can see the problem already.  I tend to judge his work based on how I would draw something and I question his placement of weaponry (for more reasons than simply artistic).  I’m sending the message that I think his drawing stinks (high five to those of you who said “drawering” in an SNL sort of way) but that’s not my intent at all!  Instead I should say, “WOW, that’s a creative way to make the blood drip from his nose!”

Please tell me my son is not the only one.

Actually, don’t.
Don’t tell me my son is the only one.Because then I will have to take action and I’m only capable of one step at a time here, people.

Kids are verbally brutal to one another in this generation (aw snap, when did I turn into my mother?!?!). They pick on each other for their clothes or how they speak or because of their lack of athletic abilities. Sure, being kind to another’s face is important, but teaching your kids that what they say about others after they have left the room is what shows true character.  The bible says, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  So every time we speak, people see more and more of our heart-nature.  Talk about x-ray glasses!  If I had a post it note stuck to me from all the things I said recently which revealed pieces of my heart, I would desire a shredder and sunglasses.

A grown-up “trick” in this scenario would be putting a smiley face after a rude comment on Facebook or saying “you know I’m just kidding” when really you did mean that those pants were hideous and you wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

Yuck.  I don’t like how it feels when I do things like that.  I don’t like saving face, I don’t like the way gossip makes me feel, and I really don’t like that heavy feeling of “dang it, I yelled at my son AGAIN!”   I would love to spare my son this adult grief and just teach him about heart-nature from the get-go.

The bottom line here is that if we keep putting band-aids on our kids’ behavior, we won’t ever encourage their heart-growth.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have been known (a few minutes ago) to say things like “DUDE!  Just … SHUSH!” or other uplifting mothering comments such as “If you aren’t ready in 3 minutes I’m leaving without you.”

I, Ann, vow to make an effort to quit parenting on the fly, to speak from my heart instead of from my pool of witty and sarcastic come-backs, and to stop nitpicking the choice of sub-machine guns sketched in 2B pencil,  I didn’t say I was going to change overnight, I said I was going to make an effort.

Who’s with me?


2 thoughts on “can your kids do tricks?

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