A Fresh Approach

One Sunday we were at the dinner table at my parents’ home.  My dad said to his then five-year old grandson who was more engaged in interacting with the family than eating his food, “If you clean your plate, you can have dessert.”  Well, my mom is a great cook so anticipating Grandma’s dessert got his attention.

Within minutes, he was neatly scraping the remainder of his food onto his dad’s plate.  When Grandpa asked what he was doing, he responded seriously, “I’m cleaning my plate.”  I remember that scene like it was yesterday.  My nephew’s actions were innocent, as was the look on his face.   In his mind he was trying to obey his Grandpa.  Grandpa was speechless.  We all just smiled.

Kids tend to be literalists so we need to pay attention to what we say to them. Unfortunately, we often don’t consider the child’s interpretation of our instructions.  We think we’re clear because we know what we mean. For example, “Haven’t I told you not to hit your sister?!” … “I didn’t hit her.  I tapped her.  She just cries at anything.”  or  “I told you to straighten up your room.” … “I did.  This is the way I like it.”

My children never said, “Momma, would you repeat that slowly?” or “Could you explain what you mean because I want to get this right.”  Instead, they would do what they thought I meant. Sometimes they did well, but plenty of times, I’d have to call them back to the task.  When I’d explain to the child what he didn’t do, he’d say, “Well, you didn’t say that or you didn’t say it that way before.”  Even when I’d ask,”Do you understand?”, the child would nod or say yes – because she had her own understanding of my words!

The summer is winding down, but we still have a few weeks left! This is a good time to evaluate what we are saying to our children as we attempt to teach them to do or stop doing something. Teaching and training our children can be very challenging.  It is also a primary means through which our relationship with them is developed – one way or the other.

Take a fresh approach.  Invite the Lord in and talk with Him!

For ourselves …
Lord, show me what I need to reteach and please show me how.
If I’m not clear, help me see this.
Help me be consistent as I train.
Fill me with your grace and love so that I teach in a way that reflects You.
For our children …
Help him to understand and to want to learn.
Mold her heart to choose to submit.


“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and grace in time of need.” (Hebrews 4.16)

When we choose to pray, we are approaching our Heavenly Father as His children, asking Him to help us learn and understand His instructions – for parenting our children.  He will teach and train us with great patience and love while bestowing these gifts upon us.


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