Instruction is an opportunity to build up our child and build our relationship. It can also lessen fits, fights, embarrassing moments, and unnecessary correction. Most importantly, it’s an essential building block for character development. But how we instruct matters. True discipline begins with loving instruction.
Resources for Episode 13: True Discipline Begins With Loving Instruction
- Psalm 25.8-9
- Simple Steps Episode 10
- Simple Steps Episode 11
- Simple Steps Episode 12
- Join me on Instagram @teresadglenn
- Grab a copy of my book Becoming A Peaceful Mom ~ Through Every Season of Raising Your Child
Read Episode 13 Transcript
Have you ever said something like this to your child:
You should know better!
I can’t believe you did that!
What were you thinking?
Sometimes my children knew better, but more often they didn’t, not really.
Many social skills, life skills, and rules of behavior are second nature to us, as adults. We’ve brushed our teeth, looked someone in the eye when we talk to them, and practiced being respectful for years. We don’t recall how long it took us to master things like that, but we expect our child to learn everything rather quickly. Even if your child is a teen, he is years behind your experience level, in every way.
Often, we scold or correct a child for something we’ve never taught, or explained, or made sure that they understood. Here are a couple of examples:
1 – Our child has a friend over. The friend wants the toy that our child is playing with, so we tell our child, “You need to share and let your friend play with it too,” or we take the toy from our child and had it to the friend as we say those words. Then, our child refuses to obey or is upset for the remainder of the playdate.
The question is: Have we taught our child about sharing and practiced, before a friend ever comes to our house?
2 – An adult friend asks our child a question. Our child keeps playing or never looks up, so we scold or speak impatiently to the child in front of our friend, “Look at Mr. Jones when he’s talking to you.” And now, everyone feels awkward.
The question is: Have we taught our child how to have conversation with an adult and practiced with them?
When we instruct, the amount of fits, fights, embarrassing moments, and unnecessary correction will decrease.
More importantly, instruction is an opportunity to build up our child and build our relationship. Our efforts to instruct say: I’m on your side, and I want to prepare you for how to live.
Most importantly, instruction is an essential building block for character development.
The Bible is filled with God’s instruction to help us learn how to listen, follow, and honor him—which includes how to live the ordinary day in our heart and in our home with our children. The response of our heart, whether it leans toward obeying him or doing what we feel like, is what matters most to him, and our character is shaped accordingly.
The same is true for our children. However, you and I are their first and primary teacher. It is our responsibility to expose them frequently to instruction. This gives them opportunities to practice what it means to listen and obey—and then to experience the blessing of peace and our pleasure when they try.
How we instruct matters. Our best example is God’s way with us:
- Before God ever spoke a word of instruction to us, he loved us. This is the first step of Instruction: Pray for God’s love to fill you and ask God to help you love your child with his love. Why? Because our love isn’t enough, no matter how strong we think it is. Some days, we feel frustration or disappointment more than we feel love, and that’s when our words come out impatient, critical, or mean. We need the power of God’s love to cover our weakness and help us love the way that we really want to love when we instruct—no matter what the child does or doesn’t do.
- God’s instruction is full of grace. He already knows we’re gonna mess up a lot, yet he never gives up on us. Psalm 25.8-9 describes this. Listen to how you and I are described, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way.” We are those sinners, y’all, whom he graciously leads, teaches, and reteaches.
Teach your child with hope, knowing that she will miss the mark. Be ready to respond the way God responds to us —whether she’s learning to put her shoes on the right feet or to sweep the floor well or to get home by curfew. Be her advocate by praying before, during, and after instruction. For example: Jesus, please help my child be teachable and try. Fill me with your grace.
Support her by encouraging every effort you see. Speak some of those Life-giving words we talked about in Episode 10 and 11. This way the child learns that we are not watching for her mistakes; rather, we’re watching for how we can help her succeed!
3. Be ready with a simple explanation that provides understanding for why we want them to do or not do certain things. This may also motivate them. Jesus did this through parables with his disciples.
Consider asking the child if he understands your instruction. Ask him to retell it. For example: Your child comes home from school and says an inappropriate word, that you know he didn’t hear at home. So, after asking some questions about that, you can teach and explain why we don’t use that word. Then add, “Now tell me in your own words why we don’t say that word.” Some possible responses:
- You learn your child wasn’t listening, so you have to explain all over again!
- You see that your explanation was too vague, so you try another angle.
- You see the dots connect and call it a good teaching moment!
Also, find ways to have fun with your explanations when you can. For example, if you teach a child to chew with his mouth closed, he probably won’t see why this is such a big deal, because he can’t see what he looks like when he’s chewing. I remember when I taught this: We all took turns talking with food in our mouth and everyone had to watch. We laughed and were grossed out and the kids were convinced.
One day a friend and I were talking about an upcoming middle school party that someone was having, and she said, “I wish there was one set of standards to follow, so that I knew what mine should be and what to say yes and no to for my child. It seems like every parent has different rules—or no rules.”
Have you ever felt like that? I knew exactly what she meant.
Have you ever noticed how few details for raising children are in the Bible? For example, there aren’t specific guidelines for things like what manners to teach and when, what is age appropriate behavior in various settings, when to take on different levels of responsibility in the home, how to determine and explain boundaries for TV, movies, social media, and phone and computer usage.
God desires to instruct us in all these matters through our personal relationship with him. He wants us to invite him into the details. Ask: God, what life skills, social skills, values, rules and boundaries should I be teaching at this age? In Part 3 of my book, Becoming A Peaceful Mom, I share some ways to discern God’s guidance about such things and deepen this relationship.
It’s never too early or too late to begin to seek God’s guidance about instruction. Plan to instruct your children up through their high school years. Here are a few categories that you can introduce at a young age and continue to develop as they get older:
– Social skills: communication, having relationships, and resolving conflict
– Life skills: making decisions, healthiness, appropriate behavior and manners, taking on responsibilities in the home, how to manage their time
– Character Values: integrity, service, and trustworthiness.
It’s our responsibility to stay alert to what our child needs to be taught. It’s not the child’s responsibility to come ask us.
At the same time, some instruction needs we won’t foresee, like the one that I shared with you in Episode 12! When the unexpected occurs—at a friend’s house, at school, or at a party—simply begin instruction by discussing the event with your child. Ask thoughtful questions that will help your child think through his actions or what he experienced. Pray as you listen and before you respond.
Remember we are life.long.learners, and this includes learning how and what to instruct:
When I decided to teach our 4 year old son to wash his face with a washcloth, I thought I did a fine job. I demonstrated as I talked, asked if he thought he could do it, and handed him the wet washcloth. I praised his effort and he beamed with pride. The next couple of days I noticed puddles of water on his bathroom counter and the floor. I said, “Try not to get so much water on the counter when you wash your face, okay?”
After a couple of more days, I called him upstairs to his bathroom. “Terrell, I don’t understand how you’re getting so much water on the counter. I want you to wash your face for me, so I can see how this is happening.” As I watched him—which I had not done since the day that I taught him—my heart melted. After he soaked the washcloth with water, he brought the drenched and dripping cloth to his face. Immediately it dawned on me— The day that I taught him, I had wrung out the washcloth, but I didn’t teach him how to do this, nor did I consider the strength of his little hands! Right away, I look in his eyes and said, “Terrell! I forgot to teach you something, and that’s why there’s so much water. I’m sorry. Let’s start over.”
Here are my take-aways from that and maybe they’ll help you:
- Think through every step of what you want to teach.
- Consider your child’s age, readiness, abilities, and their learning style.
- Check your attitude: Are you ready to be involved with our child’s progress?
- Follow up to see how the child is managing.
In closing . . . God has given us spiritual authority over our children. He wants them to experience this, in part, through instruction. When we instruct our child in a way that we try to reflect God’s character, our child learns about godly authority. Then hopefully, one day, our child will embrace and obey God’s authority in her own personal relationship with him.
Here are 3 prayers suggestions to reflect on this week:
God, please show me what I need to teach my child at this time and how to.
Please show me where I may be correcting my child for something that I have not taught or taught clearly.
Please show me how to instruct more like your example toward me.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for your amazing grace, through you son Jesus. Help us receive your great gift and share it with our children. Amen.