(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
“…then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6:12, NASB)
Parenthood is a big task. This course has been written to help you move in the right direction. Lesson 12 gives pointers on help and supervision and on your approach in handling children. This concluding lesson does not exhaust the responsibilities involved in being an adequate parent. However, this course has been designed to give you some important “Keys to Happy Family Living.” As you apply the understanding derived from this study, you should be a better parent.
Helping Children to Learn
Help children keep limits
Do you remember the boy who was learning to share? It is important to handle an incident like this carefully. Here was a child who was just beginning to grasp a new idea. He still did not correctly understand it. He needed a little help. The teacher had to go to the boy and in a very gentle and firm manner say, “You must give it back. When he is through with the car, you may have it.” The boy did not want to give it back, but his playmate also had his rights. The car was to be shared only after his playmate had kept it for a reasonable time.
Help in applying the rule
You can give a child a simple rule or a simple reason. You do not need to repeat that reason twenty times. What your child needs is a little help in applying the rule. In the case of the two small boys, this help meant taking the car from one boy and giving it back to his playmate. The offender in this situation did not need to be punished; he did need to be helped.
We must work with our children in the spirit of a helpful teacher. Remember that everything is not taught in one day. You have many years to train your children. This necessitates understanding and consistency, gentleness and fairness. We adults are still struggling with some of these principles of right living. We cannot expect our children to become perfect overnight. It is easy for us to tell them to share their toys, but how freely in heart do we share our lawn mower or our automobile? Children value their possessions much as we do ours.
Help in accepting limits
All children need help in accepting limits. A four-year-old girl is an example of this. Her mother, in despair, said, “I am rearing a little delinquent.” This was true. The child was the terror of the block. Today this child is developing normally because her mother learned from a friendly neighbor the secret of setting reasonable limits and helping the child observe them.
One day this little four-year-old was playing in the neighbor’s house. She had scattered blocks all over the room. She decided that it was time to go home and went to the closet to get her coat. The neighbor said, in his firm way, “We should pick up the blocks before you go.” ”I’m not picking up any blocks,” she responded. She proceeded to the closet. This little girl needed someone to help her take care of the blocks. Realizing the child’s need, the neighbor, gently but firmly, led her back to the center of the room. The child wasn’t going to pick up any blocks, and it was a real struggle for the neighbor to help her. With her hand in his, he picked up a block and put it away. He picked up the second one and the third one. She said, “Leave me alone. I’ll do it myself.” He left her alone, but the minute he released his hand, she darted toward the closet. He went after her and brought her back. She was very rebellious and needed some more external help. She did not need a scolding or a threat or a spanking. Those techniques had been tried unsuccessfully by her mother. The neighbor started over again with the child’s hand in his. She did not like it. She protested, but they were getting the job done. He was not doing it for her. He was doing it with her. This is a very important principle. She was not just standing there watching him. Again she said, “Let me alone. I’ll do it myself.” He let her go. This time she stood there to watch him do it. He took her hand in his and started at the job again. Finally, the third time she said, “Let me alone.” He let her alone, and she started doing it herself.
It is true that he did most of the work. It would have been easier for him to do it all himself, but this would not have taught the child what she needed to learn. He did not alienate that child; in fact, his house was her favorite spot for play. She knew that in his home there were definite boundaries, whereas she did not have the security of known limits in her own home. If she yelled, kicked, and screamed, in order to quiet her the parents would adjust the limits they had set up.
If a child screams in his rebellion, it is more important to see to it that he observes the limits than that his screaming be stopped. The issue should not be, “Stop your screaming.” A child persists in screaming only when he gets the desired results. However, there does not have to be any conditional position in your own mind. If your request is fair and reasonable, then with all kindness help your child fulfill it. You will not make an invalid out of him. You will be teaching him.