Supervision is needed
Supervision is necessary wherever limits are set up. This is not only true for children, but also for adults. Most fathers are supervised on their jobs. Why do businesses and big corporations spend many thousands of dollars on supervision? It is normal for all of us to wander away from prescribed limits. This is graphically stated in Romans 3:12: “ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
Parents ought not to be disappointed if their children need supervision or help. This is the major task and privilege of parenthood. Consider Proverbs 29:15, 17:
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. …. Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”
Parenthood, therefore, involves a combination of setting limits and then supervising and helping our children so that the limits will be observed.
Help children by demonstration
Another example of this principle of help involves several children playing around a slide. One child had begun to use the slide, and then all the children wanted to use it. Each one wanted to be first, but children need to learn the principle of taking turns. A wise adult approached and gave help. He chose Mary at random and said: “Mary, you first; Johnny is next; and Sally is after Johnny. Tommy is after Sally,” and so on. Soon these children understood the idea of taking turns. They merely needed help by means of a demonstration.
Follow up orders that are not obeyed
Distinguish between words and a real limit
Your children will make a distinction between words and a real limit at your house. You might say, for example, “Children, we are going to eat now.” No one moves. You are in the middle of mashing potatoes and not ready yourself. Your family gets accustomed to your chatter as a worker gets accustomed to the noise in a factory. The noise is there, but they don’t hear it. The same thing happens in a family if you just talk about limits but are not bound by them yourself and are not prepared to carry them through. You are wasting your time by yelling if you do not follow through. This confusion only creates an unwholesome atmosphere in your home.
Some children were playing in a neighbor’s yard. A mother called from across the fence, “Johnny!” Johnny kept on playing. She called a second time and a third. One of the children heard it and said, “Johnny, your mother wants you to go home.” “Oh, I don’t have to go home yet.” Finally, the mother called again with a much different tone and volume, “Johnny!” Some of us have two kinds of voices. There is the voice that means “Hop to it this minute!” and there is the voice the child does not associate with action. A mother may wonder what is the matter with her child because he will not respond to her call. Often the reason is that she is not prepared to follow through. If she calls, she should be prepared to follow up her call. It is the intent to carry things out that makes a difference.
Another mother tells this story: “I want my daughter to take the garbage out. So I ask her in my most pleasant voice, ‘Will you please take the garbage out to the bin?’ The child does not move. I ask her again and again in a pleasant voice, but with no response. My question is, ‘How long do you have to be agreeable before you can get angry?’ Usually about the fourth time I am really irritated. I stop washing dishes, wipe my hands on my apron, and go see that she obeys me. When I do this, my daughter knows I mean business, and she does what I tell her. Why won’t my child mind until I get angry?”
Enforce limits rigidly in kindness
There is an easy solution. The girl does not respond to her mother’s request until about the fourth time because she has learned by experience that her mother does not intend to follow through until then. The mother is attempting to set up a positive limit; namely, that it is her daughter’s job to take out the garbage; but the child knows that only the angry voice and not the pleasant voice means, “You must do it right now!” Could not the child just as easily learn by experience that the quiet voice carries the positive command as well as the angry voice? The simple solution is for mother to enforce her first and not her fourth request.
The secret of discipline is the setting of reasonable limits and enforcing them rigidly in kindness. If you say, “It is bedtime,” set down whatever you are doing and in a kind but firm manner, help your child do what you want him to do.