Thursday, 29 May 2014

Engaging boys {how to prevent unnecessary discipline}

I had a friend ask, recently, how to deal with boys, who never seem to do as they are told, and don't listen.  I meant to reply to her, but thought it would make a good blog post, as my answer may be helpful to others, too.

Now, let me start by saying that I am not a perfect parent, will never be, and still struggle to do things the best way. I am always learning, and trying to improve.  More than anything, I seek to be open to guidance and advice from others, which is how this little piece of advice came to me.

What I am sharing is my experience, and what works for me - not a hard and fast "secret to success". So, give it a go, if you don't already, and it may work for you, too. No promises, only praying that it may help!

I was talking with my husband, and my brother-in-law, Edward, a couple of years ago. I was bemoaning the fact that my boys, especially my oldest, constantly "disobeyed" me, when I gave him instructions.  It was making me feel sad, and frustrated, and I felt like I was having to discipline him all the time for his behaviour.

One of them (I think it was Edward), asked me a question.

"Do you make sure he has engaged with you, when you tell him what to do?"


Well, that threw me.


He gave me the example of waking my lovely hubby up from a nap, or in the mornings. (He could give this example, because he knew his brother well!) He sleeps deeply, and there have been times when I have brought him coffee, told him it was time to waken, as he had requested, but I had gone back later to find him still asleep!! ( I tell you, DEEP sleeper!) He wasn't deliberately ignoring me, I just hadn't ENGAGED him properly.

What do I mean by "engage"?

Getting him to look at me, respond, and tell me he had heard, and was, indeed, awake.

Eliciting a TWO WAY communication.  MEANINGFUL two way communication.  Not just a grunt, or "uh-huh".

He then applied it to my boys.

When I communicated with them, and they didn't obey, did I just holler from another room, hear a "uh-huh", and then hope they did as they were "told"?

Erm, yes...

Is that not enough??

Apparently, not.

You can even do it in the same ROOM, and still not engage.

With boys, particularly, it takes MORE than that.  They gave me this advice, and it helped no end.

You need to go to the child, or call them to you.  Look them in the eye, and give them VERY clear instructions.  Make sure they are listening to you, and not still looking at the DVD that's playing, or listening to the audio-book, or thinking about the book they left behind.  Then, get them to repeat back what you told them to do, and make sure they totally understand the instruction.

THEN, you have engaged.

You see, they informed me, boys, in particular, become VERY absorbed in what they are doing.  When you speak to them, they don't even hear you speaking. They may, and respond, but it doesn't mean they have HEARD you. Properly heard, and understood. They're not doing it out of wilful disobedience, just because that's how they are.

If you think about it, being focussed on something is a good character trait.  Just not when you need them to focus on you.

When I used to ask them to do things, and they didn't do them, resulting in me disciplining them, I was actually being unfair, and unkind.  *I* was the one at fault, for not making sure they had ACTUALLY heard what they were to do. I was in danger of provoking them to wrath, by not treating them fairly.

As a parent, we have to be so wise to ensure that we are not making unfair requests of our children.  I have, in the past, ended up having to discipline a child because I have not been wise when asking them to do something - whether it was not making sure they fully understood the request, or because I didn't think before telling them to do something.  For example, making an unachievable demand of a small child, and then when they didn't do it, having to tell them off for disobeying. So, if a small child is quite obviously tired, I would be unwise to push them to fulfil certain instructions. I would be wiser to take the tiredness into account, and not expect them to obey commands when they are going to struggle to follow them through.

We have to remember that children ARE children. As much as they need to be trained to obey, and to follow instructions, we have to be wise in what we ask them to do, and when we ask them to do it.  Not all misdemeanours are entirely their fault.  We, as parents, can be as much to blame, at times.

So, if you have a boy who doesn't ever seem to do as you tell them, try making sure you are engaging them fully first.  If you do, and THEN they don't obey, you know you are dealing with a heart issue, and can deal with it appropriately. If you don't YOU are really the one to blame, when they don't do as they are "told".  I look on it as *me* being lazy, really! It's usually more work to get a child to come to you, or you go to them, and take the time to get them to look at you, and listen to you! In essence, *I* am sinning, by being lazy.


 Food for thought.

So, if you have a boy, that you think is being disobedient, think it through, and make sure you are engaging them first, before deciding they are being disobedient.

"provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
Ephesians 6:4

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