Generation Cedar

Boundaries, self-control, integrity, courtesy…these are a few traits that come to mind that seem too-often lacking among children. And sadly, those children missing these fundamentally-important traits grow up to be adults and the lack of character is magnified, and we all reap the consequences.

Child-training is seemingly a “lost art”, for lack of a better term. I’ve seen the frazzled mother with a toddler in her grocery cart, he speaking to her in tones that are shocking, sometimes even hitting her for added expression. Her response vacillates anywhere between an embarrassing dialogue, meant for all around to hear, about Santa Claus not coming this year to biting anger and threats. I’ve watched her ignore him, with no results and I’ve longed to try to make her day easier.

Children need boundaries, firm authority, love, security and the knowledge that they are not going to be allowed to fling themselves into oblivion when they don’t get their way. It’s often a matter of simply misunderstanding the importance of our duty: helping our children learn to control themselves, to take “no”, and to respond to a situation correctly. It’s an ongoing process of helping them become adults.

It’s not an option to be “too busy”, “too distracted” or “too tired”. If we are failing at this basic responsibility, something needs to go.

Establishing authority is the beginning. Routine, stability, rhythm of the day and consistency follow. It starts very young, and it is a continual training process, reminding, modeling, disciplining and rewarding.

Every baby throws food from her high chair at some point. A parent’s response to that is important. It is one of a thousand situations in which she needs to be taught what is OK and what isn’t. She is learning socially acceptable behavior. It may only take her mother stopping what she’s doing, getting eye level with her girl, and giving her a firm “no”. It will likely take several times but it needs to be done.

And soon, that child will recognize that Mommy and Daddy are the ones on whom they can depend to guide them.

My two year is gaining a vocabulary to express his wishes and frustrations. Even as he has learned to say “excuse me”, if someone “gets his spot” he is prone to scream angrily the words. It’s his nature and it’s my job to teach him a better way, to help him develop self-control.

It’s not that children don’t disobey or act disorderly or cause strife with siblings, or run in the house or any other behavior typical of children. But the commonality of it does NOT excuse our responsibility to mold their character, daily nurturing them toward becoming a person of integrity, discipling their hearts and leading them to the One who gives them the power to conquer the flesh.

And as we fulfill our responsibility, we too, are reminded and become more like Christ as He is made the center of our aim.

There is safety here, in the boundaries and the love that compels a parent to do the hard work of raising adults. It’s what we were made for, and no one else can do our job properly.


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19 Responses

  1. Thank you for this timely reminder and admonishment. I feel I have been using my frustrations with this task to sink further into distractions and “escape.” You are right that there is no escape. Even if I abandoned my duties now, I will reap the consequences forever. I certainly don’t want that!
    Do you have a practical suggestion for the scenario with the grocery cart that you gave in your post? Say a request for a treat was turned down by the mother and met with an immediate shriek of disappointment which quickly turns to a defiant anger (“NO! Waaaah” :hit:) towards Mom. Say it’s a 2.5 yo boy. (Ask me how I know…)
    It is harder in public, with a full cart, and a baby and 4 yo, to just walk away, leave the cart and stuff the whole family into the bathroom for a refresher course on proper behavior, right?
    It is so hard to keep from determining my authority by their obedience. SO HARD.

    1. Ashley,
      I too would like help in that area! Going to the store without children is not an option for me (hubby works for himself, and is very rarely home during the day working 16+ hours a day), so I have four children in tow all the time. Every time at least one is acting up. I have left things in the cart and left the store, but that only seems to make it worse. Now they know they can get out of grocery shopping by acting up.
      I have disciplined them right there in the store (3 year old slapped me, so I slapped his hand and of course told him “no”) just to have someone to threaten to call social services on me…I have left the older ones in the car (almost 10 and 8) just to return to a police officer waiting for me (he left upon hearing the ages of the children, said it was fine), but still had to go through sitting there for 30 min. while running my license and plates etc. Not to mention the embarrassment.
      I have taken to quiet whispers into their ears about what will happen at home if they keep it up. This is working with the older ones. But the three year old still screams and lashes out when he doesn’t get what he wants. Sigh. It is soooo exhausting.

      1. Haha that smiley face was suppose to be an 8 followed by a ) I guess that is the symbol for a face with glasses. Oops

        1. Learn something new everyday, haha! Yes, it is hard to be consistent with methods of discipline when you have a lifestyle that demands inconsistency (trips to stores, different family houses visiting, etc.) Sometimes you have to be flexible about how you impart the teaching and discipline based on where you are, how many kids with you, etc. But then the kids pick up on the inconsistency and sometimes exploit it. Or at least it seems that way. Very frustrating. I guess we should pray that our earnest efforts reach our childrens’ hearts. (I’m not saying we shy away from solid Biblical teaching because someone who doesn’t like it is around, btw. It’s more about not being in a place where we can stop an activity, leave the area, separate a child for correction, etc.)

        2. For our three year old we have 3 rules we give him to follow and at the end of the shopping trip he gets to pick one snack or treat to have at home. Every time we get to the store before starting out I will say “Remember the 3 rules you have to follow? 1. Stay with Momma 2. Keep your hands to yourself 3. Have a quiet, inside voice” I do also remind him one or two times throughout the shopping because we are usually there for over an hour 🙂 It works well. If I don’t remind him he will act up every single time, so it is just a matter of remembering.

          1. I should clarify and say that we do this for grocery shopping trips. We usually buy snacks anyway, so it is not really like they are getting “extra” just that they get to choose what the snack is. If they don’t behave they don’t get a choice. We don’t give them a treat everywhere we go, but we do remind them of the rules everywhere we go 😀

      2. My two cents: I really think praying in the car in the parking lot is the best start. Then, go over the rules. When my daughter was that age, I let her ask for something. If I said no, she got to ask nicer or say why she would like it. If I said no again, it was over. If she threw a fit, I would tell her in the car (after we left) that I was considering getting her something, but since I cannot reward bad behavior, I couldn’t do it because she (whatever the offense was). She started equating bad behavior with not getting stuff.

        All that being said, I don’t think kids need or deserve something every trip out. It is too much. Do you need a new pair of earrings to keep you behaved? I had a friend who told their kids they got one thing a month. If you can afford that, maybe that is a good plan. It makes them responsible for the 1 thing they get and it stops the whining (or should) after they’ve picked the item. It gives them some sort of control (that that age is desperately seeking) but it is still according to your terms, which is the most important.

        Also, the fruit of the Spirit is self control. It is hard to let God develop it in us, sometimes harder to develop it in our cute kids. Kids LOVE “what if” scenarios. You could talk about it at dinners. “There was a little boy at the grocery store. He knew his mom said ‘no’ to candy, but he cried and screamed for it anyway. What should he have done. Why should he do that?” When it comes to someone else’s behavior, kids become really wise. 😉 Think Nathan illuminating David about the adultery. There are so many situations to go over. I’d have a good Bible verse per story too. We really cannot change our kids heart, but God’s word paired with love and wisdom can.

        And, remember, if you blow it, fix it and move on. It doesn’t do you or your kids any good to beat yourself up. Repent, accept forgiveness and do better next time with God’s power. 🙂

        That was more like 99cents, sorry!

      3. When my oldest (18 in 2 months) was in 1st grade we had a standing rule of no toys being allowed to go to school…it included ANYTHING that wasn’t needed for school. Back then the kids were into those Pokemon cards & he had quite a collection, which he attempted to sneak into school quite often. I had talk after talk with him about it – but nothing helped. One particular day he was really testing boundaries…back-talking, smuggling Pokemon cards in his backpack, just being overall disobedient to any & every thing I had to say. While dropping him off I was having a short talk with him in the car before he got out to go into the building. He got out of the car on his own (we were parked on the street & he got out on the side IN the street & not by the sidewalk)on purpose to further push my buttons and see how far he could go. I got out of the car to discuss this with him and he took off running towards the school, but when I noticed I was following he turned & headed towards the street. I was frantic at this point and after a mad dash I literally had to tackle him or he would have run in front of a bus. Now that we were both covered in grass stains & I was going to be late for work I walked him to the door and let him know that we would be talking about this after school and that he had a nice spanking coming as well. We had been working with a counselor and were following Dr. Dobson in regards to discipline and not using your hand since it should be viewed as an instrument of love and not discipline. So I had been using a paddle ball paddle to spank if he needed it. After what had taken place that morning I knew he needed it.

        Imagine my surprise when I was sitting at work & got a call. From a Children Services case manager! Another parent overheard our talk right before he entered the school building and told the principal I was beating my children! After explaining to the gentleman what happened he insisted that I was not allowed to spank my child for ANY reason. I quoted the counselor & Dr. Dobson. I explained everything TWICE. Same response from the guy. I finally told him that I knew there were plenty of parents that weren’t even bothering to raise their children and maybe he needed to spend more time on those cases than a case like mine. He opened a case anyways. After his supervisor found out what was going on and why…he was told to close the case & I was informed that if more parents took the stances I did with my children they would be out of their jobs because I was focused on his future well-being.

        Too often today parents are afraid to discipline their children due to fear of what other people are thinking or might say to someone. Or that we might get a call from Children’s Services. If you are truly disciplining your child to correct behavior there is no problem. Yes, Children Services *might* call. Yes they *might* open a case. But at the end of the day YOU are the only one who knows what is best for YOUR child. Don’t let fear of an agency like Children Services scare you from doing what is best for your kids.

        Sorry – didn’t mean to go on & on about this. I just get so frustrated when I hear from other parents who feel like they can’t discipline your child in a loving Godly way. NOT to encourage parents to spank their kids, but sometimes it IS appropriate and/or needed.

    2. Ashley,

      It is hard. We’ve joked that the little machines that open the door at Walmart do something to the brains of our children. But now I know that’s not it. Truthfully, what is overwhelming to our children is something we’ve simply grown accustomed to–the absolute over-load of stuff and choices and things we never knew existed or that we needed until we saw them. It’s almost unbearable for a child.

      I agree with Kelly that a “pep talk” in the parking lot is a good place to start. Remind them about what they will encounter and how they will need to not ask or grab for everything. Also, it’s paramount that we are training them all the time at home and not just when we’re out (I know this is obvious, but worth mentioning).

      If they have a good sense of our authority from having established it at home, the outings shouldn’t be too much different (except for the aforementioned “stuff overload”). By the way, I’ve almost stopped going to Walmart altogether (I get overloaded with choices and decisions myself) and favor Aldi instead, a much smaller, more affordable store. It blesses me in so many ways.

      1. I’ve been meaning to try out Aldi. We almost never go to Walmart anyway, but I get into plenty of, well, trouble at Target. Similar issues.
        Thanks for the encouragement. I always get so much out of your posts!

    3. I once walked all the way through IKEA with a 3 year old having a complete melt-down in the cart. We had driven 4 hours to get there to buy furniture for our school room so there was no way I was leaving. I just smiled and ignored her. I really didn’t know what triggered the meltdown. She’s adopted, had only been in our home about 6 months, so… whatever. She’s a lot better now. Anyhow, all that to say, sure it’s annoying, but it can be done. She wasn’t hitting at me, though. I’ve rarely had a child try to hit me, but when that has happened, I grab the hand firmly, look the child straight in the eye and firmly say,”no!”

  2. Great post! I was not raised with boundaries or self-control and it is extremely hard to do even basic things during the day. Instead of having basic habits to place other habits on in order to grow I have to decide on every decision I make in a day. It is very exhausting! Thankfully, we are doing a bit better with setting boundaries for our children, but I know I need to do more. Any suggestions on how to gain self-control as an adult?

    1. Hello, Heather, I just wanted to toss this out there, that in order to create habits, you have to make yourself follow routines… For me it was making my bed at the same time every morning(the first housekeeping thing I do). The first week I did it, after 2 days, I actually got nauseaus while making the bed…the third day too, but after five days, it felt normal and okay… that may sound weird, but habits only come if you purposefully pick what should be habitual and write it down and then follow it carefully for several days… I understand the struggle, as I tend to be a go with the flow and too much rigidity drives me crazy! Or too much sameness….

      1. Thank you for that tip 🙂 I think my biggest problem is getting past the discomfort of creating a new habit. I have *started* many habits, but would either try to jump ahead and add in more or I would just not push through that uncomfortable stage. So I will make sure to pick one thing and get past that point. I think I’m always looking for that quick fix that doesn’t actually exist and I need to realize that it will just take building day by day 😀

  3. A coupla thoughts…as far as grocery store trips go. First off, if you are consistent with the older two, younger ones follow MUCH better. At home, too I often bring up times when we hear or see misbehavior at the store and ask how they enjoy seeing it or hearing it…(then I ask them how they think the other people in the store would like hearing THEM throw a tantrum). Also, I try to remember something that my hubby told me–the seeming purpose (ie shopping getting done) ISN’T the real purpose… the PROCESS IS the purpose. So when I haul all four kids to grocery shop, I do my best to be more aware of THEM and give them age appropriate jobs of grabbing this or that, or ask them how much something is…or if a little brother needs to get wiggles out, I enlist an older boy to hold a little ones hand etc. I also try to talk to them and get in lots of hugs and kisses. If the store is pretty empty, we even will sing very softly as we walk up and down the aisles. I guarantee MANY people have been blessed by a family quietly singing Amazing Grace as they shop… I try to make it a connecting experience (most of the time!)…and also, since my kids hardly go anywhere from day to day, going to the store is a treat even if they don’t get a thing. Another thing my kids are used to is sharing–everything. If we don’t have enough money for a sub for everyone, we buy one and share it…If there isn’t enough money for a piece of candy for everyone, we buy one or maybe two and SHARE it around, so they understand that ANYTHING is more appreciated than nothing! I also talk to my kids about how we need to be on the look out for people to help. And so far, they have frequently helped people pick things up they have dropped or other simple service. Oh, and it’s MUCH easier to have this mentality if you shop from a menu and list…if I didn’t have a menu or list, and had to shop from memory, it wouldn’t be possible…so MAKE A LIST!

  4. I enjoyed reading all of this and just wanted to share a quicky story on how all the little things you are doing will pay off.

    Shopping recently with one of my much older(20 something)year old son and actually caught him holding onto the side of the cart! I told him that he didn’t have to do that anymore!(taught them to do that when they were little)! We BOTH had a Very Good Chuckle!!

  5. Ashley, Rachel, and anyone else looking for strategies for grocery shopping with children in tow, a couple things came to mind that I could add to the good tips you’ve already received here from others.

    First (and this one probably won’t be very practical for those who live a long ways from any stores — sorry!) is to give your kids more practice in behaving in situations in which they don’t do well; in this case, it would mean going to the store more often than usual, and getting fewer items at a time. That way, they are not in the store so long that it’s overwhelming to them, but they are there frequently enough to get accustomed to obeying your expectations out in public.

    I know that’s probably the last thing anybody wants to do — do more of the thing that is such a headache 😉 — but in the long run, I think it trains kids faster to be exposed often (rather than infrequently) to the very thing they need work on. Perhaps take the kids shopping several times a week to buy fresh produce and meat for meals and snacks?

    Again, I know that’s impractical for those who have to travel a long ways to get to a grocery store, but maybe some accommodations for shopping a little more often than usual and getting fewer items each time could be made for a time to get them well-trained. Then going back to your regular shopping schedule and getting more items at a time may not be such a problem for the kids.

    My other suggestion is to turn your shopping list into a checklist for the kids. Count with your kids how many items are on your list before you go into the store, and as each item is put into the cart, let them mark it off the list (maybe you could have the kids draw little check boxes for each item beforehand that they can take turns filling in at the store) and then figure out how many things are left to buy. Let them count down as you proceed. “Ten things to get today; there’s the first thing, now we have only nine things to get yet.” Etc. If they’re used to counting down the items as they put them in the cart, they may do better coping with the occasional shopping day where the list is longer than usual.

    I recommend, also, having your list in the order you come to the items in the store, especially when the list is longer. It takes a little more time preparing it that way at home, but it saves a lot of backtracking at the store.

    In short (and no, this wasn’t short 😉 ) I think prevention is the best cure. If you can head off the problems before they start, going shopping or doing anything else we train our kids to do can go a lot more smoothly.

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