Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Silverware Lessons

Whining is not on my list of character traits I want for my children. Not that I have an actual list, but if I did, you wouldn't see whining on there. Nevertheless, whining sometimes happens around here.

I'll share what happened a couple of weeks ago:

Chloe was in a whiny mood. Just complaining in general about everything. I was emptying the dishwasher so I asked her to come into the kitchen and put the silverware away. She immediately started whining and telling me she was tired and didn't want to work, but she came anyway. She started putting the silverware away but she was whining and crying....sniffing really....the whole time. I calmly told her that if she didn't stop whining I would start putting silverware back in the basket, which would result in more work for her.

She continued to whine so I walked over to the drawer, took out a clean utensil, and put it in the silverware basket she was emptying. I ended up putting about six or seven clean pieces of silverware back in her basket, just as I said I would do. I never yelled, raised my voice, or showed any signs of stress. I tried to remain cheerful and indifferent. I would simply remind her that the more she whined, the more work she would have to do.

After seeing that whining was only making things more difficult for her, she stopped whining and actually started smiling and laughing. She quickly finished her job and went off to play; her whole countenance being changed.

It was vital that I follow through with exactly what I had said. If I had not followed through with the consequences, I would be teaching Chloe that I don't actually mean what I say. If I sometimes follow through and sometimes don't, I am sending mixed signals and my children will be confused.

If a child is given a cup at lunch and whines because he wants a different kind, (never happened here!) another cup should not be given. To lecture him and tell him to quit whining, only to turn around and give him another cup, would be the worst thing you could do. All you have done is reinforced the whining. He got exactly what he wanted and he got it by whining; never mind your lecture. This will only prove to him that whining is a way to get what he wants.

I love the following illustration given in To Train Up a Child.

If State Troopers ceased writing speeding tickets and instead started nagging and threatening, it would be tantamount to abolishing the speed limit. Picture a trooper pulling a speeder over and then explaining how sad it makes him feel for them to be going so fast. Can you see a trooper sitting on the side of the road shaking his fist and turning red in the face as each car sped by? Imagine him pulling a speeder over for the sixth time and saying, "Now, I am not going tell you again!" If this were the case then all law and order would break down into "every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Parent, you can't blame your children if you have trained them to obey only after several warnings, threats, an ultimatum, and finally a gesture of force. It's not their fault. It's yours.

This excerpt is dealing more with obedience in general, but the point of speaking vain and meaningless words is what I'm after. Whether we intend to or not, we are training our children, either negatively or positively.

Patience and consistency are key in dealing with whining, as with all training issues; both of which I have to work at. It's often so much easier just to ignore or excuse the negative behavior, but that would not be fruitful for our children.

As parents we must constantly be looking beyond the outward actions and look at the attitude of the heart. We should always be striving for actions and attitudes that are Christ-like, both in ourselves and our children.

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