Peace through justice and glory through devotion

Society did not choose us to be parents, God did. However, we choose to be the kind of parents we want to be for our kids and there are “no right or wrong answers” to parenting. There are three developmental levels linked to cognitive development for children.

Dec 31, 2021


Purposeful Parenting Christine Fernandez

Society did not choose us to be parents, God did. However, we choose to be the kind of parents we want to be for our kids and there are “no right or wrong answers” to parenting. There are three developmental levels linked to cognitive development for children. They are the pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional developments, according to Kohlberg.

Moral decisions are shaped by the standards of the adults and children’s decisions are primarily shaped by the expectations of adults and the consequences faced for breaking rules. For example, the obedience and punishment orientation whereby punishment is avoided by being good. This pre-conventional method is what most parents use because of the “bandwagon effect”. However, as parents, carers, grandparents and child minders, let us be more guided by Scripture for comfort, advice and quotes which are rich with emotions, uncertainties, joys and sorrows, in the process of raising children. As Baruch 5:4 says, “it is just the name God has given to us all forevermore, peace through justice and glory through devotion”.

Therefore, just as Mary prepared for the birth of Christ, we too can prepare a list of effective consequences that can motivate children into good behaviour, and teach them to problem-solve while putting the parents back in control. “And so, I am confident that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Therefore, let’s take a look at the tips for effective consequences that I promised you.

The common questions from my sessions with parents are always: What is the best consequence to use for a particular behaviour? How can I make it effective? How long should the consequence last?

Firstly, sit down during a moment of calm and prepare a list of consequences and rewards for your child, just like you probably did before your child was born: a list of baby names, food and clothes. Remember? Then, attach the specific consequence to the specific behaviour you are worried about in your child. Perhaps, engage your child in creating the list as well. You know your child best, so you be the judge, and be creative.

The list you created should be according to age and developmental level for it to be more effective, no matter what stage they are in. Consequences will include: loss of TV time, computer time, early bed time, loss of play time, loss of cell-phone (for the older kids 14 to 17 years), loss of internet access, and the list goes on.

When producing the list, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Patience and consistency are the next steps as it takes time for children to learn new behaviour patterns. Whether your child is 18 months or 5 years old, remember to instruct them appropriately, understand their temperament, help your child learn from their inappropriate behaviour and, most importantly, keep the consequence directly related to the behaviour.

Positive consequences should always be task orientated as it is related to the offence and defines a learning objective. Furthermore, grounding your older child for a month for not observing curfew time is not going to solve the issue. It only puts you and the family through grief while nothing is learnt. Trust me, I have been there and I am sure many parents have gone through this. Instead, giving a positive consequence like getting home from an event an hour earlier before curfew will show trust gained.

This takes us to the next tip, which is timespecific. This means your child has a certain length of time to accomplish the task, for example abiding by the curfew time. The allowed time should be long enough to stretch but not so long that interest is lost or he/she decides to give up. A good length of time would be three to four days and remember to always reward when the task is accomplished.

Consequences are all about learning, therefore removing privileges like cancelling an outing, party or holiday to teach the child a lesson is not going to result in improved behaviour. Furthermore, these special moments in your child’s life cannot be recaptured. Besides, you will not want to miss out on these special moments with your child either.

Therefore, set clear rules and have realistic expectations that reflect the values you set for the household and the principles of life that Jesus taught, “clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” Colossians 3:12.

A parenting style of all consequence and no rewards is punitive and can hurt your relationship with your child. Therefore, set rewards and consequences accordingly. Smaller consequences for smaller infractions and major consequences for major infractions. Similarly, dish out smaller rewards for minor achievements and bigger rewards for major achievements. Bear in mind always that your authority as a parent is not rooted in you sticking to an ineffective consequence but a long-term investment as a parent. This investment is built and maintained by being firm but not rigid.

When in doubt, reach for a more comprehensive solution like a family counsellor, pastoral counselling or a comprehensive programme suited to you and your child’s needs. More than anything else, pray and turn to God and Scripture because, “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I am going to leave you with — “face it, parents are not perfect. They have strengths and weaknesses as family leaders. Recognise the abilities you possess, work on weaknesses, have realistic expectations for all in the family. You don’t have all the answers therefore, be forgiving of yourself”. Have a blessed day and be safe.

--Christine Fernandez is a social worker, counsellor, chaplain, parent and grandparent. She would love to hear your parenting stories. Do drop her a line at: chris55sebi65@ yahoo.com.au

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