Rules may curb bad behavior or restrain it for a time, but real growth occurs when our hearts are changed… when we want to behave differently. For parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the game of behavior modification and feel like we’re getting it right as long as things look okay on the surface. But that never seems to last, does it? The rules you put in place for your kids keep them safe and accountable, but it’s your love—sometimes given when they least deserve it—that will transform their hearts. Rules without love just feel like oppression, and love without standards falls short as well. It’s a difficult balancing act for a parent, but it’s the formula that works. Learn how to encourage lasting change in your child’s heart, starting today.
Don’t take their rebellion personally.
It’s hard to do, we know. But if you can separate yourself from your child’s behavior to some extent, it will help you make a more balanced, objective assessment of what’s really going on. Seeing it as an act of aggression or spite toward you just stirs up anger and makes it harder for you to parent with a clear head. There are lots of reasons kids rebel, and most of them have little to do with you.
Remember that correction and affection are not mutually exclusive.
You can impose correction and give big hugs at the same time. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the way it happens. You can be a firm parent—one who doesn’t back down from discipline or go soft on the consequences—without being a harsh or angry parent. I can remember my father often saying, “It’s because I love you so much that I can’t allow you to think this is okay or continue to act this way.” Sure, I rolled my eyes at the time. But deep down, I knew it was true.
Do as much explaining as you do enforcing.
Rules that aren’t laid out with good communication just feel like oppression and unnecessary control.
Some parents are great when it comes to putting rules in place and enforcing consequences when they’re broken. But ample communication about why the rules are as they are, and what the better choice for your child would be and why makes it all seem less arbitrary. Rules that aren’t laid out with good communication just feel like oppression and unnecessary control. (Granted, we know that there is a time for Because I said so and Because I’m the parent. But try some reasonable explanation first.)
Invest in the relationship.
Spend ample time with your child and talk about the things that are important to both of you. It builds a sense of relationship between you that will make the tougher parenting moments more productive. Remember: Rules without relationship = Rebellion. It’s the relationship that makes the whole thing work.
How do you modify your child’s behavior through love?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.