SHOW THEM THE WAY
One of the most wonderful and useful tools that the internet has provided is the short accessible videos of people showing you how to do stuff.
I don’t usually watch anything on my computer and for that reason, I don’t even have speakers. Recently, I needed to change the rear brake light bulb on my 2000 Toyota Sienna. I hate wasting time dealing with the frustration of trying to figure out for myself how to get the plastic brake/blinker light cover off the van to get to the bulb. I simply Googled, “How to change rear brake light on 2000 Toyota Sienna” and walla, like magic, up came a video. I didn’t even need sound, just watched the guy for 20 seconds, then went out and copied what he did!
I did the same thing with an oil change. I already knew the basics for changing oil, but wanted to find out exactly where the oil filter was located, how best to reach it, where the oil drain plug was, and exactly what size wrench it takes without having to waste time trying to figure it out through trial and error, trying one wrench after another. Again, like magic, I watched a video for a few seconds and now I’ve been changing my oil for years, simply copying what I learned from watching the vid.
Recently I was on a mentoring phone call with a young father. He was asking advice on some parenting issues, particularly on kids constantly bickering. We had a wonderful discussion and it brought back lots of memories. It is a tremendous joy for me to get to mentor fathers who are so eager to father well and win with their kids. We discussed the need to teach children to get along, to communicate expectations, and to back up your guidelines and commands with appropriate actions and consequences as needed. We also discussed several strategies.
One that he implemented was this (because the verbal bickering had become a habit between his son and daughter): he decided to take away their favorite Netflix shows for a month. This brought a real, tangible, personal incentive for the children to change the way they deal with each other. It was also one primary source of bickering as each wanted to watch a different show.
A few days later we visited on the phone again. I inquired how it was going with the kids. He excitedly told me this story of another practical implementation of things we discussed. “Mark, the other day my daughter found a toy gun that the grandparents had given my son for a present. She was playing with it, pulling the trigger so the popping noise would sound. My son, who heard the noise from the other room, and could tell his sister was playing with his gun, came running out of the room, saying ‘Gimme that, that’s mine!’” Verbal bickering between the two erupted and dad had to intervene.
Normally, he told me, “I would have said, ‘Tommy, stop that, that was not kind. Let her play with it.’” Instead, this father went over and intervened in this way. “Tommy, what you just did was very rude. Why is it bothering you that she is playing with it?” Tommy answered, “Because I don’t want her to wear the batteries out before I use it for Halloween.” This father wisely probed his son and discovered what was on his mind and it enabled him to devise a training illustration. This father then said this, “Tommy, instead of coming out of your room, running up to your sister and shouting ‘Gimme my gun,’ you should come out and say to your sister, “Julie, may I please have my gun? I want to make sure I save the batteries so that on Halloween, my pirate gun still works.”
This father took the time and effort to do more than just chastise his son. He did more than rebuke him. This father wisely took the time and made it a teaching moment. He didn’t just reprimand his son, saying Tommy, that was rude, you need to be kind. This father wisely did more than that. He went over to his son, and corrected him in a gentle spirit, then verbally showed him what to do the next time.
He told me it had an immediate impact on his son, as he had his son practiced at that moment saying those things to his sister and she graciously gave him his gun back. This father then said to me, “Mark, I realize I need to take more time to instruct my children. Often, all I do is give a command. I am often tired so I don’t go and put in the extra effort to show them the way to live, or the way to speak, or the way to do things. I just say, ‘Hey kids, quit fighting!’”
Dads, this is an extremely important and profound lesson. Nothing was more important in the way my wife and I raised, trained, instructed and discipled our kids than that fact that we took the time to not only reprimand them, but we gently showed them the right way, the kind way to do things. Effectively raising our children takes a tremendous investment of time, creativity, instruction and finding meaningful, effective ways to communicate truths in a way they grasp and understand. There are no shortcuts.
Dad and mom you have to be the how-to video
for them! Learn to employ simple drama in ways
that will help them see and understand.
Here is a quick example. My little children, like all children, while sitting in their high chair eating their food, loved to watch food fall off the highchair tray onto the floor. When they first started to do this, they usually smile or laugh, in a sort of mischievous way. They think it’s cute! Some moms and dads think it’s cute. It stops being cute fast as they often fuss and slide their plastic plate of food back and forth, before letting it slide off crashing to the floor. I knew I had to get through to my child fast or this would become a bad habit and create much stress at mealtime.
I took a similar plate, put a little bit of food on it. I was sitting right by my child when I did this. I then started to fuss loud, sliding my plate back and forth on the table, then threw it to the floor. Their eyes got really big! Then I said, “Sweetheart, that is no. No, we do not throw our food on the ground!” I said it all with dramatic emphasis, and let’s just say, I made my point, they got the point, and thereafter, they knew what the consequences would be. This lesson got through very quickly.
When my children got older into their teen years, I made a strategic decision not to let them get their driver’s license when they were 16. I had done some research on teen drivers, the number of accidents that teenagers have and other data points on brain development. I also live in a city of almost 4 million people, and driving here is not for the faint of heart. The on and off ramps happen at the speed of light, traffic is very bad and with the harsh winters we get here, it is essential to gain some valuable experience before letting a young driver lose on the road. One of my strategies was to drive with the child who was learning to drive each day as they entered Community College. Now before you think what a helicopter dad I was, understand my kids all went to school at home and started college at around 15-17 years old finishing high school and their first two years of college at the same time.
My youngest son was the last to go. He was going to a Tech school in a city about 12 miles from our home. It was a great way to teach him to drive and give him valuable experience. One particular day it was a wintry, cold, snowy day outside. We had an older Toyota Corolla SR5 that we used for this purpose. We were headed out on our normal route. My son was a very good and safe driver. However, he had not had the 35 years of experience I had. We were traveling south on a small highway, there was some snow on the road, traveling at approx. 40 mph. Up ahead I spotted a car slowing in front of us and attempting to turn left. I could tell that because of the snow, we did not have enough stopping room, as that car just sort of stopped in the road, waiting to turn. My son, though a good driver, did not grasp that with snow on the road our stopping distance would leave us sliding into that car even though we tried to slow and stop. I reached out and quickly grabbed the steering wheel, jerking it to the right, and deliberately put us in a ditch with lots of soft snow. It shook us up but left us and the car undamaged. We had to wait about an hour for the tow truck, but a valuable lesson was learned and there was no real harm. Had I not grabbed the wheel, we would have slid into the other car, done a lot of damage, and ruined our day! My decision to delay each of them getting their license and giving them drive time with me and the valuable experience proved very effective, and none of my teen drivers had accidents that were their fault.
I hope these illustrations prove useful to you. Remember: The most effective way we teach and train our children is to show them the way! Show them how!