Positively Negative: Training Tools

He went for the sandal one more time. He realizes you notice him and bolts under a chair, tucked under the Dining Room table. You get down on his level, peering under the table, and give him the command to “drop it.” Is this Groundhog Day? You’ve lost count how many times you’ve done this…how many times he‘s done this. He drops the shoe, obeying your command…after the fourth time you’ve given it. You’ve already thrown away one pair of shoes he’s ruined, and your patience is wearing thin. What do you do? If you respond with a “No!” for taking the shoe in the first place, because you’re frustrated, he’ll think he did something wrong in obeying your command/dropping the shoe; yet the last thing you feel like doing is praising him!

As we are working on training our pup, this thought of positive reinforcement has been on my mind. How often do I harbor frustration with my kids for what they did 10 minutes ago and react to that situation, instead of their current behavior? Or worse, I’ve been known to hold on to that previous situation, which affects how I react to a different one with a different child!

I “randomly” ran across the following post this week (click below to read). I had already been translating the positive reinforcement training thoughts to circumstances with our children, so I, naturally, took notice when I read its title (I think God was giving me another nudge, as I’m still a work in progress).

Reading through the list of phrases was good for me. I may not say the phrases exactly the same way, but our kids should still be reminded of these Biblical truths. Just as one reader pointed out, this positive approach, though, doesn’t mean you don’t point out a child’s negative behavior and call it what it is–sin. It just means, you include a positive truth with it, as well, to reinforce positive behavior. Does that make sense? Let me explain.

We were dealing with an obedience issue with one of our dear kiddos. Instead of only focusing on the fact that what was instructed was not obeyed, I began with the fact that the behavior exhibited after coming home was helpful and joyful. I had also noticed positive efforts at “checking” thoughts at the door of the mind and altering the words that were chosen. I made a point to highlight this kiddo’s positive choices with them before discussing the current negative ones. It made the atmosphere more conversational, loving, instructive, and our child was more receptive than if I had just whirled right into how disappointed I was with the disobedient choice and disrespectful body language and words. I’m talking about the Word all the time, so if I say, “The Bible talks about…” I may just lose my kid’s attention in his or her moment of frustration. However, if I make a point to, first, intentionally connect with them by encouraging their good choices, as it relates to how God has instructed us to live, I find they tend to be more receptive when we approach the “other stuff.

Photo by Nathan McDine on Unsplash

It’s clear, in Scripture, that we don’t need to shy away from “Do Nots.” They’re all over the Bible in order to establish healthy boundaries and lead us in the way we should live. However, we’re instructed in Proverbs 22:6 to train children by showing them where moral and character choices, that are opposite God’s designed path for us, will take them. This equips them with the knowledge and wisdom to turn away from this behavior and follow God’s path into a ripe old age.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Ephesians 6:4 ESV

The Greek word for “bring them up,” is “ektrephó.” English translations don’t do it justice. The word is combined with meanings, “out from” and “to feed.” To feed is obviously a positive action and is necessary to grow a life, yet “out from” gives a nod, again, to helping our children understand where their negative choices will head.

The Greek word translated, “discipline,” in this verse refers to giving instruction to train a child, so they can grow and mature. The Greek word translated, “instruction,” is teaching, for sure, but it includes God’s warnings that help a child reason the “whys” in his or her mind. “Because I said so” just doesn’t cut it.

“…instruction,” is teaching, for sure, but it includes God’s warnings that help a child reason the “whys” in his or her mind.

This can be daunting. We don’t always feel like we have time to sit and have this kind of necessary conversation in every situation…nor do we always feel capable, equipped with all the answers. That’s where submitting to God comes in.

“So place yourselves under God’s authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.”

James 4:7 GWT

This is monumental and applies to us as parents, but He doesn’t expect us to do it alone. He promises to give us wisdom when we ask Him (without doubting–James 1:6). However, if we try to assume the authority and go solo, that’s where Satan sneaks in the open door with lies, harsh tones, and words that are harmful.

Believe me! This isn’t just for parents with littles! Ephesians 6:4 is, actually, a directive to ALL believers, not just fathers…It’s everyone who’s experienced a close relationship with his/her heavenly Father, including His love, instruction, and teaching. Even if you don’t have earthly kiddos, you can still weigh in on this! All of us are kids of someone and need a loving, guiding hand, at some point, in all phases of life!!

How have you instructed and taught children (yours, your nieces/nephews, grandkids, those at church, friends’ kiddos) God’s warnings this week?

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