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One of my favorite songs that my children sing at church has the line “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.” It is a plea to their parents to guide them through this life in a way that will bring them back to their Heavenly Father. Each time I hear this song I ask myself “Am I practicing positive lead me, guide me parenting?”
Do as I say, Not as I do
It is very easy to get into bad habits of authoritarian demands, bribes and punishments, and do as I say not as I do parenting. Our world seems to celebrate this type of parenting. Public shaming has become somethign to praise and taking away a 3 year old’s ice cream and dumping it in the trash is the proper response for them forgetting to say thank you. I see these stories posted on social media and all the comments praising them and I wonder when did we go so wrong? When did we decide that children needed to be perfect little compliant robots that behave better than most of the adults caring for them? When did we decide it was perfectly acceptable for us to throw an adult temper tantrum as we rant at our kids, but completely unacceptable for them to voice a single whine or complaint? We complain about how horrible our boss is when he treats us unkindly, yet turn around and treat our children the same way. What if instead of punishing, threatening, yelling, and shaming we set the example and really walked beside them to show them the way?
Lead Me, Guide Me Parenting
Lead me, guide me parenting doesn’t mean that there are no expectations, limits or consequences. It simply means that we set the proper example and enforce boundaries with love, compassion and education instead of threats, shaming, and punishment. We show our children the way we want them to treat others by treating our children with respect and kindness. We teach them compassion by serving them and involving them when we serve others. We teach them gratitude when we thank them for the good things they do or the the help they provide. We teach them to work by working together as a family and letting them see our hard work. When misbehavior occurs we take the time to talk to them, understand their feelings, and help them work out a better way to handle the situation. When simple manners are forgotten we take the initiative to say thank you and then prompt our children to voice their gratitude as well if they don’t follow our lead.
What Does Lead, Me Guide Me Look Like?
Situation: A child is required to read for 10 minutes per day
Do as I say solution: If you read for 10 minutes you will earn your piece of candy. If you do not read then you must stand in the corner until you are ready to do your reading.
Lead me, guide me solution: The parent sits down and reads with the child. They may read aloud, have the child read aloud, or simply each read their own book next to each other.
Situation: Two children are fighting over a toy, yelling and hitting each other
Do as I say solution: Take the toy away, spank both children and send them to time out
Lead me, guide me solution: Place the toy on your lap and sit in between the two children. Give them each a chance to talk and ask what is going on. After they each get a turn to tell their side of the story ask them for possible solutions, and suggest solutions if they need your help. Settle on a solution as a team.
Situation: A child is throwing a fit in public because they were told no
Do as I say solution: Loudly inform the child that they are naughty, embarrassing, and in trouble. Angrily remove them from the situation. Give a punishment for being “bad”.
Lead me, guide me solution: Take the child in your arms and say “I know it is disappointing when we don’t get what we want. Let’s take a deep breath together and calm down.” Offer to sing a song, snuggle, or connect to the child in a way that is calming to them. If the child can not or will not be calmed then remove them from the situation quietly and calmly.
Situation: A child forgets to say thank you after being given a treat
Do as I say solution: Take the treat away informing the child that they don’t deserve it
Lead me, guide me solution: Model gratefulness by thanking the person yourself. If the child does not follow suit then gently remind them “Did you forget to say something?” or “Did you remember to thank Sue for the treat?”
Situation: The house is a mess and needs to be cleaned up for visitors
Do as I say solution: Parents rant at the children for being so messy and not keeping up with their chores. Each child is assigned a chore and parents threaten, bribe, and talk talk talk at the kids to keep the moving and get the work complete.
Lead me, guide me solution: The entire family takes one section of the house at a time and works together to get it clean. Parents are pitching in as well and take the opportunity to play, sing, or simply talk with their children as they work.
None of Us is Perfect
Now in case you have any notion that I’m this saintly patient mom let me tell you I am nowhere near perfect at remembering to use these approaches. I raise my voice way more often than I should. I have punished when I should have taught. I have forgotten to say thank you or gone days without reading anything other than Facebook. It’s ok. Just as my children are a work in progress so am I. As I forgive myself and give myself permission to be imperfect it is much easier to do the same for my children. The key to all of this is to remember that just as I fall short in meeting the expectations of my Heavenly Father my children will also fall short in meeting my expectations. I need to give them the same grace, patience, and love that I want my Father to give to me.
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Of course there is far more to this than what can be written in one blog post. Here are some resources that have really helped me over the last few years.
Love and Logic– A wonderful book that talks about how to use both love and logic to establish control in your home without threats, nagging, fighting, etc. They also post great stuff on their Facebook page. There are also versions of the book specifically for young children, teens, and classrooms.
The Dirty Little Secret About Children and Chores– A wonderful blog post about chores vs. family work by Donna Goff.
When Anger Hurts– A book about how controlling those around you with anger can damage both them and yourself.
Parenting Isn’t for Cowards– Focuses on logical steps you can take to bring more peace and joy into the parent/child relationship.
Parenting the Ephraim’s Child– Did you know that the tribe of Ephraim was the most rebellious and difficult of the 12 tribes of Israel? This book focuses on taking those traits which are considered weaknesses and seeing them as “a strength in need of refinement.”
The Five Love Languages for Children– Everyone gives and receives love in different ways. Understanding whether your child needs words of affirmation, physical touch or another love language will help you fill their needs as well as identify how they are constantly showing their love for you.
What resources have you used and loved to help improve your relationships with your children? In what way do you already practice lead me, guide me parenting and in what ways would you like to improve?