Tuesday, September 29, 2009

pushing buttons

At Sunday School there was an interesting table discussion about kids and pushing buttons. You know, how every time you go out in public, your kids start pushing your buttons? I think the gals I was sitting with thought I'd sprouted a second head when I said that my crew didn't push my buttons! But they don't. And after some thought and some discussion with Jim, I think I've figured out why.

First and foremost, pushing buttons is a form of manipulation that is not kind, respectful, or loving. At our house, those attitudes are not allowed. If you treat your siblings (or your parents!) with that type of attitude, there will be some discipline, ie training. And we will continue to work on correcting not specifically your behavior but your heart attitude until it is right. Expecting our children to give their siblings mercy and grace and to assume the best about one another also helps. It means that instead of escalation, there can be conversation about how the request sounded and felt, and what the person really meant. So on that front, we try hard to nip the ATTITUDE not just the behavior in the bud. That helps.

The other thing that struck me is that if my child is pushing my buttons, maybe I need to look in the mirror. What am I doing that is causing my child to behave this way? Do I expect too much from them? Am I being oversensitive? Is his/her behavior truly a problem, or am I bothered by it because of something in my own life that needs changing (the prick of conviction!)? How's my heart? I find that once in a while the problem lies with me, not with them! Ouch!! It's true--if I'm hypersensitive, feeling convicted, then it will be easier for them to "push my buttons." But are they? Really? Or are they simply behaving in an age appropriate fashion and my expectations are too high?

The more I work with young children, the more I see a trend that is hard to watch. I see parents modifying the behavior of their children without concerning themselves about the heart attitudes. I know that the popular parenting books these days tend toward behavior modification rather than heart purification. That's hard, because it's the heart that needs changing!! The best analogy I heard was this:

Imagine that you have an unexplained allergic reaction. You are itchy and have hives all over. So you take a dose or two of benadryl, and the reaction calms. Things go back to normal for you. At this point, you have 2 choices. You can either buy the Costco sized container of benadryl and carry it with you everywhere so that you can treat the hives when they appear, or you can visit the allergist and do some testing to know what you're allergic to and remove the trigger from your life. One's easy and straightforward, no pokes, tests, or waiting for answers. But it's also unsatisfying at some level since you never really know what might trigger the next attack.

So it is with children and their behavior. Modifying it is great, but unless you do the "allergy testing" you'll never truly fix the problem. And you'll spend the rest of your child-rearing days wondering when the next attack will happen, hoping that your bottle of benadryl is big enough to reduce the symptoms. Isn't it better for everyone to just address the problem??

"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he..." Prov 23:7 KJV

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer, I love this post! I agree. I expect my children to behave outside of the home the way I expect them to behave in our home. Discipline "training" is a non-stop learning experience...for all of us.