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An Instruction Manual for Kids

We are all familiar with the saying, ‘I wish my kid came with an instruction manual.’  — Well dear reader, they did….. and it’s YOU!  Don’t you love the circular reasoning? (My wife says I’m a champ at ‘reasoning for dummies’ – I’m not quite sure it’s coming across the way it sounds when she says it; but I digress…)

What do I mean when I say, ‘You are the instruction manual’?…

I have a teething, drooling, 10 month old and have held a screaming baby in the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out what said baby needs.  Sure a handy reference guide would have been helpful; but where is the fun in that?!  Who needs sleep anyway?  My bright red curly hair is soon going to be more of a ‘Strawberries’n’Cream’ than it is a ‘Carrot Top’ — and anything to make my life less stressful (and tips to save the red) would be much appreciated.  But, here is the kicker — isn’t not about me, it’s not about US (the parent(s)).  I have had many years to accept the fact that life happens. Things can be uncomfortable.  I can only control my response to external stimuli.  Baby, on the other hand, has not had any of that training; they need that instruction, and they need it from you.

Now, this teething scenario is just a mere example to which most parents can relate.  The times when we are fried, can’t think, have no peace, and don’t know where to turn next are often the times our kiddos are feeling the same way – and they are looking to us for guidance, comfort, and instruction.

Moms and Dads, YOU are the instruction manual that you wish your kid came with.

If you don’t have a clue what do to next, or what is appropriate, then you need to get a clue – your kids don’t know either; and you are the parent.  Hear me out – I know it sounds harsh and I say it not to push anyone down, but to actually encourage and push forward.

As parents, we have an unspoken, secret understanding (which is hidden from our children at all costs) that we feel like kids ourselves in really big bodies, and we are waiting for someone to instruct us.  We suddenly realize that our hands were held most of our lives, and then: we have kids.  We leave the hospital and everyone says ‘good luck’ and now, we must fend for ourselves…well…ladies and gentlemen, its time to ‘fend’.

So now, let’s read this Manual together: [At this point, in order to take away some of the confusion of parenting, I will state the obvious]: If your kids are going stir-crazy, YOU calm them down.  If your kids are loud, YOU quiet them.  If you kids are rude, YOU teach them to be polite.  If your kids punch others, YOU teach them that it’s wrong to hurt.  If your kids lie, YOU teach them to tell the truth.  If your kids disobey, YOU teach them to obey.  If your kids are panicking, YOU teach them not to be scared…and do so not just in word, but also in DEED…

In yesterday’s interview with Lora from Vitafamiliae she mentioned the difference between ‘training’ and ‘discipline’;  a very clear distinction which must be recognized.  Both ‘training‘ and discipline‘ fall under the category of instruction, but if you don’t recognize the difference between them, you will actually be inconsistent in your instruction

Let me expound with an example.

Is it wrong to get marker on the dining room table?  Of course!  Does your kiddo automatically know that? NOPE!  Enter Instruction Manual (YOU):

YOU tell them not to get marker on the table…

Now the scenarios:

  1. Kiddo grabs a marker and draws on the table.  You ask the kiddo if they understood the rules.  If they didn’t understand you ask why they didn’t understand, and why they didn’t ask questions when you gave the instruction.  At our house, direct disobedience receives a spanking. (The instruction had been given.  If the fault is ours because we never gave the instruction then there is no spank).  In this situation there is a spanking for purposefully disobeying because a known rule was broken.  Not because we are mad. Because the child chose to break a rule.

  2. The kiddo is drawing on a piece of paper, the marker bleeds through and gets on the table.  You show the kiddo what they did and ask them what happened.  (*** SUPER IMPORTANT PARENTING TIP- ALWAYS GIVE YOUR CHILD A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN THEMSELVES*** IT GIVES THEM A CHANCE TO SHOW THEIR HEART AND INTENTION ).  You explain how sometimes markers bleed through paper, and explain how, in the future, they need to get a book or magazine to put under their paper, and then you help them clean the table.  (Sometimes you can clean it all by yourself, or they can clean it all by themselves — but it is important to the kid to know you are doing it with them and you aren’t against them, and it is important that the kiddo knows how hard it is to clean off – so as often as possible in an instruction situation, do it together).

The end product was the same (marker on the table), but the manner of offense is what was different.  There must always be follow through, and you have to be consistent in giving/clarifying instruction.  The first situation was a discipline issue, the second was training.

As we head into the weekend, stop for a moment and remind yourself of the proper perspective: You are the instruction manual you wish your kid came with.  Teach ‘em, Train ‘em, and Love ‘em!  Have a great weekend!


photo credit: 1, 2

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