So you have read through the consequences series introduction and your parenting “ducks” are all in a row. You’ve booked into a GFI parenting course, ordered some good quality parenting books, your husband/wife relationship is flourishing, your routine is on track, the children’s love tanks are full and you are training their hearts. With all this in place you have seen dramatic improvements in their behaviour and many of the problems you were dealing with previously have all but disappeared. And yet… there are still behaviours that need to be worked on!
Our children are sinful creatures (like us!) and yes, no matter how perfect your parenting is there will always be issues to deal with. Today we are going to take a brief look at finding the root cause of the problem, also know as the “besetting sin” or underlying cause that will help us to see where some of those behaviours are coming from.
Having a good understanding of basic personality types will help immensely as these are often very closely tied with the areas that our children struggle in. A highly choleric child will tend to be bossy and impatient, the sanguine child can be impulsive, disorganised and easily detracted, the phlegmatic child struggles with time management and diligence. While it is not helpful to put our children in a box as some critics would say, having some idea of their underlying motivations, needs and approach to life will help you to better parent them. My favourite book for those who have yet to explore this area is “Personality Plus” or “Personality Plus for Parents” by Florence Littauer. Who knows, you may have a whole new understanding of why and how you relate to your child as you do.
Secondly, grab hold of a list of character qualities or virtues. This will help you to categorize your children’s areas of struggles and start to see the connection between them. There is a free printable version here or here.
The “Working With Your Child’s Besetting sin” series of messages by Joey and Carla Link from Parenting Made Practical is brilliant for understanding and identifying your child’s personality type and working to improve their sin areas. But I warn you, you will want to listen to the rest of the Mom’s notes series as they are the best parenting resource I have ever come across after the GFI parenting courses.
The idea of your child’s besetting sin or root of the misbehaviour is that many different wrongful behaviours can actually spring from the same underlying motivation or lack of character/virtue. The example Carla uses in her Mom’s notes message is that of patience. A child who constantly interrupts others when they are speaking, pushes past siblings to get out the door, shows frustration with anyone or anything that holds them up etc. is demonstrating a lack of patience. As a parent, you could come up with a bunch of different consequences to suit every different occasion that you see it demonstrated, but you really need only one – for the lack of patience itself – as this is the underlying cause or besetting sin.
So how do you start to find this common link between behaviours?
Sit down and make a list. List everything that your child does that you would consider less than virtuous! Once you have done this (and if they are anything like most children it will be quite a long list) take your character chart and note down next to each problem the character quality (virtue or vice) that they displayed. Perhaps they lack diligence, honesty or generosity? Sometimes it is easier to find the vice being displayed rather than the virtue and vice versa. Hopefully, by the time you have finished you will be starting to see a pattern. Maybe your toddler is simply showing a lack of self control and this is showing itself in a variety of ways. (Just a tip – most toddlers are lacking in self control and need to do lots of work in this area 😉 ) Perhaps an older child is not showing the responsibility necessary and appropriate for their age.
Once you have identified the areas you need to work on you have a starting point. Spending time actively working on the positive side of the vice is going to be vital. If your child is impatient then you need to be focussing on training them in patience, not just correcting for impatience. If they are lacking in responsibility then they are going to need lots of training and encouragement in this area. To ignore this training will mean that you are continuously ‘cleaning up’ the result of the lack of virtue but doing little to build the corresponding character that you want to see. Yes, there will be a place for correction (after all, that will be a major part of what this series of posts is all about!) however, without the balance you will be struggling uphill.