My (our) friend Brenna Stull shared such an applicable exhortation in her monthly newsletter that I received today, I emailed her to ask if I could share. I found it inspiring… and encouraging. Because, at times I feel a bit lonely on this road. Probably because my road is filled with kids telling me that they are “THE ONLY ONES” who have to do anything at home. We all know it’s not true … It’s just so nice to hear it in action.
… and thanks for walking the road with me.
This month I have a challenge for those of you with children in school, and for myself as well. Would you like to do something that would not only greatly encourage your child’s teacher, but would build your child’s character at the same time?
Yes? Then repeat this pledge with me:
“I will not allow myself to rescue my child from the consequences of his/her bad choices this year.”
The number one frustration among teachers, according to Jim Fay, speaker and author of the Love and Logic series, and his survey of over 1,700 teachers, is that parents do not let their children learn from the consequences of their bad choices.
Let’s face it. We have become so concerned with our child’s comfort, reputation, and self-esteem that we miss opportunities for character-building. A few scenarios:
Rush a child to school at the last minute (even though it makes the parent late for work) to save the child from a tardy slip because the child didn’t get ready quickly enough to make the planned walk to school.
Let a child go late to school so he will miss the class in which a paper was due.
Write a child a note that has a white lie to try to get a child an excused tardy when he went back to sleep after being woken up for the morning.
Finish a project for a child because he procrastinated and there is no way the project will get finished without you doing it.
Pressure a school administrator or teacher to drop a child’s detention time.
Rush a sack lunch (or lunch money) up to the school for the third time in two weeks because the child forgot it…again.
Complain to the teacher about the bad behavior marks your child is getting on his daily calendar, and assume she’s an impatient and unrealistically demanding teacher.
I’m not saying that these scenarios are easy. None of us want to see our children suffer, whether in the form of a tardy slip, a zero on an assignment, hunger, or negative feedback. But how does that temporary pain compare with our desire for them to have good character for a lifetime?
Last year my middle school son put me to the test on this. He and his friend came home after school at 4 p.m., planning to walk back to school for warm-ups for their Spring Choir Concert. As they were eating a snack, we talked about the plan. What time do you need to be back? 6 p.m. What time will you need to leave to get there by 6 p.m.? 5:45 p.m. I told them I have a light dinner ready for them by 5:30 p.m., and told my son to be sure and have his room clean, his stacks of clean laundry put away, and the trash gathered from the house and bins pulled to the curb before that time. One and a half hours. Seemed very do-able.
At 4:45 p.m., I walked past his bedroom, noticing they were playing videogames and no work had been done. I told him to check the time, and reminded him he was not free to go until his work was finished. About 5:30 p.m. I had their plates ready, but still saw no trace of them or anyone working. I went to the bedroom and found my son just beginning to clean his room. I reminded him that he would be free to go after his work was done (and then took a deep breath).
At that point they went into full speed mode. By the time trash bins were curbside and they came inside a sweaty mess (in their choir shirts), it was 5:53 p.m. Can you take us?
Choir was an easy A as long as you are on time. One tardy to a performance and it could drop to a B (and so on.) At this point, I wasn’t sure if they could walk the half mile and get there in time. I was tempted to give in and hop in the car to take them. After all, it’s only three minutes to drive, and it could mean the difference between an A or a B on the report card.
Although I was tempted and almost gave in, I reminded the boys that they knew the plan – they would get the work done, then walk to the concert. And they’d had plenty of time to get it done. (Whew, that was hard!) They shoved a little food in their mouths, then took off on a half-mile sprint (I have to admit I prayed for Godspeed).
End of story? Even though they made it in the last few seconds and were counted as on time, I think my son learned a valuable lesson that day. (And now that I’ve written this newsletter article, I will most likely be put to the test again within the next 24 hours!) I’m not looking forward to it, but I pray I can stay strong for the good of my children’s character.
Play it out long-term: If we rescue them from bad choices when they are young, what are we teaching them? It’s okay, because someone will always be there to bail them out. With the end in view, let’s all repeat again: “I will not allow myself to rescue my child from the consequences of his/her bad choices this year.” And all the teachers smiled.
Brenna Stull, a pastor’s wife and mother to five children, has helped hundreds of moms make every minute count through her teaching, speaking, and her book, Coach Mom: 7 Strategies for Organizing Your Family into an All-Star Team (New Hope Publishers). Engaging and transparent, Brenna is known for her practical applications and life stories. She and her husband Chris are thankful to have survived four home remodels, ten straight years of babies in diapers, and ten triathlons. Brenna and her family live in McKinney, Texas. For more information or to sign up for her monthly newsletter, please visit www.brennastull.com.