Six Ways to Teach Honor to Children, Part 1May 3, 2006
Is there any way to stop children’s whining? Find out today on the broadcast when Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of the book Say Goodbye to Whining, tell parents how to discourage their children from whining.
Is there any way to stop children’s whining? Find out today on the broadcast when Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of the book Say Goodbye to Whining, tell parents how to discourage their children from whining.
Dad: Oh, Madison, hey, it's past bedtime, time for bed.
Madison: Awww, can you read me a book?
Dad: We already read five stories, now remember …
Madison: Just one more, pleeeeeeeeeease?
Dad: No, you need to sleep. Crawl in bed now. Where are you going?
Madison: I want to say goodnight to Mommy.
Dad: Madison, you already did that, too, and I prayed, and you prayed, and now I'm tucking you in. Goodnight, son, I love you.
Madison: Ohhhh, goodnight.
Announcer: Johnson home, 8:51 p.m.
Madison: Daaad, I want a drink of waterrrrrr.
Dad: No, you had your chance. It's time to sleep now.
Announcer: And three minutes later …
Madison: I'm thirsty, can I have a drink?
Dad: No. I already told you no. If I have to say it again, I'm going to have to spank you.
Announcer: Eight fifty-six p.m.
Madison: When you come to spank me, would you bring me a drink of water?
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Did you ever get any of those at your house.
Dennis: Yes, we had a number of those – it was "read me another story," going potty after you had all the water, et cetera.
Bob: It's amazing, because you can sit down and think, "Okay, have we exhausted everything? Have you been to the bathroom?" "Yes." "Have you got your water?" "Yes." You can go through all of it, and it's like five minutes later they've come up with something – "My nose is stuffy."
Dennis: Or "My bicycle is out. I left my bicycle out in the yard."
Bob: You have been there.
Dennis: You know, they go to a school – I'm convinced kids go to a school – in fact, I heard this story of a kid who was speaking to another kid about how to get your way? He said, "Look, if you want a kitten, ask for a horse."
That actually came from our guests on the broadcast today, Scott Turansky and JoAnn Miller. Was that one of your kids that did that, Scott and JoAnn?
Scott: No, it wasn't mine.
JoAnn: He got the story. I don't know where it came from.
Bob: I want to know who's got the kitten? Anybody got a kitten at their house.
Scott: My kids want a horse.
Dennis: Well, I do want to welcome you to the broadcast.
Scott: Thank you very much, Dennis, it's good to be with you.
Dennis: And we have a couple of experts who both have completely eliminated all whining, complaining and bad attitudes in their homes, and the reason is they are the authors of a book called "The Guarantee to Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids," book. That's really not the name of the book.
Scott: One lady was reading our book, "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids," in the doctor's office, and the lady looked over and saw that title and said, "That's impossible. You can't get rid of those things unless you get rid of your kids."
Dennis: Well, we do want to talk about your solution to whining and complaining, which is honor. And, JoAnn, again explain to our listeners why honor is the solution to all these bad attitudes, all the griping and the grumbling. In fact, I know I've told this story before, but it got so bad in our family at one point, we memorized Philippians, chapter 2, which says, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." It's one of the shortest verses in the Bible only exceeded by "Jesus wept."
But this verse, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing." That can be memorized quickly at the dinner table. It won't cure the griping and complaining, but at least it will provide a little wheel alignment there for the kids.
JoAnn: That's right, and that's a great verse to have our children memorize it – as adults, too, we need to memorize it and keep meditating on that each day because it's difficult. I think it's a natural response to life to try and whine and complain.
Dennis: And how is honor the solution to all this whining and complaining that kids – well, the kids barrage us and badger us with?
JoAnn: They do, and we want to teach them a different way, and we believe honor is the solution because honor deals with the way we relate to one another in FamilyLife. It has to do with our relationships – the way that we're talking, the way that we're acting, the way that we're viewing one another. We say that honor is valuing someone. We want to treat one another as valuable, and that will help us to get rid of some of those negative responses we might naturally have.
Bob: Yeah, you broke honor down into three component parts or three kind of practical handles we can get on honor. One is to treat other people as special, to value other people. What are the other two?
JoAnn: Yes, we want to treat people as special, do more than what's expected, and have a good attitude.
Dennis: And that all sounds wonderful here in a studio where we're all – where we're surrounded with walls that are extra thick, away from telephones and children bombarding us. But where we live life in the real world, we need training and hope and encouragement in how we can teach our children how to honor. And in your book, Chapter 4, is entitled, "Six Ways to Teach Honor to Children."
Bob, we thought so much of this chapter, we have it on our website, FamilyLife.com, if you want to read the entire chapter. But take us through the first one of these six ways we can teach honor to our children, because they do need to be trained, don't they?
Scott: They do, and the first thing we want to help them do is to learn how to treat people as special.
JoAnn: It's really helpful just to think about the way we treat one another in the family because we want to treat our spouse special, we want to treat our children special. And we can then encourage our children to treat their mom or dad as special, treat one another as special. So we want to be talking about that in family life. It's a very important part of honor.
Bob: And we don't have to wait until there's conflict or complaining to deal with this issue of treating one another special. We can do some things proactively when the kids are getting along, just to heighten the awareness of teaching kids to treat one another as special.
JoAnn: Sure, just to partner with one, maybe, and say, "What we can we do for your brother today to treat him as special? Let's think of something together." We're encouraging all the children to do one special act of kindness today, and then they can be creative and decide how they want to do that.
Dennis: Mm-hm. Well, the second lesson is equally as important, isn't it?
JoAnn: It sure is. The second honor lesson is to teach our children to do more than what's expected, and that's a great part of honor, because when our children are grown up, and they're learning how to respond in life, we want to teach them obedience, doing what we ask them to do, but we want them to think of other people as well, and part of thinking of others is doing more than what's expected – doing what Mom would like you to do, even when Mom's not at home. What can I do for Mom? She's running late. Wow, it's almost dinnertime and Mom's not here. What can we do to help Mom?
Dennis: That's an incredible thought. Does that really happen at your house, JoAnn?
JoAnn: Well, you know, we're working on it, we're working on it.
Bob: But you've had occasions where you've seen your boys go the extra mile, haven't you?
JoAnn: Sure, sure. My 14-year-old son, David, really has grabbed hold of this idea of honor and enjoys finding ways to show honor. So he may get up in the morning and empty the dishwasher or do some other things around the house that need to be done. He's got good observation skills, and I've encouraged him to use those observation skills to do more than what's expected sometime in family life. And there's a lot of joy comes when you're able to do that.
Scott: One great way to teach children to do more than what's expected is in the bathroom. You know, we put a sign up by our light switch, which said, "Is the bathroom ready for the next person?" All we're trying to do is get our kids to turn around and look. Anybody who walks by that bathroom can see that there's still pajamas on the floor, a towel not hanging up, and those would be the first two things on the list. But we then ask our children to do something extra – is it possible that somebody could actually put the toilet paper on the roller? What about shutting those cupboards or draining the bathtub? What about cleaning the sink?
Is there something that a child could do – now here is the interesting thing – you don't get any credit for doing something extra in the bathroom, but that gave us an opportunity to talk to our children about how God rewards those who do secret acts of righteousness. And so it's so important for our children to see that they might not get rewarded for doing something more than what's expected, but God is watching, and God sees what's going on, and He is pleased with honor. And so when we're honoring to each other, even though someone might not recognize it, God is watching, and He sees it.
Dennis: Okay, let me give you all an illustration. This is a real-live illustration from the archives of our family. We had this problem of habitually, the kitchen not being fully cleaned after dinner. And we tried an individual child being responsible, we tried two children – well, that ended up in sibling rivalry, so that didn't end up working. We tried the whole family doing it, and, finally, to clarify what was expected, we actually painted a picture on a sheet of paper of what a clean kitchen looked like. It's kind of a Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood approach to a clean kitchen, are you with me?
Now, boys and girls, this is what a clean kitchen looks like. Our kids hated it. They hated it when I broke out into my Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood clean-kitchen routine.
Bob: I think you should have shot an instructional video. This would have been excellent for you and your family – a little home video.
Dennis: I think boys and girls really do appreciate what a clean kitchen really looks like.
Bob: That's right, boys and girls.
Dennis: So I've clarified the expectations, JoAnn, of what a clean kitchen looks like, but in this situation, with a child or two, I'm not going to mention their names here on the broadcast, but years ago before the earth's crust hardened, when these young people were growing up in our family, they habitually refused to clean the kitchen the way it was expected that they would clean it. What would you do?
JoAnn: So now we're not dealing with honor, we're dealing with obedience. We've got a child, we're giving an instruction, and we've given it in a clear way, which is important. We don't want to give ambiguous instructions to our children, but we want to give them clear instructions; let them know what we're expecting. And then we're going to send them in to do the task and expect them to report back.
Now, when the child reports back, we're going to go with them and check their work, and it's easy to work with them. You know, it's a training process. I think sometimes children just need some more instruction, you know, and patience and grace from their parents, and we'll work with them day in and day out with the obedience issues and pretty soon they'll know what a clean kitchen looks like.
Dennis: I want to tell you, in all my years of raising children, two issues were repeatedly points of – they just felt like failures in both Barbara's life and my life as we raised them through. One was a clean kitchen after the meal was over; the other was taking the trash out. Now, I don't know what it was about our children, but they loved to draw battle lines and create battlegrounds around these two chores. And it really seemed like sometimes they won more than we did, you know what I mean, Bob?
Bob: I know exactly what you mean. Here, we're not talking about getting them to do more than expected, we're just talking about getting them to do what is expected, and that's the first place we've got to start – with obedience. Then we move to honor, right?
Scott: That's right. You know, I was feeling like my young people had chores and responsibilities around the dinner clean-up time, but the children were saying, "This is my piece that I am responsible for, and I don't have to do anything else." And that was something that wasn't a good attitude to have in family life so I said, "Here's what we're going to do. Everybody's job is to clean the kitchen afterwards," which is one of the things you suggested that you did. But what we said was, "If you can't find something to do, then look for something extra." I remember when we first started this, one of my daughters said, "I don't know what to do?" I said, "Well, just pick up something that doesn't belong and put it where it belongs – anything." Or, you know, "It looks like everything is done. Why don't you – there's a light bulb burned out right there. Why don't you fix the light bulb?" Or "Look at the fan above the kitchen here. It's dirty. Why don't you clean that?" That's something extra.
And so what I was trying to do was work with my children in the kitchen to model what it means to be honoring when we clean up.
Dennis: And what they want to do is they want you to end up cleaning the kitchen for them.
Scott: Often that's the case.
Bob: There is a third lesson in this approach toward honor, and it has to do with what happens when a bad attitude manifests itself, Scott?
Scott: It's important to understand where a bad attitude comes from. Not only do we look at the symptoms, the signs, like the grumbling or the rolling of the eyes, or the stomping or the slamming of the door or even not doing a job all the way can be signs of a bad attitude. But, beyond that, what we want our children to see is that a bad attitude comes from an angry spirit. So what children are often doing is that they are seeking revenge on their parents for one reason or another, and they're using an attitude to do it. We're not going to allow that to take place. We believe it's important to discipline children for a bad attitude. Some parents believe that their children will grow out of bad attitudes. We don't believe that's the case. We believe they grow into them.
And so it's important to address it, to help children see what's happening, and to start holding them to account, teaching them how to respond when they're disappointed or when they can't handle the change. They need to have an honoring way to handle that situation.
Dennis: You tell a story about a Dad's interaction with his daughter, Marge, who was seven years old.
JoAnn: Yes, in this situation, we've got Marge fighting with a sibling, and then when Dad calls her on it, asks her to come and talk about it, she responds with a bad attitude toward Dad, and she starts yelling at him, and what this dad did is to identify that bad attitude that he sees. And, you know, sometimes kids, they're responding out of their emotion, and we need to just give them some time to settle down. It's the best thing they need, is to take a break, get out of that situation and calm down.
But this young girl didn't want to do right away, she just wanted to use all that energy she had and press toward a solution. But the dad was wise enough to have that young girl take a break, settle down, and then talk about that situation a little bit later when she had settled the emotions down.
Bob: Yeah, I want to ask you about that. Sometimes our kids get upset, or they get angry. That's a valid human emotion.
Bob: We want to give them some opportunity to be able to be safe and free with expression of emotion. How do we, as parents, know when anger crosses the line when there is disrespect and bad attitude that needs correction versus the frustration or the anger that a child is feeling that you want to say, "You know, it's okay. It's safe to express that frustration here."
Scott: Yes, and there are some families that go overboard and stifle any expression of anger at all. They miss out on opportunities, especially with teenagers, I find, because sometimes teenagers open up and are ready to talk, starting with anger. And if we, as parents, can be gracious enough to accept their emotion with their content without taking it personally, we can often open up doors of conversation.
Now, it gets to be a problem when a child persists in treating a parent unkindly and then turning the anger toward the parent in an unhealthy way. So we've got to be able to draw lines for young people and for children so they know what's appropriate, what's inappropriate, when it comes to anger management.
Dennis: Let's say that there is a teenager who is in a – well, they're locked up with a parent or both parents with a bad attitude, and it's occurring as you just described. They treat them in an unkind fashion repeatedly, over and over again. How does that parent respond in that situation?
Scott: The first thing we want to do is stop the escalation. Either the parent or the teen can call for a break, which means that they separate for a period of time, but they have to come back and deal with it again. It's important to work out a solution, but sometimes the emotion takes over on the part of the young person or on the part of the parent, which gets in the way. So taking a short break for a period of time settles down the issue so that we can work on them in a more rational way.
JoAnn: This idea of taking a break is really helpful for children. It's really an adult skill. We want to teach it to them, teach them that's a healthy response. When your emotion is getting so strong that it's beginning to control you – that's how we define rage – is anger is now controlling you – we want the child to learn how to get out of that situation for a little while and deal with their own heart before they hurt someone. In fact, we say that anger is good, in one sense, as the emotion, anger is good for identifying problems but not good for solving them. So when the child recognizes that they're frustrated, that they're angry, they need to do something with that rather than just pressing on trying to solve the problem with that anger, because they may end up hurting someone.
Bob: Let me tell you about something we did when our kids were younger, and the bad attitude was manifesting itself. In fact, as I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking, "We could do this again." It happens – it wasn't just when they were younger that this happened.
But Mary Ann had found some refrigerator magnets that were round, black dots, and we kept those on the side of the refrigerator. And on the front of the refrigerator, we had a column for each child, and we would go through periods where we would say, "Okay, what's going to happen is when you're manifesting a bad attitude, we're going to send you over to put one of the black dots under your name on the refrigerator. And if there's an accumulation, if there's more than one black dot during a day, there's going to be some loss of privilege. If you go for five days with no black dots, there's going to be some extravagant reward for that. You know, it's Chuck E. Cheese for you, or we're going out for ice cream or something."
And we did this in an attempt to help them realize what a bad attitude looked like. We'd often go through a trial period before we actually kicked in the official deal. We'd say, "Okay, we're going to have two days where it's just trial, but after that we're into it full force." It did seem to bring them face-to-face with what is the manifestation of a bad attitude and kind of corrected things for a while.
JoAnn: You know, that's really a great idea, because what we need to do with our children is let them see the problem visually. Sometimes they're living life, and we're pointing out things that are kind of ambiguous to them, they don't see it, they don't know it, but if we can point it out to them, and I think that trial period is good, too, because we're not going to work on it real strong right away, maybe. Maybe what we need to just do is observe and help them observe what the problem is.
Sometimes it's all children need. If they begin to see the problem, they can work on it.
Dennis: And, you know, that points out the need for a resource that we created earlier this week. That was the parent video cam.
Bob: You wear this strapped around your head like a miner's helmet …
Dennis: … and you're pointing your video camera right at the child's face, so you're recording their scowling look, and the eyes rolling back in the head, and all their frowns and everything, and then you roll into this with a little commentary over some video. That's exactly what we need to offer parents today.
Bob: Here is what I think – all you have to do is get a copy of Scott and JoAnn's book, and when the child is manifesting a bad attitude, hold up the book …
Dennis: … yeah, right here – this kid right here …
Bob: … you look the kid on the cover here.
Dennis: Who is this kid, by the way? Do either of you know him?
Scott: But everybody else does. We've all seen him somewhere, haven't we?
Dennis: His arms are folded, he has a frown on his face, and I'm telling you, he has freckles on his nose, and he looks just like I did when I was a kid.
Bob: You could use the cover of the book as a teaching device but better than that is the content of the book, which is going to help you as a parent to be able to say goodbye to whining, complaining, and bad attitudes in you and your kids. And, you know, we have found over the years, Dennis, is that if we could, as parents, be more consistent, a lot of the issues that we struggle with have as much to do with our lack of consistency as parents as it does with what's going on in the heart of our children.
Dennis: There's no doubt about it. In fact, if you'll review these three lessons that we've learned today about teaching our children how to honor; to teach them to treat people as special; to do more than what is expected; and to teach a child to deal with a bad attitude – all of these assume that we, as parents, are mature Christians who are walking in the faith; that we are modeling honor; that we are showing the kids how to live life on a daily basis, and we are relating to them in honor. And that's real easy to say here in the studio. It's very difficult in that kitchen, in that car, maybe after the game is over, and the kid's in a bad mood. We have to be the adult. In fact, JoAnn, one of the things you talked about, and I just was reflecting on it again is being able to give children time out – just some time to get control of their emotions. I think that is – that's such a valuable principle, and it's a great takeaway from today's broadcast.
Bob: Well, and you can review the principles we've been talking about on today's program by going online at FamilyLife.com. We've got Chapter 4 from the book, "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids" on our website at FamilyLife.com, and you can see the six ways to teach honor to children. You can also get a copy of the book from us here at FamilyLife Today.
When you go to the website, there is a button in the middle of the home page that says "Go." And if you click on that red button, it will take you right to the site where you can get more information about the resources that are available online. You can order a copy of the book, "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids." We also have copies of Scott and JoAnn's brand-new book, which is called "Parenting is Heart Work." This is a great book that helps us get beyond just trying to change our children's behavior and really press these truths home into their heart, and it is just as practical, just as helpful, as the other book is.
If you're interested in ordering copies of both of these books, we can send along with them at no additional cost, the two-CD audio set that features this week's conversation on this subject, and you can pass that on to somebody else who needs to hear it, or you can review it again yourself. Maybe you and your spouse can listen together.
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Well, tomorrow we want to talk a little bit more about what we can do as parents to make sure that the whining and complaining and bad attitudes we sometimes see in our children isn't just a reflection of what they see in us. I hope you can be with us for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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