Do you ever get tired of repeating yourself? Do you ask yourself and your child whether he should know better by now? It’s important to realize that we have a very different perspective on life than our children do. We may have heard ourselves say “don’t jump on the bed” 200 times, but your child may honestly think he’s never heard you say that before.
When was your first memory? I only have a few vague memories from before the age of 5. And true, short-term memory is much different from long-term memory. But can we really expect our 4-year-olds to remember what we said two weeks ago? If it’s a regular issue, sure, we might expect them to remember. But if it’s an issue that only comes up every now and then, they may honestly not remember your rule.
If there’s any doubt, better to treat it as childishness than foolishness. Don’t assume your child knows better and is willingly disobeying you. There’s nothing more frustrating to a child than being held accountable for a rule that he has no memory of.
Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from this is that we must always see ourselves as our children’s teachers. Whether it’s an innocent situation of how to behave in front of people they’ve never met or how to behave on a daily trip to the grocery store, we must teach them what we expect. This is particularly true when we discipline our kids. No discipline will be effective if it isn’t followed by teaching.
The Ezzos say it best:
“One of the most basic goals of any correction is that it should promote learning and understanding. Correction requires explanation. Without the why (explanation) of wrong there is no correction, just a random redirection of behavior. Whether a child’s actions are innocent mistakes or malicious disobedience, explanatory teaching will always be necessary. The parent’s job is to give verbal explanation that moves the child from what he did this time to what he should do next time. Whatever the wrong behavior, use it to impart knowledge. If you complete your talk and learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 159).
No matter the situation, we should always consider whether the child really knew better. And whether he did or not, we can never stop teaching.