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How To Win At The One Game Your Kids Are Always Playing

How to Win in Parenting

BE

Whether you realize it or not, your kids are playing a game with you every time you’re in the room with them.  That game is called “Monkey See, Monkey Do”.

Not to creep you out, but your kids are watching your every move.  Every mannerism. Every eye-roll.  Listening to every tone and inflection of your voice and every half-truth or swear word you utter.  Paying attention to what music and movies you like, what you find acceptable and unacceptable about others (tattoos and homeless people included), whether or not you smoke or drink and how you deal with conflict. 

And it’s not like you can escape the surveillance because they live with you and likely, if they’re little, you take them with you wherever you go.

Every bad behavior you hope and pray your child will not adopt, they are carefully watching to see if you’ve adopted, and then quietly disregarding what you say if what you do is in any way a contradiction.  If you want to spot hypocrisy in anything, just ask a kid. They have a special Spidey sense for detecting and exposing even the slightest hint of it.

THE PERFECTION ILLUSION

Now that the secret’s out, the question is how do we, as moms, win at this game? Cuz I’m sorry, but unless you’re from Stepford, the chances are you’re not a perfect mom.  And that’s a problem because all of our imperfections seem to be magnified by these little prying eyes.

We can’t be perfect.  Many of us have already tried.  It’s exhausting and besides, we may fool everyone else that we’re the perfect mom, but we will never be able to fool the very ones we’re trying to be perfect for.  They will see right through us.  So what do we do?

EXPERT ADVICE

The best parenting book I’ve ever read is Parenting 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul David Tripp.  It recommends parenting the heart of a child.  Starting with his or her intentions and the nature of their desires and helping them navigate those desires and recognize that they are not perfect and that they have a need for God.   

Tripp teaches that we need to parent with a project mentality.  “To see parenting as one unending conversation so when they need your correction, you’re not mad at your children for needing you, you’re happy at the opportunity to continue the process.”

He says, “It’s about refusing to use old tools like guilt and shame to get them to do something and lovingly being God’s tool to help them be something. 

In doing this, you’re committing yourself to many mini-moments of change. Good parenting lives at the intersection of a humble admission of personal powerlessness and a confident rest in the power and grace of God”.

These are the 5 questions Tripp says we are to ask our children when they do something wrong so we can help get to their hearts:

  1. What was going on? What happened?
  2. What were you thinking and feeling as it was happening?
  3. What did you do in response?
  4. Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish?
  5. What was the result?

HOW TO WIN

I think that if we are to win at this game of Monkey See, Monkey Do, we need to apply this exact parenting advice to ourselves.  We need to start with our own hearts.  We need to ask ourselves these five questions each time our children do something to upset us or each time we find ourselves giving an eye-roll to a situation. 

Half the battle is convincing our kids that they are wrong, when they are blind to their problem. It’s the same with ourselves.  We need someone to parent us, to show us where we must change and grow.  To point out our shortcomings and offer us the means to change. 

Luckily, we have a God who loves us as a Father and offers us this very help. Tripp so eloquently sums up how God our Father has parented us: “In Jesus, God the Father, made a way for us to see our sin, to confess it, to be granted complete forgiveness, and to be blessed with both the desire and the power to change.”

HOW IT PLAYS OUT

The other night, I yelled at my son for being disrespectful. After the fact, I asked myself, the 5 questions.

  1. “What happened?” He had a disrespectful tone and talked back to me.
  2. “What were you thinking and feeling?” I was thinking he was acting entitled.
  3. “What did you do in response?” I yelled at him.
  4. “Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish?” Because I was mad at him and I wanted to punish him by yelling at him so he would remember it and not disrespect me in the future.
  5. “What was the result?” Further disrespect.

As I answered these questions for myself, I came to realize my own heart problem, which is that of anger, not gentleness.  I was angry and yelled at him not for his own good, but because he did not respect me. That is pride, not humility.

Then this morning, during my prayer time, I read this scripture verse from Matthew Chapter 5, verse 5:

“Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth”Jesus

As I meditated on this verse I asked God to show me what it was about me that I needed to deal with? What was it that I needed to change? Then I waited. A moment later I realized I needed to be gentle. Gentle, specifically, in my interactions with my son. I need to stop yelling.  I committed to becoming gentle and asked God to empower me to be obedient in that commitment.

So, there you have it, my parenting lesson, from God my Father was “you need to be more gentle with your son.”  Likely if I am gentler, he may respond with respect verses reacting to my yelling with more disrespect.

When I realize that my reactions are just as much a part of forming a human soul as my actions, it makes me want to change.  When I realize I am powerless to change myself, it helps me draw on God for His power to change me. 

TLDR

There is a game your kids are always playing with you whether you know it or not, and it is the game of Monkey See, Monkey Do.  They are constantly watching how you handle yourself and situations and they are imitating what you do.  You cannot escape their surveillance but you can win this game by working on yourself through God’s power and grace within you.

The next time have a conflict of any sort.  Ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. What was going on? What happened?
  2. What were you thinking and feeling as it was happening?
  3. What did you do in response?
  4. Why did you do it? What were you seeking to accomplish?
  5. What was the result?

Pray for God to show you what needs to change in you.  Commit to doing something that day to change.  Then ask God to empower you to be obedient to that commitment.

As we are being parented by God and as He transforms our hearts, we will be better equipped to help our children see their need for God to transform their little hearts as well. 

In this way we will fulfill our greatest calling to be used by God to form another human soul.

Happy becoming!

XO

Welcome to Honey & Figs! I’m Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.

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Comments 10

  1. Beautifully written. I’ve been wanting to read some of Tripp’s books for awhile because a lot of people I know highly recommend him. I love that he teaches to stop and think about things from your children’s perspective. I also like how you applied it to yourself. One of the first lessons I learned in my communication classes is that communication is circular. We think we’re responding to somebody else while they think they are responding to us!

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  2. I just recently listened to Tripp review these questions in a podcast interview! So good. I’m glad you listed them here for me to reference. I haven’t read the book yet but definitely need to.

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      It’s such a great resource. Tripp writes with wisdom and wit. I think you’ll really enjoy it. Thanks for your thoughts!

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