- Monday, September 06, 2004
"YOU HAVE HOW MANY KIDS?" As a mother of six, there is one context in which I would love this question—to hear it said in amazement that six kids can behave better than the family of two in the next aisle.
Unless the children's behavior is a fluke due to total exhaustion or fear of bodily harm, this kind of compliment will be a direct result of the amount of thought, effort and consistency we are able to invest.
Whose business is it anyway, if our family wants to dress like refugees and act like escapees from the juvenile correction facility? Technically, it's nobody's business but mine. But it is important to consider the statement we may be making to a world that desperately needs light. If we want to bring the fragrance of Jesus with us wherever we go, we're going to have to put some thought and effort into it.
A picture of what we're aiming at is essential. Dads and moms can brainstorm with each other, and draw input from the children as well. Good questions to ask are, "What do you want our family to look and act like?" and "How do you want people to think about our family?" Then dig a little deeper and find out why those things appeal to us.
A little more in this vein: Jesus warned against cleaning the outside of the cup but leaving the inside full of all manner of uncleanness. If the best thing that someone can say about our family is that we dress nicely, we're not a testimony, we're an advertisement for a clothing store or a washing machine. If we've got to choose only one aspect, let's go for the behavior/attitudes.
HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO
With a certain amount of "intention-ality", our families can be both well clothed and well behaved. By way of a general synopsis, aim for clothes, shoes, hair, and faces being clean and neat.
A word here for moms… Men aren't the only ones who can be won without a word. When other women look at us, what they see will either encourage or discourage them regarding a mom's potential and lot in life. So if we've got to choose between doing our own hair or someone else's, let's do ours! We may have silver threads among the gold, but at least they can be brushed.
PRETTY IS AS PRETTY DOES
The next aspect of a perfect picture is behavior. Logically, the only reliable way to have well behaved children in public is to have well-behaved children at home. If we have one expectation for them in public, but don't hold them to that standard the rest of the time, guess what comes natural?
So at the Wyatt household, we insist on obedience with a good attitude and work at eliminating bickering amongst the troops. (This is definitely still a work in progress, by the way). We cultivate normal volume, and continually target a loving way of relating to each other.
When we draw up our concepts of how we'd like our families to be, our children have something to shoot for. Once we know what we're aiming at, we can formulate ways to achieve that picture. These are the practical things that can help to put our best feet forward.
For example, we may institute a rule of staying together as a group, rather than scattering to all points of the compass when the car doors open. Older children hold younger children's hands. Family phrases and key words can also be an effective way to obtain desired behavior. If we use these phrases or words at home regarding standard situations, they will have power in public as well. A few we utilize in our family are: "Gentle—gentle." "Is that edifying?" and an all time favorite, "Mellow out, guys."
Call it a breathing space. Visualize it as the peace that comes from being early instead of late. It is possible, but it isn't just going to happen by itself. If you've got to leave for music lessons at 2:00 p.m., try getting ready an hour ahead of time. It only stands to reason that it is much more relaxing to have children washed, dressed, shod, and quietly reading on the couch for the final ten minutes than rushing around with one eye on the relentless clock, trying to gather everything and everybody into a semblance of order, shooing everyone out the door and barreling down the road ten minutes behind time.
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