Explore this thought by watching this video by Hettie Brittz, or read the article below.
Have you ever heard toddlers in the sandpit bragging about their parents?
“My daddy can pick up the car and swap the tyres without using a jack.”
“My father is stronger than your father and Jack put together!”
They don’t even know what the comparison is all about, but they know their parents are right and strong and clever.
In this phase, our toddler’s mind and heart are like a room with a wide open sliding door. We ought to brainwash our children with the truth while they still believe us, without feeling guilty about our strong influence. This phase is God-given! We need to make sure the truth comes in truckloads through the open door. We’re laying eternal foundations. Remember that we are first and foremost shaping their thoughts because those thoughts will determine the foundation of our children’s behaviour and ultimately of their character.
It need not be in sermon format! Talk to them, read good stories, and play games that practise thinking skills. Also, look very carefully at what media influences pour in through the big open doors of your toddlers’ minds because it’s not just us who make use of the open doors. A child on an iPad has wide open sliding doors too.
Before you know it, they go to school. The sad thing is, many of us are building our careers during these receptive years. Our entrepreneurial years typically coincide with their formative years. What a pity! We are often too tired to play, to talk, and to read stories. And the door slowly slides to a narrower opening during the primary school years. There is a prop that keeps the door artificially open and sometimes all sorts of agendas can be imprinted on our children. Every government and every generation of educators has specific ideas about the type of citizens they want to produce and they use a set cultivation plan to ensure they succeed.
At this point, the door is already no longer completely open to your or my voice. The teacher’s voice is the biggest adult influence for many grade one learners. There are a lot of other voices talking and a lot of deliveries are being pushed through the doors. It makes no difference whether it’s the media or friends who make those deposits. We are still the primary guardians of that door, and our contribution must be directional. We still need to be decision-makers and make our voice heard on agendas, philosophies, entertainment and curriculum. If we are preoccupied with star charts, chores, allowance deductions and taking away devices, we risk missing the more important matter – the shape our children’s character is taking.
By the teenage years, many of the influences are already through the door. Sometimes the door that parents try to speak through is completely shut, with a sign saying “Don’t disturb!” It’s universal. It’s a part of teenagers’ maturing process and therefore not a big problem, provided we’ve already done the most important formational discipline work when the door was wide open.
Against this background, it is clear that parents should have urgency when it comes to discipline. We have to buy out the time knowing that discipline becomes less effective as the years roll by. We don’t have a day to waste. Fatigue, a lot of work, financial pressures — nothing may hinder us from disciplining very purposefully.
By the Lord’s grace, I believe it is never too late to try again, but I have seen trees die if they were moved too late, and I have seen them struggle when we try to bend them after the supple and tender green stalk had made way for wood and bark.
It is therefore also important that our relationship with our children is of such a nature that they can be honest with us, that they keep valuing our opinion, opening the sliding-door invitingly, allowing us occasional input into their lives. Lean on the Lord and stand strong. Read more about this in the article: Anchor your authority on the website.