My Son Is Crying Over Ketchup: But is that bad?

There is a Chinese Proverb that goes something like this:

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “How should I know? We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “How should I know? We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “How should I know? We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “How should I know? We’ll see.”

Now, bridge the gap and apply it to fatherhood, taking this stoic parable as how do I know what is “good” or “bad?”

bridge2016

My recent application of this in response to my son’s behavior at dinner gave me a glimpse into the potential power of such reaction. Tonight, he was touchy about the inevitable blending of food on his plate. Tears shed when pieces of ground beef were not sticking to his fork the way he wanted.

Every step of the meal he was irritated about something. This is traditionally “bad” behavior in my mind. Where I would normally feed into this and try to forcefully encourage stopping and good behavior, I focused on enjoying my meal.

“It won’t stay on my fork, and I don’t like the potatoes,” he whined out through the tears. And I’d respond calmly, “You just have to keep trying. Is there another way you could get them to stay on your fork without stabbing?”

Calm. Collective. “Don’t show how annoying and ridiculous his actions are,” I thought to myself.

I don’t know exactly why he does this, but I do know that at four years of age and change, he knows the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. I also could see the difference in his response when I showed a stoic concern vs. frustrated response.

There is a number of different reasons that could explain, but I don’t really need to know. He may not even know. But I hope he knows that I’m there for him, doing my best, whether that is good or bad.

Why I Try to Shelter My Kids From Trump

Television is a reward for my four-year old son. After acknowledgement of deeds well done, good behavior and self control, he can turn in the six reward coins for a walk to the park, special play time with mom or dad, or choice of his favorite TV show.

These coins, “special” coins, not from the piggy bank, are given throughout various random moments in the week, but could be earned even once or twice a day.

coins

So the other day, he chose to cash in and reward himself with some TV. While the TV warmed up, a news show was covering the latest Donald Trump footage with audio of him degrading women and speaking as if he owns them. (If you really haven’t seen it and must.)

It’s like a car wreck. I admit that I did watch the video on my phone, but I found myself asking my wife to hurry up and switch on the children’s version of Netflix as the video of the bus rolled and the sound of the bleeps echoed out of our family-room.

Family. My wife and I put effort into raising a family, with the goal of supporting children who contribute kindly and respectfully toward the world. My daughter is only six month old but I can only pray that a man like Trump doesn’t attract her future. I find I don’t even want my son to hear “The Donald’s” voice.

I grew up with parents who very much allowed me to form my own political opinions, to the point that they didn’t even share who they voted for, but this isn’t about swaying my son or daughter to the left or right.

This is about the basic incentive system we are trying to teach my son by allowing him to choose TV as a reward. With good behavior, rewards will come your way.

My son receives coins for controlling his temper-tantrums. When he normally may throw a fit when being picked up from school or being told it’s bath night, he could earn a coin if he reels it in. We’re not asking him to enjoy the transition, just rein in the kicking, screaming and rock-solid defiance.

He can also receive a coin for taking responsibility for his actions, say telling the truth. Picking up his toys and respectful dinner time behavior will also earn coins.

So to Trump I ask, how does your behavior, current and past, reinforce these behaviors that I am trying to plant in my children? I don’t see you controlling your temper-tantrums, taking responsibility or telling the truth.

The President of the United States of America should be someone who can teach our sons and daughters principles of healthy behavior and leadership. 

Rewards, Discipline and Empty Threats Working Toward Negotiation

Fatherhood is a challenging job. Or at least I find it challenging as my four year old
learns what buttons to push and negotiates to get his way.

He’s a good kid. Don’t get me wrong, but I find that I have to be firm with him at times. I become so stern he seems afraid of me, as he puts his fingers in him mouth. And he’s never been a thumb sucker.

Is this what it means when Christians mention putting the fear of God in your child?

I believe they are probably referring to teaching the word of God. I believe in a loving God, who unconditionally cares for us, so why should I be afraid of him? I am more afraid of being without Him than of Him.

I’d be afraid to come to he end of life and have that be it. No heavenly ascent. No peace and contentment. I’d be afraid to put my faith in humanity. Humans have done a lot of great and remarkable things, but we’ve also done some pretty awful and horrific things, too.

As a father, I work to motivate my kids through reward, acknowledgment and disapproval. The disapproval is the piece that I feel is a living example of the fear of God. I don’t want God to be disproved of me. He forgives for my faults, but he’s also disappointed if I don’t try to work in them.

So rather than scaring my kid to the point of sucking his thumb, I hope to move into an area of communicating disappointment.

My goal is to share when I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of him constantly, and when he acts in ways that make me angry, I will share disappointment.

Many times when I’m fed up, my response is to walk away. There were many times in my childhood when my dad would scare me with his anger. And rather than share my anger, spread it down the line if you will, my goal is to walk away.