“Thankfulness… obedience…respect… good choices”, Johnny’s mom is thoughtfully anticipating lunch with Johnny and the opportunity it offers to train him towards good character. After her talk with Molly’s mom (Part 1 of this series), she had to admit to herself that Johnny’s behavior at the table was rooted in several bad character qualities. To allow it to continue was actually giving Johnny plenty of lessons and practice time in the school of bad character.
Mom, knowing Johnny’s eating habits and behavior at the table, has put a great deal of thought into how to turn this ship around without it capsizing. This will be no easy task and to go into it halfhearted and unsure of herself would be certain failure which would only strengthen the problem she is addressing. She has made up her mind. Failure is unacceptable. She realizes that success lies in her own belief and determination in what she is doing and has decided on a plan to carry it out, a plan that will insure success.
She starts by making a list of Johnny’s behaviors at meal times and the character qualities they represent. She then decides on negative consequences for each bad behavior:
Johnny only responds to the third command – slow obedience is disobedience
Johnny demands to have food that mom has not prepared. – bossy, controlling
Johnny complains about the food and only eats what he likes and leaves the rest. – wasteful, disrespectful, ungrateful
Johnny leaves the table without asking to be excused. – rude, disrespectful
Johnny demands to have snacks in between meals. – irresponsible
Note: If our kids show responsibility for their own physical needs they will eat their meal so they will not become hungry later. It does take some maturity for a child to understand this, but we can help them arrive sooner by guiding them in a mental connection between failure to eat and a hungry tummy. In this case, hunger is a good thing and will lead to better choices next time.
Mom decides to use the next meal to explain to Johnny the changes that will be occurring during meal time the following day. “Johnny, I have noticed lately that your behavior at meal times is not very nice.”, Mom asserts over lunch. Johnny looks at her a little surprised. “You mean like my friend Bobby when he tripped me at school? That wasn’t very nice, was it? I didn’t trip you did I mom?” “No, Johnny, but sometimes we are not nice in other ways.” Mom replies. She carefully explains the thoughts she had on her list in a way that Johnny would understand. She even used examples of people they know who display the good character that she hopes to inspire in her son.
The following day, Mom wisely decides to use breakfast for reminding Johnny of the things they discussed the day before, pointing out again his negative habits and praising positive behaviors she notices.
While preparing lunch, Mom imagines potential conflicts that may come up, but is resolute about not allowing herself to stoop to reasoning or negotiating with Johnny and remembers her grandmother’s words about training her kids, “Your word is Law!”, she said. She knew that the next few days at the table would have its challenges and would probably involve a few stinging pops, and making “all negative behavior counter-productive” as her grandmother had advised. “Actually”, Mom ponders, “This is more about my behavior than it is Johnny’s!”.
With her plan in mind Mom calls Johnny to lunch. Johnny forgets what Mom said about coming to the table on the first command and comes strolling in on the third like usual. The promised punishment is issued, “Johnny, since you didn’t come the first time you were called you will have to clear the table and load the dishwasher before you head outside to play.” “But Mom! I forgot!” “Forgetting is not an excuse, Johnny. And if you resort to whining you will be punished for that too.”, mom calmly warns. (Mom is one step ahead of Johnny!)
Pouting, Johnny turns to his plate. In this first attempt to get Johnny to clean his plate Mom is wise and makes it easy by the food choices and the portion sizes she gives him. Higher goals would be set later, but Mom never serves him more than what she knows he can eat. Johnny is delighted, “Mom, you fixed my favorites!”, and finishes his lunch.
Mom worked her plan and the first meal was a success!
In the days to follow, Mom is confronted with all of Johnny’s old habits more than once, but the punishment is swift. Johnny very quickly begins to associate each bad behavior with the negative consequences that Mom deals out. It is grueling at times but she remains consistent. She is also careful to make sure she notices and praises any good character qualities that begin to shine.
After three days of consistently sticking to her plan, Mom notes a marked difference in Johnny’s behavior and in her own confidence in training up her children. As she begins to apply what she has learned to other day to day affairs; courage becomes her companion.
She smiles with confidence, “One day, my son will be a man of good character.”
Proverbs 13:24 – He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.