I haven’t been doing this parenting thing for very long, but I’ve learned to pick my battles. When I saw this talk, I felt my heart scream amen. There are three quiet, underlying themes in our home. If you’re a Kincaid kid in trouble, it’s because you committed one of the three D’s – disobedience, dishonesty, or disrespect. If it doesn’t fall under one of those categories, we typically let it ride.
I’ve learned that parenting cannot be about living through our children, where we push them to reach goals we never did. It cannot be about unrealistic standards, where we expect them to behave like adults and think on our level. But parenting also can’t be about setting them up for failure, where we permit them to develop unsafe or unhealthy habits. So here’s where I start stepping on a few toes.
Manners are mandatory in my home. When my kids first learn to talk, they learn please and thank you. When they sit in time-out, smack dab in the middle of their sinful nature, they learn repentance. They must say I’m sorry to the sibling whose hair they pulled or whose toy they stole, before they can get up. Of course they’re not actually concerned with politeness before a snack. Of course they’re not actually sorry they’ve transgressed someone. I’m not asking them to be. It’s fake and forced at first, but I don’t have a problem with that. After all, isn’t that how healthy habits are formed as an adult? Groaning at the early wake-up time for yoga or time with the Lord? Blocking out distractions for a meal-planning session, to stay within a grocery budget? Repeating the new year’s goals over and over, until things start to feel natural?
I understand the argument that children shouldn’t be strong-armed into showing appreciation or sharing toys or practicing submission all of the time. I get it; I really do. I want to raise creative, independent kids. That’s why two of our boys have hair past their shoulders, and the third one keeps his short. I want assertive communicators and world-changers in my home. That’s why we encourage healthy, heated discussion when there’s tension. But I want kind kids, too. I want kids who open doors for people without even thinking about it. I want to watch my children visibly struggle to put others before themselves now, so they can easily make the right choice when it matters down the road. So when it comes to manners, when it comes to living in community… my kids can practice the fake stuff until it turns into the real thing.
Because I’m not scared of a little forced fruit.