Correction. Correction falls into the realm of parental teaching. We correct (verbally teach/remind/reprimand) for things that are dangerous (hot objects, busy roads), inappropriate (burping, standing on tables at mealtime, throwing food), unkind (hitting, ugly words, mocking, hurting others), dishonest (lying, stealing) and more.
We teach the meaning of NO through repetitive review and correction. These “rules” should be based on our family convictions (which should be founded on God’s Word), and should be taught diligently (repeated, reviewed, reinstated) to our children.
“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:” (Isaiah 28:9, 10)
We should begin this correction with our toddlers, and here a little and there a little, build on this correction through the teen years. As our children’s ability to reason and understand grows and changes, so should our correction. Toddler correction should be brief and immediate, whereas teen correction may be a long late-night conversation (complete with logic and Biblical reasoning). Our goal with correction is to reach the heart of the child.
So we’ve already addressed the need for a calm composure and consistency in our speech with our children. But what happens when those little ones don’t respond to our calm words and family rules. What is the first thing we should do?
For some of us, it is tempting to jump right to consequences. We don’t take the time to correct, but jump right to punishment. Consequences have their place in Christian parenting, but we need to take the time for correction first. Often a verbal correction is all that is necessary to correct a problem!
For other parents, it’s tempting to ignore our children’s behaviors or distract them, rather than implementing correction. If you struggle with consistency, go back and read this post!
Whichever side of the struggle you’re on (I struggle with both being too quick to hand out consequences and not wanting to take the time to correct a child!) let’s work through a few situations to see correction (that is, verbal corrective teaching) in action. (As with anything I post here at Perspectives in Parenting, I am right there with you, working on consistency, grace, and God-honoring parenting. I am not an expert, and I sometimes have to re-read my own writings to get inspired to work harder at the things I “know” to do. :))
Correction changes how it looks as our children age and mature, so let’s address a few different stages of childhood:
Toddler (12 months to around 3 years):
This is the keep-it-simple stage, with four easy-to-remember steps:
- Connect (Eye Contact).
- Instruct. (and distract, if appropriate)
Don’t ignore the behavior and hope it will go away–utilize the four steps and repeat as necessary (which for toddlers, is OFTEN!) Remember the keep-it-simple rule. Get eye contact, teach the rule in as few words as necessary, get a response, then send the child to do it again or instruct them in what to do instead.
Here’s a couple of personal examples…..
- When Titus throws a ball in the house, I pick him up, say “Look at Mommy’s eyes. We throw balls OUSTIDE. Do not throw the ball in the house. Say ‘Yes, Ma’am’.” I put him back down, and maybe even offer an alternative to the inside throwing, “Let’s get your cars out. You can make a race track!” or “If you want to throw the ball, let’s take it outside!” Immediate correction followed by instruction in what to do instead is very effective.
- Last week in the church nursery (I was in there with him), he went up behind another toddler and hit him on the head. There was no provocation or malice, just a painless, curious tap on the head. I got right down at eye level immediately, said “Titus, no hitting. Show Mommy ‘Gentle Hands’.” I took his hand, and together we gently patted the other baby’s head. I praised him for his “Gentle Hands”, then I said, “Titus, go get the book and look for the car!” He waddled off in the other direction. Toddlers, while not understanding the why behind the correction, can still be corrected and taught. Repetition, consistency, and re-dos are perfect for this age. I’ve observed toddlers walking towards a “no-no” and watched the parent try every trick to distract them away from it, instead of correcting the behavior. Distraction has it’s place with toddlers and their short attention spans :), but use it after you’ve corrected the behavior.
- Just today, I called Titus to “Come to Mommy!” Usually he comes running, but since he’s been into playing “hide-and-seek” lately, he took off in the other direction, giggling. I went right over to him, picked him up, looked into his eyes and said, “No, Titus. You come to Mommy when Mommy calls you!” I called him again, he looked up at me and came running. (Well, it was more like a 16 month old waddle, lol.)
Pre-school/Kindergarten (ages 4 to 6):
With this age, you can still effectively use the four steps, but also add a little more cause and effect reasoning. Remember, our goal with correction is to reach the heart of the child. You’ll notice in the illustration above, that I didn’t give Titus all the reasons why he should come or use gentle hands. Keep-it-simple for toddlers, remember? But as our children age, they respond well to cause and effect in our correction. So step 3 (Correct) can take a little longer as we talk with them a little about their feelings (or other people’s feelings). We use statements like, “How does it feel when so-and-so does that to you?”, or “Would you want to be called that name?” and they can begin to feel empathy for others. They are almost never ready for “Why?” questions, though. (Try asking. You’ll probably get “I don’t know.” :))Scripting and social stories are helpful tools during correction for this age.
Some examples (we currently have three 6 year olds….so…..I have alot to pull from!).
- Ethan and Noah were painting together. Noah commented that Ethan made a mistake and used the wrong color, so Ethan retaliated with, “Well, your picture is ugly. Mine is better.” While correcting Ethan, using all 4 steps, I said, “How would you feel if you had worked so hard on your picture and someone said it was ugly?” He thought for a moment and responded with, “I would be sad.” I finished up the correction with, “Yes, unkind words make other people feel sad. Use kind words to others. Finish painting nicely with Noah.”
- I told Gabbey and Alyssia to go put their shoes away outside. They ran to obey, but Alyssia raced in front of Gabbey and blocked the entire shoe tote with her body (competition to be first). Gabbey stomped backwards a little, tripped over her own feet, and fell down, hard. I heard the commotion and stepped outside. After asking what had happened, I asked Alyssia, “Did you race Gabbey? How would you feel if Gabbey ran ahead of you and blocked you from putting something away?” (I sometimes even give them the words that they would feel, like this, “You would be frustrated and angry if someone did that to you, right?”) We talked through the situation and she apologized to Gabbey.
School-age (ages 7-12):
We still use the 4 steps, and we should ask those, “How would you feel?” questions to get them thinking, but at this age, we also can start asking the “Why?” questions during our correction. Up until this point, we should always be looking for the WHY to the behavior (curiosity, temper, hunger, exhaustion, provocation, etc), but rarely will a very young child be able to put into words why they did something. At this age, however, we can begin digging into the why behind the behaviors during our correction time, and if we’ve given them a safe place to share their feelings up til this point, we can have good back-and-forth communication.( If you’re thinking right now that only the parent should be talking during correction, consider whether a one-sided conversation effects the heart. I’m not suggesting allowing open back-talk, but respectful discussion between parent and child connects during connection. Children need to feel heard and understood in order to change from the inside out. ) Sometimes, a quick “Don’t do that!” is all that is necessary, but often we need to take the time to stop, connect (get eye contact), correct (ask those questions, get responses, correct the wrong behavior), and instruct (guide for future successes).
Ask open questions that allow your child to work through his behavior. Yes, this takes more time than just handing out consequences, but if your goal is connection and heart change, communication is the key. You can guide the conversation back to your family convictions and what the Bible says about a particular sin as needed.
Teens (age 13-adult):
Here’s where connection-in-correction becomes very useful. Teens seem to know-it-all because they truly feel that they DO know it all! I’ve never understood the mindset of rebuking our teens as if they were little children (prevalent in some Christian circles/The “He’s my child as long as he’s under my roof!” mentality.). Yes, we can and should still use correction, but it absolutely must have gradually changed from the keep-it-simple (“because I said so!”) stage to the logic-reasoning-appeal stage if we want to guide their hearts, and not just their behavior. We don’t insist (we do encourage, however) on apologies at this stage, because we’re no longer training them—they KNOW what is right—and we want any apology to be heart-felt and real. Modeling this (apologizing whenever we sin helps greatly in this team approach).
Teens need to learn effective communication strategies for adulthood–and what better place to learn them than with their own parents? Here’s some guidelines and things we’ve told our own teens:
- You are a mini-adult, with adult-like feelings, and godly adults show respect during communication, so we need you to show respect to us, even when you disagree. (How helpful is this thought in a marriage setting? Respectful disagreements, anyone??)
- You aren’t perfect (and never will be), but neither are we. How can we help you in this situation?
- There will be times, as you approach adulthood, that you will think we are making a wrong decision. Feel free to come talk to us about your thoughts (respectfully!), but we do insist that you do this privately–not in front of your siblings.
- Sometimes you will feel like an adult, and sometimes you will feel like a child, and both those feelings are okay. Enjoy these days, as they will soon be over and you’ll be an adult forever. 🙂
- Because we love you, we will correct your behavior/words/etc as necessary, but we want you to know that we ALWAYS have your best interest at heart.
- As you near adult-hood, you will naturally question everything we’ve ever taught you. This is normal and good. Ask us for our reasons if you need to, and we’ll share them with you. Seek God and His wisdom as you prepare to make your own decisions about these things soon. Remember the main thing: Love God, and Love People, and you’ll always make us proud.
Correction in parenting. It’s essential at every stage(although not always convenient, nor fun!). Keep connection in mind as you correct!
Today’s Challenge: Do you struggle with ignoring or distracting and not taking the time to correct? Or maybe you’re correcting too harshly and need to slow down and strive for heart connection. Are you talking too much to your toddler during correction–or not enough to your teen? Embrace those connection opportunities today. 🙂