MORE tips for NOT sliding into the “only by comparison” parenting model:
7. Beware of verbal comparisons in front of the children. This is a fine line as we have used other children’s good and bad behavior as learning tools for our children for twenty-five years. It is not uncommon for us to ask the kids on the way home from something (after serving at disability ministry, for instance) to each tell us two instances of godly character and one example of poor character or Christian living. We have done this not to compare our kids with others or cause our children to put others down—but to help them recognize Christ-like and non-Christ-like behaviors. However, if we constantly talk about how bad other families are or how bad a certain child is, we will fall into the comparison trap quickly—and so will our children. (And their behavior will reflect this—as they start to feel superior to that child—but not expect much more from themselves.) Thus, handle these discussions carefully. Use them if they help, but not if they hurt. (Ray has made it a habit to ask for two good and one bad example of things. This helps the kids to focus on others’ good traits too.)
8. Raise expectations! Do not settle for absence of bad. Instead, expect good—no, expect great! You can begin doing this by discussion. (Can you tell we like to talk at our house? ) Discussions of going that second mile. Of giving more than what is expected. Of leaving a place better than it was when we came. Of helping someone more than they even asked. It is not uncommon for us to discuss high expectations as we travel somewhere: What can you do to encourage Grandpa today? (Not just don’t be bad at Grandpa’s.). How can you lift others up this week at drama camp? (Not just don’t talk when the teacher is talking.)
We have found out through the years that the only by comparison parenting mode does not result in good parenting—or well-behaved children. However, our second mantra, if your behavior had really been good, somebody would pay for our dinner, eventually did pay off. When Joshua turned fourteen, he chose Red Lobster for his birthday dinner (back when we could afford sit down restaurants for birthdays!), and we enjoyed the meal together—only to be approached by a couple who commented on the children’s behavior and slid Ray a $100 bill* for our food. The kids were ecstatic—and we were pretty happy parents. The children felt they had finally done it—they had, had good enough behavior to earn a free meal. And we were not out the money for an expensive meal. I wouldn’t want to get in the habit of paying my kids for good behavior—but I sure enjoyed this windfall!
*Coming soon: The $100 Pay It Forward Award Winner Announcement…we continued the blessing!