Provoke Not Your Children to Wrath

Bonnie took this picture of R looking a little concerned. I wanted one of them crying, but I couldn't find any.

Bonnie took this picture of R looking a little concerned. I wanted one of them crying, but I couldn’t find any.

In the last month or so, our lives have been turned upside down. We packed up our house (with a lot of help from the ward). We slept in a dozen different beds and sleeping arrangements. We drove across the whole country. We had one family reunion (with another coming up this week). It’s just been a lot of craziness for Bonnie and me and the kids.

With all of that going on, there have been a few more tantrums than normal (though to be fair the kids have been absolute champs). Some of the tantrums have reminded me of this site, but I think others could have been avoided if Bonnie and I had done a better job at parenting.

Several of the tantrums came on days where we kept the kids up way too late. Specifically, at the recent family reunion, we’d be doing something fun and either decide to let the kids keep participating, or just get distracted and not get bed time going at the right time. Inevitably when we did that, the kids would lose their minds and be screaming for hours. Similarly, if we didn’t get them food at nice, regular times then we’d have problems.

This is where the title comes in. The wording always used to make me think of a parent tormenting their kid, which seemed strange to me. I have lately come to think of it as more about setting your kids up to be successful and happy, rather than simply not bothering them. When my kids are upset, I keep thinking about what I could have done to prevent the situation:

  • Have I been ignoring them so they’re bored? Maybe I should have set them up with some activities before getting on the computer.
  • Are they hungry? Maybe I should have started preparing lunch earlier, or picked something quicker to make.
  • If we’re having problems at bedtime it’s almost always because we started it too late.

Even when they get in to things they shouldn’t, I still feel like I have some responsibility because I could have put things away somewhere else. Maybe up higher, maybe behind a child lock, etc.

As I’ve thought about this concept, I find that it has a much broader application than simply parenting young children. Most people will end up being in charge of something at some point in their life. The people for whom you have some responsibility need and depend on you to make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing. Here is a blog post from one of my favorite bloggers. He’s talking about this as it pertains to businesses and preventing theft. It’s long, so I’ll grab a few excerpts:

“human nature being what it [is], employee theft [is] inevitable so it [is] the moral responsibility of the owner to protect both the shareholders and the employees from their own worst nature.”

“By accepting a fact that I still find emotionally unpleasant, I’ve saved us a lot of potentially expensive lessons.  And that itself is a lesson – never refuse to act because you have a hard time believing something you’d rather not believe.”

Beyond businesses and parenting, it’s essential in our personal lives. I would bet that if you pick your favorite sin, you can probably find some common factors that influence you in that behavior. Just like an alcoholic probably shouldn’t hang out in a bar, you can make a conscious effort to avoid and prevent situations in which you know your will isn’t as strong as you’d like. Consciously setting yourself and those around you up for success instead of failure is a powerful tool. I’m still working out more ways that it can be put in place in my life, but small changes can make a huge difference in the results that you get.