“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves and wiser people so full of doubt.” L. Wilson
You might think I’m a fool for skipping the 75% off Lily Pulitzer sale.
I may think you’re a fool for liking Asian food. (Is a meal really a meal if there’s no cheese? #kiddingnotkidding)
You may think I’m a fool for paying with exact change at the cash register. (This actually makes people mad for some reason)
So what is a fool?
But, these are matters of personality and preference, not issues of integrity. We could all define “fool” based on our own experiences and tolerances, but I want to give a clear guideline for us to follow. Since the Bible expressly tells us to avoid fools, we’d probably like to avoid raising them as well.
- Thinks they are always right and doesn’t accept counsel from others (Prov. 12:15)
- Does not want to listen or learn, just to share his/her own opinion (Prov. 18:2)
- Uses words to cause strife and stir up trouble (Prov. 18:6)
- Reacts in rages or mockery instead of having civil conversation (Prov. 29:9)
- Repeats mistakes and folly again and again (Prov. 26:11)
- Frequently loses their temper and vents (Prov. 29:11)
- Causes harm to those closest to him/her (Prov. 13:20)
- Slanders and lies (Prov. 10:18)
At best, a fool is a selfish entitled person. At worst, a narcissistic.
A fool is not just someone we disagree with. Someone who doesn’t seem very smart or intelligent. In fact, fools are often very intelligent. No no. Foolishness has little to do with immaturity or childishness and all to do with a person’s bedrock character.
(Before you send hate mail telling me we shouldn’t judge… it’s true we cannot judge the inner workings of another’s heart. However, we can judge actions that are foolish and destructive, and are commanded to do so. Read this article if you’re wondering if “fool” is a swear word.)
7 ways to raise a foolish child
This isn’t written by a woman with grown children who are all saints, but from a mother of small children hoping to raise non-foolish adults. I think we all want the same thing.
1. Letting a child who is wrong think they are right
This isn’t about winning an argument or zero sum parenting. There are battles worth fighting and those not worth it. Still, it’s good for your child to know they aren’t always right. We moms are tempted not to correct our children because we don’t want to lower their self-esteem, when in fact, knowing the truth is empowering.
Self-esteem is grown not by thinking you are right, but by developing confidence in yourself and resilience. Resilience comes from facing challenges and rising again. If your kids think they are always right, they never “fall down.”
2. Not teaching (and requiring) your child to listen.
If you Google “how to listen” you’ll find there is a method. A way to do it. Advice abounds here because so many of us adults (myself included) don’t always listen well. By allowing our children to ignore us, we become background noise. If a child won’t listen to his parents or heed their advice he can become obstinate and unruly in later years.
This is not about control or dictatorial parenting, but being sure our children respond to us. After all, we are reasonable people. Through discipline (the whole process of training up a child) and consequences you can teach your child to listen from a young age.
3. Over-empathizing to the point you condone bad behavior
Of course, we should encourage children to tell us how they really feel. This can be done calmly and with respect, from both parent and child. However, empathy is a big buzz word in parenting these days that can be quite confusing. Empathizing with a child’s feelings can lead to a sense of acceptance, safety, and belonging. Over-empathizing can lead to self-pity, justification of bad behaviors, and blame shifting.
4. Not teaching them to manage their emotions
(Note: This is not directed towards mothers of children on the spectrum or with behavioral disorders as those are different considerations.)
You don’t always have to make your children feel better. If they are losing it and having a tantrum every time you say no, don’t let their moods affect the whole house. In Making Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours, the author suggests letting them throw a tantrum. In their room with the door closed. Funnily enough, the tantrum doesn’t last as long this way.
While you should not squash their emotions, you can still require a good respectful attitude. You can teach them, day by week by year, how to calmly and rationally share their feelings and work towards a solution with you. If they are used to screaming and throwing things to get their way, this does not go away as they age. It just changes forms to something less obvious.
5. Interrupting cause and effect
If you don’t let your child experience the consequences of their negative actions, they don’t think their actions can have negative consequences. Period. Hearing something a million times is not the same as learning a lesson.
We try to stop our children from feeling pain, disappointment, or discomfort so we lecture. It is a wise parent indeed who allows their children to experience the effects of their choices. To reap what they sow. All the while there offering support, guidance, and love.
6. Letting meanness go unchecked
Kids who are mean turn into teenagers who are mean, then grow into adults who are mean. I’m not talking about the occasional bout of sibling rivalry, but consistent mean and divisive behavior. You know what meanness looks like. Allowing it to go unchecked in your home – or worse attributing it to youth and hoping they’ll “grow out of it” – will damage your other children, the home atmosphere, and will leave doors open for your child to become a bully.
7. Ignoring lies, deceit, and manipulation.
Now, lying is a developmental milestone. When children figure out they can say something other than reality, and possibly avoid consequences, they try it. This doesn’t mean you’re raising a sociopath. However, it’s important to teach children the value of the truth, and to discipline wisely and effectively for lying.
There are tons of resources written by psychologists and child development experts that teach parents to wisely maneuver this subject. According to Scripture, a fool slanders and lies. We want to raise children who value honesty and integrity.
We want so much for our kids and try our hardest not to screw them up. But we probably will in one way or another. It’s just how it works. However, we can’t be so scared to make our children unhappy that we fail to do the hard work of parenting.
Remember, one choice is not indicative of an overall character. After all, children are still growing and learning.
Still, we mustn’t forget that an adult’s character is known by their consistent behavior.
I’m currently reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. I believe many of my own foolish behaviors come from feelings of self-entitlement and this book is a great read. It’s easy, simple, and like a friend having a conversation. I really think this book could change the entire way you parent if you let it.
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