We have all been in those situations where adults are socializing and the children are running wild. It may be the grocery store, a social gathering, church, etc. We also have been in uncomfortable situations where the parent handled it all wrong by yelling and screaming at the children. There is an old saying, “When everyone is watching the children, no one is watching the children.” This comes from the reality that children individually need individual adult attention, training, and focus in all settings and in most instances. When proper boundaries and expectations with consequences are spelled out in advance, then there is more opportunity for a parent’s attention to be focused elsewhere. We are responsible for the behavior and well-being of all children under our care.
“Young people who obey the law are wise; those with wild friends bring shame to their parents.”Proverbs 28:7 (NLT)
First, our children need and thrive on instruction and boundaries. Secondly, they intuitively know that our highest form of expressing our love for them is to devote our attention to them; i.e., when we lay down our lives for them. John 15:13 (NLT): “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
When we put aside our interests, our conversations, and delights and give them our undivided attention then emotional deposits are made in their hearts. Later, when we are distracted those previous emotional deposits give them the desire to behave appropriately. Children are keenly aware when we are distracted and will take every advantage given them when we do not have constant eyes on them. As parents we may have to return that phone call later or catch up with a friend at another time.
Another skill in parenting is to assign the children to one parent or the other in intervals. If you are at a social gathering, rotate the responsibility of knowing what the children are doing, how they are behaving, and that they are safe. Their behavior sometimes is to demand our attention that they do not get otherwise. If our children have learned the only way they get our attention is through bad behavior, then that’s what they will do. Often much of this can be avoided by preparing our children with our expectations before we find ourselves caught up in a random conversation, on a phone call, or distracted for any reason.
Please know that our distractions from them when they are in our presence should be the exception and not the rule. Our children need to know when they are with us that they are most valued and important to us. Do we take the time when we meet up for the first time after school and work to invest in them, make eye contact, and listen? Sometimes we error by being more focused on getting dinner ready or taking care of some task. They feel ignored, devalued and neglected when this happens. Does your child know by your devoted attention to them that you value them? Matthew 6:21 (NKJV): “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”