Why We Need To Change Our Perceptions

We all have different ways of perceiving people and life events. Some of our perceptions are accurate and factual. Others are based on preconceived notions and experiences. Some perceptions are good. Some are quite negative and downright harmful.

For example, a while back I watched a show where they researched how different people perceived certain groups of people.  I don’t remember all four groups that the majority of people put others into based on how they perceive them.  But, one group stood out to me as it hit close to home.

That group was called, “not dangerous, incompetent.”

Guess who was put into this group.

The disabled and the elderly.  Had children been a part of this research, I’m sure children also would have been placed into the group as well since the majority tends to perceived children as incompetent.

What is sad is I am severely physically disabled due to my cerebral palsy, and yet, I have a Master’s Degree.  Every day I must deal with people that perceive me as incompetent.  This is why I’m working on getting my first children’s book published to change the negative and inaccurate perceptions of having a disability.

The elderly are very competent!  They have years of wisdom even if their bodies won’t allow them to physically accomplish that which they once could.

And finally, children are extremely competent!  They are capable of so much more than we give them credit.  Yet, we never appreciate their abilities, but punish them for not being adults.

Thankfully, Jesus never liked how society perceived and viewed children.  He gives us a high command when it comes to children.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
I believe that our society as a whole despises children. Children are the least respected people of our society.

They are murdered before they are born.

They are left to cry alone.

They are spanked/hit and publicly shamed.

People argue about their “right” to treat them however they want.

They are called horrible names.

The saddest thing about this is it’s Christians promoting much of this. Yet, Jesus is the One who elevated children’s societal status.

The way we view children is how they will behave. And when Christians perceive and view children as “sinners” and “manipulative,” they react and punish what they perceive as “defiance” when the child simply is trying to communicate with us.  That’s why Dobson’s (and others like him) view is so dangerous.   Not only does he call children horrible, degrading names in his books, but he sets up an adversarial parent-child relationship.

Interestingly, God calls children blessings in Psalm 127:3. I view children as little people in need of help, guidance, and discipline (teaching). When the focus is on cooperation instead of control, children cooperate. I’ve worked with some pretty difficult children and was able to get them to cooperate through positive discipline strategies such as modeling, child-proofing, validating feelings, fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, setting realistic limits and boundaries, helping children comply, giving choices, and using natural and logical consequences with children. Children do better when we perceive and view them as God does.

We need to change our perceptions of all people–young and old, disabled, or any other differences.  We need to do our best to base our perception on fact.  Smaller humans are competent!

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Born Sinful?

I believe the doctrine of original sin is man made like the doctrine of spanking is man made.

God created children to go through each developmental stage. Babies cry to communicate. Toddlers test boundaries and lack impulse control. Young children do not set out to sin until they are older.

God does not call children sinners. The way we view children is how they will behave. Many Christians seem to view children as “sinners” and “manipulative.” That’s Dobson’s view too as he calls them horrible degrading names in his books. This sets up an adversarial parent-child relationship.

Interestingly, God calls children blessings in Psalm 127:3. I view children as little people in need of help, guidance, and discipline (teaching).

When the focus is on cooperation instead of control, children cooperate. Children do better when we view them as God does. Young children are not capable of truly understanding sin. They even have a special knowledge of Who God is according to Matthew 25:11.

I do believe Jesus cried as a baby and screamed as a toddler because these are developmental behaviors. James 4:17 states, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” This can only apply to older children and adults who truly understand sin. “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” (Deuteronomy 1:39).

God clearly says young children do not know right from wrong. It’s up to us to gently teach and guide them through each developmental stage.

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Why Gentle Christian Parents Don’t Focus on Sin

I was asked why gentle Christian parents and advocates don’t talk about sin much when it comes to children. The answer is because what most Christians believe is sin in children usually isn’t. A toddler saying, “no!” when asked to do something isn’t sin, it’s the child exploring independence and boundaries. A preschooler crying over not having something they really wanted is the child just having a hard time. Even biting, hitting, kicking, and cussing in young children is NOT sin. Young children needing food, love, comfort, room to play is not sin.

Sin is when we truly understand something is wrong and goes against God and we have total control over ourselves and can tap into God’s strength to resist, yet choose wholeheartedly to go against God, THAT is sin!!  Every child is different. Every child will sin like us. But, before 12-years-old, I don’t believe children truly sin. We slowly teach children about sin by disciplining without punishment. By providing them with appropriate behaviors. And, by teaching them about God.

Also, when we look for sin in children, it makes us hypersensitive to all “inappropriate behavior.” It makes us want to punish for perceived sinfulness. We look at children as “little sinners” rather than blessings as the Bible says they are. Jesus loves children and told us to be like them. When sin is the focus, we become proud. We become judges. We think more highly of ourselves than we should so we can “beat that sin right out of that child.”

In reality, we are WORSE sinners than older children. Jesus said to get the plank out of our own eyes before removing the speck out of our brother’s eye. This applies to children too! Sin is sooooooooo much more than a child having a meltdown. Childish behavior is NOT sin. Rejecting God is!  Hurting children is!  Let’s focus on teaching and guiding children instead of worrying what childish behavior is sin. Give children the tools to choose good over bad so when real sin comes their way, they can tap into God and make more righteous decisions over sinful ones.

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Are Young Children Capable of Manipulating Us?

A parent asked me if young children are capable of manipulating us.  And if a toddler really thinks that by having a tantrum, he/she can break the parent’s will.

This is such a good question. Sadly, many people, especially Christians, think children are very manipulative from birth on. The fact is infants 12 months and younger absolutely do not have the brain capability to manipulate us. As children get older, they can’t actually plan on manipulating us. It just happens in the moment.  It takes abstract cognitive ability to scheme against us; something children cannot do until adolescence.

No, toddlers are not thinking, “Hmmm…If I throw a fit, Mommy will let me have a cookie.” Rather, it’s when they want a cookie and we say “After supper” that they may get upset and have a meltdown. If we give in to their meltdown, they’ll repeat a meltdown because it worked. But, toddlers are so in the moment that they’re not able to sit and plan a way to get us to do what they want.  And yes, they may want extra cuddles, more books read, and another drink of water at bedtime because they’re not quite ready to separate from us even if we co-sleep.  Very young children just love being with us.

It is very important for us to realize that the way we view children is how they will behave. Many Christians seem to view children as “sinners” and “manipulative.” For example, James Dobson calls children horrible degrading names in his books. This sets up an adversarial parent-child relationship. Yet, God calls children blessings in Psalm 127:3. I view children as little people in need of help, guidance, and discipline (teaching). When the focus is on cooperation instead of control, children cooperate. I’ve worked with some pretty difficult children and was able to get them to cooperate through positive discipline strategies such as modeling, child-proofing, validating feelings, fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, setting realistic limits and boundaries, helping children comply, giving choices, and using natural and logical consequences with children. Children do better when we view them as God does.

Young school-aged children may have a bit more planning ability, but they tend to still be in the moment. They might ask Mom over Dad because Mom tends to be more agreeable, but I don’t believe they are capable of planning much in the future to manipulate.

I remember when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I was all ready for school and my mom wheeled me out to the school bus.  Only there was a substitute bus driver who treated me like I was mentally disabled.  Well, I guess I was in no mood to deal with her that morning because I started crying and told my mom that my stomach hurt.  I got to stay home from school that day. It was totally unplanned by me.

Therefore, I’d say that it isn’t until between the ages of 10-12 that children actually set out to manipulate, lie, or sneak around unless they are punitively parented. Then, they do whatever it takes to stay out of trouble. Of course, every child is different.  Respectful parenting makes it less likely that our children will set out to manipulate us when they are truly capable of doing so.

 

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