Your child’s behavior may cause you to have days when you feel the urge to lock your children in their rooms so you don’t have to face their difficulty. Although I think we can agree that imprisonment is not the best parenting strategy, there actually is a time for ignoring or overlooking their behavior.
Ignoring difficult behavior differs from overlooking it. Here’s the difference:
To ignore means to refuse to pay attention to something. You basically act like it never happened. When you ignore it, you bury it and it is added to the pile of unresolved frustrations or hurts. Those hidden irritants will intensify and possibly erupt at a future point. This explosion of hurts may be inwardly silent or it may be outward, resulting in the parent having an embarrassing outburst. Remember this important truth: hurt people hurt people. Ignoring is never the answer to a frustration or hurt.
If your child’s behavior is truly irritating or hurting you, ignoring it is not the answer. It will only build a wall between you and your child.
To overlook means to look over a frustration or to rise above it. When you overlook something, you are not ignoring it or pretending that it did not happen. You acknowledge that it took place and make a choice to look beyond it. This rising above and looking beyond the offense removes the incident from becoming a stumbling block.
If you would like to be less stressed in your parenting, then it’s important that you look overlook minor offenses from your children. Each day your kids will say and do things that irritate you. If you ignore the behavior, but silently seeth with frustration, that is not healthy for you or for them. If you feel like it’s not a battle worth fighting and decide to overlook it, that’s giving grace. And honestly, we all need a little grace now and then.
Here are four questions to ask yourself if you should overlook an offense by your child:
Does this behavior cause you to feel differently about your child for any length of time? If, after a few hours or a day, you feel that this is a wall between you and your child or that you are still silently frustrated with them and cannot get over it, then it is likely that you cannot simply extend grace and overlook it. To be sure there is no wall, you must talk it out with them to clear the air.
Does this incident cause harm to you, others, or to your child? When serious harm has happened or is going to happen, you should not overlook the incident.
Is this behavior intentional or unintentional? If your child is trying to aggravate you or looks you in the eye and defies you or chooses not to listen or do what you ask, then it should not be overlooked. But if they are forgetful or messy simply because they are kids, grace along with some consequential reminders can help them remember. No need to necessarily overlook that behavior, but it can be handled with more grace.
Is this behavior a pattern or a rare issue? If your child has a habit of lying or hitting or biting or talking back, it must not be overlooked. You must talk about it, let them know the boundaries and the consequences and then stick to them. If it’s more of a one-time thing, it’s up to you to either show grace or not. Showing grace does not mean ignoring or overlooking it, it means that you talk about it and be sure your child understands what was wrong with their behavior. From there, you must decide whether or not to discipline them further.
In order for these questions to be effective guides, they must be asked and that may mean that you will have to withdraw when faced with the frustrating situation in order to think through how you want to proceed. It is parenting with intentionality and although it requires hard work for the parent, it is most definitely worth the effort.
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