“Train up a child…” and she will call you a big meanie!

Well, today was a first.  Kind of a yucky one.  In process of putting Sara to bed, I agreed to allow her to have some yogurt (plain Greek yogurt with unpasteurized honey to sweeten it – oh my, heavenly).  Already dawdling as she was, Miss Sara sat down and twiddled her thumbs, started telling stories, tried to make the amount of yogurt on her spoon “just ‘zactly right, not too much” (a process of filling the spoon, then gently tapping it against the bowl to let some go, then realizing there isn’t enough left and adding some, and so the cycle begins again).  Finally, exasperated, I told her if she didn’t finish the yogurt in ten seconds, I would very happily eat it for her.

“Bad mom,” was her prompt and non-too-gracious response.  “You’re mean.”

Seriously, how can you say "no" to that face???

Or that one? Boy, we're in trouble.

Needless to say, while I gave her a death glare she very quickly gobbled up the remaining bites of her yogurt.  The rest of bedtime did not speed up at all – let’s just say dear daddy is still up there (I’m not sure he’s aware that she’s already had a glass of water, brushed her teeth, gone to the bathroom, had a story and a Bible story and a prayer and a song and a kiss and a cuddle – since it sounds kind of like those things are happening again and I just don’t feel like going up there to end the whole thing).

At any rate, Sara’s little sass-back really caught me off guard and made me wonder two things: a) was I being mean? (my tone can be kind of harsh, my personal Mirror has told me) and b) have I spoken to her that way?  But then I realized a more important and unfortunate truth: as I seek to train up my daughter(s), guide them up in (hopefully) godliness, lovingly discipline them, teach them good habits and good character, they will in turn call me a big meanie, despise the help, and seek to do things all their own way.

The truth of the matter is, discipline is a going concern in my brain (and not just in our home).  Do we demand instant obedience (keeping in mind those circumstances where disobedience is a safety issue) or pursue only relationship (knowing this is at the heart of our relational God)?  One author, Danny Silk (Loving Our Kids On Purpose), says something that shocked me (on first read): “I want to propose to you that freedom is a top priority in Heaven, because it is what makes relationships possible…He is trying to prepare us to live absolutely free lives in an environment of unlimited options more than trying to keep us from sin.”  And he suggests that since Heaven is not an external government, neither should our homes be.

This is a fascinating approach to behaviour – and a mightily terrifying one.  It relies on

our own living-in-total-freedom-or-not approach to life (and our definition of said freedom),

the depth of our trust in our children and our relationship with them,

and our own dynamic (or not so much) relationship with God.

Our desire is that our children obey because they trust us, because they believe that we have their best interests at heart and can see ahead farther than they can.  This reflects our own relationship with God and our own trust in him.

So how to do it “right”?  Are there better and worse ways of training up our children?  Are there right and wrong ways, morally?  How can we possibly know the repercussions of the way we discipline our kids?  What kind of dysfunction am I going to leave on my beautiful babies by the way in which I discipline them?

And the biggest question – for me – is how to we together raise up our girls to share our heartbeat, to know the depth of our love for and commitment to them, to desire to walk joyfully and gracefully in relationship with their parents, each other, and other people, and to know that sometimes that is most closely reflected (in these early years) by trusting obedience – to their parents, and to God.

Thank God for the wisdom he gives us freely!   Thank God that he can cover over those areas in which we are not perfect!  Thank God we don’t have to do this on our own!  (And man, am I glad for my fabulous parents and in-laws, my dear friends – mommies and otherwise – and all those mommy-bloggers whose stories and insights challenge and inspire).

                              Or else all those “bad mommy” and “big meany” comments that are coming down the pipes might really get to me…

(** Reminder: I signed up for this when I chose to have children **)

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