Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Loving Him Into Obedience

My 21 month old toddler does absolutely EVERYTHING I ask him to.

....Are you laughing as hard as I am right now?

For the most part, Caleb is a very well behaved, respectful child. But thanks to some nitwit at the beginning of time who just HAD to eat a piece of fruit from the ONE tree he wasn't supposed to, he was born with a sense of independence that sometimes leads him to disobedience. An occurance that comes more and more frequently as he gets older.

Some days I have the patience to redirect him, discipline him when necessary, and keep my cool as he pushes my buttons over and over. Other days it's all I can do to keep from ripping my hair out and screaming, "For the love of all that is holy, will you JUST LISTEN?!?" It's especially maddening when he repeats "Don't touch!" while simultaneously touching the very thing he's not supposed to.

It dawned on me the other day that our current method of discipling and training him is not working. We most often use the threat - and follow up - of discipline as a means to get him to obey. (Disciplining him at this point consists of 3 warnings and then 1 minute in time out if he continues to disobey.) But how often do children willingly respond in obedience under threat of punishment? They will drag their feet and resist as much as they can, and then if/when they finally do as they're told, it's clearly done with resentment. Sometimes they even laugh in the face of discipline. My sister used to smile and act like it was no big deal when she was spanked. My word, that must have driven my parents absolutely mad! (They gave up for good when her clenched back end split that wooden spoon right in half. Who knew a pre-adolescent could have such glutes of steel???)

I've forgotten that Caleb is my baby. His independence, his rapidly growing vocabulary and physique, his clever mind make me forget that he is still so very young and innocent, no matter how naughty he might behave. When he was an infant I loved him into eating, loved him into sleeping, loved him into calming down for a diaper change. Now that he's older and is capable of making some of his own decisions, shouldn't I be loving him into obedience? I don't want him to obey me because my voice is stern or my body language shows frustration or he doesn't want to have to take a time out. I want him to obey his parents because he loves us and we love him, and that love drives him to make the right decision.

How often is our role as parents compared to God's role as the Father? The idea isn't to obey Him because if we don't He'll punish us. The goal is to have such a close relationship with Him that we choose to obey because His love for us inspires us to do so. So then, if I pour out my love over Caleb when I'm parenting and teaching him, wouldn't he respond to me the same way I respond to my heavenly Father?

I've been convicted of too little patience and too much frustration when it comes to parenting Caleb. In the past 2 days I've chosen to love him into obeying, and the results are outstanding. Quicker/better responses, fewer tears, and more joy throughout the day. That's not to say we don't still have tantrums, tears and consequences. I don't think it's possible to have a day that doesn't include a few fits and time outs, without sacrificing all of the electronic equipment in the house (his typical no-no of choice). But our time together is sweeter. And, of course, my hair and vocal chords remain intact.

Ephesians 6:4 - "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

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