“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis
― C. S. Lewis
I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Long Term Life Lessons vs. Short Term Control
I have been pondering the idea of long term life lessons, verses short term, external control for many years.
I was raised in a short term control type of environment. Maybe it was more like a long term control environment, lol.... but the control was simply "external". As long as we "looked" like we were behaving, as long as we didn't embarrass anybody, and as long as we didn't step out of line.... our hides were saved. It had nothing to do with what was going on in our hearts. And believe me, there was A LOT going on, and it wasn't good.
Sin natures are alive and well in all of us, parents and children alike.... But if we as parents only look at something our child is doing externally and then squash the evidence, we never get to the heart. In fact, many times we squash the heart in the process and cause spiritual and emotional damage to our children.
It isn't easy being a parent. It is HARD. Mike and I were talking about this subject the other day. As we were talking, he brought up some Men in Scripture that God called Righeous.
Job: As a father, Job interceded and made sacrifice for his children.
Joseph: Joseph sought to put Mary away secretly, lest her shame be exposed of being pregnant before marriage..... God said he was Righteous.
And then, there is our Heavenly Father: who is patient and kind not wishing for anybody to perish. 2 Peter 3:9 and He is tender, telling the disciples to let the children come to him, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus patiently called His disciples "children" throughout his ministry and carefully taught them what He wanted them to know. He was patient with them. He was kind with them.
When Peter said, "NO!" He didn't get mad at him and chastise him. He simply spoke to him "Truth".
That lesson of truth that stuck with Peter, after the cock crowed 3 times, was a life lesson He was allowed to live. He wasn't prevented it.
I think as parents, sometimes we forget that some of the best lessons our children can learn, are "life lessons". They are lessons they learn from living, with our gentle guidance along with that teaching moment. We are there, just as our heavely Father is there, with our arms opened wide to catch our little ones, offering them comfort and wisdom.
However, if we teach them to be afraid of us, or to hide from us, because of our own sinful harshness, that lesson may never be learned, or worse yet, they may harbor resentments in their lives because they have been too externally controlled.
I can think of many examples in our own lives where we have done things very wrong, and also done things right.
But one of the benefits that can come from doing things wrong, is it can be made into a right, by acknowledging our wrong doing to the child we feel we didn't listen to, or brushed off, or treated too rashly.... and relationship can be restored. Where forgiveness lives and reigns, it is a two way street!
We forgive and our children learn to fogive us of our own failures too! :)
Parenting for long term goals is not an easy task. Sometimes it brings us under harsh criticism of others, especially if we don't think the same.
I can give an example of my famous Joe. (Sorry Joe to always pick on you, but you are so interesting!) :)
When Joseph was 2 and 3, he was a miniature terrorist. LOL No, really, I don't think I have ever met another child yet, who was as intense as my sweet Joe. And I do mean SWEET! He was such a complicated little guy. He was rash and brash... he had a loud booming voice, and a horridly short temper. He was also tenderhearted to the extreme. It took me a while to realize this. It was through the help of my sweet mother in law that we figured him out.... we would both just sit back in awe and study him. LOL
If I were to tell him no-no.... he would flip, literally go ballistic. So, if I were to say "MOMMY SAID NO-NO~! to counter the ballistic, it went to out right RAGE! It wasn't rational. There were those who told us, "you better get control of that kid or he's going to ......" (fill in the blank)
It wasn't that we weren't in "control" of him. He was OUT of control! I didn't permit him to be disrespectful.... he WAS. I didn't say, "come over here and hit mommy". He just did! And, he kicked gramma! I'm talking OUT OF CONTROL.....
I was scared. Really scared. And where do we go when we are scared? To the Lord. I began to study and study, because the direction I was headed, I didn't like. I didn't like that all of the books I was reading were saying, if they don't listen the first time, spank and then spank again, and then again and again and again and again and again..... and then.... well, you get the picture.
I actually thought to myself.... good heavens if I followed what was in this stupid book, he'd die before he gave in...... and frankly, I think there are those out there who actually follow those books.
Instead, as I began to seek the Lord in prayer and scripture, I was drawn to Proverbs: "A SOFT answer turns away wrath.... Was I giving a soft answer?
I also started listening to myself. I was impatient with him. Love is patient and kind. I wasn't being patient or kind. I was being impatient and grouchy.
The Lord gently convicted my heart, and I began a new way of thinking. And I THREW OUT those stupid books that everybody raved about.
Instead I looked at him LONG TERM. What is he like? What does he love? What is his "bent"?
I began to work with the positives, and the things we were not ready to deal with, we put aside.
He was NOT ready for Sunday School. He couldn't sit still, and I felt it was a terrible injustice to expect from him something he couldn't succeed in. SO, I did the unthinkable. I pulled him out of Sunday School. Oh you should have heard the grumbles. I didn't care. There were the same people thinking those books were great stuff.
I didn't care anymore. I felt like I was in a place of transition. Either our son was going to learn long term life lessons that would carry him through, or I would settle for short term control to please others, and he would learn nothing and then, when he was older, there would be no more constraining him, and he would go his own way.
What I found, was a simply delightful little boy, who thought outside the box, and needed mommy to hold his hand on his journey and help him be brave enough to try new ideas and ways of thinking.
I had to teach him that it wasn't the end of the world if he couldn't figure something out, that it was ok.
He had to learn this manually with lots of extra love and understanding. Rejection of his frustrations, only made him more frustrated. Understanding his fears, caused him to come to me for comfort. And by me being understanding, he exposed what was in his heart.
It was no longer hidden.... not like what I hid as a child.
I hid my anger and frustrations, and they were never allowed to be understood or shown. It took a long time to unravel all of that, and I didn't want that for my own children.
Over time, he learned, and by 4 was able to actually go into Sunday School and sit through a class and be a very obedient little boy. :) YEA! Success!
Over time, those life lessons proved to be different than with our other boys. He needed to have freedoms to explore certain things that our other boys never were challenged with. He needed to read books that I would not want him to read, but for HIM they were necessary. So, we trusted him. But we knew, because of the relationship established, that he would come to us and talk with us about his hearts quandries and struggles.
He learned Long term life lessons through relationship, that could never have been accomplished with short term external control.
I am not advocating out of control children. Quite the contrary. What I am saying is that bringing our children under control, is best done by teaching them "self control", not by teaching them fear of retribution.
Yes, there were times when we had to leave a store and go home, because we needed to let him know that his behavior was not acceptable. He needed to know what was expected before hand, and he knew he had to comply. There were no questions. This helped him so very much to understand his boundaries. It was a long term life lesson. If I don't obey in a store.... I go home. period. There was no yelling, no spanking, no lecture. Just a simple, we need to go home because you are not following what we talked about. (if other kids were with us, yes they were disappointed, but I encouraged them we would go out again soon)
What is funny about that is it happened 1 time for him. It happened 1 time for Tim, and not at all, that I can recall, for Marc or Chuck. That is not such a bad record for taking four little boys out often and expecting them to stay with me and not grab things, demand things or cry. And especially not bad for a little guy who was deemed hyperactive.
When I started to see my parenting as a long term lifestyle, instead of being a glorified police officer,
I really began to enjoy the precious gifts that God had given me through my children. Those gifts came with thorns, and pains, and tears, and frustrations, to bring about a precious work in my own heart that brought me closer to my Savior. I could see that I was all those things that my children were, and my precious Heavenly Father, patiently and gently, prodded me to long term life lessons through his continual guidance. He didn't crush me. He didn't burden me with a heavy load. He CARRIED my load.
When we help our children carry their loads, their burdens, thier struggles, then release them, and learn those long term life lessons, and eventually, we show them who will continue to carry those burdens for them, and we place their hands into the hands of the one who will hold them forever.