Monday, March 3, 2014

Loving Our Kids is Hard Sometimes...

Recently I spoke to my church's mom group, RC WOW, about how loving our kids means disciplining them. I would love to share it with more of you, so I thought I would type it up and post it. Feel free to leave comments.

I will be the first to tell you that I am no expert in the area of child-rearing. I've learned a lot of what I know through trial and error. As you'll read, even those results aren't conclusive. Still, I know how much it can help to know that there are other parents out there, going through the same struggles.

The love that I am talking about here is not the connection most people feel to their babies. It isn't the empathetic tears we get when they cry or the automatic smile we get when they laugh. Love is a verb. Love is something we do for them in spite of what we want to do or what would be easiest for us to do. Love is discipline.

The verse I was given to speak about was Proverbs 31:28. 

"Her children arise up and call her blessed..." 

I have to tell you, I have always believed that if we went back to some of the early manuscripts of Proverbs, we would see that someone left a word out in translation. That word is EVENTUALLY. Because, let face it, if the children arise in the morning and call me blessed, I am in the wrong house! My first clue isn't even the blessed. It says they arise. There is no mention of dragging them out of bed kicking and screaming and whining and moaning.

 I decided to do a little research.

Strong's Concordance defines the Hebrew version of Arise that is used in the this verse means "to be established" or to "take a stand." In other words, when her children grow up, when they become established, they will look back on their mom and call her blessed.

So let me start off by saying, YES our goal is for them to call us blessed... eventually. To get there we need to love them... and part of the way we do this is through our discipline.

Proverbs 13:24 (NLT) says, "Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them."

What love means is different for every child. Raising them to grow into the people God wants them to be takes a lot of tough love, but "tough" is different for each child. It is rarely easy.

By the time I got to child number four, I had the trip through the grocery store without whining down. Every child had thrown fits at some point. Every child had been dealt with the same way. When they started to throw a crying fit in the store, I told them they couldn't act like that with me. I then left them standing there and walked away.  

I would get no more than 20 feet before the howling had turned into sniffles and they were walking with me again through the store. They were not only scared to be without me, but also not happy about the looks they were getting from strangers.

Not number four. Lauren and I were walking through Hy-Vee when she was three or four and she started throwing a fit. I tried to use the same strategy I had used with the others. I was about fifteen feet away when I turned around and saw her, flanked by three strangers who were asking her if she was okay and glaring at me. One of them attempted to buy her candy! Lauren was not only, not afraid of strangers, but she was instantly thriving on the attention.
I'd love to say this was an isolated incident, but it has happened again and again… even as recently as last summer. Strangers are drawn to my youngest when she cries. 

One day last summer I did something rare and took all of the kids inside a fast food restaurant. They all started arguing, so I told everyone to get back in the van before an order had even been placed. They were shocked. 

Lauren started sobbing on the way out the door and a woman coming in squatted down to Lauren's level and started trying to get her to stop. Then Lauren managed to get out that I wasn't letting them have any food. That's when I got that look that I have come to know so well. The other kids were mortified that I was making them leave the restaurant without ordering. and even more embarrassed that I told a stranger on the way out the door. Lauren was soaking in the attention.

What would have been the easiest thing to do in the Wendy's situation? I could have just gone ahead and ordered and glared at them all through dinner. Disapproval will honestly affect one of my four. The other three would have been un-phased. Lauren, obviously needs to be disciplined in a way that does not garner her any attention from strangers.

Instead we left. They continued to fight in the car about whose fault it was that we left. So, while I showed some grace and went through the drive-thru when they were finally repentant (and frankly, it was my birthday, which is the reason we went out), our evening out was over.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong."

While many people will debate actual punishments and methods for discipline, the Bible shows how God used three main steps when loving His children through discipline.

Loving Our Kids Means.
1. Telling them the rules
2. Telling them the consequences
3. Sticking to those consequences

It's hard. But God gave us this example right in the beginning of the Bible.
He told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit from the tree they would die. They did. He didn't say, "I know I told you. Why didn't you listen? Lets have a time-out and then you can come back and try again." He kicked them out of the garden. He immediately made them accept the consequences for what they had done.

My older two children have their own cell phones.  They both got them when they turned 11. They are smartphones, but when they received them we also gave them a long set of rules and consequences that went along with the responsibility of keeping a phone. These include making it clear that they could have to hand over their phone for inspection at any time and that texting history/browsing history would be verified with the phone bill/known usage to make sure things weren't being periodically deleted before we saw them.

Just before my oldest turned 15, her father checked her phone and found some questionable emails from a boy as well as some texts to someone she wasn't supposed to be talking to. He called me and we made a decision. Alexandra immediately lost her phone and internet access indefinitely.
Did I want her to have a phone? Very much so. As a single mom, it was hard on me for her not to have one. We did not have a home phone, and as my babysitter that summer, it was difficult to communicate at times. She also wanted to be involved in school activities, but it means planning way in advance if she needed a ride home or if she would be gone while she was supposed to babysitting for me. Their father uses the phones to stay in touch with the children as well. It was hard to get a hold of them at times. Still, my ex-husband and I stuck to our decision and made her earn it back by showing that she could be respectful and follow the rules. It took 7 months for her to get her phone back. It took several more months for her to earn back her iPhone apps. She didn't have access to an internet browser for almost a year.

Taking the phone away and sticking to it was hard. But we proved that we love her over our own inconveniences.

Your challenge this next week is to 1.) Find the place where setting a boundary for your child is hard for you. Something that it is easier to ignore than to deal with. Something that you have let slide 1000 times, but something that you know will make them a better person if they learn the boundary.

You can’t all of the sudden come down on them with a sledgehammer. But saying “I’m not going to tolerate --- anymore. The next time you do it, this will be the consequence, no matter what.” in ONE new area is fair.

The second part of that challenge is 2.) Pray that God shows you the areas where you need to love your children more in this way, so that they can grow up to be the people He wants them to be. This is not easy. 

Remember that you asked God to show you, but you can't tell Him HOW to show you. So, when your mother-in-law says, "It drives me crazy seeing him get away with that." or your best friend says, "She shouldn't be talking to you like that." don't get angry or frustrated with them. Take it as an answer to your prayer for direction and do something about it!

We do want our children to eventually arise up and call us “blessed” … but sometimes, for today, we have to be okay with growling, grumbling, glaring, and an occasional declaration of "I hate you." If we do what is right, it will all work out in the end.