(warning – this is a longish post!)
If you’ve been around me lately, you know I’ve really been struggling with the issue of discipline lately. I doubt there is a book out there that addresses the issue of discipline that I haven’t read, or at least know about. Everything I read has something helpful to say. Every friend and family member I have has great tips to pass on. One would think that after 5 years of practising parenting that I would have some things right, right? But, lately the wheels seem to have come off, spinning dangerously out of control down the congested highway called Parenting Poorly. What is the problem? Well, after some soul-searching, a ton of praying and once again revisiting parenting advice, I realise that the problem is … me. Yup, me. Well, me and the big L. The one that hangs around forcing you to keep plugging away at that thing that has your attention until the chaos around you gets too loud. That big L spells LAZINESS in this mama. Funny how it all backfires though. It’s just easier to faze out the kids’ naughty moments, squabbles and disobediences … until things get too noisy, too nasty or too … well, too naughty!
Well, things came to a head last week when Katie disobeyed my call to stop, not once but FOUR times, and sprinted out into the street from behind a parked car. In God’s grace there were no cars coming down the road at the time. But by the time I got to her there was; just in time for the lecture!. It was one of those “that’s IT!” moments. No more laziness, mommy Taryn! Time to sort your house out.
So, it’s been back to square one for the kids and me the last few days. And what a difference it has made. No more mommy yelling, no more warnings, no more “this is the fourth time I am telling you to…”. Nope. And the difference in the kids has been fantastic too!
So, what have we been doing and what does square one look like in our house? Well, having read, contemplated and tried all sorts of parenting techniques, I’ve settled back on what just makes the most sense and which has shown the best results in the past. First up, mommy had some apologising to do. The girls graciously accepted my apology for being a grumpy mom lately who hasn’t been very good at helping them be obedient. Then came the ground rules. Merry, one of the wisest moms on the Sonlight forums, has a great rhyme for her kids to help them to remember good obedience: one point for each finger: Yes Mom/Dad, I’ll obey, Right away, All the way, The happy way. The expecation I now have is that they obey straight away or face up to the consequence. We practised that a few times, along with some opportunities for them to obey. Once practice time was over, the kids began getting ready for the morning. Then came Real Opportunity #1. “Kiera, Katie come here.” Well, they didn’t come. After they faced the consequences I asked Kiera, “why didn’t you obey mommy when I said come?” Kiera’s response was very telling … “we thought you didn’t mean it, mommy.” Yes, well, Kiera was right – yesterday I didn’t mean it. Yesterday, I only meant it on the fourth time when I woke up to the fact that the girls weren’t obeying the 1st, 2nd and 3rd time. Today, mommy means it every time. Well, that first day was one filled with many consequences for not obeying first time. But, it was also a day when the girls were happy – really happy with each other, with me and with themselves. They were proud of themselves for every time they got it right. Katie would say, “yes mom!” with a big smile on her face and then jump up and down on the spot exclaiming, “Mommy, mommy, I remembered to obey the happy way!”
This evening’s prayer and bible time were a real clincher for me. Normally the kids are antsy at bible time. Tonight they started down the ants-in-the-pants road, but one admonition stopped them. Little angels sat and listened happily and prayed that Jesus would help them to obey right away, all the way, the happy way!
So, do I think we have it all sussed now? Nope! It’s a “take it one day at a time with a lot of prayer and love” kinda deal. Because, at the end of the day the kids and I are sinful; naturally bent towards selfishness. So, we’ll all have bad days and even if I (miraculously) am able to be 100% consistent in expecting first time obedience, they won’t toe the line every minute of every day. Thank goodness for that – because failing to be perfect highlights our need for the Cross. So, while first time obedience is a noble and good goal for my kids, it is not The Ultimate Goal. As wonderful as it is to have well-mannered, obedient kids, it is not nearly as wonderful as having children who understand their need for a Saviour and who embrace Jesus’ gift of salvation.
So, my prayer is that my kids will continue to sing their favourite bible memory verse and believe it with all their hearts: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9″ (we sing it to the tune of Miss Polly had a Dolly!)
… and of course, I’m praying for obedience to take root in their hearts too