I can't believe she's letting her child act like that! I've taught my son never to do those things. Did you see the way that child acted? Why doesn't her mom teach her not to do that? It's not unusual for your sons to have fist fights before breakfast? I never allow my children to hit each other. Your child hit mine. You can't come back over to our house until he's been taught to behave better than that! That kind of behavior would not be tolerated in our home!
A friend of mine recently shared how her young daughter had hit her younger brother. My friend, a good but normal mom, disciplined her and then said, "We do NOT hit in this house!" Her daughter, a spunky little thing (who happens to be a lot like her mama) put her hands on her hips and replied, "fine, I'll just hit him outside!"
She posted this funny little exchange on Facebook for all the world to see. A friend of hers, who I don't know, commented on her story by sharing that in her house, hitting is never allowed. When I read my friend's status, I laughed out loud. You see, it's not unusual for my boys to get in physical fights before breakfast. I could relate to what she was saying ... relate to the sin coming from her daughter's heart because I see the same thing coming from my own children's hearts in similar circumstances. But when I read her friend's reply, I got mad.
Because she flung judgment.
I don't allow my boys to hit each other either. We have established, consistent rules in our home and my husband and I work hard to teach our sons to show kindness to others and consider others better than themselves (Phil 2:3-4). But they are little sinners--not yet saved by the grace that has opened the eyes of our understanding and changed us from the inside out. So while I don't allow my boys to hit each other ... oftentimes they still do.
I've been the recipient of these words, or words like them, many times in the six years since I first became a mother. But I have to confess that there have been plenty of times when I also flung these words, spewed them out of my mouth, in judgment of parenting that somehow fell below my standards.
But what control do we really have over the hearts of our children? In my eBook, Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most, I say...
"With each day that passes, I’m more convinced that I have absolutely no power to change the hearts of my boys. Oh, I can change their behavior if I try hard enough. Anyone can do that. But I know that what’s in the heart eventually comes out. I know that if their knees are ever to bend to Jesus as Savior, their hearts must bend first. And that’s God’s business."
I refuse to be that mama who forces her sons to bend their will when their hearts are far from me. My sons are two of the most strong-willed individuals I have ever encountered. To force their obedience in this way, I'm afraid, would require abuse on my part. I would rather have their hearts than have their pharisaical obedience. I don't want to raise white-washed tombs, I want to raise men who love. Please understand, I discipline my sons, teaching them to obey. I do it every single second of every single day. I get weary from it, desperate for God to open their hearts. But I've learned that my best effort doesn't change the hearts of my sons. In fact, I can't make their hearts change at all. And what's in the heart, eventually comes out.
So the next time I find myself poised and ready to fling judgment at someone's parenting skills, I pray that I'll stop first and remember that often times I can't make my own boys behave. When they do, it's sheer grace at work in their hearts. When they don't, it's sheer grace at work in mine.
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