Little feet kicked my husband in the stomach. Hands balled into fists pounded him on the chest. Little lungs screamed, "I don't want to go!!!!!!" Real, hot tears fell on bright red cheeks. A small body exhausted from the tantrum, but still going by a force of sheer will.
What to do?
You might expect me to have a grand theology on effective biblical discipline, but the truth is, I don't. Most of the time my little one causes me to throw every parenting book I own out the window. He's an out of the box kid, so I have to get my mind and heart out of the box too. The day after the tantrum I described above, I ended up. . .wait for it. . .
. . . taking him to Cracker Barrel for a date.
Not your usual punishment, I know, but it ended up being a good thing for him. Why?
As I prayed about his behavior, the Lord reminded me of a few very important details.
- He's having nightmares, and has been up 3-4 times a night for over a week. He's tired.
- He's been sick. Combine this with a lack of sleep and his ability to control himself goes way down.
- Big brother gets a lot of Mommy's attention during the day because we do school together.
- Big brother also gets praised on a regular basis for his budding talent on the violin, a privilege my little guy hasn't been given yet. And the icing on the cake?
- Big brother got to play basketball this year for the first time while little brother had to watch from the bleachers. Little brother is jealous.
So what did I do with all of this info?
I allowed it to soften my heart toward my little man, and help me see life from his perspective. He feels like he's missing out, maybe even like his parents love his older brother more than him. My little boy is aching for some time with us, so I gave it to him. Just an hour or so at his favorite restaurant and nothing more. No new toys, no other special treatment at all. Just a nod from mom's heart to his that I see him. . . that I know what makes him feel special and I like to give it to him. And I love him enough to want to spend time with just him.
The longer I'm a mama, the less I believe in parenting formulas, and the more I believe in God's ability to change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). I'm pretty sure it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance, and not necessarily His wrath. Sometimes, if we ask and listen, God will lead us to do something out of the box to capture the hearts of our children. After this little episode, I've made it a habit to pray and ask God to give my husband and me the hearts of our children while they're young, so that it will be easier for them to give their hearts to Him when the time comes.
Change your aim!
Friends, I don't always get this parenting thing right, and my method of dealing with sin may seem kind of backwards, but my goal isn't to just to change my son's behavior.
I want to reach his heart.
I don't want to raise little men who obey for the sake of appearance. I want to raise men who love Jesus deeply enough to honor Him with obedience. And to do that, they have to know and understand the depth of His love for them. There are so many good ways to teach this concept in the home. . .
But shouldn't the process start with our children knowing the love of their mama?
Have you tried asking God to help you look at life through your child's eyes before deciding on discipline? Has He ever led you to do something outside of the box? If so, share your wisdom and experience in the comments for us all!