I was tired when I awoke. It wasn’t outside noise or an anxious heart. It wasn’t my pillow or my mattress. it was my children.
They had become artists.
Now, not the experts using clay or watercolor, you understand. After all, they were only two and four. Yet, despite their preschool years, they had become masters. Masters of manipulation.
It’s not really a unique skill for this age. I’d noticed it all around me before I had kids. I’d recognized it in the tantruming toddler on the cookie aisle. I’d identified it in the melt-down munchkin at the local restaurant. And of course, I’d made careful notes to myself how MY children would never act THAT way.
Yet, here I stood, glassy-eyed before a tiny pair of folded arms and another small set of stamping feet. And it wasn’t even seven o-clock in the morning.
As the ruckus continued, I shifted my gaze into my cold cup of coffee, wondering if there were enough caffeine in the house to make it through the day. For the past several weeks, I’d bribed, cajoled, coaxed and sweet-talked. I’d threatened and procrastinated. I’d blown up and then apologized. What had a missed? Surely, this wasn’t going to be my life for the next several years.
And then I heard my voice saying calmly and cooly, “Mommy’s done.” Something had snapped within me. Something very, very good. Without anger or vindication, I decided that I was the one in charge and that their attitudes were not.
I honestly don’t remember how the discipline went down. I may have sent the girls back to their beds, put them in time out, or even gave them quick spankings. In the course of my parenthood, I’ve tried them all. But my epiphany went beyond a particular method into a life-changing truth:
I knew the principle works within me. Why shouldn’t I apply it to my children?
Somehow, I was not balancing my parenting-with-grace with the spiritual authority I’d been given. Grace can only be fully received when people desire proper alignment underneath the head. Once my children understood that idea well, they themselves were ready to receive grace. And I was better prepared to give it.
So beginning that morning, I purposed to accept the parental responsibility that I have been given by God. As their mom, my business was to train up our children in the way that they should go. In the preschool years, much of that means keeping their selfish attitudes in check.
Because it is much easier to lighten up than it is to tighten up, I began to discipline at the first infraction of the day. Amazingly, once my children knew what was expected of them, they typically rose to the challenge. And once proper order had been established, I had more grace to extend when they failed.
Hummm….grace and order. Amazing how they are connected.
I think that I may be afraid of my child. I find myself constantly trying to guess her whims, so I won’t have to deal with the tantrum that might follow. Do I really have to live like this?
Signed, Exhausted Parent
Dear Exhausted Parent,
I’ve been where you are.
One afternoon, when my daughter was about two, she had a tantrum in front of my mother, whom we saw infrequently.
I don’t remember how I handled the situation, but I do remember my mother’s comment, “Wow….you sure don’t want to make her mad.”
I thought about this for days after I returned home. “Really? Am I to live my life cowering to this child over the next 16 or so years? Will my parenting goal be to avoid her anger?”
Through much searching and prayer, the Father revealed that His parenting model of the heavenlies should be mine as well.
As a Parent, God’s character is loving and generous (Matthew 7:11). Yet, within His household, there is a perfect order of authority. The Son always submits to His Father (1 Corinthians 15:24,28). Although Jesus could have claimed equality with His Father (Philippians 2:6), He knew the rule of the heavenlies: God is in charge. “God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
As terrifying as it seemed to me on that day, I realized that God had put me in charge of my children, strong-will and all.
So, go ahead. Give your child the purple spoon when the favored green one is dirty. Let them have the tantrum. Making them happy isn’t your duty as a parent. The earlier in the day you disregard a tantrum, the stronger you will be for the remainder of the day.
A child will pitch a fit as long as it gets results. Stop their manipulation. When a tantrum is unsuccessful in achieving it’s desired end, it will slowly ease out of the child’s life. (Beware. Whining is usually one of the first alternatives. Watch for it and prohibit it’s growth as well).
When you continue to jump into action when your child cranks up their volume or begins to whine, you are fueling them to continue that behavior. After all, the child figures if it works, why fix it?
Instead, don’t fear their reaction. Resolve to remove yourself from improper behavior. If you are in public, either remove the child from what they want or tell them you are tuning them out. Believe me, there are plenty of parents in the store that will secretly be applauding your courage to stand up to your child.
Teaching your children that their whims can be immediately gratified is only setting them up for greater disappointment and discipline later. The earlier you allow them to spin out of their emotional tirades, the more self-control they will have later on.
If you are like me, you are praying that your children will grow into adults of wisdom, discernment, steadfastness and faith. These qualities are not only taught by the Spirit, but also trained into a child by parents who remain true to their spiritual order. God has put you in charge. Now. stick with it. God has you learning endurance right now. Why not allow your child to join the lesson? (Hebrews 10:36).
Grace and peace, Your Mentor