I have a question to ask. How many of you had parents that said to you, while you were riding in the back seat of their station wagon, “Do I need to pull this car over? Because you do not want me to pull this car over.” My parents did! I have used this same technique, much to my own horror, but found it extremely effective about twice.
Well, imagine you are all in the back seat of a station wagon right now, and I am in the drivers seat. I see most of you behaving so nicely, sitting on your hands even, trying your very best to be good and do right. But…there are SOME of you, who are doing other things. We’re pulling over, and I’m calling a time-out.
For starters, I know I have a lot of opinions about stuff. I am always hesitant to share them in a public way for fear of imposing on other people’s opinions, angering them, making them uncomfortable, etc. My biggest fear in expressing my rather strong opinions is that I would come across as high and mighty, or leave the impression that I have arrived at a place of perfection that I can only look down from. The truth is that I struggle daily with a sense of self-worth, hoping that I am doing a good job as a wife, mom, and a friend. I make mistakes all the time, usually pretty selfish ones, putting my own needs and wants above others.
But for today, I cautiously step out and share a few opinions about faith and family that might help someone somewhere. If not, I know it will help me just to get the words on a page so I don’t explode with exclamation points and italics print all over the next person I see…
My Opinion on Parenting Young Children:
You are in charge. Your baby isn’t. Your toddler isn’t. You are. You are the parent for a reason. You have a lifetime of experience behind you that helps you make wise decisions for your family and your precious children. Your feelings are important. Listen to your gut. Your baby and/or toddler will cry and scream to get out of bed, eat waffles with maple syrup for every meal, and hit and bite you and others to get their way. All of these things are primal and instinctual. Your child wants to get their way. It’s natural and it’s normal. Sometimes when they’re little, it’s really cute; However, if you coddle them and tell them they CAN eat waffles and maple syrup for every meal, get out of bed whenever they want, hit and bite whomever they please, they will become exactly what their instinct tells them they need to become–self serving, self-centered, tyranical little people.
When these babies and toddlers get just a little older, some will become bus bullies, shoving smaller kids out of their way to get their own seat. Others will become playground tyrants, bossing their minions around. Some will become cleverly disguised little passive-aggresive girls or boys who look plesant on the outside while secretly plotting to do whatever it takes to keep the world spinning around them. They plot ways to keep you, their parent, catering to their every whim. They say what will please you so they can keep calculating their next move to keep you distracted from their self-centered and increasingly destructive behavior.
Bottom line: “Kids these days” (and yes, I am horrified by my own use of that phrase) get a trophy for just showing up at a sport. They are given a black belt for karate on their second lesson. No one loses, no one is disciplined or corrected. If a child has never earned a “win”, they lose sight of what goals and dreams are like, and everything begins to revolve around them. If a child has rarely been redirected when their sweet little wills began to wander, don’t be surprised when you wake up one morning to find an eye-rolling, door-slamming teenager in your house.
I humbly, and I really mean humbly–advise you to take control now. I’m not talking about spanking or not spanking, grounding or punishing…I’m talking about daily involvement in the little choices your precious child is making. It’s the little things we turn away from because they are too hard to deal with in the moment that slowly progress to real problem issues that quickly get way past our own ability to control.
I know I am not too far off base and I look at Eli, a temple priest in the Bible. He was given the enormous responsibility of raising Samuel, God’s chosen instrument to bring his grace to His people at the time. He poured his life into his ministry and into raising Samuel. BUT, he turned away from what was closest to his home and to his heart–the sin of his own children. The Bible literally says,
“ And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. 2 Samuel 3:11-13
It’s time to pull the station wagon over friends. Eli kept driving, eyes averted from the rearview mirror. The cost of this was tragic. We don’t know exactly when his sons began to disobey and act shamefully. My guess is that they didn’t start robbing the church or sleeping with prostitutes when they were 3 or 4. It probably started with minor issues, like Eli caving in every time they asked for waffles and maple syrup, or ignoring the fact that they got out of bed for the thousandth time at night when they should have been sleeping…It’s these little things that turn into big things. He didn’t pull the station wagon over. Not once, not ever.
If you cannot control your child’s behavior with simple redirection and discussion, ask for help! Rob and I have spent countless hours with friends just a few steps ahead of us, begging for ideas and tools that would help motivate our children toward better behavior. When it comes to our parenting, my hope and prayer is that we will never be too proud to ask for help.