Summer. It’s the best of times. It’s the worst of times. Great for unstructured, free play, staying up late on weeknights, hours spent outside in the sun. Not so good for unstructured, free play, staying up late on weeknights, hours spent outside in the sun… You get the idea. Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing. This is something I have realized after about a month of summer vacation. Something else that has come to fruition around this time are bad attitudes. I have a lot in my arsenal to keep boredom at bay- paints, puzzles, books, tablet games, water toys and even workbooks- but even with all these, the kids inevitably become bored sometimes. That’s when the ‘tude starts and disrespect creeps in. It’s not just from my soon-to-be seven year old, either. My sweet toddler can be a “threenager” as well.
I know I can’t blame it all on boredom though. Unfortunately, it will always be there, lurking in the background, no matter what season it is: misbehavior. And as a mom, it is my job to confront this problem head on. I’ll be honest, my children’s disobedience is awfully inconvenient. I would much rather slap a band-aid on the problem and continue on my merry way than take the time to get to the root of it.
All too often, I fall into the trap of being defensive instead of offensive when one of my kids misbehaves. I sacrifice the long-term goal of their behavior improving for good for that short-term gain of momentary peace. If I’m constantly reacting to my child’s disrespect with disapproval, and correcting the problems when they arise, it’s not solving the heart issue at hand. I really shouldn’t react to their bad behavior as if I’m surprised by it, either. I mean, why am I shocked at all that unregenerate children display disobedience? And why do I always get so offended by it, thinking that I’m a failure as a mother when they talk back or mistreat a sibling?
The Bible says there is none righteous, no not one. Even my soft faced, little hooligans angels. We all have a bent towards going our own way; in other words, towards sin. Reward systems, time outs, natural consequences, and of course avoiding Red Dye #40 all have their merits as good behavior modification, perhaps outwardly, but only the Spirit of God can change their hearts on the inside. I want my kids to obey not just because they’ll avoid something unpleasant, but because they love and respect me.
What brings us to a place where we lay down our desires and surrender our wills? This only comes from a day-to-day, growing and active relationship with the Lord. So it is with our children. As Christian parents, we need to always point them back to Jesus. That‘s where they find their ultimate worth and acceptance. He’s the One who heals our deepest needs. My main responsibility as a mother should be to lead them to Christ, through my words and actions.
One of the ways I can do that practically is to train my kids to hide God’s word in their hearts. If, as a follower of Christ, I believe that His word is my standard for living why don’t I use it to discipline my children? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I’m not just talking about reading them Bible stories. I mean we should help them memorize verses that will be applicable to their real life situations, like Matthew 7:12, Colossians 3:20, Ephesians 4:29 and Proverbs 20:22. Verses such as these speak truth to our children and equip them for godly living.
Now surely if I’m quoting scripture to them all day long without actually living it out myself, they won’t be very motivated to change. More times than I can count, if my child is struggling with anger or frustration, I’ve modeled it before them in some way. I need to evaluate myself before the Lord and ask Him to renew my thoughts, words and actions. Am I in God’s Word daily? Am I walking in the Spirit? I’ve found that when I have a heart change, it leads to positive results in my children’s behavior as well.
Finally, while my children are still growing developmentally and spiritually, I also need to be patient with them. They need to know I love them deeply, even in spite of their sin. If there are rules without a relationship, it will produce rebellion. After all, how much does Jesus love us in spite of our sins! While He loves, He also always prods us to repent by showing us a better way. He doesn’t continually punish or nag. His heart for us leads us to want to obey. When we know in our core that we are seen and known by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we are transformed.
It is comforting to know that while you and I are called to “train up a child in the way he should go”, God is ultimately responsible for his (or her) heart. He is the one who draws them deeper and walks beside them on the path He has laid out for them. However, in the process of raising and disciplining these little ones, we are refined at the same time they are. As we seek God for answers in how to best reach and correct our children, we become more and more dependent on, and also obedient towards Him. That’s the amazing and humbling thing about parenting!