What do those two words have in common? Nothing and everything according to my handsome hubby. When the little Mr. arrived, he came complete with various accessories which included: sleepless nights, spit-up, dirty diapers, crying and pure unadulterated joy. I frequently refer to those early days as 'shock and awe'. We were two bleary-eyed, albeit joyful parents.
Then, by some divine intervention by God, the hubby seemed to have complete amnesia of those early days and suggested we give our crazy little Mr. a sibling. In his words, "We don't want him to be an only child." I couldn't help but think we were giving him a battle buddy. So, three years later, we welcomed the little miss, who also brought an arsenal of tactics to weary any adult.
They seem to have devised the perfect battle plan. First, create a distraction. This can look different depending on the day, but it always involves some form of tag-teaming, usually one has a melt-down. While the parent on patrol is distracted and attending the emotional child, the other takes the opportunity to get food (usually some form of sugar), play in the dog water bowl, smear something to create another diversion, or get incredibly quiet (which is really bad). Then they switch. It's really a clever plan and tends to get me every time.
Now, do I really think my sweet kiddos are always on the look out to wreak havoc on my household? No. But, I'm learning from them a lot when it comes to parenting and discipline. We've definitely entered a new phase, and on most days I feel completely lost. Then I see little nuggets that I'm getting through to them: a repentant heart, gentleness, kindness, and yes, even obedience.
I can't remember who wrote it, (maybe Kevin Leman) but I love this quote, "Discipline without relationship, leads to rebellion." Sometimes I find myself constantly hounding the little Mr., trying to will him into obedience. The more I hound, the more he pulls away and continues doing that which I've asked him not to do. Because I choose to take issue with him on everything, instead of choosing what is truly willfully disobedient, we have a fight. And because I make everything a "CODE RED" alert, he's begun to ignore my nagging.
It's so easy for me to just say, "I'm so done. Go ahead and squish play-doh in your sister's hair, because I'm beat." But, then I'm reminded of this verse:
"Discipline your son, and he will give you peace, he will bring delight to your soul."
Yet, in our discipline, we are cautioned with this verse:
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
I have to wonder, if in my approach, am I stirring up anger? Are my harsh words (or tone of voice) demanding obedience rather than teaching obedience. I read an example of a parent, who was really hounding their child into obedience. The parent was demanding the child to sit down. Finally the child replied, "I'm sitting on the outside, but on the inside I'm standing up."
I don't want his obedience to merely be outward, putting on the appearance of obedience, while truly seething on the inside. My heart's desire is for him to obey, with understanding that it's the right thing to do. This, of course, will take time, and as my sweet (and super-wise) friend reminded me, comes with a personal relationship with Jesus.
I can't help but look at my relationship with my children and then look at the ultimate example of a parent-child relationship and be reminded how the Heavenly Father pursues us in gentleness. HE is not forceful. HE is patient. He is swift in HIS discipline, yet abundant in giving us HIS grace and forgiveness. He is merciful in seeking to restore HIS relationship with us.
This is what I am striving for; the balance of love and discipline, avoiding permissiveness or harshness. Patiently administering correction and freely offering restoration.