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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

brat

My one year-old has begun to learn how to test her limits.  As she turns quickly into a full-fledged, card-carrying toddler, she has decided she wants to see just how much she can get away with and just how far she can go without suffering punishment or unfavorable consequences.

All babies do this.  All toddlers, children, and teenagers do this.  Young adults do this.  Even elderly people do this and many do it for the duration of their lives in relation to God.  It is not usually a good sign, but it can be a good indication of where a person is in maturity.

“Sonny, no, no!” I say firmly as she pulls my earring.

We’ve had this interaction before, many times.  I have taken out my earrings and showed her.  I have given language lessons on how to pronounce the word, “ear-ring.”  I have emphatically told her with as much clarity as humanly possible the word, “NO” on many occasions when her little fingers have purposely found these friends who take up residence in my ears.  Still, there is just something irresistible about giving a good yank and feeling the success and satisfaction of holding the shiny piece of metal in her tiny hand once she’s pulled it completely out of my ear.

Yesterday was no different.  All was well in the world of baby blanket peek-a-boo and near naptime nummies until Sonny saw the silver booty sparkling like a new stairwell to climb.  The promise of victory was simply too tempting.  How could she be expected to obey?

She pulled down and I, once again, calmly, but sternly, corrected.

“No, no, Sonny!  That is ouchy.”

She waited.  She played more blanket-boo.  Then, she decided she would see if anything bad really would happen if she deliberately disobeyed again.

This time she pulled much harder and it really was ouchy.  After my yelp of pain, I smacked her fingers and said, “No, no, Sonny!  That is bad!”

At that, she buried her face in the pillow.  She did not cry.  She hid.  She knew what she had done.  She knew better.  She was either ashamed or she was upset that she’d not gotten away with it this time.  She was embarrassed that she’d been harshly corrected because harsh correction, though sometimes very necessary, is never pleasant.  Nevertheless, when injury to another or potential injury to another or self is imminent and one has been repeatedly told and corrected calmly, there is no choice but to correct in a more severe way.  The goal is caution.  The purpose is to arrest repeated bad behavior lest it cause more severe injury and more severe punishment.

No one particularly likes to discipline their children.  It is not pleasant because the love we have for them causes us pain when they are hurt or upset, too.  Yet, we must be faithful to correct disobedience in order to protect and save them from future harm.

It is one thing when we correct our children.  It is quite another when someone else corrects them.

If I do not do my job in properly training, correcting, and disciplining my children – sometimes even if I do – others will find it necessary – other parents, other teachers, other law enforcement agents eventually.  If it is not pleasant for me to do so, consider how unpleasant it will be for me when someone else does it.  Now, not only is my child suffering for disobedience, I am as well, and both of us at the correction of a stranger.

We have all seen it.  A mother or a father pays no mind to the poor behavior of his or her child and then someone comes along and corrects that child for causing injury or chaos on the playground.  This is an unusually awkward situation.  Little Susie (AKA Captain Destructo) is under parental jurisdiction but the parent is AWOL.  It leaves no choice for the more mature and attentive parents in the vicinity of Captain Destructo Susie to step up and intervene before (or after!) their children become hurt or victimized by her bad behavior.

Often, this results in Susie’s parent becoming angry.  The reason Suzie’s parent is mad is the issue of pride.  They did not do their job so someone else had to.  They either thought Susie more valuable and important than all the other children she was hurting or they thought themselves more important than even their own child.  It is likely a little – or a lot – of both.  These things were proven true by their choosing to ignore her bad behavior and selfishly avoid conflict with the child and also failing to take personal responsibility for the correction and discipline of their own family member.

A humble parent, on the other hand, will be thankful and appreciative when their child is corrected by another concerned authority.  The reason is because we know that obedience to authority is protection for our beloved children and a training ground for God’s authority in their lives.  This is doubtless the reason the Word of God instructs us – His children – to exhort one another daily.  Daily!  Every.  Single.  Day.

Consider that next time someone exhorts you or a member of your family for pulling down and pain-making in someone else’s life.  It is not just children who need corrected.  It is not just children who repeatedly test limits, hurt others, and fail to listen to repeated warnings.  There is a time for alarm, caution, and increasing corrective severity when important warnings are not heeded.

Pride is angry when corrected.  Humility is thankful.

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police

“Others first.”

“Listen, don’t talk.”

“Did you obey?”

“Don’t hit!”

These are my very famous one-liners.  Officer Mom always gets the last word when it comes to conflict between four sisters. I feel like I say these things so repeatedly that maybe they do not mean what I think they mean.

Funny, I wanted to be a police officer at one point. God said, “No.”  Could this be him fulfilling the desires of my heart?  Maybe he is just showing me why it wasn’t what I really wanted!

When the children were young, I always tried to keep it simple.  Now that three of my four are getting a little older, I find that my one-liner toddler tips are still my go-to’s.

I don’t mean to insult my kids’ intelligence.  The truth is that conflict has nothing to do with intelligence.  It has to do with the heart.  And the heart, my friends, is a hard nut to crack.  Not complicating interpersonal conflict within our family often means that we must deal with the heart in very direct ways much more often than we must deal with the details of how those hearts got there.  My goal is always to convey a clear, concise message that gets to the very heart of whatever sibling issue we are facing.  Therefore, these short responses to conflict are meant to make my daughters think about their own heart and help them understand where the root problem really is.

When one won’t share and the other is indignant, “Others first” addresses both hearts.  When one talks over another, interrupts, or disregards what the other is saying in order to share what seems far more important to them, “Listen, don’t talk” is a good place to start to check motives.  When there are excuses flying like 747’s through my living room, “Did you obey?” answers them all.  When emotions are high and smooth sounding justification is brewing on all sides, “Don’t hit” is the best I can do to keep the peace.

Interestingly, it usually is not the one who is most “wrong” in the conflict who gets punished.  It is the one who resorts to unchecked selfishness, uncontrolled rage, or unrepentant attitudes that gets the most severe discipline. It becomes less about what happened and more about what is happening…because what is happening tells me a lot about what happened. 

There are reasons I choose to correct my children in this way.  Everyone knows that facts are important any time there is conflict.  The question is not, “Are the facts important?” rather, “Which facts are most important?”  When I allow myself to get drawn into all the, “She did this” and “She did that’s” I get lost somewhere in the loop and we all lose.  No matter which role I end up choosing – be it judge, jury, executioner, or all three – I have found that, in the day to day conflicts, none get to the heart like concise, heart-checking correction.  Keeping correction simple moves the mountains Officer Mom cannot move by force, fear-mongering, or even consequence-facing.

These mountains have names.  We have Mt. Envy, Mt. Me-First, Mt. Mad, Mt. Lazy, Mt. Self-Righteous, Mt. Careless, and Mt. Clueless, just to name a few.  Each one erupts at its leisure, and sometimes, several at once!  I find that addressing where the lava is spewing from is best accomplished with concise, direct correction.  When it is my mountain, it is best accomplished with concise, direct confession.

This is how Officer Mom avoids taking sides.  It is how Officer Mom avoids spending the entire day listening to the play by play including everything from My Little Pony’s poor pet grooming epidsode to Barbie’s bad beach day.  Usually, my one-liners get us back where we need to be without needing the bound to breed more boo-boos backstory.

Unfortunately, there are times when we do have to deal with that backstory.  Those are what I call big bads.  If we are dealing with a big bad, we cannot use the day to day wake-up shots.  Every detail and dirty diaper is something with which Officer Mom must deal.  Everything becomes evidence in the desperate case against our very not-nice villan – sin.  Big bads require big backstory.  Fortunately, we only have those things come up very scarcely, and often it it because Officer Mom has dropped the ball on discipline for several days in a row, but it is tremendously important to recognize a big bad as being just that – big.

So here’s hoping my famous last words help you deal with whatever dirty diapers you have to change today.  Signing off as I get ready to make the donuts and patrol from my grocery-getting SUV.  Remember, others first.  Listen, don’t talk.  Did you obey?  Don’t hit!  May the Lord remind you that blessing is held for the peacemakers.  We, too are children – children of God, that is.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. ~Matthew 5:9

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In Job chapter 22, once again, we find Job being mercilessly falsely accused.  This time, Eliphaz brings specifics to his unfounded charges.

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

2 “Can a man be profitable to God?
    Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself.
3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right,
    or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?
4 Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you
    and enters into judgment with you?
5 Is not your evil abundant?
    There is no end to your iniquities. ~Job 22:1-5

Eliphaz begins by assuring Job that God has no need of him, even if he were righteous.

Come on, Job.  Don’t you know there’s no rewards with God?  You can’t merit anything by doing good or obeying him.  Do you really think that piety earns favor with God?  What are you, some kind of legalist?  I thought you were reformed.

Well, Eli’s half right, but his delivery is rancid.  While we do not earn favor or love through works, God is indeed pleased with righteousness and obedience.  Why else would he call us to it?  God honors those who are faithful in spiritual disciplines and he gives them a good return of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control when they persevere.  Although our piety never adds to or detracts from God himself in any way, it surely adds to or detracts from our own well-being.  Godliness is of value in every way. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Furthermore, Job serves a God who enjoys men’s sacrifices of praise.  He delights to fill his nostrils with the aroma of our worship.  Job’s obedience to God’s directives and his faithful prayer, sacrifice, and worship were not evidence of legalism or meritoriousness; they were evidence of his faithfulness.

Come to think of it, what better way is there to magnify a God who stands in need of no one and nothing than to display his amazing, careful, loving grace to condescend; to encourage; to invite; to accept the humble offerings of his children – not because he needs them, but because he wants them.  When we act upon our beliefs by prayer, fasting, studying, serving, and worshiping, we have the unique opportunity to display not only God’s worthiness, but also, his grace to accept us despite our helplessness and insufficiency.

Eliphaz doesn’t seem to know much about that, though, does he?  Where is his encouragement for Job in what he had done right?  Oh, I forgot, nothing Job ever did was right in Eliphaz’s eyes.  After all, that’s why he’s suffering, right?  Job was pegged.  Even good was seen as pure evil if Job’s hands touched it.  If Job was wise and learned, it was because he was puffed up with knowledge and void of love.  If he was void of knowledge, he was neglectful of diligent study and foolish.  If he did good works he was trusting in himself.  If he did not do good works he was oppressing the poor.  If he carried out spiritual disciplines he was pretending to love God.  If he faltered in spiritual disciplines he was godless.  Job was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t in the eyes of this man and his friends – who, by the way, I’m certain were giving one another mad props as they bounced their wrong ideas off one another piercing Job with them all.  How troubling that must have been to a man already vexed with such a load of grief.

Eliphaz went on to falsely accuse Job of hypocrisy, atheism, infidelity, gross impiety, injustice, oppression, no fear of God, and no regard for men.  None of it was true.  He sought to convict Job by shame and by fear.  When he said, “Agree with God” (Job 22:21),  what he really meant was, “Agree with me.”  Maybe someone should’ve told Eli that he wasn’t exactly the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know.

Well, what I do know is that there’s another guy who likes to peg people as one-dimensional and hopeless.  Maybe Eli hung out with him a little too much.  He also loves to damn people when they do as well as when they don’t.  His name is Satan.

Christians!  We must stop being Eliphaz!  We will never earn the confidence of our peers if all we ever do is discourage wrong…especially when everything is wrong in our eyes.  We must encourage right without darkening it by assuming ill-motives and underlying evil simply because we lack discernment.  There will always be people who do the right things for the wrong reasons.  We shouldn’t ever assume that certain people, you know, those ones we love to hate, fear, envy or have no practical use for in our lives, are sinister in all their undertakings.  Only Satan does things like that.

Don’t be a jerk.  Encourage one another despite imperfections.  When you see a man suffering, be gentle and extend extra compassion – not because God needs you to, but because he wants you to.  Then, like Job, the guilty will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.

He delivers even the one who is not innocent,
    who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands. ~Job 22:30

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0p6_4KDy98

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Yep.  Hollywood stole God’s idea.  They just moved the snakes from the plain to a plane.  I can’t imagine a movie with a title like that being very enjoyable, but whatever floats your boat I guess.

Numbers 21:4-9 is the passage Addie chose for Bible class yesterday.  (We’re taking a little break from Acts while Mia is away.)  Here’s how it goes:

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. ~Numbers 21:4-9

God’s people were in the wilderness.  They had been travelling for quite some time.  In fact, these people were the descendants of Egypt’s slaves.  They were born in the wilderness.  They’d spent their entire lives searching for and waiting on the blessings of the promised land.

But they still weren’t there yet.  There was no end in sight.  Manna was all they’d ever eaten and detours were all they’d ever taken.  Before anyone gets all Bible belt on me, let us take a moment and consider just how difficult it would be to stay positive and expectant in such circumstances.

God, however, does not rate difficulty as a valid excuse for faithlessness.  God is angered by their impatience and ingratitude.  So, he does what any fun-lovin’ God would do.  He throws some feisty, fiery snakes out heaven’s window and gives their whiny behinds somethin’ to cry about.

Presto.  Repentance is now on the menu.  Their leader, Moses, prays for them and God tells him to make a bronze snake and hang it up to save the people.

Does this story seem a bit bizarre to anyone besides me?  I guess not if you’re in second grade.  I mean, Addie just loved it.  She didn’t wonder why God didn’t take the snakes away when the people repented.  She never asked why God’s discipline was so harsh.  It didn’t even occur to her that some of these people most certainly screamed and ran (and died!) instead of lifting their eyes to the lifeless metal snake on a pole.  In fact, she didn’t even include any not-smiling people in her illustration.  When I asked why everyone was so happy she simply said, “I didn’t put anyone who didn’t obey in the picture.”  (After I asked, she changed their smiles to singing mouths for some reason.)

This is the part where I began to wonder why she drew me into the picture.

Impatience and ingratitude make the wilderness more unbearable than…well…the wilderness.  If you’re anything like me, you’re guilty of these unbecoming attributes.  It’s likely that when the fiery serpents arrive at your feet you are severely tempted to foster fear in lieu of first grade faith.  You might experience real snakes by day and be tormented by fake ones by night.  Let’s face it, when you’re surrounded by serpents, looking up may not come as natural as one might hope.  Furthermore, one look is not nearly enough to stave off a million demons.  I must look at my Savior a hundred times a day if I’m going to stay smiling in Addie’s perfect world.  And I must.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ~John 3:14-15

God did not remove the serpents when his people repented.  He didn’t take them away when they were scared, or even when they began to die.  No.  God gave his people something much more powerful than that which they feared.  God gave them a Savior who crushed the very head of their leader.  He left them with a choice about which reality they would look at.  He saved them by faith.  Now, death comes not by the Serpent, but by unbelief.

Smile.  There’s a snake under your feet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfgf-R7bPsw

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