I was a strong willed child. That, my parents might say, is an understatement. I think my dad (at times) chuckled at my misdeeds and sassy attitude (for example, he concurred with me when at the age of 8 I refused to eat oatmeal because it “looks like boogers” … I ate toast that morning for breakfast).
There were several occasions when I acted in direct defiance to my parents, but my mom I think felt the brunt of that defiance. One such occasion remains clearly imbedded in my memory. I was probably about 5 or 6, and in need of new pair of dress shoes. On the way to church, we stopped at a local Payless and my mom and I rushed in. I know now that money was always tight at our house and my mom was probably just trying to convince me that the least expensive shoes were the obvious choice, but I wasn’t having it. She eventually won that argument (and many others) and we were out the door and back to the car. The remainder of the drive to church I sat, arms crossed, seething ungratefully in the backseat with my new shoes on (seriously, what a brat). We parked at the front of the church so my older sister and I could head in early for Sunday school.
Tammy skipped towards the high double doors, I stomped; and as I did my path led me to a puddle of water. Ohhh ….I knew they were watching to make sure we entered the building safely. I couldn’t resist.
As I passed by the puddle I reached (as I s often did) for the last proverbial word, and with one foot directed deep into the perimeter of the puddle I stomped – hard.
“AH HAA!” I thought, “This is what I think of you and these shoes!”
Before the splashed water was fully absorbed into my cable knit tights, my mom was out of the car and I justifiably received yet another lesson in obedience and respect.
You know, I can’t recall what either pair of shoes looked like; all I know was I was angry that mom won and I had lost. Now after 20 plus years raising my own kids, I have come to realize (thank you God, mom, dad, and Proverbs 15:5 & Ephesians 6:1-4) that swift discipline* is often necessary when bringing up children. There are many arguments that we as parents must win; direct defiance is one such occasion.
It is completely natural that kids flex their will as they grow. It’s kind of like their job; they learn life lessons through all social interactions, but the initial and most potentially life altering and relevant interactions ideally take place in a loving home with parent(s) and sibling(s).
In this safe place they come to understand:
- The uniqueness of them and how they fit in (the shifting roles they will encompass throughout their lifetime, each experience being a brick in their foundation)
- Who they are (loved, adored, blessing to parents – all interactions, even discipline, should ultimately result in confirming that knowledge in their hearts and head). and lastly...
- Why they are here on this lovely yet often times confusing and chaotic spinning mass (created for divine purpose, representative of their heavenly Father).
When my oldest kiddos were toddlers, I actually called my parents to apologize for being such a wretched child, and thanked them for not giving up on me. Parenting is not for wimps. Thank goodness we have a heavenly Father who knows what it’s like to have disobedient children, yet consistently loves them anyway, and has generously provided a rule book (if you will) on how to do it right.
*To be clear, by “discipline” I mean loving, selfless, consistent verbal guidance and direction, and occasionally a swat on the bottom using only open palmed hand… no belt, no board, NO bruises! for that is behavior there is no excuse.