It seems terribly unwise to say a word about parenting just now. I mean, any bystander observing what occurs on the way to and from church each week would see that I might need my head examined.
My usual disclaimer, of course, still stands: There is not a single perfect person living here. I continue to be aware of this, from morning till night.
For the past several months, I have spent an enormous amount of each day training children to obey, listen, and be kind. I have respect for all of you out there doing this every day! It’s so difficult!!! Especially when we’re trying to replace some very BAD habits, and not just creating new ones.
But there is good news: persistence brings results!
Children who learn to have self-control, kindness, and obedience are just happier children. Much happier.
Recently, I came across something I’ve read many times, but with these small children around, I’m reading with fresh eyes. I think of it often. (For your convenience, I’ve split the quote into two parts.)
“Tardy, unwilling, obedience is hardly worth,..having; and it is greatly easier to give the child the habit of perfect obedience by never allowing…anything else…”
“By NEVER allowing anything else.”
This takes so much work. And determination. But it’s possible!
Now that I have a variety of ages, I am finding that the hardest part of training children isn’t what I thought it was. I actually think it’s easier to consistently train a toddler, than to model obedience for an older child.
To train toddlers, we need an insane amount of determination, (more determination than the toddler). But to parent teenagers, we must have character. (Hopefully, character grows as we deal with the toddlers.)
Modeling this behavior for our children gets challenging! Their hypocrisy radar is active at an alarmingly early age.
So, as they get older (and wiser), us mothers become the inspirers of obedience.
Great. Not only do we now have to be tirelessly consistent with the toddlers, we have to live what we say to the teenagers!
Even our attempts to obey God by living out Ephesians 5:24 just might be the hardest thing to do daily in front of our children.
Why are we still so rebellious?!!
If anything, it can give us compassion for the children. This obeying stuff is such an act of our will, and it’s difficult to make ourselves do the right thing!
One of our little ones who has struggled so much to obey, was cheering and yelling for me the other day when I did something Michael asked me to do. “WHOOOO HOOOO Mary!!! GOOD JOB! YOU DID IT!!!”
Yeah. They’re watching.
Okay. How do we instill this habit of obedience in our children?
“To secure this habit of obedience, the mother must exercise great self-restraint; she must never give a command which she does not intend to see carried out to the full.
And she must not lay upon her children burdens, grievous to be borne, of command heaped upon command.”
-Charlotte Mason (emphasis added)
She’s right, of course. I tend to not only expect everyone to do exactly what I say, but I also catch myself being a “heaper” of commands. Poor children.
Charlotte goes on to say that we can give an obedient child a lot of freedom. There are a few things that they absolutely must do, and then they are left to figure things out, “even at the cost of some small mishaps”. I have certainly found this to be true.
Taking children to the park would be a great example of this. The most instruction (such as the fact that today is not the best day for me to go to the ER, so please behave accordingly, etc.) goes to the most accident prone child, all children must have an understanding of being kind and patient and not harming other children. And then they’re off! No heaping of commands!
Later, when everyone’s tired and it’s time to go home (probably quickly, because someone will have to poop, and there won’t be a bathroom), our determination to only give a command that we expect to be carried out to the full, will come in soooo handy. We’ll be glad we took the time to train them to listen and obey…because they quickly (and some even happily) get in the car when you call them.
And now, because children are waking up, and I have no time to think of an appropriate ending for all of this…
In order to have a more peaceful home, and happy children (I know there is a lot more to it than that, especially in the Bible), training them is worth all of that time, effort and exhaustion. Let’s keep fighting the good fight!