Saturday, November 27, 2010

Three Little Words

Yes, I am still blogging! :-) We just returned from a crazy two-week vacation, visiting two sets of in-laws, and tons of cousins, aunts, and uncles.

God chose this vacation to remind me that I am not parenting for accolades from others. My little guy did great at first, but as the days wore on, and more and more people paraded in and out of our lives on a daily basis, he began to crumble. He is normally cheerful and easy-going. He became cranky. He was upset if anyone did anything that bothered him, and loudly declared it. He had tantrums. I felt so sorry for him, knowing that he did not understand everything that was going on; knowing that he was exhausted from lack of sleep; and knowing that he recharges best away from people, from whom there was very little escape on this trip.

Aydon is also the eldest grandson on both sides of the family, so he is used to receiving all the attention. On my side, he has a little cousin who is about half a year younger than him, and loves all the same types of things he does (thomas the tank engine, trains, cars, garbage trucks). So, halfway through our vacation my brother, his wife, and this cute little guy came to stay with my family as well. This threw Aydon for a loop. I had to be constantly watching to make sure my little man did not take toys from him; to help him share (beforehand, we did pick a few toys that he wanted to keep in the room, which he did not have to share); to keep him from pushing his cousin. This was exhausting, and there were so so many tantrums. By the third day, our little man was playing a little better with his cousin. One evening, the were jumping on a little air mattress while my mom supervised. There were laughs and yells of fun coming from the room. Then, suddenly, silence, followed by shrieking wails from Aydon's cousin. I ran into the room, heart racing, fearing the worst. Nightmares came true: Aydon had bitten his cousin on the foot! I was horrified. I picked Aydon up and carried him into the room where we were staying. He was hysterical, screaming, yelling for water, kicking his legs.

My husband went to ask my mom what had happened. Apparently, the boys had been playing well, and suddenly, Aydon became frustrated and upset and then bit his cousin. Ryan, my hubby, came to the room where I was with my beserk kiddo, holding a cup of water. This was one of those tantrums that got worse the longer it went on. I felt like crying. I also felt sorry for Aydon. He was mentally overloaded, emotionally overcharged, and it was spilling out all at once. Don't get me wrong, the biting had to be dealt with, but there were a myriad of causes, and he was just an immature two-year old. As our son's wailing continued, my husband suddenly grabbed in a bear hug, and whispered calmly in his ear, "I love you, Aydon." The horrible tantrum ceased immediately, like a hurricane that miraculously evaporates, as Aydon reached out for a hug from his daddy.We were able to calmly talk to our son about how the biting hurt his cousin; how he would need to tell him sorry; and how we wouldn't be doing any more jumping on the bed that night. After he apologized to his cousin, it was like our son was another person: he played calmly alongside his cousin for the rest of the evening; even offering him various toys to play with.

My husband and I choke back tears when we think about what brought conviction and calmness to our son: three little words, "I love you." How often in our Christian lives do we run from God in shame and disgrace, worried that His grace will not cover us? But when we stop and listen, He is whispering, "I love you." Melting into that love, we are strong enough to face that what we did was wrong. We are able to walk with strength as we face the consequences that sometimes come along with sin, knowing that God holds our hand, loving us; knowing that we stand before Him forgiven.

This parenting by grace thing often leaves us feeling like we are jumping off a cliff into the unknown. Each situation requires a unique response that only God can give through us. We often feel our inexperience as we bumble along, realizing in retrospect that we should have handled some situations differently. This biting incident will forever remain rooted deeply in our minds as an example of the power of a parent's love. Oddly, it made us love our son even more, seeing that he is human, knowing that this was the first of many times that he will make mistakes, just like the rest of us. We are excited to love him throughout the rest of his life; hopefully, he will grow to trust in God's unconditional love offered to him by a selfless Savior on Calvary thousands of years ago.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Gentle Discipline is Not, Continued Again :-)

Gentle discipline is not something that occurs only when unacceptable behavior manifests itself. I remember as a child, and even as a teenager, shuddering when I heard the term "discipline". To me, "discipline" meant punishment. It was something I tried hard to avoid.

Gentle, grace-based, discipline, recognizes that to discipline means to teach, not to punish for wrong behavior. When I started studying the true meaning of discipline in the Bible, I went through a real paradigm shift in my understanding of discipline. Previously, discipline was something I imagined I'd "administer" to stop wrong behavior. But I began to understand that discipline was something that should occur all day, every day, because it meant that I was teaching.

Gentle discipline, for the Christian, means that all day, every day, I am to be teaching my little guys. I am to teach him right from wrong. I am to teach him how to cope with problem situations he will encounter. I am to teach him appropriate ways to interact with other children. I am to teach him how to be safe. Most importantly, I am to teach him, both by words and by example as an authority in his life, who God is.

Gentle discipline, then, is ongoing, not sporadic. It is not always pleasant for our children, but it teaches them that discipline is the process of learning. Hopefully, when they hear that God disciplines His children, they will eagerly embrace God's teaching and training.