Thursday, February 02, 2006

Train Them!

It says in Hebrews 12:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I read that scripture countless times back when I was a Bible Quizzer. At the time I took it to mean that the discipline God gives me will probably not be fun, but will be for my good. It was a hopeful passage.

I read it entirely different nowadays. Flip it around. Read it from the discipliner's point of view. Being a parent the past 8 years gives me a new perspective.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful... a teachable moment in the life of my child is presented, but I don't feel like dealing with it... I would rather fiddle on the computer, or watch TV, or continue my conversation. To stop and address the situation will take time... this is painful.

Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. If I take the time to parent now... to fulfill my responsibility, I will reap a harvest of righteousness and peace.

I write this with some trepidation, because I am a heading into boasting territory. But I will boast with a purpose.

My wife and I have great kids!

We often get compliments on their behavior, but I will occasionally hear something to the effect of, "Yes, but you have naturally compliant children."

I want to shout "NO!" This has not come without cost! My wife and I think about, consider, and discuss our parenting. We plan for how we will deal with situations. We read. We study. We observe and consult with successful parents. We observe unsuccessful parents to note what we want to avoid doing. We are very conscientious of our parenting. We take time to parent. We both would say that it is the single most important thing we do in our lives. The behavior of our children (or sometimes lack thereof) is NOT an accident.

Perhaps it is because I teach for a living that I am always looking for teachable moments.

The other day I carved a turkey and set aside the wishbone. I told my 4 year old son and my seven year old daughter about the game of the wishbone. I debated not mentioning the wishbone to them because my son is very sensitive and I knew he was going to lose.

No, I told myself, he is old enough to learn to lose properly.

Each child grabbed an end... made the wish... snap.... and my son's lip tightened, his foot slammed the floor, and frustrated tears began to well up in his eyes.

"Jacob...., no".

I sat down in front of Jacob and took both of his hands in mine.

"Jacob, I love you... please look at my eyes (I never discipline without eye contact). My son, you lost just now and I know you are frustrated because you wanted to win. There are times you win and times you lose. When you lose, you may not stomp your feet and cry. That is not right. Everyone loses sometimes don't they? When you lose... be happy for the person who won... and do you know what the right thing to do would be? (with his lips puckered he shakes his head)... you go over to the person who won and shake their hand like this (shake) and say 'Congratulations'. Do you think you could do that?"

My son nodded, took a final sniff, and walked over to my daughter and took her hand, "Congratulations Kaki" (his nickname for her). She replied with a thank you and a hug. Then they went off to play.

Now I by no means think that this will be the last time Jacob pouts and cries when he loses; but he will be taught each time that is not appropriate and will be shown what is appropriate. Perhaps someday soon, he will fly in that area on his own.

Until then, my wife and I will be looking for teachable moments, because we want that harvest of righteousness and peace... for ourselves and our children.

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