On Friday, I read through Crystal’s article on Kindness vs. Obedience. I thought it was a good article and filed it away in my “Things to remember” memory part of life.
Cue this last Sabbath afternoon.
The girls and I went to the park while Daddy was otherwise occupied. Sweetness rode her bike and I pushed Light in her stroller. The park was a blast as always. Lots and lots of lots of time on the swings and the slide. Light is really loving the park nowadays and quite the daredevil for being one year old. 😉
Before meltdown city could start to occur, we said good-bye to the park and started off. At least, I tried to do that. Sweetness had gotten on her tricycle and was taking off while I was still trying to round up Light and convince her that it was time to jet.
She looked back at me.
Mild panic because she’s getting to the end of the block and Lightness and I are right by the road so I can’t abandon her to chase down the 2 year-old.
Super-stern voice. “Sweetness, stop now!”
She got to the shade and stopped. My heart skipped a few beats and I ran and caught up with her.
“Honey, when Mommy says stop, you need to stop now.”
We got to the corner and checked to see if there were any cars coming. No cars, so we crossed the road. I got slightly ahead of Sweetness as she stopped to take in the sight of a running squirrel.
“Mommy, stop! Stop and wait for me!”
“Okay honey, I will. I’ll stop.” And I kept on going until I hit the shade, which was just a few feet away. I looked back to see Sweetness frantically pedaling to catch up with me and yelling, “Mommy, stop and wait!”
Then it hit me. My daughter wasn’t being bad earlier. She was just doing to me what I had done to her. On our walks, I had constantly told her I’d stop and then keep going if she hadn’t caught up to me fairly quickly.
How could I expect her to be obedient and respectful when I didn’t comply with her urgent requests? She didn’t realize the danger she could be in and why I wanted her to stop. I didn’t realize how desperate she was that I wait and be a companion to her on her rides.
Man, I really need to work on this. I need to respect her so that she will respect me. How can I do any less, when she really will do what I do, not what I say?
Before I go too much further with things, I need to define my terms. I took English classes from Chris Blake at Union and that was one thing he was VERY insistent on when we had discussions. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Define your terms!”; neither can I tell you how many times I’ve used that same phrase. 🙂
Anyway, there are several hot topic words that seem to come up a lot. I want to lay them out here; at least, the ones I remember offhand. If I’ve forgotten any, please let me know.
Discipline. Discipline does NOT equal punishment. Discipline comes from the word ‘disciple’. It is a lifestyle commitment, not a one-time event.
For example, I want Sweetness and Light to not hit the dog.
What does (grace-based) discipline look like in this example? I pet the dog, saying “Gentle. Look, Mommy is petting the dog gently. Do you want to pet the dog?” And when they go to hit the dog, I stop their hand, take it in mine and stroke the dog, while saying, “Gentle.” This is repeated over and over and over again. Eventually, I can just say, “Gentle” and they will check their swing and pet the dog gently.
The girls have now internalized WHAT to do and what gentle looks like and feels like. I still need to remind them and help them, every so often, but hey, sometimes I need to be reminded to be gentle with the dog and I’ve got 30+ years on the girls. 😉
So, discipline isn’t swatting their hands when they hit the dog–that is punishment. And punishment does NOT equal discipline.
Grace. What is it? Well, I can tell you it’s not “cheap grace”. I’ve heard that expression a lot, as in, “Living in grace and doing that with kids? That just cheapens it and makes it cheap grace.”
My lightbulb moment this afternoon was that when people leave legalism behind, a lot of times they swing all the way over into permissiveness. Grace-based discipline is NOT permissive. But here they are, these former legalists, working their way to find balance and erring on the side of permissiveness rather than being punitive, but claiming it’s all grace.
Grace says, “I love you just the way you are. These are my expectations and I will come alongside with you and help you be able to meet these expectations.”
Grace does NOT say, “I love you just the way you are. These are my expectations I expect you to meet and I will punish you if you don’t.”
Grace does NOT say, “I love you just the way you are and you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.”
I mean, this is some pretty awesome stuff to wrestle with and apply in parenting! God knew we couldn’t do what we needed to do. He didn’t punish us into being saved. He came along side of us, in a way we could understand and relate to. He modeled His expectations and worked with us. He gave no quarter to evil, but accepted imperfect attempts to follow Him. Can’t we offer that to our kids?
One online source I have put it this way: God’s Grace and actions are the determining factors in our salvation, even to include His working in our lives to develop a lifestyle consistent with salvation. (Eph 2:8-10; Phil. 2:12-13).
Look at that–He works with us to develop a lifestyle. Not, He expects us to live, laugh, learn, love, a certain, pre-determined way.
And now it’s late and I need to sleep. More later. And suggestions are always welcome!