Speaking to my Mom the other day we got onto the subject of reacting to children’s behavior or stressful situations in negative or angry ways. I confess that I have a very hard time keeping my cool in certain situations in regards to my children and their childish ways or my dog or stupid commercials or the news and its inevitable skewing of truth. I even find myself saying absolute statements about what is in our food or sinful behaviors in others or whatnot that I come across in life that are contrary to the Truth. I am opinionated, I know this. And I can be very caustic when it comes to the things I disagree with. I find that in my heart when it comes to people, I am absolutely on their side and would never want to come across as judging them… in my heart. On the outside in my attempt to show my children what is right and wrong, I find that maybe I am just coming across as judgmental and legalistic.
I, out eleven children was (likely) my moms most difficult child, being third in line and the eldest daughter. When I was born my mom has described me as “angry to be alive” and she even sought counseling from a pastor due to my constant crying in the first six weeks of my life, not just any kind of crying but angry, screeching wails of frustration. I find that this is very much my personality even now, and I find myself to be difficult for my own self to live with. I have a hard time accepting and forgiving my unlovable tendencies and struggle to forgive my own lack of perfection and self-control.
One of the statements my mom made that resonated with me was that every person on this planet deep down cannot find a reason to say that they are okay and I contend that if they can say that they are, then they are likely not being honest with themselves or they are not looking deep enough. This was when we were discussing the beautiful message from God in Tim Tebow’s amazing performance the other day playing football. She says that God wants us to know how loved we are and I completely agree. This brings me back to reacting to difficulty and crisis situations in a way that may not portray this beautiful truth to my children. If there is anything a loving parent wants for their children it is that they would know undoubtedly how much they are loved, because we all know that in this world there tends to be so little to reinforce that for them. So when portraying a spirit of judgement upon those things that are inevitably wrong with the world and life and people it fundamentally sets up a spirit of failure and never being good or lovable enough to be of any value, even when this attitude is projected elsewhere and not upon the child, they will still see your judgement upon that behavior and if they choose to act in that behavior not only does it set them up to feel judgment from you their parent but also sets them up to know how to attempt to gain power over you in an act of defiance.
I think ultimately as a parent though we want the best for our children and to help them avoid painful consequences and to be “okay”, then helping them out of difficult situations when those situations are ones they had gotten themselves into on their own, however many have a tendency to attempt to beat the bad out either verbally, physically, or manipulatively while missing the point of the fact that human nature is flawed by sin and no amount of rules and punishment can ever produce a perfect human. Human choice, the nature of sin and the law lead to us to the knowledge that there is no reaching perfection. Christ was the perfect human and it is by his sacrifice that we find our painful mistakes can be washed away, and that our children when they come up against the pain of the consequences of their sin can look to him to wash the guilt away.
I would like to strive for a parenting technique that involves less reaction and more reasonable responses. The book “Parenting with Love and Logic” is a good example and advocate of this kind of parenting, using children’s own choices as their punishment when the choice they end up making has a painful consequence. It allows for children to learn independence and wisdom from their own experiences rather than the drumming of sets of rules into their minds while ignoring their heart attitudes and beliefs.
Growing up I see how this affected me in various ways in conflicts I have had with my mother as she admitted that she was at times a reactionary parent for us older children. I could see as a child I could use my mothers reaction to various situations to attempt to manipulate her to get control over what I wanted to gain for myself. Being a parent now I see this more clearly as I see myself reacting with nuclear strength over minor, major and childish behaviors that may have been handled differently or even modeling for my children an angry attitude over uncontrollable circumstances, such as, a flat tire or financial issue or something that happens to pop up on television. Ultimately when a child receives no reaction for their negative behavior they find it to be, logically ineffective all on there own. As a child grows up and meets the unbending demands of life in a job or in a relationship or in class, they will find that responding with yelling, violent temper tantrums, and negative behavior usually will meet with more severity in adulthood when they come up against the consequences of painfully broken relationships, a lost job or inability to hold a job, and jail-time for violent outbursts when they have not gained what they wanted. I have seen this in so many I have grown up with in conservative and secular circles and I see it now in the consequences of my own sinful choices, it is a universal principal that everyone has to face in themselves and humanity in general.
Ultimately I am glad I can learn from the wisdom of my mother and others who have been there in the trenches raising many different personalities imperfectly but for the grace of God and constant prayer. I want to learn from my own mistakes as I see my children reacting in ways that I see they have learned from explosive reactions I have modeled for them at times in the past. I find it daunting to undo habits in myself, but find that I can see a little more clearly how I can model a better example to them by my own behavior in responding to crisis even when it involves outside stresses unrelated to their behavior. I am glad too for a Gracious Heavenly Father that guides my life and mercifully covers a multitude of my sins in parenting as he did for my parents and for so many, and while we all know the faults of our parents I am so glad that I can learn from the mistakes made.