“Immediately. Exactly. With the proper attitude.”
The guest speaker at church gave a good presentation on parenting.
“It’s that simple,” he said. “Expect obedience from your children and don’t accept anything less.”
My husband and I left church that evening invigorated. We had this parenting thing in the bag.
We would get our boys to obey immediately, exactly, and with the proper attitude.
How many times did the boys hear those five words? Dozens? Hundreds? I don’t know the exact count, but it was a lot — before it fell by the wayside.
I made a lot of mistakes parenting — and this was a big one.
Because children aren’t dogs to be taught to sit and stay. They’re people, created in the image of God.
Jesus didn’t bark out orders to the disciples, He washed their feet.
He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matthew 11:28-29)
I’ve heard that one training technique is to yoke a trained ox with an untrained one, so that the one can learn from the other. It involves leading from the side, learning alongside, yoked together.
Parenting was making me weary — all this demanding obedience and wanting my children to behave like Stepford wives — or rather Stepford children. Coming alongside involved sitting down and coloring together. Or building Lego together. It involved emptying the dishwasher together and decorating cookies together. It involved talking and listening, going to swim meets and soccer games, singing badly together, and going for walks.
It involved me relaxing. A lot.
One of my other favorite Bible images involves Roman soldiers and the armor of God in Ephesians.
When we read that passage, our mental image may be all wrong. We tend to picture a gladiator whose armor was far different from that of a rank-and-file soldier. A gladiator’s shield was small and round, meant to be easily manipulated in the ring, because the attacks could come from many directions. A soldier’s shield was large and rectangular, extending roughly from the chin to the knees of the soldier.
This shield was large and heavy, but served a very important purpose. When a company of soldiers, called a century, usually numbering from 80-100 men, went into battle, they could close ranks, and the men could hoist their shields over their heads. The men in front or on the sides held their shields to protect the body. The overhead shields partially covered the heads of the men in front and behind, overlapping in a way that made the unit virtually impenetrable. The men had to work together for it to be strong.
When parents work shoulder to shoulder with their children, they form that type of unit, extending protection (and grace) over each other.
Obedience is good — don’t get me wrong. But expecting blind obedience doesn’t lead to thinking, creative, functional adults. And obedience can come through other channels than demands.
If I could go back and change one thing, it would be those days of authoritarian parenting.
Immediately. Exactly. With the proper attitude. Phooey.
Love. Love. Love. And then a little more love.