Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'm not omnipotent

Hard to believe, I know, but apparently it's true. I'm driving home today with four kids in the van (my 3 plus my niece) overwhelmed with frustratation at how unkind my kids can sometimes be to one another. One of my kids had gotten a new toy yesterday, and of course another one wants to play with it. Cue the announcers; the fight is on. Mind you, we're talking about a squishy green rubber caterpillar that probably came from the dollar store. But, never mind, my kids are ready to fight to the death over it.

Of course, I tell the owner that he should share and that if the shoe were on the other foot, he would want his brother to share. And, I remind the person who does not own this holy grail of toys that his brother just got it so it's more special than his other toys. I've recently begun using a jar of hershey's kisses as a reward system for random acts of kindness that my kids show to one another - an idea I got from this friend. For a week or so, I gave away not one single hershey's kiss. Zero. Nada. I pointed out to the kids that I had this whole jar-full of chocolates and not one child who could find one kind thing to do for another. Finally, searching desperately for a way to jumpstart this system, I rewarded them with one when I noticed them nicely sharing their transformers. That seemed to do the trick for awhile, and I noticed a significant improvement in kindness. It was short-lived.

Now, I'm driving home listening to dialogue I had heretofore thought reserved for conversation between sunnis and shi'ites. And, do you know what I do? I give up. As I'm racking my brain for where I took a wrong turn on this winding parenting road, it dawns on me . . . this is not a behavior problem; this is a heart problem. I cannot make my kids be nice. I can make them ACT nice. I can make them share. I cannot make them be nice. I cannot make them love each other. I cannot make them care for another above themselves. The problem is not in their behavior but in their hearts. (If I'm really being honest, I don't do such a stellar job of loving and putting others first myself, do I?) How thankful I am to know the One who can. My kids' behaviors are my domain, but their hearts are His. Instead of wringing my hands and _____ (insert ineffective parental yelling or lecture of choice), I need to remember first to pray for God to soften my childrens' hearts and to fill them with His love for their fellow man. And, since He IS omnipotent, I can trust that this task which seems (and is) insurmountable to me will not be beyond His ability.

In the meantime, anybody got an extra green squishy caterpillar lying around? Or at least some earplugs? Come on, give me something here!

1 comment:

Holly Tye said...

my husband sometimes uses ear plugs in the car (we have a screamer). i'll have to find out where he got them and let you know... hehe.