I have been re-reading Ginger Plowman's Don't Make Me Count to Three: A Mom's Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline.
The author was a speaker at a MOPS group I attended a few years ago, and after hearing her speak, I immediately bought this book and began implementing its principles. It made a significant difference in my interactions with my children, but somewhere over the past couple of years I stopped applying it. As with most things, I set about it with the best of intentions, but over time, I fell off the wagon and reverted back to my former ways. (Which involve a sad amount of fussing, whining, and loss of self-control. And that's by me, not my kids.)
The gist of this book (which I highly recommend even though I don't agree with 100% of her theology)is that our job as a parent is not merely to manage our children's behaviors but to point them to their need for Christ. That we address the heart issues, not just the outward manifestations of them. She advocates using God's words rather than our own when we reprove (which is not the same as scolding) our chilren because it is the Word of God which will penetrate their hearts and lead them to repentance.
It takes a lot more time and effort to Biblically reprove and train children than it does to simply yell and fuss at them. I know; I have yelled and fussed more than I care to admit. But, I'm finding that the reward is great. This morning I overheard this interaction between my three children who were light-saber fighting in Lauren's room:
[Lots of battle noises going on when Lauren begins crying.]
Josh: Lauren, why are you crying. Ethan, stop. Lauren, did Ethan hurt you?
Josh: Are you okay? Ethan, you need to tell her you're sorry.
Ethan: Sorry, Lauren.
Josh: Lauren, tell him you forgive him.
And she did, and they went on with their battle. It was so rewarding to hear them handle conflict properly It has been only a week or so since I began taking the time to once again truly train and discipline my children in a Biblical manner instead of my own fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method. Just like before, the fruits are evident already, not only in how they interact with each other, but in the closeness I share with them.
Ginger Plowman instructs her children that they are to obey "right away, all the way, with a happy heart." We have been working on the same thing, and last night read the story of King Saul and how he failed to obey "all the way" when God told him to destroy the Amalekites. My kids and I had such a meaningful time studying this together, and it was a really powerful tool for illustrating why it is important to submit to God's (and parents') authority.
Of course, we still struggle. I'm sure I will still lose my temper (though it's easier not to when I realize I'm being a hypocrite if I expect my children to have self-control and then I yell at them), but I pray that God will help me to make this a permanent change in how I rear my children.
There was a time last year when I was particularly struggling with my inadequacies as a parent. It is hard, this job of molding and shaping the hearts and minds of our little ones. I was feeling overwhelmed by and woefully inadequate for the task. As I was taking communion in church that week, God showed me the most beautiful picture of filling myself up with Him. I am not capable of doing this job well on my own, but as I ate the bread and drank the wine - symbolizing the body and blood of Christ - I realized that I don't have to be. I can draw on the strength and joy and wisdom of the One Who is. What a gracious gift that we can be filled with His Spirit.
May I always point Joshua's and Ethan's and Lauren's hearts to Christ, the only One who saves.