She seemed to be stuck in a negative pattern of response and reaction; and anything and everything turned into MASSIVE angry outbursts with a never ending amount of defiance and disrespect. I quickly learned that NOTHING I did could "make" her show the respect I so desperately wanted from her. I could get her to obey (sometimes only after much work), but respect? That was a WHOLE different story! And I was simply amazed that a tiny little three year old, could be so full of attitude and disrespect, especially when I always make SURE she's not exposed to those kind of negative behaviors by monitoring what she watches, books we read and she's not even in preschool! Except for a once a week homeschool coop we do, where I know the kids and none are modeling these behaviors.
That's when TRUTH starts to hit you, and you start to see first hand the manifestation of God's Word right in front of your eyes! For those who hold the view that there is no such thing as original sin, or that all children are a "blank slate" neither good nor bad, or even the ones that goes as far as saying that we are all born "innately good," they must either NOT have children or be forced to reshape their view of what "good" is in order to have their beliefs match reality!
Having children has helped me understand God's relationship with men in a much deeper way. I now understand in a much fuller way that God is not a dictator who has created some awful egocentric rules that we must follow so He can get a kick out of seeing us fail or living miserable unpleasant lives. God CREATED us! So He, better than anyone else in this world knows what makes us truly happy, what helps us live better, more peaceful and fulfilling lives. And just like the perfect Father that He is...HE LOVES US! (Ephesians 3:14-21) He wants the very BEST for us! So when He SHOWS us how to live life in His Word, He is basically teaching us how to live a life that will be truly successful, one that will provide long lasting satisfaction, long lasting happiness, and long lasting peace that surpasses all understanding and goes way beyond this short time we have here on earth--but last all eternity!
When we have children, we love in a way we often have never loved before. It's just a different kind of love! It's instant, and unconditional. Our love for our spouses, even though it is one (for those under a covenant) that is life bound and deeply committed, it's something we have to work at, and it never starts as "unconditional"...quite the contrary, it starts filled with conditions. And if the person seems to "fit" our conditions, we then decide to bind ourselves in a covenant with them. But a parent's love (from my experience and I could say for most I know) is unconditional from the get-go. We are just overtaken by that LOVE and sometimes don't even know what to do with all the emotion we feel. We just can't control the love we feel for them, and nothing they say or do can make us stop loving them. They can bring deep disappointment, frustration, sadness...but stop loving our child? I can't imagine that being possible for me!
When we're consumed by such love for our little ones, what do we want for them??? We want the very BEST we can possibly give them. To some people giving the very BEST to their children, means fulfilling their every wishes and desires, to others it is providing materially, or academically to help them achieve the most successful careers; or give them a well-rounded life where they have traveled to many different parts of the world, and maybe learned a foreign language. None of these are bad things to desire for your child, after all I think we all would love to be able to provide every one of those things to our children. But would providing their every wishes and desires prepare them to face real life in the long run? Would giving them all the material possessions available, the best education possible, and a well-rounded life with yearly travels around the world be able to ensure them good relationships? Diligence at their work? Responsibility and wisdom in their finances? Wisdom in the choices they'll make in life? Honesty and integrity in how they live life? Fulfilling lives characterized by joy and peace??? I think we all know the answer is NO they can't!
What leads a person to making good, responsible choices with their finances, in their personal lives, at work and in relationships, is not having the best education, the most successful job, or all the material possessions one desires, but it is having the wisdom that comes from having a godly character. I guess some could argue that you don't need a godly character but just a good one! My problem with this is that most if not all of the "good" characters a person will come up with, has first and foremost come from GOD and have long since been laid out in the Bible! Since we have removed God from the education and training of our children, we have also removed this most valuable part, and then wonder why this generation seems so completely lost!
Since NO one is innately good (Romans 3:10-12), in order for us to truly develop a "good" character, we NEED God to first REMOVE our heart of stone and REPLACE it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)! Anything outside of that will NOT be lasting and enduring, and won't produce eternal fruit!
In the same manner, we as parents have the same desire to reach the hearts of our children and change their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh! Not because we want to dictate or control them, but just like our Heavenly Father, because we LOVE them and want the very best for them. We want them to be truly successful in life. But that is when we run into big trouble! We simply cannot change our children's heart of stone! Only GOD has the Power to change that! So the only thing left for us parents to do, is guide our children to the ONE that CAN! And in the process, He continues breaking our own heart of stones and replacing it with one of flesh daily (as we allow Him to)! Quite a painful process, but eternally fulfilling!
So in my desperation at my failing attempts at "changing" my daughter's heart of stone, I came across a few books that have completely revolutionized my approach of looking and tackling the situation!
First because I felt guilty for not being able to be as "consistent" as the books emphasized as important (especially because I also shared this belief of the importance of consistency myself), second because in order for me to be consistent, it required me to be in correction/punishment mode the ENTIRE day! With the stubborn and defiant child that I had, a few correction was simply not enough...in fact, ALL DAY correction and punishment was not getting through! It was simply NOT producing fruit, and both my daughter and I were just not having fun anymore. Life was a constant battle, and even though I would often "win" her obedience, I was not "winning" her respect. That is when the hard realization dawned on me, that there was no way for me to coerce my child into showing respect, it had to come from HER OWN DESIRE to respect me! Yikes! Seeing all of her behavior it just made me feel helplessly hopeless. In the meantime our relationship was being stranded, and I was becoming increasingly irritable, angry and frustrated.
The Christian Parenting Handbook was like a light at the end of the tunnel for me! It showed me that consistency is not what is most important, but that CREATIVITY is! Sometimes you can be very consistent with an approach that is simply NOT working for your child! And that is exactly what I was trying to do, but failing! The book teaches how to stop constantly focusing on negative behavior modification, and instead how to address the lack of character that each negative behavior is revealing underneath each negative behavior, and how to creatively teach and help your child develop those positive character qualities. By growing in godly character, the child naturally decreases in negative behavior! It's like MAGIC! And the best part is that they become their own agents of behavior change!
This is NOT to minimize the importance of addressing negative behavior, as well as of discipline and punishment. But it provides you with a much larger tool box to work with, so that you can attempt to reach your child's heart from many different angles, and have a much greater chance at succeeding. This was truly a God-sent for me!
Soon after I began to change my approaches I noticed a dramatic decrease in challenges and we returned to a season of calmness again.
My immediate reaction would be to tell her she would not be allowed to watch any more videos or play with any of her electronic toys for a week! She would completely lose it, and inside I wanted to completely lose it myself...thinking of the implications of what I had just said! I had just cut the ONLY escape I had from all the challenges I was facing DAILY! If there is one area I have always been VERY consistent with, is sticking to my word with her. So I knew I was going to HAVE to follow through...and I did.
Soon after this episode had happened, a sweet friend from church offered me to watch my girls so I could have some time off to myself. I had planned to spend the afternoon at one of my favorite coffee shops, and had hoped to take my Bible with me and spend some quiet time with God. My daughter was SUPER excited about having a playdate at this friends' house since she has 3 girls, and she loves playing with them. She was talking for days about this playdate and was really looking forward to it...so was I! Then the big day arrived...and my daughter acted out so badly at home, and since nothing seemed to be getting through, I warned her that unless she repented she would not go to the playdate later that day. Instead of repenting she acted even WORST....so the words rolled out of my mouth along with my tears that she would not be allowed to go to the playdate. I felt just as punished as she was, since I would also miss my "alone time" I so desperately needed! The punishment really got through to her though, and she was very sad for not being able to go and later genuinely repented. But we didn't go, and I was getting more and more drained.
When I felt as if things couldn't get any worst, came the day we had our weekly coop! So far she had been VERY difficult with me, but not so with other people. Whenever I picked her up from Sunday school or the extended sessions at church, I only got glowing reports about her: "oh how sweet she is, she's so nice to everyone, she's plays so well with the other kids, she's such a delight..." and on and on. This day was my neighbor's turn to teach coop, and we're really close to her, so my daughter is pretty familiar with her. When I went to pick my daughter up, my friend (who knew all I was going through with her), pulled me to the side and started saying that she had been difficult that day and was starting to show some defiant behavior with her and meanness with the other children.
I completely panicked! I knew that the way things were going, it was only a matter of time until it started permeating in other environments, and the thought of her behaving with others the way she was behaving with me, horrified me!
First I completely fell apart at home emotionally, not knowing what else to do and feeling so completely empty and inadequate at handling the situation. Then I went to my, "what can I do about this?" mode. So off I went on my desperate search for MORE books that would hopefully provide me with that missing piece, or give me the encouragement I needed or hopefully enlighten me in a new way. I knew she needed some deep intervention, and she needed it NOW!
So I went to Amazon and started adding to my shopping cart all the books that I thought could potentially help. I knew I needed to purchase that first book I had read, The Christian Parenting Handbook, because it was such a great resource to have on hand and by the same authors I saw some great reviews on Good and Angry, exchanging frustration for character...in you and your kids! (photo above). I knew I was getting angrier than ever before and more frustrated than ever before, so the Title was really appealing to me! I also read great reviews for Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes...in you and your kids! (photo below) And God knows we had ALL been whining, complaining and having bad attitudes!
I picked one or two character qualities to work on each month, as we worked on memorizing our verses. Every morning we talked about the character quality and how we could show that character throughout our day. We talked about examples of behaviors that revealed that character and contrasted it with examples of behaviors that didn't express that character. We also read Scripture passages that reinforced those values.
UPLOAD CHARACTER BUILDING CARDS BELOW:
She LOVES the calendar, and since I have implemented the approaches taught in the books above, the results have been exceptional!
So after only one week of doing some massive intervention with the new approaches from Turansky & Miller's books, as well as our daily devotionals and some other supplemental materials I'll post bellow, we had another coop day and my other friend who taught that day said that my daughter went beyond herself to obey and honor her and her friends! She said she could really see that she was trying to be honoring. I was thrilled!!!!! Finally something was working, and I was being able to get through to her heart.
That day I texted my husband to stop by the store and bring her a balloon (one of her favorite things ever!) and give it to her as a surprise gift for her honoring behavior that day. I normally don't like to reward every positive behavior, especially with material things, because I don't want her to associate doing the right thing with getting something she likes. But, every once in a while, especially when she shows some dramatic improvement in something she's been really struggling with, I like to make a huge fuss over it!
And that is what we did! We made her feel VERY special, and we took advantage of our new "honor system" and told her that we wanted to honor her that day. First I honored her with a special treat (ice-cream) that afternoon, and then once dad came home with the surprise balloon, we said that dad also wanted to honor her by bringing her a special balloon. And he was able to find a very large and festive balloon, that she was completely thrilled with! We could tell she was so proud of herself and felt so good about having honored her friends and coop teacher!
Later that week I could see many similar fruits, and I'm still seeing it until today! This past week I probably saw the most fruitful of fruits! There were two instances where she acted completely out of her norm, and showed some amazing maturity.
First was when I had just turned on her absolutely favorite show, DORA the explorer, while her sister was playing with one of the little chairs we have and decided to stand up on it--which she's not allowed to do! I was doing the dishes and told her to sit down, but in the meantime my oldest went next to her and started pushing the chair forward towards the little table (with her still standing on it!), which would not only squish her between the chair and table, but she could fall as well. I started telling my oldest daughter to stop pushing the chair, as I quickly tried to get closer to them, but instead of stopping she started doing it even faster while my little one screamed. I was so mad at her behavior that I went straight to the TV and turned it off! I was expecting massive tantrum and angry behavior soon to follow and quickly started preparing myself to not respond in the boiling anger that I was under. But instead I was surprised with a socking: "I'm sorry mom" in a very genuine repented voice...and not ONE complaint, not ONE whine, not ONE request for Dora!
I was so shocked and happy, that I just couldn't contain myself! I made a huge fuss over her wise choice of behavior, gave her a HUGE hug, a million kisses, and told her just how proud I was of her! I went straight to our "growing in godly character calendar" and wrote the godly character qualities she had just displayed, and let her pick a sticker to place on that date. You should have seen how proud of herself she looked and how happy she got for seeing she had done the right thing! It was precious!
The next episode was a similar one just this past Saturday. We had gone to the playground with some friends for lunch to enjoy the beautiful Spring day we had, and when we were getting in the car to leave, as I was buckling her sister, I told her at least 5 times to get in her seat, but she kept running all over inside the van. Finally when I raised my voice impatiently telling her she had to get in her seat "NOW", she blows out at me with a very rude and defiant attitude. By this time my blood was already boiling, so I asked very impatiently, "is this how you show gratitude to mommy for bringing you to the playground to play with your friends?" Again, expecting more bad attitude to follow (as they usually did whenever any kind of reprehension, correction or scolding came her way), I began preparing myself because I knew I had passed my threshold of patience. But again to my shocking surprise, she just looked at me and said in the sweetest repentant voice: "I'm sorry mommy! Thank you for bringing me to the park!" I wanted to cry of happiness! I could not believe THAT was MY child who not very long ago would get so caught up in a negative cycle of defiance that she just could not snap out of it!
These were the two major episodes we've experienced recently, that just a few weeks ago would have turned into major battle fields. We have also been observing small acts of honoring behavior all throughout the day. She's been expressing gratitude and contentment pretty much daily for the little things I do for her. EVERY time I turn off a video (after only 30 minutes, an hour the MOST) she's been thanking me for letting her watch! She's been noticing little things I do for her and she tells me, "mommy, you're showing honor to me!" This has truly been a change in family dynamics for us!
The fun part about this new "honor system" is that it is slowly impacting the whole family. This past Saturday when we went to the park, it was such a beautiful day out, and my husband had to stay home since he was on call that weekend. When we were heading back home, I asked my daughter if she thought it would be a good idea to take a special treat to dad so we could honor him that day. She was super excited about it! We stopped by Cook Out and got one of his favorite milk shakes, and when we got home she couldn't wait to hand him the milk shake herself!
Of course not all days are great and honoring, as a matter of fact, as I wrote this, I had one of the hardest days we've had in a while! And the worst part is that I was probably the biggest influence on how the day played out. I was simply short tempered and impatient with the kids all day! I was not being honoring! I guess part of me was grumpy that after Spring finally arriving, and we finally enjoying some good weather, we are now back at below 30s F in the mornings with highs of mid 40s F. We stayed home all day, and even though there is NO excuse for my sin, it is sadly pretty much the emotional/spiritual state I was in today. I did repent at different points throughout the day and asked the kids for forgiveness for my lack of patience, but sadly I kept coming back to the same exact emotional/spiritual state every time she misbehaved! Overall it was not the best day for neither of us! It's interesting that we had such a difficult day right when I decided to write this post about our great progress! But I guess this comes to show that as long as we're alive, sin will always be here! It's our daily stumbling block, and any improvement and progress we make have little to do with our own abilities to overcome it, but it has everything to do with HIS awesome never ending GRACE! And we need it DAILY in order to walk this walk, and be able to truly honor those around us.
But I still love it, and it is a great resource to have! I often use if more for myself than with the kids at this point.
If you're looking for materials you can work WITH your child, the Kids Honor Club: A Curriculum Guide for Teaching Honor to Children at the very top of this post is the way to go! It is a really great book and it can be used in a group setting or you can modify it and use as a family devotional. I've been taking parts of it and using during our family devotions, and others I've been using on the days I teach at our preschool coop.
Hope this can be helpful to someone who may be feeling as helpless and hopeless as I was! Don't lose heart! When God gives, He provides! And He will provide all that we need to parent our children in a way that will bring honor and glory to HIM and HIM alone!
Many blessings to all the hard working mamas out there!!!