Parents, Win, With Love! by Pastor Jason, Headmaster
Parents, Win, with Love!
Donna and I, as a young twenty-something couple with our first child, a two year old boy, loved parenting! We had great fun playing with Andrew, feeding him, reading to him and all the rest. We also enjoyed teaching him manners. The toddler sound of his voice expressing “Please” and “Thank you” definitely spiked the cuteness meter. He had learned saying these well and did so often, until this one particular day that has since been etched in our memories.
We gave Andrew a snack, and I reminded him to say “Thank you” as I often did. This time, however, he refused. I reminded him to obey and again to say, “Thank you.” Again, he refused, setting a firm expression in his face. I was faced with a question, “What do I do with this?”
It would have been easy to reason that he was only two and that saying “Thank you” one particular time was a small thing. I could have ignored it, let him eat his snack and moved on. It certainly would have made that day a lot more enjoyable and convenient. But, in good conscience, I could not do that, and Donna fully agreed.
Now, this moment made me feel my great lack of understanding on how to do this parenting thing, and looking back now, I see even more how true that was. But, in the reading and training we had received on how to parent, I remembered being taught that in a battle of the wills, I, as the parent, must win. That one thought helped me as a young dad to grasp a very important truth about parenting in a simple way.
So, when Andrew stiffened in his refusal to obey, I took back the snack, I disciplined him and put him in his Pack and Play. I gave him some time. I returned and asked if he was ready to say, “Thank you” and asked him to do so. He refused. I disciplined him and gave him even more time in his Pack and Play. I went back, and this cycle repeated itself many times. Andrew shed many tears. He clearly didn’t “like” me during this time. Donna and I felt frazzled inside, emotionally exhausted. The temptation to raise the white flag and give up on this battle assaulted us over and over. But, the battle cry of that simple truth – As the parent, you must win in battles of the will – kept ringing in our ears. We stayed the course, totally by the Lord’s grace, not for our sakes, but for Andrew’s, and not for our glory but for the Lord’s.
Finally, he broke. He said, “Thank you,” his stiffness softened and then, as we hugged him, became a tight squeeze back. We prayed with him and enjoyed a very sweet time with him during the little of our evening that was left (snack included!), and he enjoyed the blessing of coming to a place of glad submission to his parents, knowing he was loved and loving us back.
The Lord was so kind to us to have someone teach us that simple truth and to bring it to mind in that moment. And, that is why I want to share it.
Now, the context of that winning is love. By God’s grace, we must love our children, and we must discipline and “win” the battles of the will with love. The Bible makes this clear (for instance Mark 12:28-31; Ephesians 6:1-4). In fact, the Bible makes clear that such discipline and winning is a key part of loving our children and that if we don’t discipline them, we fail to love them (Proverbs 13:24). Furthermore, I would argue that loving discipline is an essential part of proclaiming the Gospel (the Good News) of Jesus Christ to our children.
Our children are born in sin as we were. Thus, they will not naturally honor and obey us as their parents. We must teach and train them to do so by God’s grace, and also teach and train them to love, honor and obey God first; and foremost and to love their neighbor as themselves and to recognize the sin in their hearts and their need of the Savior (Matt. 5-7; Gal. 3:19-24; Rom 3:9-20; etc.). Parents, we have a great responsibility before the Lord! Doing the hard work of “winning” to train our children to gladly submit opens the way to point them to Christ and His saving grace. So, by His grace, let’s win, with love!
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