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Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."
I thought of this scripture this morning while talking to one of the daycare parents about a power struggle she's having with her toddler over taking medicine. She's fighting him every four hours to administer this medication while he sits docilely on my lap for the same mediation and puts up no fight. It's stressful and discouraging and frustrating for her and her husband. But my experiences have taught me the why behind the behavior where this first time mom is still struggling to see reasons. There have been many instances in the last weeks where this verse has been applicable for this mother's situation and other daycare parents. But for this post I will be using an example from my own life.
We've recently been sifting through the debris of our very own train wreck. A train car named Grace (thing 1). Grace has been reaping what she sowed in terms of her school work lately (read grounded) and as a result I have become aware of just what the adults in her life have been planting as well. Whether intentionally or not, we have allowed some behaviors from her early childhood education continue into her pre-teen years and they are not serving her well in middle-school.
Grace qualified for gifted services in 3rd grade and has since been in an environments where free thought and work-at-your-own-pace attitude was accepted and encouraged. And for her elementary years this was good for her. We started noticing the downside to all of this in 5th grade when she wasn't completing work or didn't remember assignments, etc. . . She had no focus or drive. Everything was hazy or incomplete. Turns out this method allowed Grace too much freedom and she was unable to buckle down and do what needed to be done.
Now, here's where the "Train up your child . . . " part comes in. I did nothing significant to change this. Grace has always been a free spirit and an emotionally tender child. I assumed it was her way. That she needed this freedom to express herself and I didn't want to squash her spirit. I knew that her teachers were allowing her more leniency than was necessary, but ignored it. After all, this was their area of expertise. I'm no teacher after all. But wait... This is where it gets good... We are our children's 1st teacher! Oh jeez! What I've learned is that training our children is a three step process that repeats itself and must be refreshed often.
1) You must train your child's mind. This process is ongoing and you must teach your child on an age appropriate level taking into account their personality and building on what they already know. Teach them what they need to know at each stage of growth. Teach them in a way they can learn. Teach them to think and to understand. Teach them creative thought and problem solving. Teach them the concept of right and wrong. These are the foundations that you will build upon for a lifetime. And every child in every stage of life will need these basics. And whether you are teaching your 15 month old not to touch the hot stove or teaching your 16 year old to drive or teaching your 4 year old how to make a bed or working with your 3rd grader on their cursive, teach them "with the mind of Christ". You have to use your Christ-like mind to grow their christ-like minds. Phillippians 2:1-2 says, "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind." You cannot expect them to know that which they have not been taught and you cannot teach that which you do not know.
2) You must train your child's heart. I am speaking of their emotions. Teach them to love. Show them love. Give them your love. Teach them to show love to others. It is through this love that all other emotions will grow. Sympathy, empathy, compassion, tenderness, kindness... These are the character traits that we see in Christ and that we should teach to our children both through word and deed. Galatians 5:22 says, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law." Train their heart by giving them yours.
3) You must train your child's will. Hee hee hee . . . This makes me giggle a little. When I read this I think to myself, "you've met my children, right?!" Well folks, this is where all of our will power must come toe to toe with our child's will power and you must win. At all costs, you must teach your child that you are in charge. They must learn obedience. And first and foremost they must learn to be obedient to you. If they do not learn the importance of obeying their parent, how can they be expected to obey any other figure of authority, including Christ.
Here's an ironic thought, use the lessons your trying to teach them as a method of teaching them. What you say? I'm saying stand strong (will) and use your brain (mind) and love them (love). The lessons you've learned will serve you in teaching your children.
Now, in conclusion to my story about Grace. I did not say no to Grace's behavior and by default this made it a yes. You see, while you can teach your children by what you say and do, you can also teach them by what you do not say or do. Now that we are taking control of the situation and saying no to the habits Grace has learned in the past years, we are slowing seeing a change in her school habits. However, if I had learned to say no in this situation earlier, we could have avoided this struggle. And believe me ... We've struggled :-) As for the situation with the daycare kiddo, my hope it that I can teach by example how to train the child's will - for this is an area I am stronger in than others and have a much experience for I am in a particularly rare position of training the will of many young children daily.
Now, I'll leave you something to think on. The word train to me is synonymous with teaching. Do you know what the word discipline means? That's right! To teach. Ta-da! Now I also group the word punishment in with all this discipline and teaching! :-) In another post I'll share with you some insights my father-in-law shared with me on the "Don'ts of Punishment".