Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last week my daughter fell into a box.

She couldn't get out of the box herself, but I was watching. Before she even called out I answered her: "Do you need help?"

She said, "Help." And she waited patiently, trusting that I would be there for her when she fell.

And so I extracted myself from her brother's mouth, got up, and helped her out of the box.

I wasn't upset that she couldn't get out of the box. I wasn't upset that she fell into the box, because she hadn't done anything wrong that had made her fall in. I wasn't upset that she didn't call to me and keep asking for help getting out of the box she was stuck in.

Firstborn has also decided not to go down the stairs anymore. She knows how, and has done it many times. She can do it if she wants to badly enough. But she stands at the top of the stairs and stares at her mommy and says "Up!"

I tell her that she is capable of doing it herself. I don't pick her up as soon as I can, most of the time. In fact, if I have other things to carry down (especially her brother, who cannot get down the stairs on his own), I might make a trip down and then come back for her. Sooner or later I help her--after I give her the opportunity to do it herself. If I leave her at the top of the stairs alone she whines and cries and shouts for me. Sometimes she starts coming down a little bit, but never very far.

I'm not mad at her for not going down the stairs. I might be frustrated, but I know her motivation is not willful defiance or a desire for control, but fear of the stairs (which could be dangerous) and a lack of belief in herself. I don't swoop in to save the day right away, but I will return for her. I will never forsake her, because I love her. But her light and momentary sorrow doesn't mean that I'm going to remove her immediately from the situation.

Sometimes she is defiant. Earlier this week we were picking up, and I told her to put a book away. When she did not pick it up, I handed it to her, and told her to pick it up. She threw it down and grinned at me. I explained what would happen if she did not pick up the book, and she stood there. I handed her the book. She threw the book. I put her in time out. Several minutes later, after I had picked up everything else, I picked her up. I told her she had been in time out for not listening when mommy said to put the book away. I hugged her and said that I still loved her. And I showed her the book and told her to put it away. She brought it to the bookshelf but couldn't get it to stay inside. So she asked me to help. She handed me the book, and I put it on the bookshelf.

That time I was very frustrated. I still loved her--but she was not doing the right thing. I had plans for her. My plans weren't really that she put Jack and Jill and Other Rhymes into the bookcase. No, I could do that very easily myself; I picked up the other toys and in the end I was the one who put the book in question where it belonged. My plans were that she develop a servant's heart, that she learn to work joyfully, that she take to heart the importance of obedience. (And maybe getting to bed sooner rather than later.) I did not need Jack and Jill for these things. One book on the floor wouldn't prevent me from going to bed, and wouldn't make our house a disaster (not that it isn't). Picking up that one book did not ensure that she learned joy in her work. But it was a tiny step.

I wasn't angry when she didn't complete the task I gave her. I was only disappointed in her when she did not try. I gave her the help she needed to complete it (though with enough work she could have done it on her own).

And then there's Third. He's a bit over two months old. He is starting to show an interest in the world, and in everything he does his motives are pure, though often selfish--but he can't understand enough even to defy me. When he won't open his mouth wide, and he has a poor latch, I get frustrated at him. I know he is capable of a good latch. But I don't punish him (except that he gets less milk), I help him. When he doesn't sleep at night, I may be frustrated, but not at him. He is hungry or uncomfortable, not disobedient. So I answer his cries; I go to him and I hold him and feed him. All of life is insurmountable obstacles for a newborn. So I place no obstacles between him and what he wants and needs, and help him to get that if he needs help.

Right now I feel like I want help. I am asking God for help.

Maybe I have fallen in a box.

But maybe I am just standing at the top of the stairs telling him that going down is too hard, and I need to be carried.

Or maybe all of life is so difficult right now that he has simply placed a door in front of me that he will not close, and requires only that I walk through, and if I cannot he will carry me.

I am good at resting and trusting. And if I am stuck in a box, that's what I need to do. If I can do nothing, the groanings of my spirit will be sufficient for Him to hear and save. But if I'm at the top of a staircase, He does not want me to stand and wait for Him--he wants me to pick up my Blankie and follow where he has gone before, and he will catch me if I should fall.

The problem is that I don't know which analogy to use.

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Blogger Kate said...

Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Proverbs 19:18 – “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 23:13 – “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”

Proverbs 23:14 – “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

Proverbs 29:15 – “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

Proverbs 29:17 – “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”

Sorry it's all KJVese - I'm not a KJV-only person but this was quickest to copy and paste because I already had it. =)

If she knows how to do what you are asking her to do and refuses to obey, she is disobeying you and disobeying God. Teach her "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.... and it is the first command with a promise: that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land." Eph 6:1-4

Do you want it to go well with her? Then teach her to obey you. The Bible is not silent on how to do this. =)

Bringing her to Scripture and spanking her for disobedience will do wonders.

One of my kids lied and lied and she had to learn "The Lord detests lying lips, but delights in men who are truthful." She very rarely tells a lie now.

Shepherding A Child's Heart is a great resource too. Don't just manipulate your kids' behavior - train their heart. =)

Obedience means doing what you ask without arguing, without complaining, and without delay. You may have a good half-hour battle on your hands, but at some point, she will change like the flip of a switch and obey you. My daughter was about that age when she refused to come up the stairs. It was an all-out war. =) Since she would NOT go up, what we did was tell her she had a chance to obey and go up the stairs and if she didn't do it, she would get 3 swats. Then if we did have to spank her, we'd tell her that she would have a couple minutes to calm down and that after that time, we would tell her again to go up the stairs, and she would have another chance to obey. This was one of only two times that it ever was such an ordeal. After 30 minutes, we were thinking there is NO WAY this is going to work. But the Bible is TRUE and we stuck with it and did not let her win (if she had won, she would have lost, really, because she would learn to be more defiant). It really was just like the flip of a switch. She smiled and came cheerfully up the stairs. I was dumbfounded. It was a long time before she was such a stinker again. =P

There is hope! =)

11:55 PM  

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