I got up this morning and sat down with Riley to wake up and watch cartoons while the coffee brewed. As we watched I was reminded of some good advice I heard in a sermon recently. The pastor spoke on Handling Your Child’s Behavior, and he admonished us as parents to “speak life to your children”, they need to be encouraged. He also talked about rewarding good behavior, keeping things positive, look for opportunities to celebrate what our children do that is praiseworthy. For those times our children misbehave and do something wrong, he reminded us of the verse from Ephesians 6:4 that says, “Fathers, (Mothers too) do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
I remember one time a couple of years ago, Riley was not happy with circumstances over a situation and did not like the way Mom and Dad had handled it. Very visibly upset, he looked at Chris and said, “Daddy! You are not supposed to make me mad!!!” After both Chris and I recovered some from our initial shock and suppressed a little giggle, we explained to Riley the real meaning of this verse. He had misinterpreted this verse and thought that we were not to make him mad. Actually this verse means just what it says. When we discipline our children, it is OUR behavior that needs to be in check at that time. We need to discipline them in love, teaching them the correct way to behave and let them know that in spite of what ever they have done, we still love them. That doesn’t mean that we are softies in the discipline process but that we discipline according to the action and speak words of love, instruction and healing to them. That way when they grow up, they will look back and recognize those times they misbehaved as a lesson learned and corrected. Once we explained the meaning to Riley, his anger subsided and he began to change his behavior.
Now, back to the cartoon in particular that got me to thinking. The main character of the show began to show off and in the process, scored a soccer goal for the other team. Of course that wasn’t his initial intent, he got wrapped up in himself and made a mistake. As a result, the announcer (who was an elderly woman) proceeded to verbally insult him over the loud speaker, his dad and sister put on disguises to hide themselves and left him on the field, his best friend rejected him and wouldn’t be seen with him, then the announcer followed him home calling him all sorts of degrading names as she road along on her scooter. I looked at Chris (who had joined us) and Riley and said, “Wow. What a great life lesson that is for a child to learn.” Those words from the Pastor rang loud and clear in my head, “speak life to your children”. Again, I was reminded how our world has it wrong, TV makes it ok to tear each other down, to shun a person when they’ve done wrong, to verbally or physically beat a person up and take on the role of judge and disciplinarian.
So when our children do something wrong, what example do we set for them? Do we criticize them and beat them down with our words? Or do we physically reject them and refuse to be around them? Sometimes we really are frustrated at them and want to tan their little hides. We can’t believe they behaved the way they did. Do we choose to see every situation as a teachable moment to teach our children how to correctly handle that situation? Do we show our children love and speak life to them, in spite of the mistakes they make. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 We have noticed that when we remember to speak life to Riley we get such a better response. Things like, “You had a rough time with … out there didn’t you? Maybe next time, you could …. “ Or “The Riley I know can do better than that.” When we as believers make mistakes does our Heavenly Father berate us, tear us down and make us feel like we are worth nothing? No, He shows us the mistake we made, if we are sorry and seek forgiveness He forgives us “as far as the East is from the West.” (Psalm 103:12) He may discipline us in love which is always good for us, even when we don’t want it. If we take it and learn from it, we are able to share in His holiness, and grow in spiritual maturity, there by choosing life (Duet 30:19).
I know, this cartoon didn’t speak directly to the issue of disciplining our children, but it set an example opposite of speaking life. Our children follow the examples set before them and regrettably, TV can be a very prominent one. If we as parents do not speak life to our children and give them the correct example to follow, they will see examples such as this and think this is the way to behave. They will think that ridiculing their friends, classmates, siblings and parents is ok. If we as parents do not see every situation as a teachable moment to instruct our children and love them, they will not have the right instruction for the next time something happens. And there will be a next time.
17-18 But I warn you: If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen obediently, and willfully go off to serve and worship other gods, you will most certainly die. You won’t last long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19-20 I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.