Have you ever heard the saying, "You can deal with it now, or you can deal with it when she's 16?"
We had one of those "its" to deal with this weekend.
Megan (almost 7) is a leader. You know how I know this? Because she will not allow anyone to boss her! Nope, not a soul. Not even her parents. When she's older, and if she's received proper training and encouragement, she will be an amazing leader. Her charismatic personality draws friends like flies. Once she develops the skills to tamp down her short fuse and her tendency to be oppositional, there is no telling what the girl will do for the Kingdom!
As parents, we (meaning Pat and I - hopefully you are better at this than us!) tend to operate in a cyclical manner. For a while we are strict and firm, offering clear guidelines and distinct consequences. As we see troublesome behaviours easing up, our strictness eases up in kind. We float along effortlessly for a time. Then the behaviour of concern creeps up again. We then take a deep breath and tighten up our parenting belts once again.
You think we'd learn to just always be consistent! But consistency is hard work and requires superhuman effort (on rough days), so the allure of taking a break is difficult to resist. I think it's fair to say that we have been on a little consistency break these days. Sigh.
Back to the "it..." While I don't think it's fair for me to give out specifics of Megan's struggles, I will tell you this much - they were plentiful, and they involved more people than just the parents. There have been issues - while small in and of themselves - that, once stacked up, amount to a very big pile of disrespect. Very Big.
To us, disrespect is a heart issue. One that must be dealt with swiftly and with unflinching firmness. And while it broke our hearts to make this decision, we informed our almost-birthday-girl that the big sleepover/movie-going party she had planned to celebrate her upcoming special day would not take place.*
Seeing Megan's tears nearly undid me. After all, who wants to break their own child's heart? But through all our discussion and prayer on how to deal with a situation that appeared to be getting out of control, Pat and I had two verses resonating in our minds...
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his child, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
I do acknowledge our own responsibility in this big "it." If we consistently adhered to the first passage, it is unlikely that we'd have run into a pile up of disrespect. If we consistently trained our children, without taking little breaks, I am certain that heart issues would be dealt with before they ballooned this way. I pray that God gives us the strength, wisdom, and patience required to truly train our children.
But, I also recognize that, regardless of where the trail of responsibility tracks back to, failing to discipline at this point is as much as telling our child that we hate her. Harsh words, I know. Our love for her is so great, though, that we cannot risk allowing this character issue to take root. Which is exactly what would happen if we were to allow our compassion to overrule our discipline.
Man alive, this parenting thing is tough with a capital "T!"
* Before I get all sorts of flak for being a "mean mom" (ahem, Grandma) I would like to clarify that the birthday party will still take place, but has been revamped to no longer include going to a movie or friends sleeping over. The revised party will be the basic hot dogs, cake, presents, home kinda party. We felt that this compromise of sorts would send a clear message about our expectations, while still showing love and compassion.
Of course, I welcome your thoughts on the matter and/or stories of how you've dealt with parenting issues. Just don't beat me up and call me mean! :)