I’m definitely not the type of parent who lives in some kind of my-child-is-less- than-perfect-denial that indicates others are at fault when I hear of my child misbehaving. I know my kid. I know that, more often than not, he doesn’t listen to adults. I know that he tends to have a ‘tude with adults, too. Of course, I don’t blame anyone else, but myself.
He’s a child; a six year old. I ultimately believe that it is the responsibility of my husband and I to train our child in the way he should go, and he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). If our child is speaking in an unacceptable tone, my husband and I should start looking at the way we are speaking to each other.
With that said, it is also my responsibility as a parent, first to Love the Lord with all of my heart, soul and mind, and then to teach the words of God to my child. (Deuteronomy 11: 13-19) So this weekend, when I got over the embarrassment of the fact that my six year old son was being disrespectful to adults volunteering in his Sunday school class, I decided to approach this situation by turning to God, my Father, and let my son in on it.
Because I must be very calculating in how I approach important topics with my precious little opinionated ball of love, I asked my son a series of questions.
“Who created you?”
“God did,” he said, as if he thought I might be a little dense.
“Do you think since He created you, He knows what’s best for you?” I replied.
“Hmmm,” I thought out loud, “So how can we find out how God wants us to behave?”
“Ummm…maybe…look in the Bible?”
“Wow, son, That sounds like a really good idea! How about you and I get out your Bible and a notebook and see what God says about how little boys should behave, okay?”
“Okay! Sounds great!” And Voila! In a fifteen-second conversation, I convinced my son that he came up with the idea to look in the Bible to see what God has to say. I hope this lays a foundation for him for the future when he has difficult decisions to make.
So I fixed both of us a bowl of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, grabbed his Bible, a notebook, and my phone, which has my Bible app on it for easy reference, and we set up camp on his bed. The first thing we did was to set up the notebook in three columns. The first column I labeled “Behavior”; the middle column I labeled “Expectation” and the third column, I labeled “Consequence”.
With chapter eleven of Deteronomy in my heart, I asked my wide-eyed, ice cream-eating little man if he knew that God has commandments.
“Yes! Listen to my father and my mother!” Jackpot! The only one he could remember is the one I needed to focus on today.
I told him, “Did you know that’s the only one of God’s commandments that also comes with a promise from God? ‘Honor thy father and mother so that you may live well and have a long life.’ (Ephesians 6:2-3)”
So we went on to discuss how important it is and what it means to honor your parents. This established our list of expectations: Listen to Mom and Dad, Obey Mom and Dad, Don’t Interrupt when they’re talking to each other. Then we talked about how the bible says what will happen if we honor our parents, and we put “live well and have a long life” as a positive consequence in our consequence column.
His reaction to the next part really surprised me. It was time to talk about what would happen if he didn’t do what we expected of him. At first he suggested being punished for a week, but I suggested that we check to see what the bible says about that. To my surprise, when I explained what Proverbs 13:24 meant, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him,” he opted for getting a spanking if he didn’t honor his parents.
We talked about how we find in Hebrews 12:11 that when we are being punished, it feels bad instead of good, but later, we learn what is right because of it. We talked about how not all discipline means that he’ll get a spanking and sometimes, a time out might work, too. When he asked what the bible says about “time outs”, I told him that sometimes, we need to just take the time to go by ourselves and ask God to “come into our heart and to make it clean” (Psalm 51:10-12). So we decided that when he must go into time out, whether it’s at home, at school, or…gasp…at church, he should take that time to ask God to come into his heart and to show him the mistakes he was making.
We went through the same process with one more behavior we wanted to address, which was his stubbornness when it came to listening to his teachers or other adults. We that found Proverbs 4 really illustrates the importance of wisdom and how we should get wisdom and get understanding and hold on to it like it is one of the most special gifts he could ever receive. We talked about how at home, mom and dad teach him but at school and at church, it’s his teachers who give him wisdom. We talked about how we need to listen to the people who want to teach us important things that God wants us to know and how if he ever listens to someone who tries to tell him or teach him things that he thinks in his heart are wrong, that he will end up hanging out with bad people and he’ll have lots of trouble in his life. (Psalm 1:3)
When we got to the consequence column, we talked about the good consequence to listening to your teacher is to gain wisdom, good judgment and to be successful. (Proverbs 4:7). The negative consequences involve not learning, and not moving on in life. Of course, a six year old needs immediate consequences, which are usually handled at school with the “moving of his color.” Certain colors of the rainbow indicate certain types of behaviors. We decided that if he makes a few mistakes at school and just moves his color down one level, that we’ll talk about it at home, but if it happens more than three times a week or if he moves it two or more spaces, then he’ll be punished from his favorite activities for one week.
The whole process lasted about an hour and he listened intently the entire time. I finished up our time together by reading the story of Jonah and the Big Fish to help him to see what happens when we don’t listen to God and what we should do while we are punished and how God makes everything right.
I hope to update this post with many positive reports about how this behavior plan is going. For now, I will end by saying that we had a wonderful night, with listening, and respect and obeying. Sometimes, just one night makes all the effort worthwhile. And, I got to spend some very precious time with my sweet boy.
To learn more about my relationship with my child and how God blessed our lives with him, please visit www.lifebyheart.com.