Tell me this, when your daughters were 4/5 year olds and toddlers (mine are that now), did you ever worry that focusing on teaching them the number one lesson (authority) was going to rob them of that closeness later and shove them into rebellion. I have people I love even who warn me that "first-time obedience" and consistent discipline for "minor offenses" (they're not minor to my husband and I if we have set a rule and there is blatant defiance or disobedience) are going to be the very ways that turn our children into people who hate us later. If you struggled earlier with this, how did you deal with it? When did you start seeing that your children saw you as more than just a disciplinarian and someone with a huge heart for a relationship with them?Well, now! There’s a loaded question!
There are whole books written on this subject, so I’m not going to attempt to cover this in 500 words or less. Just a few thoughts here.
Yes, children do need to know that parents are in charge and that obedience is necessary. We need to require obedience even before they can fully understand "why" (think: toddler crossing a street). As James Dobson says (my paraphrase), “When defiantly challenged, win overwhelmingly.” Learning to submit to a parent’s authority (and it IS a learned thing) prepares a child for life (in which things don’t always go our way), and ultimately, for submitting to God’s authority later on.
It is not an event (this was SUCH a disappointing realization to me!). It is an ongoing process. It is a process that is not complete just because you are out of the preschool years.
If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I have struggled at some level with every aspect of parenting, in every stage, period. We started out quite child-centered in our parenting, and we floundered. When the child is the center of the home universe, it takes away our God-given role as leader of the family. Children don’t know the boundaries, so then you can’t enforce any, and chaos ensues.
We had some makeup work to do to teach our children to obey, and there were some times in there where I felt like I was running a military academy.
With that in mind, I would say, yes, there are times and seasons when you are working on certain character issues and you feel as though your entire relationship with your children is that of “disciplinarian.” The preschool years tend to be years heavy on training and discipline and it can get very discouraging, especially if you have more than one preschooler ganging up on you to wear you down. Kids want to know who is in charge, and do not mind testing every boundary, from the moment they wake up until (and sometimes especially at) bedtime.
What I found, however, is that if the focus is ONLY on authority, before you know it, you can find your home resembling a police state.
I know, because, at times, I’ve been there. I wanted more than just obedience. I wanted control.
This had some nasty ramifications for my home life:
It put me at constant (and sometimes unnecessary) odds with my children. It turned every tiny interaction turn into a full-scale battle. I found it very easy to be inflexible, and in turn, to fall into disciplining with harshness (it worked, but at what cost?).
Worse, I found it very easy to fall into a form of conditional love. When my children behaved well, I "felt" more love toward them. Then, I found myself measuring my parenting success or failure by my children’s behavior and (even worse) I legalistically looked upon other people’s parenting ability with the same superficial standard. It sucked the joy right out of some of the most precious moments of my children’s early years.
I woke up one day and realized I did not want my home to look like this. I was completely out of balance.
Out of time now...I'll talk about working through that struggle tomorrow!