Given the “break” we have had from homeschooling because of no househelp, I have been trying to get my kids back into the habit of studying. Since they have gotten used to having the liberty to dictate their personal schedules instead of sitting down in the mornings for their usual studies, I find myself having to deal with complaining and negativity. And these are attitudes that I absolutely do not allow my children to get away with.
Today was one of those days when my second son, Edan, put up a resistance. He slumped over his science notebook and started writing in chicken scratch. This is very uncharacteristic of him. As a very diligent child, he will more often than not assess his goals for the day, tackle them one by one, asking for help when needed but finishing it all by noon. Instead, he was holding the pencil begrudgingly, like he was being tortured, and his demeanor was a picture of negativity.
Recognizing that his heart wasn’t right, I asked him to step out of the room and pray about his attitude. When he was ready, he could come back in and resume his work. I wasn’t about to struggle through the morning with him. When he left, I focused on Elijah, Titus and Tiana, trusting that at some point, he would “crack.”
Well, he took longer than expected. In fact, my eldest son, Elijah, who has gone through the same process of taking time away to think through his attitude, commented, “What’s wrong with him? He is being defiant.” Several times, he checked the door out of concern to see if Edan was coming back. I responded with, “Don’t worry about him. Just focus on what you need to get done. God will speak to him.”
In thirty minutes, Edan snuck back in but not to do work. He sprawled himself out on the sofa like I was not serious about what I had said. “I am sorry but you can only come in here if you are going to do your work. If you are going to lounge around like that, you have to go back into the other room.” He walked out and started to cry – a wailing sort of cry that had anger mixed into it.
I know Edan. He tends to be quiet but he can be just as strong-willed and bullheaded as his other siblings. They all need training and discipline to learn submission to authority, respect, and other important character traits that are necessary for life success so I have to be lovingly tough when necessary to help them grow in these areas.
I knew this was a resistance. He was putting up a “fight.” At any point he could have said sorry and gone right back to what he had to do. But he was trying to escape responsibility.
After a while, he tried to make his constructive exile a little more comfortable, so he picked up a book to read. He also called out, “I am hungry.” My, my.
I went into the room he was in and spoke with him. “I want you to know that you will be in here all day if necessary until you realize that you have to fulfill your responsibilities. That means that you don’t get to eat, read, play, or do anything until you change your attitude.”
He looked at me and started to wail again. Of course he was upset. But it was his choice to draw out his “suffering.” I don’t always have to use spanking as a form of discipline when withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences will work just fine. In this case, Edan had to realize that he was free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of his choices. So I let him cry in the room and process his attitude. In the meantime, I went back to teaching my three other kids.
Well, what do you know, in fifteen minutes Edan opened the door and approached me. “I am sorry, ” he said with all sincerity. He gave me a big hug and I embraced him tightly.
“I forgive you. Mommy loves you so much.”
I held him for a while longer and asked if he prayed about his attitude. “I also said sorry to God,” was his reply. He was smiling, happy, and a transformed person. He finished what he had to without a complaining spirit.
Personally, I have experienced how much more effective it is to let my kids acknowledge their wrong and make a personal choice to repent and correct their emotions rather than force them to do their homeschool work when their hearts aren’t ready.
Learning is a privileged experience for those who are eager and willing to be taught. And I want my kids to realize this. My job is not to force them to learn or work hard. I may encourage and motivate them, but my greater job is to cultivate in them a heart that is teachable and responsive to instruction, a heart that desires to please God. And this is a supernatural task. I can’t do it on my own power. By inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to them when they put up a resistance, I am acknowledging my own limitations and dependence on him to work in their hearts. If I were to push them to learn I can imagine that it would only make me angry in a counterproductive way (to say the least).
The more kids I have and the more of them I have to homeschool, the more I realize that only the Lord can convict them of sin and only he can bring about lasting change in them. My part is to remain committed to help them grow spiritually — more in love with God and more like Christ — and to be Christ-like myself (which is often the harder challenge!).
Proverbs 13:1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.