Titus, who has a special attachment to marbles, wanted to bring some from our house to my parents’ place. When he asked me if he could pack them, I said, “No. You can’t bring your marbles.”
He started to pout and cry. He wanted sympathy from our househelp, but I was stern and clear that he could not bring the marbles. I explained to him that the last time he brought metal marbles over to my parents’ place, he lost them. So he would not get to bring anything over.
It’s hard to see my kids disappointed when they don’t get what they want. But they need to learn to accept “no” for an answer with the right spirit. When they show resistance and anger, this concerns me.
Titus was lingering in his negative emotions. He sat behind me in the car sulking. I saw him give me that hard, upset look.
Instead of scolding him for it, I appealed to his heart. “Titus when mommy and daddy say no, what are you supposed to say?” He turned his head away to avoid eye contact, but I didn’t let him get away with that. “What are you supposed to say?” I asked him again and I told him to look at me.
He had to force it out of himself but he managed to say, “Okay, mommy.” This is the response I ask of my kids when I give them a rule or command, or when I tell them “no.” It reveals to me that they acknowledge what I am saying and there is a spirit of agreement and submission.
But I could still sense that he was not okay. So I encouraged him, “Where is your smile, Titus?” He resisted. I pursued him. He tried to bury his face into the arm of his yaya. I did not relent.
“Would Jesus want you to smile? Jesus is in your heart right?” This was my attempt to appeal to the good that was in him, courtesy of the Holy Spirit.
And then I saw his countenance change. There was a tiny smile followed by a genuine sparkly one and his eyes became kind.
“There it is! That’s a wonderful smile!”
When we got home, I pulled him aside and affirmed him profusely. I complimented him for changing his attitude and for smiling when I asked him to, even when he didn’t get what he wanted. And I gave him a big hug and kiss. He was beaming.
Toward the end of our conversation, I asked him, “Who helped you do the right thing?”
“Jesus!” was his joyful reply.
As parents we need to appeal to the spirit of the Lord in the hearts of our kids. Otherwise, it’s hard to teach them and train them. To do this, it is important to connect them to Jesus when they are little. Share the gospel with them as soon as possible, so God can begin his sanctifying work in their lives. This does not guarantee that they will be perfect angels, but it certainly makes them more receptive and responsive to correction and discipline.
Of course, we need to do our part by being positive when we teach and train them. We need to avoid shouting. We need to exercise authority without being cruel or despotic, assuring them that we love them. And our goal must be redemptive — reconnecting their hearts back to the Lord.
I have noticed that it helps alot to just mind my tone and decibel levels when I address my children’s wrong behavior. Keeping a calm talking voice also allows me to consider my words more carefully. It’s not always easy but it is more effective.
I like how Galatians puts it. We must correct with gentleness and not from a position of self-righteousness. And we don’t need to lose our temper to be taken seriously by our children.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:1-3 NASB)