Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Happy Child or a Disciplined Child?

Now that Dylan is more verbal, we find ourselves enjoying him more and more, watching him express himself in so many precocious ways, and seeing the growing confidence in him when he praises himself with words like "Good job!" and "Well done!".

So cute.

Now that he's got the words, he's also a happier child in general - not as easily frustrated and tantrum-prone, and more responsive to our cues.

Phrases like "Naughty Corner", "Don't you start" and "You are making me angry" now have the power evoke a much desired obedience... well 70% of the time anyway!

On the flip side, the more language and understanding he has, the less excuse I have as a parent to just "let him get away with it".

I think parents have a hard job raising obedient kids, mainly because deep inside we want them to be first and foremost happy and secure.

Disciplining means hard decisions about withholding affection and allowing them to feel the brokenness of our wrath when their behavior warrants it.

It breaks my heart sometimes when the Daddy disciplines D - to see that shadow of betrayal flashing across his wrinkled-up face, and teary eyes that question "Don't you love me anymore?"

It must be hard for a little one to understand why certain actions can make us so cross at him, or why we would want to withhold letting him have a bottle of milk at 3 in the morning, or stop him from snatching a toy, or refuse to let him leave the dinner table.

Probably the most confronting time of our week is when we bring D to church on Sundays. All we want is for him to quietly enjoy the service with us, and to help him I bring a big treasure bag with coloring books, crayons, flashcards, toy cars, sticker books, even snacks.

But week after week, unlike many of the other children his age who sit quietly with mom and dad in the pews in front of us the entire service, our little rascal would not last more than half-hour before breaking into a squirm and a scream to go into the creche.

We've even argued about this - he's too young, it's only natural for boys his age, I argue.
E - ok in that case let me bring him to the playground every Sunday since he's obviously not ready for church.
Me - but we have to start somewhere.
E -it's not considerate to other congregation members.

It goes on.

It's a hard balance to strike - between loving discipline and permissive neglect. I want D to grow up secure in the knowledge that he's very much loved and accepted, but have the moral courage to deal with his own failings and submit them to God.

So far, I seem to bear a more permissive than strict parental style.

This week's Crosswalk Parenting article brought this message home, when the writer deals with an even more heartbreaking topic of how parents can face their emotionally, spiritually, socially, intellectually and psychologically stunted adult children.

She lists some personality traits which are very confronting, and made me think about the parenting years that could have led a child to that point. Worth a read if you are a parent of any aged child: "But He's a Good Kid" by Allison Botke.

The writer thinks that one problem is that as parents we tend to see our kids in the best possible light, to see the potential in them rather than the failings.

Hmm...Isn't it the same for ourselves?

Perhaps just as we ought to apply sober judgement on ourselves (Romans 12:3 comes to mind...) and not think too highly of ourselves (which is something I tend to do =P), we also shouldn't sugar-coat the painful reality about what our children can become.

I'll say it again: parenting is such hard work!


Then and Now - a note to my future adult children

Dear Kids,

Mommy needs to confess something.

You may hate to hear this... but I sometimes miss our carefree (read:kid-free) days. On your own, you tend to cut yourself some slack, and you know... just let things slide.

Now, as a mommy, not only do I need to be watchful of my actions and reactions, I need to watch out for you too. Quite a responsibility, I say!

Ah... back in those days. You know, in my 20s, regretfully this mommy even allowed herself to be a little callous and irresponsible in her relationships with colleagues, friends, family and potential suitors.

And then your Dad came along. And during a period of her life when she was pretty much emotionally confused and conflicted, he open-heartedly offered his hand and made a simple, startling request that was the last thing she expected at that time.

He said, "Can I pray for you?"

It floored me.

So though I won't be able to protect you from the turmoils of young adulthood, here I am offering you the same.

A prayer that you will be a little forgiving of mommy and daddy when we need to punish you. And that as you grow up, you'll learn that there is much virtue in being happy. And knowing that in spite of everything, you have my love. But also that when things don't go your way, and when we (mom and dad) get in the way - that the underlying reason for that is love.



  1. just me, a child that is most happy and secure, is one with limits set for them...and to enforce that limits should they cross them, is to discipline them...after every discipline, follow by explanation, love and affection...i hope this makes sense...

    have read some stats somewhere that children who grew up insecure, are usually the ones without any form of limits and discipline and they grow up not feeling the love from their parents...

  2. Your prayer touched me. - D W

  3. Your prayer touched me. - D W