Saturday, 14. February 2015 by Renee Ellison
A customer wrote:
“At present I have an 8 year old boy who loves to go out and play around with some neighbor 11 year old boys who are not the worst but they go to school and love fighting and robber games, which we have as a rule not encouraged in our home. He is then acting up inside the home, and starting to display the beginnings of a sour attitude. He has always been a very gentle and sensitive child who responded well to discipline. I’m wondering how I can display the sort of words and smiles you mention here when really I’m worried about him - what have I done wrong? What can I do about him? It doesn’t help that we are labeled “exclusive” at our church because we homeschool, and we don’t come from Christian homes and have no support from either friends or family. The pressure is beginning to tell on us and our kids look as though they were wishing they could just do the stuff everyone else is doing. We have fun with our kids working together, reading and listening to missionary stories, going on walks and kayaks together. But it seems the world is pushing in on is so hard and we might lose the battle already. We also have two daughters aged 5 and 2. How can we display all the love we long to when we are having these pressures and worries?”
My friend Eileen, who has a large family with a spread of ages, nailed it with the “communication key”. That is the top concept. She wrote:
“We drive two hours to and from shabbat almost every week and we still come against bad influences. The only thing that I find that helps is intense time before… giving instruction on what is expected behavior, and after… going through all that they experienced and discussing what was pleasing to Abba and what wasn’t. We also have to immediately deal with things they have seen or heard when they are around others. For example, families who don’t believe in discipline, is this right or wrong, what does Abba say? The more evil we come against, the more time we must put in to counteract. More Bible memory and more cuddle time to increase a loving attitude toward mommy and daddy.”
I would add three things more, as well…
Continually point out to them cases of where bad influences and poor personal choices turned out poorly for the unwise person. Appeal to their own self-interest and their own future protection, sparing them grief, for their own future betterment. Let them know that you want them “to ride on the heights of the earth” for their sakes, because you and the Lord view them as so valuable in His kingdom. This has a different “feel” than “thou shalt nots.” This is a “let’s run with champions” feel.
Also, at some strategic moments one can almost appear cavalier, as a parent, about telling them that it is for their sake and not yours. You could make these sorts of statements: “I’ve already made my choices; this is your life, and only you will live with the results.” Or, “We don’t want you to have the emotional pain so and so lives with, or the practical fallout and negative effects, or to suffer backtracking in this area.” This heightens their anxiety, when they see you “checking out.” Don’t over-use this tactic, but it is good sometimes. It is just one more tool in your parental belt to wield when the moment is right.
Minimize the amount of worldly input into your children’s lives. Certainly there should be none at all in your home—and there should be shortened exposures outside of the home. Have other children into your home, and almost never have your children in other people’s homes unless you are there, as well.
Go deeper with siblings. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s birth family did this to the max, as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s. We can encourage our children to dote on younger siblings more and to adore older siblings more; this will prepare them to one day be able to extend additional kindnesses to one’s spouse. There are inexhaustible possibilities for expressions of love within the family that most secular families know little about. This extends the child’s patience with relating, and takes him into an understanding of “empathy.” It moves children deeper into realizing the differences of others’ brains and wiring, and brings them into relational surprises of the good sort, as well as shaping in them the grace of loving endurance. Because eventually there are hard patches of loving any human—a spouse, a child or a disintegrating elderly person under our care for months or years far past our patience—and for teaching them how to cope with a host of differing and difficult personality types in every direction in one’s larger life.
It is only an American concept that we can choose our friends infinitely and only waltz with those who delight us—and to dump them, on a whim, when they don’t. Having 600 Facebook friends is the antithesis of loving in the “daily round of duty” with a few. The hard work of love is exactly that—hard work—but what it wonderfully yields, what we ultimately come to understand, is that love is never about the object of our love, but about growing our own capacity to live out His infinite love in our own spheres. It was not the beauty of us, or any other alluring attributes from us, that coaxed the Almighty into loving us; it was sheer divine grit. That was infinite “God-ness.”