The biggest challenge for me, as a parent, is to teach my children that it is simply not enough to respond to my commands in a robotic fashion. You know, "do it, because I said so." Additionally, I don't want them to perform because "God says to do it," either. Rather, I want them to develop a heart, a desire, for choosing to do the right thing.
I grew up in a house where I was to be the "seen, not heard" child. Good behavior was not optional. A response of any sort to a verbal command was dealt with severely. Performance was the only road to success. I can remember extreme frustration with never being able to voice an opinion, come to a compromise, or freely talk about my feelings. This is not a slap in the face of my parents, as the above things have situational merit. Additionally, they did a whole heap of things right that I have passed onto my own. With the exception of a rebellious college and young adult life, their parenting produced a relatively decent outcome.
No child struggles with this matter of the heart more than my dear Sadie. She is the pot stirrer, the envelope pusher, the strong-willed, yet, she is my creative genius, my leader and my most responsible. The dichotomy of her personality never fails to puzzle me.
Therefore, with her spirited personality, it was clear from the beginning that using the iron-fist to force her into obedience just wasn't going to work. Instead, I wanted to teach her how to use her words, calmly, maturely into telling me how she was feeling. I had hoped that given this opportunity to express herself, we might decrease fit throwing, flailing, crying, screaming and other non-desirable behaviors. She needed to know how to express herself. And this week, she did.
She told me that she didn't want to put her clothes away. It was too hard. She didn't want to do chores anymore. It makes her angry. And, the key to it all was this statement: I am tired of trying to have self-control. I applauded her efforts at verbalizing, calmly, what she was feeling. I affirmed them as understandable. She still had to finish her job, but her confession opened the door for some great dialogue.
Don't we all feel that way at times - tired of self-control? I'll admit it, I frequently feel constricted by my own vision of self-control. Self-control of my actions, my feelings, my emotions, my relationships, with food. The list goes on and on. We fight this battle independently, even though it isn't expected that we manage this all on our own. The pressure to be always under control, to perform, can be so intense and futile that at times we decide to throw in the towel. Usually that is where God finds us, at the point of no hope. I have totally rambled here. Back to topic...
There is a fine line between the performance mentality and acting from the heart. I think most of us vacillate frequently between the two. As I work through this with Sadie, I have to evaluate my own heart and motives. How much of what I do is performed, but without heart? Finding that pure balance is tough enough in my own life. Trying to teach it? That is a whole other heart matter.