Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4, NIV)

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)

It's 6:56am as I begin writing this and it is once again peaceful in our home; the girls are still in bed or at least still in their room waiting for me to come and get them.

For the past several weeks, beginning, especially, on our trip to California, I have struggled with DearDaughter1's behavior. DearDaughter1 just pushed her disobedience limits to the max and, for what seemed a long time, I thought we had lost her because her heart just seemed to be so hardened towards anything Daddy and, especially, Mommy said.

Yes, DearDaughter1 is only 2 years old, will be 3 in November, and already was in such rebellion. I've spoken to a mom who does not believe that little 2 year olds can be truly rebellious and disobedient, but if what we just experienced was not rebellion and disobedience, then I am afraid to see what they are.

When we would say "do not..." she would do. We would give DearDaughter1 multiple chances to obey Daddy and Mommy, but every single time she would do. When we would say "do" she would respond with "NO!!!!!!!!!" We would give her multiple chances to obey, but she would not.

Discipline didn't seem to work either.

It was frustrating and tiring and my heart grew hardened too, even to a point where I really disliked DearDaughter1.

Then, I came across some really good advice..."Don't sweat the small stuff."

"Child training is a necessity, but there is a danger of overdoing in the line of child training...Peculiarly is it the case that young parents who are exceptionally conscientious, and exceptionally desirous of being wise and faithful in the discharge of their parental duties, are liable to err in the direction of overdoing in the training of their children. It is not that they are lacking in love and tenderness toward their little ones, or that they are naturally inclined to severity as disciplinarian; but it is that their mistaken view of the methods and limitations of wise child training impels them to an injudicious course of watchful strictness with their children, even while that course runs counter to their affections and desires as parents...'Don't be always don't-ing,' is a bit of counsel to parents that can hardly be emphasized too strongly. Don't be always directing, in a companion precept to this. Both injuctions are needful, with the tendency of human nature as it is.

Of course, there must be explicit commanding and explicit prohibiting in the process of child training; but ther must also be a large measure of wise letting alone. When to prohibit and when to command, in this process, are questions that demand wisdom, thought, and character; and more wisdom, more thought, and more character, are needful in deciding the question when to let the child alone. The training of a child must go on incessantly; but a large share of the time it will best go on by the operation of influences, inspirations, and inducements, in the direction of a right standard held persistently before the child, without anything being said on the subject to the child at every step in his course of progress. Doing nothing, as a child-trainer, is, in its order, the best kind of doing." (Excerpt from Chapter 9, "Letting Alone as a Means of Child Training", in Hints on Child Training by Henry Clay Trumbull)

I didn't realize how much of a nagging and overbearing Mommy I was being. It especially started in California because DearDaughter1 was in a new setting and NOTHING was hers. She needed to ask permission to use everything and needed to learn how to share. It didn't help that 2 of her cousins were little toddlers/preschoolers too who didn't quite know how to share yet either. There was a lot of fights to break up and a lot of disciplining. EVERYTHING DearDaughter1 heard from me was "Don't do this or don't do that" and if she did what she wasn't supposed to do then she was disciplined. Since nothing was hers, DearDaughter1 also didn't have any toy or any incentive to do right. For 2 weeks, which may have seemed like eternity to DearDaughter1, it was constant discipline after discipline. Therefore, since that pattern had been established for 2 weeks, DearDaughter1 might have thought that's how things were going to be from now on. Thus, establishing a hardness of heart within her and a desire to be rebellious and disobedient.

So, I'm learning not to sweat the small stuff and to let some things go. I'm learning to discern mere childishness from blatant disobedience and discipline accordingly. I'm also relearning to focus more on DearDaughter1's right behavior and reward those to give her positive reinforcement instead of exasperating her with discipline after discipline for her wrong behavior.

Not sweating the small stuff seems to be working. DearDaughter1's temperament has softened and she is now quicker to obey than she had been.


crystal said...

Thanks for the tip. I have been having problems with my 5 yr old and now that I read your post, I have to wonder if I have been too hard on her. I will have to pray about this and reexamine my actions..Thank You.


Julie said...

Wow, I really needed this today! We have been struggling so much lately with Claire's behavior. I often think that I am too hard on her but it is so tough to find the right balance with her disobedience. Glad to know that I am not the only Mama who worries about this! You helped me alot with this post, thank you!

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