It always amazes me that my children are all so different, even though they have the same parents. Our three-year-old is definitely stretching my parenting skills! Even as an infant, I noticed in him a propensity to get mad when things didn't happen, like, RIGHT NOW. That may explain why it was so hard for me to nurse him well--but that's another story. Even back in those early months, I knew that the Lord was going to teach me a lot through him. Now, as a 3-year-old, his impatient tendencies are showing themself in different ways. My natural tendency is to think "I hope he gets over this!" But the fact is, if left to himself, he probably will not. This is where we as parents are so essential in the discipleship of our children. Unless we have a proactive plan in place, those cute (and not-so-cute) things they do can harden into negative character traits that our children will carry with them.
In my case, I spent some time in prayer, asking the Lord to give me insight into what was happening. When Jonathan got frustrated, he would get angry and then scream or throw things. That is not acceptable behavior in my book. I then asked the Lord to show me what would be an appropriate response. Proverbs 14:17 says, "A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated." This was not what I wanted for my child!
As I prayed, He surfaced several possible healthy responses: 1) asking for help, 2) learning to persevere and look for other options, or 3) taking a break by doing something else before trying again. In each of these responses, the Lord showed me that unless I actively trained him in these skills and responses, he would probably not naturally learn them on his own.
Which then made me realize a sobering truth: I need to make training him a priority. The dishes, the laundry, the phone or even going through math problems with his big brother...as pressing as they may seem, none of these are as important as training the heart of my child. The first step towards change in Jonathan does not begin with him. It begins with me. I need to discipline myself to stop. I need to take the time to teach him how to verbalize his need for help. I am the one who needs to model to him problem-solving strategies. I need to take the time to help him learn self control of his emotions.
Let's be proactive in raising our children. Make training a priority, especially when it is not convenient. And trust the Lord that He will give us the grace to minister His love to our children when they need it most.
Exercise: What is something that you see in your child that needs change? Take that issue to the Lord in prayer. Hold it in your hands before Him and ask Him for his guidance on what to do with it. Then sit quietly. Don't say anything. Just listen closely. Does any Scripture come to mind? Ask Him what godly responses He would like your child to develop. And then-- this is the hard part--ask Him what you need to do to help him to get there. What will that look like? What will you need to do when this situation arises in the future? Make a plan of action with Him to proactively start training your child. And then do it, leaning on Him and calling on Him for His power to see you through. And He will.