Well. The “D” word is running rampant in our house. Mostly, it’s originating from the three-year old but it occasionally rears its ugly head from the five-year old and the twelve-year old as well. And before you get all bent out of shape – no, my kids aren’t yelling curses at me (at least not out loud). I’m talking about the word defiance.
Last week, Vivienne came home from preschool with an assignment to make an Indian shirt (or should I say “Native American” shirt?) for her to wear to the class Thanksgiving brunch. So yesterday, she and I went shopping for beads to put on a brown shirt that I snagged from Peter’s closet. And this morning after breakfast, I asked Vivienne to try the shirt on so I could ensure that it would be a good length for a little Indian dress. She had been very excited about helping me make the dress; therefore, when she flat out refused to try it on, I was taken aback. And unfortunately, no amount of bribery or coercion would work. She was being blatantly defiant. Finally, because I’m such a great mom, I told her that if you don’t try it on, I’m not going to make the dress. And I don’t really care if you are the only person in your class without one. It doesn’t matter to me.
Ha! That’ll teach you!
But do you think my little rant worked on her? Um. No. No it did not. She just stared expressionlessly at me with those big brown eyes. I could practically see the anger pouring out of her. The loathing was almost palpable. It was sort of freaky. (I wonder what goes on in her little head when she gets that look on her face…)
Peter could sense the tension in the room so he playfully asked Vivienne what was wrong. Her response? NUFFIN!!!! (read: she screamed like a demon)
A few minutes later, she decided that she would try the stupid shirt on, her defiance forgotten and her cheerfulness once again on display.
Not much later, I was attempting to get the little kids dressed and ready for the day. It was a rare cool fall day here in Georgia with temperatures in the fifties, and it wasn’t expected to warm up much. Now, Jonah is generally compliant and he almost never complains about what I pick out for him to wear. But Vivienne. Wow. So when she decided that she wanted to wear her favorite sleeveless flower shirt, I refused to let her, and you would have thought that I just threw away her favorite toy. She pitched a gigantic fit and ran screaming to her room. Again. Blatant defiance.
Y’all. Why do kids struggle so much with obedience? Why is there such resistance to authority? I don’t understand how one little person can be so obstinate and uncooperative. And scary.
But as I’m sitting here considering this inclination to resist authority, I think about my own tendencies toward disobedience. Just this morning, I felt the Lord nudge me to spend some time with Him in His word, yet I chose to grab a cup of coffee and read a few blogs instead. I was blatantly defiant. Toward the Lord. Yeah. So that’s not cool. If it’s so easy for me to ignore God’s authority, then of course my children are susceptible to disobedience toward me and Peter.
But what can we do to improve our own unwelcome behavior? And then how can we redirect our children to be more obedient and respectful toward us?
FIRST, WE MUST MODEL THE QUALITIES WE WANT TO SEE IN OUR CHILDREN. If we want our children to be obedient, then we must model obedience to them. We as parents, need to prioritize our relationship with the Lord, spend time with Him in prayer, and follow His call on our lives. And we must talk about how we are following Him with our children so they can see how our obedience plays out in our own lives. If we want our children to be respectful, we must show respect to those around us. When I roll my eyes at my husband, my kids see that I am disrespecting him. When we contemptuously disagree with someone else’s opinion, our children are watching. Modeling the qualities that we hope to encourage in our children can be a difficult task but it is imperative that we work to show them what respect and obedience actually look like.
SECOND, WE MUST BE CONSISTENT IN OUR DISCIPLINE. Admittedly, this one seems to be the most difficult for me. I can be consistent for about a day and a half. Seriously. I get tired and exhausted from the constant discipline that must take place in a home with three children. Surely, I’m not the only one who experiences this fatigue. But when we aren’t consistent in our discipline practices, we send mixed messages to our children. When that happens, they become unsure of the rules and thus, the consequences become unclear. And if there is one thing that I want to be clear in my house, it’s the consequences. If children don’t learn that there are ramifications for their decisions and misbehaviors, life is going to be really difficult for them.
LAST, WE MUST LOVE, LOVE, AND LOVE SOME MORE. Children thrive in an environment where they feel secure and cherished. Even when my kids are about to send me over the edge, I try to pull them onto my lap, give them a hug, and tell them how much I love them. We do this thing in our house where we try to “outdo” each other with how much we can love. You know – sort of like our own version of “I love you to infinity.” Vivi likes to say that she loves me “up to outer space and outer space everything and back.” When I repeat with my own version, she says, “Wow! Dat’s a wot of wuv.” (Interpretation: That’s a lot of love.) I know that Vivi and Jonah and Brienne all feel loved, even when we are constantly disciplining them. Love must take priority, even when our kids don’t feel very lovable. Maybe you are at your wit’s end with one of your kids and love is not the first emotion you are feeling. Do it anyway. Keep exhibiting tenderness even when what you want to do is scream and lose control. If your kids feel loved and secure, they will be more responsive to you.
My friends, as we live our lives, let us strive toward obedience. When our children see us being submissive toward the Lord’s authority in our daily lives, they are more likely to act respectfully toward us. Let’s be as consistent as we can in our discipline and let’s love our kids more than they can imagine. And maybe, just maybe, we will no longer have to deal with the dreaded “D” word. Hang in there, mamas!