I mentioned recently that I've been reading Carolyn Mahaney's book, Feminine Appeal. Today I was steeped in the chapter about loving your children.
In this particular phase of life, this chapter was so very appropriate. Jesse has just hit toddlerhood, and while we've been through this four other times, it's a little different now. To begin with, he's got four older siblings happy to play with him, indulge his whims, and join him in his exploits. Josh and I are also several years older and I'm pregnant again ... which translates to tired and possibly a little bit lazy in regards to consistency in parenting.
Just this week Jesse has begun to tantrum. And it's not a little tantrum. It's an angry yell that goes on and on and on. His cute little face scrunches up and turns red. He squeezes out tears even though he's not actually crying. He pushes us away unless we hold a coveted item, and is much harder to distract than our other kids were. Just look at this impish little guy!
In just this week alone, there have been several times when I've been tempted to just give in and let him have his way. But today I read a quote that was a huge encouragement.
"Far better that children should cry under healthful correction, than that parents should afterwards cry under the bitter fruit to themselves and children, of neglected discipline." - Charles Bridges
This quote was originally written in the 1800s. Typically I think of children as much more structured and behaved back then. I wonder what Bridges would say today?! I see so many parents and children "crying afterwards" because of the neglect of discipline. We have, in general, raised soft children with soft morals and poor work ethic.
The Bible echoes this same sentiment in Proverbs 13:24, "If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them." (NLT)
Our children don't enjoy discipline. And let's face it, parents don't much enjoy it either! It's inconvenient, it's unpopular, it's difficult to discipline well and in a fitting manner, and sometimes it feels like a never ending job (especially when you have many children).
But something Mahaney said in the book stuck with me today.
"...the salvation of our children's souls ... is the chief end of mothering. Our goal is not that our children be happy, fulfilled, and successful. Granted, we may desire these things for them. But our highest objective should be that our children would repent from their sins, put their trust in Jesus Christ, and reflect the gospel to the world around them."
While I do want my children to be happy, fulfilled, and successful, those goals alone are not the aim of my parenting. In fact, as I sit here and write about my struggles with a toddler, I am also recognizing the fruit of healthy correction and parenting toward salvation in my oldest child.
Tonight, my son will receive a big award at Awana.
Of his own accord, he has worked incredibly hard to finish four books in just 2 1/2 years. The Awana program lays out one book per year, so this is quite an accomplishment. Each book is filled with Bible verses that a child must memorize in order to pass each section. There are also activities pushing the kids to think beyond themselves towards missions, family, community, and outreach. David has recognized the importance of these goals and has taken seriously the task of hiding God's word in his heart. A few times, I have wondered if he has memorized these verses just for the recitation on Wednesday nights or if he really will remember them. But as he helps his siblings with their verses, I hear him rattle off verses and know that these words are indeed embedded in his mind and heart.
On Christmas day we asked each of the children to give us an idea of what they are praying for in their own lives. David's request was that he would know the Scriptures as well as Jesus did while on earth! Oh my! What a request!!! And yet, he's well on his way. At just 12 years old, he has memorized more verses than I have. Josh and I have always prayed that our children would surpass us in the faith and we see it happening. We just didn't realize it would happen while they were still young! But what a blessing to behold. The chief end of our parenting is not to raise happy, well-rounded, good-at-everything children. The chief end is to point them to Christ. If we do that well, they will do well in life. Because, let's face it, what better person is there to emulate than Jesus Christ? Take a little time to read about him and you'll see that there was no one more compassionate, kind, gentle, humble, strong, self-controlled, etc. than Him. That's who I want my children to be like.
So yes, I will continue to correct my children, to point them to the truths of Scripture, and to love them intensely. That is my calling as a mother.