Wednesday, August 4, 2010


We have two great kids. One of our kids, however, tends to be a little more defiant than the other. I never realized how compliant Elizabeth was until Claire was born. I realize now a whole new standard of being tested. Claire is the type of personality that is not content to just go along with what the crowd is doing or what mommy says. She needs to test and tempt. She is, however, learning very quickly to obey. And most of the time she is very well behaved and obedient. She is a good girl.

We went to vote the other day and Todd and I had both of the kids with us. Elizabeth was quietly standing next to daddy, but Claire was grabby and curious and not doing well at standing still. Now, honestly, she is a 23 month old. How still can you expect her to be? But one of the poll volunteers made a comment about how Claire was much more testy than her sister. She was definitely testing the limits a bit more, but I was quick to tell the lady that although she was more curious than her sister, she was just as well behaved. She was a good girl. And the curious and discontent people are usually the ones ruling the world.

Claire will test the limits and boundaries in her life for sure. That is part of who she is. She is naturally bent to lead and not follow. But she will either submit to the leading of the Holy spirit and test the limits of the world for Christ or she will deny Him and test all limits. I pray she is lead by the Holy Spirit and denies the things of this world.

But I cannot choose for her. I can, however, point to Christ by example. And every time someone is quick to make a judgement about her I will be there to defend. I never want her to think she is "the bad girl".

Now, several people have made this comment to me about her in the past. So, if you are thinking you have done it, please do not think I hold a grudge. I probably do not even remember everyone who said it because I have heard it several times. I do not think bad of you for making the comment. I just want to always expect and pull out the best out of my children. And so that means I try my hardest to not allow labels to be stuck on them.

It breaks my heart when I hear parents say, within earshot of their kids, "He's got a devil side to him.", "She is so hard to control", "He is my trouble child." This is not to say that we never struggle with our kids or their behavior. Believe me, I have spent countless hours scouring the Internet with the words "how to discipline your defiant child" in my google search. I am no stranger to having trouble with my kids. I just think when we give them labels that are bad we make the bar of expectation really low. And no wonder they live up to it day after day.

I have never said that Claire was a bad girl, but she used to call herself a bad girl a lot. She would throw her cup on the floor and say, "Bad girl." Isn't it funny how they pick up on other peoples perceptions of them? (Scratch that I think I said it once because she was saying it so often, it just came out of my mouth.) I try to tell her very often that she is a very good girl. And I don't think she has said she was a bad girl in a long time. I have two very good girls, so even if you see one of them behaving a little out of the ordinary for a good girl, can you help me by reminding her of what a good girl she is? She responds really well to being reminded of how she should behave. She is, after all, a good girl.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The heart of the matter

Yesterday at church one of our staff members gave a great message. Within the message was the point about how when we parent our kids we have so many expectations about the outside. We expect them to sit properly, wear proper clothes, say please and thank-you and obey. These are all fine expectations, but sometimes we miss the heart. A child may begrudgingly say please to get the thing they want, but totally have a heart that is not thankful. The point, I think in saying please is to teach them that they cannot demand everything they want. We can change the outside behavior sometimes, but miss the heart completely.

I have thought of this before. I have felt like so many times I parent with the idea that other people are watching. Other people are looking at my kids and see how they are behaving. And I feel like their behavior is a reflection of me. I am not saying it isn't. I truly believe most of the time when young children are unruly it has something to do with how they are being parented. If you have ever watched an episode of Super Nanny you will see that most of the time it is the parents who need to learn how to deal with their kids and the kids usually learn pretty quickly what behavior is acceptable when they are taught correctly. My kids behave well when I am consistently teaching them good behavior. But sometimes they do not do what they are taught. They are, after all, human and they slip up. And those moments it is easy to feel the pressure to make them straighten up.

We have a very dear friend who lost her husband last week. In the wake of the tragedy we were trying to figure out how we can help. My best friend, who happens to be the widows sister, has a daughter the same age as Elizabeth. I talked with her and knew that she needed some clothes for her little girl to wear to the funeral. Elizabeth has a really cute black and white dress that I knew Bella would love and would be appropriate. Elizabeth adores the dress and I knew that it would make Bella smile to be able to wear it. I asked Elizabeth if she would allow Bella to borrow her dress. At first she said no. She did not want to loan it out. I tried to reason with her and tried to coax her into letting Bella wear it. I told her it would make Bella smile because Bella was very sad. She was determined. My mind was racing because I had already told my friend she could borrow it. But I felt a clear sense that I needed to allow Elizabeth to work this out in her heart and make the decision to give on her own. I could force her to give, but I knew that we do not get any value when we are forced to give something. But the times when I have willingly given to someone from my heart it blesses me more than them. So, I reasoned that even if I could not loan her the dress, I would allow Elizabeth to decide. Even if that meant I had to buy Bella another dress to wear, I was leaving it up to Elizabeth to give it.

Her decision was no. I thought about this and decided that because her heart was being selfish the dress should remain in my closet for an undisclosed amount of time. I wanted her to be free to give, but also I wanted her to understand that with selfishness come consequences. I came to her and explained that because she was not willing to give to her friend, who was in need, the dress would remain in my closet and she was not allowed to wear it. I left Elizabeth alone and a few moments later she came to me and asked if she could let Bella wear the dress. And she wanted to throw in her favorite purple and brown tights to go with it. I explained that she may give the dress still if she wanted, but we would keep the tights, as nice as a that was.

We took the dress to my friend shortly after that and Elizabeth wanted to hold it and give it to her friend. She gave her the dress and it made her smile.

I am not sure that everything I did in this situation was perfect. That is the interesting thing about parenting. We kind of learn as we go. I pray a lot for wisdom. I read a lot. I ask questions. But a lot of times I miss it. I miss what is going on in my little girls hearts. Even if they are saying please and thank-you and doing all the right things it is all for nothing if the heart is not engaged.

You see the Bible gives us a great example of a man who had it all right on the outside, but his heart was all wrong. In Luke 15:11-31 we are told the parable of the prodigal son. We have all heard the story. A son leaves his father and squanders his inheritance on wild living and then comes crawling home expecting to be a slave, only to be welcomed with open arms. His father throws a grand party in his honor. But not everyone was happy. You see he had an older brother. An older brother who did everything right. He was obedient and seemingly did all the father asked for, but his heart was missing. Because in the one moment when he should have been celebrating with his father, he was rude and hurtful and just as disrespectful as his younger brother. He was just as wrong as the prodigal son. Only he looked a lot like a "good" son should.

I fear that I will be content with children who look good on the outside. God, our father, cares far more about the condition of our hearts than if out lives are spotless. I want to care more about the condition of my kids hearts too.

And I think that will look messy. Interestingly enough, the speaker at church said, "You may see my boys walking around here sometimes saying words that do not belong in church. And that's OK with me. I care far more when they call each other stupid or jerk than even when they use a curse word. Because I care about their hearts." My kids are far from perfect. I am far from perfect. God is still working on my heart and I pray my kids allow Him to work on theirs. In the mean time when you see us we will probably be a little messy.