Wednesday, June 17, 2009

self denial and parenting

now that i am a parent, trying to train up my kids to be productive citizens who make a difference for God, the issue of self-denial comes up a lot. i am learning to instill this "giving up for God" attitude in my children. many times, too, i have looked at the parts of my life that don't seem to be making any progress and have wondered if this might have something to do with my own lack of training in self-denial and submission to authority. the other night i mused that much of my challenge with money stems from a lack of good planning. partly personality, to be sure, but to get right down to it, we were probably not trained to become good planners in our missionary, month-by-month home. so how do i teach my children to become good planners? i realized that this is just another aspect of the discipline of self-denial. if you can be taught from a young age to delay gratification, you will understand and accept planning as a part of life. this is why we parents must be vigilant over the attitudes of our young children. obeying parents is the first form of self-denial, and i've definitely been a slacker with sparrow in her first three years. i am almost "tougher" on golden, actually, because i have seen with sparrow what happens when there is too much slack, and am driven to nip things in the bud now when they first arise.

as for my own childhood, my parents did spank, but i don't recall ever being deliberately trained for good attitude or good behavior. (God bless my parents for their awesome encouragements, creativity, love for God, self-sacrifice, and so much more. so many of the resources i have found as a parent just weren't around when they were raising us.) i know they expected respect, joy, and good behavior, but the difference is that they did not demand them. i must have disappointed them so much, because being evil in nature, i did not naturally give them the respect they most certainly deserved. i am still remorseful about how little respect i gave (and sometimes still have a hard time giving) my dad, and my mom too, when she was alive. and there are so many slothful, willful, selfish habits i still entertain because indeed i was never trained out of them at the first, and surprise! i did not grow out of them on my own! ah, sinful nature at its best. not that i don't take responsibility for my own sins. i am an adult now and it is my job to wage my own battle against the flesh. but Lord knows old habits die hard, and i am more determined than ever to give my kids the tools to be able to deny themselves and conquer their will from an early age...

i have been reading on an awesome website, a book called raising godly tomatoes. and i am pleased to report marked progress with sparrow, even after only several weeks of beginning to implement the suggestions. i was really fired up about "to train up a child," by michael and debi pearl, but found that practically, it left me lacking in steps to take one by one. i was very passionate about making the training happen, but still found myself confused about whining, bad attitude, etc. in my 2-yr-old (at the time). with godly tomatoes i am finally on a path, and the suggestions she gives are super simple, direct, and explicit. she explores a variety of situations and gives the parenting response, and it's helped immensely. i feel like i have taken my home back! sparrow is much sweeter, says "i love you" more, and i can see in her more the desire to be sweet. also, i WANT to hang out with her now! what a joy. we still have a long way to go, but i feel so peaceful knowing what to do.

in the past, i felt that i must be careful to let sparrow have all the freedoms i could afford her, in order to somehow not "mess her up," create friendship between us, and breed in her the creative, explorer, free-spirit thing, which i have myself so enjoyed. this meant following her around while she explored everything in her path, being patient as she diverged from the path over and over, and fulfilling all requests that i could. one day i realized that within one minute's span she had given me five separate requests and some of them were contradictory! it dawned on me that i was running around like a chicken trying to follow her whims, when she didn't even know what she wanted! what a waste of time! i realize now that friendship may be achieved if i am a lenient mother, ...or it may not. a creative spirit can still be bred within, and in fact is enhanced by, an atmosphere of discipline. as for being "messed up," it dawned on me finally that she is far more likely to be well-adjusted and able to deal with life happily if she has learned to deny herself. and to be thankful. of course, i will be a loving authority, and i pray, a selfless one. this is not just to preserve my own sanity--although sanity in my home IS pleasant. of course i will still give her choices where appropriate. but i won't feel bad for expecting her to get dressed quickly if we are on a time crunch!

one of the best nuggets i have read so far from g.t. is this: "Personally, I believe we are designed to have large families. If we weren't, we would not ovulate for years and years, and our husbands would not desire us for years and years. God would not have urged us to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth". Therefore, it seems to me that it is far more natural to adopt a parenting method that works with one or many children, as opposed to a parenting method that only works with one or two children." O wise, funny woman! and it is so true! when we think about all the modern, psychology and humanism-based stuff we are supposed to do for our children in order not to mess them up, one can go crazy with just one child! no wonder! but i started to think, the other day, listening to "little house in the big woods" on cd with sparrow--wow. that caroline worked hard all day, every day. she didn't have time, certainly, to cajole her kids, plead with her whiny toddlers, and redirect her babies all day long, or be worried about giving them enough "experiences"! no. the kids had to learn early on to be content to work, and content with what they had. and they were thankful. it is a funny little secret i am learning: that less choices actually lead to more thankfulness. i can certainly see that sparrow is thankful that i am the authority. i only hope God does a quick work in me now, to help me become as self-disciplined as my children will soon be!

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