Monday, July 30, 2012

Parenting with God in Heart. Part 2.

2. Teach your kids the word "No" before they develop their long term memory (around the age of 4). 

I found a couple of inconsistencies when later on was also said: 
"Teach your kids obedience, not compliance."
God has plans for your kids, don't get in the way!

This one hit me hard!! "No" is a word that most parents would agree is almost the first word their kids say!! We didn't need to teach them the word!! they only had to listen to us saying it to them every day for almost everything!! no wonder they learn it so quickly!! why would you even try to reinforce it?? The motives for this sentence made sense to me: As a parent you want your kids to be able to say "no" to certain, potentially dangerous things or situations. Reality is, to me of course, we all learnt the word "no" before we were 4, and we all made and still make 1001 mistakes and say "yes" to the most bizarre propositions. 

One of the arguments was that the things you don't say "no" to when your kids are little, will come back and hunt you when they're teenagers. Quite a few people with teens and older kids identified with this comment. My son is only two, but I was a teenager too. I am not suggesting that one should not address the situations that arise in early childhood or when they are teens. What I am saying is that saying "NO" is not necessarily the way to address it and in my case, both with my son and when I was a teenager, it is the most ineffective, inefficient, energy-draining one. 

I was discussing this after the meeting and I was asked what my approach is. I find that my son understands reasons!! Specially the ones that refer to tangible danger. Those that refer to material lose are a bit tougher to get him to understand. As a mother I tend to "infantilize" my son thinking that he's too young to understand what I'm saying. Quite a few times he has surprised me when suddenly he finds himself able to actually execute what I've been asking him for weeks. Now I try to be very careful of what I do and say around him because he does understand, it is just that physically he is not able to execute with 100% success yet. So of course I am beside him if his playing too close to the road, or I make the call to move away from dangerous places, but he does know that the road is not a place to be because a car may run over him, that only daddy or granpa can start the fire and that he can help only if they are with him because he can get burnt. He does know that he needs shoes to run on the grass at the front of the house because prickles will hurt him if he doesn't. I'm not saying he's the perfect child, I'm saying kids understand reasons specially if they're related to danger that actually causes physical pain!! What happens when me or my husband say "no" to him?? a straight and loud "no" comes back from him!!! how annoying and frustrating!! He does know the word "no" and he does know when to use it too!! 

I try as hard as my patience lets me, to restrict my "no"s to real dangerous situations. Most other things we say "no" to, are things that society and we as parents expect from our kids, like screaming and tantrums, playing with food, buttons and water tubs. I've been inviting him to turn on the dishwasher with me. He's allowed to put the soap, close the soap lid, I shut the dishwasher and he activates the machine (with my help). I was finding myself saying "no" to him touching the dishwasher buttons. So my message now is "yes, you can touch the buttons when...". There are many occasions where a "no" is so unnecessary. I think often the point we as parents want to get across is "yes but when X happens". Sometimes I use the advice of one book that says to validate your child's desire so I go "I know you want to stay and play for longer, but we have to go now". By minimizing the situations where I have to say "no" to the minimum, I ensure myself consistency with my "no". when I say it, I mean it, he knows it and he knows there is a reason, he might not think it is valid, but my stress seems to makes him feel that my reason is important. When there is a myriad of things to say "no" it is hard and tiring to keep saying no to them all day every day, we eventually end up saying yes and that's when games begin.

I was told that God asks us to do things and he often doesn't give us reasons. Yes and no. God doesn't give us logical or rational reasons. They probably shouldn't be called reasons because they are not for our minds to understand. The messages from God are to the heart. Our minds don't know why, but somehow we know that it is real and we don't even need a reason. If we as parents had the skills to communicate with our kids heart to heart, in the same way that our Father communicates to us, we probably wouldn't need to give reasons to our kids and even more, we probably wouldn't ask anything from them, we would only advice them on what they should or should not do, which is what God does with us. In my opinion it is inevitable that the consequence of teaching "no" is compliance. When we say "no" to our kids, specially when we don't give a reason for it, kids learn what not to tell us. I knew what my mum didn't want to hear about, so I didn't tell her. The consequence of that is hypocrisy and following the parents instructions with a poor attitude, like Martha complaining in the kitchen while her sister was listening to Jesus. Martha's attitude was one of compliance, serving in the kitchen because she felt she had to. Her sister was listening to Jesus because she wanted to. We think our kids would never been capable of the things they've been accused of, truth is, not only they are, but there is a reason why as parents, we don't see it and they don't tell us. When they come to us to tell us, we recriminate them. Does God our Father recriminates the 1001 things we've made with our lives??

Let's get back to Genesis. God did give us a reason not to eat the apple. He was warning us, not stopping us from doing it. "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die". God gives us freedom of choice, and that freedom is 100% freedom, yes, of doing whatever we want and he has told us everything that could happen with our decisions. Basically, once we eat the apple we open the wide gate!! and the more we enter through it, the more difficult it becomes to come back, shut it and choose the narrow one. But God our Father knows that the wide gate exists!! does he hold me from going there?? no!! he can only wait for me to ask for His help to come back. He knows I'm dead! he knows I chose to and he let me to!! Every time I realize what I've done, I come back to him and he only listens to me and comforts me...but he let me go in the first place.

"How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray". (Matthew 18; 12-13)

God looks for us, lost sheep, but He can only look after we have made the decision to leave and he does let us leave. And when we decide to let him find us, He is happy!! Is that our attitude towards our kids when they make decisions we don't agree with?? and is that our attitude when they come back?? Most of the things we say "no" to, come from our own expectations and fears of them making mistakes in life. If God give us and our kids freedom of choice, who are we to restrain that freedom in our kids lives?? I share that God has plans for our kids, but most of the time we say "no" and try to direct our kids lives telling them what to do, and what to believe, we are stopping them from discovering the plan God has for them. I can't say that I know the plan and purpose God has for me, what makes me think that by doing what I say, he'll discover God's plan for him?? 

Obedience to God in my understanding, is to be able to listen and follow only [what He says through] our hearts. That often means to go the opposite way our good/evil divided minds tell us to. Through our hearts God tells us to move in one and one direction only: the direction of pure and unconditional love, which can only express as the best version of us as human beings on this earth. It means that if we follow and obey that, it will be hard for our minds to comply, but we can't resist our impulse to do it. It is doing things wholeheartedly. Obedience is often something that's understood as doing things almost against our will or without expressing our feelings about it. To me, true obedience to God is irresistible!! how could you resist to be the best you can be??. Our hearts are drawn to obey and it is a pleasure to do so. It is hard and difficult only because we eat constantly from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, my perspective is that one cannot teach children to obey us. I can only teach him to obey God through his heart and give him the space to do that himself, let God talk to him directly. The way to do that is not [just] by talking and instructing, but only by me obeying God through my heart. In the same way that my son learnt to say "no" to me just by watching me and listening to me saying it to him (I didn't purposefully teach him to say "no"), he'll learn to obey God by watching me and my acts. 

I think it is pretentious to want our kids to obey us unless we are in the capacity to let God express himself fully through us without the interruption of our sinful minds, that is to say, unless we can fully understand God's plans and surrender to participate in them the way He intends them to be, or in other words, unless we become God by participation, which I think is also pretentious for most of us to declare judging by the state of the Christian community in the world. Obedience is only to God. If God is expressing through me fully, I don't even have to claim nor teach obedience. My son will obey out of his own decision and with all his heart. 

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