Once upon a time, near a woods far away, there was a family named the Scrumpkins. Bingle (the dad) and Kalinda (the mom) were fearful of what might happen to their children if they explored the dark, foreboding woods behind their house, so they proclaimed, “You’re not going in the woods and that’s final. No questions asked!”
Their lively kids, of course, were determined to explore the mysterious labyrinth of trees, vines, bushes and forest creatures. Bingle and Kalinda grew tired of retrieving the little escape artists from the edge of the woods and built a fence. The kids figured out how to climb on each others’ shoulders to scale their wooden corral. Bingle and Kalinda built the fence taller, but the kids only saw this as a tempting challenge, and they collected odds and ends to make a ramp. Adding barbed wire to the fence kept the little urchins at home for a while… until the kids located the wire cutters.
In a moment of creative insight, Bingle and Kalinda decided to build a campfire that night. The kids gathered eagerly as their parents got out the marshmallows and told funny stories. Then they began to teach them stories about danger and safety in the woods – some scary, some exciting. They shared about their deep love for their children, and their desire to keep them safe. This time the kids listened. The next day, they all went into the woods together, and Bingle and Kalinda taught the kids how to recognize danger and avoid it. They found the safe areas and came up with fun ideas for things they could do there as a family. The children felt so respected, they no longer snuck off to the woods.
Moral of the story: “If you can’t draw your child toward an inspiring yes, you’ll find yourself saying “No!” louder and louder till you have no voice.”
We often want to order or manipulate kids into compliance, and when it doesn’t work we escalate to intimidation and even bullying. Obedience is good, but if that’s how parents get it, it can hinder a child’s potential for love-based obedience of God. When children feel respected, and they understand the wisdom of our rules, they are more likely to obey us.
Luke 1:17 – “…turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Apply It Now (with a practical example to get you started):
- What behavior are you concerned about? (i.e. sibling conflict)
- What is the “inspiring yes” that might draw your child “away from the fence and towards the campfire?” (i.e. the value of honoring one another in a family culture of respect and affection)
- How could you build their ownership in it? (Talk about joy-filled times of fun and connection; let children develop rules for conflict resolution, and celebrate together any successes)
- Schedule some time to really talk – “What kind of a family do we want to be?”
[Images by Rebekah Schulz-Jackson]