You. Your son. An encounter with a gorilla at the zoo. These things have made you an unsuspecting internet sensation. We don’t know you. But, we do know that parenting is hard enough without the world scrutinizing your every move.
We are guessing, of course, but we’re pretty sure you love your kids with ferocious love. You want what’s best for them, and you are their protector.
You had a lapse, like most parents do, but had you any notion that in that fleeting moment your son could defy the apparent safety of the zoo’s barrier, you’d have kept his hand in yours and assured his safety.
How could you know or ever realize that between your kids and the gorilla was a flawed barrier, or that your child could breach it? He must be an extremely observant and determined young man – the kind of youngster that can take the world by storm!
We once had a child like him. Our son is grown now, but twice he scared the liver out of us. Dubbed “Little Tornado” by his grandpa, he was constantly on the move. Exploring. Discovering. And sometimes disappearing. We covered the ledge near our kitchen table with chicken wire to protect him from crawling onto the table, over the ledge and down a staircase. After each meal we strapped the kitchen chairs to the table so that as a two-year-old he couldn’t pull the chairs over to the counter tops and climb the cabinets. And, as some have suggested in response to the Cincinnati zoo incident, we even used a leash sometimes so he wouldn’t vanish when we were out in public.
“What does Connected Families teach about obedience?” Hannah, who was exasperated with her defiant preschooler’s flighty behavior in a parking lot, explained the context for her question:
When I was leaving Bible study I asked my 3-year-old to stay with me, or hold my hand, or I could carry him. He said he wanted to walk next to me, but then ran off several times, despite my request to “Stop now, and come to me please.” Each time I would pick him up, remind him to stay with me if he wasn’t going to hold my hand. He bucked his body and threw his hands in my face. When I got him to the car my anxiety escalated into an angry lecture – which he ignored, while his big brother giggled at the whole fiasco. Help! What could I have done differently?
Connected Families believes that learning obedience is a long process rooted in love, trust and a parent’s wise guidance. This follows the biblical model of how we learn obedience to God — not out of fear but out of understanding how much God loves us, combined with experiencing the natural result when we disobey his wise commands (Galatians 6:7). The more we learn, the more we trust that God has really good reasons for what he tells us to do.
So let’s put that theology to the test with a feisty 3-year-old going A.W.O.L.
Our kids misbehave. Then, we get angry. We raise our voice a bit to get our kids’ attention. We furrow our brow and perhaps put our hands on our hips (which makes us look even more imposing). We forcefully intervene to deal out discipline.
Meanwhile, our kids watch all this and their brains go into action. You see, God gave our little kiddos (and us too) these little learning machines called “mirror cells”. These mirror cells literally reflect what they see by way of both action and emotion. After all, kids are built to learn from the grown-ups who care for them. When mom or dad gets intense, the mirror cells stand at attention, ready to reflect what they see, and learn how to act.
I remember like yesterday walking in the door after work to what I believed were out-of-control children in my wife’s care. She’d lean into me for help and I’d quickly get the kids in line. “Why can’t Lynne get this?” I’d wonder.
Over time, however, I started seeing things a bit differently. As my kids grew older my seeming ability to quickly control them began to waver, and particularly my daughter seemed less interested in being alone with me.
I grew in my understanding about what had been going on all these years on the day my daughter rushed to her mother in tears because I had “yelled” at her. In my mind I had not even raised my voice, but was just getting firm in order to get her to behave.
Two things happened that day that helped reshape my thinking.
Rick was feeling impatient with the way his wife was dealing with their children’s misbehavior.
He shared his thoughts with me during a recent conversation: “I’ve always been the kind of dad that likes to get things done efficiently. When I’d come home and see my wife in seemingly endless conversations with the kids about cleaning up messes or how to treat each other, I’d step in and take over because I figured sometimes these kids just need to know what’s what and who the parent is. The kids would comply and we’d get on with life. At the time I thought my wife was taking way too much time to do what should be quick and pretty easy.”
Since Rick was talking as if that was the way it once was, I asked him what had changed. Here’s what Rick said:
Today we’d like to share with you a story we received from a dad who has been impacted by Connected Families and seen change not only in his parenting, but also in his urban ministry in Ferguson, MO.
Brycen Marner is the founder of the Kulture, an urban ministry in North County Missouri. The Kulture exists to nurture lasting hope in all areas of life for youth and young adults through transformative relationships with peers, mentors and Jesus Christ.
Brycen (back center) and some kids from the Kulture
During the spring of 2015, Brycen and his wife Kacey took part in our Discipline that Connects online course. Their goal was to gain skills and wisdom in raising their young family. Brycen wasn’t expecting that what he learned would impact the work that he’s doing with youth of Ferguson through the Kulture. We sat down with him to learn more.
Evangelical leaders, TV personalities, and even our own acquaintances have created a swirling, disconcerting list of people who have recently fallen into the trap of adultery.
The profound impact of this on kids – anxiety, fear, rejection, blame, increased likelihood of adultery in their own marriages – is thoughtfully detailed in this classic New York Times article. (If adultery has already happened in your family, see the end of the article for wise guidance.)
I believe God is saying it’s time for us to address this issue of the slippery slope to adultery and share a very personal story that only a handful of people have heard.