I've read a lot of child training books. I read them as a teenager (home school assignments), and I've re-read them after marriage and having kids of my own. My personal favorite (as far as practical technique goes) has always been To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. I've benefited greatly from the many branches of their ministry, probably the most from their teachings on child training. I KNOW their methods work. I've seen the fruit- in other people's kids, as well as my own. So... are my expectations [with my own kids] high? You bet! I've been ruined for life. Never again will I be able to "settle" for one of my kids throwing a fit and getting away with it. I know better.
And yet, all of so called "KNOWLEDGE" in this area has been failing me lately. I find myself frustrated to the point of tears when Benjamin is disobedient. When he has an angry outburst, I immediately recognize it as a reflection of my own
How can I possibly be upset at him for such behavior when it mirrors my own? Why do I seem to be losing my joy in the area of training my children??
Sure, I could say I am just overwhelmed with having a new baby & Benjamin being in the "Terrific Two's"... but I know deep in my heart it isn't God's will for me to continue feeling/acting this way.
He has a better way. So, a few nights ago before bed, I cracked open the Pearl's 3rd edition of No Greater Joy for a little child training "re-calibration". Instead, I got some soul "re-calibration". About 10 pages in, I came across a letter from a mother who expressed many of the same issues I just related to you.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. & Mrs. Pearl's response:
In a small way, our book was to you in the area of child training, what the law was to Paul. The law was designed to be a schoolmaster to bring him to Christ (Gal 3:24). As a schoolmaster, the law found him wanting and failed him. But what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, Christ did do through His Spirit (Rom. 8:3).
Dear Mother, you are in that very same place spiritually. You do not need more technique. You need a fresh dose of grace, mercy, and love from God. You need a trip to the cross and the open tomb. You need what I need daily, a trip to the upper room and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Wash yourself in the mercy of God, accept His forgiveness, and you will be different from the inside out. You cannot work this out in your mind. It is the miracle of Christianity to which I direct you.
By way of practical advice, there are several things you need to consider:
- Your relationship to God
It is not my intention to leave you in a state of condemnation. I am not trying to use guilt to motivate you to be "a better Christian." I am not telling you to exert more effort.
There is a doorway to God, not a stairway. We often forget that there is only one way to relate to God, and that is through the blood of His Son. At this very moment, without any preparation of the heart, we can confess our total sinfulness and enter into an experience of mercy and grace. God delights to grant forgiveness to the "poor in spirit."
The biggest obstacle to God's blessing is our own effort at acceptance. We can never find acceptance with God by striving to accept ourselves. Based on the sacrifice of Christ, God accepts what we cannot- in others and ourselves. What we reject, God injects with abundant mercy and forgiveness. The road to forgiveness is not to reverse your course (which is impossible) but to throw yourself upon the mercy of God. Purchase the little book, All of Grace, by C. H. Spurgeon. The first chapter will set your soul free.
- Your relationship to your husband
You cannot be a better mother than you are a wife. You cannot be in contention with your husband and be relaxed with the kids. It is impossible. You are a whole person, not an actor with different roles. There is a chain of authority, with God at the top, then your husband, then you, and finally the kids. A chain of authority is also a channel for the delivery of blessings. If you do not receive from the chain above, you cannot pass it on to the kids under you.
- Your relationship to your parents and friends
If there is bitterness, guilt, or resentment towards your parents or friends, your spirit will not be free to bless your children. If you are giving or receiving condemnation regarding anyone, then you cannot be other than a source of condemnation for your children.
Condemnation is like a odor; you cannot direct it. It just oozes in all direction, affecting everyone.
- Your attitude toward training
There can only be one motive for training your children- their welfare as they grow to bring glory to God. If you accept pressure from friends, relatives, or society to perform in a certain way, then you are no longer raising up children; you are coaching performers. The expectation of others is a blind motivator. It cares not for soul or spirit. It is for the praise of the moment- not even praise of the child, but praise of parents. Don't let anything, including our book, put you under pressure to display your good parenting. If necessary, be content to be a failure. Care not for your reputation. True training is soul training. Soul training is first training in love, peace, creativity, grace, kindness, understanding, and then self-discipline, obedience, and responsibility. To try to teach heart obedience and self-discipline in an atmosphere of criticism and anger is like trying to make ice in an oven. Shake yourself free from public opinion and personal ambition. Freedom of spirit and joy are caught, not taught.
- Your attitude toward life on this planet
To be a good mother you must have eternity in view. By that I do not mean that you must put on religious pretense, always rebuking the carnally minded around you, and steering all conversations back to the "sacred." A mother with eternity in view will see the value of relaxing with her children. Housework and schoolwork are so temporal, so worldly, unless you can do them in a spirit of fellowship with others. Every day deserves a song and a dance- not the dance of the world, but the dance of carefree feet skipping through the blessings and joy of just being.
Dirty floors, clothes that didn't get picked up, spilled milk, and schoolwork that didn't get done will be of no consequence 100,000 years from now.
Whether poor or rich, highly educated, or common laborer, the heart is cultivated to enjoy God's presence. All else is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Write down all the things that trouble you during a day, not just the ones that pertain to the children. What is the very first irritation of the morning? It may be very subtle. It may not lead to bad words. You may not even be aware that you have yielded to a bad spirit. Write it all down for one day and then review it at night. Was it worth it? What are your values? Can you realistically expect others to change? Yet, if you change in your values and responses, then all has changed.
- Your diet and sleep patterns
Many, many mothers are suffering from some form of chronic fatigue. Constipation is killing Americans. Fat is pressing in on the hearts and minds of society. Lack of nutrition and too much sugar are leaving brains running at the speed of garbage trucks. TV and late nights are stealing the family and health. Lack of exercise is wasting away minds as fast as it inflates bodies. Your mind functions through a physical brain. Your spirit lives in a vessel of flesh. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. You must learn to bring your body into subjection in order to free your spirit.
- Your attitude toward your children
We saved this one for last, because if the others are all tended to there will be no problem here. Learn to view your children as people, not kids. They are adults, minus eight to ten years, that you are counseling and encouraging. You have a privilege every counselor would love. You can undo the hurts and hang-ups by removing them before they happen. You are on the other side of the problem- before it is a problem. Your children are your fruit. You have the highest calling on planet earth. Several innocent souls are committed to your trust. They will be what you make them. Knowing this should give you a proper perspective.
Spend lots of time with your children just having fun. Think of ways to turn every moment of work and responsibility into joy. Win their hearts and earn a smile from each child every five minutes of the day. In doing so, you will not have trouble with your attitude or theirs.
Excerpt from No Greater Joy Volume 3 by Michael and Debi Pearl