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Sitting in church, I couldn’t help but watch a mother and her young daughter sitting in front of me. The mother was stroking her little girl’s long, brown hair and she seemed to be relishing both her mother’s touch and the proximity she was experiencing.
Just across the aisle, I saw a family with a teenager who shrunk into his chair as much as humanly possible. His arms were folded, his head was bowed (and not in a spiritual way) and his whole body resembled a wilted flower that had gone without water for way too long.
What happens in those few precious years between childhood and adolescence? Why do we turn from wanting to spend every moment in our mother’s lap to scooting as far away from her as possible in our seat?
I would venture to say it comes down to one word: SECURITY.
Toddlers crawl into their parents’ arms because they’re safe, warm and often all that they know of the outside world. Even when nothing else makes sense, they know they can trust the sense of security they find in the arms of their mother or father.
But as our kids get older, their sin nature becomes more apparent…right? I know I’m not alone on this.
Instead of greeting them with a smile when they walk in the room, we barrage them with a series of questions: Why didn’t you pick up your shoes? Make your bed? Take out the trash? Or better yet: Why did you hit your sister? Skip class? Throw rocks on the playground? (I could go on and on)
In these moments, our children slowly begin to discover that we may not be a safe haven, but instead, a source of strife. Before you know it, those little ones that you couldn’t tear away from your side become young adults who don’t want anything to do with you.
So then, is it possible to create a culture of security, trust and respect in the midst of discipline for your children? Absolutely. Not only is it possible, it’s a necessity. If you don’t develop a language of security with your kids when they’re young, they will run from you, and ultimately God, as they grow older.
Here are just a few ways to do just that:
*Smile instead of scowl when they walk in the room. It will automatically diffuse any uncertain anticipation.
*Respect their time. Don’t fit their life into your schedule. Let them know you’d like time to speak with them after their homework/sports practice/music lessons, etc.
*Don’t die on a hill; save the battle for the mountain. Chances are your kids aren’t going to do everything the way you’d like them to. But if you chew them up over every little thing, you’ll never make it into those battles that actually matter – the ones about relationships, drugs, education, etc. Choose your battles.