In my last post I said something I need to clarify. When talking about my daughter, I said, "She is not responsible for her actions..." Taken out of context, I do not believe that. Even a 2-yr-old is responsible for choosing their own actions and re-actions. But a young child is not ACCOUNTABLE for his actions. Accountable is defined as: Required or expected to justify actions or decisions. Before age 8 is a learning and absorbing time of life. A young child cannot repent, therefore, it would be a great injustice to believe that they can sin. However, the lessons they learn early in life can stay with them forever, so teaching them is a great responsibility.
What I meant by saying [she is not responsible] was, she doesn't have to carry the burden of change and growth. She was not the more responsible party. The responsibility to be a good example and teacher lies solely with ME. To put the pressure on her to be an example of love and goodness while being treated with frustration and irritation, is erroneous, and unfair. By saying that, I really actually mean that I am responsible TO her and TO God for MY actions and re-actions, and that she IS responsible ONLY to herself at this point. I am not responsible for HER actions, I am responsible for MINE. I am responsible for the family environment, because I have the power to create it by controlling, or not controlling MYSELF.
She, according to her age, will generally act the way she perceives she is treated in general. Either by me, or someone else. She is learning little by little to have control over her feelings and choices, but she is still too young to master these skills. This is a time when it is crucial that I am a rock of stability in her life, not what I have been, a wavering example of inconsistency.
Let me demonstrate by an example: Just a few minutes ago, my kids were playing a game of piling up pillows and jumping on them. Peter was jumping on them over and over, without order, and Kaylee wanted them to take turns. She, in trying to control his actions, became very upset that she could not control him, and eventually, started shouting, and then pushed him. He remained calm, because he has spent a long time practicing this skill. But he looked to me to intervene. She whined about him not taking turns. I remained calm, and said, as any parent would, "Apologize. You pushed him. You cannot force him to take turns. But DO you have control over your body. What did you do with that choice?" That was kind of a controlling reply, but at least I stayed calm, right? (Evidently my daughter gets her control issues honestly.) Naturally, she was upset and defensive, and began to cry, and said, "I will never, NEVER apologize!" She lashed out at her littlest brother, and I told her it was inappropriate, and Peter did as well. She was defensive again, as anyone would be. But then I calmed my inner anxiety and said to her, "When you're ready to talk without shouting, I am happy to listen." That was all. She buried her head in her pillow, and when her brothers remained calm and ran to play in another room, she lifted her head with a smile. "Mom, I have something to say to my brothers. I think you know what it is." And then she ran to play with them, happily and apologetically.
When I was controlling, she was controlling. When I controlled only myself, she reacted by seeking that self-control as well. Our kids must have self discipline and self-control in order to be happy and successful in life. Yet how many of us are modeling these attributes? How many of us never learned these things as children because our parents thought they had to bear the entire responsibility for controlling US (instead of themselves)-through fear and intimidation, never allowing us to trust them with our mistakes and challenges, never learning the power of self-control? Do we want that for our kids?--Our Grandkids? Here's some questions for all of us, including myself, to ponder.
Am I ready to be my child's Hero?
Am I ready to be the rock of stability in his/her life? Unmoving--uncompromising--in control?
Am I ready to BE the model of Christ's love and forgiveness, patience and persistence?
Am I ready to take back control of my emotions from the hands of my child, and BE the Grown-up?
Am I ready to break the patterns of the past, and perhaps the patterns of my friends and associates?
Am I ready to be accountable for my own choices, regardless of the choices of others?
In my family, I have an example of this. It is my father. He broke the patterns of his past and found a new way to relate to his kids. But he also had an example to turn to when he was ready. That example was the memory of his grandfather. Sometimes extended family members wield more power over a child's rearing than they realize. This grandfather was instrumental in my father's upbringing, and though his grandfather didn't raise him, he gave him an example that he could look back on and mimic when he needed to. Now I have my own memories to look back on--I use a variety of sources. I'm thankful for each one of them.
See, we are adults. We can choose our Heroes. We can choose what memories we dwell on. We can choose whose example to mimic. We can choose to wallow, or choose to learn. We always have a choice.
I guess the thing I want to stress most right now is this: Self-mastery and positive discipline does not happen accidentally or automatically. It does not happen while we're avoiding conflict or pushing problems under the rug. It does not happen while we're ranting, lecturing, raging, fretting and worrying. It is a muscle. It is developed by constant effort and hard, hard work. It quickly atrophies when we do not use it. It is developed most easily and quickly through faith and following principles of Christianity, though many non-Christians have mastered it as well. [I believe that Christ is the source of all goodness and truth, so even those who do not believe in Him, who ascribe to His teachings, still receive the blessings that many who profess to believe, yet do not live His teachings, are held back from.] I look at the faces of those who live with integrity, and faith in Christ, and they glow with radiance. I want that. I need that. I want that for my children. It's time to get there! We're getting closer, we really are! I can feel it! Each time we read the scriptures and think and talk together about our faith, each time we forgive and show love, each time we hold back from re-acting, and instead pro-act, we get a little closer.