With two little ones now, we're constantly working to be better parents. We want to lead, teach, encourage and discipline as needed. Most days are good, some days are not. Since returning from my week-long trip to Chicago, my three year old son, Devon, has been acting up quite a bit more than normal. I've read before that some kids do this as a way to process their emotions after having a parent gone for so long. I think that's what happened here, and I've been doing my best to give him extra attention and love, even falling asleep next to him a night or two. After one of the toughest weeks of parenting we've had in a while, I thought things were looking up until tonight at dinner.
We had company over and Devon was yelling and banging the table in order to get attention among the conversation. This has become a habit we haven't been very successful at influencing him in, but this is one of the first times he's acted that way with company over. Tonight it culminated in him, without warning, throwing his glass right at me. The small mason jar actually hit me in the lip and split it. He's never done anything like that, and it was shocking. I took him to bed immediately, and of course he wasn't happy.
After our guests left, I thought he had already fallen asleep, but it turns out he hadn't. I went in and told him again how his behavior was unacceptable. As mad and as frustrated as I was, his hug and apology softened my heart. We prayed together and as I got up to leave the room, he started into another tantrum. After closing the door and looking at my wife, I was at a loss. I told her, "I don't know what else to do." Should I go back in there? Do I stand my ground and hope he learns a valuable lesson? I can still taste the blood on my lip.
I felt a still small voice whisper in my head, "You can always love."
Love is never a bad choice.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.For some reason, as a parent, I somehow get confused between loving and "giving in" or not being consistent or firm. I try to pick my battles and use "reason" to determine appropriate disciplinary responses. I'm trying to love my children so they will grow up to be well behaved and (hopefully) loving to others.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
But is discipline the best way to teach love? Is one more timeout really going to make it stick?
I decided to open the door and go back in there, pick up my son, hug him, and lie down together until he fell asleep. He apologized again and I reassured him it was OK, I had already forgiven him. He was still emotional and upset about not finishing his dinner, but I was able to lovingly and firmly tell him his options were to lay down quietly with me or go back to his own bed (he still prefers his crib to the twin we have in his room).
He chose to be quiet, and we just laid there until he fell asleep, only talking quietly once or twice more.
I don't have many answers and often feel like I have none. But tonight, in the midst of my frustration and pain (both physically and emotionally), I may have learned one thing: Love is never a bad choice.
Lord, help me love like you do, even when we least deserve it. Help me teach love by demonstrating it. Let me trust you to draw my children closer to your Spirit.