That Difficult Child
I was raised on Wee Lambs and Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, so as a youth I thought training my children would go something like this: A) The child does something wrong. They are given a spanking, and they never do it again. Or B) The parents that have not taken route A put up with some vice such as laziness or grumbling. One day they think of a perfect way to cure the child. They serve a meal with hollow pie and bitter chocolate, or they make him do all his own work for a day. The child miraculously sees himself as he is and is cured of his vice for life.
My parenting journey has looked so different from these scenarios that I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.
When our oldest was a baby, I heard a preacher say, “If you think child training is going to be easy, I want you to know it’s harder than you think. But if you think it’s hard, it’s easier than you think.” I mulled over that for a while. Our baby was only three months old, so I had not begun training her yet. Did I think child training was hard or easy? Looking back, I know now I thought it would be easy. It is a whole lot harder than I thought.
One of our children in particular defied every one of my child-training expectations. Again and again she’d go for the same shelf of books. Again and again she’d reach for the same light switch. It seemed she interpreted every effort to train as merely a challenge to repeat the offense.
As the years have passed, her issues have changed. Gone are the fierce tantrums, the kicking and screaming. I’m all too glad to leave them behind. When she sits beside me quietly in church and draws on a pad of paper, I almost forget about the Sundays my husband or I wrestled with her in a Sunday school room most of the service.
But in other ways her will is every bit as strong, showing itself when I ask her to do a job she doesn’t want to do, or when I tell her to do something differently than the way she wants to do it.
Sometimes I wonder What am I doing wrong? I’ve been training this child for several years now. Why are we still having these battles? What if we never break through?
But I was so thankful for the words of a friend. “You cannot make her a saint. Only the Spirit can do that. We parents do our best, but there will still be a work for the Spirit to finish.”
How could I have also gotten this wrong? I thought if I did everything right my children would be little saints. I could train them to have the perfect character, to never embarrass me in public. Ha.
Only Christ can save my children. Only He can complete the good work in them. I can lay a foundation, training their character, but they are not saints and will not be until they allow Jesus into their hearts, and the Holy Spirit takes up residence.
I have found no magic solutions for producing perfect little children. It’s just a lot of hard work, day after day. Sometimes I’m not sure if we’re making any progress, and then I look back on where we were a year ago and I realize we’ve all grown, maybe myself most of all.
So for today I will love that fierce-hearted child, ask God for wisdom in the next battle, and thank God for the daily reminder that I have no child-training answers.