Winter seems to bring the “best” out of child behavior (and possibly the “best” out of us parents, right?).  I’m not sure if they get cabin fever and don’t realize it or they’ve simply had enough of school. Likewise, maybe WE get cabin fever and need some vitamin D straight from the source.  I can assure you, however, that you are not alone in your winter with your kids right now. We are right there with you. When they misbehave, however, how can we reach their hearts without squashing their childlike innocence?  Maybe God can show me how to parent with grace and to grow my child’s conscience.

grow my child's conscience

You forget how sweet and innocent your kids were until you look back at old pictures of them. My cup overflows…

I doubt many enjoy disciplining their kids but I’m realizing that it gives me more teachable moments compared to when things are calm and “perfect.”

If someone were to ask me which child was more of a challenge for me to parent,  I would answer that it is my daughter. If they were to ask why, I would say it might be because she’s very similar to me in personality.  However, as much as this similarity causes us to butt heads sometimes it also works as a benefit in disciplining because I know what worked and what didn’t work for me and why.

My girl likes to push the boundaries of what she thinks is funny. I’ll tell her to stop and she’ll keep giggling, laughing, and instigating trouble (particularly at the dinner table and bedtime).  Once I corrected her for something and she mimicked me with an innocent smile thinking she was quite funny.

God, please show my how to grow my child’s conscience.

That particular night was a VERY long night of parenting for the both of us.  Needless to say she was disciplined and cried, as kids do, because she thought it was unfair. I had a long discussion with her as I tucked her in. I explained to her that I know her very well because I was once young and behaved very similarly.

I used to pester my mom, usually while she was cooking and unable to focus on my discipline too hard, until she had enough.  She would say, “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY KITCHEN!”  I left in satisfaction. I thought it was pretty fun to achieve such grand heights of aggravation and funny to see her so worked up and defenseless as she was stuck at the stove. I think there’s a little something to be said for kids not receiving enough positive reinforcement that if negative is all they receive, they seem to seek to be filled with that. Thank God I never took it too far or that it didn’t last long after grade school years (as I’ve written about before, I spent much of my 1st and 2nd grade school years in the hall.  I distinctly remember a week or so in the hall with my desk, I was temporarily banned from the classroom.  The behavior more or less ceased by middle school.).

So, I know that when my daughter has reached a limit with me it’s served some satisfaction in her. We are cognizant to give this one focused positive attention so she doesn’t seek the negative. We also see that her love language is physical touch so we instigate hugs and snuggles to fill her heart up.  Still, she came without a manual so sometimes it’s hit or miss.  She’s not exactly like me, I’m not a fool, so I cannot be absolutely certain how to parent her nor am I always completely capable of getting it right but most times I have successful days (thanks, God!).

When I tucked her in that one VERY long night of parenting, I asked her a simple question.  “Do you hear a voice in your head right before you do or say something wrong advising you NOT to do it?”  She responded, “Not all of the time, but sometimes.”

“GREAT!” I exclaimed.  I told her that is her conscience, the Holy Spirit, already working in her life guiding her to do good things, not bad, and to keep her out of trouble. I told her that in order to make her conscience grow and keep doing its job she needed to act on it and follow its direction.  With more successes in following her conscience she will learn to trust it more and more, and it will speak more loudly to her in return.

Yes, these are our kids to parent but soon they will be out on their own a bit (don’t forget that they are really only entrusted to our care, by God, for these short years).  She won’t be at home every night for dinner, and she definitely won’t be here every night of the weekend either.  The only thing that can guide her as she grows is her own conscience.  It is our job to assist the Holy Spirit, to grow my child’s conscience, so they both know good decisions from bad decisions without needing verbal cues and reminders from us (and being brave enough to follow through).

I also told her that her personality is unique. Her desire to make people laugh and the JOY she gets in laughter and silliness is awesome and should not be squelched. She just needs to learn when she’s going too far and if it’s ever at the expense of others, like when she mocked me.  She also needs to be certain that her desire comes from within and is not an attempt to win people over, or gain new friends with outrageous behavior (something I fell victim too even through college).

I gave her lots of hugs that night, and told her that we loved her very much. Just because we get disappointed in behavior, or if we even get frustrated, it doesn’t lessen our love for her (this, especially, is something we find particularly important.  We never, NEVER, want our children to not feel love from us or as if they’ve done something so wrong we would ever deny them of our love.).  On heavy discipline days we make sure to end with lots of love and communication.

See, some of us didn’t grow up in what seemed to be a “family,” maybe it felt more like a club.  If we didn’t behave a certain way or didn’t subscribe to our parents’ or family’s beliefs or ideals we were essentially “kicked out.”  We were treated like a black sheep.  We felt like we didn’t belong because we didn’t fit in to their model.  They were a cul-de-sac of 1900’s Victorian 3-story houses and we were a 1970’s ranch.

Our father doesn’t treat us this way, nor should we treat our children this way.  His street is filled with all kinds of people with their own brokenness and sin tendencies and yet all are welcome.  We are in the family before we even realized we were in the family.  Much like an infant is oo’d and ah’d over, we are welcomed the exact same way.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. – Psalm 103:8

It’s hard to model His kind of love at times, He’s so full of grace…  and obviously it will and should be hard for us.  He is God, we are clearly not.  We are merely His children who will trip and stumble and fail, just like my littles do, and yet we grow.  Yet, He is the BEST model.
We grow in our stumbles and our failings and our sins and our inability to hide our sins.

… and despite all of my problems with sins, I have a God who allows me into His family (you do too, by the way!).  Me, a child who completely wrongs His other children sometimes.  He doesn’t rub my nose in my wrongdoing.  He doesn’t publicly shame me in front of other people.  He doesn’t chastise me when I get home, with vicious words to ensure I feel the same amount of pain that I cause.  He doesn’t lose control of His emotions, making me question His love for me during my sin.  He doesn’t do these things, these parenting tactics we fall prey to.

Instead, He gets to our heart.  He points out our sins and He helps us grow.  I believe I need to model His love for me and His yearning for my growth to, in return, help grow my child’s conscience.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. The more I realize that I can direct my kids on a path toward God the more I am humbled at God’s love for me. Soon it will be summer, filled with swimming pool visits and weekend hiking trips and I’ll forget about this short time of cabin fever.