Using Time-IN Instead Of Time-Out

Many parents use “Time-Out” to punish their children, especially parents that do not want to spank/hit but feel that they must punish or “discipline” their children somehow. While I would rather have parents that are bent on using punishment with their children use time-out over spanking, time-out is still very harmful to young children when it is used as punishment. As with spanking, time-out is most often used with very young children.

The youngest child that I have witnessed with whom a time-out was being used was eighteen months old. Like being slapped, eighteen-month-olds do not understand why they are being forced to sit alone for one minute. And like spanking, it very temporarily stopped the behavior, which means multiple time-outs for toddlers that lack impulse control. This is not good and sends the wrong message to children.

Time-outs require that children sit alone, sometimes facing the wall, quietly for the amount of minutes corresponding with their age. For example, if the child is one, they sit for one minute; for a two-year-old, it’s two minutes; for a three-year-old, it’s three minutes, and so on.

What’s even worse is if the child gets up, talks, or even cries during the time-out, then their time starts completely over until he or she “successfully” completes the time-out. This can mean a five-minute or more time-out for a toddler that cannot fulfill the requirements of a time-out.  And this inability to sit quietly for a time-out often leads to the child getting spanked/hit.

As with physical punishment, I’m afraid that whoever came up with the time-out and its associated rules did not understand child development, nor did they understand our loving God. Christ never banished anyone. So why should we banish our children when we can’t deal with their behaviors?

Young children cannot sit still and quietly with nothing to do for very long. And they are not sitting there pondering why what they did was wrong. Time-outs are totally developmentally inappropriate for young children and sets them up for failure.

In fact, research shows that time-out is just as harmful to children as spanking is because being forcefully isolated activates the same areas of the brain as spanking does. We were created for human connection.  This is especially true when we’re upset about something.

My husband and I have been going through some hard times lately, and I am still grieving for my grandpa and my mother-in-law.  Sometimes I feel very alone because of everything that we’re going through and I have found that feeling isolated only makes my depression, grief, and anxiety worse.  The comfort and support from my husband and family and friends are what helps me feel better.  Isolation is truly the worst feeling ever!

My parents sometimes put me in my room during a meltdown.  It only made me feel really angry and I would scream even louder and say, “I hate you.”  I never sat and thought about my behavior during those times.  I only thought about how angry I was and how unfair they were being.

Trust me, children do not think about their behavior during time-outs.  They’re totally focused on their own feelings and being upset.

Now, I totally understand and agree that there are times when children are just having a hard time and need to be removed from the situation in order to calm down and deal with their big feelings.  This is where time-in is very helpful.

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Time-in, unlike time-out, is not punishment. To use time-in with young children, set up a “comfy corner” in the most lived in room of your house but away from the action.  Put a couple pillows and a blanket in it.  Depending on how your children cope with their big feelings, you can have a few books in there, soft music, or some paper and crayons.  Just don’t fill it up too much as the idea is to limit stimulation and help the child calm down.

There is no quiet rule, no set time for them to remain in time-in, and they can choose to have us come with them or not.  If we don’t come with them to time-in, then we sit nearby and are available to help them if they need it.

Connection and healing are the main goals for time-ins.  Young children have so many big feelings about everything and they just don’t know how to express and deal with them.  Many times when children are acting up it means that they are feeling very disconnected from us.  They need us to bring them back into our connection and help them regain their control over their bodies and feelings.  They need to be heard and validated.

If we use time-in consistently without forcing the toddler to go to his or her “comfy corner,” the toddler may begin to ask to go there when he or she senses his or her big feelings welling up. Toddlers learn that their feelings matter to their parents and to God. This is such an important step for teaching young children self-management skills because their feelings are validated and respected, and they are given appropriate choices for dealing with their feelings.

Of course, it’s perfectly okay for parents to take a few minutes to calm down if their children are having a particularly rough day.  A parent “time-out/in” is very appropriate for these types of situations so that you don’t lose it with your child. This is not punishment for either the parent or the child. All parents need a break from their children.

Just be sure to tell your children that you are feeling really upset and need a moment to calm down.  Children will appreciate knowing that sometimes Mommy and Daddy need their own time-in.

Dealing with meltdowns and upset children is never easy.  But our goal throughout parenting our children should always be maintaining a strong connection and trust with them.  Believe me, you will be grateful when your children are teenagers and feel free to come to you about anything!

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Setting And Enforcing Realistic Limis With Young Children

It is very important to set realistic limits with children, but most parents don’t understand what a realistic limit is for a young child.  I start with three main rules from which all limits should be derived.  The rules are the following:

  1.  Respect for others.
  2. Respect for ourselves.
  3. Respect for property.

These rules are the basis for all relationships to thrive.  The reason why we should only have three basic rules on which to base limits and boundaries is that giving children too many rules to follow, especially at a young age, will only frustrate and overwhelm them. These basic rules are easy to understand and will make sense to children, though young children will require much guidance and reminders to help them cooperate with these basic rules.

It is important that while boundaries and limits are a bit flexible, that they are also consistent and hold firm. Some parents may set boundaries and limits based on the three basic rules, but then they allow their children to break right through them.

We must remember when setting limits and boundaries with our children is to make sure the limits and boundaries are logical and reasonable. If the limit does not make any sense to the child, he or she is more likely to fight the limit. Most children will cooperate with the limit, though they may test us at times even if they understand the reason for the limit. An example of giving a reason for a limit would be, “Please walk in the house so you don’t trip and fall.”

How many of us heard our parents say, “Because I said so,” when we wanted to know why they were either making us do something or not allowing us to do something as children?  Did it make us want to cooperate?  For me, it didn’t make me want to cooperate.  It just made me angry.  I believe that mutual respect dictates that we provide a simple reason for our limits.

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Many times, we as parents, get into the habit of saying, “no,” “don’t,” and “stop,” so much that our children begin to tune us out. I mean, who wants to constantly be told what they can’t do?  This doesn’t help young children learn how to interact appropriately with others. I have found that saying, “Be gentle with your baby brother,” is often more effective than saying, “Don’t hit.” Another example is saying, “Walking feet,” instead of saying, “Don’t run.”

Even if we have no choice but to phrase something negatively, it is very important to follow it with something positive that they can do. For example, say, “You may not draw on the wall, but you may draw on this piece of paper.”

More examples of setting realistic limits are:

“You may have a cookie after supper.”

“Please pick up your toys so nobody trips over them.”

“I need you to finish up so we can get ready to go.”

“Please sit on your bottom so you don’t fall.”

“You may not hit Jack, but you may hit the pillow.”

“I need you to use your words.”

“I need you to poop in the toilet.” (Not in the closet.) 😊

Many parents say, “You need to…” but the child is probably thinking, “No, I don’t need to brush my teeth and go to bed,” so it’s better to say that we need them to do things.  Another thing is that it’s easy to give the limit in the form of a question.  For example, “Do you want to get ready for bed?”  Most young children will say, “No!”  Therefore, if it isn’t a choice, then it’s better to say, “It’s time for bed.”  Or, “I need you to get ready for bed.”

Also, giving children lead times will help make it easier for them to cooperate. Say, for example, “In five minutes it will be time to clean up and get ready for bed.” Be sure to get on the child’s level and say this. In fact, getting on children’s level whenever a limit or boundary is being set will help the child feel respected, making cooperation more likely.

If possible, when setting limits, give children choices such as “Would you like your Hello Kitty pajamas or your Mickey Mouse pajamas?”  Or, “Do you want to walk to the bathroom or would you like me to carry you?”  “Do you want to race to clean up with me?”  Anything that gives children some control over the situation is a good thing.

Now, what if you set a limit and the child won’t cooperate?  Simply say, “I see you’re having a hard time cooperating, so I will help you.”  Giving help or making a choice when the child isn’t able to make up his/her mind isn’t punishment.  Children need to learn that there are times when we must do things that we don’t want to do.  Just be sure to validate their feelings when they get upset about the limit.  Please see here for posts about validating feelings.

There’s never a reason to punish a child for not cooperating as he/she will experience the natural consequences of his/her behavior.  See here for tips on using natural consequences.

I will be writing a post about using time-IN instead of time-out soon.

It’s important for me to point out again as I close, children are NOT “little sinners” that need the “devil beat out of them” as so many Christians continue to believe. They’re beautiful human beings that God created that need our help to navigate this world. Jesus drove demons out verbally. He befriended and corrected sinners. Then, amazingly, our Almighty God chose to suffer and die on the cross for all of humanity’s sins. He was sinless. Grace, mercy, gentleness is for children too. Jesus even held children up as an example for *us.* So may we discipline children in the way that Jesus disciplines us through setting realistic limits.

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Permissive Parenting Hurts Gentle Parenting

My husband and I recently took a family trip to Florida. It was an absolutely wonderful trip.  I got to meet a couple of my gentle parenting Facebook friends and their children during the trip.

It was interesting though because there were a few conversations about parents not “controlling” (I hate the word “control” when it comes to children.  Children are not for controlling!) their children by a few people who don’t completely understand about gentle parenting.  It did seem though that what they described, children running around a restaurant with no boundaries, was permissive parenting.

Sadly, many people mistake gentle parenting for permissive parenting. These two styles of parenting are completely different!  Let me define them before I talk about why permissive parenting is hurting the gentle parenting movement.

There are actually three parenting styles.  These three parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. If parents physically punish their children, they are authoritarian, even if they do some of the things that authoritative parents do such as listening to their children at times or offer some choices to the children. This is because authoritarian parenting stresses obedience without question, first-time obedience, strictness, and the use of punishment, especially corporal punishment, with their children.

Authoritarian parents also have very high (usually beyond what the children are developmentally capable of) expectations for their children. While authoritarian parents, in general, love their children very much and simply want the best for them, these parents tend to focus more on keeping control of their children than on using effective discipline strategies that respect the actual needs of the individual child.

Authoritative parents are firm but gentle with their children. They take the time to learn about child development and know at which stage their children are developmentally in order to gain a better understanding of their children’s behaviors.

Authoritative parents set firm, realistic boundaries and limits for their children based on the developmental stage of their children. While these parents stick to their guns on some things, such as bedtime and not allowing their children to eat cookies before suppertime, they always listen to all of their children’s feelings and validate those feelings.

In situations where negotiation can occur, such as allowing five more minutes of playtime before having their children clean up, these parents do so. These parents also give their children simple choices when appropriate, but they are not afraid to let their children know when something is not a choice and cooperation is absolutely required. When children don’t cooperate, authoritative parents will gently but firmly help their children cooperate. And these parents use natural and logical consequences with their children instead of punishment.

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Permissive parenting, on the other hand, is the direct opposite of authoritarian parenting. Permissive parenting is just as harmful and abusive to children as authoritarian parenting, even though these two parenting styles are on the two polar ends when it comes to parenting styles.

Permissive parents do not set limits or boundaries for their children. And when these parents do set limits and boundaries for their children, they often don’t consistently enforce them. Some permissive parents allow their children to “walk all over them,” to have whatever they want, and rarely do these parents give their children appropriate consequences when necessary.

Other permissive parents outright neglect all of their children’s needs. They do not even give their children appropriate and necessary care. All of permissive parenting, as I said above, is abusive because either type does not provide children with what they need to thrive. It also exasperates and frustrates children not to have any discipline just like spanking them does. Permissive and authoritarian parents break God’s charge for parents not to frustrate or exasperate their children in Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21.

So when I hear about parents letting their preschool children run around in a restaurant, I cringe.  Everyone there was probably thinking, “Parents today let their kids run wild.  I wish they’d spank those brats.”  Spanking/hitting those preschoolers would not teach them how to behave in a restaurant.  Rather, spanking/hitting them would teach fear which is not a good thing.

Plus, referring to children in a derogatory manner is never good. But permissive parenting brings out the authoritarians with force.

So, how would a gentle (authoritative) parent handle this situation?  First, they would have been practicing in a fun, playful way how to eat at a restaurant.  They would have been modeling manners from the time the children were infants.

Second, they would know that young children can’t sit quietly for long periods of time and would have brought crayons and paper for the children to color.  They also would have engaged the children in the family conversation.

Third, they would have ordered the food as soon as possible so the children didn’t have to wait as long.

And finally, if the children would have gotten antsy and started running around, the gentle parent would have stopped them and perhaps they would have left early.

Yes, gentle parents allow their children to be children, which for authoritarian parents, this may look like permissiveness because the children aren’t being “controlled,” but it isn’t.  It’s respecting the children for who they are.

I had the pleasure of going out to eat with a gentle family while in Florida and the children were excellent!  They were allowed to play quietly at the table.  They were included in the conversation.  Not once did they act up.

Respected children are better behaved because they are seen and treated like the little people that they are.  Their needs are met.  They are taught right from wrong without it being scary.  They are aware of limits and consequences.

Permissive parenting does not treat children as little people.  Children are not taught right from wrong.  And they crave limits and consequences.

Worse yet, people mistake permissive parenting with gentle parenting!

If these people could hang out with children who are gentle parented, they would never confuse it with permissiveness.  They also would be against spanking/hitting and other forms of punishment because gentle parented children are amazing!

Yes, all children have their not so nice moments, but hey, so do I.  What I see in children who are respected is that they have empathy and can eventually put themselves in other’s shoes as that is how their parents teach them.  They also don’t need to act up to get attention because attention is automatically given to them.  And they don’t regularly get put in situations where it’s too much for them to handle.

Permissive parenting creates self-entitled and struggle in life just as spanked/hit children do.  They don’t learn self-control either which can lead them down a bad road.

Gentle, authoritative, attachment parenting is truly the best way to raise children.  Yes, there will be times when gentle parents lean toward authoritarianism or permissiveness depending on the situation, and that is okay.  But people should be able to look at a family and tell if they are gentle.

I’m asking all parents to please look at your parenting and make sure you are in the authoritative, gentle, respectful parenting style.  Stop making people confuse the three parenting styles.  Make authoritarian parents want to come to the middle and become authoritative.

Respectful adults come from children who were respected throughout childhood!

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The “Strong-Willed” Child

So many Christians view “strong-willed” children in a very negative light.  There’s a book by James Dobson entitled The Strong-Willed Child that I can’t stand. Dobson’s way of punishing these children include multiple spankings/hittings and other harsh punishments in order to break their wills. Equating love with pain has been proven to be damaging to children.

I’m well aware that Dobson claims all research proving spanking is “harmful” to children is somehow “biased.” As someone who has conducted my own scholarly research, I can assure you that strict guidelines are upheld. There are many more studies showing the harmful effects of spanking than the few small studies claiming “loving” spanking isn’t harmful. It makes me feel physically ill that many Christians use this horrible book on their children.

Yet, in the Bible, we see that God uses many strong-willed people to do His Will!

The most strong-willed person in the Bible that God used to do so much good for the kingdom of God, I believe, is the Apostle Paul.

We see in Acts 9:1-2, and even in the previous chapter, that we meet Paul first as Saul, a devout Hellenistic Jew and a Pharisee that enjoyed persecuting Christians. He approved of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. Needless to say, this Saul guy was one bad dude. And yet, God had a radical plan for Saul. In Acts 9, we see that as Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute even more Christians, Jesus got Saul’s attention in a big but non-painful way. Saul went blind. Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting Him in Acts 9:4. Jesus told Saul to meet a man in Damascus who would tell him what to do. Saul, blind, obeyed God and look what happened:

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ’Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again'” (Acts 9:17-19, NIV).

From this moment on, Saul, who became Paul, lived his life for God, fearlessly proclaiming the gospel to all surrounding nations despite numerous beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote between thirteen and fourteen books of the New Testament—this is over half of the New Testament.

And anyone who is very familiar with the New Testament knows that Paul tells it like it is. He didn’t sugarcoat anything that God inspired him to write. He encouraged his fellow believers, but also rebuked and corrected them in his letters. Through Paul, God gained many believers into His kingdom.

God did not break Paul’s will. God molded Paul’s will into doing good instead of persecuting Christians. Had God broken Paul’s will, do you believe Paul would have clung to God through all the suffering he went through to share salvation through Jesus Christ?

Broken, compliant people are usually not strong people in that they find it very difficult to press against the tide. Strong-willed people have an easier time of questioning authority. They also have an easier time of pressing on when persecution occurs.

“We are struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12, NASB).

What I wish Christians would stop doing is viewing children as “strong-willed” and “manipulative.” And view them as intelligent, high spirited children who need much connection and guidance.

We should involve them in decisions about how the family needs to get things done.  We also need to provide them with appropriate alternatives for limits. For example, “You may not go upstairs right now but you can help with making dinner.” Or “Yes, you may go upstairs after I finish vacuuming.  I need you to pick up that toy.”

Having high spirited children can be very challenging.  But they can be disciplined without punishment. These children need to be heard. They need some control over their environment. They need lots of connection with us. They also need to have a great deal of consistency. By taking the time to truly work with high spirited children, we can channel that strong will into doing good and, ultimately, God’s Will.

I highly recommend the book, Raising Your Spirited Child.

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Original image source: http://gardenofpraise.com/bibl34s.htm

Physical “Discipline” Is NOT Biblical Nor A Part Of The “Rod” Verses

Once again I have seen another Christian leader try to claim that physical “discipline” (I hate when people try to call corporal punishment “physical discipline” as hitting a child is NOT “discipline,” it is punishment!) is a part of the “rod” verses of Proverbs.  They just do not understand that the Hebrew meaning of the “rod” verses do not include the use of corporal punishment with children.

If they did, God would have provided more instructions on how, when, why, and at what age children should be spanked/hit.

I mean, inflicting pain on a child is serious business.  Why would God leave it up to a bunch of sinful adults to figure out how to use corporal punishment?  And these sinful adults don’t even agree on what is “abuse.”  Here are quotes from the popular “Christian” advocates of spanking:

The child may be more strong-willed than the parent, and they both know it. If he can outlast a temporary onslaught, he has won a major battle, eliminating punishment in the parent’s repertoire. Even though Mom spanks him, he wins the battle by defying her again. The solution to this situation is obvious: outlast him; win, even if it takes a repeated measure” (Dobson, 1970, p. 45).

For example, a dime sized bruise on the buttocks of a fair-skinned child may or may not indicate an abusive situation. It all depends. In an otherwise secure and loving home, that bruise may have no greater psychological impact than a skinned knee or a stubbed toe. Again the issue in not the small abrasion; it is the meaning behind it” (Dobson, 1996, p. 25).

After you have spanked, take the child up on your lap and hug him, telling him how much you love him, how much it grieves you to spank him, and how you hope that it will not be necessary again. Then if he is still not restored, you are to check your own spirit to see if you have handled him roughly… [or] brought unholy anger on this holy mission, and if you have, seek forgiveness from God. If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round, ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking'” (Tripp, 1995, p. 149).

“On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again” (Pearl, 1994, p. 80).

It is very scary to me that they say different things, but yet, advocate harsh, “loving” spankings.  Also, dark skinned children must suffer much more pain than a lighter skinned child as bruises don’t show up as quickly on dark skin.

But since there is yet another “Christian” leader teaching parents to spank/hit their children in order to “Bibically discipline” them, I will explore the topic once again. I cover all of this in my book, Gentle Firmness.  

This time we’ll focus on Proverbs 22:15 (NASB) which states:

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

We know that the Hebrew meaning for “rod” is Shebet and that the rod was a large stick with spikes on the end of it.  The shepherds never used it to hit the sheep.  Shebet is also used in the Bible as a symbol of authority.

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The Biblical rod. Source: http://20reasonsnottospank.blogspot.com

The problem most Christians have with this verse as well as the other “rod” verses that seem to advocate using corporal punishment with children is that the Hebrew word for “discipline” which is Muwcar includes “chastisement” in the definition.

What confuses most pro-spanking Christians is that the English definition for chastisement includes physical punishment.  However, it means verbal correction as well.

When looking at the dictionary, there are many synonyms for chastise.

Let’s look at some of them: “Rebuke, Lecture, Scold, Reprimand, Bawl Out, Dress Down, and Lecture.”  Yes, it can mean physical punishment, but it also means many other things!

Given the Biblical context in which chastise is being used here in Proverbs, we are walking on very shaky ground if we choose to interpret it as a command to spank our children. God rebukes us all the time. No, it’s not pleasant, but it’s not in a harsh tone and He immediately forgives us when we repent. And yes, if we choose to do our own thing against His will, He will allow, not inflict, pain into our lives.  It’s called natural consequences.

Another issue with insisting on punishing and spanking/hitting our children and using the Bible to justify it is that Jesus suffered and died for ALL of our sins!  How come adults can just pray for forgiveness and they are forgiven?  But our children who are just learning don’t get grace and forgiveness until they “pay” for their “sins.”  How is this Biblical or Christ-like?

Finally, sadly, some Christians do follow this verse to a “t” and spank their children for being children. Yet, when we really study this and other verses that seem to advocate corporal punishment with children, we see that there is no reference to spanking/hitting children.  It is also important to understand child development as God created children to think and behave the way that they do. To constantly hit them for being “unwise” by adult standards is neither Biblical nor fair. And you can’t beat foolishness out of children any more than you can beat the devil out of them.

Jesus has raised children’s status and has called us to be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus had plenty of time to teach about children and NEVER said anything about spanking/hitting them!

We are to drive out folly by teaching, guiding, protecting, and comforting our children. To do anything other than that, especially to take the above verse literally, would be to teach children that no matter what they do, they will never be able to measure up. Does this sound like the way to raise children up in the Lord?

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References (I don’t recommend any of these):

Dobson, J. (1970). Dare to Discipline. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Dobson, J. (1996). The New Dare to Discipline. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Pearl, M. (1994). To Train Up A Child. Pleasantville, TN: No Greater Joy Ministries.

Tripp, T. (1995). Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press.

 

Using Agape Love To Parent

Agape love is basically having unconditional love for all people. God loves us with agape love as He sacrificed Himself as Jesus for our sins.  He also had to watch His Son suffer and die.  Agape love is the best way to describe God since God is love (1 John 4:8).

But do Christians show agape love to others, especially their children?  In my experience, they often do not. They insist on condemning others and punishing their children.

Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect.  I struggle at times to love people how God wants me to do so.  I get hurt, offended, and judgemental.  Thankfully, God lovingly corrects me when I mess up.  He loves me with agape love.

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Sadly, most devotionals for children teach that they must be punished for their sins. So do the child-rearing books by popular “Christian child-rearing experts” such as James Dobson, Michael Pearl, Ted Tripp, and Roy Lessin.  How is this teaching children about agape love that God has for them?  Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins, including children!

Obviously, these Christian advocates of spanking do not understand God’s unconditional love for us. Due to adults’ sinful nature, we struggle with practicing agape love.  Sometimes it is easier to condemn, spank/hit, yell, or ignore our children.  But the Bible says:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1, NASB).

This means getting up at 2am to care for the baby instead of letting him/her cry-it-out.

This means redirecting our toddlers for the 20th time away from something we don’t want them to play with and telling them what they can do rather than yelling at them and/or smacking their hand because they won’t listen and we’re sick of redirecting them.

This means sitting on the floor while our young children have a meltdown over a limit we’ve set and validating their feelings over the limit that they don’t like.

Finally, parenting with agape love means taking the time to truly listen to our children so that they will want to come to us when they are in trouble.

Yes, we will make mistakes, but when we do, agape love allows us to be humble and apologize to our children.

I am well aware that some Christians will read this and say, “Spanking is a part of what the Bible says about loving our children.”  If this is you, please read these posts.  And check out this book by theologian Samuel Martin.  It’s free!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes exactly what agape love is.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (ESV).

There is nothing in the above verse that say spanking/hitting, using cry-it-out, or using other harsh punishment is a part of agape love.  If anything, it points to gentle firmness as agape love.

It may not always be easy but by parenting with agape love, we can show children God’s true character and teach them how to love others unconditionally.

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Cooperation Is More Important Than Obedience In The Parent-Child Relationship

For the majority of Christian families there is a real emphasis on making children obey their parents. Everything seems to center on obedience. When children don’t obey, parents feel they must punish the children through spanking/hitting or other types of harsh punishment. These well-meaning Christian parents believe that if they don’t teach their children to obey authority, then they won’t obey God.

Yes, the Bible tells children to obey their parent in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. However, this is directed at children, not parents.  Parents seem to ignore Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, which states, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” “Fathers” can also be translated into “Parents.”

Nowhere in the family living instruction Scriptures in Ephesians or Colossians does it tell parents to force their children to “obey them.”  In fact, the Greek word used for “obey” in both of these Scriptures is “hupotasso,” which means to voluntarily submit or listen under.

And if you read the whole passage in Ephesians, it emphasizes more mutual submission within the family where everyone has a role to play instead of a hierarchy where certain members are dominant over each other.  Sadly, many Christian families are trapped in hierarchy where the focus is on control.

This is not what God had in mind.  Yes, the husband is the head of the household, and yet the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church.  Meaning to sacrifice for her which makes her want to submit to him by listening to him and giving him respectful consideration.

This is cooperation and teamwork!

The same applies to children.  When parents give children respectful care and consideration, children are more likely to cooperate with their parents.  They learn to trust their parents.  They also learn that they are an important part of a team.

Teamwork and cooperation are key in the world!  Everywhere, when people work together, things actually get done.

I’ll be honest.  I have a real distaste for the word, “obey,” within the parent-child relationship as I saw first hand how it destroys connection instead of fostering it as cooperation does.

For example, the parent tells the child to get ready to go.  The child is trying to finish something and dawdles and/or complains.  The parent, if they don’t do first-time obedience, (which is even worse) tells the child again to get ready to leave.  If the child continues to dawdle and/or complain, the parent will say, “Obey me or I will have to spank you!”

The parent focused on cooperation will give the child multiple heads-ups that it will be time to go soon. If needed, they will validate the child’s not wanting to go and will later ask the child how to better help him/her get ready to go if the child had a hard time making the transition.

No, cooperation does NOT mean parents let children rule the roost.  Cooperation simply connects the parent and child, thus, allowing the parent to work *with* the child!  True discipleship happens in families that focus on cooperation rather than obedience.

Cooperation also removes the need for punishment.  Obedience tends to foster an attitude of “Obey me or else.”  On the other hand, cooperation allows natural consequences to happen.  It teaches. It disciples.  It even allows respectful back talk.

True obedience to God comes out of cooperation!  Real obedience cannot be taught as it is a heart issue.  I obey God because I love and trust Him.  Forced obedience to parents is fear based, and therefore, fake.  Yes, fake!  Obeying only out of fear in order to avoid being punished isn’t true obedience.

It’s very sad that some parents don’t care why their children obey as long as they obey.

Another reason why I really dislike using obedience within the parent-child relationship is we’re not God and are mere sinners. Only God is worth obeying.  He will never lead us down the wrong paths.  Humans will.

Finally, I can hear pro-spankers asking, “What about the police?  The police won’t negotiate with us.”  Yes, sometimes immediate cooperation with authority figures is a must.  Children raised with respect usually have no problem respecting other authority figures.  And we should teach children that police are there to help us, so we must always cooperate with them.  In fact, research shows that people that grew up in homes with harsh corporal punishment are at a higher risk of being criminals.

Cooperation should be our aim within the parent-child relationship.  May we foster true obedience to God by making cooperation our aim within the family.

 

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Our God Is A Gentle God

2 Chronicles 5:12-14 (NASB):
“and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying, ‘He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,’ then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”

I absolutely love this Scripture!

First, I love how all the singers and band players sang and played at the same time, in one accord.  That must have been a glorious, awesome sound!  If only the Church would do this again.

Another thing that I love about this Scripture is that the glory of the Lord filled the house with a cloud. The priests could not stand and minister due to the cloud which was the glory of the Lord!  If only the Church had that much faith so God could do this nowadays!

And the fact that it was the glory of the Lord that caused the priests to fall on their knees.  God gently brought them to their knees.  It reminds me of the song, “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle.  The chorus goes like this:

“At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.”

God gently brings us to our knees.  I know many Christians, sadly, view God as harsh and punitive.  They believe that God can be harsh and makes bad things happen.

I’ve been through a great deal of hard times throughout my life.  I can attest that God has been my comfort if I allow Him to be and don’t turn away from Him.

Our God is a gentle God!  As parents, instead of forcing our children down on their knees, may we allow God to gently bring them to their knees.  May we follow God’s loving example and parent with gentle firmness.

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Guest Post: A Walmart Story By Elaine Murphy

Just got back from the Walmart. My husband and I heard a child screaming in what sounded like pain. I’m ignoring it realizing that I’m in Walmart and that’s a common sound and I don’t want to go off on anybody because one of these days, I’m going to be killed during one of my “parenting” interventions. The crying went on and on unabated. I was having a panic attack and told my husband that I had to find this child obviously in distress and no doubt being abused.

In the frozen food aisle, there they were. A beautiful toddler boy with long brown hair being cradled on his young mother’s lap as she sat on the floor rocking him back and forth telling him that she’s sorry that he’s upset. She also told him, “I’m sorry it’s not here. We’ll talk to the store people and see if it will be in soon.”

Then, an older girl about ten walked up and said, “They said it won’t be here for a couple of days.” As she rubbed the little boy’s head.

The mother looked annoyed at this information, thanked her daughter and told the little boy again, “I’m so sorry.” The little boy nodded his head as he made a valiant attempt to choke back his tears.

The mother placed him gently back into the shopping cart and they went on their way. I walked over to the section of frozen food that was causing all of the distress and guessed by the empty section that is supposed to have a particular brand of vegan hot dogs that this may be what upset the little toddler.

What a great, loving, peaceful mom and big sister!

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Making Thanksgiving Enjoyable For Children Too

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us be mindful to make sure the Holiday is enjoyable for our children as well.

Young children cannot sit quietly for long periods, so let them play before they eat as well as after they finish eating.  Bringing crayons and coloring books can help keep them occupied.

Encourage them to try new foods, but don’t force them to eat stuff they truly don’t like.  Try to have one thing that they like at the meal.

Model good manners to your children.  If they are old enough (3 years and up), have fun practicing good manners before Thanksgiving.  Just don’t expect perfection from young children as they are still learning and developing fine motor skills.

Let them participate in ways they can enjoy. Allow them to engage in conversations.  Ask them what they are grateful for, and talk about being grateful all year.

For young children, being in a new place and/or having a lot of people around may overwhelm them.  Be prepared to help your child take a break from all the activity.  Explain to guests that they need to respect your children’s personal space if your children aren’t comfortable hugging and kissing.  Suggest something less invasive that your children may be more comfortable with such as giving high fives.

Do your best to stick as closely to your children’s routines as possible.  Help prepare your children for changes by telling them what to expect beforehand.  When new transitions come up on Thanksgiving, be prepared to help your children get through them if they tend to struggle with transitions.

Finally, plan family activities that everyone can enjoy to encourage bonding with relatives that the children may not often see.

A few simple steps and some planning ahead can help make Thanksgiving enjoyable for all!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 118:1, NASB).

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4, KJV).

*A special note: Some of us will be grieving on Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday season as we’ve lost loved ones.  Please acknowledge, validate, and express that grief.  There is joy amidst the sorrow.  Take the time to feel the pain if needed and remember loved ones.

May everyone have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

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