Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting Real...The Tougher Side Of Parenting!

Have you ever thought about how some of the most beautiful things in life are the result of tremendous pressure, heat, effort, etc.?

Think about a diamond… it is simple carbon atoms, what we get coal from…but when the atoms are subjected to very high temperatures and very intense heat…a beautiful, precious gem emerges!

Or, precious metals…like gold or silver are refined when incredibly high temperatures are applied…

Some of our most precious earthly treasures emerge from an intense period of refining…but the same could be said of our children.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how as parents, we are God’s instruments of refinement in our children’s lives. I want to be very clear, I am NOT, in any way, shape or form, talking about applying pressure to our children in an abusive way. I am simply using it as analogy to convey the idea of the heat and intensity of unconditional love and the pressure of consistent discipline.

Even in my own life, God has applied pressure many times through different situations, to bring about transformation…through them I have learned to love, to forgive, to show compassion and mercy, and I am still learning.

And that, in many ways, is much like our role as a parent… Love and discipline are a constant day to day application of heat and pressure….the purpose of which is to bring forth the most treasured, precious gems that they can be…

Pressure can be applied in many ways…not giving in to their nagging and whining for the things that are not best for them…constantly offering and demonstrating love, even when its rejected…having the courage to tell them ‘no,’ even if the rest of their friends are doing it, whether it’s listening to a certain kind of music or going to see a particular movie…sometimes it means making sure you administer the discipline that’s been promised, when your busy and it’s easy to forget.

In our house, chores are our major tool of discipline, especially for the older kids…if you don’t do your homework…you owe us 15 minutes of work…if you don’t tell the truth…you owe us an hours worth of work…if you disobey…it ranges from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the offense…but this system of discipline requires time and effort…it requires keeping the pressure on.

We don’t restrict or ground our children from the things they want to do, but if they are in the ‘red’ with chores, then they aren’t able to do anything until the chores are completed. They know that the best way to insure that they get to do fun things with their friends is to not have a list of chores they owe us, which means they’re making good choices…some are learning the lesson better than others!

Each of our children, just like me, have some habits that need to go away…habits that aren’t in keeping with a strong character, but the only way the habit will ever be rooted out is to keep the pressure on…we must discipline every occurrence…it’s exhausting and emotionally draining.

But all of this applies to creating attachment in adoption too. We can never let up on demonstrating our love for Abby and responding to her every need until she learns to trust us.

Many have asked how she’s doing, she’s doing wonderful…and I always answer that, but now, I’m also making sure I discuss the reality of it. Yes, she truly is doing wonderful, better than I would have ever imagined at this point…but it is exhausting and draining. We can’t let up for a second…we must keep the pressure of love and grace constantly flowing; as well as the pressure of keeping boundaries firmly in place as she learns to live as a member of our family.

In the movie Fireproof, the main character reaches a point in the pursuit of his wife, where he wants to give up…she is rejecting his every effort and he is mad and frustrated…but his dad said something to him that really made me think… “When things get rough, that’s when our motivations get tested.”

Wow, how true is that, even in the context of parenting? Am I disciplining and loving my children because there is something in it for me? Or am I doing this simply because I love them and only want what’s best for them? We have to be really honest with ourselves about our motivations!

But if our efforts are REALLY rooted in our love for them, then we will persevere, no matter how many times we have to apply the pressure, no matter how many times they reject us, no matter how exhausted, frustrated, or emotionally drained we become…and we will apply it with grace and tremendous love, NOT with yelling, unkind words, harsh punishment or any other form of inappropriate anger.

And all we have to do is look to our Abba Father for the perfect example…that is exactly how He loves us…with persistence, determination, grace, patience, faithfulness and perseverance…His discipline is ALWAYS lovingly administered to bring out the best in us… He NEVER gives up in His pursuit of us or in His desire to make us into all that He knows we can be…we are His precious treasure, the apple of His eye!

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