...children are born persons...
I've been thinking a lot about this lately. This particular blog post has been on my minds for weeks now, but I'm just now finding time to actually gather my thoughts and write it out.
I would like to stress that children are born persons. I don't believe they are born to be little minions for us to rule over like some all-powerful dictator. Most of us wouldn't dream of treating a fellow adult the way we treat our children. Can you imagine telling one of your friends that they have to do something "because I said so, that's why!"? I can't!
You know that famous Bible passage that says, "Children, obey your parents..."
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Notice that it doesn't say, "obey your parents because you have to," or, "obey your parents because you have no other choice." It says to do it because it is right.
I wonder how many parents are raising up their children to blindly follow every direction and every order without ever stopping to teach their children not only what is right, but why it is right.
I wonder how many parents think that if they yell at their kids enough or beat them hard enough when they do something wrong that they will somehow grow up to be obedient?
It is my belief that children who are raised to blindly follow every order given to them without question are the kids most likely to be abused or molested. They've been told their whole lives that they are not allowed to question what adults tell them to do, but just to do it.
I also think those are probably the children who grow up to be what we call "sheeple." Their entire lives they've been forced to live under someone's authority without ever being allowed to question why they have to do or not do things.
Now, please don't get me wrong, I think kids need to be obedient. I am not opposed to spanking. But I think that parents who expect their kids to do things just because "I said so," are doing it wrong.
I think parents need to differentiate, both in their own minds and in how they teach their children, that there is a difference in behavior that is
*not allowed or not acceptable, and that which is
Some things are not allowed, no matter where you go, who you're with. Things like hitting, kicking, biting. The only exception to this is if an adult is trying to hurt you or take you away from your parents without their OK.
Some things are not appropriate in certain situations. For example, it is allowed to take your clothes off for a bath at home, but it is not appropriate to take all your clothes off in the middle of church! It is allowed to hug your mom and dad whenever you want, but it is not appropriate to walk up to complete strangers and hug them. It is allowed to go into your own room and play with whatever you want, but it is not appropriate to go into someone else's room and start pulling all their things off the shelf.
I believe it's OK for kids to ask why or why not. Haven't you ever wondered why you had to do something?
Imagine being at a buffet filled with all your favorite foods. You are starving and just about to tuck in and fill up on delicious food, but then someone who calls himself "the boss" shows up and tell you that you may only have one bite of one dish and that's all, offering no explanation for it except that they are the boss and they said so. Don't you want to know why?
Life is a buffet to kids, full of amazing things to do and explore. Now, some of those things are not going to be good for them, and we have to tell them so. But they deserve an explanation as to why those things are not allowed.
Albert Einstein said:
"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry."
We like to talk about how the public schools squash the natural curiosity out of our children but I think a lot of parents do their part in it to, because they think every time a child questions why or why not that it is disobedience and so the children's questions are ignored and shut down over and over until the child comes to believe that they aren't good enough to know the answers to things and so they stop asking.
So I have never had a problem with my kids asking why they have to do something or why they can't do something. There are some things that, as they get older, they already know why or why not, and so when they ask, I will simply say, "You know why." My answer to my 12 year old would likely be different than an answer to my 7 year old.
I also think it's OK to compromise with your kids. Take this real-life example:
My son, Jake has this horribly annoying toy that he just loves. I think it came in a kids' meal at some point. It looks like a small saxophone but it works like a kazoo. He likes to walk around the house playing The Imperial March from Star Wars on it. Over and over....and over.
So the other day, he was doing this and I thought my brain might explode if I had to listen to it one more time, so I told him to stop.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because it's really annoying me and I can't concentrate with all the noise."
He pauses for a moment. "How about if I go do it in my room with the door closed?"
"OK, that will work."
Now, if you belong to the "because I said so" crowd, you'll see two problems here. One, I let him ask why (and gasp! I actually answered him) and then I did the horrible act of letting him keep playing even though I said to stop.
However, if you think the way I do, you'll see that: I acknowledged that he wanted to know why he had to stop doing something he was enjoying, and I gave him the true answer for why I wanted him to stop; then, I listened to his idea on how to solve the problem, deemed it just as good as my own solution (better actually, as this way we were both happy), accepted it and compromised.
That's just the way I think it should be done. Because kids are people, too, and they deserve to know why they have to do things, they deserve to know that their opinion counts, and the deserve to have their voice heard just like grown-ups do.
Now, back to children doing things because it is right (sorry, I'm jumping around here, hang with me). Another example of this is perhaps a simple one, but it popped into my mind.
At our house we are constantly losing the TV remote. It falls behind the couch or gets stuck between cushions or kicked under things. So most of the time, we will have to get up to adjust the volume.
If one of the kids is closer to the TV than Tony or I (which is usually the case), we will ask them to turn it up. If they ask, "Why do I have to do it?" the answer is, "Because it needs to be done and you're the person closest to it, so it's easiest for you to do." While they may ask this question in their younger years, they eventually get to the point where they will ask, "Do you want me to turn it up, since I'm closest?"
This is, as I said, a simple example, but it's kids learning this is why I am being told or asked to do this and translating that as they get older into I should do this because...
I would also like to say that I am a big supporter of parents apologizing to their kids. We are no more perfect than they are, and we screw up just like they do. We lose our tempers or forget to do something that someone asked us to do or any of a thousand other things we can do wrong. If we want to teach our children to be sorry for things and repentant, we must model this for them.
One time when Katy was just 3, I had a horrible confrontation with a woman - at church, no less! - right in front of her. We (the woman and I) said some horrible things to each other and I ended up closing a door right in her face. Then I turned and saw my daughter standing there. Immediately I dropped to my knees in front of her and apologized for acting that way. We're not supposed to act like that and I shouldn't have done it no matter how upset I was.
I have apologized to my kids many times since then. Sometimes it's because I have doled out punishments far too severe for whatever they did ("Go to your room and stay there til dinner!" - at 8 in the morning) because I was just so frustrated!
I think kids deserve apologies when they've been done wrong or seen a wrong done to others just the same as adults do.
Kids are who they are. We are who we are. None of us are perfect. We are not perfect parents and we cannot expect perfect children. If God expected perfect children, He'd have wiped us all out by now. Our job is not to break our children's spirits but to shape their hearts and bend their wills toward doing what is right. And I don't think that is done by forcing them into blind submission, I believe that is done by loving them, valuing them, and yes, telling them why they have to do something when they don't want to.