A life well-lived starts with training our children at a very young age and it is during these formative years of their life that deep rooted positive character qualities can begin to grow in them. However, good character cannot grow in the soil of a heart that is grown up with the weeds of selfishness. It is our job as parents to pull those weeds as soon as they begin to sprout.
In this blog I offer you a practical suggestion that will help you begin taking those earliest steps towards weeding out those ugly “me” weeds and so prepare the heart of your child for truly loving others, and ultimately Jesus, more than themselves. It is with some caution and a lot of liberality that I do so. Caution in that it is common for good advice to be misconstrued or abused. Liberality in that I could not possibly be more confident that, if properly administered, this suggestion will work for you too and that thrills me! So my challenge to you is to read this blog with an open mind and willingness to look at the subject of discipline with a fresh perspective and if you choose to practice it with your child, make up your mind that you will be careful to stick to the plan until you succeed. Why start otherwise, right? The confidence you will gain and the joy that will inevitably begin to shine in your relationship with your child will be like the dawn of a new day. So I enthusiastically invite you to join me and many others who have applied this method of obedience training and nipped that defiant spirit in the bud!
The chore of changing diapers offers one of the earliest and best opportunities to teach our children to exercise their will towards good behavior and submit to a higher authority, you the parent. Teaching our children submission and a positive exercise of the will are the most critical elements of training up a child. It is in this groundwork that your children will have the capacity to love which is at the root of every good behavior.
Changing diapers stinks! =) In more ways than one! But if you will put into practice today what I am about to suggest to you, you will have the misery of this frequently occurring chore cut in half within three days (the other half your nose will just have to endure!). Mom and Johnny are characters I have developed in a few of my blogs; they serve well in examples of typical child training scenarios like this one. (Note: for the sake of brevity in this blog, mom is successful with her first attempt. Be persistent, success will come!)
Mom flops down on the couch, phone in hand, receiving a call from dad.
“Hi honey! (huff, huff) What? Oh, I’m breathing hard? I’m fine, just exhausted from changing Johnny’s diaper! What? Well, I don’t know if it’s normal or not but for Johnny and me it’s like a wrestling match; with his legs flailing it’s all I can do to get him cleaned up and diapered without getting it all over the changing table and me!”
Thoughtfully pondering her conversation with her husband, Mom considers his suggestion to correct Johnny’s behavior and is reminded of the wisdom of Proverbs 22:15. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” She recalls diaper changes when Johnny was younger. When he was just a few months old he didn’t know how to control the movement of his legs but he wasn’t nearly as big then and more recently she has begun to notice a change in his demeanor about getting his diaper changed. It’s no longer an unhappy cry but an angry cry and the flailing of his legs seems to be more intentional and defiant (red flag). Realizing this subtle progression over the past several months of diaper changes mom identifies Johnny’s current behavior as being an obvious exercise of his will over hers. Except for the fact that mom manages with great difficulty to get a clean diaper on him, he is winning the battle of wills because he is making it a miserable and messy experience for both of them.
This is a critical point of decision for mom. Will she give in to the soft side of herself and allow Johnny’s behavior to continue because it hurts her to spank Johnny while he’s still so young? Certainly, that would be a selfish decision and not in Johnny’s best interest. This is the perfect opportunity for mom to show Johnny that “me” does not belong on the throne of his life and that even at his young age he can begin submitting his will to a higher authority and set in motion Johnny’s journey towards a life of JOY.
Mom knows that to inflict a little pain on Johnny’s thigh a few times during diaper changes will solve the problem of defiant crying and kicking quickly, and will soon make this frequent chore a pleasant experience. The next day, mom supplies the changing table with a new item, a wooden spoon. (I took a permanent marker and drew a smiley face on ours, because, ultimately the proper use of it will make everybody happy!) Remembering the urging of her husband to correct Johnny’s behavior, Mom is determined to stick to it and carry out their plan. Before the next diaper change she tests the impact of the spoon on her own leg so that she will carefully produce a sting on Johnny’s thigh, not too much and not too little. Without pain Johnny will not be able to associate his bad behavior with the word “no”.
The moment of truth has arrived! Time for a diaper change. Mom lifts Johnny on to the changing table and begins the process. As mom unfastens Johnny’s diaper and pulls his legs up Johnny starts his usual routine: legs flailing, back arching, defiant crying and…….. boy, this is a messy one! “Be still Johnny.” Mom calmly instructs. Her words are worthless. Johnny had heard those words before but had never been given a reason to understand them much less obey them. Mom reaches for the wooden spoon and gives Johnny two pops with it on his thigh and simultaneously says “No!”. Johnny has that “what just happened?” look on his face and bursts into tears. Mom comforts Johnny with words of love while she finishes up with ease. “Johnny, Mommy loves you, but you must learn to lie still while I change your diaper.” She lifts him up off of the changing table, and what happens next is profound. Johnny clings to mom.
Our tendency may be to overlook this detail because it is so normal, but upon closer examination the significance of it is clearly seen. As soon as the sting was applied to his leg Johnny’s will to express his disapproval was no longer being exercised. For that moment he learned the surrender of his will to a higher authority and in doing so, “me” got off the throne of his life, at least momentarily. A consistent repetition of this exercise will soon help Johnny progress from the “Y” to the “O” in JOY. When the throne of our life is emptied of self we naturally reach out in love to another and in Johnny’s case, mom.
The tenderness expressed between mom and Johnny in this moment is at the heart of what all of my blogs are about.
Defiance repels. Obedience endears.
Thank you for reading!
If you think this method is a little over the top for such a little one, consider reading “A Life Well-live” , and then decide. =)