We are employing some new-to-us tactics in our discipline. One of them is getting creative and helping the kids have consequences that are memorable but that also allow them free will--they can make a choice and experience the consequences, positive or negative. (All this and more can be found in Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com--where I purchased the book)
Well, helping Maryn manage her freedom has been very interesting. And hard. And crazy, at times. This week, we had a teachable moment in cleaning up after ourselves. I asked the kids to put their stuff (toys, shoes, pillows, blankies, all belongings) away. Nothing happened. Surprise. (Catch the sarcasm.)
The next time, I followed Danny Silk's lead, and I told them they could either pick up their stuff, or I would put their stuff in a trash bag to give to other kids. Both Sam and Maryn did not believe me, and they didn't pick up their toys. They made a choice not to. So, I grabbed a trash bag, and picked everything up. Then, in my mercy and grace (trying to mimic the Father, here!), I gave them another opportunity. I called them upstairs. I showed them all their stuff in the bag (this is new for them, so I am cutting them some slack), and then explained that they could save their stuff. I dumped it all on the floor of their room.
I said, "You get one more chance. I am going to set the timer for 15 minutes. You can either pick up your stuff and put it away nicely, or I am going to pick it all back up and give it to other kids. Anything that is left on the floor when the timer goes off will go into the trash bag. Sam, you pick up your stuff, and Maryn, you pick up yours."
I set the timer, and I walked away. Samuel got it. He cleaned up his stuff very quickly and was finished in no time. I went up there, checked it out. He was off the hook. Maryn, however, was playing. She had not a care in the world. Sigh.
Sam explained it to her, "Maryn, you better clean up your stuff, or Mom is gonna throw it in the trash!"
I pleaded with her to make the right choice. I explained how it hurt my heart. She had left her blankies on the floor, and I BEGGED HER to pick them up. She just looked at me and said in her sing-song voice, "I don't want to." Maryn's blankies are so important to her. She's had them since she was a baby, and she chews on them. Disgusting, I know. I knew how devastated she would be when she realized they were gone. At that moment, the Lord gave me understanding into His heart,
"This is how desperately I want my children to choose Me over their selfish pleasures. I plead, I beg, I offer multiple chances. I don't force their wills. It hurts my heart when they don't choose Me, but I must let them make their choice. They must choose to love Me, or it isn't love."
I, then, went downstairs to check the timer. It began to beep, and my heart sank--like the Titanic in quicksand. I went back upstairs with the trashbag and began picking up all her stuff. I explained once again what I was doing. She really didn't seem to mind too much, but I was smarter than that. I knew it would sink in at bedtime when she wanted blankie the most.
The Lord spoke again to my heart, "She was willing to sacrifice her most important possession in order to do what she wanted to do. How often my children do the same!"
I went downstairs and cried a little. My heart was broken for my little girl and her poor choice. This is new for me. Normally, I just get mad because the kids won't obey me. This time, I was grieved for her. I knew she didn't realize the gravity of her choice. I began immediately trying to think of a way to redeem it.
The Spirit said, "This is how I feel. This is why I MUST redeem you. I can't leave this undone. I will go at all lengths to restore you to me in our relationship."
I knew at that moment that I had to show the Father's heart and redeem blankie.
Bedtime that night was rough. She cried and cried. I held her, snuggled with her, sang to her, and she finally calmed. The next morning, after she'd been up for an hour or so, she began to wail (yes, "wail" is the proper term for our Maryn) for blankie. I really sensed the Lord wanted me to just spend some time comforting her and being with her in her loss. So, I did. I stroked her hair and told her stories about when she was born and how we wrapped her up in blankie. She listened quietly minus the wailing. As I sat with her, I once again sensed I was acting out His heart for us--He is with us even when we have wasted what was most precious. He is forever present with us in our dark places.
I began to pray, "Father, what would you have me do to show her your redemption? How can I redeem blankie for her?"
The word "books" came to mind instantly. I began scanning through my mental list of titles that I owned. Obviously, there were some books I couldn't part with, but I knew whatever book I chose to part with would have to be important to me. I went downstairs and scanned the bookshelves, and then I saw it. The Magic Christmas, a Sweet Valley Twins book that I read a dozen times in the 5th or 6th grade with my best friend, Abigail. This book was very important to me. It's one of those things I've hung onto from my friendship with Abby, and though I gave away all of my other Sweet Valley books, I always kept this one for sentimental reasons. (Forgive me, Abby!)
I knew I had to do it. Whatever I gave up had to be worth something to me. So, I took Maryn, Sam, and the book into the kitchen where the trashbag full of her stuff was. I explained how important the book was to me. I explained how I was going to exchange the book for Maryn's blankies. I was going to sacrifice my book so that Maryn could have her blankies. She was thrilled. I'm not so sure she got it.
But Sam did.
"Lord, this is a lesson for Sam?" I wondered.
Later that afternoon, Sam and I were reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (yes, we're STILL reading...his attention span is short!). We reached the chapter where Aslan exchanges his life for Edmund's. Sam and I had a long talk about Maryn's blankies, Aslan and Edmund, and finally, Jesus and us. It was so beautiful. It was an answer to prayer as well; I have been praying for these teachable moments for Samuel and asking for him to have lots of spiritual questions.
Though it was hard, I am pleased with how the discipline worked out. Justice and mercy both played a part. Maryn does believe Mommy now. Samuel came to a greater understanding of God's desire to know him. I became more like Jesus. I'm so thankful that our good, kind Papa redeemed this situation for all of us.