When the kids were younger, I did a lot of defining.
- That’s anger.
- You must obey when mommy says come.
- You must share the toy.
- Mommy is happy when you obey.
- We do not bite our friends.
- We do not bite mommy.
As our children have gotten older, and as their ability to reason grows, I’ve found it helpful to consider teamwork more as I instruct. I want my children to learn how to grow spiritually, but I’m at times stuck considering how to encourage this behavior.
On one hand, I want authentic spiritual activity. If I require Bible reading time, prayer time, singing in church, sharing when they don’t want to (with the threat of discipline, they’ll comply), talking about spiritual matters, and so on, I run the risk of creating a Pharisee, right? A child who can DO all the right things, regardless of whether his heart is in it or not.
On the other hand, I’ve discovered that my children sometimes WANT a thing that they lack the maturity to follow through on. If they’re glad I made them save up their money for a desired toy, instead of spending it all on candy and flimsy trinkets, doesn’t it follow that requiring some spiritual things will help them know the delight of accomplishing spiritual goals as well?
Seems as they get older, establishing an atmosphere of teamwork makes a lot of sense. Working together for a common spiritual goal sounds great. But sometimes, they don’t talk about spiritual things. If I try to help them, they sometimes retreat. I am not always successful, but I want to establish an atmosphere of teamwork in my home. The goal is still important, even if I often fall short.
You know those habits that cause you grief? I can help with that. What have you tried to overcome the problem? How about if we try something else? (When I’m trying for teamwork, I’m less likely to be satisfied with a terse Bible verse and correction. I see more quickly when my solutions are inadequate, and I’m driven to search for better answers.)
What do you want to accomplish spiritually? What are you learning? What are you struggling with? I will be quick to hear and slow to speak. I will help you. I will uphold you. I will not leave you. I will turn off the computer, put away the phone, stop making dinner. I will take the time to ask God for help, to search for answers when my approach becomes combative.
I want my children to see me as an ally as they wrestle to be patient with their siblings, as they learn to keep their rooms clean. That’s what Jesus did, right? Doesn’t he delight to hear our requests for spiritual needs? If he doesn’t need our help, why would he desire our cooperation?
And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way. Mark 10:51-52