I Created this Monster

discipline is the parent's responsibility

I finally had enough. I spent the summer repeating instructions, getting frustrated, yelling, stomping. The straw fell; the camel’s back cracked.

It was time to go to piano lessons. One child sat at the table, casually reading a magazine. The baby headed out the door by himself, his sister a few steps behind. I turned to tell the reading child to get up NOW one more time.

Then I heard it.

A scream followed by the pause of it-hurts-so-bad-I-can’t-even-cry. And then the wail that often accompanies a toddler’s injury.

“Mama! Barrett fell down the steps!”

When I scooped him up to inspect his injuries, I found a little scuff on his knee and a small bump on his head. Then I saw his glasses. His 5-day-old glasses. The bricks kissed the scratch-resistant lenses which proved to be no match for my 20-month old. Four deep gouges winked back at me, along with a few scrapes on the plastic frames.

The three of us tossed blame around like a hot potato.

“I had to stay behind to tell you to come on for the third time!”

You should have held his hand!”

“You should come when mama calls you!”

“You need to watch out for your brother!”

I kept the radio off on the way to the piano lesson so we could all calm down a little. I needed some quiet to think. I am so tired of no one listening. I am tired of yelling. I am tired of the little me-monster who doesn’t do what she is told. Then it occurred to me.

I created this monster.

I allow my daughter to ignore me. I give her the luxury of multiple reminders and prompts. I grant her the liberty to run our house with her strong will.

It has to stop with me. She isn’t going to change on her own. She has an eleven-year history of pushing back and getting her way. It will not change overnight. It will not change unless I change. 

I know the responsibility to obey is her’s. The responsibility to direct her to obey is mine.

God did this for the Children of Israel. He gave them instructions. He gave them space to obey or not. He removed His hand when they didn’t obey; He blessed when they did. Without consequences, the Children of Israel may have danced around their golden calf forever.

“I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked peoople.” Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, becausee they  made the calf, the one that Aaron made. (Exodus 32:9, 35, emphasis added)

Discipline is the parent’s responsibility.

I don’t want to be the bad guy. I want her to obey out of love and respect for me without the need for consequences. This is flawed thinking, a monster-making philosophy. I am not respectable when I do not expect obedience. 

I am not sure what to do now. I know that I need to do something different. I am not exactly sure what that will look like over the coming weeks.

I know it will require me to be present.

It means putting down my phone and engaging her. It means looking her in the eye to give her instructions, not yelling them across the house or over my shoulder. I will have to enter into this hormonal, moody world she lives in and get cozy.

I know it will require me to stop.

I will have to stop what I am doing to deal with her disobedience immediately. I need to stop allowing her to argue, to protest, to run over me. I have to stop putting all of the blame on her when I have enabled her for so long.

I know it will require grace.

I will need grace for myself as I learn how to mother her better. I will need grace for her as she learns to bring her will under mine, under God’s. We will both need the grace of God to cover our mistakes and failures.

The only ray of hope in man’s spiritual darkness is the sovereign grace of God. (John MacArthur)

discipline is the parent's responsibility

Barrett’s glasses are scarred, but his face is not. Those glasses provided the necessary protection his little face needed at the expense of their shiny surface.

As a mother, I am called to be a protector for my children. Not only to protect them from the outside world but also to protect them from their sinful tendencies.

Help a mama out! How do you encourage obedience in your children? How do you maintain the stamina it takes to fight the me-monster?

Recommended Resources

“Rather than seeking mere behavior modification, sacred parenting points our children to their need for a relationship with God and his wonderful answer to this need.” (Gary Thomas, Sacred Parenting)

Focus on the Family
“There’s not a responsible parent on the planet who hasn’t struggled with getting a child to obey, and it can be an excruciating experience. How do you get your children to mind without losing yours?” (From Focus on the Family’s online series by Chip Ingram entitled Effective Child Discipline.)

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  1. You are right. You will have to stop and make sure that the whole world comes down on her head if necessary. When my daughter was her age we had an “If” “Then” chart. That means IF you do (or do not) do something THEN this is the consequence (no phone, internet, etc). This really preempted potential arguments about “fairness”. Cause as you probably already know everything is unfair at that age!

  2. Thank you for this reminder. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. I’m a widowed mom of four and getting them to help clean the house has been a bear. One kid in particular keeps pushing every so slightly by “forgetting” or “getting distracted” and I need to step up with solid consequences. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jenn, it is so much easier to write about it than to actually do it. I am struggling with you, fighting my desire to just give in. It seems easier to give into them at the time, but it is not in any of our best interest. Praying that the Spirit fills you with the strength and grace you need in these difficult years!

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