Tag Archive: Parenting


Scripture

Matthew 21:28-32 (NIV)

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Observation

I don’t know if I’ve heard it before, but I’ve recently heard the expression that “delayed obedience is disobedience.” It really stuck in my head. In my life I can say that there have been many times when I have had a problem with authority which stems from pride. Too often have I seen some instructions, usually by some sort of authority, like my company or the government, and I “notice” something amiss in the instructions. Sometimes it might be something that doesn’t make sense to me. “Why do it like that?” As I think about it, I often have a hard time following instructions that don’t make sense to me. I’d say it’s a huge fault of mine. This pride that something has to make sense to me in order to do it. Even as I write this, I can feel a tug at me that what I’m writing just can’t be true. I feel such a need to defend myself. To point out that instructions should be clear and easy to follow. Perhaps I am digressing in that.

In these verses, I see two sons. One, with whom I can relate, who say’s he’s not going to do what his Dad asked him to do, but then changes his mind, and does it. I have done that. If I don’t see the merit in doing something, usually a specific way, that I have deemed, doesn’t make sense to me, I will decide not to do it. Then, I have been known, to “see reason” and then do it.
The other son tells his father that he’s going to do as he asks and then doesn’t do it. While I can’t think of any specific examples right now, I do have a sense, knowing myself, that I have, in my delayed obedience, pointed out that other people didn’t do “it” but I did.

I asked the Lord to have this notion that delayed obedience was still disobedience explained to me. Now, when I recently heard this in a message, I accepted it. Of course, I said. In agreement to the notion, “delayed obedience is disobedience.” Then, in today’s reading, I ran into this parable. I have read this before but not in this “new” context. The more I think on it, the more I can remember identifying with the first son. However, today, as I said, I was like, “how can that be disobedience?! He did what his father asked him to do! Go after the second son.”
In examining these verses, I even looked at these in different translations. A helpful way, I’ve found, to understand what is being said. All the verses I previously looked at seemed to be saying the same thing, which didn’t really help me to see more clearly (he changed his mind (NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB)). I want to take just a moment and point out that, in thanksgiving, that I believed I was wrong. Somehow. Delayed obedience is disobedience. It had to be. So, I thank God that He kept me pushing on until I understood why I was confused. When I looked at these verses the “light” came on:

King James
He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

New King James Version
He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.

American Standard Version
And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went.

All of these versions show that the first son didn’t just change his mind, but regretted what he had said to his father, “I will not go.” I can understand this a lot better. Both of the sons sinned. The first son was disrespectful to his father in his disobedience to him but realized that what he had said was wrong and so did as his father asked. The second son sinned against his father when he told him that he would do as he asked but then didn’t. Of the two sons, the first son, who repented of his sin, was the one who did the will of his father.

Application

I’m so thankful that the Lord brought this to my attention today. I always want to do what He asks me to do when He asks me to do it. As I walk with the Lord more, I realize that, even as I read the Bible, and think that I understand what is being said to me, that I don’t grasp everything and, more importantly, I don’t realize that I’m missing something. However, I know, as I seek Him more, daily, that the good work He’s doing in me, will one day be complete.

Prayer

Thank you, Father! Thank you for who you are. I praise and exalt you! Thank you for clarifying this to me today. Please help me to be humble and obedient to your word. Please renew in my a clean heart that always say’s yes to you and does what you want me to do when you tell me to do it. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Model It

I know,
you need
to be strong-
for them.
Little eyes
that look
to you.
Show them
your strength,
your vulnerability
is humane-
no weakness
in fear,
hiding behind
grown-up
ways…
You might
just see, they
grow up to
be, more
than the sum,
of you,
and me.

 

It’s a shame that N.A.S.A. discontinued the Space Shuttle program in 2011 and, as far as I know, we don’t have another space program in the works. You see, there have been 23 American astronauts who have gone into outer space, and of those 21 were firstborn children and the other two were only children. As a firstborn child, I had a pretty good chance, if we had a program, of getting into outer space. At least, a better chance than you middle born et al. There’s something about being first that just about beats everything else. It’s like a boost of victory when you’re first. Just ask anyone who has been the first to reply to any sort of forum post or major thread with their victory cry of, “first!” All the hard work, the expectations from parents and other family members, the visits to the therapists, the broken relationships, health problems, and general anxiety of always having to prove to yourself that you’re, “the best” can be seen in every single letter of, “first!” You know that a person’s family couldn’t feel any more pride. Just thinking about how Neil Armstrong felt when he first stepped onto the moon and said, “first!” just sends shivers up and down my spine.

I’m reminded of when I was nine years old, and we were learning to swim in elementary school. We didn’t have a pool at the school but we were fortunate enough to travel to a nearby University with a pool and the first high diving board I had ever seen. Seriously, I had never even seen a diving board in person. To this very day, I can remember being the first person selected to jump off of that high dive board. I was so excited as hand over hand, I climbed the ladder to the top. I think the only person more excited was the kid behind me. When I reached the top, all I could hear were the cheers of the people below. Since we were at the University pool, there were other classes there as well as adult swimmers. I walked right up to the end of the board and stopped. It was so high, and I suddenly became afraid. Everyone was yelling, “jump!” and I couldn’t. There I was, the kid who wore a motorcycle helmet and thought he was Evel Knievel, standing there afraid. I walked back and the kid behind me jumped to the cheers of those below. I jumped second. Second. There were still cheers but I had been second. Something changed in me on that day.

A part of me would like to tell you that I vowed to never be second again. That’s not what happened. Instead, I heard this thunk sound as another nail had been hammered into the coffin of being second. You see, even though I was first born, I didn’t know how to feel about my role in my tiny world. I felt the burden of firstborn. The one who didn’t live up to parental expectations. Unbeknownst to me, I had experienced early childhood disrupted attachment. 

Before my sister was born, I remember being the only child. I remember walking into the living room on Easter Sunday and finding the entire room filled with streamers, baskets, eggs. It was a cornucopia of all that was “Easter” to a young child. I remember going out on Halloween with my Dad. The family bike rides and our stops at the local 7-Elven to pick up a Slurpee. Feeding donuts to the backyard squirrels, playing with Baby, our dog who was really the firstborn since Mom and Dad got a dog first. I remember my mom freaking out when I would get hurt on my bike, I was Evel Knievel, remember? I remember feeling special. When I was born, you know I shouted, “first!”

My sister was a confounding joy to me. I was her big brother and her protector and she needed one. I remember the last time we went on a family bike ride. My sister was strapped into one of those seats that sit on the back of a ten-speed bike and the seat fell off while we were passing a tall drainage ditch. It was on my Dad’s birthday and she couldn’t have been more than a year or so old. They put a butterfly stitch on her forehead, and we never went riding again. I felt guilty. After all, my parents had been telling me that I had to, “watch over” my sister. It was this mantra my Mom had when we were growing up, “You two are the only two you have in this world, so stop fighting.” I think about how we fought as children and I laugh now. My beloved sister.

I watched over my sister constantly, well, for a six and a half, maybe a seven-year-old child. She had one of those 1970s baby swings and I would wait for her to fall out so I could catch her. Be the hero and save my sister and perhaps, if I were lucky, get my parent’s attention.

Which brings me to Tim and his new sister, Nell. It didn’t take long before Brad and Janet conceived and gave birth to Nell. Tim was five and had blossomed into an outgoing young boy who loved school, reading and playing with other kids. When we last saw Tim his parents saw him as a perfect little boy who:

  1. Spent most of his time alone in his room playing with his toys or in the backyard in the sandbox and making up games to play.
  2. He was conscientious of his behavior, always confirming whether he was “doing it right” or not.
  3. All of his toys were properly organized. He was so cute, he would give them a stern talking-to if he found them out of order.  Sometimes though, he would become upset when he couldn’t find one of his toys and had to have Janet or Brad help him locate it.
  4. He was very smart and would sit quietly reading to himself.
  5. He loved to draw and was very creative. He even picked up after himself gathering the crumbled and torn pages that had mistakes on them.
  6. He was shy around other kids, they knew it was just a phase that he was going through.

Each behavior listed above can be associated with the communication between Tim and his parents. Tim exhibited the following behavioral traits before his sister Nell was born. These are listed below in association with the behavior his parents observed. Duplicates have purposely been included.

  1. Introverted and creative while unable to relate to peers.
  2. Perfectionist, self-conscious, insecure, people pleaser and self-critical.
  3. Perfectionist, “bossy,” emotionally cold and distant. Critical of others.
  4. Anxiety, co-dependent and impatient.
  5. Intelligent and unable to relate to peers.
  6. Creative, self-deprecating, volatile temper with extreme perfectionistic behavior.
  7. Unable to relate to peers.

Tim’s behavior is a result of the persuasive negative reinforcement that his parents used when disciplining him. These observations of his behavioral traits and the associated behaviors could either be reinforced through time and communication or not. We’re looking at a snapshot in time of how one could interpret Tim’s behavior.

The introduction of another sibling, however, changes the communication between Tim and his parents. Isn’t that logical, you might be saying to yourself? Yes, it is logical. As adults, we can, hopefully, adapt to changes in our environment because we have previously experienced changes in our environments. There is a reason for people not liking change though. Where does that stem from, I wonder?

For our purposes here, we are examining the role of speaking life and death into a person. A child is a person. Brad and Janet consistently promoted two basic forms of communication to Tim before Nell was born. He was either “right” and thusly, “good” in his behavior or he was “wrong” and therefore, “bad” in his behavior. While Brad and Janet thought that they were focusing on the behavior and communicating this to Tim they were, in fact, communicating to Tim that he, the individual, was either “good” or “bad.” Let’s review the perfect little boy and his behavior as viewed by Brad and Janet with Nell at age two (Tim is now six years old).

  1. Tim spends too much time on his own when he’s at home. He needs to spend more time with his sister. He’s selfish and self-absorbed. He’s too rough with her with the games that he makes up to play. Doesn’t he know that she’s too little?
  2. He’s a big kid now and needs to stop acting like a baby always trying to seek attention by asking about every little thing. He needs to start acting his age.
  3. He’s selfish and mean. He doesn’t want to share any of his toys with Nell even though most of them are older toys that he had when he was a baby. He needs to grow up and be nice. Yelling at his baby sister for playing with his toys (and leaving them on the floor) is inexcusable selfish behavior. Where did he get this from? What does it matter if he can’t find all of the toys? He has so many already and he needs to share with his sister. These temper tantrums and outbursts need to stop.
  4. He used to love to read. Now, we can’t even get him to read to his sister. He’s so selfish. When he does read to her, he becomes mean and starts telling her that she’s bad when she doesn’t pay attention. Doesn’t he know that she’s just a baby?
  5. He used to draw such lovely pictures and was always patient and loving. Now, if Nell even comes near him, he pushes her away. If she tries him help, which is so cute, he behaves like an enraged animal, tears up his paper and stomps off to his room.
  6. Every chance he gets, he wants to go out and play with the other kids. He hardly wants to spend any time at home and when he does, there are all of these other kids running around screaming and making noise. Don’t these kids have their own homes to play in?

We’re really at loss as to how to handle Tim. Where did we go wrong? He used to be so sweet and loving.  He doesn’t even listen to us anymore. The only thing that seems to get his attention is when he thinks he’s going to get a good spanking.

This is how Brad and Janet communicate with Tim now. He is still “right” or “wrong” and “bad” or “good.” He’s also, selfish, mean, a “baby” and a brat. He’s a terrible role model for his little sister and their best hope now is that she doesn’t become like him.

For the last two years, Tim has tried to live up to his parent’s standards of behavior that they deeply instilled in him. He still tries to do the “right” thing but the “right” thing isn’t the same anymore. Now, the “right” thing is the “wrong” thing and no matter what he tries to do to please his parents they still get mad him. He’s so afraid to do the wrong things that he spends as much time away from home as he can, playing with his friends. At least his friends listen to him. Well, most of the time. There’s this one new kid who doesn’t always listen, but when they call him names and threaten not to be his friend, he does what they want.

In the next part of this series, we’re going to review how Brad and Janet’s communication with Nell starts and then changes by the time she is two years old. Although I briefly introduced early childhood disrupted attachment in this part, we’ll look into it further and discuss how speaking life into a disruptive child can bring healing and health. If there’s time, we’ll take another look at bullying and cyberbullying, the impact on Millennials and what we can do, as a society to stop the violence and hate that surrounds all of us each day. In the meantime, speak life, speak love, hold the door open for a stranger and, instead of judging other people, think about how you would like to be judged.

 

Do you like routine, order and knowing your place in the Universe? You know what I mean. Whether or not we realize it, most of us desire some semblance of order in our lives. Even those of us who say that we embrace chaos and live “crazy” unpredictable lives don’t like it when our world view forcibly changes. Imagine being six years old, an only child and your parents have another child. The very least that they could have done was to consult you. Did they? Oh, maybe they said something to you about have a little brother or sister but you didn’t know how that would forcibly change your world view. A new brother or sister? Great, you liked the new puppy so it’s probably going to be like that. Mom and Dad are happy and you get all excited until the Day it comes. I remember very clearly when my Mom’s water broke. I was taking a bath and I heard her yell to my Dad something about the water being broken. The water looked fine to me. I should have known, at that time, that this would be the first of many new changes to my world view.

While more couples are deciding to only have one child (11% in 1976 versus 22% in 2015) the family unit is also growing smaller with the number of families of four or more children declining from 40% to 14% as well (from 1976 to 2015). The age gap between children has also increased with the change in family units where both parents are working from one parent staying at home. An age gap of 4+ years appears to be an ideal time for working parents to have a second child. What I found most remarkable in my research regarding age gaps between child was the focus was primarily on the impact on the parents. The parental view is one in which the parents will be able to focus more on one child than the other “knowing” that the older child will “understand”, the self-sufficiency of the older child, etc. The basic idea is that an older child who has had the benefit of years of parental attention will be more able to handle the intrusion of a second child.

In reading the numerous reasons from one source after another I couldn’t help but remember old black and white media where the children didn’t behave like children but were dressed and acted like little adults.

How does a child in the early stages of childhood development (between 3 – 8 years of age) become this independent, self-sufficient, confident, logical, well-organized, mature, paragon of adulthood? No, that’s childhood, right? Does this confuse you? It confuses me that people would expect this from a child who’s just started childhood. The aforementioned qualities are hard to find in many adults. If this weren’t the case then why do so many job advertisements ask for many of these qualities in their search for an employee?

Let’s continue with this idea in mind and consider the types of communication required to form this perfect child. Let’s re-visit Brad, Janet, and Tim who is now four years old. As you may recall from Part Two Brad and Janet decided that they would raise Tim and discipline him through their words.

Unbeknownst to Tim, he was not always going to be an only child and so, from birth, his parents were overprotective, strict disciplinarians, who put a lot of pressure on Tim to be the best that he could be. Tim needed to be a “good” boy who did everything his parents wanted him to do in the way that his parents wanted it to be done. Tim was either “good” or “bad” and what he did was either “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” Brad and Janet kept their promise to not exercise corporal punishment in disciplining Tim. Instead, they thought that gently and logically explaining to him how he was “wrong” when he wanted to eat cereal with a fork, or how it was “bad” for him to knock over the card house before Janet saw it, were better than spanking him like when they were kids. Brad and Janet focused primarily on persuasive negative reinforcement to change Tim’s behavior.

When Brad and Janet decided to have another child they were confident that Tim could handle it without any problem. Afterall:

  • Tim spent most of his time alone in his room playing with his toys or in the backyard in the sandbox and making up games to play.
  • He was conscientious of his behavior, always confirming whether he was “doing it right” or not.
  • All of his toys were properly organized. He was so cute, he would give them a stern talking-to if he found them out of order.
  • Sometimes though, he would become upset when he couldn’t find one of his toys and had to have Janet or Brad help him locate it.
  • He was very smart and would sit quietly reading to himself.
  • He loved to draw and was very creative. He even picked up after himself gathering the crumbled and torn pages that had mistakes on them.

Overall, Brad and Janet were quite pleased with Tim. Although he was shy around other kids, they knew it was just a phase that he was going through. A little brother or sister would be just the company that he needed. They excitedly started to try for another child. Hopefully, they thought, another one just like Tim!

In the next part of this series, we will review Tim’s “perfect” behavior, introduce childhood disruption, and the conflict of communication that arises when changing from an only child world view to that of a firstborn world view.