Monday, June 11, 2007


I have a feeling this post won't interest all of you. I promise that my next post will be entertaining, or full of crafty goodness, or at the very least, I'll post some more recent pictures of everyone's favorite 2.5 year old.

So...Eve's been going through a bit of a difficult time lately. I think a lot of it is age. I know some of it is the recent and temporary change of being cared for by daddy while mom's away at work and not by Grandma. I know some of it is that fact that she weaned a bit over 2 weeks ago, and had been on the fast track to weaning for several months prior to that. Some of it might be due to my pregnancy and change in my level of energy and patience. And of course, it has much to do with her age.

Disobedient and willful seem like pretty good descriptions of her behavior right now. Coupled with very recent bouts of extreme clinginess, and general whininess and emotional bouts of tears for no apparent reason. I'm sure there's a reason, I'm just not sure what it is.

This has brought discipline and my approach and philosophy regarding her behavior to the forefront of my mind as well as Eve's dad's. He's always been one for swift negative discipline and chastisement. I've swung more toward the positive reinforcement of good behavior and gentle discouragement of bad behavior. Of course, my natural inclination when sorely tested is often negative discipline, and so time-outs are used rather liberally in our house. Tom spanks Eve's hand for more severe infractions. None of what we've done recently has changed her behavior any, at least not an hour or so after the previous incident. I, of course, wonder if we're making things worse. It's hard to tell though, since living in time as we do, we can't go back and try a different approach and see how the rest of the ride goes had we done y instead of x two days ago. Too bad, really, as it would make for a much more scientific approach.

What brought me to posting on this today is a book that's making its rounds at our church called Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. Now, I've never read the book, and only one of the couples studying the book do I *know* to share my beliefs about nurturing children, so I really can't say much about it first hand. However, in various conversations with other ladies in the church, I've gotten the impression that the message is: when we punish our children for misbehavior, we need to reinforce our wishes with scripture to show how they are not only disobeying and making *us* unhappy, but that they are disobeying and making God unhappy as well. From my conversations, there's also some self-discipline, heart-examining stuff for the parents (to try to be calm rather than reacting in anger) and the advice to pray for our children (which I wholeheartedly agree with).

So, here's the conundrum. I do want to teach Eve about God, the bible, and that obedience to her parents and the bible, biblical. However, I don't want to make God into the bad guy. "Don't do that because it makes God upset." "God says to do X, not Y" "Is that a Godly way of...?" Using scripture is great, but scripture is meaningless and downright foolishness to someone without the Holy Spirit of God in their heart.

So that brings up that question, I guess. Does my 2.5 year old have the Holy Spirit? I come from a "Conversion" background and one that emphasises the idea that we choose Christ. I'm moving toward the idea that Christ chooses us and we then respond, but I'm still not sure how that works with young hearts that I would previously have labeled as being below the age of accountability--as in, can't be held accountable for their Sin because they are too young to understand "Sin" and the separateness from God due to sin, and our need for forgiveness, and can't "convert" because of this lack of understanding.

I do believe that apart from Christ, we can't please God, and that all our behaviors could have some scripture applied to show us how we are displeasing God. Only the Holy Spirit living in and through us allows us to please God in any way. In the same way, we understand sin and can turn from specific sinful behaviors as those behaviors are revealed to us through scripture and the Holy Spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Grace and Forgiveness of Christ which allows us to get to this place.

I feel like this book instead teaches our children that they must try harder to meet the expectations of their parents and of God, and that they must do it under their own power, which will simply lead to failure and frustration, and a belief that we have to work to earn God's approval. I think it's this kind of message that leads so many children of Christian parents to rebellion and to turn from God and their parents. Because the God their parents taught them about is not the God of the bible, of the Gospel of Grace and Love, but a distortion that shows God to be concerned with what we do rather than our hearts, and makes him out to be a big meanie who has impossible expectations and metes out punishment when we fail to attain perfection on our own.

So, I'm left with the knowledge that I want to communicate to Eve that God is a God of forgiveness. I've known that all along. But I still don't know what that means practically speaking. I don't know how to teach her of God's goodness. I don't know how to encourage her toward good behavior while having God in the picture in any way--honestly, I don't even, at this point, want to use God in the positive reinforcement. For instance, I can tell her that it makes me and her daddy (and any number of other loved ones) very happy when she sets her cup down instead of dumping out the "excess" water when she's no longer thirsty, but I can't honestly say that makes God happy, because is God ever happy with our measly "righteousness" when the bible refers to such as filthy (bloody) rags?

Honestly, I'm really frustrated with the situation. I feel like our attempts at discipline aren't working. I feel like we're not doing much to teach Eve about God in any fashion. And I simply don't know what to do about it. And if the best our church can give us is a method for guilting our child into better behavior whilst slowly turning her heart against God, then where do we turn for a more Gracious way of going about all this?