Sunday, September 11, 2011

The example of the cello

When Young M was born, I had a 4 year old, a 2 (almost 3) year old, a 1 year old, and a newborn in a two bedroom apartment. Needless to say, the next year was quite interesting. At times, understandably, I wondered a lot about teaching my children and discipline. Often, when the toys weren't picked up or Young A was running away in public or I was dealing with another tantrum, I wondered if I knew how to teach my children. There are so many voices out there that, to a desperate mother, sound like they are saying "Just follow my system, and your kids will be well behaved. Do any thing different and risk raising hellions." Yet all the systems are different.

At this time, the Lord taught me something he repeatedly reminds me of. If something is really important to me, I already know how to teach it to my children.

The example He used was the Professor's cello. The Professor has played the cello since elementary school. He has a beautiful cello that he uses to make beautiful music. We keep the cello in a specific place in its case. The children are not allowed to play with the case. If a child (or baby) wanders over there, they are redirected and taught not to play with it (even if I'm busy.) When the cello is out of its case, they are supervised and taught to be gentle. Because the cello is important to the Professor and could easily be damaged, I will interrupt making dinner, reading a book, supervising homework, or a phone call, for the few minutes it takes to teach a child that the cello is not a toy.

When I'm not listening as carefully, sometimes the Lord reminds me of another example to get my attention. Young T has been fascinated with the outdoor world. We live on the corner of a semi-busy street with a not-fenced-in yard. He is not safe without supervision. And yet, he knows how to unlock all but one lock on the outside doors. He can even remove (and replace) the plastic baby-proof door knob we've used to slow him down. Consequently, if I see an open door, I interrupt whatever I'm doing to find him and shut the door. Now he is often the one shutting the door if someone leaves it open. I don't trust him yet, but we are on our way.

As I thought about this, I realized that the things I'm frustrated with in disciplining my children are usually one of two things. Either, they are things that are important to me, but I'm not treating them as important, or they are things that are important to other people but not to me (so then I feel like I ought to teach them but I don't want to.) So I now try, when I remember, to decide which it is.

If something (having children pick up their toys or clear the dishes or stay right with me when we're on a walk or not hit their sibling or talk to me with a respectful voice) is bothering me, I decide if it is important to me or not right now. If it is important, then I have to treat it as important and interrupt whatever I'm doing when the situation arises. I need to continue trying things to teach my children appropriate behavior until it finally sinks in. I need to be consistent, even when I'm busy or exhausted. If it isn't important to me at the time, then I let it go, even if those around me don't understand or judge me for my choice. If it isn't worth the fight, it isn't worth the angst.

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