Back when I only had two, I was a bit intimidated by the thought of taking the sweetlings somewhere by myself. Now I don't even think twice about heading out with all four. This afternoon, the kidlets and I headed to the park to enjoy the gorgeous weather. It was warm and sunny, with a nice breeze. We are always on the lookout for new parks, and this one was right next to the zoo. It had tons of fun things to climb on and spin around on. We were the only ones there, so we played around for well over an hour.
After the kids had their fill of climbing and running and jumping, we went to the zoo. The kidlets are always finding new favorite exhibits. This time, they delighted in the caves and bats. They wandered around through the secret passages, discovered the slide in one of the tunnels and had a marvelous time.
The kids had been very cooperative and we had all had a lot of fun. After an hour or two, it occurred to me that we were probably near the saturation point. I was right. As we headed out, everything began to unravel. They ran toward the open pond with the waterfowl. There is no rail or anything to block them from a very large water area. I told them sternly to come back. They balked. I was scared and angry. I grabbed Elena, but couldn't hang on to her and hold the baby and get the older two. As we headed toward the exit, they kept finding distractions. Then, the two year old wanted to play on all the lovely wagons at the exit and the older ones ran ahead of us while I was wrangling her. It took more physical and emotional effort than usual to get everyone loaded up and safely buckled in to leave.
Some of you are going, "Wait a minute. Is this supposed to be a GD success story? Doesn't sound like it worked too well for you there." Yes, I would have appreciated instant compliance. Although they did eventually follow instructions, we clearly need to work on some things there. The thing is, the last couple of years, I have been increasingly aware of *my* need for discipline.
Although we have never spanked, I have often felt the impulse to hit the kids when I am angry. I've resisted it, but it was frequent and real. One that I haven't resisted as effectively in the past was the temptation to yell, to shame them, to hold their hand a bit too tightly and to fume and lecture until we were all appropriately miserable.
As a follower of Jesus, though, I can't ignore Scriptures such as Galatians 6:1 "...you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy," and of course Matthew 7:5, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." How can I demand self-control from my children if I can't control myself? How can I tell them to walk in the fruit of the Spirit if I am not demonstrating patience and kindness in my day to day relationship with them?
I've been working on it a lot. And I still have a long way to go. I am excited to see the difference in my responses, though. Today, I didn't lose my temper, I didn't yell or try to cause them to feel ashamed, or do anything else that would cause *me* to be ashamed later. I told them clearly how upset I was and why, and explained the dangers. I didn't sugar coat anything, but neither did I harp on it or emotionally blackmail them. I got everyone to the van safely but I didn't grab them or become disrespectful to them in any way.
You see, I do believe that gentle discipline "works" for kids, this afternoon not withstanding, but even more, I am learning how it works for adults. I am so happy to see the growth in my own life. I've been working on a post to share some of the tools that are helping me a lot. Authentic Parenting is going to be hosting them as a guest blog post, and will start them on Friday. I know I am not an ideal parent, but I am slowly but surely bridging the gap between the real and my ideals. You are welcome to join me on the journey!