Friday, July 5, 2013

Parenting Methods

I've been thinking (since I'm such a treasure trove of experience, what with having 5 kids and used many parenting "methods"), I should post a series on parenting. 'Cause I'm an expert & my kids are perfect (she lies as her kids whine about finishing chores in the background).

Really, it's because I want parents to know some of the stuff your kids do that makes you crazy is normal, even necessary. And I want to spare you some grief by discussing some parenting experts whose methods are so-so and others who I think you could benefit from.

I'll start today with a quick overview of past & present methods or books I've followed and my recommendations.

On Becoming Babywise, Gary Ezzo
Yeah, it's controversial. For good reason. It "worked" in the sense that I felt in control. However, issues. So many issues.

The combination of my fundamentalist upbringing (parent is ultimate authority, child is a sinner from birth & tries to manipulate the parent, early physical punishment) combined with the very black and white thinking Ezzo presents made for a horrible dynamic. I didn't hold my first baby enough because I was so concerned with following the schedule. I also have a condition called overactive letdown (undiagnosed until baby #3) that is made worse by following conventional breastfeeding advice. Combine that with the rigid clock-watching involved in Ezzo's method, and I had a very fussy baby who was constantly projectile vomiting (too much foremilk upsets the tummy) and consequently hungry, yet I'd let her cry until feeding time rolled around again, only to repeat the cycle. It was torture emotionally, but I was afraid I'd raise a selfish kid by giving in to her "demands."

In addition, Ezzo's credentials have been called into question.

My recommendation: Avoid, unless you're the type who can take a piece of good advice here & there, then mentally discard the rest. You'll likely ignore a lot of the book and pick up only a few tips, so consider what your time is worth before reading.

Shepherding a Child's Heart, Tedd Tripp
I got this when my oldest two were toddlers. I love the way Tripp consistently talks about connecting with your child's heart, getting to the heart issue of the behavior. The con is that it seems every negative behavior is labelled "sin." Kids can't just have a bad day.

Also, he advocates spanking, but he doesn't describe the whole process (to my's been a while since I read it. Feel free to correct me!). I grew up in a home where "spanking" was any physical punishment applied to the buttocks. So, being hit with a belt, a custom paddle, a wooden spoon, a ping-pong paddle, or a hand on the butt or upper thighs (clothed or naked) was all spanking. In my opinion, if you're going to advocate spanking, you should be specific in your definition of the term. As much as I dislike Michael Pearl, at least he's explicit in his definition of "switching."

My recommendation:  Cautiously recommend; while there is great emphasis on connecting with your child's heart, Tripp's view of dealing with children's wrongdoings is extremely punitive.

The Strong-Willed Child, Dr. James Dobson
My parents are Dobson fans & my mom had several of his parenting books. She passed this one on to me. Basically, his premise is if you get into a battle of wills with your child, you must win at all costs. He also advocates spanking at the first sign of defiance instead of waiting until a last resort. Because of this advice, I spanked early & often.

The problem I see with this is that you never know for certain what's going on in someone else's heart & mind. Add to that the fact you're dealing with children who do not have the same thought processes as adults and are still learning how to express their autonomy & feelings appropriately, and there's a huge chance you're going to misinterpret the child's motives.

In shades of Michael Pearl, Dobson also likens training your strong-willed child to training a dog.

My recommendation: Avoid; this book sets parents up for an adversarial relationship with their children.

Get Off Your Butt Parenting, aka Effective Practical Parenting (GOYBP or EPP), Joanne Davidson
Found this as an online resource after baby #3. Highly practical, extremely effective method that is a wake-up call to parents who expect to be able to sit on the couch & have their young children quietly and cheerfully follow instructions. (Guilty!) It emphasizes the importance of having a relationship with your child and advocates natural & imposed consequences. Great real-life scenarios & tips with examples of imposed consequences

My recommendation: Highly recommend. EPP tends toward imposing consequences but doesn't completely rule out punishment, so it's good for those transitioning from punitive parenting to positive or gentle parenting.

The 5 Love Languages of Children, Gary D. Chapman & Ross Campbell
The theory is that each individual has a primary love language that they "hear" love best: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Gifts, or Acts of Service. If a child feels insecure in the parent's love, s/he will act out. The parent learns to see the acting out as a signal to meet the child's need for unconditional love by communicating in that child's love language first, and addressing the negative behavior second. Using this method, I've found that once I've reaffirmed my love for the child acting out, s/he will apologize and make amends for the negative behavior without me having to do anything else.

My recommendation: Highly recommend as a resource to help understand your child. It's not primarily a "discipline" book, and as such, doesn't have a lot of tools to use from that aspect.

Your X-Year Old, by Louise Bates Ames & Frances L. Ilg (a series from age 1-16)
According to Ames & Ilg (and the Gesell Institute) every child goes through developmental phases of equilibrium (where they cope well) and disequilibrium (where so much is happening in terms of development that they aren't able to cope well with normal disappointments). These phases tend to shift roughly every 6 months in the cycle of development. As a result, your child can go through the 3 1/2 year disequilibrium stage at age 3, 3.5, or 4, depending on his/her development. My barely 4 year old is currently exhibiting disequilibrium behaviors typical of 3 1/2, and my 5 1/2 year old is right on with the disequilibrium behaviors for that age. My oldest son didn't seem to have any equilibrium at all between 5 1/2 & 7. It just depends on the kid; these are simply typical developmental behaviors.

I haven't read every book in the series, but I found Your Six Year Old: Loving & Defiant to be invaluable. Six has been the hardest age I've had to deal with so far (and I have a tween, y'all!). So hard, in fact, that I've been dreading when my younger set gets there. If you can snag a copy from your local library, do it!

My recommendation: Highly recommend. In fact, I can't recommend it enough. Get your hands on a copy for your age child, somehow!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eastern or Western?

If you've read this blog much at all, you've probably already figured I'm not a proponent of corporal punishment.

To be even more clear, I am a Christian who rejects the notion that our modern spanking methods were lifted directly from Scripture.

About 8 years ago, I was introduced to the concept of gentle parenting. Some great resources I found are Gentle Christian Mothers, Arms of Love Family Fellowship, Hermana Linda's Why Not Train A Child?, Dulce de leche, and Dare to Disciple.

One of my favorite resources (and not just because he's a male voice that other men in the ├╝ber-patriarchal environment of Fundamentalist Christianity wouldn't disregard on anatomy alone) is Samuel Martin's Bible Child. I am incredibly impressed with his scholarship and tremendously appreciate the work he has put into researching this topic in particular. Not only does he publish his findings on his blog, he also provides a free e-book to anyone willing to take an honest look at Biblical discipline.

In this recent post, Sam explores the prejudices we can have toward things that are unpretentious or rustic, often conflating simplistic with inferior. Also specific to my background, ideas originating in the East were viewed with suspicion, whereas theories with Western origins were often accepted without scrutiny. Eastern practices were "improved" by overlaying or combining them with Western variants.

One (relatively minor) example of this was one of my Christian school teachers discussing the Bible passage, "O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day." She described meditation as keeping something constantly in your mind, "not that Eastern idea of meditation where you sit cross-legged and say, 'Om.'"

Even then, my mind boggled. Wasn't the Bible written in the East? And wouldn't it stand to reason when David wrote of meditating, it would look like the Ancient Jewish practice of meditation rather than simply keeping something in mind?  (I'll grant that om is Hindi, and thus not likely something David or any other Bible patriarchs would've been familiar with!)

I've had to confront my ingrained prejudices and racism since I've begun honestly examining my beliefs. I've found there is much about the Bible that I was taught from a Western perspective that genuinely doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

It is always good to periodically re-evaluate our beliefs. Obviously, we learn as we grow and mature, so it makes sense that we come into deeper understanding of our values. We discard what we discover to be half-truths, and we explore our new grasp of wisdom.

We need not fear taking information from any source, so long as we carefully analyze it for Truth.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I know every stay at home parent can feel irrelevant when it comes to "the real world," whatever that means.

I was joking with my husband today that I needed to parody Relevant magazine and create an Irrelevant magazine for moms that contains random Tweet-like statements. Because I want to feel like I am relevant, even if it's with other people who share the same malaise I have.

I think part of my feelings result from a lot of life changes that piled up, one after the other. Some things I was in control of (getting married a dozen years ago), and some things, not so much (getting pregnant 3 months after the wedding and proceeding to have 5 kids in the next  10 years...yeah, I know what causes it).

I used to feel...useful, I guess. Like I made a difference in people's lives. Rewarded? Content? I can't seem to find the right words to describe it. Fulfilled, maybe.

And now, I feel like...a maid. A cook. A family therapist who has her own mental health issues but is so busy with clients she doesn't take time for herself and is about to go ape-sh*t crazy on the next person who slouches through the door & starts complaining about something as mundane as their partner not doing the dishes.

Um, that may have been too much.

My point is, I feel overwhelmed with the combined monotony of menial tasks and the repetition needed to teach little ones how to behave like humans. I'm sorely tempted to record myself saying things like, "Treat your siblings the way you want to be treated." "Use manners at the dinner table." "Don't hit the dog!" "Don't hit/bite/throw things at your brother/sister!" "GENTLE HANDS, already!" and play them on a loop all day. Heck, if I did that, the recording could do my parenting for me while I actually clean the house!

I long for connections with people. I want to help others, whether it be physical or emotional support. I crave the rapport of a give-and-take relationship where we all put something in and we al get something out.

I have training and experience and gifts and ideas...but I'm not in a position to use them outside the home right now. That probably contributes to my feeling irrelevant.

There are opportunities for me to use my gifts at church...sort of. I mean, sure, I could play piano or keyboard for services and sing solos or in a praise group...if I could afford to hire a babysitter to watch 5 kids during rehearsals & then bring them to church to maintain order while I'm doing music.

Or I could teach Children's a bunch of other little kids + my own when what I really need is adult interaction to help keep my brain from atrophy.

I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want (need) to do something involving interaction with others, something that feeds their souls and mine.

I need to take care of my children, rather than pushing them off on others for the purposes of my own gratification or self-aggrandizement.

So I go to church, feeling like I'm wasting everyone's time when I wrangle kids, pass crayons or toy cars, shush childish voices with volume settings of loud and louder, and basically distract others while I miss whatever message I was supposed to hear from God. (Random aside: If God is a still, small voice, how does the Almighty expect parents of little ones to ever hear whatever message is trying to come through? Why can't God just shout over their noise like everybody else does?)

The rest of the time, I stay home, trying to teach little people how to pick up after themselves (over and over and over and freaking over), how to have patience (because I have it in spades, y'all - my middle name is Job, can't ya tell?), how to treat others kindly (because I'm never unkind when I yell in frustration), how to balance self-care and servanthood (because I have it nailed...and I never, EVER act like a martyr when I'm folding mountains of laundry and whine that I don't get time to do fun, stimulating, adult stuff with real people instead of these tiny, people-like leeches who, despite their adorableness, somehow suck all my time and energy from me).

Really taking a look at all of this, though, I am relevant. I am extremely relevant to my kids as their mom and to their dad as his wife. Perhaps, then, the issue is not so much being irrelevant as is it my own issues with needing approval.

Let me tell you, there is no approval from a child when you are enforcing "you make a mess, you clean it up." There is no approval from a child when you grab her just before she runs into the road to get something shiny. And there is no approval from anyone, ever, when you make vegan split-pea soup for dinner because that was all you could make with what was left in the pantry and crisper.

But being relevant? Yeah, I got that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Choosing Relationships Over Being Right

I don't know about you, but I love the feeling of superiority that comes with being right. The "I'm better than you because I know more" high. The feeling of being worthy.

And because of that, I can focus too much on dichotomies: picking a side and debating it, even if it really doesn't matter.

I've had to work very hard at not being obnoxiously dogmatic when stating my opinion. I'm a naturally passionate person, and when you combine that with the black-and-white thinking I was raised with, you get some serious arrogance.

Time has mellowed me. I've learned that not everything is black and white. I've learned that issues often have many, many more than two sides. And I've changed my mind about a lot of things.

For instance, I've embraced panentheism. I support gay rights. I am politically pro-choice while remaining personally pro-life. I believe women can be pastors. I believe in an egalitarian view of marriage. I am leaning toward a universalist view of salvation. I practice gentle, grace-based discipline. I believe in theistic evolution. Any of which could get me labelled a heretic at my current church. Or a liberal. (They're the same, you know.)

So, why do I attend a church that on the surface is so at odds with my personal views?

I value people and relationships over being right.

The people at my church love me. They care about me as an individual much more than my stance on issues. And I love and respect them enough to let them believe and live their convictions without trying to change them.

When someone is saying something incredibly narrow-minded (like, "A real Christian can't believe in evolution."), yes, I will speak up. I say something like, "Just because someone has read the Bible and come to a different conclusion than you doesn't make them any less Christian. If they love God and love the Bible, they are your brother or sister in Christ, even if you differ in your beliefs in this area."

I most certainly have confronted those who I believe are damaging in their dogmatism, but not to prove I am right. Frankly, I'm not certain I am right about anything, anymore! I just point out that there are people and feelings involved, and denigrating someone else's convictions because they differ from your own (whether based on your interpretation of the Bible or simply personal opinion) is inappropriate, at best. At the very least, that attitude of "I'm right and they're wrong" is not humble; it's not exemplifying the spirit of being wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Because life is not about being right. It's about how you relate to others - whether you agree with them, or not.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

You're Beautiful...Just the Way You Are!

You're beautiful. Did you know that? Has anyone ever told you?

You are. I believe everyone is beautiful in their own way. What's absolutely contemptible is that at some point in your life, someone tried to hide or change the thing that is most beautiful about you.

I see it in my childhood. I talked too much and too loudly, I moved my hands too much when I talked, my voice was too sing-songy, too high-pitched. (I decided the last two on my own after hearing recordings of myself.) I was fat (really, I wasn't; I have a rounder body type, but my weight was in the normal range). I was ugly - that random kid at camp told me so when I was 8 years old.

I learned those lessons well. It wasn't until I was in high school, suffering with constant sore throats that I decided to pitch my voice higher. I sing in the soprano range, but I was speaking consistently near A below middle C. No wonder my throat was sore!

I spoke in a near-monotone unless I was reading; then I was super-expressive. Teachers loved having me read aloud. My kids still love hearing me read because I give each character its own voice - like radio theater! It's a lot of fun for me, too. But it wasn't until recently that I allowed myself to be expressive in my daily speech. In fact, when I first began speaking with my (natural) lilt, my oldest son thought I was making fun of him!

I did struggle with weight in 6th grade, but I'd lost 20 lbs. by 8th grade. I steadily gained weight throughout high school, but I was still within normal limits and wore a size 8. I now am a size 12, which isn't bad for a mom to 5 with no time for any kind of regular exercise. I am truly content with the shape my body is in at this stage of my life.

I did internalize the ugly comment. I wore glasses, and I felt plain. I look back now at pictures from my childhood, and gosh, I was so stinkin' CUTE! I mean, truly adorable.

I have had to work at feeling beautiful. I took negative comments and false beliefs and let them define me. Perhaps you've done the same?

No more! I am living the truth of who God made me to be. I am effervescent. I am gregarious. I am fun. I am a superb storyteller. And you know what? I'm pretty darn cute, with my purple glasses, trendy haircut, and warm, welcoming grin that invites others to come laugh with me!

I am beautiful.

What I want is for you to revel in the truth of who God made you to be, too. You may have been told you are too this or too that. You need to "tone it down" or "lighten up." NO! God made you perfectly you; to water down your personality  because someone else said to do so is a complete travesty.

I don't know if you're into affirmations, but if you are, I want you to write affirmations for those areas you were told to change and say them for a week. See if you notice a difference! Immerse yourself in the truth of who you were meant to be. Stop letting others' opinions define the choices you make in how you live your life.

Because you? You are beautiful. Just the way you are!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Finding My Voice

I apologize for the hiatus from blogging. (I'm sure you were waiting with bated breath for my next post, weren't you? No? OK, then.)

Frankly, I think I set myself up for failure with my grandiose idea of blogging about "finding God in my life and parenting."

Because God is omnipresent, so I don't have to really find the Almighty, y'know?

Because I am a random person and the thought of having to make my posts fit into specific parameters is kinda soul-sucking. (And boring. Which makes me rather unenthusiastic about writing.)

Because my life is crazy and fun and messy and sometimes hair-pullingly frustrating and trying to make it into something serious and/or inspirational is not working for me.

And finally, because I am still trying to find my voice. I still (in my mid-thirties) am discovering who I am. Maybe you can relate?

See, I grew up in Fundamentalist Christianity. I had no voice. As a child, I was ruled by adults who mostly loved me, but believed they were my "God-given authority" to dictate who I was to be.

I went to a Fundamentalist university, where (again) I was under the authority of "God-given leadership" who dictated how I dressed, where I went, and what I did.

I married and attended Fundamentalist churches. I was under the authority of my husband, and gracious, loving submission (code for subservience) was the litmus test of how good a wife I was.

Perhaps (un)surprisingly, I carry some baggage from that. I find it extremely difficult to speak up appropriately. I sound as if I'm making a suggestion, or else I come across as rude and demanding. Finding my voice will require the practice of actually using it.

Also, my writing style wasn't true to me. I was taught very well how to write in a semi-formal style, so others would take me and my words seriously. There is nothing wrong with writing that way, but this is a blog, for cryin' out loud.

My blog.

My words.

My voice.

I have gone from being voiceless to trying to imitate others' voices. I've learned I'm no prophetic Sarah Bessey, nor warrior-poet Preston Yancey, nor exhorter Rachel Held Evans, nor truth-proclaimer Elizabeth Esther.

I'm me. My purpose, my voice, my calling is different.

I empathize. I encourage.

I scatter sunshine like fairy dust to life's dark corners. I breathe hope into the gloomy dungeons of desolation. I buttress wavering faith and weave gold threads into the damaged tapestries of relationship.

How that works as a blog? I have no clue. None.

But that's ok. I promise -to you, my readers and to myself- that I will use my voice, follow my calling from now on.

I hope you enjoy reading the real me.


Korrine Britton

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Forgive us as we forgive others

God has forgiven me of much. I am a former child abuser. Never having been reported to CPS or never having a record of my crimes does not change the truth. Yes, I have sought help, and yes, I have changed by the grace of God. Although my past doesn't dictate my future, my present doesn't erase my past.

I realize not all parents are abuse survivors who struggle with breaking the cycle of abuse. But we all struggle with forgiveness from time to time.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in our injuries, the slights and disrespect toward us that we fail to see how we have injured and disrespected others.

Yes, we are all broken people. No, I am not excusing those who intentionally hurt or abuse others physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually, or otherwise.

I think, though, that we often have an unrealistic view of forgiveness. Somehow, we've gotten the message that forgiveness not only erases a debt, it obligates us to continue to put ourselves in situations where we can again be hurt or taken advantage of. Such is not the case.

Forgiveness means forgiving a debt. When someone has wronged me and I choose to forgive, I am releasing that individual from the obligation I feel they owe me. I am choosing not to let resentment over that obligation build, and I am choosing to move on from the situation. I am NOT ignoring any damage that was done, and I am NOT going to put open myself to being wronged again, especially if that individual is in a pattern of abuse.

I have found that forgiveness, especially in cases where I have been deeply wronged, is a process. I have to continue to choose forgiveness instead of resentment. I must choose to erase the debt instead of expecting certain behaviors or responses from the offender.

I find, though, that I am quick to seek forgiveness and grace for myself, and quick to seek justice for others' wrongs against me.

The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 always speaks to me.

Christ tells of a king who was taking account of his servants. One servant owed the king 10,000 talents. We have no idea whether the talents were gold or silver, but frankly, it doesn't matter. A talent is 57 pounds, which means in today's market, the servant owed $896,610,000 in gold or $16,530,000 in silver. For most of us, that is an unpayable debt!

The servant resorted to his only recourse: begging for mercy and promising that he would pay the debt over time. The gracious king forgave the servant's debt, no strings attached.

The relieved servant went out from the king's presence and chanced upon another servant. The second servant owed (from what I can deduce) something akin to $4,100 to the first servant. While still a lot of money to most of us, it is a debt that could realistically be repaid.

One would think the first servant, high off his recent experience with grace, would be anxious to share such mercy with his peer. Instead, he grabbed the other by the throat and demanded immediate restitution! When the second man couldn't immediately come up with the funds, the first had him thrown into debtor's prison.

The other servants saw this injustice and told their king. The king immediately called the first man to him and reminded him of the great debt that had been forgiven, and asked why the servant had not had compassion on his own debtor. Apparently, the king was so angry, he rescinded his forgiveness of the original debt and delivered the unforgiving servant to jail.

This is where the phrase "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" comes into play.

I think the take away from this parable is not just the injustice of being forgiven and refusing to forgive, but it's also how we forgive (or don't) affects how God forgives us.

That's a mind-bending concept.

One is tends to think that a gracious God forgives because He is gracious. We often forget that God is also a Being of justice.

Why, then, should I harshly punish my children for slights against me (back talk, failure to follow instructions, etc.) when God has forgiven me of so much more? Why do I expect those who have offended me to come groveling in humility while I too often wave my hand or roll my eyes when confronted with my own offenses?

"Father, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Help me to remember the debt I owe You, and let it soften my responses to others.

Church Relationships

Relationships are messy. Church relationships can be even more so, because the spiritual and the personal, the heart, the mind, and the soul are all tangled together in one beautiful, chaotically broken, mended package.

How does one handle the minor offenses that are bound to happen when people from different backgrounds and opinions come together for corporate worship? Frankly, I think a lot of stuff that is just preference can be acknowledged and accommodated to a point. 

For instance, some people don’t like having the offering plate passed in church, but prefer an offering box to sit at the back of the sanctuary. Some people prefer the offering be received after the worship portion, but before the sermon, and some people prefer to give the monetary offering at the very end of the service.

None of these are right or wrong; they are simply preferences. Perhaps a church where several people have expressed their differing preferences could compromise by changing the offering format month to month. It’s fairly simple to do and it shows that the members’ thoughts and opinions are valued.

Perhaps new members have voiced frustration that the church seems to have a lot of “unwritten rules” they are not privy to, and have asked that expectations be clearly communicated. These particular “unwritten rules” are not oppressive or bad; they are simply part of the fabric of this particular church and are well-known to the long-time members of the congregation. 

A simple solution would be to write down the expectations so all members and attendees are aware of potential land mines that could cause unnecessary and unintended offense and frustration.

Or maybe, individuals have expressed concern that the church leadership seems to need exercise a lot of control over every aspect of church ministry. Perhaps communication from the senior choir director to the children’s choir director must be filtered through the pastor when it would be simpler for the two directors to speak directly to each other without a go-between.

Since a pastor is an over-seer, he could allow the music ministers to do their jobs and simply require them to submit final plans for the services to him. There is no real need for the pastor to be privy to every detail of the decision-making processes of the music ministers as they plan for choir rehearsals and church services. By reviewing the final plans, the pastor would still be involved and apprised, without being controlling.

But what if you’ve unintentionally offended someone? What if their communications with you in person are polite, but stilted? What if communication outside of church has completely ceased? What if you’ve asked for an explanation and apologized for any offense caused (and also asked to be told the offense), only to receive a terse, “Thank you for your communication.” or no response at all? What if you’ve sought reconciliation through the pastor, and the pastor (after having spoken to the other party) insists no one has issues with you and refuses to arrange or sit in on a meeting between you and the other person?

What then?

Ordinarily, I would advise continuing to go to church as usual. If the other party insists nothing is wrong and no offense has occurred, all you can do is take him at his word. Treat this individual the way you always have, with love and kindness and honesty. It could be this person has something else going on in his life that is effecting all his relationships. It is quite possible you have indeed done nothing to offend, and this individual is simply distancing himself for an unrelated reason.

But what if, after you’ve attempted reconciliation and have been told no one has cause for offense, you are invited by your church leadership to visit other churches?

What then?

I suggest accepting their invitation, hurt though you may be, and seek fellowship elsewhere. It is hard (nigh impossible) not to take such a situation personally, but do try to assume positive intent on the part of the church. Perhaps they believe that they are failing in ministering effectively to you and have concluded that a church with different resources may better meet your needs. Perhaps they see that you and they have different spiritual goals for the church and believe you would be more comfortable in a church that has goals more in line with your own. Perhaps the pastor believes what you intended as constructive criticism is a sign of your discontent or your asking “permission” to be released from membership. Perhaps the leadership believes your theology is divergent enough that in time, there could be a large, painful rift between you and they are seeking to prevent a potential church split.

It would be nice if the church leadership would assume positive intent on your part as well, but you are in control only of yourself and your decisions in this case. If the leadership sees you as either a liability or a threat when your intentions are merely to further the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ through improvement of church ministry, there is, sadly, not much more you can do.

Remember, too, that “church” doesn’t have to look like what you are familiar with. God has promised “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Church can happen while folding laundry with your children and speaking of God’s goodness, or while having coffee with a friend for informal Bible study. Church can happen when conversing with a stranger who is a believer in the DMV line. Church is not confined to brick walls and stained glass, a routine of singing followed by four (alliterated) points and a poem, or the daily liturgy.

Church is meeting with God, and since God is omnipresent, church can (and should) happen everywhere. I advise finding a church (in whatever form) full of broken people who not only acknowledge their own brokenness, but delight in welcoming and worshipping with other broken people. After all, Christ shines brightest through the broken places.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spiritual Abuse



[v. uh-byoozn. uh-byoos] verb, a·bused, a·bus·ing, noun
verb (used with object)
to use wrongly or improperly; misuse: to abuse one's authority.
to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way: to abuse a horse; to abuse one's eyesight.
to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign.
to commit sexual assault upon.
Obsolete to deceive or mislead.

Virtually everyone, if asked, would assert he is against abuse of any kind. The problem comes 
when we define abuse differently. For instance, I believe spanking is physical abuse. There are 
many others who disagree with that blanket statement and wish to add caveats to it: spanking is 
an acceptable form of punishment unless taken too far they say. Unfortunately, what may be quite
obviously "too far" for one child is not so obvious for another.

I believe repeated teasing and mocking of children is emotional abuse. There are those who 
disagree, who insist their child knows teasing is done in fun and their child actually likes it. 
Frankly, there are people in this world who are so damaged by that type of thing in their childhoods, 
that they do not feel truly loved unless their sexual partner mocks and ridicules them. If there is 
even a remote possibility my actions or words to my children could lead to that type of dysfunction, believe me, I will do everything I can to avoid setting my child up for that type of dynamic.

I believe many well-meaning religious institutions (churches, universities, mission boards) practice spiritual abuse. I daresay most of the perpetrators of spiritual abuse do not actually intend to wound others, although there are certainly exceptions where individuals do willfully and knowingly use their spiritual authority to control others. Spiritual abuse is defined as "the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person's spiritual empowerment." A broader definition would be "a kind of abuse which...leaves us spiritually discouraged and emotionally cut off from the healing love of God." 

For churches to function properly, they need to know those to whom they claim to minister. Christians and churches can give trite "Biblical" answers to people, but often, they do not wait for a question. Jesus is the spiritual answer to dealing with the consequences of sin, yes, but "Jesus" is not always the correct answer for day-to-day problems.

For instance, I have a friend with serious health problems. In addition, she has two young children, a husband who is out of work, and a mortgage to pay. Groceries and medications are the main areas where their money goes, but she also needs gas to get to her own job, and her husband is continuing his education in an attempt to get work. Placating this family with the phrase "Jesus will take care of you." is not the answer they need right now. That answer is damaging to their souls, and causes them to wonder, "Why isn't Jesus taking care of us? What have we done wrong? Are we being punished for past sins?"

The true answer to their needs would be to act as the hands and feet of Jesus: dropping off food, offering childcare, being on the lookout for job opportunities. 

Another example is my acquaintance who is a single mom to a young, school-aged boy. She has to do the work of two parents. When she tried to join an evening ladies' Bible study, she was asked not to bring her son (even though he was quietly doing homework), because it was supposed to be a time for the moms to "relax and focus on God." 

Those women, because they could not see past their own preconceived notions of what Bible study is, hurt and alienated a woman who desperately needed support and fellowship from other Christians.

In my own experience with at least four different churches, I have been accused of not parenting "biblically" (because I do not spank), accused of not allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of self control in my life (if I do spank strike a child, something snaps as a result of my own abuse, and I have extreme difficulty stopping myself), accused of being selfish and not taking others' needs into account (for bringing my newborn with me to a MOPS meeting instead of leaving her in the nursery with strangers), accused of making my newborn selfish (by taking her out when she cried in church),  and finally, accused of not supporting my pastor-husband by not sitting in the services and hearing him preach (I took our then four small children out to read them a Bible story book).

In churches, Christian school, and Christian college, I was told that a man's morality is dependent on how much skin I covered. (By implication, the message is all men are rapists at heart, which is both demoralizing and infuriating for normal men.) I was told that the happiness of my marriage was dependent on how much and how well I submitted. I was told that because Eve sinned by eating the fruit, and because she caused Adam to sin, women could not be trusted on spiritual matters. 

Brothers and sisters, fellow believers, that is spiritual abuse.

It is spiritual abuse to say "Be warmed and filled," and not provide the means of warmth and food if you have it. If you do not personally have the means to provide for those asking for your help, you likely know to whom or to where to direct those in need.

It is spiritual abuse to treat those is need as if their souls are somehow separate from their bodies - and vice versa.

It is spiritual abuse to place the burden of your interpretation of God's law on others.

It is spiritual abuse to shrug your shoulders or turn away when confronted with a problem in your religious institution you can help  correct.

The solution to this is simple: 

Jesus said, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." Matt. 22:37-40

Monday, February 11, 2013

To Tell the Truth

Honesty v. Dishonesty
Truth v. Lies

We all strive to model and teach honesty to our children. And while most of us consider ourselves basically truthful, it is very easy to let the "little white lies" infiltrate our interactions with our kids. Using "Because I said so," instead of admitting we don't have a good reason not to allow a particular activity; telling little ones there is no more (candy, cheese, whatever) instead of using the moment to explain why we limit certain things; trying to convince youngsters that a favorite place (Chuck E. Cheese, McDonald's, the library) is closed, instead of explaining why visiting certain places isn't an everyday occurrence.

On the other hand, I've seen parents go absolutely ballistic if their potty-training two-year-old says, "I didn't peeeeeeee!" while simultaneously sporting a large wet spot on their pants.

In my mind there's a huge difference. And it's not that the parents' behavior is acceptable and the toddler is being deliberately deceptive. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In cognitive development, children go through various views of reality. This is not the world as we adults know it. It is the world through the child's perception. It is the child's reality.

For instance, infants know only their own comfort and discomfort, but they lack the ability to soothe and care for themselves. Infants cry not because they are sinful or manipulative (yes, that was the viewpoint I was taught and even believed in my early years as a parent), but because they are communicating their needs the only way they can.

Once language is introduced, toddlers are fascinated with their communication skills. They believe "words are magic" and can make things happen. This is one reason toddlers have meltdowns when they can't communicate well. Not only are they frustrated they aren't understood, they are also frustrated that the "magic" isn't working!

This "words are magic" stage lasts until almost age five, at which point the child has assimilated enough information to understand that s/he can't change everything by speaking it into or out of existence. Age five marks the beginning of logic and a grasp of cause and effect, which, coincidentally, is also the age most children start school in this country.

So, when a two-year-old insists, "I didn't pee!" it is because s/he believes saying it makes it true.

When an adult says, "McDonald's is closed." (when, in fact, it isn't), the adult is deliberately trying to deceive a child.

The child is being dishonest, but s/he isn't being untruthful. The child knows s/he wet his/her pants, but the child also believes that saying otherwise changes what happened.

The adult is being dishonest, and s/he is lying. The adult knows McDonald's is open, and s/he is also attempting to convince the child of something that is untrue.

Parents often find "white lies" (lies of convenience, in my opinion) acceptable, but rarely take into account their children's cognitive development before condemning the child as a liar, liar with pants on fire.

With my littles, I've found asking, "Is this true, or pretend? Is this true and what really happened, or do you want it to be true?" helpful. I also don't freak out (anymore) if my three year old insists he didn't draw on the wall with marker while sporting marks on his hand (and face, and shirt) and is still holding a marker that matches the color on the walls. I simply point out the evidence contrary to his assertion and tell him that even if he wishes he hadn't drawn on the wall, Mommy knows what he did. And when we make messes, we clean them up. I then hand him appropriate cleaning supplies and supervise his clean up, assisting if necessary. (I also confiscate the markers! If we can't keep the markers on paper, we don't have the markers for a while.)

There is no shaming and accusing. I do express dismay at the mess and gratitude toward being responsible and cleaning up, but I don't harangue or get angry that my child had the audacity to deliberately destroy property and then tell me a bald-faced lie. That's not what happened.

My child made an impulsive choice (because he's three and lacks impulse control). He doesn't understand cause and effect, so he has no concept of the potential damage markers can cause to antique wood finishes or wallpaper. He believes words are magic and that by saying he didn't draw, the marks will magically disappear. That is his reality. That is truth as he knows it.

My job, then, is to teach him about reality. Shaming isn't teaching. Punishment isn't teaching. Modeling and explaining are teaching. Enforcing rules (you make a mess, you clean it up) is teaching. What's more, I am being truthful in my teaching by not over-reacting in order to "scare" him into making better decisions "next time."

I am also being truthful by not saying, "Oh, that's ok, sweetie. Just don't do it again." It's not ok, but it's not a travesty worthy of a mommy-meltdown, either.

In closing, we as parents need to be careful to consistently model both honesty and truthfulness. We also must take care to remember things from a child's perspective are very different from our adult perspectives. A child's truth (or reality) is much different than what we adults know as truth (or reality). It's much easier to graciously correct your child's behavior once you're aware their choices are based on an alternate reality.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

When Help Isn't Helpful

I'm a helper. I prefer the term advocate, but regardless the label, I truly enjoy the feeling of helping others.

Sometimes to the point of helping because it satisfies a need in me.

Yeah. Selfishness masquerading as helpfulness. It's not pretty. In fact, it's manipulative and damaging.

This particular selfishness tells others, "You're not good enough...without me. Your failures reflect badly...on me."

Intent is important. Sometimes I jump in and help my children for the right reasons: so they learn how life works, so they learn how to accept assistance from others, so they learn the feeling of successful cooperation.

But sometimes, help looks like letting a 16 month old descend a flight of stairs by herself. She can do it, and she knows it. I supervise for safety's sake, but she needs to learn that just because a task is daunting, it shouldn't be ignored. Constantly carrying her up and down teaches her to rely on others to do the hard stuff.

Sometimes, help looks like insisting my 9 year old sort, fold, and put away an entire load of laundry by himself. He can do it, despite his protests to the contrary. And he needs to learn that everyone in a household contributes to getting the needed tasks done. Just because a task is boring doesn't mean it isn't important. Doing the task myself may save time, but it teaches him that procrastination will eventually let you off the hook.

Sometimes, help looks like standing over my 3 year old and supervising the clean up of an accidental spill. He needs to learn that a responsible individual takes care of his own messes and doesn't rely on others to fix his problems. If I wiped the spill, he would learn that the consequences of his actions do not affect him directly.

Sometimes, help looks like saying, "Thank you." to my 10 year old after she has unloaded the dishwasher, instead of telling her she put pots and pans in the wrong places. She is assisting in the running of our household, and criticizing her efforts immediately after she has performed the task will take the wind out of her sails and ensure reluctance the next time her help is needed. If I corrected her right then, I would be teaching her that only perfection is acceptable.

So if you see me standing back and watching my children instead of rushing to correct or assist, please do not assume I am doing nothing. Do not assume I don't see how they are struggling, and please, please do not assume I am being negligent.

I am teaching. I am helping. And it is oh, so hard for me to allow them to try and fail. But it is how we all learn, and I am helping them see that failure is actually a positive thing. I am helping them learn that failure is not something to be feared, but acknowledged and learned from.

Because constant success isn't reality. And helping isn't always helpful in the long run.

Monday, January 28, 2013

When Love Looks Like Hate

"Praise Him, praise Him, all you little children. God is love! God is love!"

I grew up singing that song, being assured that God loves me, my parents love me, my church loves me.

We learn the definition of love by experiencing it.

So when a child hears, "God loves you!" and also learns that God commanded people who didn't believe in Him to be killed, a child learns that love is conditional and harsh.

When a child hears, "Mommy/Daddy loves you," and then is struck repeatedly after some wrong-doing, a child learns that love is painful.

When a child hears, "Your Sunday School teacher loves you," and then is treated to harsh words or eye-rolling for not moving quickly enough (or for moving too much) to suit the grown up, a child learns that love is impatient.

When a child hears, "Your pastor loves you," and hears him bragging about all he has done and why the church owes him unquestioning allegiance, a child learns that love is boastful and arrogant.

When a child hears, "I love you," but then is met with a laundry list of failures, a child learns that love holds grudges.

When a child hears "I love you," followed at some point by disbelief toward the child's expression of feelings or a cry for help, a child learns that love is suspicious.

When a child hears, "I love you," but then has affection withdrawn from him when his behavior does not meet with the approval of the adult, a child learns that love gives up easily.

When a child hears, "I love you," but cannot be honest with his parents for fear of a reaction, a child learns that love is not interested in truth.

When a child hears about love, but is then shown the opposite, is it any wonder that child does not desire a deeper relationship with her parents or develops a fear of God?

Contrast that with God's definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, because God is Love, you could replace the word love with God to get a more accurate picture of the Divine.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy, love does not boast, love is not proud.

Love is not rude, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered, love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

True love is more than affection and doesn't always come easily for me. I daresay, true love doesn't come easily for most people, considering how poorly love is shown to us and others.

I have found that the reiki principles are basically a condensed version of how to express love. In addition to reading and trying to live the definition of love written in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, I have also begun meditating on the following:

  • Just for today, I will not anger.
  • Just for today, I will not worry.
  • Just for today, I will be grateful.
  • Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
  • Just for today, I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing.
  • Just for today, I will honor my teachers.

How much better could we be as people, as parents, friends, and community members if we stopped talking love and walking hate? How much good could we accomplish by living in an authentically loving way? How much radical change could we effect by ceasing to call hatred love and showing our world what love really means?

I intend to find out. Will you join me?

Friday, January 25, 2013



In my faith journey, I find that asking questions is sometimes frowned up. Oh, sure, easy questions are encouraged, because they help you learn more about God and grow spiritually.

The hard questions, though? They are often invalidated with comments such as, "As you mature spiritually, you'll find getting the answers aren't so important." or "We can't ever completely know the mind of God." or "You just need to have faith in God and don't worry about asking questions."

I have had versions of the above directed at me for most of my life.

Wondering why the child on the other side of the world who never had a missionary come and tell her about Jesus would die and go to hell earned the response, "That's why you need to pay for missionaries to go tell people about Jesus or even be willing to be a missionary yourself when you grow up."

Asking why mentally disabled children didn't get spanked ("Because they don't have the mental capacity to understand good and bad or cause and effect."), and then extrapolating that toddlers don't have that capacity, either, so why do they get spanked? And what about kids who look normal, but have developmental disabilities? Yeah, I found out I should be thankful I'm smart so I can experience the joy of parents who express love through fear pain hitting spanking. I believe at that point I expressed a desire to be mentally retarded.

(I should probably also mention I don't have much of a brain-to-mouth filter.)

As I've matured aged, the questions have neither stopped, nor gotten easier.

If God has commanded, "Thou shalt not kill," then why does He (apparently) command genocide throughout the Hebrew Scriptures? (Joshua 6:21; 1 Samuel 15:15, 32-33)  Wouldn't that make God a hypocrite? Or at least give anyone who kills an automatic get out of jail free card by allowing him to claim "God told me to?"

If there is only one, true God (Elohim), isn't the command to have "no other gods" before Him kind of a moot point? (And, yes, the word translated "gods" is, in fact, Elohim.)

Is patriarchy really God's plan for how the world should work? Because, honestly, I think everything from government to family works better when both men and women are making decisions together. Besides, it would seem God's original plan was unity (not hierarchy or patriarchy) until sin was allowed to derail it. Still, doesn't Christ's sacrifice restore all things?

How do I trust a God who supposedly has the whole world in His hands and controls the universe, but can't reliably sustain life in the womb, i.e. allows miscarriage and still birth?

Why? How? Why, why, why? Sometimes I feel guilty for barraging God with all my questions. I mean, if our chief end is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever," I'm not really glorifying God with all my doubt.

Am I?

Maybe I am. It always helps me (as a parent with infinite, unconditional love for my kids) to imagine myself as God's child.

In my role as a parent, I love when my kids come to me with questions. Yes, sometimes their attitudes are wretched, sometimes their motives are wrong, and sometimes, frankly, they aren't interested in the answers I have to give, but still, they come to me.

That alone says volumes about our relationship.

Likewise, I think God is glorified when I am comfortable enough to show my doubt, that I am honest enough to admit I don't have all the answers, and confess I don't understand His reasons why.

Sometimes my attitude is wretched. Sometimes, I come with wrong motives. And sometimes, I'm not even interested in listening to the answers, so arrogant am I and secure in my indignation.

But, I come.

That, alone, speaks volumes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Forgiveness. Atonement.

There's a lot in regards to forgiveness (human and divine) and Christ's atonement and application percolating in my mind right now. I'm having trouble articulating thoughts at the moment, but I wanted to record this before I forget.

Jesus didn't come to save us from God. Jesus is God; He came to show us how to live the law without legalism, how to love without condition, and how to serve without expectation.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Abuse in the Christian Environment

Those who know me personally know it is in my nature to be an advocate. The truth in Micah 6:8 is imprinted on my soul, and though I've strayed from it at times, I cannot deny what God has called me to do.

I grew up in a subset of Fundamentalist Christianity. There were many people in that group who loved God but believed strictly adhering to religious rules (generally those espoused by the pastor) was what God required. I had one childhood pastor in particular who advocated child abuse from the pulpit. Oh, not in so many words, of course. His "Biblical counsel" from behind the "sacred desk" was to encourage parents to use "firm discipline" with their children while they were very young; then parents wouldn't be questioned about "bruising" when the children were school-aged.  Because, you know, the government hates God and everything He stands for and the government is going to take away our rights to beat hit discipline our children.

In such an environment where a child has no rights, s/he typically will not speak up if being abused, either physically or sexually. Even if the child does somehow muster the courage to tell someone, the nearly universal result is that the congregation rallies around the accuser and blames the victim. I saw this first hand.

At my church, I once (over)heard some ladies talking about a local youth pastor and a girl from his church. I gathered that a 3 year old girl had told her mother the youth pastor had been touching her inappropriately. I couldn't have been more than 5 years old, and I remember being shocked and saying so. I was told "There's more to the story than that." It was then explained that the girl hadn't actually come out and said anything, but the girl's mother had noticed radical changes in the girl's behavior and had taken her to "a counselor." (Obviously, the girl's pediatrician had found enough evidence of sexual abuse that he referred her to a psychologist or psychiatrist who was then able to get more details from the girl.)

During this narrative, it was obvious to me the adults assumed the counselor had planted the idea of abuse in the girl's mind in order to attack the "man of God" (youth pastor). Incredulous, I asked, "But why would she lie?" The answer was astounding. "Well, maybe she really believes it happened because the counselor told her it did. Maybe she's just a naughty little girl who was trying to find a way to get out of being spanked."

I'll let you digest that for a bit.

By the time I got to high school, I had met several girls who admitted to me they had been sexually abused, or suspected they had been, due to large blanks in their childhoods. In an environment where victims are certain they will not be believed but blamed, none of the girls who shared that part of themselves with me had told anyone else. I suggested we tell an adult, but the girls inevitably refused.  Since by the time I was told, the abuse had ceased, and because I was in the system myself and saw no other recourse, I didn't think to encourage my friends to go to the police. I wish I had.

I think a lot of us who grew up in similar subsets of religion wish we could have done more to help our friends, but we honestly had no clue what to do or who to turn to. Even now, people all throughout the Christian community have no idea what the proper, godly response to abuse is, especially when it happens at their church, or within their church family.

That is why G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) is so important. This organization provides information to those concerned about the proper legal and godly ways to approach both the perpetrators and victims of abuse. G.R.A.C.E. also conducts investigations into organizations where allegations of abuse and/or abuse cover-up have occurred.

Two current investigations involve the ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) mission board and Bob Jones University and Academy. I am not in any way affiliated with ABWE, but I did attend BJU and can speak about my perception of the institutions views toward abuse. I will not share those perceptions here, but I will post a link to the investigational survey. If you have any connections or knowledge about either of these organizations, I encourage you to participate.

ABWE investigation

BJU investigation

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Disobedience or noncompliance?

"Why won't you just listen to me and do what I'm telling you?"

"Stop being so disobedient!"

I don't always say those things to my kids, but I've definitely been guilty of thinking them. When I'm not in that moment of frustration, I often wonder, "Was my child being truly disobedient?  Or was s/he not complying for a reason that I was too impatient to hear about?"

I'm a firm believer in treating others the way we want to be treated.  I also believe that our kids copy the behavior they see modeled.  So, if I'm loud, demanding, and impatient, I guarantee you my kids are going to be the same.  There's no sense in holding my children to a standard I refuse to hold to myself.  Not only is it illogical, it's unjust.

However, when I exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in my life (you know, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...those easy-peasy attributes, right?), my children likewise follow suit.

Micah 6:8 states, "He has told you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

It is unjust, cruel, and prideful of me to expect immediate compliance from my children.  True obedience comes from a heart of love, a heart that counts the cost before submitting.  If I do not give my children time to count the cost, to consider what it is I am asking of them before following through, I am not giving my children the dignity they deserve.

For instance, I have a toddler who is so sweet, happy, and compliant by nature.  She is still learning words and meanings, so often when she is given an instruction, she will stand and look at me.  If she were my first child, I would have simply repeated my instruction a few times, threatened her with a spanking if she didn't "obey" and then followed through.

Now, I am aware that people in general and small children especially need up to a minute to process an instruction.  Yes, a full minute!  In my education classes, we were told not to fear the silence that followed a question to our class, as it could easily take 20 seconds for the students to interpret our query and then formulate a response.  Obviously, pre-school children require more time to process and formulate, and we are doing them a tremendous disservice by training them to respond like automatons.

Here's a recent example:  I brought my toddler to her high chair to eat breakfast. I had a small portion of waffle, already cut into tiny pieces and topped with syrup ready for her on her plate. I stood her in her chair and said, "Ok, sit down and eat."  She picked up her fork and began eating.  I reminded her to sit.  She squatted, then stood again, looking at me out of the corner of her eye.  Frankly, I was a little frustrated, as we've followed this routine ever since she could sit up by herself.  I put my hand on her shoulder and said, "You have to sit in your high chair."  She looked at me, squatted, and stood. 

My first impulse was to pick her up and place her in a seated position back in her chair, but my brain said, "She never does this.  There must be a reason."  I checked her diaper, and sure enough, she had pooped!  She was not disobeying me; she wanted to comply but did not want to sit in ickiness while eating.  Can you blame her?

So because I treated my toddler with dignity, she got a fresh diaper and could enjoy her breakfast more completely.

Here's another example where I didn't do so well.  My oldest son is a feeeeeeeler.  By that, I mean he has BIG FEELINGS about everything, to the point where he tends to either explode or shut down because he is still learning how to handle these giant feelings.  I also am a feeler, and I am empathetic to the point that I can actually experience another's emotions with them. Throw the two of us together and you can get some huge, spiraling, out-of-control emotions, sometimes.  Kind of like fireworks, only less pleasant.

Anyway, my son was having difficulty completing an assigned chore.  I was sensing his frustration and anger, and instantly became angry and frustrated with him.  From my perspective, I was asking him to do a fraction of his fair share around the house, and here he was, balking. I scolded. He exploded. I exploded back. He shouted, "You don't really love me! It's all just an act!"

Ouch. That got my attention. I immediately went into question and listen mode.

It turns out, I've grown careless in choosing my words, especially when expressing my disapproval and frustration of my son's negative behaviors.  Instead of focusing on the desired behavior and offering alternatives or simply correcting the undesired behavior, I was saying shouting completely unhelpful things. "Stop acting like a jerk!" "I've had enough of your misbehavior!" "Would you pay attention?" "Just do what I say - NOW!"

As a result, his behavior toward me had grown antagonistic. He felt unloved and unappreciated - and is it any wonder?

My son was complying with instructions, albeit grudgingly.  That is hardly true obedience. But who was at fault for the breakdown between us? Obviously, I was. I am the parent and the leader. He is the child and follower of my example. He lacks the necessary maturity to calmly bring my own misbehavior to my attention while being a model of good behavior himself.  Additionally, he felt that the foundation of our relationship (unconditional love) had crumbled, leaving him insecure and uncertain.

There cannot be true obedience unless the foundation of unconditional love is solid. True disobedience with such a foundation is extremely rare, and when it does happen, I've found my children are quick to express repentance and work toward reconciliation without any prodding from me.

It's time we Christians really look at the words we're using to describe our children's behavior. Delayed obedience is not disobedience at all. In fact, I posit delayed obedience is true obedience, because one who delays is counting the cost and choosing to submit anyway. Noncompliance is not following an instruction, while disobedience is counting the cost and choosing not to submit. Compliance and noncompliance happen on the outside, while obedience and disobedience take place is the heart. 

If we as parents are going to follow the instruction to "do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly," we must seek the reasons behind our children's unwanted behavior.  It is, after all, what we hope others would do for us.