I have had a difficult couple of weeks with Clayton's overall behavior. He plays well with his sister, he is quiet and kind when he is supposed to be, but if something doesn't go his way, especially away from home, he becomes hard to manage. He had a hard time sharing in his class at church, he was disrespectful to me when I would transition him from an activity he enjoyed to something else, like eating lunch, and he got carried away far too often in a store or restaurant.
I typically do not always like to just classify behaviors (good or bad) into a "stage" mentality.
Over the last couple weeks, I have cried and prayed for this boy and tried to take a step back to reflect on "What has my behavior and attitudes been like lately? Have I modeled patience, kindness, and love in my home, especially when things don't go how I've wanted them to?" As I have reflected, I honestly felt like I have grown in these areas, and that my behaviors were not necessarily contributing to Clayton's negative actions. I just wanted to try to pinpoint what was going on inside of that 4-year old brain and heart.
I admit, I have not always responded the best ways to his outbursts of disrespect and disregard for my rules/expectations. I have been tempted to ignore the incidents, since it is easier to ignore than deal with it.
I was also tempted to leave it for Daddy at the end of the day, but how well I know that to do this, makes for a long day to a child with little to no cause to look forward to Daddy coming home from work at the end of the day. I was tempted to bribe, since this is a method that has gotten me "my way" with the kids before.
In all of these temptations however, I kept getting convicted that I was trying to "treat the outward symptoms rather than do the heart surgery required." -(Shepherding a Child's Heart)
I sat Clayton down and asked him a lot of questions about how he was feeling. I always trying to take the time to talk with him after the variety of disciplines he received lately. I did my best to remind him that I do not like to cause him pain and that I love him so very much and just want him to obey and respect me quickly, because that's what God expects of us. Many times, Clayton would be moved to tears and say that he loved me. I reminded him as God reminds me, "If you love me, you will obey me. (keep my commandments.)" John 14:15
It's been hard to tell if I was doing any better at being consistent, or if Clayton was grasping what I have been trying to teach him. That is, until last night at bed time. Clayton always says the same thing each night, "Dear Jesus, please help my family sleep good tonight. In Jesus' name, Amen." However, after I prayed a simple prayer over him, to this effect- "Father God, I pray that You would help Clayton to make good choices tomorrow. Help him to obey and respect quickly like You have asked me to do. I know You can help him to remember to do what is right. Help him to sleep well, and wake up to a new start tomorrow....Amen." Clayton was very quiet, then he prayed, "Dear Jesus, I'm very sorry. Help the sin to stay far away from my heart, so my heart can be clean again."
This simple, heart-felt prayer brought tears to my eyes, and joy to this mommy-heart, and hope that the Holy Spirit did a real work in Clayton's heart once again; a work that all my best attempts at teaching could not ultimately accomplish. It was a humbling reminder that "I planted, others watered, but it was God that gave the increase, the growth." I Corinthians 3:6
When I am tempted to do things in my own strength, I am reminded- It is God that causes growth, and victories and prayers to be answered. I must simply obey and respect quickly & what God and His word shows me to do, and then leave the rest in His capable hands.