Do Unto Others – Kids Included

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I find I go through phases where I use a particular “mom” phrase regularly, multiple times a day.  Phrases like, “Because I said so,” or, “Where do we draw?  PAPER ONLY,” or “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

I find myself saying that last one a lot, because my older two kids are getting to an age when their play is less independent, and…let’s say they haven’t yet mastered cooperative play.  There’s a lot of toy snatching, toy hoarding, yelling, and crying these days.

This week one of my children grabbed all the play silverware and wasn’t allowing the other to have any. I explained again that we need to treat others the way we’d like them to treat us.  When this had no effect, I wrested all the silverware pieces away and held them out of reach.  “Look,” I said.

The culprit protested furiously.

“Do you like this?  Are you happy that I took away all the silverware?”

“YES!”

“You like it when I take away the silverware and don’t let you have any?”

“YES!”  Angry sobs.

Clearly this object lesson wasn’t working at the moment.  I put the silverware down, wearily repeating my first point about the golden rule and why it’s important to love others as God has loved us.

As the kids returned to playing (thankfully, more harmoniously than before), I pondered that rule.  How often I fall short of following Jesus’ command when it comes to my little ones!

I don’t want to be shouted at when I do something wrong.

I don’t want anyone to snap at me.

I don’t want anyone to abruptly take things out of my hands and say, “Hey, you’re not supposed to have that.”

I don’t want people to grit their teeth at me and growl, “How many times have I told you…?”

I don’t want to watch people eat something tasty and be told, “Sorry, you already had your snack.”

I don’t wish to be excluded, or ignored.

I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt before they jump to conclusions about my behavior.

There are so many things we do to our children that we would hate if someone did them to us.

Certainly, as parents, we have a responsibility to discipline and teach them, and they don’t always like that.  No one enjoys being punished or told they were wrong, but we’d all appreciate it in the long run if a friend pulled us aside and pointed out the cliff we were about to run over.  We are all in danger of losing ourselves in the Jungle of Selfishness, or sinking into the Quicksand of Greed, or some equally loveless place.  As my kids’ most direct authority figure, I need to discipline them, and train them to fight their own battles against sin.  They don’t enjoy that, but they do need it.

And I don’t like having my sin and hypocrisy shoved in my face daily by parenting, but boy, do I need that!  😉

Discipline is a necessary unpleasantry, for sure, but is only one part of the big picture.

This week I’m taking a closer look at the way I react to my children.  As I did to the greedy silverware-snatcher, I’m holding my own behavior over my head and asking, “What if I was on the receiving end of this?”

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This has ramifications to so much more than whether I yell or speak more quietly, and it will continue to have ramifications all the way into their adulthood, whether I’m parenting teens, toddlers, tweens, or any age in between.

How do I instruct them?  Will I order them about with blunt commands, or will I ask kindly (even up to seventy times seven)?  Will I tell them what to think, or will I share all the information I have and encourage them to think about it for themselves?  Will I scold, or will I exhort?  Will I threaten my despair over them, or will I voice my hope in them?

I know which of those things I would want, if I was in their place!

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To the one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.  And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” – our Lord Jesus, Luke 6:27-31

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – verses 37-38

How far we fall short.  We apply the famous “love” passage often to how we interact with our spouse, but do we think about it in regard to our children as well?

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

As parents we fail all these “tests” regularly, sometimes moment by moment.

I’m so thankful for a powerful God that saves, who washes me clean, and who has my children in His almighty hands and is doing a wise and perfect work in their lives: through me, despite me, and sometimes in spite of me!  😉  And I am thankful that through Christ, I am pushing forward toward perfection.  There is always hope for me, because God has claimed me for His child, and His love never, ever fails.

“Not that I have already obtained this [resurrection] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus Christ has made me His own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” – Philippians 3:12-16

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What especially hurts you, or tears you down?  Do you consider if you do that same thing to others, maybe even your children?

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7 Comments

  1. This is very good!

    Reply
  2. Kessie

     /  July 17, 2014

    Good application! So often I put my head in my hands and wail, “I’m ruining their lives!” It’s rad when they’re, what, 4 and 2? They barely know how to share yet, let alone play. But it will come. Mine are slightly older and there’s times I confiscate a toy entirely to end the fighting. I do try to explain, “Don’t do that and here’s why.” I find that most things end in death. “Don’t play with light sockets, or walk on the hot sidewalk in bare feet, or throw rocks at each other’s heads. YOU COULD DIE.”

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    • Thanks! Yeah, my older kids are 3 and almost 2. I find a lot of “no’s” end in death, too, but I tried explaining once to my son, and I will never do that again…not for a long time. I had told him not to put blankets over the baby’s face, because she couldn’t breathe, and people need to breathe or they die. He was instantly fascinated and kept trying to do it all the more – I think he wanted to know what I was talking about for himself!! Aaaaugh. So that was a little scary. He still tries to put things on her head sometimes, saying he doesn’t want her to breathe(!). He can be a loose cannon of a child. So I will avoid warning of death ever again to a curious toddler who doesn’t understand what death even is. 😛

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    • Oh, and on “ruining” our kids…I like to remind myself that because of sin, children come into the world “pre-ruined”. We can either make them worse, or make them better. 🙂

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  3. Yeah, he’s probably too little to understand death (at least until he sees pets die). Trumbull in his book Tips on Child Training talks about how discipline is training a child’s will. Forcing them to obey doesn’t teach them anything. You have to give them a choice. Obey me, or take a whipping. As toddlers, I’m amazed at how often they choose that whipping. But then they decide its easier to obey, and one day you realize it’s been days–weeks, even!–since you had to spank anybody.

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    • That’s a great way to put it…choosing to obey or not. I’ve actually started talking about it like that when it comes to discipline. “You can choose to obey me, or you can choose to disobey and have a spanking.”

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