I was home with my two little ones by myself one night, and my 4-year-old was winning a debate at the dinner table. He was refusing to eat his dinner, no matter what bribes – or threats – I threw out.
In desperation, I finally screamed out: “I’m in charge and you NEED TO LISTEN TO ME!”
I was taken aback when his little voice, rather than arguing, simply asked, “Why?”
My voice caught a little when I answered, “Because I know what’s best for you.”
When I said it, I felt like a huge hypocrite – no, the biggest hypocrite in the world.
It was time for self-reflection.
I inwardly asked myself, “If I really know what’s best for my son, does that include yelling, screaming, and demanding impatiently that he do something?”
My second question rolled off the first, “What is my real goal – to fill tummies and warm hearts, or to be right and obeyed?”
At that moment of anger and annoyance, the answer was clear. In my impatience, I had forgotten the real goal – the goal that would actually be what was best for him – and moved to the selfish goal of satisfying my pride.
I realized that night that Rigel just wanted to know why he had to eat his dinner before willingly doing it.
As she spoke of her granddaughter, Chloe, who had taken her seat belt off so many times, that she had to stop on the side of the road, unable to go any further, I was first so impressed and inspired by her continued patience with this small child, only a year younger than my Rigel.
After unsuccessfully re-buckling her granddaughter several times, and bribing her to keep her seat belt fastened, Sister Stephens prayed for guidance on what to do. She got the impression to teach her.
After expressing that wearing her seat belt would keep her safe, and that it would make her grandmother upset if her sweet granddaughter got hurt, Chloe finally understood:
“Grandma, you want me to wear my seat belt because you love me!”
After that, she kept her seat belt on.
Sister Stephens counseled, “We have rules to teach, guide, and protect children. Why? Because of the great love we have for them. But until Chloe understood that my desire for her to remain securely fastened in her car seat was because of my love for her, she was unwilling to submit to what she considered a restriction. She felt her seat belt limited her freedom.”
I really think that is why our kids don’t listen to us sometimes. It is because they don’t see a need to do something, or because they think that by doing it, they can no longer do what they want.
If our children see that we truly want what’s best for them, and decide what is best based on our love and concern for them, they will obey so much more willingly.
I know I am not the best mother. I have so much work to do to become the gentle, patient, tender mother I know my children need me to be. The simple experience I had with my wise son, Rigel, followed by this simple and tender message from Carole Stephens, has helped me refocus on a way that I can be a more worthy mother, wife, friend, and daughter of God.
Rigel, I promise you and your brothers that I will try harder to show you that I love you when I ask you to follow a rule. I truly do want what is best for you.