We went go-karting while we were on vacation last week. After the ride, my 7-year-old and I got into a heated discussion about who won (I did). She was insistent that she and her dad had won and got very mad at me when I pointed out that her sister and I had won. In case you can't tell, my youngest is a wee bit competitive (I wonder where she got that from). She got so mad, in fact, that she hit me. Now, the one thing you do not want to do in our house is hit an adult. Neither of my kids has ever deliberately hit us once they passed the age of about 2. It's a major criminal offense in the Fairchild household.
Needless to say, I was not at all happy with my daughter. I immediately pulled her out of the group to the first secluded spot I could find, which was behind the dumpster. (I highly recommend finding a better spot than behind a dumpster on a hot, Tennessee day to discipline your children.) My first instinct was to light into my daughter, but in writing the Everyday Truth Bible study and this blog, I've discovered that there's this still, small voice that follows me around and reminds me that these are useable moments. So, instead of giving her the piece of my mind that she probably deserved, I got some wisdom from the Holy Spirit that simply said "Use this moment."
My daughter knew she had messed up. As soon as she hit me, her eyes got really big, and you could tell she was thinking "Uh-oh, I've done it now." I simply asked her if she had hit me. She said yes and burst into tears. I calmly informed her that the consequences of making a bad decision were that she would not be allowed to play games in the arcade with her cousins. That may not sound like a big punishment, but to my youngest, it was the end of the world. She loves a good arcade more than just about any other activity. Her response was to start crying VERY loudly. Always remember, when your child is bordering on the hysterical, it is not a good time to teach them anything.
I went inside with my older daughter and left my younger one out on the porch with her dad. Once she got herself under control, I went back out, and we discussed why she was missing out on the fun. We spent some time talking about why we don't hit our parents and about how God wants us to honor our parents. The teaching part of the episode took about five minutes. The whole agonizingly embarassing episode took about 30. But, my daughter took away something besides mommy is mad because I hit her.
I'm telling you this story, not because I want you to think I'm the perfect mom. (This is one of the successful times in dealing with my children. I'm not sure it makes up for the other 30 times when I've lost my temper.) I'm telling it because it's a great example of the ability we have as parents to take a horrible moment and turn it into one that teaches something.
The important thing for us, as parents, to remember is that we are going to have moments where we want to yell at our kids. They probably even deserve it. But, we need to listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit when he tells us to use the moment to teach our kids something. As adults, we need to be able to hang onto our tempers and follow God's prompting. God's way is always more effective than our way, and the whole point of discipline is to teach our children something.
So, the next time your child crosses the line and does something you consider horrible, take three seconds and ask God how He wants you to deal with the situation. I guarantee you'll be pleased with the result.