I have a confession to make. I almost killed George.
I got up yesterday morning, let the dog out and took a peek at George. Instead of swimming happily around his tank, his little golden body was lethargically floating near the bottom of his tank. Even food pellets couldn't entice his usually swift golden self to swim to the top. Tapping on and shaking the tank (actions expressly forbidden to my kids) produced nothing more than a slight wiggle of his golden tail.
George is our goldfish, and, honestly, he's not my favorite member of our family. He showed up one day when I was out. The girls and my husband thought it would be great fun to have a goldfish. They brought him home, dropped him in a bowl of water and thought they could feed him once a day and it would be great. After two days, he started to turn black.
I was pretty sure that goldfish are supposed to be gold, not black. A little bit of research (thanks, Google) told me that the ammonia in the water was burning his skin. So, off to the store I went, and the purchase of tank, filter and some kind of drops to make the water safe (and $50) later, our goldfish had the appropriate home.
When I came home the first time and saw George, all I could think about was how it was one more thing for me to do. My husband and girls saw a fun addition to our home. I saw a dirty, smelly fish whose tank I would have to clean. (I know many of you are wondering why my girls don't clean the tank, but the tank is heavy, and it would be more work to clean up after one of my girls cleaned the tank than it is to do it myself. Some day I'll turn that task over to them, but not today.) George hasn't really grown on me over time.
Which leads to yesterday. George was lethargic and sick because I kept putting off cleaning his tank. I would look at it, and think, "I'll do that tomorrow." But I never did. George's needs never rose to the top of my list, which is how I found myself tapping on the glass of the fish tank yesterday morning, willing the fish to swim around. That's how I found myself cleaning the fish tank before I had breakfast or a shower.
As I watched George perk up and swim happily yesterday afternoon in his clean tank, I realized that sometimes parenting is a lot like my reluctance to clean the fish tank. We see behaviors or attitudes in our kids that we know we should correct, but it's a lot of work and we know we're going to meet with resistance. So we let it go. We think we'll deal with it later.
A month or even a year down the road, we look at that child and wonder how things have gotten so far off track. Raising kids is a job that requires constant attention to detail. It requires us to do things we don't want to do at times that are often inconvenient. It's a job that asks us to deal with the same things over and over again until our kids "get it."
Training our kids isn't something that can be put off. It has to be done every day. We have to pay attention to those behavior and attitude issues when they happen or we risk having to deal with a bigger problem later. Like my fish tank, if we leave our kids to their own devices, we find that the water just gets murkier and murkier until they don't know what's expected of them. The behaviors and attitudes we want to avoid have become ingrained and are that much more difficult to change.
Proverbs 29:17 says, "Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire." Too often, we let wrong behaviors and attitudes go in our kids because we don't want to deal with the conflict it will bring. We think it will steal our peace. The truth is exactly the opposite, though. It's only when we discipline our kids, when we deal with those behaviors and attitudes as they happen, that we find peace.
When we discipline our kids and show them how to follow God's commands when it comes to their behaviors and attitudes, we are actually leading them on the path to life and peace. Don't put off cleaning your kids' tanks of poor attitudes and behaviors. It may seem like a tough job now, but it will lead them to the Source of life, and it will bring peace to your home.