Last week we had some guests come over so my wife asked the kids to come downstairs so she could explain their duties and delegate some work. The kids have a way of knowing when they are going to be used for labor so they took their time coming down, some of them complaining as they made their way into the living room. My wife, understandably frustrated because there was so much to do, sat the kids down to let them know what she thought about their attitude.
This led to a conversation that revealed the idols of my children’s hearts. If you haven’t been reading this blog click here for an explanation of idols. The amazing thing is that all of my kids have different idols (good things made ultimate things).
My oldest is just like me…her idol is power. We are driven by our ambitions to achieve and succeed. Our greatest fear is humiliation so we never attempt things in public that we first haven’t perfected in private. When #1 complained about cleaning she expressed frustration because she felt there was no point. #4 and #5 were gonna mess everything up an hour later so what was the point, she argued. You see people who struggle with power (like me) are results oriented. Show me the money. If the results are not up to par, we get frustrated and angry. So #1 expressed her complaints through this part of her heart. Power.
My second child struggles with my second idol, comfort. Ironically, power is number one for me and comfort is number two. How does that work? That is another blog entry. Well, people who struggle with comfort…their greatest nightmare is stress and demands. They don’t like obligation. They value their comfort and relaxation. So #2 decides to rebel out of this heart. No explanations. No logic. No reason. She just said, “Awww. I don’t want to clean.” Comfort.
My son is like my wife. They struggle with control. When my wife asked the kids to clean, #3 didn’t care about anything except one hope. He immediately asked, “I don’t mind cleaning, but can I clean my room by myself?” You see for my son, he doesn’t mind helping with anything as long as he can do it his way. He asked the question he did because he hates collaboration especially if it is with his sisters who always have a different opinion of where things can go or how things can be done. Control.
My youngest cracks me up. Her dominant idol is approval. People who struggle with approval…their greatest nightmare is rejection so they will do anything as long as they are recognized and affirmed. So #5 was eager to help as she waved an object that needed to be put away yelling, “Look at ME! Look at ME mommy! I am cleaning!” Approval.
Some of you who follow this blog regularly are wondering, “What about #4?” Well #4 had nothing to say. She just smiled that beautiful smile of hers without any words. My guess is that she was thinking about how much this reminds her of Cinderella and how with the help of some little friends, she would be a princess.
I don’t share this to knock on my kids. I share this because discerning our kids strengths and weaknesses helps us as parents to do the work of contextualization in our communication of love, values, and discipline. My wife and I are learning that one cannot communicate the same things to the same kids in the same way because each have different strengths, idols, and love languages.
When my wife shared this story with me it made me realize why she is such a great mom. When she deals with things like the above situation she gives them enough to pull them out of their idol yet at the same time meets them where they are. This is so important because remember idols are GOOD things made ULTIMATE things. If you throw the baby out with the bath water you will remove a part of your child that is amazing and beautiful.
So what does my wife do in this situation? Well, I just yell and tell everyone to shut up and do what they are told. She will go up to #1 and say, “I know #4 and #5 will mess up the room again but we have guests coming over and we want to be good hosts and invite our friends upstairs to play and have fun. But we can’t share your room with your friends if it is really messy.” You see my wife will feed the GOOD thing that my daughter makes ultimate by speaking to her concern that there was not point. My wife gave her a new purpose. #1 loves that and then goes to work every time because for her she is not just rebelling (that is part of it) but more to the point she just needs to know that there is a point and that she agrees with that point as a good thing.
With #2 my wife will say things like, “#2 you got to go up and clean your room, but tell you what. Once you are done, you can come downstairs and do whatever you want.” Genius. She calls #2 out of her laziness and gives her opportunity to enter into her rest, which usually means doing something she really enjoys.
#3 will be given the opportunity to clean his own room, his way, by himself. But my wife will say things like, “But after that you will have to help #4 and #5 since they are little and you cannot boss them around. Just help them.”
#5…well my wife will just look and say thank you.
#4…we have to yell and hope that our volume snaps her out of la-la land.
This process of parenting is hard and arduous. It is not efficient but that is the way of love. Love is the most inefficient virtue I know of. But in doing this my wife helps our kids grow out of their sinfulness yet is able to retain their good qualities so they grow up confident sure of themselves. BRILLIANT! I thank God for this woman, though it makes me wonder all the voodoo ninja tricks she must be playing on me.
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