Wednesday, February 27, 2008

1, 2, 3,4...4 1/2... 4 3/4....

The last post got me thinking of another (sort of related) parenting-related topic. Today I was in a store and I heard a child apparently being disobedient, and the mom was telling him/her that they'd better do such-and-such right now. She then began to count... 1, 2 (slight pause)...3 (longer pause)...4... and then repeated the instruction again, and so on. I'm sure you've heard it, or said it, yourself. I'm not judging that mom - goodness knows that, though I don't count, my method is just to keep repeating myself, or threaten things that I may or may not follow through with...same difference.

However, it reminded me of a lesson I heard in a parenting class we took at church on the importance of requiring first-time obedience. That means that I, as a parent, give an instruction once and require it of my children to obey quickly and completely. I remember some of the other parents thinking this was harsh, and they felt it was more gracious to the child to give them some 'wiggle-room' - some time, such as counting to 5, before they were forced to act on the instruction. While there are all the standard explanations (which are very good) as to why this is probably not the best line of thinking - like if my child is headed into a dangerous situation and I tell them to "stop", that I want them to do it immediately - there was one comment that stopped me in my tracks. Someone leading the class pointed out that when we count, we are still teaching something, and still requiring obedience (that is, if we actually follow through), we are just teaching them it's OK to delay the obedience. It's OK to do things in their time, as opposed to when we, the parent, tell them. Then this question was raised (and this is what really stuck with my heart) - when God tells them to do something, is HE going to count for them? Or do we want them to learn to do things in GOD's time?

Interesting thought. While God is certainly a gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and his mercies are new every morning...couldn't we usually save ourselves a boatload of trouble if we'd just obey - the first time??

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