I was in Orlando recently for the Youth Pastor’s Summit. After day one, I stopped on the way home to meet some guys for a few hot-wings (God’s favored food) and arrived a few minutes early. At a nearby booth, a mom was in a dual with her pre-school son. It was escalating by the second and I just knew that little boy was in a count-down to consequences. Any second, I pictured him being snatched from his seat and marched into the “ladies” room for a little “one-on-one time. Any moment, she is going to help him realize how unacceptable it is to speak to his mother that way. Anytime now, he is going to visit the house-of-pain for throwing a fit and yelling at his mother. I felt a reluctant smile ease onto my face as I anticipated this youngster’s moment of “understanding”, the moment it would all become clear. I prayed he would come to his senses before it was too late, before the mommy-hammer came down on his world. But that moment did not come. The next five minutes were painful . . . not painful for the boy but rather for everyone around, painful as we watched the ob-scene unfold.
This mom was trying to reason with her 5yr. old. On the one hand it was comical because she was talking over his head one minute and using a baby-mommy talk the next. Mostly it was sad because everyone (but mommy) seem to know that the moment of “reason” (which is extremely limited at 5yrs) came an left with the loud response:”NO, I WONT” and “I HATE YOU” spewing from his lips. Now let me say up front that I admit to having a lack of appreciation for and limited tolerance with the “whinese” language, baby-talk and cowardice parenting that would rather befriend their child than parent them.
Since I am not a child psychologist or counselor, you can place this in your parenting for idiots file, hit delete or consider the practical lesson for parents. Where was I, yes: (waiting for my buds and dreaming of 10 mild wings with ranch dressing) The 5yr old was winning the battle of the will and the mom was attempting to deal with his behavior like a husband and wife might discuss a difference of opinion over wold events.
You have got to be kidding me! It took all I could do not to get up, go over to their table, ease into the booth seat next to the boy, smile at the young mom and say – have YOU LOST YOUR MIND? ARE YOU REALLY THIS CLUELESS? Do you truly think that you can reason with a 5 year old? Do you think this approach is going to develop a healthy respect for authority or a better awareness that actions have consequences? Do you really expect this to do the job? Do you think he is reasonable at this age? Do you think he is going to agree to your terms and conditions for acceptable behavior without it costing him something more than “mommy is not happy with you right now . . . Quinton” ? My heart went out to her because I could see that she was a single parent mom with her hands full and . . . I’ve been there (ok, not there or as a single parent, but in a public place with an unhappy child on my hands).
Somewhere in the parenting process she had bought into some form of politically correct, liberal parenting style that says: “I don’t want to hurt his little psyche” or “lets be friends and reason this thing out together” or “if I spank him, someone might be offended”, or “if I get firm with him, it might harm his self esteem”. I wanted to tell her to hold the line, stand strong and be willing to be disliked or the object of ill feelings for a short while. I wanted so bad for her to say: “OK, look here young man, if you don’t straighten up we are going to take a little trip to the ladies room and it will not be so you can pee pee”. Or, “if you don’t stop this right now, we are going to leave without you getting lunch and when we get home, you are going to get a whuppin to help you understand what is ok and what is not”.
I wanted to tell her that this little boy does not need you to be his friend nearly as much as he needs you to be his rock. His rock of defense, his rock of offense and his rock of steadfast unconditional love. Dr. James Dobson has an old book called “Parenting isn’t for Cowards” and I would love to place a copy into her hands. She needs it, I needed it, we all need help to parent. My kids are grown now so I can confess my many mistakes along the way but one thing I do know is that PARENTING is hard work. Loving your child enough to PARENT WELL requires a lot more than being liked, reasoning out behavior, everyone being happy and peace without battles. Parenting is messy, wonderful, painful and incredible and by God’s grace Christian parents can contribute to a sturdy generation-next.
So what . . . ? So . . . stand strong and parent well in the grace of Jesus. For parents, it is a high calling to take very serious. For student pastors, it is a needed ministry to the parents of those you lead.
BTW, the 5 year old must have won because he did not have to sit down, he did get to order exactly what he wanted, she did give him money for the video games, he did not have to eat what she had paid for and he continued to be belligerent but . . . he was kind enough to use his “inside” voice.
Good luck parent . . . I mean, mom. Maybe the student pastor can “fix” him for you when he reaches middles school . . . if you will drop him off at youth group or sign him up for camp . . . . if that makes him happy . . . or if your not too tired or if you have enough money after sports camp, vacation and summer entertainment.