Maximus can be a very difficult little boy, especially when he eats any artificial color, flavor, sweeteners, or high-fructose corn syrup. I know there is dissention- especially in Christian circles, about food additives and their ability to cause uncontrollable behaviors- but I am not setting out to debate that in this post. Suffice it to say that when Max eats or drinks anything that contains those ingredients- his personality changes. He becomes oppositional, frantic, extremely active and fidgety. He gets ‘Stuck’ on ideas and desires- as if they take hold of him and he cannot escape from them. His sensory problems go off the scale in intensity. Every light is too bright, every shirt too tight at the neck. He gets this way when he hasn’t eaten as well; so I have many opportunities to choose from and experiment with different techniques to help him comply, even when he doesn’t feel his best.
We don’t always feel like ‘being good’ as adults. Who among us has not fudged on the housework, put off that phone call to a neglected Auntie, ordered in when better food or company would have been available with a little effort? Hopefully, as Adults, we know when we can fudge it and when it’s not OK. For instance- most of us go to work unless we’re truly sick- ‘don’t feel like it’ doesn’t pay the bills. 😉 One fact of life is that the rules are the Rules, even when we don’t like them. It’s harder for kids. They have so much less experience. Long term consequences are hard to see when your furthest memory only goes back a year or two. One of the goals of parenting is to raise children who do what is right, even if it’s not the easy thing. Grace Based Discipline includes this concept.
Giving Grace doesn’t mean I say to Maximus, “I know you feel cruddy, so I won’t require you to follow my rules today”. Grace in fact, says, “Max- I know you feel rotten, but I still need you to do as I ask. I will help you comply any way I can- but you must still comply”. Obviously that’s a really long and complex sentence and I don’t say that exact thing to him. But you get my drift. Grace means that if you need help meeting the standard, you’ll get that help. Because I love you. Because I want you to understand that life isn’t easy, and other people have boundaries that you must respect, even when you are sick. Because when I couldn’t meet God’s highest of standards, he gave me his Son to bridge the gap. J
The well-meaning girl in the toddler room gave Maximus cookies today. Dear Husband nearly had a heart attack when he read the ingredients and saw 4. Different. Dyes. Ugh. Before we even got home, he broke down. L He settled in for a snack (and some juice with magnesium in it) and a movie as soon as we got home. He could not keep still- which is by no means a requirement for watching a movie by yourself- but he was bouncing, kneeling, doing handstands, jumping on and off the couch, etc. He had a meltdown during Minimus’ nap- when I wouldn’t let him jump off the folding stepladder onto his bed. I knew he would make enough noise to wake his brother- who was sleeping in the next room. He began shouting, “I NEED to wake up Minimus!! I need too! Oh help!! I HAVE to get OUT OF HERE!!” I had to pick him up and carry him downstairs- struggling with him the whole way. DH took the ladder outside (where it belonged) and then came and got Max from me. Max calmed down pretty quickly in DH’s arms.
Later he lost it again over something I cannot remember, and he ran outside. DH went out to get him, and he came back very easily, but he wanted to climb on the hood of the car. DH has set a boundary over this, because once Max is up there- he never wants to come down. Plus- it could possibly damage the hood of the car. Maximus is a very determined little guy, even when he’s not under the influence…as it were. He walked away from the car, and brought back his folding lawn chair- which he pushed up against the bumper so he could climb up. Sigh…. J Minimus follows me outside and takes off down the driveway!! 😮 DH ran after Minimus (he’s faster than me! LOL!) And I gathered up Maximus as gently as I could.
“NOOO!!! You need to go to JAIL!!! I HAVE to climb on the CAAAARRR!!!”
“Maximus,” said I, “You want to climb on the car very badly.” (in as monotone as possible)
“I WANT TO CLIMB ON THE CAR REALLY BAD!!!!”
“You may not climb on the car. You may go inside and bounce on your bed… You may go take the cushions off the couch and jump and watch a movie.”
“NOOOO!!! I don’t want toooo!”
“Maximus, I am taking you inside.” Instant stillness followed for half a second.
“Mommy, let’s go inside and take all the cushions off the couch and watch a movie. That sounds like a great idea!” (big happy smile)
You know that face you make when you’re trying so hard not to laugh you almost pee yourself? I made that face. Now. He did not choose to agree with me because we were headed in for a spanking, because we weren’t. He chose an option I presented because my enforcement of the boundary ended the discussion. By stating that we were going inside- the car hood was no longer up for debate. He could trust me to help him move past his fixation on climbing on the car. I will not punish him for failing to do something he is not capable of doing.
This is what God has done for us. We are not capable of obedience to Him on our own. Our humanness, and our sinfulness (two different things, btw) prevent us from even desiring a relationship with Him. In his Mercy, he sent the Holy Spirit to woo us towards him. We are incapable of the barest glimmer towards him on our own; all we can do is respond to His love. His love is always there, waiting for us. His Sacrifice provides the means for sinful people to have a relationship with him. His Grace gives us the desire for and the capability of drawing near to him and learning to obey him in love.
When your child seems defiant, or out of control, or whatever, remember that WE are the Oppositional children to God. We want what WE want, in the order WE want it, and we complain when we don’t get our own way. God always deals with us out of his infinite mercy. So should we deal with our children.