It was a beautiful spring day and finally warm enough that two of my three little ones could be outside to play; the baby was asleep. I took the opportunity to listen to a parenting seminar as I worked around the house. How blessed I was to hear a clear and enlightening discussion on discipline by none other than Dr. Dobson! The difference between ‘willful’ disobedience and ‘childishness’ was so helpful. My mom had often said, “They’re just kids”, when I talked to her about my frustrations. But it was hard to be patient. So often the things they did just made me aggravated and it really seemed like they enjoyed doing things that made a mess and always, more work for me!
What I learned that day is that I was correct. They did enjoy making messes, getting into things, touching-tasting-climbing to see closer. They enjoyed it because that is how children act; it was childishness, not intentional troublemaking. Knowing the difference is the key to handling the discipline (training).
“Don’t punish childishness”, the teacher said. “Punishment is appropriate when you know that the child knows he is disobeying you.” I realized that I was probably frustrating my littles by punishing when they dropped something, or got into something when they really were being childish. I needed to correct them, and show them how to behave. Little ones need lots of repetition before they learn, so I heard the Lord say to my heart, “Be patient, teach them well, but teach them in love and patience”.
I was so relieved to realize these things that I literally breathed a sigh of relief. My little girls were very active and curious, exactly how we want them to be. I needed to change my expectations and enjoy the years of childishness because that is exactly why they need parents—this was my job.
I remember looking out the kitchen window and smiling as I saw the sun on my four-year-old’s hair where she sat along the fence. I also remember noticing something strange that didn’t quite register. I saw her jump up and run to the door. She burst in with a big smile, “Mommy, come see what I made.” Of course I went with her to that spot along the fence, and saw a beautiful arrangement of tulip blooms in a circle on the ground. At that moment, I realized what was strange. I saw the row of headless tulip stems that stood along the fence at the same time she said, “It’s for you mommy.”
Tulips bulbs that I had lovingly put into the ground last fall. They had made a beautiful picture along the back of the yard and I loved looking at them from my kitchen window. I looked down at my daughter’s happy face and saw an even more beautiful thing, this little one, who was a gift of love to my husband and to me, was giving back that love in a childish way. So I took a breath, and we talked about how beautiful her creation was, and how beautiful the creation of God is. We talked about asking mommy before picking the flowers, and I was so thankful that God had corrected and trained my childish heart.