A co-worker and I used to laugh at ourselves whenever we got a compliment at work or whenever we messed up and got a reprimand. We would sing an old Mac Davis song “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” (for the full version, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCsNunGnqE0 ) It was a very child-ish way we had to kind of dismiss any of our craziness. Even though we had both been in sales pretty much our whole working lives, we still needed guidance and correction in how we handled customers, wrote contracts, and closed the deals.
I think we have this amazing sense to apply this kind of thinking onto our kids as well. They are just children, after all. They really don’t “sin”……they are really perfect and sometimes the choice isn’t ‘bad’, it’s just their way of doing things. How is it that our little angels could EVER really make a wrong choice or that their behavior is REALLY all that detrimental? I mean, kids will be kids-right? For instance, that time (and the other 15 thousand) when they threw a tantrum isn’t going to hurt them or anyone else-right? Or when they said “NO!” and their face turned purple with disgust -that’s just their little way of exerting their personality. How about the time they smacked you in the face? Probably a slip of hand? Or that time they swiped something from your friend’s house and put it in their pocket? Just a curious display of their inner spy? (BTW-these have all happened with my kids…….)
Well, I would like to give some advice on how to FIRST-recognize the “besetting sin” behavior and then SECOND-give a tip or two on how to TEACH TO THIS WEAKNESS in your kids.
Webster’s defines “besetting” as “to trouble persistently”. If you are a Christian, you may have an understanding of the nature of sin-we all are born with a nature to choose the opposite of what God’s best is for us! So-even as sweet and as innocent as our little cuties are-they have this in them, too. Some kids seem to go through life without ever making a wrong choice (they are the sneakiest of all-hee hee). Others seem to shout from the rooftop “THIS IS THE ONE THING I JUST CAN’T CONTROL!!!!!” (perhaps always bullying the other kids???? Or telling the teacher “NO!” and stomping off….HEY! I know some adults like this!). So-it may be hard to identify that ever “present” thing or it may be so obvious what your kid struggles with that you could put lots of money on a winning bet that they’ll behave a certain way.
Let me just say-most likely-whatever it is, they will struggle with it their whole lives. That is not to say it will master them, but that it may be something that will be there, possibly lurking in the background and rearing it’s ugly head from time to time (like it did for me last night when I got ‘angry’…..like WAAAAY too angry). If you can identify it early, you will not only help give them tools to overcome it, but help them develop to their full potential. You don’t want anything holding them back-RIGHT!?!?!?
I would like to help us see what these root sins are. The best way I think we can identify anything is to turn to God’s word for help. I mean, this is where we get the idea of sin as well as how we deal with it and how we see GRACE!!!!!!! So-grab a Bible and a cuppa jo’ and let’s dig in.
The best place to start is to identify the positive side of living for God-AKA ‘non-sin’. Notice, it’s not “going to church, giving alms to the poor, reading your Bible”. (Not that those things aren’t important….)Galatians 5 (ESP vs. 13-26) is what I like to call the ‘Control Panel’ for our lives. The Bible calls it the “Fruits of the Spirit”. Let’s identify those fruits: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It tells us that if we possess these qualities in abundant measure-we will not gratify ourselves, we will be living to please God, and we will walk by HIS HOLY SPIRIT! Wow-I want to live like that and I want my kids to live like that.
Remember #9 in “Somebody Love the Kids” post? Well, it encourages us to read the Bible with our kids. I would encourage you to not only read the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 9:22-23 with your kids BUT memorize it with them! Write this out on a piece of paper and tape it to their mirror in the bathroom, sing a song about it, or play games to help them memorize it! This is one of those passages I just think will go far with them in all areas of their lives.
I love to also learn the opposite of a verse. It just seems to make things STICK. Something fun to do with your kids is to learn Galatians 5:22-23 and then have them come up with the opposites of all of those character traits: hate, anxiety, restlessness, impatience, nastiness, ugliness, unreliability, harshness, compulsion! WOW-can you see any of those in your kids?
SO-how do you recognize what that THING is? Some are more glaring than others, but if there is a habit of them doing something undesirable over and over again, I’m pretty sure that is the THING! My eldest child has SELF-CONTROL issues. She is very compulsive. Her besetting sin is certainly feeding whatever she wants FIRST! How is this “SIN” you might ask? Well, first and foremost, it is cleverly disguised as “SELFISHNESS”. I’m pretty sure loving your neighbor as yourself is high on that list of most important commandments.
How do I know this is hers? Well, she many, many, many times will do things without even thinking about them. For instance, if she sees something on my plate she wants to eat, she will just grab it right off! I am not kidding. I have had a steak, sizzling there on my plate, I am getting ready to take a bite and WHAM! She swoops in and grabs it and throws it in her mouth. Not only is this totally disgusting and rude, but HELLO! That’s MY dinner! Now, granted she probably would never do that to a stranger, but for some reason because I am her mom, she thinks she can! What the heck?!?!?!? But, this could translate into some behavior that could not only hurt her prospects in the job hunt, but possibly lead to things that -although may seem harmless at first are just plain SELFISH!
My second child’s besetting sin is IMPATIENCE which leads to ANGER! A kind of cross between a lack of self-control and a lack of gentleness also creates this impatience. It is pretty obvious when this thing rears it’s ugly head. Doors slamming, red face, objects hurdling through the air at mach speed-you know-all before 10 am. She has auburn/red-ish hair and I SWEAR it hails from that.
I bet if you sat down and really thought through your childrens’ behaviors, you could quickly identify that THING! Even if you can’t really put your finger on it, let’s at least try to learn how to TEACH TO THAT WEAKNESS!
Then, once you think you know what IT is, when it rears it’s head-let your child know, in a calm tone, “Sara, you are being very ________ right now. Do you think that is a behavior that is pleasing (or kind, or acceptable, etc.)?” Don’t just scream at them and say “You always do ________!” and then sit in frustration. Identify it RIGHT AWAY!
Next, teach to that. By asking “Do you think that is behavior that is pleasing, kind, or acceptable?”, it helps that child get a spirit of reflection and conviction. God gave us the Holy Spirit and then HE uses us to teach our kids. Until they understand the “Fruits of the Spirit”, it is our job to help them identify living contrary to those fruits. Not only will you be frustrated if you identify with out action, SO WILL THEY! Frustrated kids do all sorts of yucky stuff…….(more on that in another blog)…….
I am almost 100% sure that they will answer correctly. If not-you know the answer and if they say they think it is pleasing, then quickly let them know it is not. THEN teach them ways they could have handled the situation better.
THEN-and this is the hard part-GIVE THEM A CONSEQUENCE. In our home, we do a myriad of things to help them think twice about repeating that behavior. One of my favorites is to have them serve the person they hurt. If my youngest gets angry over a chore, then she has to do her sister’s chore! If my eldest gets on her sister’s game during said sister’s game time, not only does she loose game time for the day, she also has to fold that sister’s laundry.
If the words to each other are un-kind, then they have to come up with 10 kind things to say to each other, or write a sweet note to the other. We also make them write sentences-the SAME sentence like 25-50 times. This will drill the right behavior into their heads (and their hands-ouch!). When my youngest recently got so angry that she threw something at her sister, I made her write 50 times “My anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. ” James 1:20.
Once you know the THING, and you learn to IDENTIFY it, then you use creative ways to TEACH to that weakness, your child will begin to also understand how to better handle this in their lives. Take some time to think of creative consequences that will help teach to the weakness. Parents, even when we don’t actively teach them we are teaching them. When we don’t actively train them, we are training them. That scares the heck out of me. I might as well be active about this teaching and training business. It is my job. It is my responsibility.