Talking to Joshua

Posted on March 24, 2009 · Posted in Authority, Communication, Discipline, Parenting

In a recent post I
described a stressed mom talking to her son, Joshua. This mother was correcting
Joshua for complaining. And it was essential that his mom give him both
correction and direction. Let's take another look at that example and consider
in detail how a mom could respond more helpfully.

For this illustration we
will assume that remedial verbal discipline was the appropriate response. Just
saying that phrase–remedial verbal discipline–sounds heavy and
confrontational, invoking memories of lectures
and sharp tones. Correcting Joshua about complaining was not a pleasant task,
but one of heaviness and duty. Complaining is not good; it is not trusting God,
and it is not making Mom’s life any easier. The other siblings heard Josh’s
complaints and Mom was sure the entire household would soon shift into
complaint mode. Mom feared that this season of complaining might last for
several years so she knew she had to take decisive action! So she said these
words:

Joshua,
you know the Bible says in Philippians 2 that you must not complain about doing
what Mommy asks you to do. Now, stop your complaining and get to work.
Remember, children should obey their parents. I don’t want to hear any more
complaining! Is that clear?

Confident that she has
firmly and biblically addressed the matter, Mom heads on to the next thing.
From the comments the blog received about this post, it is clear that readers
want to know how to talk to Joshua in a way that will correct the complaining effectively,
but at the same time, encourage him. Based upon the words used above, it is
safe to assume that the “word of God” is not bringing much light to Joshua’s
eyes. Why is there a disconnect? How do you, as a parent, help your child make
the connection successfully?

First, let’s take a big step
back and gain some perspective. Is Joshua’s presence in the family the product
of a random series of events? The answer is no, obviously, this family is not
the result of  random occurrences. He is
here, in this particular home, because that is what God planned and
accomplished. Ephesians 6:4 commands that this boy be raised in the fear and
admonition of the Lord. So there is nothing random about following God’s
direction. However, even in homes with the best of intentions and biblical
resources, powerful forces conspire against parents and children to make
following God’s direction anything but easy. Sin blinds judgment and corrupts
the flesh. The world is cursed and at war with the Christian home. Life is
difficult and challenging. It is demanding and draining. But, you see, God has
determined that he will use the challenges of raising children to drive parents
to Christ. Because it is not easy we are forced to turn to Christ, the good
Shepherd. What a blessing for us!

Once this perspective has
been gained (or regained), it is vital to realize that God has given us
everything needed for life and godliness in his precious Word. You need God’s
Word. It is designed and inspired by God and illumined by his Spirit to precisely
meet the need in every situation. But that is not the same as learning formulas
to simply plug into behavioral problems as they occur. The Bible is first of
all about relationship. So, as you have heard and known, simply changing
behavior is not the focus; building a heart relationship with Jesus Christ is
the focus. This is true for both parent and child. You do not want to bring
your children to where you are; you want to take them to where you are going–the
cross!

Okay, back to world of
Joshua, complaints, schedules and struggles. What I am about to say may seem
idealistic. I assure you, it is not. It is possible. I have seen this in my own
life and in the lives of parents I have had the privilege of knowing for the
last 30 years.

Joshua has been complaining
. At first it was so infrequent that it was easy to miss, but it has started to
become a pattern. Mom has seen this. She and her husband have talked about this
and have been praying and planning and preparing to address this pattern. They know
that a complaining spirit is most basically a complaint against God, rather
than against them. They know that pleasant words promote instruction (Proverbs
16:20-24). So she is prepared for the moment when Joshua complains about having
to clean up in the living room. In a warm and understanding tone, she says,

Josh,
come over here and sit down with me for a minute. You've been having kind of a
tough time lately, haven’t you? Having to pick up for company tonight seems
just like one more hard, boring thing to do, doesn't it?

Josh, somewhat taken aback,
but glad to be understood, nods his head tentatively.

I
have been talking with Dad, and we noticed that you have been kind of down
since your friend David’s family moved away. Has that been kind of hard for
you?

Again Josh nods his head,
and his eyes are just a bit moist.

Oh,
Josh, I know it's really hard to have your best friend move away. I know you
miss him, and it makes you sad. Lots of sad things happen in this fallen,
sinful world. But you know who else knows it's hard? That’s right, God knows. When
Jesus became a man, he left his own home–heaven–so he could be here to help us.
That must have been really hard for him, but he did it because he wanted to fix
the whole problem of sin. And then, he had friends here, but they weren't
always very good friends to him. They let him down a lot of the time. Jesus was
probably tempted to feel lonely a lot of times. So he knows, and he wants you
to trust him. He will bring another friend for you at the right time. Did God
know that David’s family would move? That’s right, he planned it that way! So
right now, God wants you to be friends with your family, and even more, with
God himself. God wants you to trust Jesus to be your friend. We can talk more
about that later, but for now, let me read a couple of Bible verses to you.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that
you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst
of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the
world, 16holding fast to the word of life, ….

I
think that Dad is going to talk about these verses in family worship tonight.
But I thought I would give you a head start thinking about them. God doesn't
want you to complain or grumble even when–or especially when–things are
difficult. God wants you to know him and his Word so that you will be comforted
when things are hard. Lots of difficult things will happen to you in this life,
and having David move is one of them. But God wants you to know that he is able
to help you now. Remember, God planned for David to move. Now, does God do bad
things? No, you know he doesn’t.  Even
when it seems bad, like this, you can trust that it's not bad, even though it's
really hard.

God
has something special for you to learn right now, to help you be more grown up.
One important lesson of growing up is that we have to keep doing our
responsibilities even when things are hard and we don't want to do them. God
wants you to be so different from the world around you, different from people
who don't love God, that you are actually kind of like a light. No, silly, I'm
not talking about putting a light on your head! I'm talking about your attitude–about
being thankful that God is taking caring of you–so that you are like a bright
light of joy and contentment, even when things are hard, like now.

Now,
about picking things up in here. Is it helpful to complain about doing this? I
know you don’t feel like doing it. It's okay to be sad about David moving, but it's
not okay to complain. Complaining is really saying that you don't want to
accept what God decided, isn’t it? You want what YOU want, and you're kind of
angry that you can't have David here. Is that a good attitude? No, we should
accept what God does and trust that his way is always best. So how does God
want you to respond now? Right, he wants you to respond with a willing attitude,
and to be happy  that you can help mom
get ready for tonight. What you are really doing is putting God first before
your feelings, and THAT is a big deal! Come on, let’s pray for God's help, and
then get started.

This mother is taking time
to understand her son. (In the actual event, there would probably be more
back-and-forth interaction, and the conversation might take quite a bit longer;
good  parenting requires a major time
investment!) I realize that every situation of discipline may not have this
much background, but always remember–missing issues that are causing pain or unsettledness
in our children will lead to more difficult times. And, always having the "right"
rebuke will provoke anger if the instruction is not given with kindness and
compassion. You know the command, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Before you deliver correction to your child,
pause to ask yourself what words and attitude would most effectively encourage
you to please God, if you were in your child's place.

Take some time to think
about this exchange and how Josh’s mom handled it this time. Ask some
questions. We will get back to this in the next post.

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