There are days in our household when our patience with the kids has worn so thin you can see straight through it to burning rage and frustration, and about the time the sun starts to set, that weather-worn sheet of patience just isn't enough anymore to spare our over-stimulated children from the wrath of bedtime. Oh, the sun doesn't set on our anger-- I'm pretty sure the kids know we're not happy with them after the fourteenth time climbing the stairs.
I don't think we're alone in our strife; there's a new book out for adults right now, written in the spirit of bedtime stories, called, Go the %$#@ to Sleep, that in spite of the language captures the essence of bedtime for many families. We're all tired, and somewhere, our kids have picked up a manual on classic manuevers to manipulate Mom and Dad out of going to sleep. Every kid has figured out that going potty, asking for a drink of water, requesting another book, hunting for the one stuffed animal, tucking in, begging for another hug and kiss or song or prayer, etc. will delay the inevitable shutting of the eyes.
The "Battle at Bedtime" boils down to one thing: thy will be done vs. my will be done. I want you to go to sleep, and you want to stay up. One of us is going to lose, and it isn't going to be me.
Your will vs. my will infiltrates every day life, but because of the Super Cape of Patience being sucked away in the tornado of the day, the war is especially heated at bedtime. When that cape disappears earlier in the day, parents everywhere find themselves exerting their wills over their kids whenever they have a chance. Being firm sneaks across the line to force. I know I've crossed the line from firm to controlling when I say no to requests like, "Can I take this toy with me in the car?" or "Can I put on this dress?"
I probably say "this is one of the hardest things about parenting" every time I talk about parenting, but I do believe this is one that ranks high on the list. When we ask for obedience from our kids, is it with their best interests in mind or is it simply because we want them to do what we want them to do? Why are we asking for obedience?
Ephesians 6:4 is explicit about how parents should instruct their kids. Here are two versions:
"Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord." (Amplified)
"Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." (The Message)
The Sarah version says something like this, "Mamas and Daddies, don't drive your kids crazy. Love on them, guide them in the ways of Christ, but don't beat them into the ground with your rules." We say over and over again that we want to rear our kids up in the Lord, but I don't think we know what we're talking about. Jesus didn't lay out a bunch of rules, after all, and he didn't guilt his followers into obedience. He didn't beg for love or deny them love because they screwed up. He taught them, disciplined them when they screwed up, and then gave them grace upon grace.
Honestly, it's easier to yell and scream than to follow Christ's example with our kids, but in terms of effectiveness, I think Jesus's way wins. Shocking news. Oh there are times I'd like to yell, Go the $#@% to sleep, for sure, yell instead "GO TO SLEEP!" but nope, surprisingly, that doesn't work either.
So, mamas and daddies, together let's hunt for our Super Capes and do what we can to conquer our own wills and try to do the will of our Father. God help us.