When the Stakes are Low

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The Lord is currently blessing me with a chaotic…and beautiful season of being a mother to two vibrant young boys, ages six and three. My boys are the light of my life, the laughter in my day, and the smile in my rain. Being a mother to them and raising them up to know the Lord and serve Him, is the absolute greatest honor. My boys are pros at bringing meaning to my life…

They are also pros at testing my patience at bedtime. This abundant adventure known as “bedtime” has come every day since my oldest was born, and yet I still have not mastered how to wrangle two squirmy little boys into bed and make them fall asleep on command. If anybody knows how to summon this power, I am all ears! Let’s see, that is over 2,000 “bedtimes” I have had as a mother…and still every night I feel like I need a pep talk with Tony Dungy himself, before facing the undertaking that is “bedtime.” I am sure some of you are about to suggest how-to books for me to read, or maybe you are about to scold my lack of strict parenting. But, let me tell you, there is something that happens to my two sons when the clock strikes 7:30pm. I loving refer to this at “the witching hour.” Suddenly 7:30pm rolls around and my boys are hungry (even though they weren’t hungry when we all sat down for dinner), they are thirsty (even though I just poured out their milk they said they didn’t want), and they sure as heck ARE NOT TIRED (even though they almost fell asleep sitting in the sofa). Oh, and let me bring you in on the magic that happens when a little six or three year old boy gets out of the bathtub…they are transformed into energized naked little Tasmanian devils. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just went to bed myself at 7:30pm and let them find their way to their beds themselves. Eventually they will just pass out…right?

But, every night, mommy will always be there to set the limits and provide boundaries. And they will fight me, but I will not give up. Why? Not because it makes me a more godly mommy to have my sweet perfect little kids in their perfectly made beds before 8pm. But because I want to teach my children obedience and limits, when the stakes are low. Right now, their small world is wrapped in the security and love their mommy and daddy provide. And this is the best time to teach them how to distinguish right from wrong, and the consequences of choosing good and bad. You see, if they live in a home where they are expected to respect bedtime, then they will comply with a home in which they are expected to respect curfew. As I teach them to say kind words to each other, I am planting seeds that will enable them to treat their peers and co-workers with respect. As they are held to a standard of obeying us and their teachers, they will be able to continue this standard in respecting their employers and leadership in the real world.

Love your child enough to set limits and boundaries when the stakes are low. When the consequences may be a time out, and not a trip to prison. When the consequences are cake or no cake, and not life or death. Proverbs 3:11-12 reminds us that the Lord disciplines those He loves, just as a loving father reproves his son. We are following in the footsteps of our Lord, when we set boundaries and limits for our children. You are not being an unloving mother when you use this one word…”NO!” Rather, you are loving your child enough to teach them the safety and beauty of this word…when the stakes are low and they are in the protection and security of living under your roof. For one day, in the blink of an eye, they will be released into a world that has forgotten what the word “no” means.

Proverbs 3:11-12

11 My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

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