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SkyMoms > Parenting Tips

Do We Need Fresh Perspective Regarding Disobedience?

Yesterday was Family Mission Day at our church. My husband and I took the day off so we could serve alongside our children at Bonton Farms, an urban farm south of Dallas that's striving to transform a community from the inside out.

I'll confess that in the dark, rainy wee hour of the morning when the alarm shook me awake, I didn't want to get up. In fact, I thought about turning it off and going back to sleep.

More than once.

But the Holy Spirit kept my mind awake as I tried desperately to send myself back into RIM sleep. Begrudgingly, I finally put my feet on the floor and began to make the rounds to wake my family.

You can imagine their reaction when I did.

Within the hour, though, we were on the road in the pouring rain, like it or not.

Fun times.

When we arrived, we met a woman named Kim who has a gift for keeping little kids busy with real work. Within five minutes, we were armed with gardening scissors and gloves and off to harvest red okra.

When we arrived at the long row of plants, Kim told us to walk up one side of the row and down the other because the okra likes to "hide" among the leaves. She assured us we'd miss some if we didn't work both sides of the row.

The boys loved harvesting! I think they felt manly handling such sharp scissors -- a far cry from anything they've ever used at home!

We made it up the row fairly quickly, but when we turned the corner and began to head back, our success rate slowed way down. Within a few minutes, the boys began to complain, telling me we'd found all the okra the first time and that this job was done!

But remembering Kim's words, I suggested that maybe we ought to change our perspective. Instead of coming down the row leaning over the bushes like we'd been doing, maybe we should squat down beneath them and look up.

Within seconds, we began to find red okra hiding among the leaves, just as she'd promised. The boys squealed with delight because their adventures in cutting with manly scissors would continue!

Perspective is everything, isn't it?

It's true in life and it's no less true in parenting.

During these last days of summer, I'd be lying if I didn't admit my children are engaged in some behaviors that are about to break my spirit.

Our boys have taken "play" in the car to a whole new level. Like a level that impedes my ability to drive responsibly and puts others on the road at risk. It's so loud, and their movement is so big, I can feel them jostling the car while doing 70 down the highway!

I've asked them to stop more times than I can count. I've separated them into their own rows and put them in seats on opposite ends to deter any physical contact. I've used my best "Ursula the Sea Witch" voice. (Ugh. I have one of those.) And yet they still manage to pull off WWF-like maneuvers strapped into their seat belts while we're driving down the road.

It hurts my head. And it makes me grouchy. It's too much chaos in too little space. But it also frustrates me because I've been living with the assumption that their inappropriate play in the car is driven by nothing but disobedience.

I read an article this morning, however, that offers a new perspective. The author explained that children have a need for "tons of movement" and "fierce play". When they're -- let's say -- putting their brother in a Figure Four in the backseat -- they're channeling these developmental needs.

Does it mean their behavior is excused?
Absolutely not.

But does it help explain their behavior in such a way that my gut reaction need not be frustration?

You bet!

The real benefit, however, is that once I've identified the catalyst for the behavior, I'm positioned to find a clear path towards a solution. Because if I'm responding to a legitimate developmental need without sourcing a more appropriate channel for the need to be met, then the problem will go unsolved.
We can't cure the symptoms if we don't identify their root cause.

So the next time you're faced with a behavior you've corrected more times than you can count, stop. Take a deep breath. Go to the Lord in prayer. And ask Him to give you new perspective. Maybe you'll see something you didn't see before. And maybe that something will lead you down a path towards a real solution.

"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."
Matthew 13:16-17