We had an impromptu family "reminder" discussion this morning after breakfast. It was all about obedience.
This morning, as I was packing lunches and making the Bug Juice (Dylan didn't show up at his usual time), in walked Dylan with a sock in his hand. He'd stepped in cat poop, he said. On the stairs.
"Well, go clean it up," I said.
He didn't like that idea. He thought I should clean it up.
"And why should I clean it up?" I asked. To which he answered, "Because you always do."
Hmmmmm. "Well, not when I'm not the one who smears it into the carpet on several steps," I said. And there was some, "Don't roll your eyes at me, Dylan." And some, "Don't talk back to me, Dylan."
And then there was Dylan losing his video game privileges for one week. Not because he didn't clean up the cat poop, because he did. He lost his privileges because he didn't do it obediently and with a respectful attitude. And this wasn't the first time this week.
I have a thing with video games. Basically, they are my enemy. I despise most of them. I hate the cords everywhere, I hate the mind numbing violence, and I hate the way they suck time away from the kids' lives. However, my husband loves video games. He is the only reason video games exist in this house, because they didn't before he was here. He is super good at them, and he loves the fantasy and the challenge to conquer the world. It's something he loves to do with the boys. Maybe it's a guy thing. So, I pick my battles. Video games are a part of teenage boys' lives, and I've come to accept that. But what we do is have a 30 minute during the school week limit, and a no rated M rule (with one exception, for a game he really, really wanted).
I am on the lookout, for I think that too much video gaming gives one a false sense of power, and that power doesn't exist over The Mother. And jumping right to anger (the "acceptable violence") doesn't jive with me, either. So, that is why if the kids cannot handle their attitudes (ie level of respect, cooperation, obedience, or kindness), then it's time for a break from conquering the world so that we can work on conquering oneself.
I don't mean to portray Dylan in a bad light. He's a terrific kid. Really. I've bragged on his virtues before. I'm merely using this morning as an illustrator of what happens when things go unchecked.
When the oldest kids were very little, we spent a lot of time on character development. It is very easy to do that when homeschooling. It's also apparent to me that when my children are at home, and I am teaching them and they spend their days together, they get along much better. They are kinder, more sharing, less critical, and slower to anger. When they are in public school, sometimes their characters dip to a level that doesn't please me, and we need to bring them back up to par. That's what we talked about this morning. First, and foremost, it is my job to make sure they are good people, who love and honor God. And the reason God used up a whole commandment on honoring our mothers and fathers, is because our parents are our first models of God (or they should be), and we cannot learn to honor God if we cannot honor our parents.
We broke down obedience into four qualities: (that I read from the Duggar's new book, which I loved)
1. Instantly--not when I'm done this level, or after I finish this, or in a minute. As I teach the kids when they're little, "We obey right away." That shows submission and humility.
2. Cheerfully--Obeying with a negative, complaining attitude does no one any good. I expect my children to say, "Yes, Mom." when asked to do something. I like how Michelle Duggar adds, "I'd be happy to", or "sure thing".
3. Thoroughly--I also like to say, "We obey all the way." I can't stand crappy jobs halfway done. And if a child tells me he/she will do something, I expect that he/she has really listened to and understands the task. Michelle suggests requiring eye contact, to be sure the child is really listening.
4. Unconditionally--No matter what. Just like we don't get to pick which commandments we obey, we don't get to choose when or to what degree we obey our parents. (or we can, but then come the consequences.)
If the children can obey and honor my voice, then they are training their hearts to obey and honor the voice of God. That's why the commandment to honor parents is so important in the first place. It's also vital when we have little children who are just learning to obey, and whose eyes are watching the responses and facial expressions of older siblings. It's a difficult thing to be a role model, but it's a responsibility they are endowed with.
We read Ephesians 6:1, a scripture I had the kids memorize, when they were just itty-bitty:
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."
It is what we will be actively working on right now. Obeying instantly, cheerfully, thoroughly, and unconditionally. Nobody wants to scrub cat poop out of the carpet. But when asked to do it, (especially when you're the one who stepped in it) the correct response is, "Yes, Mom. I'll do it right away."
And then, we can play video games.