Saturday, November 25, 2006

More Behavior Modification

Behavior modification. Hmmm. That's quite the buzz word. Personally, I am not opposed to behavior modification. After all, a change of action is often a pretty good idea.

As a mother of nine I can think of plenty of times when behavior modification was desirable for my soul, necessary for my sanity, and just plain "all around" beneficial for me and everyone else who might have been in the house. Mothers, fathers, and siblings throughout the ages have benefited from behavior modification. Period.

As Christian parents, are we to be satisfied with mere behavior modification? What if little Johnny is forever "standing on the inside" - what if he never learns to sit down with a willing heart? That is a genuine concern. We want to capture their hearts. But let's deal with first things first.

When determining what behavior is desirable I consider two standards as foundational: God's first, then Mom and Dad's.

God makes some things pretty clear in His Word. Certain behaviors are just not acceptable, such as disrespect, lying, or unrighteous anger. When Johnny hits or bites Susie because she touched his truck - or slams her on the head with said truck - that falls under the category of unrighteous anger. If little Susie rolls her eyes and sighs when you ask her to come, stomps her feet as she walks your way, or flat out says "NO!", that is disrespect. Lying is - lying.

These are just a few standards upheld by His Word. You need to study the Word to know His heart. Start today if you haven't made it a regular habit. Read the stories and discover what is good or bad in His eyes. It matters. His standards are unchanging with the ages and are critical for future success in God.

Secondly, I consider our own personal standards. "What?!" you exclaim. "You dare to include your own ideas alongside of His? Why should you be making such decisions? Do you have a degree in child psychology? Education? Philosophy? Have you read all of Dr. Phil's books? What if you make a mistake in the behavior you demand? Why should they act that way just because you want it?"

I'll tell you why. The God of this universe entrusted to me each one of my children. With that entrusting came a conferment of authority, wisdom, and grace to perform the stewardship required. My confidence has never been, and never will be, in knowledge amassed by Dr. Phil or Dr. Spock, or even Oprah, for that matter.

I am thankful (at times) for such people and their knowledge, but I do not consider their notions as foundational for my children. They may affect my understanding of what is good and necessary behavior - and I am open for continued alteration in this area, as I am with my understanding of God's standards - but they will never usurp my position of final authority. And certainly they should never be heeded above the Word of God.

When determining personal behavioral preferences, we must begin with a heart examination. Isn't that the way God does things? It's always the heart that matters; it is the same here. Of paramount concern is your love for your child. You must begin by cultivating a vision for serving God by serving them. You must love them sacrificially. Your interests do not come before theirs, ever.

Now you are free to establish rules of behavior that will bless you and them.

On more than one occasion the following scenario has played out in my home:

child # 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, 0r 9: But Tommy Smith's mom lets him do it this way. (possible substitute line which is always a favorite: Donna Doe's mother lets her watch this movie.)

Mama Darlene
: Well, God didn't give you to Tommy Smith's mom, or Donna Doe's mom. He gave you to me. Must be He didn't want you to do this. You will have to trust His wisdom. You aren't being raised to be a Smith or a Doe, but a Sinclair. Tommy is being raised to be a Smith, not a Sinclair or a Doe. And Donna is not a Smith or a Sinclair but a Doe. God has made us all different and special. So for now, you will learn to do things our way.

This authority and privilege is not to be handled flippantly, but with prayer and much thought. You are responsible to figure out what is and isn't acceptable behavior in your eyes as well as God's. Here are some good questions to get you started:
  1. Do you like a certain behavior? (i.e. jumping on the couch, climbing on the counter, running through the room, screaming while playing, getting 10 puzzles out at once, etc.)
  2. Will others be blessed by this behavior? (We want our children to grow in favor with God and with men.)
  3. Does this behavior contribute to a peaceful atmosphere in the home?
  4. Is this behavior helping establish healthy relationships with siblings?
If you aren't being blessed by something, then you are responsible to change it! If you don't, you are setting yourself up for frustration and discouragement. Your children should bless you, each other, and eventually the Body of Christ. And it begins with learning to acquiesce in the simple things - doing or not doing according to Mom and Dad's desires. You don't have to prove everything with scripture and verse. But you are responsible before God to have made your decision a prayerful and thoughtful one.

Behavior modification may not be the final goal, but it is the place to start. Begin today to make a list of things you want to see changed. If the list is monumental because behavior has gone unchallenged for too long, be wise. Choose one or two items and begin there. Make a plan. Get a stragegy. Look for counsel if you feel daunted.

But most of all, trust in this: it was His choice to give you that child. His wisdom is not faulty, nor will He leave you ill-equipped to care for His heritage. His is a vested interest.

And His love is new every morning. Aren't you glad?

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