“Love is Patient.” 1Corinthians 13:4
“There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: impatience and laziness.” – Franz Kafka
So, its 4pm Christmas Eve 1996 and the entire extended family will be descending upon your home in T-minus 16 hours. In that time you need to finish cleaning the house, prep the breakfast casserole and “Happy Birthday, Jesus” cake, transform four children from grubby preschoolers to Christmas catalog models for tonight’s church service, finish baking 4 dozen cookies (Store bought just won’t do. You have people to impress here.), and do the Santa setup with Troy which means you will be up until 4am.
You set the boys (ages 4, 5, and 7) in their room with instructions to clean it so that they learn what color their carpet is and so your mother won’t judge you (Oh, Jay! I didn’t raise you to keep house like this!). While in the kitchen you hear laughing which is never a good sign. Sure enough, three guilty faces greet you when you open their door. “Come on, guys, enough fooling around. It’s time to clean your room.” You shut the door and go back to the kitchen. Five minutes later, more laughter. Now each of the boys is wearing a pair of undies on their heads like WWII army helmets lobbing the rest of the dirty clothes at each other like grenades. You don’t want to lose your cool on Christmas Eve so laugh and tell them once again to clean their room. This cycle continues every five minutes or so: laughter, reprimand, laughter, reprimand. Each time you feel more and more anger welling up inside your chest, and get less and less successful at tamping it back down in the name of patience.
After about 45 minutes of this you eventually blow (doesn’t help that the roll out cookies aren’t rolling out so great). Grabbing the portable phone, you thunder down the hallway (wood floors, so has a good sound effect), fling open the door and declare, “That’s it! I’m calling Santa and telling him NOT TO COME!”
Three sets of knees hit the floor in supplication, but there is no stopping this crazy train. You mock dial the phone and use your old theater improv skills for the dark side. “Santa? Yes, this is Jamie Durbin. I’m calling you because…oh you SEE they’re not cleaning their room…yes, well since they’re being naughty you don’t need to…what’s that? Give them one more chance? OK, you’re the boss.” Click. “Santa said you have ONE MORE CHANCE!” and you storm out of the room. Your walk back to the cookie dough is accompanied by a trio of hiccoughing sobs and you feel so down on yourself that you expect the door bell to ring announcing that Social Services has come to collect your traumatized offspring. Where did you go wrong? Why did you lose your patience?*
Chick, you are confusing patience with permissiveness.
When a parent tolerates their child’s whining, or lets the kiddo negotiate away the parent’s “no” or just straight up lets the kid get away without doing what they’re told, they are not practicing parental patience. They are being lazy, cowardly or some combination of the two. You were being lazy, not wanting to stop what you were doing to deal with the situation. You get cowardly later, when the kids are teenagers. That’s another subject.
Ignoring defiant or undisciplined behavior will not make a child feel loved – just the opposite, in fact. They may not be able to verbalize it, but when children don’t live within solid boundaries they feel unloved, neglected – like you can’t be bothered to confront them. So not only will they lose all respect for you, but in an effort to get your attention as well as the boundaries that they crave the bad behavior will intensify. Guess what happens then? You over react and discipline them too harshly –maybe even saying hurtful things to them (like that Santa isn’t coming this year). Will this leave your child feeling loved?
So, please do not think that looking the other way when your kid is being annoying or exhibiting poor behavior is patience. Conversely, healthy child discipline does not include screaming at your child when they accidentally spill milk on your freshly washed floors. When children are acting like children, this is when you get to practice patience.
A great clue into what parental patience means comes later in 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul gives us the flip side of patience. We will examine this next time.
Love, Older Wiser You
*(Remember this story. We’re going to refer back to it a lot as we continue to look at what parental love is)