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What it Means to Believe My Kids are Sinners

Modern psychology seems to believe that a child misbehaves because something is wrong inside him, and a parent's job is to find out what that is and fix it.

Why did Jack scream at me? Is he harboring some inner fear that he won't have enough? Is he jealous that his sister got more than him? Is he still recovering from that incident when he was two, and I left him in the car?

Why did Evie not listen to her teacher today? Maybe Evie's surrounded by too many talkative friends. Maybe she's too young to be in school. Maybe she had a stomach ache. Maybe her teacher scolded her too harshly.

This sort of thinking is both tricky and dangerous.

It's tricky because it's so very close to the truth and yet not. Yes, if our kids' hearts are right, then their actions will be too. But no amount of therapy or proper parenting or ideal environment will fix our kids' hearts. Why? Because regardless of how children are treated, they still want to do things their own way. They're born that way, and no one but God can fix that.

As a mom, I find this extremely liberating.

I'm not responsible for fixing my children's hearts. Just their actions. I'm not responsible for making my children unselfish. Just to act respectfully. I don't have to interpret all their feelings. I just need to ensure that they act responsibly with their feelings. I'm not in charge of assigning them their value. I'm just responsible for respectfully treating them their age.

Sure, there's a lot more involved in parenting than this, but it doesn't have to be difficult. It can't be if God expects just about everyone to be able to do it—educated/uneducated, organized/unorganized, extroverts/introverts, verbose/soft-spoken, playful/serious, good at teaching/bad at teaching, sensitive/impervious, psychologists/blacksmiths. (What is the opposite of a psychologist? I don't know.)

Yes, my children's misbehavior means something. Usually it means that they're either newbies or that they're sinners.  But why is it so easy for us moms to get muddled about this?

Maybe it's because babies usually cry for a reason. I've read that refraining from comforting my child can damage his or her psyche. So I do everything possible to soothe my baby's cries. After all, his well-being is my responsibility. Right? So then the baby grows up a bit, and he still cries about everything: he wanted to eat that leaf, he wants the stick, he doesn't want to go in his high chair, he wants his sippy cup, he wants to grab the dog. And here I am still believing that it's bad for him to cry. I get muddled trying to figure out what need am I not meeting.

I also get muddled because I want to believe that my kids are innocent and good. In fact it's rather difficult to believe that my children are just as self-centered and annoying as everyone else's children because I like my children more than other people's children. But this is just a sign that my love for my own has made me accepting to their brand of scruples.

However, the biggest reason why I have a hard time believing my children are born selfish is because then I must believe that I was born this way too. This isn't just a belief that I have a little problem, like a pride problem or a patience problem or insecurity problem. It's believing that everything I do I do because I think I'm the most valuable person here. I like myself and my ideas are more than everyone else's. I want my own way.

Who wants to believe that? Who can actually stomach that they're totally selfish? Certainly not a self-sacrificing, sleep-deprived mom who lives for others and spends every ounce of her mental energy trying to decide what's best for her family?

Either we believe that we're rebels at heart or we believe that we're not so bad. The delusional mom hangs all her hopes on the belief that her motives are pure and unselfish. She doesn't care so much what she wants, just so long as everyone else is happy. If her actions are questioned, she insists she was only doing it for others.

The sinner wakes up and says, "Oh God, I want my own way today. Help me to want your way more!" If every morning I didn't determine to be a good mom, but rather hung my goodness elsewhere, I'd stop stressing out about doing everything perfectly. I'd stop insisting on performing my own version of unselfishness for my family. I'd stop keeping track of how much my unselfishness has cost me. I wouldn't give my children that spoiling bit of leniency that I never give to other kids.

And if every morning, I woke up and said, "My children want their own way, and today they're desperately going to try to get it," I'd be better equipped for their tricks and better able to love them without fear.


Abby, this is one of your blogs that just knocks my socks off with truth. I think you chose a wonderful opposite of a psychiatrist in blacksmith. The blacksmith heavy handedly beats the tar out of the iron to shape and conform it to his will while the psychiatrist, if unwise, fails to touch on the individual's personal responsibility in their own choices.
MommaMina said…
Wow Abs. Well put. Where were you when I was raising my own kids?? Oh ya, never mind.

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