A Doormat and Teaching Your Kids to Hit

by Laura on November 25, 2012

I always grew up with the idea that if somebody hit you, you took it. You “turned the other cheek” like a good Christian girl, and you never hit back.

And so I remember being fairly indignant when I read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart in my early-twenties. In his book on the masculine heart, Eldridge talks about a conversation he had with one of his sons around the dinner table. In it, Eldridge coaches his son to fight- to hit.

{And I can only imagine my Sunday School teachers shaking their heads in disapproval– as I did at first. Until I read a bit further.}

Eldridge explains this idea that before you can choose to lay something down, you have to possess it.

In other words, if his son didn’t understand that he had the strength to fight, to be strong, his choice to not fight would be made out of fear, cowardice, and weakness. Eldridge writes that the better scenario would be for his son to test his strength– ideally on his father. Then, when the child knows that he has the power to land a blow and then chooses nonviolence instead, he is choosing out of his strength and character, not weakness or compulsion.

********

And we were in the car the other day, and I was letting my own son have it. I was using words like “prideful and arrogant” because he had just underlined, bolded, and italicized the fact that he was faster and stronger than his younger sister. And when I paused to take a breath from the tirade of “be more humble, you are acting like a punk,” I remembered Eldridge’s idea–

This concept that before a kid can lay something down, he has to understand that he possesses it.

And so I did what all well-intentioned-but-confused parents do– I turned the radio up to create a diversion, giving me time to figure out my next play.

And I thought back to Thailand, to the gradual morphing I saw from confident to insecure, from happy-go-lucky to bags-packed-begging-for-home. I thought about this kid who had to learn to eat food he hates before an audience of a million eyes, this kid who was the only boy in a sea of girls, this kid who has tasted the hammering.

And Party Rock Anthem drowned out all conversation except the one in my head and the idea surfaced that maybe my son can’t practice true humility if he doesn’t have a sense of his own security. Perhaps acting humble without an inner sense of confidence is actually becoming more of a doormat and less of the strong Christ- follower for which true humility is a characteristic of. 

And maybe reaming him on behavior when his heart needs attention is the last thing the kid needs, anyway.

And, so, I made a mid-course correction that afternoon– one which is still in effect. While I don’t excuse him when he brags, I have taken to giving him more grace when he does. I’ve started praying more, praising more, paying attention more. I’ve been asking God for eyes to see what’s really going on beneath the surface of a little boy’s behavior on the playground.

And once again, I’m reminded that underneath the surface of all action is the heart, which is what Jesus was constantly after first anyway.

And is what I, as a mom, should be after first, too.

***********

Does this concept apply to more than just “strength/gentleness” and “confidence/humility”? Do you agree with it? And, be honest, when have you told your kids to hit back?

A Note On Privacy: As my kids get older and can actually read what I write, I have an increased desire to protect their privacy in this online space. Because of that, I will sometimes slightly alter stories– using different genders or details even. It’s not their fault their mom is a writer, after all.

 

  • Paige

    Wow, suddenly going over a hundred conversations with my oldest. It’s funny how the tiniest shift in tone or wording can change the whole situation. I hate looking back and thinking how it could have gone better, but I love this thought you present: of letting them own that feeling of empowerment, of confidence…thank you, this was good to wake up to read.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Thanks, Paige. I agree that I look back over the way I interact with my kids so often and think, ‘Oh, man, I blew that, missed what was really happening under the surface and focused instead on the symptom, not the real problem.”

      Hang in there– thankfully, “love covers a multitude, right”?

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ Angie Washington

    Good note on the privacy point.

    I wrestled with a similar vein of thought regarding child rearing a couple years ago. Here’s the link: http://www.angiewashington.com/2010/07/tuesday-tip-40-humble-confidence/

    Love ya!

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Oh, thanks for sharing the link. Off to read it now . . .

      • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

        Just read it– good stuff, friend! Maybe you should do a parenting column?!

        • http://www.angiewashington.com/ Angie Washington

          Thanks for reading it.

          Nah. Not interested in another project right now. I appreciate the affirmation, though. You are kind. There are plenty of wonderful parenting resources out there. I just add my little tips when I see an open door to do so.

    • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

      appreciated very much what you shared. thanks for posting the link.

  • Shannon Kelley

    Ah, this is something I am struggling through right now as we try to raise a kid in a culture that has kids being harsh and abrasive at best. Hitting, lying, and throwing fits are the norm. We are struggling to figure out how to handle it but maybe the best thing is have her dive in, feel it, learn from it, and have some hard conversations. Ugg. This parenting thing is hard even in good ol’ America. Throw in 3rd world cultures and you have yourself some nutty parents thankful for God’s grace:)

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    I very much agree with this. That also goes back to what you were saying recently about shaming. Addressing problems with kids is good; shaming them into behaving is not.

  • Jeremy McKemy

    This one took me by surprise. I have to admit I’m still thinking it over. Eldredge makes an interesting point that in order for us to lay something down we must first possess it. But here’s the counter-argument in my head, “Is having the upper hand in a fight or anything else really ours to claim?” Must a person know how to fight to walk in gentleness? Must a country have the most nuclear weapons to show it is truly peaceful?

    I don’t have any answers, just more questions, which probably doesn’t help any. But you have given me something to think about, and I might even use this for one of our discussions in a spirituality group that I host.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Jeremy–

      Love your response to this! I think it is so right on. In the last few years, I have been moved into a more nonviolence mentality. Even in some of the things I’ve read about what Jesus really meant to “turn the other cheek” and I must admit I didn’t want to use this example b/c I’m not sure I agree with it either in regards to “hitting back.”

      But, it is what I felt like prompted my insight into my kids’ heart and I do think there is validity to the whole “humility/confidence” issue . . . because honestly, there seems such greater healthiness in a person understanding their worth and choosing not to claw for it than not clawing for a sense of worth b/c they don’t think they have any.

      Ya know?

      And– are ya’ll in town any over holidays? We are in Hickory for two weeks– would be awesome to see you and meet your wife!

      Laura

      • Jeremy McKemy

        I think you are spot on with affirming your kids so that they don’t seek affirmation in other destructive ways. I have to wonder how many fewer problems we would have in the world if parents would edify their children.

        I’ve been moving toward nonviolence over the past few years as well. I don’t know what people say today about Jesus’ “true” intentions in turning the other cheek, but I know Christians practiced that literally for the first few hundred years after Christ. The early church was quite progressive in their love and laying aside of self.

        I’d love to see you guys when you’re in town. I’ve got some family coming into Hickory so I plan to be around. Just let me know what days will work best for you all. And if you decide to get out and see the puny little mountains of the east side of the country, let me know since I live in the Asheville area.

        • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

          J- just did a video about a book I think you might like. It’s called The Powers that Be by David Halberstam. It might be right up your alley . . . :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/richelle.wright Richelle Wright

    particularly with my biggers, i ask any more before i post most things. they seem to appreciate that. :-)

    i’m not a big fan of that particular book, but i do agree with the principle you are pulling from it. most everything that we do requires a balance… one verse the Lord has brought me to time and again when i ponder & pray over what it means to biblically parent is phil 4.5, “let your moderation be known to all.” isn’t moderation a balance? just as strength/gentleness or confidence/humility are two sides of the same coin?

    i’ve been teaching a unit on bridges to a group of gifted 2nd graders (that’s a whole other story). . simplistically, what makes a bridge work is the balance of opposing, both pulling and pushing, forces. my present conviction is that if we want our kids to make the connection between these two seeming opposites (i.e. strength and gentleness, confidence and humility), we must teach them how to balance the two. when there is a balance, then we observe gentle strength or firm gentleness, we experience humble confidence or confident humility. the world considers them oxymorons – but in God’s figuring, they are perfectly complementary.

    for me, the hardest part of the equation is not just preaching and teaching this sort of moderation to my kids, but more effectively living it in my day to day life. i’ve seen how when, in my stumbling and bumbling, i somehow trip at least momentarily into that right balance – they notice and they respond.

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      *Wow—lots to think about…I have told my little guy to use his tae-kwon-do defense if he has to. Now I’m chewing on the question, “does he really ever have to?” I tend to think for a 6-year-old being grabbed by the shirt collar by a much bigger 8-year-old warrants a good knee strike, but I don’t know. I do not believe that when Jesus told us to “turn the other cheek,” he meant for us to be a doormat—like you said so perfectly, “Perhaps acting humble without an inner sense of confidence is actually becoming more of a doormat and less of the strong Christ- follower for which true humility is a characteristic of.” After all, Jesus threw the tables in frustration, calling people out on their bullying. He didn’t hit them—but I wonder what he would tell the 6-year-old being-choked-scared-to-death-no-adults-helping-him-on-the-playground to do. I have to be honest that I kinda hope he’d tell him to give the other kid one good knee strike—to own his confidence—and to call the other kid out on his bullying. But I’m pretty sure his solution is much better than mine :) Awesome food for thought, Laura.*
      *I really love what you said about seeking our kids’ hearts and focusing on what they need—what they’re trying to get when they want to brag or be aggressive. I’m really good at criticizing those behaviors without recognizing the needs behind them. This will help to put me on a course correction for sure. Thank you.*

      – from Heather, who’s computer was being strange

    • http://www.lauraparkerblog.com/ Laura Parker

      Richelle, I have to be honest and say that I adored that book in my twenties and have come to question some of it in my thirties.

      BALANCE– oh, yes. Isn’t that the tension we walk in? The thing we desperately need Spirit to help us with?

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