I will just come out and say it, I have an old boat motor. It pushes the boat through the water, when it works. However, there have been plenty of trips out as a family when the motor decided it isn’t going to work, or it makes a funny sound as we are pushing through the water. Because I have an old motor that means two things.
1. I either have to be really well off monetarily to pay for repairs
2. I have to be able to do repairs myself to keep it running
Now, you may be reading this and not following the point I am making, or I may be doing a bad job at explaining where I am going with this. I am a teacher, which means option 1 doesn’t work for me. So I learn all the time how to make repairs. Luckily, I have a good foundation of knowledge on how internal combustion engines work, but thank God for YouTube too!
One day while trying to remove my engine from the transom there was a bolt that didn’t want to turn. Now these bolts are made of stainless steel and they were thicker than my fingers. So I grabbed a “persuader” to remove this bolt (a very long handled tool that allows me to put an excessive amount of force to the bolt). As my son held the wrench on the other side I put all my force into getting this bolt off.
To my son’s delight, the bolt snapped in two pieces. He kept saying, “”Wow Daddy, you are so strong. You snapped steel!” As impressive as it was to my son, I knew what this meant. Yes I got the bolt off, but there was going to be another cost associated with this repair. This bolt had to be replaced before we could use the boat again.
For some of us, this is how we parent. We have a child who, no matter what we do, is going to be stubborn, is going to be hard-headed. So we go into our parenting toolbox, and we try everything we can think of. Then when none of that works, we get the “persuader” and just apply as much brute force as we can to the situation.
The problem with this approach is much like I faced with the bolt on the boat. No matter how hard the steel may be, if you apply too much force you will break it. In Ephesians 6 Paul demonstrates this point. He starts with, “Children obey your parents”. Now in a perfect world, your child would do what you tell them to do the first time you tell them to do it. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a sinful world that not only causes our children to rebel, but causes us as parents to lord over our children.
Paul continues in verse 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Does this mean my child will never be angry with me? Absolutely not! As I discipline my child (which is a good thing, more on that later) I will combat the idols of their heart. As this battle takes place, there will be times when they do not want to give up their idols, they will fight for them.
It is in this place however, that we as parents have to decide if we are going to use excessive force and snap that bolt, or if we want to try other methods. We could use lubrication spray to break up the corrosion, or we could apply heat to expand the metal to cause it to break free. I know neither of those are real world examples of how we should discipline, so let me explain the illustration.
Applying lubrication spray is a process that takes some time to complete. I have to allow the spray time to penetrate the corrosion. This would be like waiting to discipline, looking at the situation and getting a game plan together before the discipline actually happens.
Using heat would be the same thing as having those hard conversations, but having the conversation. Blocking out the time to really get at the root of an issue, not just correcting the symptoms. Maybe this means I lean on others around me that are better equipped to handle the situation. People like your own parents, counselors, or friends that may have dealt with the situation before.
In the end, we as parents have to ask ourselves, "is it worth possibly causing more damage to do the necessary repairs, or am I going to do more damage than good? " When it comes to the boat, I ran up to the store and got another bolt to replace the broken one, however, last I checked that really isn’t a solution with my child. As the parent what is your heart behind what you are doing, and is the strategy actually working?
Parenting is not easy, it can be the most challenging thing you will ever have to do, but understand you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out, ask for help when you need it, because when the motor is running right, there is nothing better than being on the water in the boat!