Chapter 2 – Maternal Authority, Part 1
Much of a mother’s happiness is dependent upon the good or bad character of her children. “How shall I govern my children so as to secure their virtue and happiness?”
Abbott speaks of obedience as perfect subjection and prompt, cheerful acquiescence in parent commands. “Without this, all efforts will be in vain." Children should submit to your authority, not simply yielding to your arguments or persuasions or threats. Whether or not your children can see reasoning for our request for obedience, they should obey promptly. Sometimes give him your reasons, sometimes withhold them.
The best example I have of this, that my children were able to relate to, is an episode of Little House on the Prairie. If memory serves, Ma and Laura were heading out to do chores. Ma, having gone out first, told Laura to stay back, and not come to the barn (as she was accustomed to doing, every day). Laura did not know why Ma had made this request, but she obeyed, no questions asked. As it turns out, there was a bear near the barn and Ma needed to keep Laura away to keep her safe. When Ma said “stay back”, Laura did not ask why, she obeyed without question. As parents, we know what is better for our children, and they needn’t always understand why we ask the things we do, assuming they are for our children’s welfare. We may, someday, encounter a situation where we don’t have the luxury of time to explain. If we don’t condition them to obey, without question, in the case of Little House, what could have happened if Laura did not listen?
Abbott then goes on to explain how we can achieve this obedience from our children. The most powerful tip he provides is “Never give a command which you do not intend shall be obeyed. There is no more effectual way of teaching a child disobedience, than by giving commands which you have no intention of enforcing.” If we ask our children to do something, and we don’t plan to stand behind it, we then train our children to disregard our word; an absolute lack of respect.
Abbott give a great example for enforcing obedience:
-MOM: “You have disobeyed me.”
-Mom seriously and calmly punishes (imposes real punishment that will be remembered)
-MOM: “It makes mother very unhappy to have to punish you.” She loves her little daughter and wishes to have her a good girl.”
-Mom leaves the child to herself for a little while. A little solitude deepens the impressions made.
-Mom returns, takes child on her lap, “My dear, are you sorry that you disobeyed mother?”
-Almost any child would say “Yes.”
-MOM: “Will you be careful not to disobey me again?”
-Child says “Yes.”
-MOM: “I will forgive you, so far as I can; but God is displeased; you have disobeyed him as well as me. Do you wish me to ask God to forgive you?”
-Child answers “Yes.”
-Mother kneels with her daughter and offers a simple prayer for forgiveness, and the return of peace and happiness.
-Mom then leads her out, humbled and subdued.
-Mom later that night putting her to bed affectionately reminds her of her disobedience, and advises her to ask God’s forgiveness again.
If you believe that you do not have time to discipline nor pay attention to your children, Abbott points out the fact that “Not one third of the time is required to take care of an orderly family, which is necessary for a disorderly one.” I have found this to be true as our family has grown. I simply do not have time for disobedient children. It interferes with school, and with our day overall. If a child is disruptive or disobedient, this cannot be accepted; as the price is too high for all of us. If the little ones see their older siblings getting away with naughty behavior, it teaches them that it is OK to be naughty. I have found, since assuming my role of Mother, they way God intended me to, I have more time, because I am not disciplining all day. A big help for me now is that the older children are so clear on the rules, that the little ones have many sets of eyes and ears watching and correcting behavior. Not that we don’t have off days… we do; but they are fewer and farther between, and when they happen, the perpetrator is addressed promptly.
Abbott also points out that a mother’s word is never to be disregarded, however, every judicious parent will try to gratify her children in their ‘reasonable wishes.’ For example, “Mom, may I have a couple minutes to finish my project?”
When Abbott speaks of types of lasting discipline (that won’t be soon forgotten), he recommends that we “cut off the child’s sources of enjoyment, among other things – do these so steadily and so invariably that disobedience and suffering shall be indissolubly connected in the mind of the child.” As I have mentioned before, we employ “black outs”. We learned this from Dr. Ray; I recommend anything from Dr. Ray. A black out is removal of all privileges for the day (T.V., video games, dessert, seconds on meals, bicycle, scooter, trampoline, swimming, etc). This is very effective, and painful for our children. Click here for more information on rules and discipline.
Finally, Abbott points out that “if we fail to use this power for the purposes for which it was bestowed, the sin is ours, and upon us and upon our children must rest the consequences. When you meet your children at the bar of God, and they point to you and say, “It was through your neglect of duty that we are banished from heaven, and consigned to endless woe.”
On a side note, somebody asked me at what point do I expect my children to understand and obey our house rules and if a child is blacked out, as a parent, are we not sort of out of discipline options for the rest of the day?
As I tell many, my children are perfectly behaved for their age, which is far from perfect! :) You know, it has only happend a handful of times that after blackout, which is devastating for my children, that they have pulled any more stunts. We have, in those cases, extended blackout to the next day, and on occasion sent them to their room, away from any fun. We begin to discipline and enforce rules when our child turns 1 (don't touch, hit, etc), when they are 3, they understand the rules and are disciplined for not following them. We start blackouts when our children are 4. My 3 year old is well versed in Hail Mary Hugs, time in porta crib and a slapped hand. Blackout is devastating to all of my children ages 4 & up.
As my confessor said, don't lower standards, just expectations. It is so frustrating to correct the same behavior over, and over, and over... but he also said... right now we are sowing the seeds of love and will reap a bountiful harvest later... we won't always see the progress nor recieve instant gratification... but some day, our children will just start doing the things we have been teaching... and this, i have found to be true. I have also found, parenting, the way God calls us to do it, is the most humbling, trying... and sanctifying duty I have endeavored. As trying as it is, however, I have also never found a more fulfulling, joy-filled, grace-filled duty. :) I thank God for it daily.