children will listen

Careful the things you say – children will listen.
Careful the things you do – children will see and learn.
Children may not obey, but children will listen.
Children will look to you for which way to turn to learn what to be.
Careful before you say, “Listen to me,” – children will listen.

This excerpt from the song “Children Will Listen” (from the musical “Into the Woods”) has been running through my head frequently.  Lyd has been presenting me with some parenting challenges lately, as I alluded to in a previous post.  Sometimes I get so incredibly frustrated with her; I feel like I’m saying the same things to her over and over again, and they aren’t getting through.  “Think before you do things!” I tell her.  “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” I ask her.  “Do what Momma says right away, and don’t wait until I get cross with you!” I tell her.

But so far, nothing really has seemed to change.  I often feel that the things I am trying to teach her are going in one ear and out the other.  Yet I know that’s not true, because I can see that she IS learning lessons from me, albeit lessons I’d rather not have her learn.

It’s hard to imagine any parent hearing their words coming from their child’s mouth and not having some kind of emotional reaction: pride, guilt, or something in between.  Lately, some of the things I’ve been hearing out of Lyd’s mouth have made me feel more guilty than proud.  It’s not dirty talk or foul language that’s coming out of her mouth.  Instead, it’s a don’t-bother-me attitude and short-temperedness and lack of compassion.  I see her demonstrate these less-than -ideal behaviors towards her sister, her friends, and sometimes even me.  What cuts me to the core is when I heard phrases coming out of her mouth that I knowTalk about making me realize my sinful inadaquacies as a parent!  Talk about having your failings paraded right in front of you where you can’t miss them!  It turns out that Lyd HAS been listening, even when it seemed like she wasn’t, but the example I’ve been giving her to listen to hasn’t always been a good one.

So, I’m trying to change, I really am.  I don’t know if I’m making any big progress, but I’m trying, and I believe that’s a step in the right direction.  I’m attempting to watch how I talk to her and around her.  I’m trying to give her my full attention (with eye contact!) when she wants to talk to me, even when the subject is something that just doesn’t interest me.  I’m trying to be consistent in discipline without being harsh and without overreacting and while fitting the punishment to the crime.  I’m trying to verbalize the behaviors I want to see, and I’m trying to demonstrate them myself in my daily life.  Most importantly, I’m trying to point her to Jesus, trying to keep her eyes fixed on the cross, apologizing to her and God when I have wronged her, and asking her to forgive me, even as I ask God to forgive me.

I don’t know if it’s all working, but I have hope that if she was watching me in the past, she is continuing to watch me now.  Children will listen, right?

And tonight, I had a little glimpse that something I said might have made a difference.  The girls were taking a bath together, Lyd was playing with a favorite toy, J wanted to be like her big sister and play with it too, and Lyd got very possessive and pouty.  “My sister is trying to take away my toy!” she said in an angry tone.  “Your sister wants to be just like you,” I responded, as I have said many times before.  “Find a way that you can both play with that toy – together.”  I was cleaning my contacts while this was going on, not paying a ton of attention to the girls in the tub (I didn’t want to wash my contact down the drain), and considering it was almost bedtime and the girls were tired, I didn’t expect good results from my admonition.  But a few seconds later, I heard giggles from both girls.  Lyd HAD found a way for both of them to play together!  She WAS sharing her toy, and she and her sister were finding delight in the results.

For a moment I marveled to myself, surprised that my words actually worked.  Then I praised Lyd mightily for her good listening, her good thinking, and her caring actions.  And the lines to “Children Will Listen” that I quoted above began to play in my head.

She IS listening.  All the time.