Have your children ever been stubborn? Have they every refused to do as they have been told? Have you ever come to a point where you had to “make” your child do what you told them to do? What should we do when our children refuse to obey?
My sweet little tadpole has developed a bad habit. A while ago we noticed that she has started sucking her thumb. It was an issue we dealt with when she was younger, and we thought the habit was pretty much licked. When she was extremely tired, we would find her with her thumb in her mouth, but most of the time it wasn’t a problem. Lately though, she has been sucking her thumb all the time!
I have no biblical reasoning behind my stance, but I don’t let my children suck their thumbs. I might be able to argue some points about the physical harm to her thumb and teeth, afterall her thumb currently looks like a white raisin! But quite honestly, I just don’t like it. For that main reason, I decided that it was time to tackle the issue.
We began the process with the simplest of solutions. If Tadpole was caught sucking her thumb, we go to the If-Then Chart (more info on that here) for her punishment. We did this, and we did this a lot! It seemed like nothing was changing. It was at this point that I noticed that certain stuffed animals seemed to encourage her thumb sucking, so the new punishment was that if she was caught sucking her thumb, I got to keep her animal. Well, that didn’t work, as you can tell by my current stash of confiscated toys.
We moved on to the next idea. We purchased some “Thumb Sucking Deterrent”. Basically, it is nail polish made out of Cyanne Pepper. It is a wee bit spicy. Didn’t slow down my little angel though. I think she actually might have enjoyed the extra spice!
I was running out of ideas. I remembered when the kids were just tiny little babies we would put socks on their hands so they could not scratch themselves at night. I figured it might just work for thumb suckers! So off to bed she was sent with socks covering her hands. This little munchkin came out of her room the next morning with the socks still on her hands! I was so excited! Finally, something had worked!
I asked her if she had sucked her thumb last night. She happily stated, “No Sir!” I smiled with delight and happily reached to take off her socks. Tadpole pulled away and said that she wanted to keep them on. I simply told her that she could not go all day with socks on her hands, and once again reached for them. She pulled away once more, insisting that she get to keep them on.
I realized that something was not quite right. I told her to take off the socks. There hidden beneath her socks was not just one, but two little white raisins. She had chosen that night to take the socks off, suck both thumbs, and place the socks back on in the morning to hide her misdeeds. This little girl is a relentless thumb sucker!
I was at a loss! I had tried everything I could think of! I racked my brain trying to come up with some way to end this thumb sucking war. I finally got it! I finally came up with the perfect solution. I had to remove her thumbs!
No, I wasn’t going to cut them off! I was just going to remove her ability to suck them. Before sending her to bed the next time I taped her thumbs to her hand. There was no way that she could beat me this time – I had won! (Note – The picture is a re-enactment. I did not actually place this excessive amount of tape on her hands!)
As I started to glory in my amazing brilliance, the sweet Spirit of the Lord started tugging upon my heart. This question started nagging me, “When did I last force you to obey my will?” The answer of course, was never. The Lord never forces us to obey Him. He always gives us a choice.
I realized that I cannot force my children to obey, for in doing so, I am only raising a rebel. The moment I am no longer strong enough to “make” them do as I say, is the moment they will happily escape from the oppression of my authority.
Tadpole no longer wears socks at bedtime. She no longer gets spicy nail polish at night. Yes, she still receives punishment when she sucks her thumb. Yes, I still get some of her toys placed in my collection from time to time. But something has changed. I now try to patiently deal with Tadpole in a whole new way.
When I deal with my daughter about sucking her thumb, I no longer am trying to get her to stop. I am now focusing on encouraging her to choose what is right. I explain that not only is it disobedience to the rules, but it hurts me when she chooses to do something I do not like. It makes me question if she truly loves me, because if she really loved me – she would choose to obey. I then get to show her that it’s the same with our Savior. If we love Him, we will choose to keep His commandments.
Have you ever fought with your children over something, and you simply just wanted to make them stop? As parents, we often have the power to make them abide by our wishes, but that is not proper training in obedience. May I encourage us all to remember that obedience is a choice. Obedience cannot be forced, it must be chosen.
Have you ever dealt with a relentless thumb sucker? Have you ever fought the battle between forcing compliance, and training obedience? Let us know how the Lord helped you in the comments!
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