Letting the Sun Go Down While Still Disciplining
As a parent, I knew this day would come. Just not so soon. Last night, my daughter went to bed while still being disciplined. In fact, the discipline I doled out lasts for 24 hours. Too harsh? I’m still wrestling with that today.
Being the father of a toddler and an infant, it’s hard to believe I once thought that taking care of an infant was difficult. Don’t get me wrong. Changing diapers, soothing, bathing, wolfing down food before the baby wakes up or cries, and lugging no less than 3 bags around at all times was tough, but compared with having to reason with a toddler and dealing with the range of emotions they go through? It’s a walk in the park. Infants usually cry in discomfort; toddlers cry in defiance. After all, it’s hard to be defiant when you can’t move away or talk back. A baby that won’t stop crying is frustrating, but wanton defiance can be infuriating.
As a result, I’ve lost it on numerous occasions. Thankfully, there is forgiveness, but I still question the way I discipline my child and it’s something my wife and I talk about regularly. I’ll probably cover more on disciplining kids in a later post because it’s such a huge topic to talk about, but suffice it to say that in my experience, the Bible holds true:
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15
I love my daughter, but I’m not dumb or delusional: she’s far from an angel.
So back to the story at hand. My wife is feeding D2, so my daughter and I are doing our nightly routine–have a quick dance party, brushing teeth, washing face, changing into PJs, reading a book–and when we get to the reading book part, she snatches the book out of my hands and yells at me saying that the book was hers. We’ve already told her on numerous occasions that snatching is not nice and not something we’ll tolerate. Since my wife was busy breastfeeding, I didn’t have time to consult with her, so I calmly pried took the book out of her death grip hands and told her we won’t be reading a book tonight. For those new to this blog, my daughter loves to read. In fact, we don’t turn on the TV when we need to do something; we ask her to go read books and she’ll entertain herself for hours. So sending her to bed without a book is like sending me to bed without food.
As she sat on her bed weeping, I wondered if I was being too harsh. We still went through the rest of our nightly routine–talking about the day, singing a few songs, and praying–and I explained to her again why I wasn’t reading her a book tonight. I told her that if she were nice, we could read a book tomorrow night and I assured her I loved her.
As I left her room, she said, “I love you, appa.” This was somewhat reassuring but I told my wife what happened and asked her if she thought it was too harsh. Since we’d already told her on numerous occasions that snatching and yelling was unacceptable, we agreed that it was ok. But it still felt odd going to sleep on those terms.
My wife and I have been married for 5+ years, and one of the verses I often took out of context was from Ephesians
26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4
Thankfully, I never pulled the submission card (“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” Eph 5:22) as that never ends well, but I did pull the “we can’t go to sleep because we’re still fighting” card plenty of times. What Paul is writing here isn’t literal, so if you’re mad at 8am, that doesn’t give you the rest of the day to remain mad; he’s talking about the importance of not nursing anger and carrying it over. And I couldn’t help but wonder if my daughter would be bitter towards me or if she would no longer snatch and yell, eagerly looking forward to reading a book with me the next night. Will she think I was disciplining/rejecting her or that I was disciplining/rejecting her actions?
And for me, that’s probably the hardest part of disciplining my child. Sure, I want her to behave right, but I also want my daughter to know that I love her unconditionally. She was still sleeping when my wife and I left for work this morning and I’m looking forward to getting home and plopping down on the couch with her, reading her favorite books. Because the great part of parenting is that every day is a new day to remind my kids and my wife that I love them unconditionally.
What about you? Have you ever gone to bed with your child upset? How did he/she respond the next day?