I'm saying this as much to myself as anyone else. I can't tell you how many times over the past 22 years I've caught myself in the act of mopping up after one of my children (sometimes literally), only to realize that once again, I have paved the way for them to skip blithely past an opportunity to learn that actions result in consequences.

The unfortunate truth is that helping our kids experience the consequences of their decisions is definitely more work and discomfort for us as parents. It's a whole lot easier, physically and emotionally, to fix mistakes and make decisions ourselves than to give the time and effort it takes to mentor our children in those realms.

DO AS YOU WOULD BE DONE BY

Reaping the consequences of a poor choice is tough. It's the kind of discipline that's painful at the time but will reap a harvest of righteousness in those that are trained by it. However, we don't have to make it any worse than it is. I'm talking about the universal response when someone is reaping what they've sowed. The I-told-you-so.

"See? If you'd just done what I told you to . . ." or "Next time maybe you won't leave your boots out in the rain," etc. I suppose we're trying to make sure they get the message. Could be we're wanting to communicate that it's not our fault, so don't be mad at us. However, these responses rarely accomplish much. Instead, they can end up making us look like the enemy because we seem more interested in driving a point home than caring about what our child is going through. The child ends up feeling unloved, alone, and misunderstood in their suffering.

When your children are feeling the pain of a poor decision, think Golden Rule. Don't say, "I told you so," or "What lesson have you learned here?" Instead, empathize—"Yeah, I hate hauling wood in the dark too. Do you want to take a flashlight along?" Recount an instance when you had to bear the consequence of a similar action (resisting the urge to one-up them). Then give them a smile and a hug, and go on about your business. Resist the compulsion to tell them the lesson they're learning. Just let them bear the burden of their own choice, secure in the knowledge that your love toward them has not changed, and that apparently you think they are mature enough to handle the consequences without holding your hand. It will have much more power to communicate reality than an I-told-you-so.

REWARDS

I don't think I need to point out that parenting is not the easiest job available. But at the same time, what other calling carries with it such great potential, such great influence? The next time you're tempted to short-circuit the law of sowing and reaping, or you see yourself making all the decisions or trying to control your teenager's every move, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the bigger picture. God has given us a high calling indeed: to help our children take their place in the world as confident, responsible, caring, spiritually alive individuals. With His help, we can carry out this trust with intention, compassion, and wisdom.

------------------

Leslie Wyatt and her husband Dave have been married 24 years and have six children whom they have homeschooled for 18 years. Leslie is a freelance writer for children and adults, and her work includes an historical fiction novel for middle graders, Poor Is Just a Starting Place. At home in rural Missouri, the Wyatt family lives in an 1883 farmhouse steeped in history and a never-ending supply of work to be done. Music plays a prominent part of their lives (no pun intended!) and Leslie also enjoys flower gardening, sewing, smocking, and camping.

This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct '07 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more details, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com