Sunday, February 26, 2012

Being Good

Bean isn't a "good kid" and I'm not embarrassed anymore to acknowledge it.

Really, there's no confession needed because it's pretty obvious. Anyone who's been around him for even a short period of time, especially in a position of either authority (teacher, older relative, babysitter) or equals (friends, classmates, peers) has likely dealt first-hand with some of his challenges of impulsivity, attention-seeking, stubbornness and/or listening.

On multiple occasions, in multiple settings, by multiple children telling me about Bean's wrong behavior, it has become clear to me that they identify him as "the bad kid." About year ago I began to wonder if his friends at school might have been giving him that impression too (they certainly were giving me that impression). My hunch was confirmed a couple weeks ago when he told me that when he was in school he was "a bad kid," but now he's not anymore.

Bo and I rarely use "good" or "bad" to describe anything, definitely not our children. First off, those words are pretty vague and you always need additional words to describe what you really think anyway. When we discipline, we instead try to use different qualifiers to describe the choices, words, and actions of our children, not our children themselves, and then we relate it to the associated consequences. In addition, we try to express our optimism that anyone can make their wrongs right and they can start making more right choices more often (we especially do this when they are talking about "bad guys"). Lastly, if you know Bean, you also now how important it is that we remind him that it is not his responsibility to correct the behaviors of others, but just set the best example he can be.

Thankfully we are past the point where Bean believes the lie that's he's a bad kid. He came to this conclusion on his own too. I hadn't even realized the extent to which he believed it or else I might have tried more intentionally to convince him otherwise (though I doubt it would have made a difference). Right now I'm wresting with how important it is for me to help him be a "good kid" and if that should even be a goal at all.

I'm thinking it's not.

Certainly obedience in children is convenient for adults, especially when dealing with groups of children, like in a school setting. But, as Daron Quinlan said, "Disobedience is not an issue if obedience is not the goal." Think of any influential person in history. Where they obedient? None of the historical figures we've learned about recently in our homeschool were obedient. Galileo? Nope. He was a heretic, remember? Martin Luther King, Jr.? Not him either. He lead thousands in civil DISOBEDIENCE.

As a Christian, I do, however, want my children to be obedient to God's will.

Bean heart is probably more genuinely aligned w God's will than mine is. He more desperately seeks after God by reading the Bible to learn more about God. I don't ask him to read the Bible; he does it on his own and for long stretches of time too. Earlier this week when he was going to his grandparents' house for the night I reminded him to pack books to read. He packed his Bible among a handful other books. I didn't even know until we got there and I unpacked. He has a passion for prayer and for others. He will stop whatever he is doing to pray if he hears someone is ill or injured. Just this morning in the van he wanted to lead us in prayer when I told the kids that two of our friends were in a terrible accident earlier. He has a sense of social justice and generosity that I wish I had. He has two banks at home one for him and one for Heifer. His bank is empty, but the one for Heifer has every cent he's earned since the beginning of the year. "How can I think about buying something for myself when some people don't even have food?" he said yesterday.

All of this and his peers think he is a bad kid, yet yesterday a friend told me I was "good" because I had planned to do something charitable. Planned. I hadn't even gotten the courage to actually follow though on it. I have been dragging my feet about it, being completely disobedient to God's clear calling because of fear of how it would inconvenience me.

What Bean does in private is his of his own honest heart. A lot of what he does in public is to get attention. Isn't that backwards for most adults? We do "good" publicly to make it look like we are good people even if are intentions aren't pure. I know I can be guilty of that.

So as a parent of a child who Bean has probably hurt, or a children's ministry teacher of his who he's likely ignored, please forgive him. Please be patient with us as I try to teach him proper social behaviors. But also know that I'm not going to demand automatic obedience from him. Charlotte Mason reminds us, "Obedience is valuable only insofar as it helps the child towards making himself do that which he knows he ought to do. Every effort of obedience which does not give him a sense of conquest over his own inclinations, helps enslave him." From what I can tell, Bean has a natural obedience thing budding with God privately. I'm going to use that as a foundation to help him have better real life interactions with others. It's going to take longer, but I'm hopeful that it will have more long-term positive effects than me trying to teach him to just be a "good kid."

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, I'm so glad you wrote it--and shared it. I think a bit differently about Bean now, and it makes me like him even more (if that was possible). He's a lively, intelligent, caring guy with a very strong sense of self and purpose. Perhaps in structured settings that is a challenge, but I believe you have the way to guide him without dissuading him from who he really is.