Ive been thinking a lot about how it feels when our kids are disobedient to us.
The other day, we allowed Aiza to have a few cookies before bedtime. We told her she could have three. And the normal warm-blooded toddler that she is, she tried to negotiate for it to be four. We firmly said no. And suddenly before we knew it, as soon as cookie number 3 was finished – she slipped cookie 4 into her mouth! And then darted her eyes around to see if we had caught her.
My heart sank. My 4-year old decided to join the dark side. I felt so betrayed. So sad. So disappointed that for one stupid cookie, my daughter was willing to hurt us and go against what we had told her to do. Doesn’t she know that we love her and want to give her the world? Doesn’t she know that we were only limiting her cookie intake because so much junk food isn’t good for a little child and too much sugar before bedtime would make it hard for her to sleep?
The truth is, she didn’t.
And sometimes, even us adults don’t fully understand.
If we don’t understand the logic behind something, we choose to ignore it or not follow it. It didn’t make sense to her that we would say yes for three cookies, but not the fourth. She saw no harm in it – so she ate it.
But the reality is, rules and laws are in place for our own benefit. Some make obvious sense so they are easier to follow. For example, driving laws, standing in cue for checking out at a store, not speaking rudely to your boss so you don’t get fired, etc. But some things don’t always make obvious sense. J-walking is a good example. You’re not supposed to – but if the road is clearly empty – most people will go ahead and break the law. The reason this law is in place though is because a car could come out of a blind spot or suddenly and then you could get hit. But you don’t always think about that part. You see the situation at face value – no cars in sight, no apparent harm, I’d like to get across quickly, so you cross. You disobey.
But there are people, who won’t j-walk. They get it. They get that it’s worth waiting a few extra minutes to ensure your own safety. They understand that a car coming around the corner will not be expecting people to cross at that time – that society functions better when both parties do what they’re supposed to at the right time.
Our children learn the value of obedience from us. From our every day decisions abide by the rules or to break them. As a person of faith, I have thought endlessly about this topic from an Islamic perspective. (And I’m sure you could apply the same principles to your own faith as well).
As Muslims, Allah has asked us to pray a specific kind of prayer 5 times a day at specific given time stretches. For many of us, it is a lifelong struggle to ensure that we are keeping up with these five daily prayers and praying them on time. Sometimes we genuinely get caught up in things and forget to pray, and other times, we consciously neglect it by prioritizing less important things.
God, in His infinite wisdom, has asked us to do something for our own benefit and yet we have no regard whatsoever for the benefits praying has FOR US. No regard whatsoever that prayer gives us an opportunity to refocus ourselves several times a day. That it is our reminder every couple hours to not get too caught up in the glitz and frivolities of life. To remember God, to give thanks to Him, to remember to treat others kindly and mercifully for His sake. To remember that life is short, that building our relationship with God is important – and so is doing things that will please Him. But instead of praying regularly and on time, we often become the toddlers that slip that extra cookie into our mouths.
We are disobedient because we treat prayers as just another thing we have been told to do. We don’t realize the wisdom behind it. We don’t think about it from GOD’s perspective. Just like our toddlers take our requests as just another thing they have been told to do. They don’t think about things from OUR perspective.
If we have trouble trusting in the unseen wisdom of Allah and offering our 5 prayers regularly; then how can we be upset when our own children have trouble seeing the big picture in our requests and not obeying us?
So how do you solve this problem spiritually?
You start by emphasizing love and respect for God, EVEN when you don’t fully understand His commands, through both your words and actions.
Think about how much it hurts your feelings and how disappointed you are when your kids don’t listen to you. Then think about how much you disappoint God when you don’t listen to Him. In other words, if you’re Muslim, you solve this obedience problem by being obedient and loyal to Allah because you love Him. You pray five times a day. You follow the teachings of the Quran. If you’re a Christian, Jew, Hindu, or any other faith – you adhere to and follow the tenets of your faith. You obey and do what it is you are supposed to do as a human being for the love of God.
For example, when someone hurts you, you want to hate them and be hurtful to them forever. But you choose to forgive them for the sake of God. THAT. That is how you set an example for your kids. Your motivation to forgive is not rational, it may not even be necessary nor what you’re inclined to do, but you force yourself to do it out of love and respect for God and how He has asked for you to treat others.
Remember what I said earlier? Our children learn the value of obedience from us. When they see us obeying the commandments of God out of love for Him – they learn to obey us for the same reason.
But what if love and respect isn’t enough? As our kids grow older, they’re going to need rationale too. They’re going to need to know WHY. Why should they be obedient?
Well…. at this point, if you’ve already established a culture of love and respect in your household, they’ll give you the time of day to explain to them the rationale behind your requests. I’m not completely there yet with my little girl squad, but I do hope that through candid conversation, they’ll be able to better understand the limitations I place on them. And if not, I hope that they will honor me out of respect – the same way I have always done for my parents. Karma is a thing right? Cause in theory, it should work in my favor at this point! 🙂
Children will test us our whole lives with rebellious moments. It’ll never be perfect. But in their core, if they learn to be obedient to you – even when they don’t understand why – because they love and respect you, you’ll find that the extra cookie will stop making its way to their mouths most of the time.
And at that point, you may just offer them the entire box out of joy!!! 🙂