I have a son; he’ll be three next month. He’s been the wildest of all. He gets into everything, he doesn’t want to sit still, and he doesn’t usually immediately obey. Yes, some of this is my fault. I have probably not disciplined him enough, but deep down I think there is more. At first I was wondering if he was a troubled child, and what I did; but I don’t believe that’s it. He’s loving and sweet and laughs.
I reached a point last month, when we started school, that I thought I would break. I called a pre-school (one that deep down I knew we didn’t have money for). I called an online school, thinking perhaps for my oldest, which could free me up to be with this child. I called the public school wanting to ask about their curriculum and what kind of knowledge (not skills) the kids gain (thankfully they didn’t answer). I wasn’t sure what the solution was, but I know this child will require more of me.
In our flesh we want to pacify children. We want them to conform, to make things easy for us. We could turn on the TV for hours in order to keep them occupied. We could throw some new toy in front of them hoping that it will occupy them. We can tell them to sit and color or look at a book. We could create toddler “busy” bins. All of this is because we need them to be still, because we have other things to do.
This morning I woke up at 3:17 and couldn’t fall back asleep; by 3:45 I just got out of bed. My mind and my heart were racing. Currently we are staying at our parents, due to a mold issue. The last three days have also been rainy, so yes my almost three-year old has gotten into a lot of stuff. Every drawer has been open, he’s touched many things he shouldn’t; every nook and cranny has been explored. We find this to be a nuisance. I went to bed with a prayer and thought, “God, tomorrow I am going to spend the morning praying. I need divine wisdom on what to ‘do’ with this child. Thank you God that you are the giver of wisdom and you desire to give wisdom to all who ask.” This is the prayer that caused me to wake up with a full mind and heart.
Currently I am reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. I don’t believe the timing is a coincidence. I have seen this book on many, many, many recommended reading lists in regards to child rearing, education, and simple living; I highly recommend it! His book, so far ( I am only about a third of the way in), stresses the importance and benefits of nature and free play in nature. It’s funny, because before I even started reading this book, I was saying that my almost three-year old was ok when he was outside, and that we just needed to get outside.
Children need to be outside, not just outside, but they need space to explore and have hours of free play. A child picking up bugs, throwing rocks, jumping in puddles, digging in sand, climbing trees; this is natural real play for a child. Charrlotte Mason wrote, ““…my object is to show that the chief function of the child–his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life–is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses…” This is what my child wants to do, and if he’s not outside, he’ll do it inside. Charlotte Mason also thought that what was best for children under 6 was to spend 4-6 hours in the open air daily. Apart from regular meals, where they should learn to sit (this area I have failed in for this child and am working on), they should be outside.
This morning what was on my heart, is that perhaps what I want out my almost three-year old to do, to play with toys, color, look at a book, are actually unnatural things. God has given children an innate sense of curiosity. They want to know all they can first hand. My son loves bringing me bugs, chasing animals, finding big sticks, splashing in puddles. Just last night, he was trying to bring live fish in the house. We often want kids to stop this play, it is messy or inconvenient or we don’t have time to get out with them, but this play is best.
Almost all great scientists and people who made great discoveries didn’t get this from books, they got this from first hand experiences with nature. Many great artists spent hours in nature and would paint the beauty of the world around them. Beatrix Potter would boil live animals, dissect them, and she wrote our family’s favorite children’s book. My husband has been reading a trilogy on Teddy Roosevelt, an extraordinary man, much of his childhood was spent in nature in direct contact with real things; he would do his own taxidermy. We were created to be in touch with God’s creation and have free rein to explore it. For God said in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Little people are trying to figure out how to do this very thing.
What does scripture have to say about child rearing? I truly believe all truth is God’s truth, and any thing that holds true said by Richard Louv or Charlotte Mason is wisdom to be applied, but my ultimate authority is scripture. So I as I pondered these things, I asked, God, what does your word say?
- Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
- Ephesians 6:& 4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
- Colossians 3:20-21 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
- Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”
- Matthew 18:1-6 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a little child to stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
My duty as a Christian parent is to train my child in the way they should go, the way of loving the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and loving their neighbor as their self. To bring them up in the fear and instruction of the Lord, that they may be his disciple. To train and correct them, but not exasperate them or provoke them to anger and to not put a stumbling block in front of them.
This child of mine, must learn to obey, but I also must be careful to not exasperate and not put stumbling blocks in front of him. If I know what is absolutely best for my child is to be hours outdoors, but then with hold him from that, then I am putting a stumbling block in front of him and most likely causing him to get into undue trouble. Also, what am I disciplining for? I must always discipline when it comes to an issue of not loving God or their neighbor, but is it natural to constantly discipline for a child’s God-given curiosity.
What pangs do I take to ensure that quiet growing time for my child and hours outdoors? I am currently home educating other children, but I still could find at least three hours a day to get outside with them. Also at our home we have a fenced in back yard. I can also welcome the bugs and messy exploration. The sacrifice of getting out with my children may be elaborate meals and housework, but with food and clothing we shall be content, so if they have food to eat and clothes to wear it is worth it.
Charlotte Mason says, “Let children alone… the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.” Our rules for our children should be in as much as they secure freedom for them. Children are meant to play freely, explore, and discover, there are rails that need to be laid to make this happen. May our commands be important ones so they are heard. A constant “stop, don’t touch, sit down”, will soon go ignored and unheard. We must also take pangs to ensure what is natural and best for the children. Most importantly we must remember our supreme purpose of child training, that our children would become disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ, that they may love him and as an outflowing of that love, love those around him.
“O Lord my God, I am at your mercy for divine wisdom in training my children. You have given them their unique personalities and have a purpose for each of their lives. May I not squelch the person you have made them. Use my children for your glory and your purpose. May your will be done in their lives.”