The List

The List

If I asked you to make a list of your own negative behaviors, attitudes, and inclinations, how long would the list be?

We can all say, with Phillipians 1:4, that Christ has not yet completed his sanctifying work in us.

There are two categories on my list:

  1. the negative behaviors, attitudes, and inclinations that I do not like about myself, and
  2. those that I don’t view as a problem, either because I’m not aware of them or because I’ve grown comfortable with them.

Are you with me so far? Do you have these same categories of things on your list?

The other day, I had a realization.  It isn’t a complicated truth, but it’s profound, and if I will remember this truth, it will affect the nature of my approach to disciplining preteens.

My preteen daughter has a tendency to ignore her parents’ instruction.  My wife and I were struggling with this inclination as she was headed off to bed the other night. After she went to her bedroom, we were sharing with each other our thoughts and feelings about our daughter’s behavior. I decided that while my wife took her evening shower, I would talk to Serene about how her disobedience was affecting us.

I called her out of her room and sat with her on the couch. And as I talked with her, she welled up with emotion.  Not because I was hurting her feelings, but because…as it turned out….she has a list, just like mine, that includes the category “behaviors, attitudes, and inclinations about myself that I don’t like!”

Can you see what I saw in that moment?

When kids are very little, like 2 years old, their list of negatives falls almost entirely in the category of things that they don’t view as a problem. But, my 10 year old’s list has become more like mine.

And so my approach – my discipline technique – needs to adjust as well.

How would I counsel a peer who is struggling with his eating habits, or his tendency to not trust people, or his short temper? Struggling, not because he isn’t aware of the problem, but because he isn’t perfect yet, and because he doesn’t like the things about himself that aren’t.

I’d counsel him much differently than a 2 year old who’s unaware that his behavior is even a problem.

See, preteens are moving toward adulthood…the place where most of us have found ways of minimizing the negative affects of our imperfections while making some amount of effort to be transformed into the kind of Godly person who is befitting the name Christian.

Our role as a disciplinarian is different during these preteen years than it is with a younger child. The struggle is different for a 10 year old.  Their more similar to the struggle that you and I face, to strike a balance between “Be Holy as I am Holy,” and “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So this Sunday, when that 5th grade boy disrupts class again, I am going to look at it with new eyes…perhaps this boy is more like me than I thought…perhaps he, too, is struggling to find the right way to deal with his list.

Does that make sense? Because I feel like I’m trying to communicate an “Inside Out” sized truth without the benefit of Pixar’s artistic genius.

How would you express the truth that I’m learning?