MY wife and I were dismayed when our three-year-old met our every request for cooperation with refusal. Our attempts to inspire obedience were failing.
What do you do when your child won't cooperate? Discord and unhappiness do not have to be the outcome of efforts to raise children properly. There is a peaceful way for misunderstandings to be cleared up and conflict resolved. When we'd faced other child-rearing problems, we found that patient, humble listening to God brought the best--and quickest--results. So we decided to seek His help in healing this unhappy situation, as well.
I prayed, pondering the Biblical statement in Proverbs ``Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it'' (22:6). We were certainly trying to do this with our daughter, but I wondered how we could ever succeed if she wouldn't pay attention to anything we said. It occurred to me that maybe I needed a more spiritual understanding of what it means to ``train up a child.''
It's certainly important for parents and children to respect each other. But it's even more important that each heed and acknowledge the wisdom and leadings of our one common Parent--our heavenly Father-Mother God. The most effective and meaningful training we could provide was to teach our daughter how to find and follow God's ever-present guidance on her own. And there was no better way to accomplish this than through our own example of turning to God and faithfully listening to--and acting on--His guidance.
As the offspring of God, man is governed by God. The good influence God has on man can never be avoided or overruled. I saw that we could trust God, divine Love, to guide and govern the thoughts of all family members. The problem, then, was not that our daughter didn't have a desire to think and act rightly. We had failed to appreciate fully her God-given inclination to be responsive and obedient to the proper sense of order and care that had been coming from her divine Parent all along. The focus of our attention and prayer needed to be more on learning how God was righteously governing His children--which included me and my wife-- and less on how to influence personally the physical behavior of our daughter.
It was right and necessary for us to guide our daughter in very direct ways as to appropriate behavior and etiquette. As we prayed, though, our attitude and methods of doing this became much more graceful. It was natural for us to expect favorable results. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``The power of the human will should be exercised only in subordination to Truth; else it will misguide the judgment and free the lower propensities. It is the province of spiritual sense to govern man'' (p. 206). And Christ Jesus' love of children shows us that children have as much spiritual sense as anyone. And they are as capable of hearing right ideas from God as their parents are!
The turbulent period with our daughter ended soon after we began earnestly praying to see her as already under God's harmonious control. There were still occasional disagreements to be worked out. But knowing that we all need to obey God's will has been so helpful in healing sore points before they erupt into contentious behavior and prolonged debate. We've learned that working together as one is the rule rather than the exception when God is acknowledged as the head of our household.