Last summer some friends from the neighborhood came over to play with my girls. They played outside for awhile before coming in to get out of the heat. Upon walking into the house, our guests spotted the xBox and asked to play. I told them no and suggested Legos instead. Walking away, I heard the nine-year-old mutter to my daughter, “My mom is nicer than your mom.”
My son and his friends were talking around the lunch table their eighth-grade year, and one friend bemoaned, “My mom just started this new thing called ‘no phones after dinner.’” My son shot back, “Yeah, well, my mom has this thing called ‘no phones…’”
Is it bad that in both cases, I was secretly pleased?
Being a parent means doing what is best for your child, whether he or she sees it that way or not. I’m sure my kids wouldn’t argue if I allowed them to play video games or watch movies all weekend long, but is that in their best interests? Not by a long shot. So I limit their screen time and make them play outside or use their imaginations inside instead. Do they thank me for this thoughtfulness on my part? Um, no. My middle schooler often complains that his friends at school have unlimited time on screens and that he gets far less screen time than other kids his age. He’s probably right. And I’m fine with that. I don’t mind being the “mean mom.” As I often tell my children, “I care more about the adult you will be than about the kid you are right now.”
Put another way, I care more about their character than about their comfort.
This philosophy is why I take their Halloween candy and hide it in my room, doling it out slowly over the course of the next month, rather than allowing them to gorge themselves on it in the first three days. It’s why I make them do chores around the house. It’s why I don’t allow them unlimited screen time. I am the adult and can see the bigger picture, even when my kids don’t understand my reasoning.
None of this is profound. Many parents feel the same way and act accordingly. We get that adults know what’s best for their children and don’t want them to grow up to be spoiled or entitled. We understand why parents need to enforce limits and boundaries and teach their kids responsibility. But then all too often we act surprised when God, our Heavenly Father, treats us the same way. We balk at the idea of God allowing discomfort or suffering in our lives, yet He allows this discipline (aka, training) for our good.
Hebrews 12:7-11 tells us, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
I admit, I’m the first in line to complain to God when things aren’t going the way I want them to. I’m the first to whine that life isn’t fair, or to point out other people who seem to be doing “better” in life or are happier than I am. But how does that make me any different from my kids? The more they whine, the less likely I am to give in. The more I think they’re becoming entitled, the more I’ll fight to counteract that. Why should we, as God’s children, expect different treatment from Him?
We raise our children with the end goal of them becoming responsible, respectable adults. God’s goal is even higher than that. He cares about our eternal welfare and that of those around us. I can look back now on some of the most painful and difficult times of my life and see how God grew me through the process. I can see ways He used those times to reach out to others around me. He knew, through His ultimate wisdom, that those times of suffering were the best thing for me, even though I complained about it every step of the way.
Whatever you face right now, rest assured that God has your best interests in mind. If you’re content in your life right now, thank Him! But if you’re struggling or suffering, commend your concerns to God and trust that, as your Heavenly Father, He knows what He’s doing. Your Father really does know best.