Whoever came up with the phrase “the terrible twos” had it all wrong. It should be “the terrible threes.” CC was a pretty compliant and cooperative two year old. Of course he would throw an occasional temper tantrum here and there, usually if he was over tired or over hungry. Now it’s a different story. He’s only been 3 for two months and already I wish I could ship him off to the grandparents for a year. It’s amazing how strong a will a person his size can have. He seems to challenge me on a daily basis now and boy can he scream if he doesn’t get his way. Between that and the incessant “whys,” I don’t know if I can survive this year without losing my mind.
During one of his “episodes,” while the two of us were engaged in a heated shouting match, the Lord reminded me of the verse in Ephesians 6:4: “And fathers [and mothers], do not provoke your children to anger, but nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.” I had always thought Paul had it all backwards when he wrote this verse. Surely it’s the other way around; shouldn’t he be exhorting the children not to provoke their parents to anger? I read the footnote for this verse in my study Bible and it really hit a chord in me – “Provoking children to anger damages them by stirring up their flesh. Not to provoke his children to anger requires that a father deal with his anger by leaving it on the cross. In this way he is able to render suitable discipline to his children.” (RcV Eph. 6:4 footnote 1)
That verse was like a laser light beam into my being and I had to confess before the Lord that yes, many times I do provoke CC to anger. Yes he’s unreasonable, stubborn, and at times just downright annoying, but as I often forget, he’s also only three years old. Like the footnote says, when I respond to his tantrums with my own anger, all it does is stir up his flesh and make things a lot worse than they need to be. In the heat of the moment I forget that he’s three and I’m not; I’m regenerated and he’s not; I have the option of turning to the Lord and living by another life and he doesn’t (yet). How wonderful would it be for him to grow up seeing his mother (from whom no doubt he has probably inherited his terrible temper) living not by her own life, but by the saving life of God? Wouldn’t that be an incentive for him to want to receive that same life when he’s old enough and ready?
So now I’m learning to do just that – not live by my own life. Sometimes that means instead of giving CC a timeout, I have to give myself a timeout. I’ve learned that it’s a lot more effective for me to go to my room and call on the Lord for a minute than to try to argue, reason or negotiate with him in the midst of my anger. That doesn’t mean that I no longer discipline him, but now I try to be more careful about not doing it out of anger and frustration. I think that has made a noticeable difference in his behavior in the last few weeks. CC’s so much more cooperative when I cooperate with the Lord within me. When I am enjoying the Lord, both of us are much happier. Maybe that’s the only way either of us will survive this year.