|Actions Have Consequences|
Elisabeth Elliot: Children need to be taught that their actions have consequences, don?t they? And if you in some way exempt them from the consequences of their actions, in a sense, you?re denying their personhood.
Lisa Barry: I sometimes wonder why it?s difficult to enforce rules and expectations with children. Maybe it?s because we?re afraid that if we nag them too much or that if we?re too strict, we?ll eventually drive them away from home. But I think what it boils down to most often is time. It takes a lot of time and effort to be consistent in discipline. Sometimes we?d rather take the easy way out and overlook a violation of a household rule rather than enforce it. If you seem to be having difficulty making your children mind, you?ll want to pay close attention to our program today. Elisabeth Elliot welcomes back her friend, Arlita Winston, for another week of talks focused on effective parenting. This is Lisa Barry, inviting you to stay tuned for 15 minutes of perceptive counsel that will offer you peace of mind. That?s Gateway to Joy, coming up next.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That?s what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking today with my friend, Arlita Winston, who is the mother of five children. Arlita?s in-laws worked with my parents in Belgium when my parents were missionaries, so I grew up with Winstons. Arlita happens to be married to the youngest of four brothers. Her husband?s name is Joe. He is a physician. I always welcome the chance to sit at the feet of these two dear friends, because I don?t know any wiser father and mother. For several years now, I?ve been trying to talk both Joe and Arlita into writing books. I know that Arlita has been making some progress toward that, because she has right in front of her a page that she?s written about an incident that took place?was it in China?
Arlita Winston: In Hong Kong.
Elisabeth Elliot: In Hong Kong with her son Brad. You?ve heard the story of Brad tearing up one of his books and being plunked onto a high stool in the middle of kitchen to meditate on his sins. And we?ve talked about some other incidents between Brad and his mother. Tell us this story about Brad in Hong Kong.
Arlita Winston: We were living in Hong Kong at the time, because Joe was helping to set up a new hospital for the medically indigent. This particular day?why don?t I just read you this vignette?
Elisabeth Elliot: If that?s the easiest thing for you to do, you go right ahead.
Arlita Winston: I climbed up the stairs three flights to our flat in Hong Kong, exhilarated and happy after an afternoon out. Ah Ling would have supper ready, and my three children would be glad to see me. How wonderful to have mother?s former cook helping us right now! She spoke only Cantonese, and I English, yet we communicated all we needed to do. ?She had been a gift to us,? I thought as I pushed open the door.
Her face was dark and resentful when she saw me. ?What?s the matter, Ah Ling?? ?Bradley, uh-uh-uh,? kicking her foot with each ?uh.? ?Did you spank his hands very hard?? spanking my own hand as I asked.
She scowled even more darkly and turned away from me, defiantly shaking her head. ?Ah Ling,? I replied firmly, ?Bradley naughty boy here,? and I indicated a two-year-old?s height, ?naughty boy here,? raising my arm to six feet tall.
The following week I again left for an afternoon out to do my errands. I had reminded Ah Ling before leaving, demonstrating exactly what to do should he defy her authority. I also reminded Bradley of the spanking he had received following the last kicking episode. This evening I again climbed up the three flights and was met by a triumphant cook. She flung open the door and I followed her beaming face over to the corner, where sat a small, subdued two-year-old on a chair.
?Ah Ling panked me!? he whimpered. ?Why, that?s wonderful, Bradley! And you will be obedient for Ah Ling next time, won?t you?? Ah Ling never did have trouble again from Brad. How long he had been sitting there, I?ll never know. But she had communicated and the lines had been drawn.
Elisabeth Elliot: So you got the message across both to Ah Ling and to Brad. It certainly is important when someone else is taking care of your children to be sure that they understand the kind of discipline that you expect. That?s why it?s a very important matter to be careful who does take care of your children.
Arlita, you?ve told me that in some ways you are a tough mother. I think of you as the gentlest, most quiet person that I know, I think. It?s very hard for me to imagine you being tough. But you told me that on some occasions, your children have missed the school bus. What happens then?
Arlita Winston: Well, I guess they have to walk. I guess that?s what I mean by being tough. I wanted to hold them accountable and responsible for their behavior. It would have been much easier for me to jump in the car and take them to school, especially when it?s pouring rain. But I knew that it would be easier for them to remember the next time if they went through that miserable experience.
Elisabeth Elliot: Children need to be taught that their actions have consequences, don?t they?
Arlita Winston: Yes.
Elisabeth Elliot: If you in some way exempt them from the consequences of their actions, in a sense you?re denying their personhood. And you?re certainly getting across the message to them that they are not responsible?that Mother will take responsibility or Daddy will take responsibility. Don?t worry about anything. You know, this is what you?re supposed to do, but if you don?t do it, well, don?t worry about it too much, because there will always be Mother or Daddy stepping in to handle it.
Arlita Winston: The trouble is, they?ll be still doing it when they?re six feet tall.
Elisabeth Elliot: Exactly. And you see so many irresponsible teenagers and you hear parents complaining, "My kids are irresponsible." But you don?t start teaching responsibility when they?re fourteen. What about if one of your children left his lunch at home?
Arlita Winston: Well, he would go lunchless. Though I remember one time they were quite pleased with the fact that someone else had offered to share their lunch with them, and so they made sure that I knew that the lesson had not been learned. But I daresay that?
Elisabeth Elliot: It was kind of a way of saying, "So Mommy, your punishment really didn?t work very well, because Susie gave me half of her lunch."
Arlita Winston: And I didn?t answer anything.
Elisabeth Elliot: Well, I can see what you mean by tough, because a lot of people would say, "Oh, that would just be too tough. You couldn?t let your child go without lunch or walk to school in the rain." Well, actually, I walked to school a mile and a half every day, and can you believe I came home for lunch? A mile and a half, four times a day, and we didn?t think anything about it. And in the snow?I can remember walking when the snow was literally up to my hips. I could hardly get one leg out of the snow with my snow pants?big, thick, wool snow pants that we had way back in the dark ages, and those awful galoshes with metal clasps on them that I?m sure you?re too young to have ever worn. Well, Arlita, I just have a whole list of things here that I want to ask you questions about. She?s got so much wisdom. I want to hear the story of Sam?s Christmas gift.
Arlita Winston: That was a wonderful day. It was very exciting, early in the morning, coming down and getting the tray fixed with the tea and the coffee. This was our way we always did at Christmas morning. Before opening the gifts, we would gather around the tree. Joe would read the Christmas story. That particular morning, I watched their faces to see if the Christmas story had become old hat to them or if it was really sinking in. Did they understand what this greatest gift of all was that God had sent and what we were celebrating that morning?
Soon after Joe read the Scriptures, we sang one of Joe?s favorite carols, "O Little One Sweet, O Little One Mild." Father prayed and thanked God, and then we started opening the gifts. Of course, there was much hilarity, much slapping on the back, much elation and even some tears as Father opened up an album that I had made for him of all of his treasures that he had thrown out and I had rescued.
At this particular time, all the gifts were opened now. Then Sam stood in front of the Christmas tree and he was 14. Very ceremoniously, he said, "Well, I didn?t have a Christmas present for you, Mom. I got one for everybody else, but I kind of ran out of money."
Elisabeth Elliot: Bless his heart.
Arlita Winston: The children?I could see them just all shifting and saying, "How would he dare to even say this?" And Sam just held his cool and stood there. A grin just crept across his face. He said, "But I?ve decided that my present to you, Mother, will be a tray of tea brought to you every morning at 6:00 for the whole next year." Well, of course you could have heard a pin drop. We were just stunned with this gift. I thought, "Yes, Lord. They?re beginning to understand what gifts of sacrifice are all about.
Elisabeth Elliot: As the Scripture verse says, "I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing." A wonderful illustration of that, isn?t it, Arlita? Bless his heart. That is a gift of himself.
Arlita Winston: By the way, it actually took place for the next year.
Elisabeth Elliot: He carried it through 365 times. A tray of tea to Mother.
Arlita Winston: 6:00. Sometimes he would climb into the bed with us to get a cup of tea with us.
Elisabeth Elliot: But he had to get himself up at 6:00. Did he have an alarm clock?
Arlita Winston: Oh, yes. Mercy! He had had that since he was a tiny boy.
Elisabeth Elliot: Each of your children has an alarm clock, right? Why did you give them those?
Arlita Winston: One morning I was about to tear my hair, because I couldn?t get them all out at the right time to get the bus. This is when Sarah?it was just Sarah and Joe, first and second grade. I thought, "This has got to stop." That Christmas, we gave them each an alarm clock. We said, "Now you are responsible to get up and come to the breakfast table cheerfully on time."
Elisabeth Elliot: A wonderful idea. It saves all that wheedling and pleading and begging and yelling up the stairs. Thank you so much, Arlita, for being with us again. Arlita Winston, talking about her amazing family.
Lisa Barry: I really enjoy hearing these stories, because I can visualize them so completely. I see so many mothers in the grocery store who could use Arlita?s advice. I just wish I could carry the tapes of messages around and hand them out to people I see. Well, unfortunately, that?s not a socially acceptable thing to do. But maybe there?s someone you know who is having a difficult time as a parent. You may want to consider giving this tape series to them to listen to now.
Right now we?re in the middle of a two-week series that happens to be a part of our Mother?s Day Packet this year. Arlita Winston was Elisabeth?s guest all last week and will be returning for the remainder of this week, too. Both weeks are devoted to positive, effective parenting. You?ll find those in this special offer. You?ll also find the book, GATEWAY TO JOY: REFLECTIONS THAT DRAW US NEARER TO GOD and other helpful readings.