“Do you really believe that?” an acquaintance asked me after I stated that obedience was the most important principle in raising children. “I have a totally different opinion,” he said. “I would prefer that my children were not easily influenced. If they have a mind of their own, they will become people of character who know what they want and will go through life with confidence.” – “People of character!” I thought, “but hopefully you never regret raising these people of character.” However, I did not comment because I sensed that my words would not be accepted.
Twelve years later, I visited the home of this man again. Since then, he had married and now had a ten-year old boy – the aggravation of his parents! My friend invited me for a walk on which the whole family was supposed to go. After about a half an hour, we were ready to leave. “Where is Leon?” “Well,” his mother said, “he does not want to come along. I have tried everything to get him to come along, but nothing seems to work.”
Was his father overjoyed about the character strength of his oldest child?. “Where is that rascal?” – “In his room.” Red with fury, the father quickly went to deal with his strong-willed son, and by the sounds of it, their conversation was anything but pleasant.
Shaking with rage, the father came into the room. “No matter what I say to him, he always talks back. It’s as if he is trying to kill me. He must come along, but it won’t be an enjoyable walk anymore.”
After a few years, I once again came into the home of my old friend. “Where is your Leon?” “Well, we couldn’t let him stay in our home. He is in N. attending the high school. His obstinate attitude was a continual stress for us. I do not know what will happen with him. Either he will damage his hard head or he must go through the school of hard knocks until he rids himself of his horns.” I had to involuntarily think of the people of character that the friend had wanted his children to become.
“Shake hands with the teacher, sweetie!” With these words, the farmer’s wife dragged her youngest son towards Teacher Mueller, who had come to speak with her husband. The boy planted his small feet firmly with all his might and crossed his arms behind his back. “Now, are you not going to shake hands with the teacher?” “I do not want to.”
“Well, now you see how it is, Teacher. If he does not want to, he will not do it. He is a smart boy. You should see what he already knows! Paul, repeat for the Teacher the poem ‘I am small!’” “I do not want to.” “See, Teacher,” said the farmer’s wife laughingly, “He understands everything but he is stubborn so it is best to let him be. In his time he will come around. You are my good boy, Paul! Now you may go and Dorothy will give you some snacks!”
“But Mrs. Huber,” asked the teacher, “how can you tolerate such obstinacy! What do you think will become of this situation if you do not require that this child obey you? Now you can still bend the little tree, but what will happen once he is grown up?” “Oh, that will change then!”
A number of years had passed when the farmer’s wife came to the pastor. She looked very disturbed. “Oh Pastor, I can no longer manage. Ever since my husband died, Paul treats me as if I no longer have anything to say to him. He operates the farm as if he is the person in charge and I am nothing. What grief he has caused me only God knows. So far I have tolerated all these goings-on, even though it hurts. But this morning, he came and made a fist before my face and threatened me saying, ‘I will beat you until you are crooked and lame you old…!’ I can no longer tolerate this! Is that not a horrible way to treat an old mother, who has done everything for you and never denied a wish, even when your father was mad?”
“Well, that is exactly the problem, Mrs. Huber,” the pastor responded. “It is definitely outrageous how your son is treating you, but ask yourself if this is not a result of how you ignored his unacceptable behavior in the past. You did not raise him in his younger years to obey you, and you are now guilty of how he is living. You do not have to be surprised that he does not know how to obey. I will speak with him, but I fear nothing will help now.”
“What is supposed to happen now? All this stress will probably result in my death.” “May God protect you from that,” said the pastor. “There is still one remedy, and I will tell you what that is. Go into your room, kneel, and beg God, ‘Where I made mistakes, forgive me, my God, because of your Son’s death on the cross!’ Do this not only once but each day. When you speak often with God about your son, you can be assured that God can still break the hard head of your son, which you missed doing in his youth. However, then you must also acknowledge, wherever the opportunity presents itself, ‘Fathers, mothers, remember my example and raise your children to be obedient!’”
Possibly one reader or another may say: “Remember mine also!”