The hands on the wall clock register the hour in the midst of my mind’s travels. Rrrriiiiinnnng! As though electricity jolted throughout my body, my gaze snaps to attention and finally rests on the ringing monitor. The computer screen lit up with my new friend’s smiling face. I almost forgot about our daily conference call!
“Hey, Becky, how’s it going?”
“Good. I do have some questions, though.”
A month earlier, our family took an all-expense paid trip to Florida to be a part of a federally funded research project. Seventeen families who had a child between the ages of two and six with an autism diagnosis were chosen for the research. After a week of training with a team of specialists in Florida, we flew home to practice what we learned. A camera was installed in our living room, and everyday for the next year, we set up conference calls with various team members. We talked about Noah’s behaviors and quirks, as they watched our two-year-old walk around the living room, feeling the walls as he tracked the familiar circuit. The team was there to instruct, teach, and hold our hands through each day’s difficulties.
Today’s no different.
“Drew, I’m so afraid I’m going to make a mistake with Noah. How do I discipline him?”
“First, know that you can’t mess him up more than he already is…” Wow. So true –on so many levels! So freeing!
“Second, regarding discipline, use what motivates him…” Drew’s voice continues the instructions for correcting behavior, but my mind trails off.
Soon, we’re saying our good-byes, and the image of his face disappears from the screen. A little prayer is sent heavenward, asking for guidance. “Father, how do I discipline a child who can’t tell me what he wants, let alone understand what I am asking him? He screams and bangs on the stove for hours, but he’s not disobeying. When his marbles roll left instead of right on his Marble Run, his ear-piercing shrieks find and terrorize every last frayed nerve in my body, but he doesn’t know that his mom can help him.”
Days later, as I watch my son flapping his arms and jumping in sheer pleasure as he watches the rotations of the ceiling fan, a thought pushes it’s way to the center of my over crowded mind. I hate some of his behaviors, but they’re not wrong where he is concerned. He needs help to understand what is right. Immediately another thought rallied its way to trail the first. Am I so different? “Lord, what is it You see in me to love and correct?“
The answer came like the “tick” that precedes “tock”. “I love and discipline your heart. Your mind learns. Your behavior will follow.”
“Then how do I know what to discipline when his behavior makes no sense and I can’t see his heart?”
In answer to this inquiry, scenes from my past flashed back to a time when I was an overseer and caretaker for several gardens:
“How do I know which plants are weeds?” I asked my boss.
With a smile on his face, he allowed wisdom and experience to speak. “Consider all the plants you don’t want in the garden to be ‘weeds’.”
There’s a saying that goes, “The tongue doesn’t slip because it’s wet, it slips because it’s attached to the heart.” Behavior is a reflection of our thoughts and desires. If I want to correct the behavior, I must address the heart.
“Lord, help me parent my sons the way You parent me.”