Tag Archives: love

Love and Carrots

I recently ran across a NY Times article from 2009 that I first read in grad school. It’s titled When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ (it’s still available online if you want to read the whole thing). I’ve got two kiddos on the way, so I’m as keen as ever to learn vicariously and soak up parenting advice now before I’m too tired and overwhelmed to understand it. A quick re-read gave me not only food for thought regarding the value and risks of using attention, encouragement, and isolation as child-rearing tactics, but also a reminder of why God’s love is so much better than an earthly parent’s.

Here’s an excerpt:

… The talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.

As a parent-to-be, and (as much as I hate comparing kids to animals) a pet-owner, I can relate to this kind of thinking. It’s pretty simple, and seems to make sense. Reward good behavior so the child will repeat it. Punish or ignore bad behavior so it won’t be repeated. Except it doesn’t actually work that way at all. Continue reading

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I Wish I Was More Like My Dog (and I’m Glad God Isn’t At All Like Me)

Yesterday April got home from work to find that we’d absentmindedly left our dog Samson inside all day. (I thought she was going to let him out, she thought I was, yadda yadda yadda.) She also found a delightfully odorous present that he’d left on the living room rug.

The great thing about Samson – and all dogs, really – is that they don’t hold grudges. Not against people, and not even against themselves. Sam’s a great dog, well-behaved and obedient, and he’d never make a mess in the house unless he had no other option (which he didn’t). He was bothered by what he’d done: he paced around and was hesitant around us for awhile. But by last night, all was forgotten. He was his old self again, nuzzling us for attention while we sat on the couch, waiting hopefully in kitchen while we cooked dinner.

I wish I was more like Samson. For me, one of the biggest obstacles to God’s grace is my inability to forgive myself. When I screw up I beat myself up over it for days, weeks, or longer. That does bad things to my relationship with Christ. I start to question how he could love me when I’m so rebellious and selfish and distracted from his love. Then I get caught in a self-destructive loop of feeling bad about what I’ve done, losing faith in God’s grace, screwing up more because “I might as well, I’m a lost cause”, and then feeling bad all over again. I’ve said it before: I think loving yourself is among the biggest steps you can take toward loving and being loved by God.

The me-as-Samson metaphor breaks down eventually, as most metaphors do, because in this situation the role of God would be played by me. And I’m nothing like God. I couldn’t help but get a little frustrated by Samson even though I knew it wasn’t his fault. (He didn’t get in trouble, by the way, just to clarify.) And I’ll make some changes to make sure another similar incident doesn’t happen again. God, though, is infinitely patient with us, and he does more than forgive our sins. He forgets them, as if they never happened. He is also steadfast and unchanging. He will treat us with the same grace and love and expectations tomorrow that he did yesterday.

I’m working on loving myself more, so that I can experience God’s love more fully. And among a multitude of other things, I’m thankful that he is a loving father rather than an obedience instructor (or impatient owner). I wish I was more like my dog, but I’m glad God’s nothing like me.

(Yep, I just got a message of grace and self-love out of a story about the dog pooping in the house. I think I’ll just sit back and wait on that book deal now.)


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