Tough Love

That’s a fairly short and simple verse as Bible verses go (I’m reading the drudgery of sin and guilt offerings in my Bible in a year plan), but it is also a very loaded and important verse. The first question I have is what does “train” mean and how do you do that? Call me naive, but I think the key to raising any child is love. Now, I know what you are thinking…love. It’s takes more than that. Yes, it takes the hardest kind of love (especially if you are raising two strong-willed monkeys…wonder where they got that from?). It requires not just cuddly, hugging love, but tough love.

If you are a parent, you know this phrase. You live this phrase. It’s how we teach the hard lessons of responsibility and accountability. And it’s what a child needs. We set boundaries; they test them; and we must hold them. If we succeed more than we fail, and we do fail, they will learn. What does it look like you ask? It’s not giving them that cookie for desert because they didn’t eat the healthy food still sitting on their plate. It’s rewarding one child while punishing another, because one made the choice to listen and clean up their toys and the other didn’t. It’s requiring them to complete chores to earn time on the iPhone or PS3. It’s limiting the amount of tv they watch each day, so they have time to “read” books. It’s putting them to bed when they don’t want to go. It’s sending them to their room when they are disrespectful to guests. It’s about having a lot of conversations in public bathrooms, where I say, “Did I yell at you? Have I given you a spanking? Then calm down and tell me why you just did that.” It’s about keeping your cool though they push and push. It’s also hearing how you are the worst parent ever, how they don’t love you anymore, and how they wish you weren’t their mommy or daddy. It’s hard! And it takes a lot of old, slow adult energy to keep up with all the boundary-testing kid energy. But that’s what we signed up for right? I’m sure that was in all those massive stacks of paper we signed before we left the hospital. It’s what we expect with our children. It’s what God tells us we must do, train them in the way they should go.

It however is not what we expect in adults. We expect, for the most part, for adults to be responsible and accountable for their actions. We expect them to operate within societal boundaries and to consider others as well as themselves. And we, well at least I, don’t usually deal with with adults who haven’t learned those important character traits. It’s obvious they didn’t learn these crucial lessons when they were children, but how should we deal with them? May I suggest in the exact same way.  Tough love.

Where is this coming from? Well, we have a family member who constantly makes poor financial decisions and then asks other family members to bail them out. The excuses abound, but the reality is always the same…they refuse to live within their means. Coach and I decided long ago that we will not give cash as we can’t guarantee that it will be spent in a responsible manner. (We have repeatedly seen money given for a particular purpose spent on unnecessary items or money promised as a loan never repaid.) We will only gift items if we are able, meaning our family’s financial obligations are met. Today we received another similar email asking each family member to contribute a set sum of money each month to help cover the disparity between their income and expenses. Quite bold when you think about it. Our family is facing an expensive surgery on Friday and is about to have significant obligations to pay those bills. And we, being responsible and accountable, are eliminating some luxuries from our lives to help with that. Another family that received the request doesn’t even have basic cable so they can live within their means, while the family member requesting money has satellite with premium channels. Poor decisions. Our response and the response of many of the others: tough love.

There is no guarantee they will learn these lessons now, but as parents, Coach and I are setting a good example for our children by being responsible with our resources and accountable for our actions. And that is just another opportunity to teach our little monkeys about our love for them and the need for tough love for those who avoid responsibility and accountability.

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I invite your thoughts and comments on the challenging issue of family and money.

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