Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Would You Have Done???

OK, so tonight - for the first time in his life - Matthew threatened to run away. I wasn't sure if I should try to stop him, or just let him go. And I wonder, what would you have done?

Here's the story:
Matthew (age 7) is notorious for not helping get the table set when it's dinner time. He only has a few basic responsibilities but somehow he manages to shirk them off on someone else. I am of the opinion that if you are going to partake in the eating of the meal, you are also going to partake in the setting of the table. Matthew, however, seems to think he should get the benefit without the effort.
Tonight I asked him several times to work on the table. (Elizabeth and Joshua were already doing their part.) About the fourth or fifth time I "asked" Matthew to get to work I raised my voice and he retorted, "You don't need to yell at me to get me to set the table. Geesh!"
I wanted to come back with, "Well, asking nicely didn't work. What do I need to do?" But instead I just watched him to see if he would help with the few remaining things left to do.
He didn't.
So I sent him to his room.
He went, but it was with a lot of fussing.
While he was there I considered what to do next. I had initially thought I was going to make him stay in his room while the rest of us ate, and then let him come out to eat by himself. I figured if he wasn't going to participate in helping the family, tonight he wasn't going to participate in enjoying the family, either. However, something came over me and I decided I would just have a brief talk with him and then invite him out to eat with us.

Until I went to his room to have that brief talk.

I had barely gotten two words out of my mouth when Matthew shouted, "I know!" and made it very clear he was not listening to me. I said, "Oh, really? You know? What was I going to say?"
Of course, he didn't know.
I told him I was going to say he could come out and have dinner with us. But since he just treated me so rudely and with disrespect, now I decided he would need to stay in his room and could have dinner when the rest of us were finished. Ooooo, he did not like that decision!
But I walked out of his room to let him yell and fuss by himself.
Over the course of the next five or six minutes Matthew yelled that it wasn't fair for me to not let him eat. He accused me of not loving him. A couple of times he said I hated him. Were it not for Elizabeth and Joshua saying, "It's OK, Mom," I probably would have been in tears. (Brian wasn't home for dinner tonight...) Matthew had a few other unkind words to say and ended with a threat that he was going to leave.
By this time I was feeling more calm, in spite of the unrest coming from across the house, and I took his threat in stride. I knew he was angry with me, and in his anger he was saying a bunch of things which were not true, and which he didn't really mean. I knew Matthew was not thinking rationally (as rationally as a seven-year-old can think) and would eventually see things clearly. I also recalled that there were a few times in my childhood when I threatened to run away from my mom.
So I had the peace of mind to listen to Matthew's threat, knowing it was empty. But I sat and wondered, Do I let him go outside? Where will he go? Will he simply walk down the street? Will he take two steps outside and turn right around to come back in because it is soooo cold out there? Do I insist he bundle up before he runs away? What should I do?
As I sat at the dinner table, I prayed about what to do and fortunately, I never had to make that decision. (Hmmmm, a connection? I think so!) Before Matthew made his move, a wave of reason came over him. He came out to the kicthen and calmly asked me if he could have dinner. I went over to him and we talked about what had just transpired, then I invited him to the table and he ate. (And fast. That little guy was hungry!)
After dinner, Matthew cleared the entire table - by himself - and without a fuss. Hmmm, lesson learned? I sure hope so!!!

But I'm still curious. What would you have done regarding the run away situation?

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Erin said...

The first (of two that I can remember) time I "ran" away from my dad's "dictatorship" I was in jr. high and I packed all of my things into a laundry basket that was too big for me to carry and hid in the basement for five hours until my legs got cramped from squating behind the storage shelves and it didn't seem like any one missed me anyways. Then I apologized and swore I would never do it again!
Even if he did go outside, he wouldn't have been gone for long. Especially with the temps here in MI.

Jenileigh said...

I would like to thank-you for being so honest and detailed. Sometimes its days like these that keep me from blogging!

I don't honestly know what I would have done. You however handled the situation beautifully. You took time out to pray, right then...instead of losing it and praying and repenting later. Good job Karen!

annie said...

I think I would have handled it pretty much like you did! Emelia is my strong minded one. She turns 10 in March. I have been thinking about some issues with her the last few days and while I feel as if I am in a constant state of prayer one thing this post screamed at me was I have not prayed about Emelia. I didn't see it as a God thing, but isn't everything a God thing?

my wonderful men... said...

My son has never said that (I'm running away)to me so that's a tough one.

I think the way you handled it was great. I don't think I could let my son walk out of the house.

If he would have tried to leave the house, in a calm manner I would have said - Honey, now I just want you to know before you go there are somethings you should know.... and start talking about how hard it's going to be in the real world, getting a job, making money, you'll need lots and lots of money, no more toys and trips to blah, blah, blah. He'll be so tired of listening to you talk he'll probably fall asleep or decide it's not worth running away.

Kids are something else, I look back at when my son was younger and laugh now at some of his misbehaviors.

L the D said...

Wow . . . my little one's only four, so the running away threat hasn't come up yet, but I remember the one time that I tried to run away. I was about Matthew's age, and packed a bag and ran out the side door. My mom just let me go, and I barely made it to the end of the driveway before I turned around and went back inside. She asked me if I wanted help unpacking, and I said yes . . . which is when she discovered that I packed four shirts and NO PANTS. This is about the same time I got the "how to pack a suitcase" lesson, and I've been an insatiable traveler ever since :-)

kreed said...

Why is parenting so hard - aaargh! When that day and the running away threat comes, I know I will panic. I hope I have the wisdom to handle it as well as you did!

This did remind me of a lady I knew at one point who had kids that constantly threatened to run away. She typed up notes along the lines of "I have run away - don't look for me- I would rather live on the streets with no warm clothes or meals or anyone to love me" and put them on their pillows. I guess they never signed them and ran away! Maybe not the best approach, but the story did make me chuckle when I thought about how indignantly I would have responded to a note like that when I was a kid!

luvmy4sons said...

There are some wonderful helps at I love their Instruction for Righteousness. Very helpful to come up with Bible verses and creative ways of instructing and disciplining our children when your brain is just too tired to think about it. Lots of wonderful charts too for the children to see and know if I do this then this will happen. Helps you stay consistent. For me it is always about teaching and instructing what God says about how he is to behave. Which is to obey you right away all the way and in a happy way. When he does not do this there will be pain as the Bible tells us disobedience brings pain. I find calm, firm instruction using scripture to be very helpful in diffusing situations. I would have simply explained to him that there was no option in obedience and if he chooses to disobey there are consequences. I also never tolerated my children showing disrespet to me through screaming at me or yelling. But to each his own...just some thoughts! Looks as if you handled it perfectly for your family!