Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What is the Focus?

As I was reading in Daniel I was arrested by a verse within his intercessory prayer.

"O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies." Daniel 9:18

When Daniel draws a distinction between two possible reasons for the Lord answering his prayer, it makes it clear that one of them is a winner. He supposes that if the Isrealites, who had sinned greatly and bore great consequences, were to pray with a sense of their own righteousness before God, that God would not hear. "But for thy great mercies..." is key here and not just because it is the winning reason; the effective way to gain the favor of God.

The mercy of God is a defining characteristic in His person, and I believe that we flatter Him when we believe that He is merciful. We flatter Him because we are focused on Him; because we have chosen to remove our eyes from ourselves and immerse our hopes in who He is; because we believe Him, whom we have not seen. And surely this is the beginning of "delighting thyself in the Lord". :-)

With raising our kids, it becomes obvious that parents can so easily encourage children to focus on themselves and their behavior. Their own "righteousness" if you will. Have you ever taken the kids to Walmart, promising a reward for good behavior? How about this one: "If you behave well in church, we'll take you out to eat afterwards."

There are many ways that parents can foster an unhealthy focus within children. I have realized that motivating them upfront with some tantalizing reward for behavior is not the right thing to do. Surely rewards are a good thing, and it is very effective to foster a cause and effect relationship between good behavior and positive feedback and sometimes rewards. But I am convinced that it develops an unhealthy focus in the child to lay out the reward beforehand, dependent on their behavior. I understand that there is a distinction between rewards for behavior and rewards for goals and skills. For example, the other night my husband motivated the children to find the missing library book by offering a bounty of 2 marshmellows for the finder. This was very effective and satisfying -- just ask Rebekah :-).

The unhealthy result, I am afraid, is to develop a mental habit within our children of focusing on behavior and fleshly temptations in order to accomplish a goal of goodness and self-control. What foolishness! We all know that this is certainly ineffective at the very least. It has become obvious to me that fellowship and joy is the only true behavior motivator, along with training and certain chastisement when needed.

Which brings me to my point. We must make our character attractive to our children. When they are drawn to the steadfast gaze of a loving parent. And when they are sure that they are delighted in, then they will be motivated to please first the parent, and then the loving God who has drawn that parent into His own steadfast character.

1 comment:

  1. I am trying to find the balance between rewards and incentives, for example, a raisin for each math problem accomplished (a reward for the dawdler), and a bribe.