Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Overcompensating

 "Don't fail to correct your children.  You won't kill them by being firm and it may even save their lives."  (Proverbs 23:13-14, CEV)

It seems inevitable, but we parents so often seek to remedy things when our children suffer through the "unfair-ness" of life.  It just doesn't seem right that our children should have to grow up too soon by facing things like tough medical treatments or surgeries, discrimination or even facing the worry of death.  In our heartache, we try to balance the scales by seeing our kids worthy of some huge reward for all they have to endure.  Spoiling them rotten with toys, treats and outings can seem only natural when they endure and are forced to understand things that would cause even most adults to faint.  We may even refrain from disciplining them, offering them an "out" that we wouldn't offer kids who are unaffected or healthy.

This is commonly known as overcompensation, and I've done it myself.  In fact, my hilarious friend Tony Piantine who runs Camp Daniel in Athelstane, WI often jokes with my eldest, neurotypical daughter that the two of them are going to run off to McDonald's together to make up for all the times they've been slighted when their sibling with special needs got to go.  Tony's brother, Dan, surrendered his battle with a neuromuscular disease for a heavenly home in 1994, while our daughter still lives with a brother who has hemophilia and a younger sister who has several diagnoses including ADHD, severe allergies and sensory processing issues.  Despite the span of time, our eldest can certainly relate to the memories our friend has of his disabled brother.

How challenging it is to not tilt the scales towards showering our kids with all that delights their hearts when they face the injustice of awful suffering!  I would much rather have it be me than them who is subject to painful tests, treatments and countless hospital visits.  My heart aches right along with theirs as they battle to have a reasonable life.

But when all is quiet, and I'm steeped in God's word, I must admit the truth.  God never promised a picnic in this life.  In fact, Jesus promised, "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33, NIV)  So why do I try to make this world heaven for my special kids?  There's something that God hard-wired into mothers that makes us quick to protect and defend our offspring.  But that must be balanced out by teaching our children coping strategies and how to navigate through life's difficulties.

If we sincerely believe the truth of Romans 8:28 that God can and will use everything for the good of those who love Him, then we need to couch that overcompensation.  We need to use this opportunity to shape our kids to reflect His glory in powerful ways that an adult never could.  That can only happen by balancing the extra TLC our kids may need with the proper discipline that they require.  Every child, no matter what their level of challenges or abilities needs to be taught love of others, kindness, teamwork and pushing oneself a bit.  That may look very different in each child, but it's essential to their growth into a well-adjusted adult.

Let's also be honest that no one likes a brat!  And when our kids always get their way, get every little object their hearts desire, this is what they become.  How does that endear them to those who don't understand the disabled?  Does that reflect light or darkness?  It's certainly not a positive way of recycling pain.  Instead, it makes the ignorant feel righteous in their faulty beliefs that we get what we deserve and we're nothing like them.

The next time you feel that knee-jerk reaction to give in to your child with special needs, remember a few things.  First, remember God loves that child even more than you do (Matthew 7:11).  He's even numbered the hair on their heads (Luke 12:7), which is certainly more than what you've done in love as their parent.  Next, take seriously all of God's mandates to raise that child up in a responsible way.  (Proverbs 22:6)  His or her adulthood depends on it!  And God saw fit to make you the steward of that precious gift.  Finally, remember that God never says in His word that you will take away your child's ever tear or sorrow.  "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  (Revelation 21:4, NIV, emphasis added)

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