Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The New Gravleys

For about the last 2 years, our family has been experiencing some very difficult times with our son, Sam.  Those of you who know us well have heard our whining, complaining, and crying.  We've mostly tried to contain it just within our family, but recently have been asking more and more people to pray with us concerning his behavior.  We have tried SO many different methods, focusing mostly on the biblical ones (I will not be too specific, knowing that really anyone can read something online).  Samuel has been disciplined more than any other kid I've ever known.  We had our parents, brothers and sisters praying for us and talking to us, giving their advice so sweetly whenever asked.  No one could quite figure out why Sam could be so sweet and then his attitude could turn on a dime.  It seemed the slightest provocation would send him into huge fits of anger and reduce us to anger and frustration in return.  We worked so hard to control our own selves so that our discipline was done in a godly way.  We have been so humiliated a multitude of times, especially since beginning deputation and being in a different home each weekend.  Everyone we have met has been SO gracious toward us, trying to encourage us in any way they can.  We've been begging the Lord for wisdom and trying to gain all the knowledge we can from other parents (old and young).  Mostly everyone who has talked with us just encourages us with the same advice..."Be consistent and win the battles; you'll be so glad you conquered it now instead of waiting until he's older."  While we appreciated this advice, it seems that no one could put a finger on what was causing the outbursts and what we were doing, as parents, to fuel this poor behavior.  We did have some angry times in disciplining him, but I just felt that our consistent pattern of punishing him was calm and calculated, not in great emotion.  I felt that as near as possible to 100% of disobedience and defiance was punished in love and firmness.  

As we drove to Cleveland this past week for Launch Seminar at our mission agency (Trav and I were by ourselves), I began to read this new book I received from a friend.  It is the preschool book from Gary Ezzo (the Babywise/Growing Kids God's Way guy).  We came across a chapter called "Addicted to Choice."  NEVER IN ALL MY DISCUSSIONS with people have I come across such revealing information about my Samuel.  It was AMAZING!!!  The chapter describes a boy named Jackson who makes his own choices all morning long (what color cup he'll use, where he'll sit, what he'll play with and when, etc.)  When his mom would suggest something like, "Come sit here, and I'll read to you," Jackson would choose to simply sit in a different place.  His mother, not wanting to cause a conflict over something so dumb as a place to sit or a cup to drink from, would just go along with Jackson's ideas.  When it came time for lunch, however, his mother required him to come to the table and quit playing.  Jackson was LIVID!  How dare his mother cross him after having his own way all morning.  Ezzo explains that children (about 4 years of age - like Sam) CANNOT differentiate between moral and non-moral choices (huge revelation to me!)  I had no idea that he saw choosing a cup color the same as coming to the table for lunch or going to bed for a nap!  We had so much trouble with Samuel at these times of non-negotiation (naptime, mealtime, going home from a friend's house time, etc.) that we decided to cause as little conflict in negotiable areas (cup color, seat at the table choice, etc.).  By doing this, we had created a little boy whose day was, on the whole, directed by himself, not his parents.  When it came time for us to exercise our authority over him, he would get angry when we didn't give in.  We were doing a great job not giving in at those times, but the rest of the day was Sam's to control.  I don't know if you can follow all of this reasoning, but it sure made perfect sense to us.  We feel that this is such an answer from the Lord, and we thank Him for showing us mercy and giving us wisdom to find the proper resources to help us.  
We have revamped our whole lives and created a schedule for Samuel and Kara for the days when we are home and not on the road.  The schedule includes things like roomtime, coloring time, puzzletime, reading together, Bible story time, etc.  Though the kids do have some free time during the day to play with whatever they choose, most of the day is planned out and directed by us, the parents.  We have had two very good days.  The fits are not gone, by any means, but we have been really encouraged to see that they are greatly lessened in intensity.  I have so much more to write, but I'll be finished for now.  I hope to write an update on this in the next few weeks.  I'm looking forward to reporting big improvements in Sam's behavior. Thank you to those who have prayed for us.  We are so thankful!