Part Two: Teach the process of self-denial
In part one we talked about how good parenting hovers over beginnings. Today we talk about teaching self-denial.
It starts with giving a child an appetite for Almighty God over an engulfing appetite for self. This is a tall job for a parent. Nevertheless, we are given it. The supreme achievement of the mature adult soul is that it finally learns to have a yielded will to God over all issues. (It is in fact the last lesson we learn conclusively. God alone tells us when the book closes upon ourselves. We cannot pick the exact hour of our birth, nor of our death. We are not allowed to pick it—if we are obedient.) We learn that the soul has a Maker and that we were born into a context. Amen. So be it. The final realization of the refined soul is that God does the best job of "us." If we, ourselves, were given prescriptive powers over the parameters of our lives, we would mangle it badly. Should I be born in Ohio or Tasmania? Who would want the job? The place of wonderful repose is to cultivate a sweet contentment with our lot and to tend to our immediate duties with love and charity. Therein lies our joy.
Thus, the job of parenting is to patiently work at subduing the furtive, insistent, immature lustful will of the child whenever it manifests itself—to prepare the child for ultimately doing this with God. Sometimes it is our duty to be a brick wall against the child’s unseasoned and unruly impulses. We are to teach the process—what it feels like to give up, to let go of the clenched fist and teeth and to occupy oneself differently—over and over and over again. To help surrender the will (of the child) to the benevolent will of another (the parent) is our supreme coaching job. The flesh squirms terribly under this training—yet loves its end results.
We love ourselves when we are full of self-denial, self-sacrifice and self-giving, but we despise ourselves when our vocabularies have been reduced to I, me, and mine. It has been said that hell is full of the all-absorbing disgruntlement of self.
The wisely administered combination of parental love and firmness delivers a child from his own worst nightmare. He just doesn't know it yet. So, cross your child's will. Get a supple will living in your child—that is happy and content with all outcomes. Then lavish the child with surprise luxuries—on your terms and on your turf. The child will get it—that this is real love. Isn't that the way of God with us? His ultimate yesses are all cloaked behind His benevolent no's. We are for the child. The child's best self was never in our doubt, as a parent. Get it done. Go after that ugly self-will with a "broom" that will have a clean house. Be vigilant. Your child's happiness depends upon it—both now and in the future.
For further reading, see our book, Beyond Discipline: Train your child’s character.