The Cardinal Rules of Good Parenting.

March 14, 2016
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See the dirty birdy footprints on the glass I cleaned perfectly two days ago? In a millisecond, she’s going to make two more.

 

There are cardinals around my house for the last 8 days that are demonstrating laws of effective parenting.  There are two pairs that have been crashing into my windows incessantly for the last 8 days. They’re a little drunk on the holly berries, the windows were very clean, (I have washed them three times during that period) and the sky is overcast. There’s such a lovely reflection of the trees and shrubs in my yard that they want to build a nest in the refection. Over and over and over, all day long, thud, thud, thud, thud.

There are certain panes that they hit. Those areas are covered in dirty birdy footprints. And I’m not talking about a gentle tap with the beak. They are flying into the window, back to a perch, crashing into it again, and again and again.

I, as owner of the cardinal universe have tried several things to convince the cardinals that they will never be able to nest in my house. When I close the curtains, they stop bothering the dining room windows, but the other window coverings are harder to close and with the house for sale, I want to keep it all ready for showing at a moment’s notice.  I tried turning on the lights throughout the house so that they could see into the house. It only worked when it was the darkest outside.

But now, I think they’ve created a cardinal culture of crashing windows and it doesn’t matter what I do.

Yet, this problem, in and of itself, is not so deadly. But if they’re crashing into windows instead of nest building, or egg laying, there will not be another generation of cardinals. The existence of their family depends on them figuring out that this is destructive behavior.

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Like this female cardinal, I think it’s a part of humans’ defense method that kids are cute.

I, as master of the universe am not going to finally allow them to nest in my house. It doesn’t matter how many times they protest, it will never be okay. And the law of the window glass will never be removed so that they cease to reap the consequences of their behavior. The consequences of a headache or bodyache or dulled beaks are the only hope I have that eventually, they’ll wise up.

So far, the birds are still trying to insist that they know what they want to do. They don’t care how convincing that window glass is that they’re wrong.

Doesn’t our Heavenly Father look down on us and see us doing the same stupid thing over and over and over? Yet he leaves the laws in place for us, hoping that we’ll finally understand that consequences of His giving in to our insistence would do us far more harm ultimately than letting us experience the more minor consequences of mistakes made along the way and turning away from our destruction.

So it is with parenting. Kids are going to be naughty. Kids are going to be sassy or lazy or disobedient or willful or selfish. Kids are going to each present some behavior or character trait that brings discord.

Parents’ job is to teach them about the ultimate goal, (to return to our Loving Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ) with honor.

We must teach them that NOTHING is more important than that ultimate goal. Our ultimate duty is to give them a sense of their own potential and the confidence to realize it as a son or daughter of God.

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This male cardinal gathers his dignity after flying into the window a dozen times. The photo is taken through the window glass.

Parents and society and nature put laws in place to build happiness and achievement upon happiness and achievement until we are ready to receive that ultimate goal.

Giving children immediate, dependable, inevitable consequences to their wrong choices is like leaving the window glass in place. Sometimes I have to resort to using my witch voice. (I learned it from my mother and I knew it meant business!)

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That’s gotta hurt! No matter how hard she flings herself against it, the window pane isn’t moving. Is her girlfriend egging her on? (That’s what birds do, you know.)

Sometimes I’d have to compel them to obey by leading them by a handful of their still attached hair.  Very occasionally, when they persisted in their defiance, I’d resort to the bare-bottom spank. This ultimate disgrace combined embarrassment, humiliation, and pain. It was administered with an open hand on the fleshiest part of their fannies. For some children, isolation was the ultimate doom. If their bedroom door didn’t have a lock, (which it never did,) I’d wedge a cloth diaper in the door so that they couldn’t open it. Sometimes this was necessary more for me to cool off than for them.

But the concept that made me a successful parent (which I offer all 7 of my darlings as proof) was consistently. I didn’t lapse in love and concern enough to let them have their own destructive way. If they claimed I violated their free agency, I told them that was impossible. They could like it or not, but they weren’t going to get away with wickedness without consequences. . . not on my watch.

No matter how much those birdies think they want to come through that glass, they’re always going to have the same unhappy result. Yes, they have headaches. Yes, they’re wasting their nesting time. Yes, they’re dirtying up my house. But I care too much for those creatures to bring them into my house. . .to give them what they think they want. I’ve done all I know to do to try to convince them to follow their proper instincts and build elsewhere. That’s what good parents do.

Being frustrated or angry is sometimes natural. Recognize that at the root of that frustration is that you want what is best for your child. Certain kids learn to get under our skin. They learn what gets them what they think they want. Once in a while, we just want to open the windows and prove to them that no matter how certain they are, they’re wrong about what’s on the other side of the glass.

But our Heavenly Father never does that.

Don’t feel guilty for your feelings. Think of yourself as a pain (pun intended) of glass that protects your child from worse consequences by holding the line on the rules of obedience to law.

Try to lure the child away from their unprofitable behaviors by lavishing love and hyping good consequences when they choose well.

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One more try will surely change the nature of windows.

Some kids will keep crashing the glass. Some bird-brains will take a lot of knocking before they decide to move on. But now that my children have all lived to adulthood, they appreciate the window glass. They appreciate me standing between them and choices that would have brought them unhappiness.

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Why won’t you change the rules for me, since I’ve been trying so hard to break them?

Part of Omnipotence is listening or seeing the thud, thud, thud, thud on the window panes and never getting so sick of it that God takes a break, or opens the window. He always keeps the bird feeders full and the forest replete with nesting opportunities. He never stops loving us? Sometimes, every once in a while, do you suppose He laughs at what it means to be drunk cardinal?

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