Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)
[This is re-posted; the original post was written on 2/14/12.]
Last night Abby and I went on a Valentine's date (beating the rush) to the Grape Leaf on Frankfort Avenue here in Louisville. (It was excellent!) On the way home, Abby suggested that we stop by Kroger and pick up some Valentine's balloons for the children. We bought Georgia a balloon shaped like a dog, and we bought Christian a heart balloon that played music when hit. Upon arriving back at the house, it was apparent that Abby's balloon idea was a stroke of genius; Georgia was utterly fascinated by the doggy balloon, and Christian seemed to enjoy his balloon as well.
All of the sudden, Christian decided that he was no longer happy with his balloon, and he decided that he would rather have Georgia's balloon instead. Georgia was still happily playing with her balloon, and so I had to reprimand Christian when he tried to take her balloon away. Then Christian began loudly complaining about his balloon. Abby warned Christian that if he continued complaining about the balloon, then she would pop it and throw it away. I agreed with her, and-- when Christian continued complaining-- I finally took a knife, popped the balloon, and threw it in the garbage. I was not feeling particularly angry when I popped the balloon (I did not yell at my son), but I was disappointed, and I wanted Christian to know that he should not complain about gifts given to him.
Upon having his balloon popped, Christian went ballistic: screaming and crying.
After Christian spent some time in his room, Abby decided to give him a shower and get him ready for bed.
I went downstairs to change into night-clothes. As I was changing, I began to think and pray about what had taken place. The Holy Spirit impressed Ephesians 6:4 upon my conscience, and I realized that Christian's anger at having his balloon popped was entirely predictable. It was late at night (from Christian's perspective) and I should have had compassion for his fragile emotional state due to his tiredness. There was a certain justice in what I had done, but I could have handled the situation better (by, perhaps, putting the balloon downstairs in "time out" until the morning, when a rested Christian may be more reasonable, rather than shocking Christian by popping the balloon).
I briefly discussed the situation with Abby, and then spoke to Christian; calming him down (because he was still somewhat upset), I told him that we were disappointed in how he acted regarding his gift. I also told him that I knew I had made him mad by popping the balloon, and that I was sorry. I told him that it was not our goal to make him angry, but to teach him right from wrong. Finally, I told him that I would buy him another balloon (though not the doggy one that he had been whining for), and that his mother and I expected him to be grateful for the gift. He seemed to accept this speech very well, and when he received his new balloon in the morning, he played with it without complaining. (BTW: Valentine's balloons from Kroger are rather expensive.)
This whole incident reminded me of the Youtube video of the dad who shot up his daughter's computer. An edited version of this video, which has gone viral, can be seen below:
Regarding this video, Phil Johnson has commented:
I cannot endorse gun violence as an appropriate teaching tool for the father of a teenaged daughter... The first principle of biblical fathering is pretty straightforward: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Deliberately embarassing a child in public is one of the most egregious ways of violating that principle. "The discipline and instruction of the Lord" is described in Hebrews 12:5-11. "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (v. 10).
I'm still not sure that I agree with Mr. Johnson's statement regarding "embarassing [sic] a child in public" simply because in the case above the daughter's rebellious action was public, so it seems acceptable that the rebuke was also public. On the other hand, Mr. Johnson may be right, and it does seem like the shock of seeing one's computer shot-- like the shock of Christian seeing his balloon popped-- may be an action that would automatically provoke a child to anger. Parenting is a tremendous responsibility, and sometimes it is hard to avoid both indulging a child on the one hand, and unnecessarily frustrating the child on the other.