True Love must be Tough

Last Friday I was able to begin a reading help program with five fifth graders (not using the material pictured). The first session was spent getting to know one another, explaining some of my rules, and showing them those rules will be enforced.

I bring different colored pens that the students can use to write out vocabulary words since they enjoy picking their favorite color. Since they like to change their mind and pick another color (taking up lots of time) I warn them you are stuck with the pen you pick, so choose carefully.

Shortly after we started one of the students began to complain that his pen didn’t write well. After making sure it hadn’t run out of ink, I told him he would just have to use that one till next week. He immediately started complaining about how unfair this was, till I calmly told him if he kept it up I would just take him back down to the teacher.

He didn’t say anything else but out of the corner of my eye I saw his hand move very quickly. Looking down I saw his pen in front of another student, and that students pen in his hand! My first inclination was to give him another chance, but because I’d warned him already, he was immediately taken down to his teacher. It was with great shame he sat down as the teacher learned the student wasn’t able to follow instructions.

This experience reminded me that true love must be tough…its not enough to have rules, you must enforce those rules

Actually Fridays experience didn’t surprise me at all…in fact I expected it. This is because we as a general rule (children especially) test boundaries or rules to see if someone will actually do what they say.

This is a clear indication of our sinful hearts. Its a well known fact that if you tell a child in very clear terms not to do something, that is the ONE THING they are certain to do! We have a sinful nature inside of us that rebels against anything that tells us no.

This sinful desire to test boundaries means setting clearly defined rules with consequences, and backing them up is an incredibly loving act.

We don’t usually think of love that way. We believe the loving act would be to give the student “one more chance” because it’s the first day after all. Yet that’s actually one of the most unloving acts we do. Every time I allow or overlook disobedience, it tells them that it’s okay to sin. This also affects their view of authority, seeing them as someone who says consequences will come, but they never will.

Contrast this with disobedience bringing consequences. This clearly shows what they are doing is wrong, and over time makes a change in their lives.

Some children think it’s funny to be loud and obnoxious while I’m trying to share a Bible story, or tell children about the Lord. They aren’t being incredibly rebellious, just being children, but at the same time this disobedience cannot be tolerated.

Once I actually stopped teaching since it was impossible to continue while three boys were constantly interrupting me. After packing my bag I calmly called them to come over so we could talk. Sitting down on a bench we had a conversation about how God wasn’t happy with what they were doing, and it was disrespectful to me. Before leaving it was made clear that the next time they disrupted things, I would take all three of them to the police station.

The next day the ringleader of the boys came and sat down as I started telling a Bible story. He sat quietly, didn’t give me any trouble, and I made sure to give him a reward for his good behavior. What made the difference? Calmly explaining I wouldn’t allow that kind of disrespect to continue.

It’s my belief young people are searching for people they can believe in. People who have rules, celebrate when those rules are followed, and bring consequences when they are broken. When they find someone who lives out “tough love” they will follow them all the way.

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