“Do you need help packing?” I offered, as my ten-year-old daughter stormed out of the room.
Through her sobs, “Yee-eee-ssss.”
I followed her out of the room, stood in front of her closet, holding her bag as she carefully decided what to take.
“You’re not taking anything that you didn’t buy.” I stated, trying to hold my emotions in.
“I know. I’m bringing stuff from my birthday.” She said as she continued her search.
“And you’re not bringing your phone. Mommy and Daddy pay for your data and phone line. You can’t stay with Coral or Megan, their parents have too many responsibilities to worry about you.” I said matter-of-factly, hoping to add to the list building in her mind as to why this wasn’t a good idea.
I wanted to give in. I wanted to fight for her. I wanted to beg her to stay. Visions of her being abducted the moment she walked out that door flashed before my eyes. I shook away the image and just prayed. “Father am I doing the right thing? Please keep her safe.” I kept telling myself, “She’s not going anywhere. She’s going to back down, I just know it.” As doubt crept in, more images crossed my mind of never seeing her again.
“FOCUS! Stay strong and focus on the skills that you have learned!” I coached myself.
“I only have five minutes to help you pack and then I need to get back to work.” I stated blankly.
“Mommy, why are you doing this! You are a Nazi, do you want me to be killed” she cried. “You are prejudiced towards me, like people with black people. Why are you doing this to me?”
“I’m not doing this, this is your choice. You can stay and do the list of chores or you can go. This was your idea.” She continued to pack. “I have one more minute to help you.” More packing. At this point my heart is starting to sink, doubt and fear are creeping in. “I need to get back to work, please come in and say goodbye before you leave.” Holding back tears, I walked out of the room and straight to the bathroom to try to get my emotions together.
How did my almost-always-obey-the-rules daughter get to this point? Where did I go wrong?
At this point, I was ready to email Danny Silk and tell him his book “Loving Your Kids on Purpose” didn’t work and it was his fault that I lost my daughter. Questions and confusion spun through my brain as I questioned the techniques I learned in his training. The goal of his training is to move away from forcing your kids to obey, rather, the point is to have a heart connection with them. That way, when your kids make decisions they consider that they will hurt their parent’s heart or hurt the relationship they have built with their parents. The focus of parenting is on the relationship you build with your kids. This technique comes from the program Love and Logic, a program developed for foster care families where corporal punishment is not allowed.
I walked out of the bathroom and resumed my work as I heard my daughter’s sobs from the other room. Suddenly the crying stopped and I heard my mother-in-law talking to her.
“You have a choice, you continue packing and I’ll drive you down to juvenile hall. Or you face your consequences and you go to your mother for forgiveness,” she stated evenly.
“BUT SHE WILL NEVER FORGIVE ME!” she cried (over-dramatically).
“No, no more games. This is your choice.”
Sure enough, ten seconds later, my daughter was in my arms crying, begging for forgiveness. I told her how much it hurt my heart to let her go and how I wanted to make her stay. I also talked to her about manipulation and how that is not how we do relationships. We cuddled and reconnected again. I asked her if we could have a reset. And that is what we did, the relationship was fully restored and strengthened by me not forcing my hand.
So Danny Silk is right. These concepts also parallel how we should have a relationship with our Heavenly Father, a relationship rather than a dictatorship. Has there been a time where you didn’t want to do what was asked of you so you just quit, packed up your stuff and ran away? On a smaller scale, I do this often with God. Most of the time, I just shut down and numb out on Netflix. But God is always there when I realize my wrong and correct my course back into his arms. As I learn to open my heart up to him, we are building a heart connection. A heart connection that I don’t want to hurt.