Fireplace Discipline

Ann Leland’s fascination with the fireplace in its early stages


It’s one of those hot-seat topics and a modern-day mystery to the novice parent. At what age do you introduce it? How do you implement it? Which method works most effectively for your child? The questions can be endless. 

I have dealt with this concept recently as Ann Leland is 14-months-old now and is beginning to push the envelope in certain realms. We daily try to climb into the fireplace despite parental warnings and instruction, and in the last few weeks, she has tried stiff-arming another child, preventing her from standing. I have told her a few times that she should learn  Cannasta and dominos now, because if she’s as stubborn and as sass-mouthed as her mother, she’s going to be spending a lot of future weekends at home with good old Mom and Dad.

All jest aside, we as parents have the hard responsibility of disciplining our children, yet simultaneously, instilling the values and eternal perspective that we pray they come to comprehend and emulate in their lives. Some days, I find myself on the verge of laughter when trying to rationalize with a toddler. Other days, I am less patient, praying for grace and His presence when I am falling short.

Discipline. We never quite outgrow the need for it, do we? For at the heart of it, it is an issue where the child’s pursued desires, values and actions do not correlate with the father’s. 

I found myself at this all too-familiar intersection on Sunday. Recently, I have struggled with impatience, the haste of my own agenda and my own timing, and the quicksand that perception of control can become in our lives. Before I even made it to church, my daily devotion was on “lack of faith” with God’s ways versus our ways. I felt Him pulling me away from the fireplace. Then, when I made it to the service, the two songs we sang before the message were the two songs that I had been replaying in my car, on my phone, and in my mind for the last several weeks. I cried throughout, as a Father sat down beside His child at the foot of the fireplace and dusted the soot from her knees. 

Discipline. I know that I will get this wrong many times in raising my daughter. Some days, I will lack patience and grace; other days, I will miss opportunities to instill the values I want her to know and display. Yet, I hope, more often than not, that I can understand and apply discipline like Jesus. I hope that I sit down at the foot of the fireplaces and dust the soot from her knees. Just as He graciously acknowledged my shortcoming, my “lack of faith”, I hope that I can gently guide her to understand the “lack” of her sin. Yet, even more so, just as He used a moment of discipline and a couple of songs to remind me specifically of His love and His grace, I pray that I love my child fiercely in the moments of discipline and shortcomings, when she quite honestly needs it most. Just as I so strongly felt His presence with me and beside me, I pray that I am so abundantly present in my daughter’s failures and that she knows that in those hard moments, I am with her and beside her. 

Discipline. We never outgrow the need for it, and thank God that He loves us enough not to leave us alone in our sin and shortcomings. The message, after I made it through the Elle Woods performance during the music, was on Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath’s Son. In the passage, a miraculous event occurs as the widow’s son is revived. Upon seeing her son, the widow exclaims, “Now I know that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” While this is an Old Testament story, oh how easily we can relate. How often are we praying and hoping for the miraculous event? How often are we asking for it, whatever it may be, to be revived? How often are we hoping that our circumstances change? Yet, friends, sometimes our circumstances may not change, the miraculous event we are expecting may not occur, and what we think needs reviving may not return. Yet, while the circumstances may not change, don’t miss the revival. He can always revive our hearts. He can revive our Hearts so that we understand the “lack” of our ways versus His ways. He can revive our hearts, reminding us of the values He has instilled and the eternal perspective we should emulate. 

He can revive our hearts so that the child’s pursued desires, values and actions correlate with the Father’s. 

That’s the discipline I want to teach my child, and that’s the discipline that this child needs. 

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