When The Pushed Envelope Pushes Back


“Stay, Aspen. Down, Aspen. Heel. Sit.”

Sydney spoke commands to the incredibly excitable Aspen, her two-year-old Labrador retriever. That pup is so people-focused that his excitement level very often overcomes his newly-acquired skill set. Learned obedience.

The poor guy has a way to go. He’s such a happy dog that when folks come to the door, he wants to introduce himself and become the best friend of anyone who enters. Syd is working on having him sit till the person comes over and engages Aspen.

So little time and all that waiting, necessary sniffing and wagging to do.

A friend of mine once shared with me her secret in teaching her kids to obey. She used dog commands. “Stop” “sit”, “stay” all have tremendous value when trying to stop a child from running into a road or trying to climb out of a shopping cart or wandering aimlessly without paying attention.

Discipline is a necessary part of life. Nobody has–or should have–the freedom to do whatever they wish. Our choices impact others that are often not even considered in the equation.

Having been this route before, I’m enjoying watching how my own kids discipline their children. I marvel at how they’ve each become students of their kids, recognizing that what works for one child will not work for all. One child put into time-out for misbehaving would love nothing better than being sent to their room. Alone. To play by themselves. For another, being sent away from people to a place of seemingly solitary confinement brings a flood of “I’m sorry; I’ll NEVER do that again.”

All are learning consequences for the choices they make.

It’s hard for anyone to receive discipline well. I recall times when I knew I understood the situation better than my folks did. They’d made a mistake; I didn’t deserve the punishment I got. I know my own kids fully believed our restrictions were meant to suck the joy out of their lives. That we were old-fashioned and unrealistic in our expectations of them.

We probably were. A little.

Limitations are reflections of a parent’s love for their child. No restrictions translates to not caring what happens to the child. No mom would let a five-year-old walk to a park by themselves, even if it is just across the street. It isn’t safe.

Try telling that to a child. “Everyone does it!”

Even as adults, there are things that aren’t safe–or smart–for us to do. Our legal system provides many restrictions.

God provides His own.

The ones most familiar are the Ten Commandments. Don’t kill. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t lie. The don’ts are always a little more black and white.

What we should do is trickier–love your neighbor as yourself, love the Lord with all you are, be kind to your enemy. Harder to quantify; not actions we can do successfully apart from a relationship with jesus.

He knows better than I do what’s good for me.

Aspen is beginning to grasp that Syd’s restrictions are good for him.

I can learn better than a dog. Can’t I?




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