Jen Polintan: So, parents are pretty strong, right? They can pretty much take anything you throw their way. But there are a couple words that really hurt to hear. So when my daughter, Jaycee, was in the heart of her terrible 2’s, whenever she was reprimanded, she would say, “I want a new mommy. I want a new daddy. Give me a new family.” And this would cause a lot of grief in our home and a lot of tension. We were divided. Because you see, my husband and I were on two different sides. I’m more of the softie, so I’m thinking, “She’s too young. She’s just a baby. She doesn’t even understand what discipline is.” But my husband, Jeff, on the other hand, he’s the tough one, and he said, “No, we have to break her stubborn spirit now or we’re going to be in big trouble later.” And yes, it makes complete sense, but I’m still unsure and I’m not sure what to do.
So I decided to call my sister. My sister had just had a baby a few months prior so she had been reading a lot of books about parenting and doing her research. So I really trusted what she was going to tell me. So when I called her and asked her what she thought, she said, “You know, Jenny, I was watching The Dog Whisperer and Cesar Milan says, ‘You have to show them who the alpha dog is’.”
“What? Alpha…alpha dog, what? You know we’re talking about Jaycee, right, and not about a dog?”
”Yes, yes, I know, I know…but it’s all the same. You have to show them who the authority figure really is.” And, ok, she sides with Jeff. It’s 2 to 1, so all right, game on.
We go gung-ho, full force and it becomes our mission to break her stubborn spirit. I remember one night, when we were all together, it starts. She starts with the whole “I want a new family” routine. So, quite calmly, Jeff takes out his laptop, powers it up, and does a Google search. And he types in “monsters”. He says, “Oh, you want a new family, do you? Okay, come, come here. I pulled up all these images for you and they’re all looking for a little girl to adopt. Pick any one. Go.” And so she’s like, “No, no, no, I don’t want a new family. I don’t want a new family.” So, okay, point for us, we’ve won that round. And she’s slowly starting to see who the alpha dogs really are.
But I remember this one time when we were out running errands, driving around in our minivan, and it starts—the crying, the screaming, and the wailing, and it’s just getting louder and louder, and we’re telling her to stop, but she won’t stop. And so now, my heart is pounding and it’s pounding faster and faster because it’s just getting so tense and I’m at my wit’s end. We finally get into the shopping center, pull in and park the car. Jeff unstraps her from the car seat, and she is kicking and screaming. So he puts her down, and we just walk away because we’re expecting and hoping that she’ll calm herself down and follow after us, but she doesn’t. So, we take a few more steps away, and when I look back, she’s still standing there right where we left her. So okay, wait, hold on, time out, time out. Before anyone calls Child Protective Services, I want you all to know that it was never ever our intention to leave her. I mean, parents, how many of you out here have walked away from your children and just expected them to follow, right? But our Jaycee, no, she didn’t follow. In fact, she stood right there, right where we left her. I had been expecting to hear her footsteps running after us, but when I didn’t, I turned back around and she has this look on her face—this look like she knows that she got us. Because she knows that we would never leave her nor give her away to another family. And as I’m looking at her, I’m thinking, “Did my three-year-old just outsmart us?” And it becomes evident to me that our take-it-or-leave-it-attitude has actually made her more defiant.
I remember something with that time when we then just walked back to her because she won that round. But, it’s game over. I don’t want to play this game anymore because neither of us will win. It’s not about being an alpha dog. I don’t want to be an alpha dog; I want to be a leader. I want to be her role model in showing her what’s right. I remember something that a minister had once taught in a lesson that said we should discipline with love and not out of anger. Because children—they’re a blessing from God and they have to be nurtured, protected, cherished, and loved. And there’s a verse that really rings out so clear for me and it’s, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it.” And that’s it. That right there, that’s my duty. That’s our duty. I have to train her— train her to be loving, train her to be respectful, and patient. I have to train her like a soldier. I have to train her like she’s preparing for a fight. But you see, it’s not a fight against the family. It’s going to be a fight for her faith.
So, we have a new game plan now. The rules have changed because I realize now that Jaycee had been acting out because she felt insecure about how we felt about her. She said she wanted a new family because she thought we didn’t want her, so she rejected us because she thought we rejected her. So now we have a new game. New rules, new mission. And the mission now is to build her confidence in herself, her confidence in her family so that she knows when she’s reprimanded, it’s because we love her and not because we don’t. And it really is just so clear now after coming to this realization because isn’t that really how God teaches us? When we’re given something we don’t want or when we’re tested, it’s not because He doesn’t love us, but rather it’s because He wants to make us strong because He does love us.
In the years that followed, our family came to an understanding. Whenever we need to discipline our children, we tell them that we love them first, they can be open with us about how they feel. It’s not perfect. We still have our ups and downs. Jaycee is ten years old now and teenage years are just around the corner so I’m sure there will be some skirmishes here and there. But just the other night we were together scrolling through the photos on her iPad and there were a bunch of life quotes that she had saved that centered around being confident and being herself. And there was one in particular that really, really, really stood out for me and is one she downloaded from INC Media News on Twitter and it read: She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. And I couldn’t ask for anything else because I want her to be without fear of the future. I want her to be fearless. Fearless because she is driven by her faith and I know that if I want this for her and for both my children, then I have to be her prime example. My husband and I have to be the examples in being driven by faith. Because if she sees love, well, then she’ll learn how to love. And if she sees faith and devotion, she’ll learn faith and devotion. And to instill devotion in our children, we set aside the time to pray together every night. We pray that we be guided by God’s mercy, we pray that we’ll be granted with wisdom— wisdom to understand His teachings because with wisdom comes understanding and from understanding comes faith.
And when it’s my own turn to pray and I have a moment to say the prayers that are deep in my heart, that’s really all I want for my children—that they’ll be strong, fervent, and ever-relentless in their faith. Thank you.