The Power of a Greeting

I don’t know about you, but our parenting journey has included seasons where the fruit of our labor is so easy to see.  And then there are other seasons where that fruit is absent.  Devoid.  Nonexistent.  Wholly missing.  Shriveled up.  And seemingly rotten.  Or at least that’s how it appears on the surface.  In these times, we begin to doubt whether we will ever reach the next milestone, conquer the latest discipline issues, and see growth in our kids.

But we are learning to trust that, even in seasons of drought, God is alive and is working through our efforts as parents and in the hearts of our children.  Because just when we feel like throwing up our hands and giving up (or giving in), inevitably, God gives us a glimmer of hope.  This happened on Sunday.  Praise Jesus!

One of the issues we have struggled with lately is the manner in which our kids greet people in public.  They have been taught a moral baseline regarding our expectations.  When someone greets them, they are expected to give eye contact to that person and to provide a verbal response.  THAT’S IT.  We’re not asking them to run for governor or shake hands and kiss babies all day long!  ANYTHING beyond eye contact and a verbal response is their choice.  A hug.  A handshake.  Further conversation.

But we have been struggling with this, particularly in the morning when we are walking the kids to their classrooms at school.  And every time we do, we smile at the person getting the Heisman, shrug our shoulders, and say, “I’m so sorry.  We’re working on this.”  And then, Kory and I revisit the issue.  Again. 

Last week, though, we had a break through.  

I’ve been taking a Love and Logic class at our school, and it’s been a great refresher for me regarding the power of logical consequences — consequences put into the lives of my children that logically relate to the training issue we’re dealing with.  We’ve known about logical consequences for a while now, but this class has caused me to think them through more critically and to really ponder and pray, “Lord, what is the most logical consequence for this particular area of training?”  

So as Kory and I talked this over, it occurred to us.  It’s a privilege, not a right, to be walked to class.  And it certainly isn’t any fun to walk kids to class when they ignore everyone in their path.  If it’s a privilege, then what would happen if we took that privilege away?  

The next time we had an issue, we decided to find out.  We told our son that we would not be walking him to his classroom anymore until he came to us and told us that he was ready to extend common courtesy to those who greet us in the hallway.  Sounds small, but it had an impact.  Although he took his medicine like a champ, he was devastated.

Almost immediately, we began to see a change.  After two days of not being walked to class, we were noticing him not only responding to the greetings of others, but also going out of his way to be the greeter!  I even had a couple stop me at church on Sunday to compliment my son for the greeting he gave them when we sat down.  Wow.  

On the way home from church, we were listening to the radio.  The song, I Want To Live With Abandon, by the Newsboys, was playing.  

From the backseat, my son asked, “Mommy, what does it mean to live with abandon?”  

“To love Jesus with all your heart and to show the love of Jesus boldly to everyone you meet,” I answered.

He thought for a minute about what I had said, and then he asked, “so you get better?”  

“Yes, you get better.”  

And then he gave me a glimpse of the fruit — “So when I greet people, am I living with abandon?”  

“Yes!  Yes you are!”  I said.  

He was grinning from ear to ear when I caught his gaze in the rearview mirror.  I realized at that moment that my son wants to live with abandon!  We’re just in the process of teaching him how.  And it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What milestones have you recently had with your children?  What milestones are you desperately hoping for?