Monday, May 9, 2011


Everyone wants to belong-to be identified with something and someone. Look around you. The evidence is everywhere. Sports teams, alumni, religious affiliations, social networking "groups". Pretty much whatever you find enjoyable probably has some sort of group affiliated with it. People go NUTS over a football game and I don't know about you, but Cal Poly is just about the BEST university ever (ha ha). T-shirt logos, languages, all sorts of things, help people feel like they belong to something greater...something good, and that gives people somewhat of an identity. You get the idea, people want to have this sense of identity because it brings security.

Our children are the same way and believe it or not, our family unit is their group. It's where they belong. But they don't get to choose their "group". They're born into it and their membership doesn't fluctuate like the tide and the ties are much stronger. They don't belong to our family because they're a blonde, or because they prove to be athletic. We don't love our kids because they're good at baseball or because they can do multiplication at five...we love our kids because they're ours. Simply ours. And that's how it must be. Their identity is with our family because that's where God put them and they'll be part of our family, no matter what, until the day they die.

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with a mom who has already raised four children. Her kids are a similar age spread to mine and came in the same pattern--three boys, then a girl last. They've since adopted two more girls who are not out of the house yet, but a lot of their parenting years are behind them now. In the course of our conversation, she brought up the idea of the language of our house and when she did, it was as if a light bulb went off in my head. Ah ha!! That's it! That's what I've been trying to wrestle with for awhile now.

You see, Steve and I have come to the conclusion that you can't force your kids into submission. Sure, you can discipline and for a time, that will get them to obey and often produce the behavior you want. But we want our kids to "grow up". We want them to mature and gain wisdom. And in that, we want them to want to obey, not because we're still there enforcing the standard but because they love the standard.

Well, that all sounds pretty nice but, in actuality, how does it play out? How do you get your kids to love the standard? How do you get them to want to obey? There isn't one easy answer for that and I've hardly been down the parenting road long enough to have any sort of wisdom about it. But one of the things I've gleaned from seasoned parents is that loyalty plays a huge part in fostering a love for the standard--that is loyalty to the family unit, the "group". We want to create such a loyalty to our family, such a love for all that is "Dauphin", that they don't ever want to go outside those lines. Loyalty acts as the guardrails to keep our children from off-roading.

One of the ways to instill this sort of loyalty is what my friend was getting at--your family language. Using phrases like, "Dauphin boys are SO cheerful and they're best friends", or "Isn't it great to be a Dauphin?" or "Dauphin boys respect each other" creates a sense of belonging, security and loyalty to the family simply by saying it. When one of our children is wandering off Steve will say, "Are you a Dauphin?" When they nod their head in yes, he'll then say, "Well you better shape up because Dauphins don't do that!"

It's like the old adage, "You are what you eat"...the more we feed these phrases to them, the more they will drink in the ideas and display them as a reflection of their heart. "Dauphin boys obey the first time asked." My friend reminded me that the more you can tell them who they are and where they identify themselves, the more that loyalty is built over time.

Yet, a lot of times these words will be spoken more in promise because the situation will not reflect them fulfilling the principles. For example, I might have to remind Joshua that "Dauphins respect others," when he is annoying his big brothers. But that's the whole point--the words act in two ways-first as a reminder and second as hope. Hope that one day, the principle will be so written on his heart that instead of reaching out to pull Caleb's hair, he'll hear the words, "Dauphins respect others," and then withdraw his hand.

Our children grow up. The world is huge. There's a lot out there that our children have to wade, sift and walk through and we won't be there every time to ensure they're choosing right. But years of trust and loyalty will be their companions-the very ground beneath their feet. Sure they will make wrong choices. Sure they'll probably try their foolish hat at some cliff jumping. But if they're firmly rooted in their origins, it will give them a place to come back to and will act as a pull when they're wanting to wander off.

However, the converse is also true. If I spend my years sitting on them, forcing them to do my will and not fostering a sense of responsibility and trust, then you can bet they'll be the first to sign-up for skydiving. And who knows if their destination will even be on the same continent as me.

My kids are little humans who have their own minds, their own hearts, their own souls. I can shape them but I can't force them. My prayer is that they'll choose life. My prayer is that God will save them.

But what I can do is try and foster a loyal environment to keep them wanting to come back. And the words I use are key.

"Dauphins follow God. Dauphins do what's right. Dauphins love others."

And they're not the only ones who are helped by this sort of language. There have been times, many times in fact, when my husband will remind me of these truths when I am wandering off, being angry, coveting or seeking revenge. When he does, it grounds me and brings me back to who I am.

I am a child of God. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a Dauphin.

"Dauphins follow God. Dauphins do what's right. Dauphins love others."

Words spoken to remind. Words spoken in hope. God will do the rest.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Nikki, so well said I'm at a loss for words. My son is 4 and I'm struggling with his "testing" me and his sister, etc. Your words have made me stop and think about what I'm doing and how I can do it better. Thank you :)