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Volume 15, Issue 2: Virga

Count Your Hazards

Matt Whittling

The glowing white pine snapped and popped into a flash of hot color as air rushed through the open door of the wood-burning stove. Three cold pieces of freshly split lumber were placed in the gaping mouth and immediately a dozen glowing teeth wrapped around each snow clad wedge of wood. Ice slid off and sizzled in the embers momentarily before an oppressive tension settled over the fury, and the door locked back into its place. From a single eye, light spread throughout the dark room, flittering and blinking as the shifting mad combustion had its way with these simple sacrifices from the forest. One crawled forward toward the heated life before him, safe still. Entranced by the passionate consumption, on hands and knees he shuffled forward closer onto the forbidden bricks. Only knees now, hands outstretched to touch the apple of that boiling emblazoned eye.

One of the blessings of hazardous household items such as wood-burning stoves, electrical outlets, and Comet is the high behavioral standards that they impose upon parents. The problem is that most parents have bought into the lie that hazards are a curse and not a blessing. Hazards of the household do pose a threat to children, but it is not merely that of physical injury. Your child will be burned if he is allowed to touch the stove, but this physical injury pales in comparison to the future calamity that comes on one who has not been taught to heed the commands of his parents. Seen as blessings these hazards become opportunities through which parents teach their children obedience. One area of the house is forbidden and the others are allowed, your tongue should be put in some places, but not others, some items must not be put in your mouth while others should, etc. It is in these very basic distinctions that children begin to learn of the antithesis between obedience and disobedience, right and wrong. They are presented with an opportunity to heed the command of their father, and their father is required by the hazards to ensure that they obey.
These same hazards force us to see that there is no dichotomy between love and discipline. The father who teaches, trains, and requires his son to abstain from nursing on the extension cord in the garage shows his love through godly discipline, while the man who refrains from discipline and instruction shows hatred by leaving his children for the hazards to char in the end. This hatred has an extensive wardrobe, however, and frequently adorns itself in cheap T-shirts with LOVE printed on the front.
Some parents remove their young children from all apparent temptations by employing the frenzied tactic of continual relocation—if he craws too close to the fireplace, move him back across the room and seek to distract him with all the toys that he does not want (this provides plenty of good exercise for parent and child). Others take the logical reasoning approach—if he touches something he shouldn't, sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion about it. Be sure to coo gently and speak with three tablespoons of maple syrup under your tongue. If it happens again add more syrup (especially effective with two-year-old boys).
Unfortunately, the most common method for avoiding discipline and therefore godly love is to somehow attack and maim the hazards themselves so that instruction isn't required at all. Instead of teaching their child to navigate the world as it really is, they seek to change the world by padding any sharp edges in preparation for their child's coming. This is where technology has become such a kindred spirit with the modern parent seeking revolutionary freedom. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could just have our kids on a leash or in a cage? They would be so much easier to manage that way." Or maybe a simpler solution would be to "child proof" the house so that the kids can do whatever they want, outside of the cage, and never get hurt. More than a few intuitive adults have realized though that sooner or later you must let the children out, their sheer size alone demands an opening of the doors, and these parents have perceived that the world outside is full of sharp edges, hard walls, and recess with other kids. As progressives they have launched a new two-pronged campaign—continue a full scale attack on the hazards of the world, while at the same time erecting chemical cages in the minds of their children that will stay with them even when they are away from home.
The place to begin teaching your children obedience in the midst of hazards is with obvious physical boundaries in the home. A wood-burning stove serves the purpose well. The line of demarcation between carpet and bricks becomes the first place where a child learns to listen to the commands of his father. Teaching initially takes place down on the floor next to the child. Take your hand, put it on the carpet and say "yes," then put it on the bricks and say "no." Next, do the same with the child's hand. After a few times of this, walk away and test him. If your child immediately crawls onto the bricks he's normal. As soon as one hand is on it, come from behind and gently but firmly tell him "no." After a few times of this the "no" should be accompanied by a controlled flick on the offending hand. Once this lesson is learned, "no" is used in other situations as well.
Whack. "Papa said no."

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