By Suzanne Woods Fisher
"Children are loved but not adored." Amish proverb
Kristina, a curly haired three-year-old with a stubborn streak, didn't like to wait until grace was over to start on her meals. After all, she was hungry! While everyone's head was bowed, she would quietly reach out and grab a bread roll or a strawberry or a corn cob. The Amish pray silently before a meal, and then they pray after a meal. "We give thanks and we return thanks," Kristina's father, Mose Weaver, explained. "And it was time for Kristina to learn to obey."
Mose and Sallie Weaver weren't going to dismiss Kristina's willfulness as age appropriate. Nor were they going to assume that she would grow out of this in time. For three meals a day, Mose held Kristina on his lap during grace, enclosing her little hands in his large, work-roughened ones. Before a meal and after a meal. It took a week before Kristina was able to sit back in her chair and be trusted not to sneak a little hand up onto the table and poke a finger in a jar jam.
Obedience—a word that isn't very popular in our modern society—tops the list of values that Amish parents want their children to embrace. The ritual of pausing before a meal for silent grace might seem small but, to the Amish, it is symbolic of something much bigger. This discipline, difficult for a hungry little one, is the first step in expressing gratitude to God.
"We see parenting as our main job," Mose said. "It's a full-time responsibility, given to us by God. We need to pay attention to little things, because little things become big things. If we didn't take the time to teach Kristina to obey now, imagine what things might be like later on." He lifted his bushy eyebrows and rolled his eyes toward heaven. "Because that little girl has a mind of her own!"
And this is a man who should know a thing or two about parenting. Mose is the father of eleven children.
Let's Talk about It!
The Amish view children as a gift from God. Every baby is celebrated, whether he or she is a first born or last born, healthy or "special" (that's the term the Amish use for a handicapped child). They love their children, but they do not adore them. How would you describe the difference?
Obedience isn't a common word emphasized in modern parenting anymore. Why do you think it has become outdated? What does that say about our culture?
Mose and Sallie Weaver took three-year-old Kristina's lack of obedience seriously. To their way of thinking, it was the first step to learn to express gratitude to God. What ways do you encourage your children to express gratitude to God? One mom in Renton, Washington points out interesting aspects of nature (fluffy clouds, birds on a telephone wire) on walks with her little boy. She reminds him that God is the creator of such beauty. A dad in San Antonio, Texas, leads the high school choir at his church because he believes music teaches young people to love to worship. It's never too early...or too late...to learn to give thanks to God.
Did You Know? The average Amish family has five children.
About Suzanne Woods Fisher: She is an author of bestselling fiction and
non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish. Why the Amish? Well, Suzanne's
grandfather was raised Plain. She's always been fascinated by her gentle,
wise relatives. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her
weekly radio show, by stopping by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. And please
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