While recently teaching my 8 year old son Aiden when and when not to “defend” himself against his 2 year old bully/brother Owen, I was met with a series of “yeah, buts”. Our conversation, though I would call it more of a monologue with some interruptions, didn’t seem to go as I had hoped it would. I figured being 8 years old now, he may be able to engage in a more real, somewhat serious dialog. So, I optimistically proceeded to ask if we could have a “big boy” talk for a few minutes. He agreed by bobbing his head up and down. I began by expressing empathy and understanding about his frustration with his little brother. (Everyone knows a great conversation begins by connecting… letting the other person know you care… extending a little empathy, or at least a bit of sympathy). This, however, seemed virtually meaningless to my 8 year old. He was too busy continuing to bob his head up and down in response to my previous question. I gently grabbed him and asked him to stop shaking his head & listen for just a couple of minutes. My expressed empathy soon morphed into aggravation in approximately 5 seconds, because that’s when I noticed the head bobbing had turned into something like convulsive dancing, head jerks and eyes rolled back into his head. If I hadn’t seen this behavior a thousand times before, I may have been inclined to rush him to the ER. I guess it can be called the “I’m so bored right now dance”. My optimism quickly fled as it quite often does in this house, crumbling under the weight of reality. I probably should have heeded the warning signs and ended this little heart-to-heart, but I was a father on a mission. Aiden’s convulsions finally ceased long enough to allow my optimistic nature to resurrect and continue.
Our darling little 2 year old angel has developed this lovely habit of grunting “HULK SMASH” while hitting anything and everything in site, including his big brother. One hit is never enough… it’s usually followed up with multiple grunts and simultaneous 2 fisted pounds. When Aiden become the object of destruction it results in a series of Aiden yelling “NO-WEN” (the new name unintentionally given to his baby brother), and Owen responding with a grunt-punch. In light of this delightful exchange, we have given Aiden the freedom to defensively give his brother a little push whenever this takes place; simply telling him “no” wasn’t working.. (Giving an 8 year old freedom to push his little brother may not have been the best idea, but we’re just trying to figure out how to best raise two boys… 6 years apart… and remain sane).
This little dialog I was attempting to have with Aiden took place a couple of weeks after trying out our newest parenting technique. I concluded that a few amendments were necessary. As I begin to spell out these amendments as thoroughly and plainly as I could, each one was met with an interrupting “yeah, but”. So I interrupted his interruption with, “Just let me finish explaining…” which was interrupted with yet another “yeah, but”. I was quickly derailed, forced to give up all hope of getting back on track… My interrupted monologue, one man dance party which probably lasted a whole 30 seconds, ended with something like, “I don’t want to hear ‘Yeah, But’, I only want to hear ‘Yes Dad’!” I walked away defeated, while Aiden danced back to his Lego table almost as if to parade his superior conversation-killing skills.
“Yeah, But” usually assumes to know better than the instructions being given; it discourages entertaining truth being expressed; insists upon finding a loophole. Ultimately, “yeah, but” prevents us from being obedient. I had to wonder how often I interrupt God with a series of “yeah, buts”. I may not actually use this phrase, but I can see how my actions far too often express that “yeah, but” is a more comfortable response than obedience.
What “yeah, buts” are keeping you from obedience?
Prov. 3:5-8 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.”