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The Day I Broke my Son with a Sandwich

In my guest bathroom, I have a “Wise Words for Moms” cheat sheet posted on the wall.  It’s very prominent and I’ve had numerous people ask about it and why it’s there.    It’s literally the BEST $4 I’ve ever spent on

my children.  It’s a convenient flip chart using the Scriptures to drive out the foolishness bound up in the heart of [your] child (Proverbs 22:15).

Let me tell you moms.  On those days you’re so blinded with anger or exhaustion….the words speaks truth to your soul while encouraging your child.  In the heat of a discipline issue….it’s hard to think clearly.   By hard I mean – physically impossible.   This chart has helped me SO many times.

The last few days of parenting have been brutal.  I have been SO frustrated with my offspring and life is increasingly overwhelming.  I have used this chart more the last 72 hours than in the previous 4 years combined.

We’ve encountered some spiritual, physical, financial and mental storms within about 4 days.   One such incident was…my 2yo knocked out his front teeth a few days ago. It’s been a bloody mess in my house.  I won’t go into all the details. But…it’s not easy helping a toddler understand why he can’t eat, drink or play the same. And because he’s only 2….the traumatized area keeps re-opening causing…more mess.  My mental energy is drained after every new incident.  I’m not easily grossed out.  But…dang it.   I’m tired of blood. We will leave it there.

In addition, the last few weeks, my oldest son (4) has been struggling with antagonizing, dishonesty and causing discord. For days, we’ve spent a LOT of time discussing the word “strife” and “peace”.  This chart has been supremely helpful.  It has behavior issues categorized and offers parents helpful questions to get at the “heart” of the issue.

The last few weeks, we’ve been camped out in the “Strife” column and discussing verses like, “a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among his brothers.” (Prov 6:19) And how he needs to promote peace (Prov 12:20) in our home.

Yesterday, he was determined to break me.  He was dedicated to his mission to start, initiate and embrace strife.

The regular consequences weren’t impactful. His heart was hardened.  None of the “heart-probing” questions on the chart were helping.

Nothing. Was.  Working.

I cried out audibly in my hallway to the Lord and asked, “please help me reach his heart“.    And the Lord answered, “Pizza”.     I’m completely serious.  Now, I grew up crazy “fundamentalist Baptist” (the angry kind) and I’m not easily drawn to such spiritual theatrics.   I looked at the clock and it was almost 4:00pm.

Every day around 4:00pm my son asks “what’s for dinner?”  He loves eating.   He’s just like his daddy.  Food is his love language.

So before he could ask, I set the stage for a brutal evening.  “Baby.  Tonight we are having Pizza Calzones for dinner!” His eyes burst with happiness and he literally squealed and spun around.  I continued, “If you continue to bring strife into our home, you will eat a peanut butter jelly sandwich while WE eat pizza.”   He stopped spinning.  He searched my eyes and said very very slowly and quietly, “I’m going to try …..SO hard.”

Approximately 17 seconds later he instigated a fight with his little brother (the injured, toothless, pathetic one) and my heart sank.  I did NOT want this punishment.  I knew I had to follow through.  And I knew it would devastate him.

He looked up and saw me watching him.  He came over running and said, “Ok – I forgot about the pizza rule but starting NOW I’M REALLY GOING TO TRY AND BRING PEACE.”     I said very softly, “I’m so sorry babe.   Tonight you get a sandwich for dinner.”  He sank to the ground as if I’d let all the air out of his soul.

And then….he cried for almost 4.5 hours.

He begged.  Negotiated. Growled. Whimpered.

My heart was so sad for him.  During dinner he was so desperate for the taste of pizza…he dipped his peanut butter and jelly sandwich into the calzone dipping sauce.   So disgusting.

He went to bed early.  He was devastated, whimpering and quivering.  We had broken him.  But then — while cuddling in bed, I re-asked him the same “heart” questions.  And suddenly the answers were different. He started asking ME some powerful questions like, “why do I love strife and not peace”?   “Why is it so hard to obey?”

And of course, “can I please have pizza tomorrow?”

We were able to discuss other issues and end the night in a sweet and sincere spot.   He is starting to understand the concept of good, evil, sin and righteousness….and all it took was a sandwich.

I’m so grateful for this chart and the encouragement it’s offered.  Even during the darkest parenting moment…. I can grab it and read truth.  It’s only $4 people on Amazon!

Have you used something similar?

    Brendie Heter

    The author Brendie Heter

    9 Comments

    1. AMEN MAMA! Way to push through and aim for his heart and for what is right. As a mama it is SO HARD to do things like “no pizza” for our kids, but like you said it was SO GOOD for him and helped him see the problem in his heart.
      Thanks for sharing and being open with parenting and the exausting yet rewarding job that it is

    2. Makes me think about what kind of “pizza” blessings I have missed out on during my own disobedience. Good job mama. I know this job is SO hard.

    3. I completely relate to this. Sometimes the follow through is so painful, for both mom and kid. Thank you, thank you for sharing!! Getting that book.

    4. It is so very hard… but, man… when you see that glimpse of understanding their sin.. Praise the Lord for his grace and mercies. When Eli and Cora were dedicated the prayer over us was so memorable .. one of the things that I am constantly reminded of from that prayer is “Lord, help Gabe and Kiley know in their hearts the line between grace and dicipline.”
      Still a hard line for us to see at times, especially since they (our kids) are so very different. But, I treasure that prayer. Also, we use a book called ‘Proverbs for Parenting’. It guides us through things like wrong doings, love and friendship, respect of parents, getting along with others, teasing (which is a big one here), lying, control of mouth……. you get the idea.
      I loved this post and it is always always refreshing to hear we are all not alone. Love you guys.

    5. Brendie… I can’t fully express how PROUD I am of you and that you are my sister! You gave clear guidelines along with consequences for breaking those guidelines. Then you did the most important and most difficult part of parenting: follow through! The weight of the consequences that he KNEW he caused is what broke him. In the process, his sandwich was the least fulfilling sandwich in his life! Thank you for modeling what our Heavenly Father does for us! Thank you for not being irresponsible with your responsibility! Proud. Of. You!

      1. Your words are powerful and mean so much. Thank you so much for taking the time to encourage me! Not just as your little sister, but as a mom! This job is BRUTAL. A mental and spiritual warfare ALL DAY. Thank you for modeling consistent Christ-like parenting. Love you!

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