Screaming. Loud screaming. "No! No! No!" The trolley rounds the corner and you see the child throwing a tantrum in the seat. Parent wishing that there was a way to legally sedate your toddler before going to the supermarket. We've all been there. Either as spectators or participants. Either pushing the trolley or sitting in it!
It's normal. Or is it?
We had a Kenyan man visiting church this weekend. He was asked what was different about life in Chessington compared to Kenya. He could have said the quality of housing. He showed us pictures of his mud hut. Literally. He could have said the difference in plumbing. He was seen in a film proudly demonstrating the standpipe and single tap in the yard outside their house. It was their only source of water. He could have said the provision of food. His family ate what they grew. Not because that was organic and trendy. But because that was all they had.
But he said that it was the behaviour of children. In Kenya you don't see children throwing tantrums at their parents because they won't get them what they want.
Now it could be that the Kenyan's have developed a strain of DNA that means they breed compliant children. Maybe....
It could be that they have listened to our western parenting advice and mastered the 3 E's to make the perfect child: Education, encouragement and no E numbers!
But I suspect that it's something rather more biblical. They neither worship their children nor ignore them. They haven't fallen for our post enlightenment thinking that all people are basically good and just need the right circumstances to prove it. They still believe that we are born sinners and need discipline so that we will behave within the bounds that God sets. Which for children are very simple. One rule: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (Ephesians 6:1). That is the simple expectation that our parenting must centre on: the first time obedience of our children to what we ask them to do.
The thing is that to get children to obey takes time, love and patience. I can guarantee that teaching your children to obey won't fit into your schedule. It won't be easy. It can't be done for you at nursery. It isn't about getting the right combination of sleep, play and fresh vegetables. That's why the very next thing commanded in Ephesians is "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4) This is a task that Father's are responsible for, and that Mother's are partners in.
Here is a very simple way that we must be different from our culture: Remember that children are little sinners who need your loving discipline.