Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Guilty Conscience

I am doing a parenting Bible Study with some girls from church called "Growing Kids God's Way." {more info here}

Last night, we talked about our child's conscience.  We talked about how, when our children are young, we are dealing more in their "prohibitive conscience." That's fear of punishment. "I must do this or else..."  As they get older, we want to transition into their "positive conscience." This is "I will do this because it's right."  We want to teach them to do things because it's the right thing to do, not because they think they will get in trouble.

So, there was a test for the parents to take to see which conscience we operate in. Before I took the test, I KNEW!! I had no doubt I operate in the prohibitive conscience. It's not necessarily a guilty conscience, but there is always potential for guilt. I am always thinking ahead to what could or would or might happen. Always having the fear that I will disappoint someone. Never being confident in my decisions because someone may disagree. Always worrying I will be misunderstood.

It really made me think about some things. While not wanting to disappoint or offend someone isn't inherently a bad thing, it shouldn't be my motivation for doing things. I should do good because I love virtue. I should avoid doing bad because God's standards say they are wrong. That's the One I should aim to please above anyone.

And in teaching my children, I want them growing up with their motivation being their love of God. One suggestion from the Bible Study is to teach them WHY they are being corrected.  Instead of just, "Don't hit your brother," give them the reason why we don't hit. And when they learn the reason, they will begin to do things because it's the right thing to do....because they have been taught why it is the right thing.

Another suggestion is to make sure our children know our love is unconditional. Even something as simple as, "Oh, that makes mama sad when you misbehave" can translate to them that when they misbehave, mama doesn't love them.

One example we talked about in our discussion last night was putting the buggy in the buggy corral at the grocery store. So, if this is what I am teaching Meri Hobbs, I would tell her, "Meri Hobbs, we put the buggy into the corral for several reasons. If we don't, it could block someone else's parking space or hit a parked car.  If people don't put their buggies back, there might not be enough available later for everyone to be able to get a buggy to shop with..." etc... The funny part is that this discussion was my red flag for my prohibitive conscience. I thought "Oh my word, I always put my buggy up because I'm nervous that the one time I didn't,  someone from my church would see me and think bad of me." Pitiful, I know!!!

I am glad this was brought to my attention, though, because I am determined to work towards having a healthy conscience, and to also instill one in my children.  I want them to be guided by the Holy Spirit and do what He tells them to, and not to do things out of fear of reproof.

In case you're interested, here's the test:

Prohibitive Conscience Test
Scale:    1 – Never  true of me
                3 – Sometimes true of me
                5 – Half yes/Half no
                7 – Usually true of me
                     10 – Always true of me
  1. When someone says, “I need to talk with you right away,” I get nervous and begin to wonder what I did wrong. 
  2.  Even as an adult, somehow I am made to feel guilty by my mother or father if I do not do what she or he asks or demands.
  3. Somehow my mother-in-law/father-in-law makes me feel guilty if I do not do what she or he asks or demands
  4. If fifty people told me I did a good job, but one person did not like what I did and was critical, the discouragement from the one person would be greater than the encouragement of the fifty.
  5. Sometimes I go to church even when I do not want to just out of the fear that someone might say something about me if I were not there. 
  6. My tendency, when I am in a disagreement with another person, is to give in and say to myself, “It really doesn’t matter anyway.” 
  7. I constantly seek affirmation from those who are closest to me. 
  8. When I’m asked to help a friend or relative, and I need to say no for legitimate reasons, I still feel guilty. 
  9. I am the one who usually says, “I’m sorry.” 
  10. I fear losing my child’s love when I discipline him or her.
76-100 – Excessively high prohibitive conscience
61-75 – Seriously high prohibitive conscience
46-60 – High prohibitive conscience
35-45 – Low prohibitive conscience
25-34 – Healthy conscience
10-24 – Moving toward a hardened conscience

P.S. My score was 64! And I obviously don't have this mastered yet because I was scared to post this test because I didn't want my parents or in-laws to think that I think they demand for me to do things and make me feel guilty. HA!  I have my work cut out for me on this one!!! {Parents and In-laws, I don't think that}

I also feel the need to say that I think my issues are my issues. I never once remember my parents trying to make me feel guilty. I never once felt their love was anything other than unconditional. I do remember them teaching me why right was right and wrong was wrong. I am thoroughly convinced that I have these issues because I am an over-analyzer whose worst fear is doing something to reflect poorly on my husband's ministry. So if anyone is to blame, it's my husband for being a pastor!! :) OK, NOW I will tell my prohibitive conscience to take a hike!


Laura@Cowboy Boots said...

will def have to give this a great practice..

makes sense

Ali said...

Reading you write about putting the buggy away reminds me of the time I pushed a cart really hard and it nearly hit a car and when my mom yelled at me, I said something like, "look how old and gross that car is already!" and she said yeah, but what if that's the only thing that person can afford? And that has stuck with me forever. It's things like that, that help me do the right thing now.

Sarz said...

Great article, but how do you go about fixing a prohibitive conscience (as an adult)? Can you recommend a book to read on it or something? Thanks :)