Ever hear the term “outlasting” used in reference to parenting? Up till a few years ago, I hadn’t. But it’s a great term and practice for teaching obedience to kids, and it’s been a huge asset to our household.
”Outlast, v. : 1. to endure or last longer than.”
With regard to parenting, it basically means this: You tell your child to do something. Then you wait till she does it. Period. You wait calmly and without anger or rush. You maintain presence and focus. You demonstrate (to yourself and your child) that your perseverance in ensuring that your instruction is heeded is greater than her intention to disobey.
Here’s what Elizabeth Krueger (from whom I originally learned this term) has to say about outlasting: your comprehending but non-complying child hopes “you will eventually cave and not require obedience from him. Quit being a push-over. Outlast him. Every time he challenges you, let him know exactly what you expect and make sure that his little world stops until he obeys. Do not allow him to go anywhere or do anything until he submits. The key is to simply outlast him until he gives in.”
When I first began implementing this concept consistently with my toddler, I was surprised to find how frequently I was actually being a push-over. In my mind I meant business, but I was too impatient and annoyed to work through the process till I obtained the obedience I desired. The result was that, after a few attempts to solicit obedience, I often half-completed the task for her to move the process along (ie., pick her up and then together go over and get her shoes – the command I’d given and she hadn’t heeded – rather than waiting for her to do it as instructed.) Once I became intentional and consistent, only giving a command when I pre-considered whether I intended to outlast if necessary, my resolve and her internalization of the need to obey improved greatly.
Outlasting requires commitment, because sometime sessions can last a while, especially at the start of the practice when the kid’s first adjusting to your longstanding resolve. But I think the fruit that comes from the use of this practice is well worth the effort, for parent and child alike. I’ve used outlasting ever since, although I will say that I’ve found the use of a playpen as a “pause” button on the outlasting process to sometimes be helpful when I’m working with an obstinate toddler when other duties call.
Recently God grew my outlasting picture. I had a revelation about outlasting, and it was this: God is the ultimate “outlaster.” A friend was leading corporate prayer and prayed these words: “God, you outlast everything.” And isn’t that the truth? Our Alpha and Omega, the One who’ll be waiting for us in heaven when our earthly lives end, the One whose heavens will be totally unaffected when this world passes away…This God we serve, whose name is Love, is the true outlaster. We have a God for whom “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day,” a God who is patient with us. His affection for us, His mercy, His sovereignty, the fulfillment of His purposes for our lives – these will all outlast every thought of our heart and action of our body.
And when I outlast my children, training them to obey me and to accept my authority over them, I can remember that we’re enacting a scenario that actually mirrors God’s relationship with humanity. I get to contemplate the God who forever outlasts me when I need it, waiting patiently for me to lay down my own rebellious spirit and to join Him in the place of harmony and peace.
Now I try to keep that reality in the front of my mind when I’m outlasting a stubborn child intent on getting her way and unwilling to yield to my authority. In reality, I’m outlasting’s beneficiary; I’m on the other side of the equation. And I get to spend my life learning how to release my will into hands of the eternal, wise, kind, and ever-gracious heart of my outlasting God. My God’s patient spirit toward me mark my own demeanor with my children.