A friend of mine once said that our first child should be sent home with a gallon of pink amoxicillin and a How-to-Fix-It-Book. Parenting. It’s a word that brings great joy, but it also causes all kinds of other emotions. Fear. Anger. Disappointment. Pride. Love. Hilarity. You name it, I think parenting can make us feel, well, almost anything.
There are a gajillion parenting theories out there to help us get through this journey of joy, fear and love all rolled together. A few days ago, I read a couple of articles on discipline that I would label “extreme.” They represented each end of the spectrum. One advocated little discipline, the other almost adult-like discipline. Both articles made me cringe. Talk to any parent, and they will give you a different opinion about what works and what doesn’t. And now, parents can sign up for classes to teach them how to be better parents! Attachment Parenting, Grace-Based Parenting, Love and Logic, Dare to Discipline, The Five Love Languages for Families are all names of books and schools of thought that have attempted to give the Christian parent a sure roadmap to raising emotionally and spiritually healthy and mature children.
Through the years of raising our own three daughters, being far from perfect, making plenty of mistakes and working with families in church and military life, I have learned some helpful insights:
1) Whatever the advice is, we need to hold it up to Scripture and know the entire context of the biblical passages. Does it line up biblically? And are we taking verses out of context? The Bible is full of parents, good (Timothy’s mother Eunice) and bad (several of King David’s kids had ALL kinds of issues) to study, as well as endless wisdom. I have been guilty of putting a certain author or speaker on a pedestal where only God and his Word should be.
2) What works for one family may not work for another. What works for one child may not work for another. We learned to glean from all the advice, taking the good and separating the bad for our particular family dynamics and personalities or where perhaps we disagreed with the advisor. We also learned to lean on prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3) Discipline is not a bad word. Biblical discipline (a) is consistent and true, (b) emanates from a legitimate authority (c) establishes boundaries and compels action and/or change. Biblical discipline is concerned about the whole child and presenting a child to maturity! The original word in the Greek implies an action that presents one who is mature and complete, lacking in nothing, reflecting the very glory of Christ. In other words, it’s how you raise your child into adulthood, not a method of punishment!
4) We must be careful to discern cultural expectations. Perhaps the best insight I’ve learned over the years is one I first became aware of in one of the counseling classes Pastor Mike (my husband) and I took in seminary. Family dynamics can be co-dependent, independent or interdependent. A person can be codependent, independent or interdependent. The very nature of American culture teaches that independence is best. The biblical and sociological reality is that God never intended us to be independent but interdependent! Interdependency teaches that we need a relationship with Christ and fellow believers. Inter-dependency teaches accountability for actions with family members and society in general. God created the family to be the very foundation of society! For it to work, we need to foster healthy relationships that are mutual and caring.
5) We need to be parents of grace and not push our children to adulthood before they are ready. Children mature differently. We tend to define maturity by age and how our legal system defines age-appropriate milestones, such as driving and voting. Maturity depends on many factors, and we need to consider each of our children individually. We need to have grace for not only our family but also other families.
6) Developing grace-based godly character should come above all else. We need to be an earthly example of the grace that God extended to us through Jesus Christ. And we need to help our children – and grandchildren- be secure in a world that is increasingly changing toward Christians. May our families be Psalm 1 families:
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2But they delight in the law of the LORD,
meditating on it day and night.
3They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
4But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
5They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6For the LORD watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and know you are not alone. It is possible to refocus and be intentional about your parenting. A new year is a good time to reassess and set goals for your family. I’ll touch on Intentional Parenting in the next blog.