Stop the Parenting Wars

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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.


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Epic Failure

It’s been so dry that every time I hose down the potted mums, a half dozen bees appear for a drink.  They don’t bother me.  All they want is some water.  Yes, that’s how dry it’s been in Ohio.  The finches hang out at the thistle seed, lazy and fat.

I love the sound of rain even when it’s been raining for days. This morning, I got up early just so I could stand outside in the dark and feel drops falling on me.  But the drops did not fall.

I pulled my container plants out in a nice messy row so that they could soak up the freshness.  But they remain dusty and pathetic.

I am not fresh.

This has been a week of epic failure.  Can you spell A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E?

I think it all started earlier this month when not one but every clerk, waiter, checker, and retailer asked me if I was getting ready for the big weekend.  Did we have plans?  What big weekend, I wanted to know?  Oh, yeah.  Labor Day Weekend.  I felt like asking the Lady Violet question in proper Maggie Smith British (For you Downton Abbey fans),  ”Excuse me, what is a week-END?”

My husband is a pastor.  We work on weekends.  Did I really spout this to every poor unsuspecting person?  Even the girl at Target.  Yes, I did.  I tried to sound joyful about the prospect, but inside, I confess, I was wishing that we were getting ready for the big weekend.  Our daughter called, and I promptly told her that everyone else in Ohio was at the lake.  What were they doing for the Big Weekend?

Never mind that we have been given the privilege of sharing God’s hope, love and peace.  Never mind that we can freely worship and enjoy the encouragement of other Christians.

I yelled at the cat that he was in my way, when clearly, I was in his way.  Picked an argument with my husband, who picked back.  Quit on changing the seasonal decorations in our house, because why put up any autumn decorations when it’s 80 degrees outside?

The epicness (is that a word?) of my failings culminated with an hour back and forth “discussion” in an online comment section under an article about Donald Trump.  Please don’t judge me. Thank you, God, for the Bible study on Hosea.  This week, I learned about God’s unfailing love and how He rescues us over and over and over….

Even from online comment sections.

Seriously.

And then I saw this.

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I knew everything was going to be all right.  To everything there is a season.  Maybe we need seasons of A-T-T-I-I-T-U-U-D-E to understand why we need G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E.

“Bless the LORD O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…”  Psalm 103:2

These benefits would include the amazing creation of the pumpkin.  Oh, yes, and people.  We all need hope.

What are you grateful for today?

 


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Putting a Bandaid on a Heart Wound

Many of the most popular parenting blogs these days give this kind of advice:  Have your kids give up certain things and they will become better kids and then, naturally, better adults.  Make your kids work hard.  Stop indulging them.  Don’t make them the center of your world.  On the surface, it sounds like good advice.  But does it really address how to love our children?  So, here’s my question of the day to those of you who have kids at home:  Is your parenting style behavior based or heart based?

The problem with behavior-based parenting (i.e. focusing on what a child does, with discipline, consequences, or reward) doesn’t address the heart, theirs or ours.  And it often leaves them thinking as they mature into the teen and young adult years that if they mess up, they have lost their faith.  Because their faith has become a system of dos and don’ts, rather than a relationship based on grace.  (See Fuller Youth Institute’s recent study on Sticky Faith.)

Proverbs 4:23 says this: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.”

Jesus said this in Matthew 15:18: ”But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile them.”

Behavior modification puts a bandaid on an open heart wound.  Grace-based parenting, heart-based parenting teaches heart and character development through relationship.  Relationship with Christ.  Relationship with parents.  Relationship with others.

I’ll be looking at two different ways of thinking more in depth by reviewing popular parenting “styles.”  Next up: Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline and Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.download (1) 2.


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Choose This Not That

I will or I will not.  I can or I can not.  I change or I won’t.  I seek or I don’t.  I act or ignore.  Choose.  Today is just another day, really.  But the world was created to be marked off in years, and so we begin a new year.  365 days.  What will you do with yours?

I want to read through the Bible in a year, something I did 3 years in a row once.  It changed my life.

I want to walk/run/bike 1000 miles.

I want to determine to speak words of encouragement and kindness and build up those around me, to be a living, breathing, walking example of Ephesians 4:29.  May Grace fall on those around me and may I not sound like a clanging gong or a noisy cymbal.  This one needs work.  I used to be an encourager.  But “used to”s are yesterday’s vapor.  We must guard our heart but not let it harden. “Watch over [guard] your heart with all diligence for from it flows the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

I want to choose people over schedule.

I want to be a person who chooses God’s strength over my weakness and can face weaknesses, submitting them to the loving Potter hands of God who can mold me no matter how stubborn or set in my ways I am.

I want to take a photography class and capture time in space, a moment of falling suspended snow or the invisible curiosity of my grandchildren who are cousins and know they are connected in that untouchable thing called love and can’t quite figure out why.

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I want to choose Christ over culture.

To do that, I must understand that more than being a choice, it is a submission of my will to God’s will and that to do that I must yield to the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within me.

It is supposed to snow today.  I’m going to put on my ten layers of clothes and boots and outerwear and take a walk with my husband in the subzero windchill.  Maybe I’ll even make a snow angel.  Catch snowflakes on my tongue and wonder how each crystal can be as different as every one of the billions of humans on the planet.

Listen to the deafening presence of God in the winter stillness and know that I am connected to Him in that untouchable thing called love and can’t quite figure out why.

 


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