*This post is not meant to cover all topics thouroughly when it comes to parenting, but I hope that at least we will be more deliberate in thinking through our actions and how they impact our children.*
In no way will any of us ever be perfect parents, but why not strive each day to be much better than we already are? Only through the grace my Lord gives me can I be anything good. I pray that as I parent, I will be lead by Him to be the best mommy I can be, for His glory.
We have to be intentional when it comes to parenting. Our children will be parented whether we are trying or not. The question is will it be good parenting or not so good parenting?
I've been thinking about this a whole lot lately as my husband and I work, by God's grace and with His help, to subdue our children's wills. Our aim to subdue their wills stems from our understanding of what the Bible teaches about man (humans), God, and our role as parents. We want our children to grow up to be mature, respectful, self-controlled adults who love the One True God and love others. This doesn't just happen. It takes a lot of work, a lot of prayer, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of intentionality.
When I think about parenting there are reasons that I rejoice and reasons that I mourn.
I rejoice because I love being a parent. I love my children. I love seeing my husband as their dad. I love the many lessons I have learned about myself. I love how much I learn about the LORD and about people through my children. There is so much to love, and there are so many reasons I am thankful that the LORD has blessed me with children. I also rejoice as a child because I love my parents, too!
On the other hand, I mourn for all of the children that are neglected, abused, mistreated, disrespected, unloved, and otherwise harmed by their parents either intentionally or unintentionally. I also mourn for the women and men who long to have children, but for some reason are not able to have them. I also mourn for the many who have lost their children one way or another.
But what about the parents who do love their children and don't know how to parent them?
There are so many misconceptions about children, parents, and their roles. Especially in this country we have seemingly lost our way when it comes to parenting. Look around and think about the rise in crime, lack of respect for authority, lack of concern for others, lack of reverence for God Almighty... Could this be a direct result of how these now adults were parented? This could be a frightening thought if you have small children or at least children who still live under your roof!
Unfortunately I see a profound uncertainty, lack of understanding, and lack of biblical wisdom in many parents. Children, instead of parents, are leading the homes! Equally unfortunate, I see this in the church and outside of the church. Since many people who do not consider themselves "in the church" most likely will not be as interested in what the Bible says about parenting, I guess I am more directly speaking to those of us who are following Christ (however all are welcome to read on - I hope you do). We should care about what the Bible says about everything. We should care about what the Bible says about parenting.
So why the lack of understanding? Why is there such a waffling among many Christians when it comes to how to train up a child? I see two possibilities:
1. Lack of knowledge about what the Bible says about parenting
2. Lack of submission to the LORD and to what He says about parenting in the Bible
Let's face it, there is not a real common knowledge about what the Bible says about any given topic (though there should be!), so it is not very surprising that we are falling short here, especially in the church. It amazes me how clear God is and yet how ignorant we can be.
Are you listening to the world when it comes to parenting or are you listening to the LORD? He is Father God, and He knows all about what I need as a mom and what my children need. Furthermore, I have been entrusted with these children, and I will be held accountable.
I need to ask myself a few questions on a regular basis to keep me focused on intentionality in parenting:
1. Am I making sure I spend time with the LORD in study of the Bible and in prayer?
This must happen! There is no negotiating here. I am simply a better mom (and better everything) when I am actively and intentionally seeking the LORD. Just ask my children.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts." (Deuteronomy 6:5,6)
2. Am I (and my husband, too) teaching our children what we learn from the LORD?
"Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:7-9)
3. Am I seeking to change (and asking the LORD to change) only the behavior of my children, or am I seeking change in their hearts?
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)
Great behavior is good. It is desired. However, I don't want my child to exhibit good behavior and still have a heart bent towards her own selfish desires. How will she learn to obey her Lord if she cannot obey me?
4. Am I not only learning the truth but also living it out and basing my decisions on biblical truth instead of misguided lies?
Here is where some basic foundational truths are needed. In order to be the best parent I can be, I have to know and continually seek to discern truth from lie.
"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17 - Jesus praying for all believers)
5. Am I thinking long term or short term?
This usually is a question I ask when I am tempted to not follow through with much needed discipline or quite frankly I am being selfish myself. My children need me to train them (of course my husband trains them right alongside me, but for simplicity I am speaking only for myself here). When I would rather pretend to ignore misbehavior or deal with something that needs immediate attention later because I am in the middle of something (like writing a blog on intentionality in parenting) I am only considering the short term implications of what disobedience leads to and not the fact that her will is going to be stronger if I do not help her say "No" to her selfish nature now and chose the right way.
Yeah, this is not easy. Did you really think parenting would be easy? But it is indeed not only necessary, but also it's my job! I don't like it when I have to discipline my children because it is uncomfortable many times. However, if I do not do my job, according the the LORD's standards and in love, then I am not really concerned about helping my children grow up to be mature, respectful, and self-controled adults who love God and love others.
When someone tells me that they don't believe in spanking their children I like to ask them, "How's that working for ya?" There is definitely a right and a wrong way to discipline children, so please don't get those confused. However, when we shy away all together from proper, biblical discipline, we are actually allowing our children (and further helping them) to become more selfish, less likely to obey the LORD (or anyone) and more likely to end up in danger (spiritually and/or any other way).
"He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." (Proverbs 13:24)
"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:11,12)
6. Am I being a good example?
Ever hear a parent say, "Do as I say, not as I do?" It doesn't work that way, does it? Sometimes, we as parents are not actually saying this phrase, but our actions are speaking it loudly. I think we certainly need to be transparent with our children and honest when we make a mistake. They need to see our repentant hearts that seek to obey the LORD, so they know by example what that looks like. Even in small things, I want to be a good example. For example, we require our older daughter to make her bed without being asked when she wakes up in the morning and after her afternoon nap. What does it communicate if my husband and/or I don't make our bed? I want to be real and honest and follow through with what is right, as I desire my children to do likewise.
7. Are my children seeing me love and honor my husband?
What security and peace comes when a child sees her parents loving and honoring each other according to biblical truth. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in Proverbs 31:28,29 we read, "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'"
Parenting is a very serious and extremely important job, and we must treat it this way. There will always be more to learn and our children will have different struggles than each other, just like adults. Only intentional parenting, God's way, can lead to the outcome He desires - hearts fully devoted to Him. This is the very best that I can offer my children. Why would I want laziness, apathy, or anything else to keep me from giving this gift to them and training them to live according to what is right and true?
I really believe that parenting can be more enjoyable than what the average parent in America is experiencing. It's start with being intentional as parents, and it starts today.
Some resources I strongly recommend:
Child Training Tips: What I Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young, by Reb Bradley
Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6)