Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Best Parenting Practices

I often think of myself like a mama bear walking around the forest with her two cubs. I'm so happy (relieved?) to be at the stage we're at now. For the most part, we're past the point of worrying moment to moment about my boys' safety. They don't stick things in outlets. They know what is poisonous. They can walk up and down stairs without falling. They know not to run out in the road. Looking back, it's amazing how much just keeping them alive dominated my parenting during those early years. But now, we're into the stage of honest discipleship. I've been thinking back this week on various things I've learned about parenting my boys the last few years. Most of the principles listed below I've learned the hard way. Here's a summary of the big ideas that have been life giving to me, totally changing both my boys and myself, how we relate to each other, and how I prepare them for the future.

1) First and foremost, punishment is not the same as discipleship. If Christ truly fulfilled our punishment on the cross and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), then that has to change how we react to our children when they do wrong. I used to think that I was disciplining/discipling my boys by punishing them when they disobeyed. But how do you convey the gospel (that Christ has already paid for their sins on the cross) that they need in that moment when you are simultaneously punishing them anew for it?! Learning the subtle yet profound difference in punishment and discipline has been life changing for me personally and subsequently for me with my children.

2) Spanking is not required in Scripture. It is certainly allowed in Scripture, but it is not required. The commands to “discipline” in Scripture are not synonymous with spanking, not even close. The word “rod” in Scripture is not synonymous with spanking either. Again, not even close. These first two principles were the biggest problem I had with the chapter on spanking in Give Them Grace. Otherwise I appreciated that book very much.

3) Modeling for my boys what I want them to be and do is the most effective form of discipleship. Often when they disobeyed, I modeled the exact opposite of what I wanted them to do. I want them to work out disagreements with calm words, even when the other party is angry. I want them to walk away until the parties calm down in heated situations. Yet I realized that I wasn't doing that when I was disciplining them after they did not do it. Reactive parenting is ineffective parenting. When I train my boys with a view of what I want them to become, not what they just demonstrated they were, I'm obeying the Golden Rule, which Jesus claims is fundamental to all other instructions in Scripture.
Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
4) The difference in pervasive and total depravity.  My boys are not always acting out on the worst of their sin nature. Sometimes, they just make mistakes. The T in TULIP never meant that my boys are always as bad as they have the potential to be. Very few men or women in the history of the world have demonstrated total evil at all times in all places of life. But we are pervasively depraved. Our sin problem pervades all of our life and is so extensive to be something we can not eradicate on our own. Understanding this difference protects me from assuming the worst of my boys at every turn, which is a big problem since Paul instructs in I Corinthians 13 that Biblical love is ever ready to believe the best of someone! A wrong understanding of depravity tempted me to disobey the greatest command to love as the Bible describes that term in I Cor. 13.

5) The final principle that has blessed me as a parent is that fruit takes a long time. I can't sow my seed in the morning, water it 10 minutes later, fertilize it the next hour, and expect fruit by the evening. I have learned the value of sowing in the morning, watering in the evening, and fertilizing the following week. I may need to repeat the process for a few weeks or months, maybe years, but eventually fruit will bloom. Real fruit – not the type of change my kids do to appease me in the moment and shut me up from harassing them. Such real heart change because my children internalized a principle we have been working on over time is beautiful to see.

I have to keep revisiting these principles, reminding myself of why from Scripture these things are the scaffold around which I want to parent. I hope something there is encouraging to you today too as you disciple yours.

17 comments:

  1. Thank you-- what an encouraging post. I have a wee 8-month-old, but have been thinking about these things, as I realize that we're laying groundwork now. This was what my heart needed to hear this week.

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  2. EK, thanks for commenting. God bless you in this journey with your new little one.

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  3. It is so encouraging to read this, these are the lessons I have been learning the hard way too. My little ones are 5, 4 and 1, and the thing that continues to shape my parenting more than anything else is coming to grips with how God treats me, as one of his beloved children. How many times have I realised that I behave exactly like a spoiled, defiant, disobedient child! (Humbling!) Learning to deal with my children has taught me so many precious things about my Father and Saviour.
    I love what you have written, because, as usual, it extends freedom and grace.

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  4. You are fortunate indeed to learn these things early in your parenting. I wasted years being torn between wanting to parent as you describe above and trying to follow the "biblical" teachings that are prevalent in the homeschooling movement-at least they were 20 years ago, and I look back to see an almost Jekel and Hyde version of myself-living out all the legalistic, simplictic formula parenting and punishing-how I am sorry to remember how hard it was to really delight in my children and enjoy them when I was being so vigilant over sin, not feeling free to give grace often for a confused understanding of having to obey God by requiring first- time obedience and all of that other nonsense. Mercifully, God has given me more babies in my advanced age, and parenting babies and toddlers in my forties is much different in freedom from bondage than in my twenties. Most Christians look at us like we are deluded liberals who make scripture say what we want it to say if they find out we aren't spanking. But frankly, I'm too old to care what people think anymore, nor do I need to convince the world that I'm right. I am curious, though, if you recommend any specific books to others if they ask, or do you just explain yourself when asked?

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  5. As for specific books, I like Give Them Grace and Grace Based Parenting. My main problem with Give Them Grace is that the chapter on spanking seemed to deny the gospel premise it set up in the earlier chapters. But beyond that, it made me think. Grace Based Parenting gives big general ideas and doesn't get much into specifics.

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  6. Great post. I have a 10 and 8 year old and am experiencing these same parenting growing pains. As mine got older and more "free thinking', if you will, it became more apparent that I was parenting from a "command and control" model. For instance, "Don't run into the street!" might work, but "Say you're sorry right now!" is a bit silly.

    I found I was bearing the weight of their sin on my shoulders and trying to control the nature of their heart.

    It's been a rocky transition to use my shepherding and discipling muscle more and trust their hearts to Jesus, but they respond to it so much better than when I'm in bitchy, controlling mom mode. :)

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  7. Thank you, Wendy! I just got back from one of Sally Clarkson's Mom Heart conferences and this is a great summary of so much of what she said. I appreciate your ministry so much as a mom of a just-turned-3-year-old and a 22 month old.

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  8. I am not a parent, but I just wanted to say how continually blessed I am by the wisdom - gospel - you impart for all areas of life. God has used you mightily and decisively in my life and I thank him for you. Please keep sharing! :)

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  9. I <3 this post. I completely agree with you, but at the same time I am having such a hard time being the kind of Mom I want to be and know I should be. I don't know why I struggle so hard with it. I believe so strongly in the concepts you have outlines here, yet I fail so often. I feel like Paul when he writes in Romans "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Particularly in regards to the "reactive parenting" stuff. I am a very reactive parent, something I never foresaw, and I am deeply deeply struggling as I try to move away from that. If you have any links or posts or resources that you think might be helpful to me, please send them my way!

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  10. YES! Jacquelyn, I hear you and have struggled in exactly that place every day of parenting. I wrote on the troll who torments my children (that troll being me) a few years ago. I still must repent regularly. The Troll Who Torments My Children

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  11. Chelsey, I've heard good things about Sally Clarkson's conferences, but I've never had a chance to attend.

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  12. I love this post Wendy! We have just recently (in the last year) decided to stop spanking our kids (now almost 4 and 6) b/c it simply wasn't "working" and b/c it only increased my anger. I have found books like Love & Logic to be good, and an e-book I was able to get free from the author called Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin (email him at info@biblechild.com). He presents an excellent scriptural study on the original Hebrew in the OT regarding those "spanking verses" in Proverbs. Some good meat to chew on!

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  13. it's so unfortunate that most of the best parenting advice I've picked up has come from secular sources. (that's another reason I appreciate your blog so much though!) my son is only a toddler so I have a long way to go still, but one of the best things I've picked up is that discipline is teaching, punishment is retribution. for me, I don't see a way to fit spanking into my mental framework of discipline (although I know it works for some families, and that is fine.) to me it's really important to evaluate what I am going to teach in a situation, because that's my job. it's easy to fall into a mindset where you're just doling out consequences because you think your kid deserves it. I don't think that's the best parenting tactic in general, but it's especially harmful when you're trying to communicate grace to your children. anyway, thank you for this post! you always give me so much to think about.

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  14. I'm not a mom, either, but I have to tell you that your advice -- based on Biblical truths -- is valuable and applicable to my marriage.
    Thank you!

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  15. God is kind to parents when they seek Him for wisdom in raising their children. Even in the errors we make with our children He so often covers them because He knows our heart.

    I am now at the tail end of the 'raising' part of raising 7 children and I have noticed in so many blogs lately the 'no spank' policy and I think it might be prevalent because of the way so many young moms have seen it done so wrong. Anything done wrong is wrong.

    But to swing the pendulum way over to the other side might not be a good response. It seldom is.

    It is helpful to be able to look back now- not still be in the midst of-parenting to make pronouncements about the outcome of various methods.

    Blessings to all you young moms as you seek the best for your children.

    You might find this helpful:
    http://www.pinkpeppers.com/2012/03/26/the-magical-technique-to-raising-wonderful-children/

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  16. Huge Amen to this post. Passing it on!

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