A Brief Word about Parenting
My church is putting on a parenting class for the many young families that attend. In that class a broad foundation of instruction and wisdom is to be laid for each of the families, helping them chart a way forward in a world filled with opinions, mostly idiotic. Good stuff, sound material, excellent teachers all should provide much help and encouragement for all who come.
However, and yes, there always seems to be a ‘however’, none of it will do any good if one simple attitude does not take hold in the minds of the parents to the point of action. It is the attitude of faithfulness. Taking this class will do nothing for the family if there is not a commitment to faithfully applying what is learned.
Obvious statement I know, but I am no dummy. I have well over a decade of watching as pastor, and well over two decades watching as a father, family after family start well and end horridly. They wring their hands with sorrow, wondering what happened, when the answer is simply that they took their eyes off of the prize and wandered far from faithfulness.
One of the first aspects of faithfulness will be consistency. Let’s pretend you do not believe in spanking, so you decide “time-outs” are the best course of action. Fine. But will you be consistent? Every time? Always. With every child? Even is she is looking really pitiful and sorry? Or will you instruct your child that if Mommy is tired then the child can get away with 20% more mischief. And if Mommy and Daddy are arguing then there is a 50% increase in mischief as the child manipulates guilt.
I listen a lot to parents. And I hear them often say, “That is a great idea! I have to try that!” And I raise my eyebrows slightly and I think to myself, “Like the last fifteen things you said you had to try? None of which you are doing now?” Then I watch the boring parents. They don’t have clever devices like “friendship bracelets” which are essentially handcuffs to force the kids to make up and get along. Instead they are simply consistent. The how of the discipline is less important that the faithfulness behind it. Fair, clear boundaries are set and the children learn to flourish within those boundaries. And if they choose to violate those boundaries (e.g. be disrespectful to a parent, not obey a proper command, act in a hurtful manner toward a sibling, etc.) the consequences are consistently and quickly brought to bear.
As a pastor and Christian, there are many biblical principles that must be taught. But if the parents learning have no real intention of getting their butts off of the couch when a child needs training then none of it matters. So my free, cheap advice to parents is stop making excuses as to why you will not train your children or stop having babies. For the Christian there is the reality that we are to give an account for our children, so let’s act like we do live under the Lordship of Jesus. And finally, never use the gospel, or grace, as an excuse to sin as an unfaithful parent, Romans 6 won’t let you.
**Updated, fixed a few errors in the text.