Wednesday, October 10, 2007

PARENTING FOR NOW, OR FOR TOMORROW?

God is our Father in heaven. And His parenting model is seen throughout the Bible. Hebrews writes:
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb. 12:7-11)
Good parents understand the wisdom of this text. A good parent wants to be like the Heavenly Father who disciplines His children. The parent's job is to train the child. The word "train", as seen in verse 11 above, means to "exercise" as when athletes train and prepare for the games. Good parents parent their child for tomorrow. A good parent disciplines his child even if it is painful. A good parent often says yes to needs, but only sparingly to wants. The good parent can endure some unhappiness from the child knowing that in the future the child will be happy. Good parents want their child to be equipped to compete. Good parents know that instant gratification makes the child weaker, not stronger. Good parents are not wrenched and distressed when the child throws a tantrum. Good parents quickly train the rebellious child, showing that it is painful to act this way in life. Parenting is sometimes painful, always devoted, unflinching, focused and goal-oriented. Good parents go to war for the soul of their children. Peers and other worldly influences tease and coax the child and so the good parent will go to war to win his child to God.

Not all parents are good parents at what they do. In the parent role, they don't have a clear goal for their future. These parents are torn up by a crying child. They make very little distinction between needs and wants. These respond equally to satisfy both needs and wants. If no real training is accomplished, at least the noise is stopped. Ill-equipped parents will satisfy the child's wants today not understanding how detrimental their permissive parenting style will be to their grown child. Watch them in action in public. As their child becomes disobedient, they turn red-faced, anguished, and their breathing becomes labored. Being in a public place, they start making eye contact with those watching the spectacle. I was once watching such a scene at a Restaurant. Seeing my pen, notebook, and Bible, the mother put it together that I was a preacher. She said, "This will probably be in your next sermon." Anyway, this spectacle heightens the anxiety and so they get angry with the child or they flee the scene even if it means leaving a full grocery cart. When the child throws a tantrum, these weak parents are moved to satisfy the child's every want. Poorly equipped parents don't seem to distinguish between a child's needs and wants. If the child wants the toy at the store, and cries loud enough, the child gets it. Some parents, thinking they are being tough, will do other tricks. They will say things like, "If you don't stop crying we are not going to McDonald's." Or they say, "Stop crying and we will go see Grandma." This kind of bargaining is foolish. The child should not be placed in a position to bargain. A good parent knows this is unwise because it is shifting the child's "wanter" from one thing to another thing. The "wanter" is still being satisfied. The weak parent doesn't have a clue. And his child learns nothing about what the real world has in store.

Long-term and eternal values motivate the good parent. Good parents are acutely focused on the future. The good parent's value system is different from the bad parent's. Both parents might be Christian, but the good parent's values are infused with things that are of God. The poorly equipped parent is not a bad person. But he is ill-equipped for this job. The child's soul and eternal life are part of everyday decisions for a good parent. What to watch on TV, who to be friends with, how much time to play video games, how many cookies for snacktime, getting along with siblings, are examples of things on the mind of a good parent. Good parenting learns to wait and hold off gratification because good things come later. A good parent likes saying "no" as much as he likes saying "yes". "No" says to the child that you aren't always going to get what you want. Both yes and no are necessary, but saying no means that the parent has a vision to create a mature, well-adjusted child.

The bad parent can be a good person and believe in God, but something gets lost in the translation between the personal belief and practice of parenting. This parent thinks that love and kindness means giving the child what he wants. What is lost and misunderstood is the true model of parenting by God. These parents can't hardly stand to be the giver of pain. They fear that they are hurting the child. They are afraid that they are discouraging the child. And instead of bringing pain on the child, they give in. The result is that the child gets his way. But should he? Is the child able to look out for his best interest? Is the child wise enough to plot out his life? NO. That's what parents are for. Weak, ill-equipped parents have lost focus on the real goal of parenting: "Afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Instead of raising a happy adult, they create a self-absorbed adult who is never pleased and never satisfied. This truth doesn't register with these parents who by coddling and excusing their child's behavior, they hobble and weaken the child. Rather than disciplinging their child, they make excuses and shift blame for their rebellious child: It's the other child's fault, it's the teacher's fault, it's societies fault.

Here are some things to do if you want to be a good parent:
  • Study God's parenting model and imitate it. Pray and ask for God's help to make up for your failings.
  • Keep focused on training your child to become an adult Christian.
  • Give lots of love and talk to the kids about life.
  • Say "No" and mean it. Be willing to take away your child's favorite things if they don't obey.
  • Don't disregard a bad attitude. If there is anger and sulking, warn the child to stop thinking that way. Encourage them to get a book and read, go play, or do the chores.
  • Don't go into hiding for fear of having to deal with an unruly child in public. Prepae beforehand to deal with it.

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