The topic of parenting, specifically child training, comes and goes in consuming my mind.
Naturally, it becomes more preoccupying when dealing with one of my own children and wondering how to properly handle various situations that might arise. Questions and doubts engross my thinking when one of our own "Christian" young people willfully leaves the faith of their parents in a desperate worldliness crave.
It’s in these moments that I examine my mothering. A big fear for most moms is failing. Will my child be successful? Be accepted? Be a hard worker? Have character? Choose or reject Christ? etc…
Why do I parent the way I do? Most of the time it is because it was how I was parented, and I believe I was raised well by two godly parents. But is that reason enough? Should my parenting philosophy be based on two imperfect people?
Maybe you’re sailing in the opposite boat as me and you did not have godly parents and are trying to figure this parenting thing out. The answer is still the same. Our parenting aspirations should not lean on human understanding but should always be based on the Bible and lead by the Spirit.
All mom’s are prone to missteps from time to time and when I examine my own missteps, they usually stem from one of three issues:
I misstep when I overlook the principles found in God’s Word.
In moments of vulnerability it's easy to cast a horizontal glance, looking to another mom whose children look respectable and try to mimic their mothering style. Thoughts like, I want to be like so-and-so enter my mind. But disappointment seems to always be the conclusion – probably because I am not them, nor will I ever be them, and my children are not their children but are uniquely my own.
There’s a major mothering misstep when I adapt the I-want-to-be-like-her mindset. Yes, it is wise to take counsel from other well-seasoned moms; both from their words and their lifestyle. The Bible instructs younger women to listen and learn from the older, wiser, more versed women. (See Titus 2) As a younger, often times naive mom, I've purposed to seek out such counsel and to note those setting a Christ-like example. But I've also purposed to weight each opinion against the Word of Truth and not another's experience alone.
I misstep by looking on the outward appearance and not on the heart.
The heart has always mattered to God. He wants our affection, not just our conformity. He wants our devotion, not a list of the good works we’ve done. The same goes for parenting - it is all about the heart, both the heart of the parent and the heart of the child.
The heart of the parent is extremely important; I believe it might be more crucial than the child’s heart. If my motives are to impress people by how well behaved, disciplined, hardworking or respectful my kids are, then I will fail. I've based my parenting in pride, something God hates (Pr. 6:16-17) and that will only bring destruction (Pr. 16:18).
Parenting for the approval of others will produce superficial results in my kids. It will lead down the nasty road of hypocrisy which will usually produce God-hating (vs God-fearing) children.
A child’s heart is important, too, and gaining the trust of their heart is my goal as a parent. Their heart can be won over by unconditional love and godly discipline (or, God-like chastisement) or it can be wounded by conditional love and improper discipline. "He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail." (Pr. 22:8)
How does God the Father parent his own children? As a child of God, when we choose to disobey Him, we break our fellowship and shut down communication. Our sin has caused an offense. We no longer strive together side by side, yoked through the winding ups and downs of life. Although the relationship remains, there is strain and separation because, much like oil and water, my rebellion cannot blend with His holiness. Restoration must occur. Repentance is the only way. So many of my offenses are covered in grace where He gently leads me back, but sometimes He chooses chastisement.
Chastisement, not punishment… Punishment implies retaliation; that the offender got what was coming to them. God the Father never deals with His children that way and neither should I! Chastisement is not about me, the parent. It is about the child, so that they will understand my love for them and my desire for them to do right, because I see a bigger picture.
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
When I've chosen to discipline my kids the same way God disciplines me, my relationship with my kids strengthens and becomes sweeter. But when I do things my way, I risk offending them, building up resentment in their heart and even wounding their spirit.
I misstep when I parent in the flesh and not in the Spirit of God.
This is key.
All the parenting books in the world are useless in their information when the principles are not lived out with the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to default to the way we were raised (whether good or bad), the methods of other respectable parents, or our own reasoning all while completely bypassing the Lord’s leading. Our best flesh-based parenting skills play out like this: "Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it." (Ecc. 8:17)
My favorite parenting verse is James 1:5 - "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God!" In my many times of frustration and uncertainty, discouragement and failure, trials and adversity, He's given me wisdom beyond measure and the grace to live it out. In my flesh dwells no good thing, only lusts that inevidably bring distrction. Yet, I, along with every mom reading this, can be a conqueror through Him who loves us.
Beware of the mothering missteps.
You have been given a unique child unlike anyone else. You are a unique mom, unlike any other mom. God sees the big picture. He wants to use your kids to make you more like Him. Yield control of your mothering over to God. He knows the needs and His ways are always best.