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There has been a trend developing in recent years of parents sharing new philosophies on how to raise children. Because of this internet age we live in, it is easy to share Facebook posts, articles, or blogs to begin conversation, or explain our own passionate view of parenting techniques. Specifically, I am seeing many heated discussions and new expectations in the area of disciplining our children. Topics such as spanking, time outs and the use of any punishments at all are being re-examined.

 

Although I believe it is always important to check our actions, words and motives, I am seeing a danger in Christians becoming dependant on these philosophies. Here’s why: We all hear from God and we all have opportunity to study His word and allow Him to shape our views. But our human nature is to figure every topic out, stuff it into a tiny invisible box and then return to that “how to” box each time we need guidance. Our human nature will always return to this tendency. That is how real relationships with God get choked out by religious rituals, programs, and rules. It happens in churches, in personal lives, and sometimes… in parenting. We need to tread life’s path keenly aware of this tendency; never letting popular philosophies confuse our own common sense or replace our hunger for fresh insight from God.

 

Some of these articles offer valuable tools. But before reading another one, we need to ask ourselves if we have taken the time to sit and listen to God yet that day, or read His word. He is the greatest parent there ever was or ever will be. He knows each child that he has loaned out to us better than we ever will. He knows what will work and what won’t. He knows the root of the problem each time. And He knows our strengths and weaknesses better than the author of any article.

 

The problem is, philosophies will always generalize a situation and are purely based on theories and methods. But parenting is never black and white. The perfect answer in one situation is rarely used the exact same way a second time. And just when we think we are learning how to deal with the personality of one child, our second child is completely different.

 

For example, one topic I have seen many articles on lately is time outs. It is claimed that as adults we would never want to be shoved aside when we are hurting most so we shouldn’t do that to children. The fear is that we are only adding to a child’s determination to mask their own feelings and causing damage through rejection.

 

However, I do not believe it is so cut and dry. As adults, we all need time to cool off sometimes. Some of us go for a run or a walk. Some take a bath. Some sit in a quiet room and let out stress with a cry. I realize we do not do these things because another adult is forcing us to. But the point of raising children is this: They are not adults yet. That is why we are raising them- to prepare them for adulthood.

 

How about instead of deciding whether time outs are black or white, let’s check ourselves for why we are giving them in the first place.

 

We need to make sure time outs are never used as an excuse for lazy parenting. It is too easy to get overwhelmed in the kitchen and send little Brian to his room for half an hour so we can take something off our own plate. If little Brian needs some time to take a deep breath and think about things, let him know firmly and lovingly exactly why he is going there. Ask God to meet Him in that place and go soon after to have a chat with him about what just took place. (I know that’s not easy with a baby on your hip and dinner burning on the stove.)Take the time to explain what was happening and shepherd his heart. Take the time to love on him unconditionally for a moment while shaping his heart in a one on one setting. That way, little Brian sees that you needed Him to talk to God and talk you in a private setting so that further damage could be prevented, instead of thinking that he was banished from your presence to relieve everyone else in the room.

 

Children always need love. They also need truth. This is how we all develop a better perspective.

 

Any discipline that is overused will lose its effect and start to create a hardened heart. Matter of fact, I would suggest a little creativity. This gets easier as children get older.

 

Another hotly debated topic these days is spanking. If two parents are feeling a conviction about spanking then by all means they should avoid it. Just make sure your house does become a “spank free” home that has somehow lost all order in the area of child rearing. It is not okay when children feel the liberty to ignore or disrespect their parents, or other adults on a regular basis. We all have authority figures in our lives and it is much easier to learn to walk in respect as a child than it is as an adult. So the question becomes, if you are not using that method, how are you effectively doing your job as a parent? 

 

Not spanking does not have to mean no consequences at all. Your other options might take longer and take more determination. Are you up to it? We need to examine ourselves. This is where common sense needs to come alongside newer philosophies.

 

Another common issue with banishing the use of traditional disciplines is when parents begin to feel powerless and take it out on their children verbally. I cannot tell you how often I have seen parents who will proudly proclaim in public that they do not believe in spanking or some other form of discipline (all based on the latest philosophies) but then call their children names, project terrible things about their future behaviours or don’t think twice about using a guilt trip.

 

I can tell you most assuredly that if it is damage we are seeking to avoid, it is our tongues that should be checked first.

 

There are many adults who have been spanked (in the proper sense) while growing up and it was not the least bit damaging to them or their relationship with their parents. But there are many adults who are still recovering from the emotional scars of what was said to them, or what tone it was said with.

 

When every other conversation with our children is spoken with tones of exhaustion and annoyance in our voice, there is damage being done. At that point we need to ask ourselves why we feel so powerless or why there is such imbalance in our lives. What will they remember about us one day -the scary tone? The you-wear-me-out tone?  Anger in our eyes? Or will memories of love and control outnumber our mistakes?

 

If we have lost our healthy state as a parent, we are not able to make the right snap decisions or use the same self-control that is often needed. An exception would be during times of emergency or even the sleepless months of a new born baby. I believe there is a special grace over us to get through those situations in His power instead of our own. Priorities change, but He does help us out in many ways, so that is different. However, if we chose a lifestyle of imbalance or we have raised children that walk all over us, He allows us to feel the results of our choices. That’s when we need to be honest about the situation we have created.

 

Often a scenario needing discipline is not what it first appears to be. We desperately need His insight. Over the years, I have been amazed at the ideas God has given us during tough times in parenting. I remember many times feeling desperate for how to get one child through a season of much discipline without crushing their spirit. I prayed, looking for an effective way of disciplining the next time the issue came up. After praying, the answer sometimes surprised me. Sometimes it came in a deep knowing that what this child really needed was a special evening out, just one on one.

 

I remember once I walked into a room where an accidental paint disaster was unfolding. There was a can of paint that had been tipped out all over the floor of a crowded storage room. It was on my child’s feet and brand new outfit. Our winter coats and portable crib were sitting in a pool of it. I had a toddler upstairs alone in the bathtub and a 5 year old standing in the back of the storage room, totally unaware of what they had just done. If I so much as entered this room I would get it on my own feet and would not be able to go anywhere else in the house. Meanwhile with every moment wasted, the paint was hardening in place, ruining hundreds of dollars in items we could not afford to replace. And all I could hear was the voice of my friend who worked for Children’s Aid but didn’t have kids yet, “Parents just need to understand that when they are worked up, they must stop and count to 10 before reacting.” I wanted to scream, “Ten would not be high enough!” I wanted to blast the child who was being so oblivious but knew that the wrong words would tear them apart. I was so overwhelmed I almost started hyperventilating, not knowing where to start and not having the luxury of time. I grabbed the phone and dialed my best friend. I couldn’t say much but I did ask her to pray for me right away and then I kept her on the line. I was in such a fragile place that I wanted her to listen in for adult accountability. (We all react different when another adult is listening in.) That five year old needed to understand the situation and help deal with it, while not being made to feel as less than whom they are in God’s eyes. Looking back, I know that was God who gave me the idea to call my friend right away until I could start getting the situation under control.

 

One time I remember having a child who was trying to hide something from us. This child knew I was aware they were hiding it in a certain place. They were intensely ashamed that they had been caught in this situation. They began lashing out in tears, “No! I just don’t want you to go in there!” I could have easily overpowered this child. I tried to talk them into opening up and let them know we all struggle with different things but the shame was almost making my child unrecognizable. I respected their wishes and left the room. They left for school and now I had exactly eight hours to figure what our next move would be as parents. It needed to be dealt with. It was sin that needed to be nipped in the bud. But I was seeing an even bigger issue, and that was the intense shame that was ruining my child’s ability to get help. Man-handling the situation or using a consequence would have driven the secrecy further. The question was how to deal with the sin while introducing my child to the grace of God. After praying about it, my next step was an idea that I know was from God. I wrote a short love letter to my child stating our unconditional love for them as parents, God’s crazy love for them, and how we are praying for the day they will feel comfortable talking to us about these things. I then wrapped this letter up with the item in the last place the child had hid it. I never said a word more about it that day. The child knew we knew. It was time for us to pray them in.

 

So many times, the Lord has given me wisdom in the moment to avoid a possible tantrum with a toddler through distraction or by turning the situation into a game. He has helped me avoid many situations of locking horns with teenagers just through the use of humor, or by dropping the topic, looking them in the eye and asking “Are you okay? …How can I help?”

 

So many times the Lord has reminded me, “Don’t exasperate them” as I determine when to point out the little things and when to let things go. (Ephesians 6:4) (Colossians 3:21)

 

The toughest part of parenting is that none of us are perfect, and even if we were it would not guarantee an easy path. As Howard Katz once mentioned, God is a perfect parent but Adam and Eve still chose wrong. It’s true. He was the perfect parent. They had no baggage from their past, but they still listened to deception and made a choice that changed things forever. It’s okay though. God had a plan. It just wasn’t as easy as the way He had first set things up for them.

 

I suppose that is still our biggest job as parents –helping our children avoid the deception offered by the gods of this world.

 

There are no patented answers for easy parenting. Although our human nature is to find a rule list and stick to it, I would implore that we all practice a daily dependence on hearing from God in each situation.

 

Challenging our own thoughts and perspectives is healthy, but we need not be bullied by the latest trends around us. If we are seeking God’s help and leaving our heart open to His teaching each day, He will guide us. He gives wisdom freely to those who ask. (James 1:5)

 

We don’t even need to have it all figured out ahead of time. If we acknowledge Him in all we do, He will direct our paths- ALL OUR PATHS, even parenting! Good news, huh? (Proverbs 3:6)

 

As Christians, our goal is not merely raising functional, law abiding adults. Our goal is to raise selfless spouses, integral workers, adults who chose accountability, eternal perspective, true joy, who live with purpose, and understand the power found in God’s grace.

 

A well thought philosophy or formula will never accomplish this on its own. You hear from God. We all do. For the sake of our children, let’s put that to use above all else.

 

 

 

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Comments (3) -

Elizabeth Canada

Friday, November 28, 2014 9:25 PM

Elizabeth

Thank you for sharing this Anna, and your paint story. I feel like most people, including myself would flip out in a situation like that. But you're right, God's wisdom far exceeds our own and even in heated moments its important to learn to seek His advice! I will try to remember that

Anna Canada

Monday, December 1, 2014 6:14 AM

Anna

Elizabeth, Thank you for the encouragement! We are all constantly learning as we go. He is an amazing teacher!

Admin Canada

Monday, January 12, 2015 10:25 AM

Admin

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