Friday, December 11, 2015

On Christian Parenting: My Own Paradigm

A child is created in the image of God.  This is *the* foundation of parenting.  The person who makes messes, cries over a scraped knee, wakes up in the night, talks back, gives you kisses, eats what seems like 30,000 calories a day, and generates all that laundry is made in the image of God.  The repercussions of this realization are enormous.  Every single parent should internalize this truth.

"Try a simple experiment.  Take a small child on your knee. Respect him.  Do not see him as something to prune, form, or old.  This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels.  He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become.....We are told by many in our generation that a child is a cog in a machine, or even that he is a possession, like a pet animal. Many adults now 'have' a child, in the same way that they 'have' a washing machine or a collie dog.  We must answer: No.  You are holding a person on your knee.  And that is wonderful."  (Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake

"Discipline" is related to "disciple." These words both have the same root--to instruct. Most people think of "discipline" as punishment.   But to discipline is to teach, to bring into order.  We should discipline our children every day under this definition--to guide, to instruct.  A disciple is a person who is being instructed and guided by a teacher, trying to follow that teacher's teachings and principles. 

How did Jesus relate to His disciples?  He consistently, gently, and reasonably built a relationship with them.  He admonished.  He chastised at times. He always drew them nearer to Him.

Obviously Jesus was dealing with grown men who weren't going to run out in traffic or play with matches.  Children, who are immature, do need to know exactly what behavior is acceptable and what is not.  As parents we cannot assume that they know what to do and why--but it's easy for us to sometimes assume this!  We must establish clear standards, expectations, and boundaries and then train them consistently and patiently to meet those standards.  We must take the long view, but build on it every single day.  And we should do it from a place of love. (My favorite book on this is Hints on Child Training, by Henry Clay Trumbell.)

And, best of all, Jesus told stories. The power of the parable cannot be understated.  Our pastor calls a parable "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." Jesus used parables brilliantly to illustrate truths.  The Bible is full of other wonderful stories that help illustrate theology to us in an understandable way.

I think this is also where excellent literature comes into play in family life.  Hearing an engaging story triggers a child's moral imagination.  A child learns the value of courage, honor, familial love, service...using the most painless route of all, because reading aloud is *fun!*

Do not grow weary in doing good......

God uses broken vessels called parents to raise children.  We are going to make mistakes. I have seen my own clearly, but I always try to learn from them.  But I believe that these basic principles can bear fruit over the years, even if implemented imperfectly from time to time.

Seeing a child as made in His image, understanding that "discipline" means guiding a child every day, being relational and grace-filled, and telling stories....this is my scaffolding!

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