Posts Tagged ‘chastened’

When I first got married, at the ripe old age of 19 yrs. old, I was still too much of a child to seriously consider having children of my own. Throughout my early twenties, as I listened to my peers speak of their parenting struggles, I naively wondered why handling a few small children should be such a big deal. Undoubtedly, my heavenly Father must have chuckled at the understanding of what my future held.


In my early thirties, my first marriage crumbled and I was grateful that at least there were no little ones to get snagged in the wreckage. A couple of years later, as a new life emerged for me, I was blessed to become a step-father and little by little the eyes of my understanding began to open. Less than a year after that came a baby boy; and less than a year after that came twins (a boy and a girl). Going 0 to 4 children in less than 24 months is something like going 0 to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds. Needless to say, the years that have followed have been a crash course in the joys and challenges of parenting.


Early on, it’s tempting to believe that a colicky baby, who doesn’t sleep through the night, represents a huge ordeal. But as the years pass the climb gets significantly steeper. As a child’s capacity to act independently develops and their world expands, both the possibilities and complexities compound exponentially. Though each stage of life presents its own unique set of hurdles, there is perhaps no greater ache for a parent than to watch their grown child fall headlong into a trap that they’ve been warned about since childhood, or that the parent unwittingly set them up for.


The pop cultural landscape is littered with countless resources for parents who are diligently seeking guidance, and while many of them do possess some degree of merit, none could rightfully be considered definitive. Each child is their own puzzle and there is no “one size fits all” approach for raising them.


Our three youngest children weren’t even a year apart, with two of them being twins. Additionally, they were home schooled until the 3rd/4th grade, which means that their “shared life experience” was almost identical through their “formative” years. Based on popular thinking, this consistent and stable environment should have created striking similarities in the way these kids function on a day to day basis, but nothing could be further from the truth.


I have found that each one thinks differently, learns differently, is inspired differently, expresses themselves differently, fears different things, has different strengths… What works well with one, is often useless with another. I have yet to find the piece of parenting advice (other than “pray without ceasing”) that can blindly be applied, and hope to be effective with every child.


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that there truly isn’t anything new under the sun and that the struggles of today have all been encountered by previous generations. In looking to the scripture for answers, an amazingly consistent message rings out from the book of Proverbs, which is that discipline needs to be a consistent part of wise parenting. Chapter 13, verse 24 says that “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”. Chapter 22, verse 15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him”. Chapter 23, verses 13 & 14 say, “Do not withhold discipline from a child” and that punishing him will, “save his soul from death”. Finally, chapter 29, verse 15 says, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother”.


Certainly, these passages sound harsh in light of our delicate, westernized, politicized sensibilities, but their truth is hard to deny. All one needs to do is to observe any person who was raised without the benefit of boundaries, consequences and discipline to understand the essentialness of these elements. The book of Hebrews expands on this topic in chapter 12, as it explains that discipline is a means that a father uses to teach a son. It also acknowledges that going through that process isn’t pleasant, but that it is ultimately for the son’s benefit.


If one simply focuses on those passages, a picture of the stereotypical, rigid, religious, authoritarian parenting approach can easily emerge. But a more comprehensive reading of scripture reveals a very different and far more challenging aesthetic. Throughout the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reminds us that unless love remains at the center of our motivation, our actions become of no eternal value. He also charges us with demonstrating Christ’s character in all situations, most especially before our wives and children.


Interestingly, in both the book of Ephesians (6:4) and Colossians (3:21), he warns that we should not provoke (i.e. embitter, exasperate) our children to wrath (i.e. anger, frustration). I don’t believe he’s saying that we should never make them angry, because as the Hebrews passage acknowledges, no one likes to be chastened.


I believe the key word in these passages is “provoke”. And I would submit that he is challenging us to discern between those instances when we are genuinely trying to train our kids and when we’re just taking our frustrations out on them; or when we’re simply acting out of our own woundedness; or maybe even when we’re intentionally trying to hurt them like they hurt us. I believe that they recognize the difference, and that we as parents need to as well.


Finding the balance of things is a daily battle for any parent. We want to convey God’s unconditional love to our children, but we also need to help them to understand consequences. We want to provide for them, but we also need to allow them to encounter enough resistance to grow strong and stand on their own two feet. We want to let them know that they can count on us, but not make them reliant on us in the process.


We need to develop the ability to relate to them on their level without forfeiting the authority (& responsibility) that God has given us as parents. We cannot live in fear of their disapproval, as that will keep us from ever preparing them to make their own way in the world. We need to raise them with the understanding that the season of our influence is limited and that God never intended for them to remain as children.


If I’ve made good parenting sound like a daunting task, that is purely intentional. It is the best and hardest job you could ever have. I believe the only way to be a truly effective parent is to tap into the wisdom and guidance of the Father of us all. The scripture says that apart from Him, we can do nothing. That is especially true of parenting.

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