We recently looked at parenting in Post-it Note #75 and 4 principles from the book of Hebrews about how God treats us as His children. When following His example we do these things:
- We allow our children to come to us in confidence, feeling valued and safe.
- We offer them grace when they need it, being an example of God to them.
- We discipline them, giving them guidance and correction because we love them. They ARE children after all, and need to be taught.
- When necessary we punish them for lack of obedience. We must remember that if our children do not learn to obey us as their parents, they won’t obey any authority, including God, as they grow older.
In light of these 4 things I’ve been thinking about how this looks in the real world. What does parenting like this look like?
First, we must come to the understanding that each child is different. We must ask God for wisdom (see James 1) to show us how to parent each child individually. We often want to be “equal” in our parenting when there’s multiple children, but equal is not nearly as important as fairness. Some of my children need very stern discipline and some need only a word of correction. How fair is it to discipline sternly the child who does not need it in an effort to be equal?
Second, if we expect our children to come to us in a time of need then we need to listen to the things that are important to them. Sometimes I go to God with the same petty things time and again. He never gets tired of it. He doesn’t grow weary. He hears me. So listen to your kids. Don’t act like they are always bothering you (even when they are!!). You are all they have. If they don’t feel welcomed by you, they will turn away when they are old enough to depend on themselves or someone else.
I’ve got 5 kids. There’s a broken heart in there somewhere for me. They will make choices I don’t agree with. And still, I want to be the person they come to when they realize their mistakes. I want to be the safest place they know outside of God’s arms.
Third, when it comes to grace, what we are talking about? What is grace? It is a divine assistance that is undeserved. That’s what God gives to us. When we don’t deserve it, he helps us anyway. And it’s this kindness that opens our hearts to repent (Romans 2). It’s this grace that gives us “ENOUGH” of anything we need to face what comes our way (2 Corinthians 12). Extending that same assistance, kindness and love to our children will open up their hearts to the Divine as we model His behavior toward us.
Sometimes my children do wrong and they know it. They make a mess of things. I want them to come to me with their mess. They confess, they say they are sorry, they feel bad. When their hearts are already broken at what they have done, what would demonstrate God the most to them? To pile on harsh words? To ignore it like it didn’t happen? Neither. Extend grace and discipline.
Forth, in regards to discipline, we can’t confuse it with punishment. Have you ever been at a meal with a child and they knock their glass of milk off the table? Even though it’s easy to jump up and start yelling, “why did you do that?” the reality is that they are not purposely trying to make our lives inconvenient. It wasn’t with malice that they dumped out their milk. They simply are children with small hands whose motor skills are still developing and whose limbs are still growing. It’s an accident. Why would we punish a child for being a child? Instead, if you have a child that can’t seem to not spill their milk, how about put a lid on their cup and tell everyone to move their cups away from the edge of the table before eating.
Discipline is teaching a child to become an adult. It’s correcting childish behavior. It’s showing them the path to growth. Think of your teachers in school. When you went to first grade, they taught you how to read…………they didn’t punish you when you arrived at school for not knowing how to read already.
Fifth, there is punishment. Punishment comes into play when a child has been taught to do something. Has been taught how to act. Has been told what to do and they choose to rebel against the teaching or disobey. When a child honestly knows better and doesn’t then the appropriate punishment FOR THAT child is given. Again, ask God to show you what that punishment should be for that particular situation for that particular child.
Lastly, since we are not perfect, like God, in our parenting, we will blow it from time to time. When you blow it, just say so. Tell your kids you blew it. Tell them you’re sorry. Even in your mistakes, God can redeem it to show you how to model humility and asking forgiveness before your children. A skill they will need in life.
Again, I’m no expert at parenting………except for messing up. I can do that all by myself with no help from anyone. But I keep asking God to show me how to do it right and these are the things He is showing me. I pray that all of us who have been given the privilege of raising the next generation or opportunity to impact kids and grandkids will do it following the model of God the Father.