I have read many books and articles about parenting over the years. I have read Dr. Dobson’s books. I have read some of the classic homeschool parenting and discipline books. I have read one by John C. Maxwell. I have read numerous articles in magazines. I used to listen to Focus on the Family every single day. I have read Kevin Leman’s books. I’ve read Charlotte Mason, of course. 🙂
And I have parented 10 children for 19 years now. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. We only reached the number 10 two years ago, but you know what I mean.
I’ve only listened to Christian authors and speakers about this topic. I wouldn’t waste my time listening to worldly experts about such an important topic. They have all been biblically-based. But a person’s theology can have a big effect on their parenting style. How a person views God makes all the difference in how a person sees the role of a parent.
My view of God has changed throughout the years. I feel closer to Him than ever, and I know Him better than I ever did before. I have experienced His mercy, His grace, His provision, His presence, His love and His joy. I have heard Him speak to me. I have learned His ways. I have learned that He is all about love.
So speaking of God as a parent, I think His approach would be summed up in that one word: Love. Now the only thing we need to understand is what true love is. Love is not selfish. Love is more concerned about the other person’s welfare than our own. Love does what is best for the other person even if it hurts. Sometimes the one doing the loving feels hurt. Sometimes the one receiving the love feels hurt.
God has given His children free will because He loves us, and He wants us to love Him freely. He has given us His word and commandments so that we know what He expects from His children. But He does not control us. He has set up consequences for disobedience. They happen naturally. If we choose to disobey Him, we pay the consequences, which can be pretty horrible sometimes. But He does not reject us or slap us around for every little infraction of the rules. Sometimes He lets us get by with bad behavior for quite a while. He looks at our hearts. He wants our hearts to change so that we want to behave well because we love Him. He does not look at our behavior. He looks at the inner man. He wants our love.
So how can we apply this to the way we parent our children? I believe that we should lay down clear rules and expectations for the behavior of our children. And we should set up consequences for blatant disobedience. But we should have mercy on our children, as our Father in heaven has mercy on us. As Dr. Dobson always says, we should correct rebellion and disobedience, but we should not punish immature behavior that comes from being young and immature. When a young child continues to do a thing that we have told him not to do, a swat or something unpleasant but not harmful should be administered.
We should choose our battles, because some things are really just a matter of preference, and sometimes we are led by our moods and whims. When we know something is a real heart issue that is revealing a foundational flaw in our child’s belief system or understanding, we should take the time and effort to deal with this issue in a godly, loving way. When I am knowingly sinning, I tend to move away from God. Many times I sense Him moving toward me. When a child is sinning or disobeying, we should draw nearer to them. We should make eye contact and physical contact with them. We should pull them into an embrace. We should talk to them lovingly. Many times we will need to rebuke them, but that should not be harsh and it should not be the thing they remember about the encounter. The thing they should come away with is the knowledge that they are deeply loved and wanted. They should know in their heart that their mom or dad is always on their side and only wants the best for them. You might say this is grace-based parenting. I haven’t read any of those books yet.
I believe in spanking. I believe in natural consequences. I believe in correcting and rebuking disobedience and rebellion. But I don’t believe in controlling every action a child makes. I don’t think that God gave us authority over our children to browbeat them or berate them. I don’t believe we are acting like God when we belittle our children or treat them with disrespect.
The way we parent our children will affect them for the rest of their lives. May we all seek God’s guidance and help in doing it the best that we can. And may His love lead our every action in regard to our children. Let’s bless our children, not curse them. Let’s leave a generational blessing, not a generational curse.
You and I may not be perfect parents, but parenting like God does is certainly a worthy goal for us to shoot toward.