Sep 2, 2011

Grace Based Parenting

It is very easy for me to get in a rut; to think I know what I'm doing. And then out of nowhere - bonk - I trip over a tiny rock and get all bent out of shape. I find this especially true in parenting. Just when you think you've 'got it down', your kids up and change the whole game on you. Suddenly you find you're playing a new game that you don't even know the rules to.

Oh how I wanted to do this whole parenting thing right! From the start I read as many books as I could that told me exactly what to do and the correct way to do it. Each book set me up for failure. My sensitivity to do the best thing for my children was overshadowed by getting stuck in the never ending cycle of trying to do the 'right thing' the 'right way'. Who determines what this 'right' is? Who are these authorities? Am I supposed to listen to my child or to a book?

I am forever a first time parent. No matter how many children I have, I've never before experienced the age my oldest is currently at. In other words, I'm always learning. I can't treat him the same way I did when he was 7 now that he's almost 13. That would show that neither one of us has grown. Life is ALWAYS changing. Therefore, I've come to realize that the way we discipline and guide our children has to be flexible and change with age and circumstances. The constant comes in our consistent love and the boundaries we've set as guidelines for living.

I still read parenting how-to books. I think I always will. Simply because I love to read and I love to learn. I want to be sensitive to that rut I often find myself in. I don't want to ever think I know it all. I don't have the right answers. (Which reminds me of my favorite Bible verse, Job 42:3 - "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know".) I seek God constantly to help me guide these living, breathing, beautiful hearts He's placed in my care. Often times He shows me what each child needs through little impressions like, "Chloe's just tired right now, give her a big hug and let this incident go." Other times He teaches me through amazing authors and books at just the exact time I needed to learn something.

One such book is Graced Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. I read this book 7 years ago. It taught me alot then for what I was going through as a parent at that time of our lives. One such tid-bit I learned from that time is expressed best in this quote: "Our fears determine our strategy for parenting. Fear-based parenting is the surest way to create intimidated kids."

However, I recently felt compelled to read it again. Had I been letting fear control me? If truth be told, it wasn't a matter of if, rather, how often have I allowed it to. I knew I needed a refresher course and I knew right where to go. My obvious first reaction is to wince and cringe with guilt over how many times I've messed up...but even there, I trust that God's grace is sufficient in my weakness and is not only changing me but is also growing my children to become more gracious in response to their own and others' weaknesses.

The two things that have jumped off the pages at me are these:

1. "We are to groom our children according to their natural bents. This means coming alongside them with a plan to help them leverage their natural and unique gifts and skills into highly developed assets that they can lean on in the future. But we should also study them enough to know which natural bents they have that push them in the wrong directions. We can't make these liabilities disappear, but we are to raise them in such a way that we account for them and give them tools to help them process them properly."

Why did I somehow think I had to help make these 'liabilities' disappear? Why did I think it was my responsibility to rid them of these personal shortcomings? Don't I often take comfort and hope in II Corinthians 12:9-10- Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." If God gives me freedom to be weak and works in and thru me in my less than perfect self - why can't I give my children the same freedom and grace? Lesson learned.

2. "Raising safe Christian kids is a spiritual disaster in the making. Your effort will produce shallow faith and wimpy believers. Kids raised in an environment that stresses safety are on tract to be evangelical pushovers. They will tend to end up either overly critical of the world system to the point where they won't want anything to do with the people in the world system; or they will become naive about the world system, which ultimately makes them putty in Satan's hands. Those who think that the wisest way to groom a child for spiritual maturity is to isolate him from the evil, corrupted world system or airbrush his childhood environment so much that it exposes him only to the good and never teaches him how to process the bad will set a child up for a life of mediocrity at best and spiritual annihilation at worst."

We're entering the age of adolescence where fear based parenting doesn't seem like such a bad idea. I'm so glad God threw this nice little bit of fresh, cold water on my face to wake me up and remind me of Who's in charge. We've trusted Him with our children since the minute they were born, why should we stop now? I refuse to let a phase of growth define my relationship with my children as anything less than what it has always been. I have loved every minute of every age of my kids. I love being with them. I love playing with, reading with, working with, learning with them. I love who they are. I might need to remind them of this a little more often when they are adolescents and feeling uncomfortable in their own skin, but that is what love does. It reminds you of who you are, who you belong to and stays the course.

This reminds me of one of our all time favorite family quotes by C.S. Lewis in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in reference to Aslan when Lucy asked if He was safe:

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver."Who said anything about safe?
'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
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