A Very Practical Living Room Conversation
Here are some general (though not universal) things that are helpful to keep in mind regarding parenting, and your desire to hold up Jesus’ standard and life...Remember, these questions and thoughts were amongst those that are ALREADY walking daily with one another—ALREADY living as a family.
Mostly An Art
Raising and disciplining a child is mostly an art, and not just a science! Each child is different, and you will see, as you are asking God for His current thought, that there are considerations from one age to the next, one personality to the next, one child to the next, and one day to the next. One approach might work with one child, but not another. A stern look may melt one child into a heap, while another child can receive a lot of discipline and still glare back at you. Child rearing IS an art. It requires creativity and listening and finding the right solution....but DON’T use that as an excuse for compromise! DO find the solutions and DO keep THE standard! The “science” part of child rearing in the Kingdom is to teach our children, “God is not mocked, you WILL reap what you sow.” This behavior, this attitude, this selfishness, this “trait” that is not like Jesus will have consequences! The child must be trained to know that bad seed bears bad fruit, and likewise, that good seed bears good fruit. I must teach my child that he reaps what he sows! However, each day is different and each child is an individual.
This is where the art comes into play. When my child has missed a nap and she’s hungry and she’s whining about everything, with compassion I want to help her situation, but I still need to teach her that the world doesn’t revolve around her and that whining is NOT like Jesus! I will not compromise Jesus as the standard to whom I compare my life and my child’s life. I want a real relationship with Him. I want my child to have a real relationship with Him. Sin will block our ability to see and hear Jesus. So, there’s no question that sin must be dealt with. The ART is in how we communicate that from child to child, situation to situation. This requires creativity, listening to God’s Spirit, helping each other, day by day....no formula answers! It’s an art. It’s an adventure!
If you look at what has drawn you the most to obedience, it’s most likely been God’s affirmation and tenderness of love to you. How precious are His reminders that He’s on your side, that He loves you in spite of yourself, that you did it right this time, and that you’ve pleased Him. These are the things that have propelled you quicker and farther down the path of love and obedience more than anything. Right? This is Biblical, as well as your experience. Well, the same is so true for the children. Our training of them should probably be about 80% affirmation and praise and “setting them up” for success and 20% discipline. Most people would probably think 60% discipline and 40% affirmation, but really it should be more like 80% affirmation. This is not to say we need to be disciplining less....but we need to be AFFIRMING a whole lot more!! Remember, “You reap what you sow.” Well, that applies to good seed as well!!! “Good job, that’s it, you did it! You obeyed!!!!” Isn’t it easy to see this with training an animal!? You don’t just beat him when he does wrong. When he obeys, you praise him, you give him treats, and you pet him, “Good boy!” It’s easy to see in that situation. How much more should we be loving and encouraging and affirming our children!!! : )
Moms...Watch For This : )
Moms tend to be softer and require less than they ought to from their children. Not always, but you need to know, and factor this into your thoughts. You may expect or require about 20% less from your child than what he is really capable of or can really handle. Or to put it a little differently, what you think he can do or can handle—he can probably handle 20% MORE! This goes for applying discipline and for just your basic expectations of what a child can do. Moms typically settle for too little.
Also, because of your feminine, emotional and sometimes hormonal nature, when things are brought up related to your children, you are likely to react and overprotect and compromise. If you are one that is easily driven by emotional reactions: STOP! Be honest. The person who is addressing something in your life or your child’s life DID NOT just say, “You are a total failure and never get it right and....” Those are the exaggerated, over-reactive, blown-out-of-proportion kind of thoughts that spring from emotions that are out of control. “You always...you never...you blew it...” STOP IT! Reel in those thoughts and just be honest. If you’re listening through your emotions, things will get blown way out of proportion and you’ll miss the constructive, productive, healing intent!
In most day-to-day situations, dads aren’t with their children nearly as much as the moms are. So when it comes to discipline, dads can feel like someone who doesn’t normally do the cooking heading into the kitchen to prepare a meal. Have you ever tried to cook in a kitchen when you didn’t know where anything was, and you weren’t familiar with the set up? It can make you feel awkward and not very sure of yourself. Well, that’s how it is for dads sometimes with discipline. They don’t have as much “moment-by-moment” experience with discipline of the children, and they may not be as familiar with some of the subtle attitudes and problems. They are not necessarily “weak” in the discipline area with children, it’s more that by the nature of their lesser involvement, dads may be overly compassionate or just not quite see what’s at stake as readily. Again, not because they’re weaker or don’t have a heart for it… it’s just that they don’t have as much experience. So, dads you need to be aware of that and purpose to be involved.
Question: Sometimes when I’m with others and my child misbehaves or has an “attitude,” all of a sudden I feel like I’m being watched to see how I’m going to handle the situation. I feel like I’m on stage or being critiqued or something. Why is that?
Well, you are sort of being watched. That’s kind of our job, isn’t it? I don’t in any way mean that we’re being “policemen” to one another. But, because we love each other, isn’t it our job to be covering each other’s blind sides? Isn’t that part of walking in sensitivity to the Spirit—listening for the heart of things, noticing things and responding to them together? In those situations where some issue comes up with your child or whatever, you should expect that others might have input, and welcome that. If you are seeing this properly you, of course, are grateful for input. You want Jesus’ standard and you need the extra eyes and ears. You need the gifts of those around you, as you are striving heart, mind, soul and strength to honor Jesus, right? If we are “baptized in the Spirit”—then, by definition, we will say, “I have need of you!” according to the apostle Paul (1Cor.12).
Now, something you might experience in situations like this is you may find yourself becoming paranoid and looking over your shoulder all the time. If you start focusing on your “performance” or your child’s “behavior,” instead of on finding Jesus together, you will get paranoid. You’ll start wondering what everybody else is thinking, and you’ll usually assume they’re thinking the worst. Then you’ll find yourself reacting or functioning out of what you think they’re thinking. That kind of response is NOT acceptable, but can easily be turned around. If you’re willing to walk in the light and seek input, you can still receive God’s wisdom about your situation and you’ll probably even find along the way how ridiculous your “paranoia” was in light of the Love of the Body. These guys LOVE you and you see it in them every day! If everyone were just “attending” something, then this wouldn’t make any sense at all. But when living the way God has said a church should live, intertwined in one another’s lives in love, then it is as natural as any family relationship. It’s when folks that DON’T live daily as family start messing around with these things that the trouble comes up. When the paradigm is faulty there are quite a few Scriptures that you just CAN’T obey because the context of “church” is unBiblical and wrong.
Question: What would a bad response be when a person gets some input about their child-rearing (or anything else)?
Maybe it would be, in a place where they don’t “all know Him, from the least to the greatest” and there is “leaven in the batch,” or immaturity needing to be resolved...“Well, I have this figured out, I don’t need their input. I’m handling this situation just fine.” You dig your heels in and assume you have a good enough handle on the whole thing. Maybe it’s because of pride. Maybe it’s because of idolatry of your children, or your own way of doing things. By arrogance or idolatry or ignorance, you have closed yourself to any input and gifts of others. This is a BAD, BAD idea.
Question: What do I do if I need to leave my child with someone, but I don’t want that person to discipline my child?
Well, assuming we’re talking about a trustworthy caregiver, you need to leave those caring for your child the proper tools to do the job. You have to remember our goal is to teach our children that in every area, across the board, JESUS is the standard. That means unbridled behavior, self-centeredness and heart “attitudes” cannot be tolerated. There will be consequences. If we leave them in situations where the standard is different, they will learn to take advantage of that. For example, your child may learn that mom is afraid to discipline in the grocery store....so the grocery store becomes a “playground” where he gets to do whatever he wants, and he can get away with it. Another example is that a child may learn, “With this caregiver, I don’t get away with anything...with this other one I do.” So with that second caregiver he’ll test more and push the limits of what he can get away with. It’s tragic, but that’s how we will train our children to think and act if we don’t keep the standard high and enforceable wherever they may be.
Question: Practically, what does that mean?
Well, if you leave your child with someone, here are some of the tools you can also leave with them. The caregiver should know what things you are currently aware of and disciplining your child for. You might say, “These are the things that I’m currently addressing with this child, and this is how I am handling them. Therefore, I’d like you to handle it the same way, with the same discipline. If offense number 1 happens, this is what I’m doing, and I want you to do that too. If issue number 2 comes up, this is what I’ve decided to do. Please do this, too.” And so on. And if there are areas in your child’s life that you are not quite solid on yet, in humility address that too. “This one area I’m seeing, but I’m not sure how to handle it yet, so I’m not really doing anything. Therefore, I don’t want you to do anything either… BUT, would you please be eyes for me?” When you get back, ask the person how things went. Find out, “Did this come up? Did you do this? And what about that one other area I mentioned? Did you see anything? Do you have any clues for me about the heart of this? Any ideas about how I should respond?” You haven’t compromised anything by doing this, and your child is receiving a consistent message.
Question: What about a situation where there’s a brother or sister that I don’t feel comfortable leaving my child with?
Well, there will be some situations like that… BUT, that means you need to find a solution!! Why do you feel that way about that brother or sister, and what are you doing to change it???!!! You MUST NOT just hide away with your “opinion” and “not lift a finger” to set them free, if you are correct in your assessment of them. Our lives are NOT about, “I’m just a mom with some good Christian friends (and I trust these three more than I trust those other three, but we’re all Christians walking together)!” NO!!!! Our lives ARE about being built together into a beautiful spotless Bride. “Wrestling to present EVERY man complete in Christ” never saying “I have no need of you!” “See to it brothers that NONE of you have a sinful unbelieving heart.” You’ve just described a situation where you’ve been made aware of something that needs to be addressed. There’s a reason for your hesitation to trust this person with your child. Work through it. Pray about it, fast, get “equipping for works of service,” work it out. When those little question marks come up in your mind, care enough to do something about it. This is about being FAITHFUL. We see things. We sense things. We wonder about this or that. Be Faithful to do something. Don’t just let those “little” things slide by. Care enough to help open doors for healing and solutions and make room for demonic stuff to just clear out of the way. This is so much bigger than just trying to arrange the “best” care for your child!! This may be a door into a conversation that you wish you’d had three years ago. “You asked to watch my child, but I just have to tell you...” Maybe, just maybe, this is a bridge into this person’s life that you’ve been looking for.
If you want to know God more and be a deeper person, it is not going to happen by just reading another chapter from some deep book together. It comes through practical situations where you have to face pain and heartache and challenge and you decide to walk through it with kindness and peace....a death to self....and humility...loving others and praising Him. How awesome our God is! These very realistic situations are meant to be springboards into more Life, Fruitfulness, Care and Compassion for others. Do you see it? Big News!!...You were NOT given this child purely for your enjoyment. You have much to learn. And this child was given to you not only as a wonderful gift and responsibility, but as a tool for change in your life and the lives of others around you. Some situations with our children can just open up things in our hearts or the heart of someone else that we never would have seen otherwise.
How much have you learned of Father’s discipline and training and creativity and patience through your experiences with your own children? How much have you learned of the incredible love of Father through the experience of love for your child? Do you realize, that’s an experience of the kind of love you can (and should) have for others—just as deep and warm and tender and longsuffering?
Question: Maybe it’s just me, but I know there’s a place for children to be quiet and respectful of the adults, and aware of the “bigger” picture of what’s going on around them. But then, I find myself in situations with children kind of playing and giggling and being a little goofy and I’m trying to sort out how much is too much....or is it back to that old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard”?
No Way!! There are rainbows and forests and such treasures inside to be brought out and enjoyed!!! Don’t be afraid to let the children be creative and play and giggle and even jump on the couch cushions once in a while (why not even jump with them?: ))! I’m not saying to let them just do that whenever they want. They need to know there is a time and a place for it. But, don’t make a hard and fast rule for every single thing either. “You must never pull the cushions off the couch.” “You must be quiet at all times.” You will squelch and stifle their creativity so much they’ll never be able to bring out all the gifts and things that they have the potential for. I would not advocate anarchy (lack of government) OR a military regimen.
To do this right requires good LEADERSHIP. It goes back again to the fact that this thing called parenting is an art. I don’t want to allow a child’s “motor” to get running too fast so that he’s out of control, but I don’t want to shut down his motor either, or never “rev it up,” or fine-tune it, so to speak! I’ve got to find the difference...moment-to-moment, child-to-child, and situation-to-situation. This requires good leadership. But with good leadership, you can provide children with opportunities to express themselves and explore and create and discover things. And with good leadership they’ll blossom and grow and pour out treasures and we’ll all benefit from it...So, let them slide down the banister headfirst once in a while, okay?!! : )