Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Consequences, Part 2

Parenting is about relationship. This should be a filter through which I see my little man. Little man, newly two, is a toddler, an explorer, one who is learning that his desires are not always the same as ours.

I am shocked at the advice most Christian parenting "gurus" give as to how to treat our children. Instead of looking at the whole of Scripture, and at who God is and how He deals with us, these gurus take a few verses from Scripture and build a whole doctrine around them. I challenge moms and dads to read the New Testament carefully, looking at the way that Christians are told to treat each other, and looking at how God deals with believers, as they strive to biblically parent their children.

I love reading through a whole book of the Bible when I read the Word of God. It keeps me from drawing wrong conclusions about verses because I see the big picture that said verses are couched in--it is all about context! Recently I read 2 Timothy. Paul urges Timothy to stand firm and to uphold sound doctrine. Interestingly, he does not say, "If people do not listen to you, go ahead and be really harsh and give them a piece of your mind. Whack them upside the head if you have to!" No, he says, "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." 

Gentleness. Am I correcting my toddler in a spirit of gentleness?

Not quarrelsome. How am I parenting? Am I drawing battle lines and engaging in useless power struggles that result in rifts in our relationship? Or do I view myself as my child's guide, standing beside him, helping him towards the goal in mind, with gentleness?

Kind to all. It is easy to be kind to people I only see every now and then, brothers and sisters in Christ. But be kind to my child? If my child cannot sleep at night, or wakes up cranky one day, or clingy, am I kind then? Do I step into my child's shoes and picture how I'd want to be treated in the same situation? Am I remembering that by responding to my child's needs kindly and empathetically I am laying a foundation of trust that will carry us through the many bumps in the road of parent/child relationship?

Patient when wronged. If my child disobeys or responds with disrespect, how do I respond in turn? Am I being patient, gently correcting, letting my child try again, realizing that he is just a child and sometimes needs the chance to do over, or sometimes just plain needs my help?

Able to teach. Am I so steeped in God's word that truth about Him shines out of me? That it flows out of my mouth freely?

When I am walking with God, these things will be true of me as a parent.

That being said, my toddler is learning, he needs me to train, to teach him. This needs to be with gentleness and patience, devoid of shame and punishment.

Consequences, though rarely needed, are there to enable my child to succeed and learn; they are in place for when he is unable to control himself. With my toddler, consequences are cause/effect, and should be natural. Toy gets thrown, toy goes bye-bye. When playing with measuring cups in the sink, if water gets dumped on counter, measuring cup is taken away, or sink time ends (this only happened once...little man has spent many happy days playing in the sink since then). When little man gets bigger: "you hit, you sit," but not as punishment, just as a chance to cool down.

Natural consequences are a teensy tiny part of my parenting with Aydon. Building relationship with him, helping him obey by walking through the steps with him if necessary (the way the Holy Spirit helps us), not backing him into corners, giving him warnings before transitions and always following through, but with kindness and gentleness, understanding if he is upset or angry about the follow through, letting him be human.

Ok, this makes it all sound so perfect...like a method that anyone could follow. I have tools that I use, but each day is different, and I need God's wisdom in dealing with each situation. More than that, parenting is not about some formula or technique, it is about building and maintaining a relationship with my child as I walk with God. I often fail! But the mistakes are reflective times for me; times for me to enjoy God's grace to me. They are times that I can look back on and think, "How could I have handled that more proactively to avoid the power struggle? I should have given him a transition time between activities. I should have followed through when he didn't listen, and helped him obey by coming alongside him, whispering in his ear, holding him close and walking him through the steps."


  1. lovely friend...
    I am so enjoying your blog. Thought provoking truths help me to be deliberate in my parenting. It is too easy for me to become distracted with my own cares and just respond without thought. But to be challenged to step back and see the big picture: How God treats us, how we can most accurately try to reflect that kind of love... reinstates purpose in every interaction.

  2. Beautiful. Thank you so, so much for sharing this.