Parents & Kids of Faith

  • Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Question: What is required in the sixth commandment?
    Answer: The sixth commandment requires all lawful efforts to preserve our own life and the life of others.
    Scripture: Eph 5:29, 30; Psalm 82:3, 4; Prov 24:11, 12; Acts 16:28

    (Maybe this happened)

    I must confess that after 35 years of raising children and grandchildren, I still often have to turn to Deb about advice for young children. Last weekend, Deb and I were babysitting our grandson, Asa, and Deb decided to go up to the barn and work with the horses, leaving Asa in my primary care. He was getting hungry so I poked my head in the barn and asked, “What should I feed Asa?”

    “That’s up to you,” Deb replied. “There’s all kinds of food. Why don’t you pretend I’m not at home?”

    A few minutes later Deb’s cell phone rang. She answered it and heard my voice, “Yeah, hi cowgirl. Uh…what should I feed Asa?”

    The Dangers and Long-Term Liabilities of Pragmatic Parenting
     From Gospel-Centered Parenting by Rick Thomas, Counseling Solutions

    I’m sure you have met the counting lady, right? You may have seen her in Wal Mart while standing in the checkout line. Her 7-year-old son Johnny was disobeying and she was fearfully hoping he would stop his disruptive mischievousness. Her method for getting little Johnny to behave is what I call the counting method. 1… 2… 3 …

    This method rarely works. She begins the slow count toward some indeterminate number, hoping her son will somehow figure it out and become respectful and obedient. This method is typically motivated by fear and anger: fear because she is embarrassed by what others may think of her and anger because she is frustrated with trying to get her child to conform. Eventually she reverts to yelling at him or grabbing one of his body parts in order to contain him. By this time it becomes obvious she does not have any good ideas on how to parent her child. She is grasping for straws, hoping that somehow his behavior will miraculously change.

    And his behavior may change in that moment because of his fear of mom or the pain inflicted by his mom or the threat of retribution from his dad after he arrives home. The real problem is that Johnny is not fundamentally changed from the inside out because the parenting model is based more on pragmatics (immediate behavioral results) rather than a long-term parental vision and plan. Sadly, this family’s behavioral modification approach is about gaining temporary shalom more than anything else.

    Why does this happen? There are usually many reasons why some parents choose pragmatic parenting rather than thinking through the long-term effects and goals of a biblical parenting model. In too many of these cases the dad is not leading the charge in the overall parenting of the child. He is either not in the picture at all or he is in the picture, but he is preoccupied by other things like his job or hobbies.

    Here are a few examples of how pragmatic parenting happens when two parents are more short-term results oriented rather than embracing a long-term vision for their children:

    • Dad is watching football and the kids are interrupting. He yells at the children and the children conform.
    • Mom is embarrassed about the child’s behavior. She yells, threatens, and counts, hoping he will conform.
    • Dad is more concerned about how he looks before others rather than the spiritual needs of his children. Therefore, he enforces conformity.
    • Mom is overwhelmed in the home and does not need non-compliant kids. She threatens until conformity is gained.
    • One or both of the parents are lazy and they choose enforced conformity rather than the work involved in grace-motivated teaching.
    • Both parents came from a legalistic culture where externalities were emphasized. They were not taught how to parent from the heart. Therefore, they enforce rules and structure in order to attain what they prefer from their children.
    • Both parents are oriented toward short-term goals. They focus more on the perfect 3-year-old, 4-year-old, 5-year-old, etc, rather than a grace-filled model that keeps the end in mind.
    All of these situations that I have described to you will gain the desired and immediate results from the children. And it will probably continue to work while the children are young. However, this myopic parenting model falls woefully short. As the children become teenagers, their parent’s manipulations and preferences will no longer hold sway over them.

    Things will become even worse for the teens because they will not be prepared how to think through or respond to difficult situations. And when things become difficult for these teens, they will more than likely respond similarly to the way their parents responded to difficulty: what is convenient and works best for them without considering the long-term effects of their decisions.

    Less Rules. More Attitudes.
    What I have been describing to you is a rule-based, heavily structured, and self-reliant family culture. The family has rules, some of which are good and biblical while others are centered more on the parent’s preferences, conveniences and/or fears. For the most part, this is an anti-Gospel parenting model.(You may be surprised to know how many of our parenting models are motivated by fear. These are parents who are trying to keep their children from becoming something they fear. This something is usually part of the parent’s past experience. Rather than trusting God by parenting from the Bible, they oversteer the car and parent from a fear that their kids may experience what they experienced.)

    If our parenting is not tied to the Gospel, then we are setting our children up for current frustration and future failure. Sometimes kids will figure it out in spite of their parents. However, many of our children may spend the bulk of their lives trying to figure it out or un-parent themselves (unlearn some of what they were taught) so they can be properly parented by their Heavenly Father.

    Next Week: We will begin presenting a parenting model that is based less on rules and more on attitudes.


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