Don’t you wish parenting came with a handbook?
You would have a different manual for each child though since they are all so different!
I have found great wisdom and insight in reading many parenting books, yet the best advice I get is listening to God’s still small voice. Yes, it sounds like a church answer but let me explain.
God has not called me to be a good parent to my kids, but a godly parent, to raise them in a way that is honoring to Him. That goes way beyond my capabilities! I can be a “good” parent in my own right and in my own strength, but as a Christian mommy, doing it God’s way will always take His help. I have to look to Him for guidance and not just earthly wisdom.
Looking to God’s word for advice and direction when I have questions is always a good practice, but I also meditate on how He has treated me, His own child. He is my daddy and role model for how I should, in turn, treat my own children.
Here are a few things I am learning from the ultimate Teacher and Parent, my Heavenly Father:
1. Show Grace. Does God immediately get on to me when I do wrong or does He show grace and love first?
My initial reaction is to get on to my children the minute they do wrong. After all, I want them to be obedient. Listening to the Holy Spirit speaking to me, I have realized that love should come first though. If I am “reacting” instead of purposefully responding, then I need to pause and think about the best way to handle the situation.
God has shown me more grace and love than I deserve – not just once, but time and time again. What would it look like for me to show that same grace to my children when they mess up? What would it look like to have love be the overarching motivation for my discipline?
2. Be patient. I have never been known as a patient person. I can be patient, but it’s not a dominant characteristic of mine. Therefore, having three children can put a strain on that “slow to anger” command we are to follow (James 1:19).
Yet, Scripture teaches us that “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). Hence, I should be too. Not just when my kids are being good and obedient, but all the time. My patience should continue to grow. I should be more patient, abounding in love today then I was a year or two ago.
We all want people to be patient with us. We all want God to be patient with us too. It just makes since, then, that we need to show the same courtesy to our own children. Take your time with them, learn to move more at their pace instead of your own, show them how to slow down and enjoy life (or let them show you!).
Learn your children’s individual rhythm of life. For example, my oldest daughter takes her time at everything. She takes longer to get dressed in the morning, taking a bath at night, getting out of the car, and so forth. I can either rush her until she runs at my pace, or I can learn patience and give her the time she needs. Choosing patience and allowing her to run at the rhythm of her own speed brings peace and calmness, warding off resentment in our relationship. It has also taught me to slow down and not run at full speed all the time.
Maybe one day I will be known as a patient person, and it will be a dominate characteristic of mine, but it will take discipline not only by me but also grace from my Heavenly Father.
3. Discipline equals love. When I was younger, my parents would say, as the punishment ensued, “This hurts me as much as it hurts you.” As a child I never really understood what they meant. However, as a parent, I now completely understand. I have spent many nights wondering if how I disciplined my kids was the right way, feeling guilty they had to feel the sting of pain and suffering because of choices they made. Maybe they won’t love me anymore? Maybe they will begin to resent me? Maybe I am messing this all up!?
God has to gently remind me of Heb. 12:6-11:
“For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what children are not disciplined by his father? Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
I have to remember that I am not after short term gains. I am after long term rewards. Even though it seems painful now, God’s Word promises it will produce a harvest of righteousness in the long run.
Parenting is about raising up children who love the Lord and learn to listen to Him on their own accord, so He can guide and direct them as they get older (when we aren’t there). That takes time; it takes discipline, and most of all, it takes God’s discipline in my own life.
Raising my three children is, by far, the hardest responsibility God has called me to take. I can’t do it on my own, but with His help, I can grow to be more like Him and grow in my parenting along the way through grace, patience and discipline.
What have you learned about parenting through your relationship with God?