Where is my parenting handbook?! …Don’t we all find ourselves thinking this sometimes? We are always looking for answers from an “expert” on how to better parent our children. We want absolute answers on all of the difficult topics, that give us clear concise directions for how to handle certain problems. What we forget,sometimes, I think is that our kids are just people!
I have been reading “For the Children’s Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. It covers Education based on principles from Charlotte Mason. She was a British Educator in the 1800’s. Her teachings have really got me thinking lately. The words she spoke were so simple yet so profound. When she stated that Children are born persons, it was like a light-bulb was suddenly switched on in my head. Instead of focusing on just Homeschooling my children, my heart was drawn more towards parenting them.
I began to think that God gave us our parenting handbook. He gave us everything we need in the Bible. We can use the Fruit of the Spirit as a Framework so to speak. We must exemplify, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control if we are to ever expect the same from our kids. We must find the balance between Grace and Truth (boundaries). I feel as parents we sometimes don’t give ourselves enough of this balance to be well equipped to extend it to our kids. If we are hard on ourselves, with expectations, criteria, deadlines etc. then we are certainly going to be hard on those we are leading as well.
Forgiveness before Godliness. – I sometimes like to remind myself of this daily.
I mean let us think for a moment, when we came to Christ, were we perfect? Far from it! And we still will never reach perfection. We just try to uphold a Godly life, by imitating Christ the best we can. I don’t know about you, but I certainly had no clear handle on even attempting to be a Godly person when I first walked down that aisle in church to give my heart to Christ. I mean I was a mess of a person. My marriage was failing, I had been into new age, was teaching yoga, walked into church wearing short shorts and showing cleavage like it was a nightclub, I was taking drugs, cussed like a sailor, was not the most truthful person, full of anger, jealousy, anxiety and depression. I mean, yeah, lets face it, I was a total mess of a person. No amount of anyone telling me to be good , made me want to be good. It just drove me further into my dark lifestyle. It took forgiveness from Jesus to encourage a change in me from the inside out. When I knew I had been forgiven, from this stranger to me at the time, someone who I didn’t know, who died on the cross to enable my sins to be forgiven. I wanted so deeply to be better. I wanted to know Him! As I was drawn more near to Him, studied the word of God, and developed a relationship with Him, I slowly began to change. It wasn’t overnight. Growth and maturity in both adults and children alike takes time and patience and love.
I think our children should be looked at in the same way. We can’t just teach them to obey every command and be perfect model citizens all the time right off the bat. We must look at them as whole persons and give them the same benefit of the doubt, patience and grace that we give each other as adults. We must forgive them when they mess up and allow them time to want to do better. I am finding that teaching my children the reason “why” behind every lesson or rule, is far more productive than just giving them an order or command and expecting them to follow it. I see the look in their little faces when they mess up, the fear they experience shines so deeply in their eyes, as they expect so much anger from us. When I extend a little grace, teach them a better way, dole out necessary punishment firmly but with love, they grow! They grow so much and it is coming from the inside out because they are learning.
There are definitely some clear-cut boundaries we must have as parents. Certain rules that we must uphold for the safety of everyone. But we can extend a little grace to our children within those boundaries.
I like to think of it like a painting. When I painted a picture the other day, I primed my canvas , just as we prime our children with the word of God. I then sketched some clear-cut lines separating things within the picture. We must have boundaries, Truth, from the Bible of what is clearly wrong and right. Such as “do not kill somebody” “do not steal from the store”, but within those boundaries we must allow a little grace as our children grow and learn from their mistakes. As I painted, my brushstrokes were not perfect by any means, it was the first time I had painted in several years. But I allowed myself grace to move and to correct my errors without being overly harsh and critical of myself, It definitely made the experience more enjoyable. We need to be willing to forgive our children when they mess up. If we approach them with forgiveness and teach them why they should not do something, or perhaps how they can do something different. The results are much more accepted because they feel Love. Which takes me to the Fruit of the Spirit.
Sure, we all love our kids. But on those REALLY hard days, with Gods grace we can show love through even the most un-likable moments as we overcome our irritation and frustration. Love gives freely without expecting anything in return, Just as Christ gave us Love with no expectation. We should have an attitude of goodwill and love for others in order to teach this to our kids.
Find joy in your children. Smile with them, laugh with them, play with them. God wants our hearts and theirs to be full of Joy. Find the ability to remain joyful even in hard times by focusing on God’s purpose for things that happen rather than the circumstances.
Allow Gods peace to be rooted so deeply within your hearts that even the rockiest moments in parenting can’t shake it. Your kids will see this in you and will learn that true peace comes from The Prince of Peace, Jesus. Finding the presence of tranquility even in the midst of total chaotic situations when we know that God is ultimately in control, conveys God and his power to our children.
This is one I struggle most with. But, I am a work in progress. Learning to have patience with our children through the screw-ups, rebellious periods, those teeth-gritting holding your head in your hands ready to give up moments. Take a breath, and remember how much patience God has had with you. Look at your children as whole persons that deserve the same patience you were given. We can teach them to endure harsh treatment without lashing out in anger when we show that we can help them without becoming overly angry ourselves.
Kindness and goodness:
These go hand in hand. I want my children to see Christ in me. I want to be kind to them even when they are testing my limits and pushing my buttons. I want them to learn righteousness and to be generous by my example. We should seek to serve others with moral goodness, desiring also to see goodness and Gods holiness grow to a deeper level in those around us as well, including our children.
This one is easy for me. My first call in life is to be a loving wife and mother. There is never a doubt that I will be faithful to the end in doing all that I can for these little humans I call my children. They are my world. How can I teach my kids to have faith in God, whom they cannot see, if I can’t teach them to have faith in me. Faithfulness seeks good for those around us and glory for God.
I have to be gentle with my children if I wish them to be gentle with each other and others. I try to take their feelings into consideration before I react. I want them to grow up and have the ability to be empathetic and considerate of others. Gentleness is forgiving and kind.
In order to learn self-control we must learn the consequences of a lack-there-of. We must teach our children to listen to God before making decisions. If kids grow up with no room to make decisions for themselves, they will never have the ability to learn self-control. Remember our flesh is continually at odds with God’s Spirit within us and learning self-control is releasing that grip-hold our flesh has over us.
God gave us everything we need to parent our children responsibly and responsively within his Holy Word. We can respond with calm emotion to the emotional needs of the child by living out the Fruit of the Spirit and finding that balance between Grace and boundaries (Truth).
James 1:19 NKJV So then,[a] my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
If at anytime we find ourselves in a situation where we become frustrated and irritated, we should pray for wisdom.
James 1:5 NKJV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
God will help us be better parents. He loves us and he loves our children. So the next time you need a “parenting handbook” , try opening up the Bible. It is so full of little gems that can help you develop a parenting style that works, a Christ-centered parenting style focused on developing Christ-centered individuals! Just create your boundaries based on biblical truths of what is right and wrong, explain them to your children respectfully because they can understand a lot more than we as adults give them credit for at times. Allow your children plenty of grace within those boundaries as you teach them and help them grow into amazing adults! Allow the Word of God and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to guide you on this wonderful journey we call parenting.
Wishing you many blessings and days full of grace and peace.