Monday, February 28, 2011

Perfect Parenting . . . or not

One mistake that I've managed to make several times in my six and a half years as a mom is buying into several different parenting books while checking my common sense and instincts at the door.  Now, I have a healthy skepticism about many other things, so I'm always baffled after the fact by how easily I fall into this (and, of course, frustrated once I realize I've done it again).  No thinking it through, no further research on the ideas or the author(s), just, "Hey!  I think I'll jump in with both feet!"  I think it's because the stakes are so high in parenting--we want some assurance that our kids will turn out okay.  It's much easier to follow a formula than to figure it out as you go, and if it seems to be working for a friend or an acquaintance (especially if it's someone you respect), or if it seems to follow biblical principles, well, then, it must be the "right" way.  Right?

Thankfully, I don't think I've seriously damaged my kids, although I have successfully found several parenting styles/techniques that decidedly do NOT work for us!  And even though it doesn't seem to have had any negative impact on the boys, several times I've ended up brokenhearted, like the time I sat next to Connor's crib in tears when he was just a few weeks old, murmuring apologies to my sleeping baby for buying into some ideas that I was realizing clearly didn't fit what he needed OR how God had created me to be a mother.  

I read this article in Christianity Today a while ago that really resonated with me.  It was freeing to realize that while what Aaron and I do as parents certainly matters, God is big enough to overcome our weaknesses and failures--and our children's lives are ultimately in His hands.  And this is our God: " . . . merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 103:8)  I am convicted that my knees are not on the ground nearly enough--my slogan ought to be "Parenting by Prayer." 

Then today I read a blog post by Sally Clarkson, "First time obedience, really?", and once again, it was refreshing to be reminded that biblical parenting does not have to be adversarial (something that can be tough to remember when dealing with a strong-willed 6 year old!), harsh, or demanding.  She writes,

"But I believe the reason Deuteronomy 6-8 talks about us speaking to our children morning, noon, night and presenting truth and the gospel to our children every moment of the day, is that training is to be a whole-life passing on of values and obedience and wisdom, a morning, noon and night—let’s live together in fellowship and relationship and you will see that I have your best in mind and I will teach and train you how to be mature, wise and excellent."


"Jesus’  life is my example. There was a lost world because His children rebelled against Him–no first time obedience. But His love and compassion was so much a part of His character and being, He was compelled to come to save us. He fellowshipped with His disciples, loved them, listened to them, confronted them, corrected them, fed them, taught them, and laid down His life for them. Because of their relationship with Him, and their love for them, they were willing to lay down their life for Him and His kingdom.
His love compelled them–it was a long-term process, this one of securing their obedience and hearts, but their hearts wanted to please Him and obey Him because of what He had meant to them."

How that speaks to me!  I am convicted to try to model my parenting after how God deals with me, that I should model him in being merciful, gracious, slow to anger (!), and abounding in steadfast love.  That I need to look beyond the immediate frustrating issue to the long-term relationship with my boys and address the issue with that in mind.  That raising a child isn't plugging numbers into a formula to get the right answer.  It's more like creating a work of art . . . and although I may have the privilege of doing some of the polishing,  I am *not* the Artist.  My precious masterpieces--His precious masterpieces--are in good hands.


  1. Amen and amen!
    I appreciate your honesty and frustration about parenting issues. I think one of the biggest challenges I remember facing as a parent was about the time I thought I had a grip on an "effective" method, one of my dear ones would be out of that stage and into another. And, even though the stages were often similar from one child to another, how we dealt with them was not always the same. So, it was an ongoing learning curve!
    I think the biggest thing is, as you've expressed here, remember the Lord has your children and you in His hands. He will use your "successes" and your "failures" to mold your children into the young men HE wants them to be as you continue to point them (and you) back to Him.
    Love you!

  2. What a GREAT post!! It SO resonates with my heart! :)

    P.S. I'm a huge Sally Clarkson fan, too! ;)

  3. Thanks, Mom. Love you!

    Carrie--I hadn't actually read anything of Sally Clarkson's before this, although I'd heard of her. She's on my need-to-read list now, though! :)