Truth Based Parenting
Parenting can be hard!
Navigating it can sometimes leave parents feeling lost at sea. Kids don’t come with a manual and we find ourselves wandering aimlessly, having no idea which direction to point our compass. Consequently, well meaning relatives aside, parents hungrily consume guidance from a myriad of books and influencers year after year in what has now become a multimillion dollar industry. But, how do we know who to trust?
Since the first parenting books in the 1700’s, the advice has continued to change. Some of the first books instructed mothers to strictly schedule their children’s bowel movements (two a day), to ignore their crying and not to kiss or hug them. Sounds crazy to us, right? But, what is touted as truth one day can be proclaimed as damaging the next. My mother followed a book that was the number two best selling non-fiction book for 52 years. But, it eventually fell out of favor.
For hundreds of years mother’s learned how to raise children from their mothers and grandmothers. But, few mothers today live near their family. And many feel that the old ways are too reactive and confrontational. Parents today are looking for more balance, intentionality and compassion. And so the search for a magic bullet, a method or philosophy that will raise perfect children continues.
Take the “gentle parenting” ideology made popular on social media that swept the country during the pandemic. Aspects of it have moved the needle in the right direction:
- communicating behavior expectations in a rational, loving way
- keeping your cool
- prioritizing the relationship
- validating emotions and giving grace.
But, it falls short in insisting that immediate consequences aren’t necessary. The end goal of “gentle parenting” is to raise children that are internally motivated to behave. So, the counsel is to stay the course and insist your child responds reflectively vs. reacting to external pressures.
However, the results are in and parents are reporting exhaustion and discouragement despite their sincere efforts. In a recent article recently published in Psychology Today, “When Gentle Parenting Doesn’t Work”, author Dr. Cara Goodwin gives several strategies to use in conjunction with the positive aspects of relationship building for children who don’t comply. Unsurprisingly, these involve establishing and enforcing consequences, which she says are supported by research and included in most evidence based parenting programs.
Sure, there are some kids who are naturally compliant and respond well to collaborative conversations and empathy. But, most kids need something more to learn to respect authority and care about others. These more strong willed and independent children will constantly push the limits and without clear boundaries that are consistently enforced, will most likely end up running the house, becoming entitled, insecure and generally disappointed in life.
Maybe this is your story and you are desperate for change. Maybe you have seen examples of this on playdates or in your children’s classroom. Ask any elementary school teacher today and you’ll get an earful of examples of out of control children that refuse to follow instructions. In “The Rise of the Accidentally Permissive Parent”, NY Times writer Elizabeth Passarella gives multiple examples of moms and dads who strive to be “gentle parents” unknowingly turn into stressed and indulgent ones.
I can relate. When I had my first child over 30 years ago, I was the first one of my friends to jump into the parenting arena. I knew I didn’t want to repeat my dysfunctional upbringing so I did what any well prepared mom does. I searched for and found what I thought would be the perfect playbook on raising her. I read it cover to cover. I underlined and highlighted all the key points. By the time she was born, I had a full proof plan in place. There was only one problem. My headstrong daughter wasn’t having it.
From day one she wanted to be the boss and just about anything I asked her to do became a battle. I tried to stay calm, intentional and follow the plan. But, by the time she was two, simple things like getting dressed, eating and brushing her teeth took forever, if they happened at all. She never slept through the night and started to show signs of anxiety. I was exhausted and at a loss.
What had I done wrong?
It was about this time that I saw a Bible Study for women advertised in my neighborhood newsletter and they offered childcare! I was curious about God and let’s be honest, they had me at “childcare”! It was there, in the teachings and principles of God’s Word, that I found the answer not only to my parenting woes but also to all of life’s big questions. The study leaders became my mentors and role models. As I got to know their kids, I saw happy, well adjusted humans who loved and served others. I wanted what they had. So I followed their advice and the trajectory of my life and my family’s was forever changed.
The Bible says that there is nothing new under the sun. Human beings have since the dawn of time attempted to create their own, more enlightened ways of doing life; thinking that God’s ways are out of date, untrue or just too restrictive. But, the bible is full of examples of how this never works out. If you are honest, I’m sure you have some stories in your own life. God’s ways are higher than our ways and His truths, His guardrails are there for our protection. Parenting philosophies swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. But, those who parent through the ages by following Biblical principles generally see the fruit of their labor in children who follow Him as adults.
Here are the 5 foundations of biblical, truth based parenting that I learned:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
1. Our children don’t belong to us.
God created our children and has a plan and purpose for their lives. We don’t own them nor control them. They are a gift from God that we are to steward for Him in the time we have with them. We are to humbly acknowledge that He is ultimately in charge of us and our parenting. And we are to prayerfully seek Him daily for wisdom and invite Him into our parenting process.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
2. Discipleship is our first priority.
The Bible is clear that the purpose of parenting is to form the souls of our children, to guide their hearts. God gives us the responsibility to raise them up to know and love Him. He doesn’t tell us to raise successful or even happy children. But, instead to teach him to walk in His ways and trust His will for their lives.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
3. Parents are in charge.
Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. We don’t like the word “obey” in our culture. But, our entire society is based on obeying the rules of law and order. There has to be someone in charge or we have anarchy. God has entrusted parents with the responsibility of leading their children, understanding that learning to obey parental authority is a foundational step toward acknowledging and respecting His authority. The bible says that those who obey the Lord will be rewarded. Who doesn’t want their children to receive good things from God?
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
4. Parents must model obedience.
“More is caught than taught,” John Maxwell said. “You can teach your kids what you know but you reproduce what you are.”
Nothing makes a child turn their back on the faith of their parents faster than hypocrisy. Your children need to see you following God’s precepts and putting Him first in your life. Read the Bible in front of them and with them, spend time in prayer privately and as a family, serve others together. Ask for forgiveness when you make mistakes with them. Demonstrate that character matters.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5. Parents are to provide loving, consistent discipline.
Parents are not to frustrate their children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. This has several facets:
- Building a relationship based on unconditional love and strong communication. As Tedd Tripp says in his classic book on biblical parenting Shepherding a Child’s Heart, we need to understand the “why” behind our children’s misbehavior and not just react to it. This means we need to patiently draw out their internal struggles by asking age appropriate questions. This requires listening and dialogue, not monologue, to help them feel valued and heard. (This is what gentle parenting gets right.) If we can help our children see and own their sin, they will recognize their need for a savior.
- Have firm limits and expectations in place and give consequences when they are crossed or ignored. Agree on these with your spouse if you’re married. (Your children will figure out quickly if one spouse caves when they beg or throw a fit.) Communicate them clearly and enforce them consistently. Repeating instructions once or twice is ok. But, after that, they need to know that they will receive something unpleasant if the behavior continues. Ie. logical consequences, time out, or losing privileges.
As my husband and I implemented these truths into our parenting, our daughter slowly stopped fighting our directives and trusted that we had her best interests in mind. Were her feelings hurt sometimes? Yes. Did she hate us sometimes? Yes. But, she ultimately understood that we were doing what God asks of us and that he loved her way more than we ever could. She also learned to respect us and at the same time we built a strong bond that continues to this day. Most importantly over time her heart was changed from a rebellious, difficult child into a beautiful, productive adult who loves Jesus and puts Him and loving others first in her life.
Strong families are like successful teams. United they stand, divided they fall. But, parents are individuals with different backgrounds and opinions so getting on the same page in raising kids can be really hard. Discover some more practical tips to help you in this message, “What Does Unified Parenting Look Like?”
At MomQ we believe that motherhood is a calling from God. While it is both a privilege and an honor, it is by no means easy! Moms have a lot of questions/concerns and need caring support along their journey. Whether you are a brand new mom or a little more seasoned, MomQ is here to help you fulfill your God given role. Don’t see a group in your area? Contact us today about starting one in your community!
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