Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I had readers this would be the post where I offend them...

Parenting. Big Topic.  Important topic. At times, a controversial topic.  This will be one of those times.  Especially since I want to talk mostly about why I find one approach that I see very troubling.  Which I will admit is the easy way.  So much safer to pick apart some other philosophy than to put your own up for scrutiny.  So in fairness I will do that as well,  but for now I have a bone to pick.

I am taking issue with the idea that parenting in just the right manner can produce godly children.  I'm taking issue with the idea that parenting is all about getting the children to submit to the parents' God given authority.  I'm taking issue with obedience needing to be blind, immediate, and cheerful. And especially that any time our children disobey we need to make a big spiritual issue out of it.

*disclaimer: I am going to be talking about some very specific definitions that I have seen floating around in books and video series and the like.  Some may associate these with particular teachers.  I would like to avoid talking about specific people because I think the ideas go much further than one or two teachers.  So lets just talk about the ideas*

First idea: that Proverbs 22:6 is a promise that we just simply need to claim.  "Train your children up in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it".  I put forth (and might be branded some sort of weirdo liberal who doesn't believe the Bible) that this isn't a promise given to us by God.  If we read Proverbs as a list of rules and promises I think we have serious problems.  It tells us things like the lazy man not prospering, and the wicked coming to a bad end.  This doesn't always happen.  At least not here on earth.  It often happens, but not always.  I would put forth that Proverbs is a book full of wisdom, not law.  Full of observations, not promises.   Teaching our children good things, and  teaching them well is likely to follow them into adulthood.  If they have a solid Biblical World view they can then evaluate what is thrown at them later.  If they know how to work hard when they are young it won't come as such a shock later in life and they are likely to prosper.  But the problem with treating Prov 22:6 as a promise to claim, and a program to follow is that it makes the parents responsible for their children becoming Christians.  Yes, if the parents are bad representatives of Christ it is likely to sour their children towards God and if the parents are wonderful bearers of grace and truth and light the children are going to see something they want.  But last I checked it was God who saves.  It is His Spirit that indwells His children.  It is Christ that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  It will be Christ who saves my children.  It will be Christ who convicts them of their sin.  It will be Christ who sanctifies them.  Christ has the power to do that, not me.  To Him be the glory.

The next issue: that parenting is about getting children to submit to the parents God given authority.  I have never ever found a verse or passage in the Bible that charges me with this.  It tells children to honor  their parents. It tells children to obey their parents in the Lord. It does not tell parents to make  them do it.  In fact it tells us to not provoke them to wrath.  My perspective on this is that taking away a child's sense of self and independence, by making them submit to my personal preferences simply because they came out of me would be a sure fire way to provoke them to wrath.  {It was stated in the video I saw that giving a toddler a choice between two outfit options was the beginning of giving your authority away and would lead to a rebellious teenager who wouldn't listen to you and wear a "life sucks" t-shirt instead.}  I definitely see authority in the Bible.  But never used as a club.  And those who are "in charge" seem to be given the job of servants, not bosses.  Do my children need to obey me and honor me? Yes.  But is this what my relationship with them should be all about? No. No. And a thousand times NO!

I have heard it said that obedience that is not 100%, immediate, without question, and cheerful is actually disobedience.  My first question is: is this how we are expected to obey God?  I put forth that it is not.  Once again, before I get branded a heretic, let me explain.  I see over and over again in the Bible (most notably in the Old Testament) where God talks to His children.  He dialogues with them.  He explains Himself even though He is under no obligation to do so.  He (it would seem to me) desires relationship with us, not just obedience.  Yes, we show our love for Him by obeying, but if the only goal was blind obedience why was Christ necessary? If questions aren't allowed why was Abraham permitted to talk to God about His plans for Sodom and Gommorah? Why did Jacob wrestle with God? Why did God choose Thomas or Peter? Yes, God desires to bring us into a more perfect relationship with Him, but I think this is done through making us more like Him (through His spirit) where we desire to do the things of God because we are like Him, rather than doing the things of God out of fear and submission to His authority.  

Finally (at least for this post) I am deeply concerned about the idea of making disobedience a spiritual issue all the time.  Example: Little Johnny is playing blocks.  Mom calls for Johnny to come to her in the kitchen.  Johnny doesn't and keeps playing.  So Mom takes Johnny aside tells him that he disobeyed.  And that disobedience is Sin.  And that God tells her that she has to punish/discipline little Johnny's sin. (usually in this scenario spanking it what follows).  Then little johnny is informed that all is right between him and mom.  One of the problem's with this I have is that it puts household "sin" on the same level with Sin against God.  The only reason it is wrong for Johnny to not come when called is because that is what Mom decided.  There is no list of household rule all children must obey anywhere in the Bible.  Is it sin for Johnny to disobey His parents? Yes. But isn't it God's job to convict us of Sin? To forgive us of Sin? To reconcile us? To say to your child, "You sinned and God tells me I have to spank you, " is so so wrong.  They sinned and God tells me that you are forgiven through the power of His blood.  You sinned and God loved you while you were in that sin and sent His Son to draw you to Himself.  You sinned and you are forgiven.  Period.  No spanking required for this process.  Am I opposed to spanking? No, I am not.  BUT I am very opposed to spanking as some sort of tool used to dole out reconciliation for sin.  Spanking can be a very effective tool for behavior modification and even an attitude adjustment, which can be necessary for a variety of reasons.  But "the rod" has no spiritual power to it.  Period.

I need to stop here.  There is a lot for me to process in all of this.  These ideas go against a lot of what the culture around me is doing, and I find that painful at times.  I know people that I respect and love that hold these views and I worry about hurting them if I express my views.  I see families that are  running well using these methods.  Families that have raised Godly children who are now raising Godly children who are using these methods.  It causes me to pause.  Am I right? Are they? Does it matter? And I think it does matter.  But probably not as much as I might think.  Like I said, ultimately it is God who saves not me and so I have to trust Him for grace for me and my parenting and  trust Him for grace for others families as well.  And if I am wrong, trust Him to correct me.

I am still working out a lot of practical details of parenting in my home.  My husband and I talk about all this ad naseum it seems at times.  Our conclusions are still tentative, Which is a little scary to me a times.  My oldest is 5 and I would liked to have the "perfect" solution to all of this by now.  Some fool proof plan that produces perfect children, that doesn't offend anyone, and is easy.  But that isn't life.  I'm glad I haven't clung rigidly to ideas I had when my eldest was a baby.  Just because you think you have it figured it out doesn't mean you do.  I need to grown in wisdom and grace and know my Lord more and more and in light of that look at all that I do and make sure it lines up.  Even if it is hard.



At October 23, 2009 3:29 PM, Blogger Leigh Ann said...

I didn't realize you were back blogging. I am so glad you posted this. I have been thinking about this very thing and discussing it with my husband as he has been doing some reading which has been forcing us to do some rethinking about how we view God and His relationship to us (He primarily relates to us in love and grace and not law.) Glad to hear your thoughts.
I will stop bombarding you with comments now:-).

At October 23, 2009 3:45 PM, OpenID adventuresinmercy said...

This is soooo good.

How SAD, sad, SAD, that we can't let our toddlers exercise the beautiful God-given ability to make CHOICES, or we feel we are at risk for losing our control over them. Choosing a shirt? Choosing a SHIRT???? Argh...

Anyways, just wanted to hug you and encourage you on your parenting journey. I love the way you are thinking. It can be so hard to feel like the "only" one bucking the tide in these areas when your community is predominantly supportive of those views.....but you are doing a GREAT job...even if no one else thinks so because they are all brainwashed by that stupid &^%video! (lol)...

The poor kids. And the poor parents. We *all* miss out on SO much when we think it's all about maintaining control (ie, keeping them from having any). :(

At October 23, 2009 5:54 PM, Anonymous Holly said...

Hey Tiffany, nice to see you back! :)

No flames from me on this post - I agree with you! :)


At October 25, 2009 3:24 PM, Blogger Tiffany said...

Thanks you three! So much of this is so hard to figure out I think because there are so many competing voices on the *right* way to do it. And we all just really want to get it right. And children obeying their parents (and without 10 minutes of arguing/fits/whining etc) is a good thing.... but what is it really suppose to look like? Can I actually make a child obedient (as opposed to simply compliant)? I'm really not sure.

Thanks for the encouragement. Nice to know I'm not completely off my rocker. Or if I am, at least I have company! :)

Leigh Ann- bombard with comments any time you would like!

At October 27, 2009 12:09 AM, Blogger alaskamommy said...

I found you via Adventures in Mercy, and your post here speaks quite a bit to what I'm thinking through also, and have been for several years now. The second to last paragraph stands out - people I love, raising children well, but using methods and philosophies I can't sign onto, or that I question even as I employ them. There's a certain class being taught at our church right now, I'm sure you can guess what it is, and so my husband briefly mentioned to one pastor that some find the class controversial. He blinked with surprise. Really? Huh? Seemed to be the reaction. Oh, and our eldest is also 5!

At October 29, 2009 10:58 AM, Blogger Leigh Ann said...

So anymore thoughts on the subject. I really agree with what you are saying and wonder if we shouldn't just throw all parenting how-to books out the window:-). Maybe not, but at least stop looking for the answers there. There can be good ideas and encouragement, but when the books are touted as THE WAY, world without end, Amen, so many problems come up.
But there is soooooo much a part of me, that just wants a little cooperation some times. And people all around me (read: parents living with me) just tell me if I would give a good spank every time they step out of line we wouldn't have these problems. Sigh.
Especially with a special needs child, I don't want my spanking for disobedience and going through the whole sin and forgiveness spiel to give him the wrong idea about how sin is taken away.

At October 30, 2009 11:53 AM, Blogger Amanda said...

Thank you for taking the time to write such an excellent post! Found you via Mothering by Grace. This is right where we are, and it was helpful to find it written out so articulately.

At November 03, 2009 4:58 PM, Blogger Tiffany said...

Amanda- thanks for reading. I am glad you found it articulate. I was worried that half of my conversation had taken place in my head and that I had left too much assumed. "Mothering By Grace" I am drawing a blank on. But I have been out of internet world for awhile. Forum? Blog? Something I signed up for before my third girl came along? :)

Glad I am not horribly offending anyone. I fear if my in person friends read this they would not be happy. Although I don't know if it would be because they would feel attacked or if they would be concerned for my soul. Or both. Blogging is such a strange medium. There is so much I want to discuss with people I know on a daily basis but am scared too.

At November 03, 2009 5:03 PM, Blogger Tiffany said...

alaskamommy- I know what you mean! last time my mom's group got together and I raised some concerns over the teaching I was given very blank stares. Polite, but like they just didn't even comprehend where I could be coming from. I also know what you mean about employing methods you are unsure about....I mean it is what I know and what I *thought* I was going to do. So often it is my default mode.

Leigh Ann- I do have more thoughts. But life got a little crazy here. We had people visit last week and more coming this weekend and I still haven't finished the summer/winter clothes swap and the baby is teething and I am very behind in laundry. More to come though I promise.


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