Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Perfect Parent - Part 2

So last week I talked about the toddler in the grocery store. I just want to address the comment that was made about the discipline factor involved in parenting. I completely agree that most parents need to be more patient and just accept their children will be children and try things out. But, in my mind at least, patience and discipline go hand in hand. I read a really great post about spanking (can't find the link at the moment) and how it is one thing to spank your child when you're angry. It's completely different to spank your child out of love. If you are angry you are much less likely to be fair and gentle in your discipline. If you are exercise patience, you try to understand the child's motive behind the behavior and thus respond more confidently and in a way that will (hopefully) get the child to understand that you love them but will not accept this behaviour. (This is not a post to encourage or discourage spanking, I just wanted to illustrate).

Now, onto my original thoughts for this post.

We do all the right things (or at least try to) and pray for our children and teach them all we can about Jesus and His love and his Word. We discipline them with love and patience. We teach them right from wrong. We take heart the verse that tells us to "train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

Then we hear from the principle that our child is skipping class. Or was caught smoking.
Or perhaps they have decided to stop attending church when they move out, or marry an unbeliever, or constantly chase after money, or live in any other non-Christian way. Ways that they certainly didn't learn from us!

I often think about how I would feel if, after all of the "good" parenting choices Adam and I make along the way, Caleb ends up going astray. We all know families where all the children were raised in the same household by the same parents yet one of the children becomes a "black sheep." Or some families where it seems that as soon as the children are out the door, the run the opposite direction and never look back.

It's easy for parents to start looking back and pick things out of their history with their child that should have been a "sign" of things to come. Maybe if I had attended more of their hockey games... Maybe if I was a little more lenient/strict with curfews... Maybe if I had paid more attention to who he/she was hanging out with... Maybe if I dealt with that particular incident better... It's a true fulfillment of the saying that "hindsight is 20/20." We can look back and see all the times that we could have done things differently. All the choices that we "should" have made, but did something differently. I know of many parents who beat themselves up by agonizing over every little detail of their child's past to see how they could have prevented things that are happening in their present.

I'm going to be perfectly honest by saying that there probably was a better ways to deal with those particular "hind sights." That being said, you need to consider this. Did you make those decisions based on God's guidance? Did you deal with situations out of love for your child? Or did you make those decisions with the intent that your child stray/rebel? What I'm basically asking is did you push your child in that direction on purpose? I can almost guarantee that the answer to that question is NO.

Since you did not consciously choose to send your child(ren) down a path away from the Lord then it would make sense that you also not blame yourself for their faulty decisions. A friend once told me that you can have a really great child but you can't take credit for all of it. Some children are just easier to parent than others. I always say that God has blessed me with an amazing child. I fully realize that Caleb's personality (that God given design) plays a big role in how easy he (usually) is to parent. On the flip side, we can't blame ourselves when they start making bad choices. God gave us Free Will, and He gave that same Free Will to our children.

Due to the Fall of Man and the introduction of sin into the world, we can't really fault ourselves for not making perfect decisions all the time. And we have to realize that imperfect parents raise imperfect children. No matter how amazing of a parent we are, there's nothing we can do to make our children turn out perfectly. That sounds a little disheartening doesn't it? If that's the case, what point is there in ever trying at all? So where do we find the hope?

The hope lies in God's promise to us in Proverbs 22:6. We sometimes forget that just because we teach a child something and live as an example to them their whole lives. they may not always do exaclty what we want them to do. For example, I have never climbed over the back of the couch. Caleb decided to do this. I was able to catch the little stinker before he fell of the other side and hurt himself. Where did he get the idea that climbing over the couch was okay? I have no idea! It's not quite the same scale as some of the life-altering/threatening decisions that plague older children but the principle is the same. I can tell Caleb that he shouldn't climb the couch, I can explain the results, but he may still end up doing it anyway. The only thing that I can do, as his mother, is be there to comfort him when he falls. But I can take comfort in the fact that no matter how many times he may fall off the couch (even after me telling him not to cimb it) when he is little, he will learn. Eventually. It may not be for another 10 years, but he will learn.

The same applies to teenagers and adult children. If you are constantly there to comfort them when they fall, the will eventually learn that falling hurts. They will also learn that you love them despite their imperfection and you can help them understand the God loves all of us in spite of our imperfections. Note: I'm not encouraging you to "bail your kid out" every time he/she gets into trouble, kids need love, not money and other material things. And we can take hope in the fact that EVENTUALLY they will turn back to the Truth. Once a child of God's, always a child of God's. He doesn't let go of His children.

So that concludes my current thoughts on being a perfect parent. I will apologize for and mistakes of strange phrasing. This has been an interesting post to write because Caleb woke up halfway through, and Adam came in the house so I've been a little distracted and all over the place. And I don't have time to give it a final edit because I'm going on a date tonight!

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