It’s been forever since I’ve posted on the blog, but today a discussion broached by my wife seemed like a good place to publicly share some thoughts. We’ve all been around parents who think (or at least express) their kids have almost attained some perfection and that if there were a vacancy in the Trinity, God the Father would come a callin.’ The danger, among many dangers, is that some parents then compare these perfect children with their own kids-and they feel jipped. Of course the perfect child is only a facade. Just like the perfect anything….except Jesus.
But then there is the opposite error, where parents feel their kids are so bad, that they only express that to others. In person, or on facebook. Over time this can lead to a devaluing of the dignity of the child and perhaps preclude the parent from seeing the work God may (if the child is a Christian) be doing in his/her life.
By the way, if you think I’m talking about you, I’m not. This is just inspired by a conversation with my wife today!
The gospel sheds some light on how we speak about our children.
1.) Each child is made in the image of God and uniquely expresses something that perhaps other children do not.
2.) Each child is also a sinner and there reflects something about his need for God through some character flaws. Sometimes those flaws are more private and sometimes more public. The story of the Prodigal Son reminds us that both Sons were equally as lost.
3.) Each child who is a Christian is being redeemed in the image of Christ
Amy’s question was simply this, “How do you publicly or in conversation, praise your kids without presenting some facade, yet also avoid telling others of their struggles or your struggles with them?” I’ll just try to deal with the latter and leave the former for another day.
Here are some of my thoughts. I only have kids that are 5, 3, and 4 months. Each stage has its own challenges. Each stage has its own blessings. For those of you with teenagers, I’m way behind and can only imagine how difficult that stage can be for many of you. These are not gospel, nor are they from Mt Sinai, but simply personal applications and convictions arising from my belief in the gospel.
1.) This may be pretty obvious, as parents we should never rant about our kid’s shortcomings in cyberspace. What if my 5 year old could tweet my shortcomings (and yes I do have a plethora of them!) as a Dad? Pretty scary! Picture this, “My Dad yelled at me today.” #hypocrite #baddaddy
2.) Don’t share your kids’ shortcomings with folks who don’t know you well. They may not have a gospel grid through which they think. Our last community group was incredibly helpful with this. We could let our hair down and admit how hard things could be at times. We weren’t judged for being bad parents, nor were our kids judged for being “bad” kids (yes we’re all sinners but comparatively speaking). Yet we didn’t share our struggles with many outside of this group, because we simply weren’t in a deep gospel centered community with them.
3.) When we do share our struggles with or sins of our children, consider what God is teaching you because of these specific struggles. What sin is this particular struggle bringing out in you? How do you see yourself in little Johnny? For instance, you could say, “My three year old’s tantrums need to stop. But in all honesty, I’m seeing that I too have a temper problem. Here’s what I need to believe to deal with my issue….” How is he/she being reshaped in the image of Jesus. How are you? Share it with those close to you. It will help both parties.
4.) Remember God’s grace in disciplining you. Of course God in love disciplines his children, often using suffering as that discipline to conform us to His image (Heb 12). Yet remember how patient God as a Father is with you. Scales are heavily tipped toward grace and patience! I need to be reminded of this truth every day of my life. Never gets old; don’t let it!
I’m a new kid on the block when it comes to parenting. I love to write but I’ll never write a book on parenting (no one would read it!). I was reminded last night about how complex parenting gets when kids get older. We need community. After our church gets up and running, we’ll be creating an inter-generational Dad’s group where past, present, and future Dads can point people toward Jesus. And once we’ve been pointed to Jesus and his love for us, then try to point each other to practical steps in parenting. The beauty of it all is it will include Dad’s, who because of the gospel, can confidently share and teach from a vantage point of humility and personal failure (and God’s faithfulness). I listen to such folks much better than those who say, “Here’s what I did and it will work for you!’
Don’t know if any of this helps or not. Feel free to share.