by Chip Ingram
That's a challenge, and God's Word has much to say about how we as parents can meet that challenge. It shows us how to provide the kind of discipline that helps our children fulfill their responsibility. If the most important thing for our children to learn is to obey, what do we do when they won't?
Four Parenting StylesFirst, it's important to understand how your parenting approach may be contributing to the problem, especially in a culture that has made discipline a dirty word. To speak of a parent disciplining a child today evokes images of unreasonable anger and brutal beatings. That's not biblical discipline. Two case studies — one sociological and the other biblical — show us what appropriate, godly discipline is all about.
Sociologist Reuben Hill conducted a study of thousands of teens and parents in Minnesota. Hill put all of his research on a grid with an x-axis, a y-axis, and four quadrants. The horizontal axis measured how much discipline or control parents exercised in their relationship with their child. The vertical axis measured love. Hill found that different parenting styles produced different responses among children.1
1. The Permissive Parent. The upper left quadrant represents parents who are high in love but low in discipline: the permissive parent. The study revealed that permissive parents tend to produce children with very low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. Though the parents express a lot of love, the lack of boundaries leaves their children with a high level of insecurity. The kids feel loved, but they are never sure of their limits. Their parents are generally fearful, afraid of messing up and damaging their children's psyche, so they never set firm boundaries. The kids feel very loved and very unsure of themselves.
2. The Neglectful Parent. The lower left quadrant belongs to the worst of all four combinations: the neglectful parent. This kind of parent doesn't express much love and also doesn't really care enough to discipline. Their children tend to grow up with little or no lasting relationship with Mom or Dad. They're estranged because they feel forsaken. The parents' neglect may not necessarily be intentional — they may simply be in the midst of their own traumas and chaos, like an addiction or an abusive situation. They don't purposely desire to neglect their kids, but they don't know how to deal with their own issues adequately and don't have the tools to be healthy parents. These children grow up with unbelievably deep emotional scars, and their only hope is to find Christ, be surrounded by godly role models, and get some good Christian counseling.
3. The Authoritarian Parent. The authoritarian parent shows up in the lower right quadrant. This kind of parent doesn't express love and affection well but is very high on discipline. They raise children who are provoked to rebellion. The bar is always high and the "musts" are always abundant, so there's a strong sense of safety. But this kind of parent isn't content just to win the war; they have to win every battle too. Communication between parent and child takes the form of arguing and fighting, especially when the child is old enough to fight back. Authoritarian parents squeeze their kids until the kids can't wait to leave home, and as soon as they do, they rebel. When Paul told the Ephesians not to over correct their children and exasperate them, he was warning authoritarians not to raise children who would reject the faith altogether.
4. The Authoritative Parent. Those who land in the upper right quadrant provide the best combination of love and discipline. This kind of parent is authoritative — not an overbearing authoritarian, but a compassionate yet firm authority. They have clear boundaries but are also very loving. Everyone knows who the boss is, but there's also a connection between parents and child, a consideration that respects and honors who the child is while not compromising his or her disciplinary needs. The result is a child high in self-esteem and equipped with good coping skills.
This secular sociological study found that the parent who balances love and discipline, without compromising either, produces well-adjusted kids who maintain a positive relationship with Mom and Dad. This research, the best available today, affirms parents who express love well and maintain a high degree of control in their home.
All of us want to be in quadrant four, and probably most of us think we are. But before we move on to our biblical case study, consider these questions: Where do you tend to err? If you had to pick a quadrant other than number four to represent your worst moments as a parent, which would it be? Make a mental note of your answer; it will help you later when we look at our parenting through new lenses.
Okay, so here we go...
First, a child should never be expected to "obey". They aren't dogs. They are human beings, just like like you or I. They have rights, some of which are the right to learn without fear, the right to explore, have fun, make messes, and say no. They have the right to their own opinions, even when they don't exactly match up to our own. And they have the right to express them, even when it's not a moment WE would consider ideal.
I read a great comment made by a Psychologist the other day. I can't remember it exactly, but it was along these lines; "You can't expect your child to go out into the world and question things, to stand up for what they believe in, and to have their own opinions, and not practice that at home. It just doesn't work that way."
I agree that parents need to set boundaries. Children DO need them, no only for their safety, but also because one day they're going to be out in the world, and they need to find a way to fit in. (And I'm not talking "lets wear [whatever is cool] and fit in", I'm talking about knowing that there ARE rules in this world and that not following them will land you in hot water.) But where we draw those lines in our own lives...that is something I'll post about later. For now I'm just going to say that when they're small, there don't need to be many lines. IMO, there are only three major things we need to ALL do, no matter what.
1. You need to make sure your child is SAFE. It's your JOB to make sure that they cannot hurt themselves. You can avoid even having to make or enforce many of the rules if you just make your home a safe environment, and remove those things that your child could hurt themselves on/with. This makes your home a "yes" environment, and keeps you from having to shout "NO!" from across the room as ol' Bobby is trying to climb inside the freezer to get an ice pop he knows is in there. (Buy a freezer lock! Keep him safe, and stop shouting!)
2. You need to make sure that your child is HAPPY. Look at them like you are thrilled to see them EVERY time they enter a room. Treat them how they deserve to be treated, and how you wanted to be treated at their age. Your children think you are just the coolest thing going, the person they love above all others. Give them that in return. If anyone in this world deserves that kind of blanket-love, it's our children. Cover them in it. There's no such thing as "too much love". It's like saying you have "too much money", or your house is "too clean".
|RE-FRAMING THE GOLDEN RULE IN PARENTHOOD: |
Treat your children as if they are *you* at the same age. By parenting them as you wish to have been parented yourself, you are healing your own (still wounded) inner child while preserving the authenticity of the little one right in front of you. ♥ -- Lu
Picture courtesy of Lu Hanessian, founder Parent2ParentU. Photo by Lisa Trakis for WYSH wearyourspirit.com
3. You need to make sure your child is kept as HEALTHY as possible. Read up on the ingredients in vaccinations. Know what those words mean. If you vaccinate, know what you're putting in your child, and what the adverse effects can be, and what those look like. If you don't, you need to educate yourself on diseases. You need to know what they look like, so you can be on top of things if they were to get one. (I'm not saying you don't need to be aware of what the diseases look like if your child is vaccinated. You do.) Even vaccinated children are only protected in as little as 85% of cases.
Your children deserve the best foods, not foods filled with artificial chemicals. Feeding them foods that make their bodies strong, also make their immune systems strong. I'd never say that one trip to McDonalds every few months is going to kill them. (It probably won't.) We go about once every 3-4 months too. But the rest of the time the kids are eating food that is good for them. Vegetables. Fruits. Hormone-free meats. Our kids love treats, but they don't have to fill up on junk. (If I die, someone please keep an eye on my husband...who thinks that every kid needs junk at least once a day!)
Kids need to go OUTSIDE, run, play, explore. Getting outside isn't just good for their physical needs, but for their emotional needs too. If you've ever been stuck indoors for months on end like we are around here from Nov.-May, you'll know what I mean. Kids get just as crazy as adults do when they're locked up inside all the time. They need to get out, play in the grass, and get that fresh air and exercise. When they're out there, it'd be a great time to teach them about bugs (under rocks), birds, etc. Make it a fun learning experience!
It's not hard to keep kids healthy and strong. They crave the things they need, and when they can verbalize, they'll tell you!
I can't even begin to tell you how mad it makes me when I read the words "obey" and "child" in the same sentence. The funny thing is that kids are KIDS, and will act like kids. They are not tiny adults. They are not going to ACT like tiny adults. They are going to act their age, and I for one am thankful for that. They are only small for such a short time. Lets just love them, keep them safe, let them be happy, and make sure that we do our very very best to keep them healthy. And that's it. There's no need for any chart to show us how our children deserve to be raised. It's just following our hearts and letting our children BE CHILDREN.
So in closing, do I mind that my kids don't "obey" me? LOL Nope. In fact, I'm glad they don't. It means they have been allowed (and feel safe) to have their own minds, and own opinions.