Is Parenting About the Children or the Parents…or Both?

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This past week my mind and heart have been focusing on the struggles we parents have. I talked with a mom who shared that she and her husband differ on how to train their children. I’ve been praying for a family who is struggling so much with parenting that it is straining their marriage. Though we can’t solve all parenting problems with a small blog post, this topic is something that needs to be continually brought before us all.

Why is parenting such a challenge?

I love what Paul Tripp says: “We don’t want to parent children who need parenting.”

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That’s true, isn’t it? Children who don’t need parenting are well behaved, continually sweet-spirited, selfless, and lovingly obedient. Is that even possible?

Not really. Years ago, I was co-teaching a Sunday school class to middle school-aged students, and they were asked a question: “Are young children inherently good?”

I looked around the room, and noticed lots of heads nodding. Some were vocally saying, “Yes.” But there was one student who answered with a loud, “No!”

Obviously, we were looking for the answer to be “no” in order to explain to them how we are all born with a sin nature. The lesson continued, but I began to think about why that one student was so vocal. He was the only one with a sibling who was very young. He knew first-hand how toddlers tend to behave.

Think about it. What is one of the first words a child learns after perhaps “Dada” and “Mama”?

“No.”

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We are not born as children who don’t need parenting!

But that is not our problem as parents. We, in our little selfish hearts, don’t WANT to have to do the work of parenting these little ones who need it. It is a heart issue WE have!

So what can happen?

When an issue comes up with our child, we can become angry that they are interfering with OUR time, OUR expectations of them, and OUR needs. I don’t have time for this! We’ve gone over this a hundred times. How could you defy me like that?

The problem here is we take that opportunity to train them and instead make it all about us. We can get angry. Oh, yes. This parenting thing definitely makes me look inward more than outward!

When we make these times all about us, we are unable to get to God’s grace. These are OPPORTUNITIES folks, not INTERRUPTIONS!

When we react to the situation, we become our child’s adversary. It becomes us and our needs versus them and what they did or didn’t do. But we need to remind ourselves that we are on their side. We need to help them to understand what was going on in their heart when they misbehaved, know what God says about it, and then help them to realize the consequences of that behavior.

Yes, that is all well and good. But I have to admit that some days, I reacted.

“You go to your room! And YOU go to YOUR room! And I’ll go to MY room, and we all can cry into our pillow for a while!”

Not very pretty.

I had to constantly remind myself that I was the parent. I was the adult here, so I had to act like one. I found that this parenting gig brought me to my knees before the Lord more than ever. I saw more and more of the ugliness inside ME through this. How humbling!

You see, if we settle for quick solutions to situations, such as telling them they will never play with Legos again, or they’re grounded until Christmas, we don’t help them get to the heart of what is going on.

No encouragement or wisdom was provided, and they just can’t wait until you leave their room so they can be alone and in their little world of “peace.”

The only way to try to get to their heart issues is to begin with our own. And that is humbling.

In 1 Samuel 2:22-25, Eli had heard how his sons had been sinning, and he mildly rebuked them. He didn’t try to capture their hearts and get to the root of the problem, and the results were pretty bad for all of them.

We need to get our children to think about the “why” behind what drove them to a bad behavior.

“Why did you hit your sister? I know she made you angry, but look at the result of your hitting her. Is there a better way to respond to this?”

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This is the long haul, folks. The opportunities are tiring, but we need to jump on them as they come up. And do it again and again. And know that they won’t get it right away.

WE won’t get it right away. But diligently pursuing our children the same way that our Lord diligently pursues us is what we should be all about.

He is continually patient, loving, and forgiving. We are thick headed. What a beautiful picture of the parent-child relationship! I am thick headed and my Heavenly Father is still lovingly pursuing me. Praise God for that!

And take that perfect analogy to heart with your relationship with your children. Lovingly pursue them. They won’t get it right away, but keep at it.

I love the visual Psalm 23 gives us. In verse 6 it says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

This psalm uses the analogy of a shepherd and sheep. The Lord is our shepherd. We as clueless sheep are herded by our loving Shepherd to the places to keep us safe and fed. I think of Goodness and Mercy as sheepdogs, running around the flock to make sure that we all stay together. Pursuing us in our ignorance, even nipping us on the ankles to keep us in line for our good.

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The goodness and mercy of God is constantly pursuing us! Be like those sheepdogs. Run around YOUR “flock” to keep them together and in the right direction. Sometimes you have to nip them on the ankles or bark to redirect them. And it will be constant.

Yes, parenting is the long haul. Keep at it. Spend time praying for wisdom, you and your spouse. Work on YOUR hearts. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but it is the BEST endeavor you can do!