Four Ways to Radically Rethink Our Parenting
by Kristina Matz
Elisabeth Elliot once said, "The Word of God I think of as a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness. We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.”
For me, there are few places that this is more true in my life than in my parenting. It becomes all too easy for me to begin looking at parenting through the lens of the world or my own flesh. So here are some of the ways that I remind myself of the true straight edge of God’s Word as it relates to my role as a parent.
1. View My Children as My Service to the Lord, Not as an Interruption to My Service
I am often tempted to look outside of the walls of my home to find my value and worth in service. More than once my husband has needed to remind me that ministry is not only what happens in the church. In fact, some of my greatest ministry is what happens in my own home with my family. I am currently reading Do More Better by Tim Challies (Get it, read it. You’re welcome.) and he struck a nerve with me as I read this…
Good works, then, are any and all of those deeds you do for the benefit of others. If you are a mother and you simply cuddle and comfort your crying child, you are doing a good work that glorifies God, because you do it for the benefit of your child.
Total honesty, I look at those moments as an interruption, not an opportunity. I convince myself that cuddling a child who is “okay” is a waste of my time. Maybe this shocks you and I do not mean to sound harsh. To know me is to know that I adore my children. I love my job as a homemaker and stay at home mom and I even relish the moments of holding my sweet babies. But, I feel guilty. I think that there are “bigger” and more “important” tasks that need me and so I feel guilty when I simply sit to comfort a child or play cars on the carpet. I hold back tears as I write this and God shows me the error of my prideful thinking. These thoughts are not His. They are mine and they come from a deep root of pride that wants to be seen and appear more valuable by performing measurable tasks. God will call me to account for my motherhood before He calls me to account for my service in the church or my care for my neighbors.
So the bottom line is this, my children are not getting in the way of my most important jobs, they are one of my most important jobs!
2. Remember That My Children are Smaller than Grown-ups, Not “Less Than” Grown-ups.
Before we go any further, let me just state that I am a short woman. I stand at a towering 5’0”. I was the last of all of the cousins to exceed my tiny grandmother’s 4’10” and I still need help at the grocery store from time to time from a kind (and much taller) shopper. But even with my tiny stature, I still stand head and shoulders above my tiny children. And it is easy to view that size advantage as a value advantage at times.
Have you ever really stopped to listen to how you address your children? What about how you sound when you correct their behavior? Would you ever speak to another adult that way? I have definitely caught myself speaking to my children in a way that I would never speak to, for example, my husband! It is all too easy to use our tone to convey a level of displeasure and disappointment that goes far beyond beneficial. I am reminded of what Paul says about our conduct towards the Gentiles…
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that… they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. - 1 Peter 2:12
If your children are like ours, they have not yet repented of their sins and committed to following Jesus, which puts them in the category of Gentiles in the context of this passage. And Paul did not clarify that we are only to show honor to grown-up Gentiles. Our children also deserve honor, as fellow people created in the image of God.
So the bottom line is this, my children deserve my respect when I discipline them, correct them, train them, or any other time that I am engaging with them. Even when I am speaking about them (we need to be mindful of how we impact the reputation of our children).
3. Allow Continued Correction to Remind Me of How Patient God’s is with Me
I had a recent conversation with another mom about physical discipline. We see clearly in Scripture that this is a prescribed means of correction for our children.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. - Proverbs 13: 24
She asked if we really disciplined for every infraction and I told her that, yes, we do. She then asked if we are constantly doing it, to which I replied, “Some days it feels like that!”. There are days when the kiddos’ behavior seems to be nearly spot on and there are days when, we like to call these “normal” days, there is varied disobedience sprinkled throughout the day, depending on the current struggles of each of our children. But then there are days, and you know the ones, where it does seem like every 5 minutes I am pulling my same little one aside to address disobedience. Sometimes these days can drag into weeks and what follows can seem like hopelessness or frustration or both! But what about when we view these seasons of seemingly constant correction through the lens of God’s character?
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8
God’s Word reminds us that He is patient. He is patient with the world and He was patient with us. We are also reminded that God remained patient while we were still sinners. Meaning that we were still in active rebellion against Him prior to His gracious call to pull us out of our pit and make us new creations. So, in light of God’s gracious patience towards us, might we be more patient with our children? When I have to ask my child for the umpteenth time to “stop this” or to “do that” and the frustration begins to boil, I feel that gentle prick of, “How many times has God asked me?” Even in my state of being saved, I am still a sinner. And God is patient to remind me again and again of the same truths from His Word, in patience and gentleness.
So the bottom line is this, we need to respond to our children with the same patience and love that Christ has kindly modeled to us.
4. Savor Every Opportunity for Sanctification as a Blessing, Not a Curse
I have often said that marriage and parenting are the two avenues through which God has sanctified me more than any others. Like my husband, my children are constant reminders for me of my own sin. Even looking back at our first three points… I see my pride, my disrespect, and my impatience. I don’t have to look very far to see my shortcomings in relation to a perfect and holy God! But what if we trained our brain to see this as a good thing rather than a bad thing. As parents, we have been given an outlet for greater sanctification than our childless counterparts, as long as we are willing to take hold of it.
Every moment of correction is not just meant for our children, but God desires to use it for our good, too. Each time we have to tend to a scrapped knee or a bumped head and put someone else’s needs before our own, God can grow us to look a little bit more like His Son. When these tasks are performed with a heart of joyful obedience and love, for both the Lord and for our children, then God’s work is being done in both our children and in us.
So the bottom line is this, when we view our worst days as opportunities for growth rather than opportunities for grumbles, we bring glory to God as He continues to conform us to His image.