I was speaking with a very dear and sweet friend this morning and thought, in light of my post yesterday on the Proverbs passages, I would share some of the things we talked about, plus a little bit more.
When I was a young mom I really struggled with wanting well-behaved children. Of course, this isn’t a sinful thing, it isn’t even a bad thing, but it CAN be a distraction from the REAL purpose God has laid out for me during these few fleeting years of raising my children. I remember feeling so much “on display”; as if my family, my parenting skills (which were just beginning to grow) and my children were being watched, weighed and critiqued. And the probably were. I would stress about what others thought about me when my children did such-and-such. And, of course, they always DID do such-and-such!!!
Then I went to a marriage conference and heard the one thing that freed me up from the guilt and fear that was binding my heart up as a mother. This one godly man said:
“Our parenting is not judged by what our children do. Scripture tells us, ‘foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child’ so we know FOR A FACT that they will do foolish things – and probably with great regularity! Our parenting is judged by HOW WE RESPOND.”
You know, I can’t control what my children are going to do when the foolishness of their hearts prompts their own struggles with sin. But I CAN control (by the grace and power of the Spirit) how I respond!
That very week I was given a beautiful illustration of that truth. I was at the drug store with Hannah who was about 13 months at the time. She was strapped into the shopping cart and I turned to pick out an item. In those few seconds, she slipped out of her strap and was beginning to climb out and starting to tip over. I grabbed her and VERY CALMLY said, “Oh no, Hannah! You may not climb out after Momma has strapped you in. You could have fallen. It is very dangerous. You must obey when Momma says to stay sitting down,” as I sat her down and strapped her back in.
A woman came BOUNDING from several aisles over and I thought she was going to yell at me for *allowing* my daughter to climb out. Instead she told me what a joy it was to hear me speak so gently and lovingly to my daughter without giving in to her foolish desire to climb out. She said most moms would scream at their child to sit down but that my speaking gently to her avoided the tantrums and screaming from the child, kept her safe and taught her at the same time. She THANKED ME for speaking so well to my daughter!! I was floored! This woman understood that ‘foolishness was bound up in the heart of a child’, that children WILL try to climb out of their seats. She didn’t judge my parenting based on what foolish thing Hannah did, but she looked at MY response and saw (that time, at least) a loving yet firm response of training and instruction.
The other thing that I learned at that conference I went to is that parenting is not PRIMARILY about teaching our children to be well-behaved. It is PRIMARILY about discipleship. I teach and train my children to behave as a forerunner to their learning to obey the Lord. I teach and train my children to surrender to my authority as a training ground for their surrendering to the Lord, first at salvation, then in sanctification for the remainder of their lives. I don’t focus on child training for its own sake, but for the sake of the SPIRITUAL training that underlies all that I do and all that I am.
My ultimate and final goal is for them to seek to find and obey God’s will – them learning how to obey my will in these early years is the place where they begin to learn this concept. Hopefully they will also be learning from MY example as I grow in this area of submitting to the Lord’s will in my own life.
Yes, child training is LONG, it is HARD, it is INCONVENIENT, it is EXHAUSTING and it is seriously TIME CONSUMING. But it only lasts for a season and then our work is done. We will have done all that we could (with where we were and what we knew) in the time we had. “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” My goal is that, after my children are as fully trained as I am able to do, that they will be like me WHEN I AM BEING LIKE JESUS.
by Kate Megill (c) 2009