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Thursday, February 24, 2011

God's Parenting Techniques

I love my children more than words can express...and yet, God loves them more.

Ephesians 6:4 says,

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (NIV)

I really like the New Living Translation of this verse >>
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord."

God has been laying this on my heart. This passage is directly addressing Parenting, and I believe that this scripture is talking very clearly about choosing wisely how we discipline our children. It should not be a decision made lightly, and it should definitely be one made through prayer. Are we exasperating our children? Are we provoking them to anger by the way we treat them? Ultimately, does that lead to an unhealthy life for our children? Experts say that the subconscious mind, as adults, is greatly influenced by the way your parents treated you as a child.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, "Exasperate" means: to excite the anger of or to cause irritation or annoyance. I have watched a fair share of "Super Nanny" episodes and I often cannot believe the way these parents (yes, even Christian parents!) speak to their children and the threats they make to their children. If someone else spoke to your children the way you do, or disciplined your children the way you do...would you be okay with that? Honestly? I have had my moments of losing my cool with my kids, and I regret those moments so much. They are little for such a short time. And God has entrusted ME with their care and training. What an honor to get to raise two of God's most precious creations, HIS children.

The ultimate example of Parenting in the bible is God the Father...Abba Father...Papa God...Daddy. We can call him such affectionate terms as "Daddy" because He loves us that much, He is a father full of grace, mercy, compassion, faithfulness. He will never leave us or forsake us. He gently corrects us, whispering to our hearts, reminding us of who we are, convicting us of our sin and drawing us into Him. And when we simply ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven and our sin is forgotten. He trusts us to follow Him from that moment on. Ultimately, He motivates us out of love. That is the kind of parent that I want to be.

God is not strict, He is just. Merriam-Webster.com defines "strict" as: "stringent in requirement of control, severe in discipline, inflexibly maintained or adhered to.". "Just" is defined as: "conforming to a standard of correctness, acting or being in conformity with that is morally upright or good." Think of the Ten Commandments. He set clear expectations, a standard of correctness for us from the very beginning. And when we disobey, we are disciplined. And yet, even in His correction, God shows us compassion. He is always willing to give us another chance. It is not about control. God is certainly not inflexible as we see him show compassion and forgiveness in so many different ways in the bible. God convicts us...Satan condemns us. The enemy is great at condemnation, taking the truth and rubbing our nose in it so to speak. He is not beyond stealing, lying, killing and doing all that lead to destruction – ours. As parents, do we allow conviction or condemnation?

As I stated, God motivates us to obey Him through love. Many parents motivate their children through fear. "If you do blank, I am gonna do blank" or extreme punishments - forcing children to do physically impossible things as punishment, are used in hopes that children will fear the discipline so much they will chose to make the right decision. We should teach children to make the right decision because it is the right thing to do. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of a sound mind." If we are not to have a Spirit of fear, then should we instill a spirit of fear in our children? If we are to bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord, as Ephesians 6:4 calls us to, then we need to teach them that God has not given us a spirit of fear, that means we use love to motivate them to do the right thing. I obey God's commandments because I love Him and I know it is right. It is not because I fear going to Hell, most importantly because Hell is not a punishment, God does not choose it for us. Hell is a consequence of our disobedience to God. In the same way there is no earthly reward for good behavior. That makes it hard to always follow God's rules, since we get to see no immediate reward. This is another great parenting technique that God shows us! Children also shouldn't do the right thing because they are going to get a sticker or a candy. Aren't we setting them up for failure? We do not are not rewarded for good decisions or good behavior, we are rewarded for dying to ourselves and living our lives for Christ.

Ultimately, we need to set expectations, and consequences for disobedience. Follow through with those when our children disobey, and most importantly show them the same love, compassion and forgiveness that the Father shows us. Children want boundaries, and they want to do the right thing. Children are not bad, they have a sin nature. And it is our job to teach them how to fight against their flesh. One of my favorite movie quotes is from the movie Raising Helen, in which Helen's older sister tells the teenage boy with whom her teenage niece is in a hotel room, "You are not bad, this is just very bad behavior." I can honestly say that is the kind fo parenting I received growing up, my parents loved and respected us. They trusted us and they encouraged our imaginations, shaping our will, not breaking it.

My prayer is that I can always be like God in my parenting. That my children will see His character in me. That I will motivate them through love, believing in them to make good decisions, and correcting them when they don't.

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