training up a child in the way she should go

training a child cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

A post has been circulating around the web, “Helping Little Hearts Overcome Sin” about how to raise children.

I want to say that it is obvious we have a seriously devoted parent here. She wants to raise her kids well. She clearly loves her children. It’s a scary world out there, and the fear it may cause can be overwhelming. Lisa and I have raised three children who are now adults. Sometimes I think I would never ever want to do that again. Especially through their teen years. Other times I think that it was worth it. It was hard but rewarding work. Actually, I’ve discovered that it never ends. We will always be parents. Lisa and I employed every native skill we possessed and every new skill we could collect. It took everything we had to raise our kids. So I totally get her angst.

It is very risky for one parent to advise another on how to raise their children. It is one of the ultimate invasions. It’s like walking over the sacred ground of another, and you just don’t do that. However, when someone publishes a method that you see as questionable, then someone should take the risk and speak up. I’m speaking up with this cartoon.

Our children are human beings. Treat them with respect, dignity, and affirmation. Raise them to be autonomous, responsible, and free. Show them how to be whole people with both weaknesses and strengths that add up to make a unique individual. Allow them to process strong emotions and think dissenting thoughts. Give them the room to explore and discover their own spirituality that will be different than yours. Read good books like Faber and Mazlish’s How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, or Shame Free Parenting by Sandra D. Wilson. These books as well as many others provide insightful ways on how to raise children with respect and dignity that help in the holistic building up of a person.

But what about the parents? Another concern I detected in her post is the fear of being perceived as a bad parent. The example she uses of sin in a child’s life is temper tantrums. Imagine (or perhaps you don’t have to imagine because it’s a reality)… but imagine living in a community where temper tantrums are considered sinful behavior, an expression of rebellion against Jesus. Every child gets upset in public. In church. Does everybody look at your child and think “Sinner!” and look at you and say “Bad parent!”? The pressure to have a well-behaved child under those conditions is enormous, terrifying and impossible. The grace required for granting a child permission to find their own way with guidance in this context is slim. This implicitly extends to the parents who are held responsible for behavior that doesn’t align with the community’s expectations. I wouldn’t invite that into my life or my child’s.

One of the things Lisa and I concluded is that even though we may invest every effort into our children, one way or another they will find their own way to be their own selves. They will do this in a context of resistance or support, criticism or encouragement, condemnation or affirmation. As young adults now, we can say about our children that, yes, we had something to do with it, but they were the major partners in the development of who they are. They trusted us to help them. I hope we helped them to trust themselves.

Again, I commend the author for her dedication to being a good parent. On the other hand, I suggest there are more positive ways to do it.

*** Just added: We also informed our children that when they were old enough that they should talk with counselors to help them process their own upbringing because no parent is perfect. In fact, when they were teens and understood and could provide consent, we sent them to teen counselors to aid in their development as emotionally intelligent human beings. As adults they still take advantage of wisdom from experts. Like their parents.

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  • Aviatrix

    Spoken like a good dad…

  • Shary Hauber

    Children automatically trust a parent. That trust can be easily be broken even in a baby. Not feeding a baby when hungry teaches “I can’t trust those people to meet my basic needs”. If we can keep our children’s trust we will have come a long way in parenting. My youngest is 34 and we made many mistakes some with life long negative results. But we soon learned training really means leading by example not cracking the whip. As we get older if our children don’t trust us how can we trust them. Life comes to the place where the children are in control and the roles switch. Parenting is not easy and I don’t tell my kids how to raise their kids. It is so much easier to be a grandparent.

    Though I trusted my parents I went to missionary boarding school for much of my childhood. There I learned through much abuse that people can not be trusted. To this day I do not trust people easily. It makes for difficult relationships.

  • Faith Monkey

    Love it – awesome article

  • thanks faith monkey. great name!! 😀

  • Mark

    Yes, I can see that she means well; but, it is saddening to think of parents who see their children’s normal behaviors as “sin.” And that she believes that “Only Jesus can change our children.” Really? So how do so many Jewish, and Muslim, and Hindu and atheist children grow up to be loving, caring, productive people?

  • Al Cruise

    This might be a little off message but I like the comparison in your cartoon, unfortunately I know people who give their dogs more love than their children.

  • Pat68

    Very bold and mature move on advising and encouraging them to seek out counseling, if needed, David.

  • I really appreciate this post, although I’m not a parent. I love that you encourage your children to talk to counselors and ask for help when they need it. I think there’s a negative stigma on asking for help in our society, but in order to grow and succeed I believe it’s entirely necessary to have some sort of coaching!

  • Serenity

    She is training her children to mindlessly follow any and all authority. I pray a sexual predator doesn’t catch onto who she is and who her kids are!
    I love my strong willed, intelligent, *thinking* kids who question everything (even me).

  • R Vogel

    Wow! I commend your forbearance…I couldn’t get through the first couple of paragraphs. “Her sinful heart” was it for me. I have absolutely nothing to say to religious kooks of this sort, and as a father of an almost 1 yr old to even think anything he can do could be construed as ‘sinful’ is beyond my comprehension. But for people who view the Adam & Eve story a historical fact I guess very little is beyond comprehension. I hope her kids take the opportunity to speak to someone when they reach the age of consent. I have a feeling they are going to need it.

  • forgedimagination

    I’m one of those who doesn’t have to “imagine” a world where temper tantrums are sinful. I grew up in a community where a child crying to be held was a sure sign of his/her “wickedness” and the “inborn sin nature.” A crying baby was a liar, end of story. Unless he was hungry, or colicky– if there was no physical reason, he/she is manipulating his/her parents. Because heavens forbid your child have actual *needs*.

  • Jeannie Boen

    When I was a good Christian woman doing things God’s way and practically living in the church a series of books by the Ezos were very popular. They taught us to be Babywise and how to Grow Kids God’s Way. Even back then I wryly wondered out loud how someone could write a whole book about a subject that was barely mentioned in the Bible. And secretly I was horrified at how kids were dominated and oppressed by their well meaning parents. I was a popular Sunday school teacher because I was such a laid back person – the anti-Ezo.

    Then I had kids. And the full horror that lies behind these kinds of top down, authority, be afraid parenting strategies became very real. I am so glad to not even have this be an option. I can never be tempted to even try it. You see one of my girls is a brilliant autistic and the other is a satiric genius who is a quick with a comment as Zorro was with a blade. It’s not perfect. It’s messy. It’s not the Waltons. They had better script writers. But it’s real and we are not afraid of each other.

  • Rhonda Wittmer

    I read the post that inspired the cartoon. Oh my. That is offensive to me so much that I couldn’t leave a comment on the blog. What could I possibly say to that? Thanks for the post!

  • Not much 😉

  • David, you were charitable in your description of the author. I clicked through to the article and the first paragraph itself activated my gag reflex (to borrow from another recent infamous blog post :). )

    I powered through to make sure I did not misunderstand the author. But, boy, it was a horrible experience.

    Watching children to identify sins? What on earth.

    It makes me want to cuss.

  • Thanks Alphalim. Yes. I read it again. Danger danger.

  • The overcoming sin article referenced did say that if you are not sure if the behavior is sin-related or just developmental, err on the side of developmental. The problem is that so many fundamentalist Christisns have a worldview to see sin in almost every human behavior they find inappropriate.

    I also thought this statement summarized the whole mind-set of the article:
    “Jesus as the only hope for helping us not throw tantrums”

    Do you think that in the history of human civilization that there has been anyone able to not throw a tantrum who has not believed in or known about Jesus?

    The author simply has the belief that appropriate behavior is evidence of Jesus being present in your life and inappropriate behavior as evidence of not enough Jesus in your life and the dial just needs to be turned up. More Jesus, better behavior. All Jesus all the time means all good behavior all the time. She would probably like us wearing shock collars where if our minds strayed from thoughts of Jesus we would get a corrective shock (or a snap on the leash as Dave drew).

  • I too raised three kids to adulthood. I was often told I was too permissive with them, but I stuck to my guns. Yes parenting is hard. Yes, mistakes are made, but I learned that if I made one, to apologize. That showed my kids that grown-ups are not perfect, and that honesty, is really the best policy. I learned that letting my kids explore, ask questions, then more questions, to push the boundaries of their understanding helped me to learn as well, while helping them to see that often there is more than just one way of seeing things. I quickly learned that small kids lack the ability to communicate like an adult, so they will use what means is at their disposal…tears, and tantrums. Being patient…even when you are frustrated, especially when you are frustrated, will help you discover what it is that is bothering your child.
    I knew they could look at me right in the eye with their big baby blues and tell the biggest lies on the planet. I knew they would avoid cleaning their rooms at all costs, or use my tried and true method as a kid, stuff everything under the bed. I knew that they’d get into spats with each other, break things, lose things, and remember they needed to turn in yet undone homework assignments five minutes before the school bus arrived. They were kids, just like I was once.
    I was a most imperfect parent, as I didn’t learn all that right away. Yet they grew up into three amazing adults.

  • Jeannie Boen

    Sounds like I am raising my kids about the same way you raised yours. Occasionally I wish I could pull out the boss card, because it would make things easier. But most of the time I am glad I don’t have that kind of relationship with them.

  • I knew I had passed the parenting exit exam, when my daughter called and said “I’m sorry mom.”
    “For what?” I asked.
    “For all those things I did as a kid.” She said. I smiled and then asked. “Ok, what did she do?” My daughter then shared with me the antics of her oldest who was three at the time and who had thrown her first major meltdown at the further point from an exit at the local grocery. My daughter and son-in-law will pass their exit exams as well one day.

  • Tami Terry Martin

    Children do not automatically trust. They may be predisposed to trust easily when their needs are met, but they learn to trust. But there’s a whole field of people in infant mental health who have jobs because babies can learn in the first few months NOT to trust their caregivers.

  • “boss card”. yep.

  • Shary Hauber

    Exactly Tami you just said it better. In a healthy environment the trust the baby has keeps building when needs are met. It is when those needs are not met that the baby starts not to trust.

  • Shary Hauber

    It boils down to as a parent if I don’t want it it is sin. Why can’t we leave God to handle the sin. Is not sinning just learning to do what the one in authority wants? If so why do we make it such a value issue, you sin = you bad?

  • Cameron Barham

    Speaking of contradictions…

    “It is very risky for one parent to advise another on how to raise their
    children. It is one of the ultimate invasions. It’s like walking over
    the sacred ground of another, and you just don’t do that.”

    “Read good books like Faber and Mazlish’s How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, or Shame Free Parenting
    by Sandra D. Wilson. These books as well as many others provide
    insightful ways on how to raise children with respect and dignity that
    help in the holistic building up of a person.”

  • Jeannie Boen

    The other day I asked my girls (9 and 11) what they wanted to be for Halloween. The 9 year old said she wanted to be some character from Monster High. That drew stares from our little audience because I am allowing my children to play with “occult figurines”. Any good Christian parent should just know that Monster High is evil, right? Well, I should have just stopped there, because next I asked my 11 year old what she wanted to be for Halloween. She told me she wanted to be a succubus. I told her to pick something else. Why? She asked. Because you won’t get as much candy if you go trick or treating as a succubus. That did the trick.

    My audience was horrified. But it wasn’t really all that bad. Turns out the succubus she was describing is a video game character who sucks souls. It was bad enough to my fundy audience, but there were no sexual connotations involved. It is moments like these when I want my tight little box and rule books back. Guess we’ll find out if I am doing enough right in a few years.

  • SecularPatriot

    Yeah. My favorite part is when she said:

    “Is it sinful to disobey Mommy and have a tantrum?”

    Yeap. Teaching your kids it’s a crime against baby Jesus to disobey your parents. What great parenting.

  • Dawn Fallon

    Temper tantrums are a very important part of a child’s development for *some* children – it means they are learning independence. I do think Christians would benefit from learning a bit of psychology, and Christian parent would benefit from learning a bit of child psychology, then maybe they could educate themselves better about what is normal behaviour, instead of seeing their child’s behaviour as sinful or wicked. A sense of self is very important for good self-esteem.