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.