Parenting Mistakes, Myths, and Marvels
Recently (former) presidential candidate Ted Cruz unleashed a firestorm when a 12 year-old Donald Trump supporter heckled him at a campaign rally. His response, advocating spanking when a child was rude, sparked an explosion of opinions on the internet.
This is just the latest in our culture’s debate about how to raise a child. Should this child be praised for “speaking his mind?” Some think he should. Should children be seen and not heard, especially in matters about which they know nothing? Others believe they should.
Who’s right? Was Ted Cruz on target for his comments and suggestion? How would you have felt had that been your child? Proud? Embarrassed? Confused? It raises the question again, in our society: Is corporal punishment akin to child abuse? Or are you being too liberal with your child if you don’t?
And what about newborns? Are you an advocate of “extinguishing?” This parenting philosophy believes in letting children who cry, “cry themselves out” before you respond… even if they’re infants. Or are you an attachment theorist who believes the child should be carried in a snuggy near her parent’s body everywhere she goes?
While we’re at it, how do you do controlling your child’s (translation YOUR) schedule and calendar? Is it filled to overflowing with activities, meetings, practices, parenting groups and play groups? Are you raising a busy, hurried, over-stressed child? Or do you realize and help them realize that neither you nor they can do it all?
Philosophies of child rearing abound today much as diet plans. And like diet plans, for every one that may be healthy there are three or four that aren’t. So who gets the final word on how your child gets raised, schooled, disciplined or rewarded? Myths about parenting abound. Mistakes are made… always.
So how do we know? Who is the “expert” in such experiences? Well, we can certainly begin with a look at the timeless and infallible counsel of God’s Word. God can teach us things about our child and ourselves that other experts and coaches cannot.
For instance, it says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Great verse. Worthy of a place on any parent’s cluttered refrigerator door. But we usually get it wrong.
This is not a fail-safe promise that, if we train a child in the way (WE THINK) he should go, when he is older he won’t forsake the church or God’s Word. Wrong. Not what it says. It says, “When you train your child in the way GOD MADE him or her, and raise them as GOD INTENDED them to be raised, they will find the right path and fulfill the purpose for which God made them. ” That’s a broad-brush interpretation, but closer to reality than the other.
Your job as a parent FIRST AND FOREMOST is to help your child “find his way” in this world. A part of that of course, is to incline them as much as possible to the God who made them. And if we do that, it will take root. But it is a mistake to think that we have a foolproof text here that promises if you’ll force your child into a religious mold that mold will stick. It may. It may not.
It’s a mistake to think you can predict and control your child’s future. You can’t. And you wouldn’t want to if you could. And as much as you would like to shield your child from failure and missed opportunities in life, you can’t do that either.
But you can receive the child as a gift… and then pray, pray, pray. Use God’s wisdom as a guide. And know this: if you succeed in raising a child you’re proud of, you will then see the true marvel of parenting.
But if you are among those who don’t and you feel yourself a failure and your child is a prodigal, understand that our Father gets it.
He has kids that won’t mind Him either!
FOR MEMORIZATION: “Train up a child according to his way, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
FOR REFLECTION: If the child in the Ted Cruz example above was yours, imagine what your response to him would be. What does that say about your parenting?