A Straightforward Post on Parenting

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Shaun has confessed many a time that when he first started parenting, he thought our kids were little lumps of clay that, with a bit of work from his own hand, could be molded into perfect little … well, whatever he wanted them to be. It’s easy to read that verse in Isaiah and make the correlation that since we have a Heavenly Father who molds us into His image, we are to follow suit and incessantly squish, squish, squish our own children into the ideal mold.

Our ideal mold.

And why not? We are bigger. Stronger. Alpha. So if (when!) they embarrass us by their disobedience, we turn around and embarrass them in our discipline. But hey … gotta teach those rugrats a lesson, right?

Yeesh. God help us as parents.

I am not advocating a lackadaisacal parenting style that never disciplines or instructs. But I am saying it would behoove us to remember that we are instruments in the hand of the Potter ~ not the Potter Himself ~ and that parenting is just one of many means the Potter uses to shape parents into His image.

I never knew I had an anger issue before I became a parent. Nor did I know I was lazy, impatient, and disorganized. God used (and is using) my kids to help me see my deepest issues and get me into shape. He’s also using me to help my kids see their deepest issues, but the bigger picture of parenting is found in the latter part of our verse:

All we are the work of His hand.

In other words, I am on the same journey as my children. I am not better than my children. I am not alpha over my children. I am in a spiritual battle WITH my children. The only difference between me and them is this: I should be farther along in the journey than they are. Therefore, I should be looking at my children as disciples – not someone to be bullied into obeying my every whim so I feel like some kind of spiritual patriarch, but someone I can edify, encourage, and shepherd toward Christ-likeness.

Below are some practical ways I’ve discipled my own children. They’re not the only methods out there. But hopefully, they serve to get your mental juices flowing. As always, feel free to tweak or add to the list.

First, get on their level. If they’re fifteen, go play some ball or do some shopping together. If they’re two and terrible, you better be playing a large amount of tickle games, baby dolls, Chutes and Ladders, and tea time (whatever they are interested in), while setting reasonable, age appropriate boundaries. Because if you don’t, by the time they’re fifteen, their ear will be deaf, and they won’t have one iota of desire to play ball, shop, or even converse with you. This is what we call “moral authority.” It’s the idea that you love someone by laying down your life in whatever way possible, so that when it comes time to correct, you have already built a strong foundation in your relationship that then allows you to say, “Hey, I love you, but you can’t act that way. Now knock it off.”

Second, choose your battles. Establish what is essential to peace and godliness in your home, and enforce those few things. Ask yourself, “Is my child’s behavior altering his spiritual wellness or the spiritual wellness of others, or does it just bug the living bajeebers out of me?”

You’ll be amazed at how much you can let slide. It’s freeing. Because let’s face it, nitpicking is exhausting for both the nitpicker and the nitpicked, and nobody wants to live with a micromanager. So if your little disciples resemeble a hen that’s been plucked alive, it’s probably time to get your adult size trousers on. Grow up spiritually, keep the main thing the main thing, and temper yourself so your children have an impeccable example of how to temper themselves.

Last, but not least, pray! Because all efffective discipling is done through prayer, and lots of it. Many times throughout the years, I’ve gone to bed either mad, confused, or worried about my kids. Without fail, I pray some, fall asleep, and wake up two hours later with an even heavier heart. This is always my signal to grab the iPhone, click the Bible app, find my way to my favorite Psalm of repentance (chapter 51), and pray lengthy prayers over them and myself – especially if there’s been conflict. Because the truth of the matter in parenting is that when there’s conflict, the need for repentance can usually be found in both parent and child.

All we are the work of His hand.

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