What you really need as a parent depends on the kind of parent you want to be. At some point, you have to decide, otherwise, you will become the kind of parent that’s promoted and produced by our culture. We said that the culture encourages us to develop success-oriented adults. Our children need to do more, know more and be more so they can have more. Most parents just get in line and start marching towards that goal.
That is a very competitive place to be. “You don’t want your children at the back of the line - You want them to get ahead of everyone else. So, you do whatever it takes to make sure that they have the greatest chance of success. Devote as much energy as you possibly can to giving them everything they need.” That kind of thought process eventually produces a certain kind of parent.
1. Child-Centered Parenting
A mom or dad who feels compelled to build their world around the world of their children; a parent who bases more of their self-esteem on the accomplishments of their children, who has few interests or social life outside of their children.
That’s child-centered parenting. “Is child-centered parenting really that bad? Aren’t we as parents supposed to value our children and give them love and attention? Isn’t parenting the single greatest responsibility that most of us will ever have? Doesn’t that demand a great deal of focus on our children and their development?” Absolutely! Read through the Bible - discover that child development is a theme that’s repeated.
We will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. Psalms 78: 4 - 6 (NLT)
Developing children, loving children, giving attention to children are all very important things to do. But they do not require becoming a child-centered parent. Child-centered parenting has some serious dangers associated with it.
A. Sends the wrong message to children: “it’s all about you.”
“10 Easy Rules for Raising a Delinquent?” - Police Department of Houston, Texas - listen for the child-centered theme that runs through them.
1. Begin at infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living. 2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he's cute. 3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is 21 and then let him “decide for himself.” 4. Pick up everything he leaves lying around – books, shoes, clothes. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others. 5. Avoid use of the word "wrong." It may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe, later, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted. 6. Give him all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own. Why should he have things as tough as you had them? 7. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink and comfort. Denial may lead to harmful frustrations. 8. Always take his part against neighbours, teachers, policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child. 9. When he gets into real trouble, excuse yourself by saying, “I never could do anything with him.” 10. Prepare for a life of grief. You are bound to have it.
B. Leads parents to ignore their own relationship.
That’s what led them to become parents in the first place. Very subtle - couple spends time together; they fall in love; children come along; they gradually allow those children to become the centre of their lives and before you know it, the couple doesn’t have time for each other. Unless they take corrective action, they fall out of love and when the children are gone – and maybe even before – they get a divorce.
What’s so sad about it is that it feels like you’re doing the right thing for the children by spending less time together. The reality is just the opposite: Children who do best in life have parents who are relatively satisfied with their own lives. Parents need to pay attention to their marriage. Nothing can help your children more, because if you're feeling satisfied with your life, your children will feel a deep, inner security and a lack of deep anxiety.
C. Places far too much pressure on children.
What 10-year-old can carry the burden of knowing that he or she is the primary source of purpose, self-esteem and entertainment for two 40-year olds? Now, for the child who works out that it’s all about him or her and learns to play the system, there are some perks. But eventually the burden becomes too much – especially when that child becomes a teenager. It’s not the only cause of teenage rebellion, but it’s one of them.
2. Conviction-Centered Parenting
You can be a child-centered parent or a conviction-centered parent. You can build your world around that of your children and be driven by that world, or you can build your world around your convictions and let those drive both you and your children. That’s the fundamental difference between the 2 approaches.
What are convictions? - your answers to questions - “How should life be lived - not be lived? What’s important - unimportant? What’s worth time, money and energy? What’s not? What’s right, what’s wrong? Is there a God? What is He like and what does He expect?” How you answer those questions and others like them are your convictions.
If you’re a parent, you can let these set the agenda or you can let your child set the agenda. Very few people really want to be conviction-centered parents because it’s not as much fun as being a child-centered parent. When you’re a child-centered parent, there is a high probability that your child will like you – at least until they become teenagers and get sick of you.
So why do it? Because it’s critical to producing an adult who is more oriented towards significance than success. Conviction-centered parenting communicates to your child over time that certain values, beliefs and behaviours are far more important than what he or she wants to do, far more important than the “do more, know more, be more so you can have more” invitation of the culture. It’s much more challenging than child-centered parenting, but well worth the effort.
Just because you have convictions doesn’t necessarily mean you are a conviction-centered parent. In fact, there are lots of parents who hold strong – even biblical – convictions who are, in reality, child-centered parents. They’ve allowed their world to revolve around their kids. (That’s one reason why the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is equal to that of those who are not involved with church at all.)So what else do we need if we’re going to be conviction-centered parents?
Conviction-centered parents need clarity, permission and support. Parents need clarity about what they’re really doing in the parenting task - need a sense of permission to do what needs to be done to carry out that task - need the kind of support that enables them to continue to be driven by convictions and not by their children.
God reminds us that He Himself has already provided all 3 of them to moms and dads everywhere, if we’re willing to receive them. Ephesians 6 - Paul is concluding a discussion about family relationships and responsibilities. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)
Obviously, in a home where both parents are present, both have to carry out what Paul is saying here. What does this verse reveal about God’s provision for conviction-centered parenting? · Provides clarity about what we’re really doing in the parenting task. · Gives us permission to do what needs to be done to carry out that task. · Points us to the source of the support we need.
Bring them up …tells us what we need to know about what we’re really doing in the parenting task. We are not primarily providers, though we should provide. We’re not primarily playmates for our children, though we should play. We are, primarily, “up-bringers” of children. What does God want us to bring them up to? What’s the goal? God’s more interested in significance than worldly success, but it goes even beyond that.
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth …” Genesis 1: 26 - 28 (NLT)
We know what it means to be fruitful and multiply - “Get married, make love, have children.” What’s being multiplied? - human beings - but it’s something far more than that: it’s the image of God that’s being multiplied. Every time a child is born a new image of God walks the earth. Isn’t that incredible? Your job and mine as parents is to bring that child up to fully reflect that image.
Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. Malachi 2: 15a (NLT)
That’s clarity about the parenting task, isn’t it? As parents, we are God’s primary partners in developing a child to fully reflect His image. We are God’s primary partners in bringing up children who reflect His character in their behavior; children who reflect His love in their hearts; who honor His values in their priorities; who think His thoughts with their thoughts. That’s what we’re to attempt to bring children up to.
We’re to bring them up with what? … discipline and instruction … God is giving us permission to do what needs to be done in the task of developing children into adults who bear His image with honor. God says it is OK for us to define and enforce boundaries. We have His permission to say to our children, “This way of behaving, speaking, dressing, eating, working, playing or whatever reflects the image of God and is therefore in bounds. This way, however, does not and is therefore out of bounds.” That’s “instruction” – defining the boundaries.
We also have God’s permission to enforce those boundaries with pleasant and non-so-pleasant consequences - “discipline.” Everything around us screams out that “no one has the right to define and enforce anything for another person.” In case you haven’t noticed, children don’t necessarily like being told what to do and what not to do. That’s because not only do they bear the image of God, they also carry the sin nature that became part of the human race when Adam disobeyed God. Every little child is a rebel at heart, not just against God, but against any authority figure – including mom and dad.
It’s no wonder that many parents opt for child-centered parenting. It’s a lot easier, in the short-run, than conviction-centered parenting. That’s why permission – from God – to do what needs to be done is so important. As parents, we have it.
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 (NLT) Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives. Proverbs 19:18 (NLT)
A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away. Proverbs 22:15 (NLT) Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death. Proverbs 23:13-14 (NLT) To discipline a child produces wisdom. Proverbs 29:15a (NLT)
We’re not talking about abuse, being unreasonable, heavy handed or beating children. We’re talking about taking our rightful place as God’s partners in developing little men and little women who bear his image with honor. As we do that, we actually serve as a model to our children of who God is.
So, permission to define and enforce boundaries – to instruct and discipline our children – has been granted to us by God. Of course, putting that into practice isn’t easy. How do you actually go about doing that on a day to day basis? That’s a huge subject. What about the third thing we need?
The verse says we’re to bring children up with the discipline and instruction that comes from where? … from the Lord. In those 3 words, God is telling us that even though we’re the primary agents, the parenting deal is His, not ours. He’s the originator, the owner, the foundation, the support. It’s not all up to us. We don’t have to do it alone.
We don’t have to work out the goal of parenting. He tells us. We don’t have to invent boundaries because they’re tied to His character – who He is. We can relax and not kill ourselves in “hyper-parenting” because God has a love for and interest in our child that goes far beyond ours. He knows us better than anyone else. He knows all of our weaknesses and failures. In fact, He knows that we, like our children, are also rebels at heart – that even though we are parents, we have our own issues with authority – specifically, His.
God gives us clarity and we refuse to see it and embrace it because it’s not convenient or easy. He gives us permission to set boundaries and we back away from it because we’re afraid or we want to be liked. The truth about us is that we’re messed up. We’re sinners first; parents second. A holy, righteous, God of justice sees it all. It’s a little scary if you really think about it.
By the way, since we’re talking about sin and falling short, let’s not leave you wonderful young people out of the deal. I haven’t really said anything to you directly this week, but I will now. You know what it says right before God tells your parents to bring you up in the discipline and instruction from the Lord?
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” Ephesians 6:1-2a (NLT) How are you doing with that? Probably about as good as your parents are with bringing you up in the discipline and instruction from the Lord.