This introductory post is part of the series inspired by the reader request: I’d love for you to write about the practical working out of viewing your children as equals. Perhaps even a contrast from how you parented before!
The first question you might have if you’re reading this to get ideas for your own parenting is, “Why should I listen to what you have to say?” Well, you’re right. I am no parenting expert, not by a long stretch. My oldest kids are 5, I only have 3 of them, and I have not formally studied children or parenting in any capacity (though I read books and Google study with the best of them!). I find mothering to be incredibly challenging, I am exhausted all the time, and I make mistakes every day. Screaming is a part of our daily life – and it’s not always from the children (my “middle” child had a great screaming fit while I was writing this post because it is not time to eat pasta right now, although he’s welcome to finish the pear he started eating earlier today). I have no desire to tell you what you should do.
These parenting posts are about the experiences of my family. It’s basically a testimony. If you can learn something – wonderful! If you can share something with me – do it! I believe that the way my husband and I parent our children is the way God tells *us* to parent *our* children. I believe it to be consistent with His Word and it is part of how He is transforming our hearts and minds in His Love and Freedom. I know what we have done and what we are doing, but we have very few plans for what we will do – we are trusting that God will give us grace and wisdom for each day.
As Brian’s and my philosophy changed about how we should, in Jesus’ Name, parent our children, we began to realize that it affected their whole lives. At first, we had thought, “When they get to that age, we’ll start punishing them/teaching them what they have to learn.” But our infants turned into little children, and at every stage we keep observing that God has already given our kids what they need to grow and learn – they taught themselves to nurse and walk and talk and use the potty (seriously – I had no hand in it) – most recently they taught themselves how to swim.
I give them space and materials and introduce ideas and basically, they find what they need to learn and they do it. Children are AMAZING and it’s such a privilege to watch them grow into the people God made them to be. They need support from me – but they don’t need me to make them learn and grow. My real challenge is keeping up with how much they learn! So the authoritarian, punitive parenting style Brian and I were planning during our first pregnancy has never materialized. For which I thank God.
There are three big areas of parenting that I see as radical in the way Brian and I parent our children, based on our conviction that our children are equal to us – they are our brothers in Christ. I believe these to be radical because these are the things about how we interact with our kids that make people uncomfortable. We’ve been told (mainly by family members) that we’re doing our kids a disservice or that we are spoiling them or that we are even sinning and disobeying the Bible.
We appreciate lovingly spoken criticisms of our parenting (even though it can be hard to hear); it gives us opportunity to examine our philosophies and practice and bring our convictions to our Father. After several of these checks-after-criticism (the pushback from loved ones gets stronger as our kids get older), I realized… Jesus is radical. His message shocks people (even religious people who are very sure they know what the Scriptures say). He made – and makes – people uncomfortable. He constantly surprises us by His radical love and by His focus on our hearts and by His focus on the Lowly.
I have come to terms with being seen as radical. I figure we are in good company (though I by NO MEANS believe that we are right about everything, as He is).
So three of the most radical practices of our parenting are that as much as we are able (we often make mistakes):
- We do not punish our children; we also do not reward them.
- We do not try to control our kids; we try to teach them self-control.
- We do not require religious observance of them.
Why, might you ask, do we NOT do these things that are common to Christian parents, and what in the world do we do instead? Are we just completely ignoring the Bible?
I’m glad you asked! I will be fleshing out these ideas more fully in the coming days. Stay tuned!