My wife and I have been talking about parenting issues for some time – it’s one of our largest areas of joint interest. We’ve talked a lot about the way God has led us to parent from what we understand the scriptures to be saying and we’ve coined the phrase “Reality Parenting” to describe the way we raise our kids. Let me explain…
We believe that our job as parents is to teach our kids how to deal with the world – as it is- from a Godly perspective. It’s a disservice to our kids to smooth things out for their “benefit,” or to hide the way the world is from them. Our job is to help them by teaching them HOW to handle the world the way it is. Let me give you a few examples…
Say our 4 year old girl’s hamster dies. We have a couple of options in how we could deal with this.
- We could lie and say the hamster got out of his cage and ran off. (probably much easier for US)
- We could tell her that the hamster died and help her deal with her grief in a way that honors God and helps her gain strength for what lies ahead. (not easy, but honest and engaging with the child in an important moment in life)
I bet you can’t guess which approach we’d suggest? Hee, hee
What good does it do our little girl to shelter her from the harsh reality of death? Some might say that she’s too young to understand it, and I agree to a point – how many of us really understand death? But I think a greater argument is this – I would rather help my child learn to cope with the death of a hamster NOW while I’m there to help her walk through it, than to wait until it’s something much more tragic (the death of grandma and grandpa for instance), and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be there to help her. Do you see my point?
I believe that God gives us opportunities, all through the life of our children, to teach them as life happens. We aren’t supposed to shelter them, cover up the reality of a harsh world, or hide them away in some ivory tower. We are supposed to trust God to bring the “all things” of Romans 8:28 into their lives in such a way that they learn to trust Him for themselves. And another thing, if they are going to grow up to be effective Chrsitians, ministering to people who live in a world of hardship, then they need to know something about hardship from their own experience in order to develop that capacity. Otherwise they’ll be potential “know-it-alls” scripturally, but without compassion or understanding of the people they are attempting to help.
- I’m not saying we manufacture hardships for them – life will do that enough on its own.
- I’m not saying we intentionally expose them to things that are beyond their capacity to adequately handle (i.e. horror flicks, sexually deviant behaviors, etc.). That would be irresponsible and possibly even cruel.
- I am saying that we watch for the opportunities life brings to help them grow, learn, and mature.
- I am saying that we be careful not to underestimate the work God wants to do in their lives THROUGH the cirucmstances they face daily.
We should walk alongside our children through the journey of their lives and help them learn to be people who can handle what life throws out them with faith, courage, and perseverance.
When we do shelter them too much, I think we develop an attitude of “me-ism” in our kids. They begin to think that life is free of tragedy, or at least it should be. They begin to believe that if it doesn’t bring them comfort, safety and happiness, then they should avoid it. (How many life lessons will they miss out on if they only go for things that “feel” good?) Scripture is very clear – it’s the hard times that fashion our character into the image of Christ. Why would we want to handicap our children in that respect?
A big area this impacts is the issue of their emotions. Kids are pros at tempter tantrums (some adults are too). They throw the tantrum because they are not getting/feeling what they want. We have to help them learn to deal with their EMOTIONS too – not allowing them to be manhandled by those volitile feelings that well up from inside. We have to teach them how to handle themselves – isn’t that a fruit of the Spirit – self-control?