Thursday, August 21, 2008

When the Person that "Wears the Pants" in the Family is a Size 2T

I'll just jump right in. Though my words are straightforward and bold, I pray that they will be received with careful reflection. It is not for the purpose of criticizing, but rather for encouraging mothers in careful discipline and parenting of their children, that I have written what follows.

There is something that bothers me and seems to get lost in the whole infant feeding/sleeping debates, and in the debates about certain parenting books and their authors. That is, that those debates cloud the real issues at hand regarding child training. And it is possible that those who passionately fall on either side might miss the big picture.

Frankly, biblically speaking, it doesn't matter to me whether you feed every waking and sleeping moment of every day, or whether you feed every 3 hours on the nose. Biblically speaking, it doesn't matter to me whether your child sleeps through the night at 6 weeks or at 6 years.

What does matter, biblically speaking, is that you train your child in the way he should go. What does matter, biblically speaking, is that you teach your child to obey you (his/her parents) in everything. What does matter, biblically speaking, is that foolishness is driven out from your child's heart and is replaced with a fear of God and an understanding of what the Lord has done for us, and for this world.

What concerns me is that I see too many children raised in Christian families who are not taught and expected to obey. They are allowed to dishonor their parents with their yelling, tantrums, and emotional displays. They are allowed to intentionally and brazenly disobey their parents, without repercussions of any kind. They are encouraged in selfishness and materialism by parents who don't set limits and stand by them. They are outright rude to siblings, guests and adults, and it goes uncorrected.

We have less children than any generation before us, and more parenting advice at our fingertips, and yet we parent them worse.

Is it ANY wonder that we see so many variations on the theme of depressed, psychotic, and medicine-requiring mommies? These moms are told by various parenting experts that they are doing the right things, and to just "hang in there", and that "this stage" is a tough one (aren't they all labeled a tough stage by one "expert" or another?). But these moms are slowly slipping over the edge because of the disobedience and disrespect of their children.

You can see it in the raw moments of a women's Bible study at your church, or in the public discussions on some online message boards. When a mom has been deceived into thinking that discipline is harsh and that it is not to be employed or sought by a gentle, loving, Christian mom, she is left without biblical support for pursuing the very thing her heart desires-- the cheerful obedience of her children. She grasps for labels or special psychological terminology. She just doesn't understand why things are going so. very. badly. Indeed, she may feel guilty for simply desiring obedience and find herself wallowing in a discouraging version of motherhood that seems far more like a curse than a blessing.

Motherhood becomes a duty and a bitter pill to swallow when the person who wears the pants in the family is a toddler. It really doesn't matter how you feed your infant. That's your business. I've shared here before how we handle the feeding/sleeping issues in our home-- and how much it enables and facilitates joyful family life in our home. But if you want to do things differently, that's completely your call.

The Bible does not clearly spell out a feeding regimen for babies, either towards rigidity, or towards fluidity. Nor does it give specifics on newborn care. It really is a matter of preference.

But the Bible DOES spell out a requirement for parents: children must obey. You (as the parent) are to instruct and train them in this. It is not optional. It is not easy. It is not pleasant at the time, and will not be something they always enjoy. So whatever parenting "method" you employ for the first year of your child's life, once that child begins willfully choosing to disobey and dishonor you, the Bible makes it clear that THAT is not honoring to the Lord.

By reaching age two, the average child is acting and using their voice in ways that ought to be met with firm, loving discipline. They begin to rebel, defy, and assert their demands... and if parents aren't careful --no matter what they've done up to this point-- if they do not at this point use careful, intentional, biblical discipline to teach and train their children in obedience, things can quickly unravel. Soon, the person in control of the family atmosphere is a child.

Though our culture sees disobedience as a natural exertion of individualism, defiance as being "spirited", and rebellion as "normal", God calls it evil. Israel was told to stone a defiant and rebellious child, and yet in our society today, parents are thought cruel and heartless when they mete out just discipline to an undeniable disobedient and disrespectful child. Seasoned parents know different-- but when you surround yourself with psycho-babble raised peers, it is easy to have good judgment overruled by the pleasant-sounding but poor-resulting parenting advice so easily given by our sin-excusing culture.

Though our flesh and our culture rises up against the notion of discipline, the Word of God says these things about discipline:

And it says these things about lack of discipline:
Whatever our infant feeding method, whatever our favorite parenting "book", if we do not discipline our children with a goal of obedience and instruction in the Lord's ways, we are sinning. I want to encourage others to not feel guilty for obeying God's Word. Do not grow weary in disciplining and instructing your children. It is biblical and right to give clear, firm, loving discipline to a wayward child. Do not fall prey to the bankrupt philosophies of the world (or even "Christian" parenting methods) that tell you to only say yes, to not expect obedience, or to seek primarily to befriend your child without parenting and disciplining him.

Instruct your children. Discipline your children. Train your children. Teach your children. This is the loving thing to do. If your "parenting method" encourages you to do any different than this-- if it "softens" or waters down the Word of God-- drop the parenting method, rather than disobeying God.

The main thing I want to communicate is this: instead of listening to the "wisdom" of men, (even if they call it "Christian" advice), love the children God has given you by disciplining them according to His Word.


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