Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thoughts On Our Parenting Choices

I read a great article today about how and why we make parenting choices. It's not from a Christian perspective, but I think there is a lot of wisdom to glean from what the author says, nevertheless.

Our Parenting Choices by Pam Leo
Parents seeking information and guidance often find the advice of child experts and parenting books to be confusing and contradictory. One book or expert says to do one thing and another says to do the exact opposite. Parents often ask me, "How do I tell 'good' parenting advice from 'bad' parenting advice? How am I to choose what is best for my child?"

Securing and maintaining a strong bond with our children is our primary work as parents. A secure bond or connection with at least one other human being is the greatest emotional need of every child. It is also the biological key to optimal human development. Parenting advice is relevant only to the extent that it honors our human biology and promotes parenting practices that support secure bonding. When considering any parenting advice we must ask ourselves, "If I follow this advice, will I be providing nurturing, guidance, and limits in a way that maintains a secure bond with my child? Our effectiveness as parents will be in direct proportion to the strength of the connection we have with our child. In any interaction will our words and actions strengthen or weaken our connection with a child? Any advice that promotes parent behaviors that compromise trust is counterproductive and undermines the strength of the parent-child bond.

What would you say is your primary work or responsibility as a parent? As Christians, most of us would hopefully reply something like, "to train up our children in the way they should go; to teach them about Christ and shepherd their hearts towards Him." Our deepest desire for our children is to see them "walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4)

So how do we strive for this goal? Common answers would be family worship and Bible reading, helping our children memorize scripture, teaching them truths about God from a young age, catechism, going to church and Sunday School, etc. These are all essential.

But what about meeting our children's basic emotional need for a secure bond and connection? How important is that in relation to our goal of teaching them the truth about God? I think this is as essential as the items listed above! Our effectiveness in teaching, training and parenting is directly proportionate to the strength of connection and attachment with our children. Our words and actions should strengthen and not undermine that connection and trust. In this way, not only are we nurturing the emotional needs of our children, but we are also teaching them what the LORD is like:

"It was I who taught Israel to walk,
and I took them by the arms...
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ropes of love.
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down and fed them."

Hosea 11:3-4

"As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."
Psalm 103:13

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."
Isaiah 66:13

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
Isaiah 40:11

So I would maintain that providing a strong parent-child bond by meeting our childrens' biological, emotional need for high-touch nurturing shouldn't be viewed as a separate "category," much lower on the parenting priority list than teaching our children about God. A child's understanding of God begins before they learn their first Bible verse or prayer. It begins from the time our baby in born! From birth on, our parenting practices can fulfill our child's need for trust, empathy, and affection that will provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships. We undermine our attempts to point our children to God if we have not nurtured a trusting, secure relationship with them from infancy on.

Not high-touch, connected parenting or daily Bible studies or perfect church attendance will guarantee that our children will love the Lord or walk in the truth - that is the work of the Holy Spirit! But how we teach and nurture and parent obviously really matters!


A couple great resources:
Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
"Parents in our post-modern world ... have tried countless parenting books on the market telling moms and dads what to do and how to do it. Many of these are rigid, fear-based books that leave a large number of parents feeling directionless.

Kimmel recommends creating a grace-based home environment that allows children to meet their full potential, to parent children in the same way God parents us. The result - spiritually strong children who grow up with a sense of calm and a heart full of purpose and confidence.

Grace Based Parenting is not another manual full of impossible standards; rather it is a new map for learning to see ourselves and our children through God’s limitless tenderness – to raise our kids the way God raises us. This thoughtful, profound and compassionate message presents a truly liberating way to nurture a healthy family. As we embrace the grace He offers, we begin to give it – creating a sound foundation for growing morally strong and spiritually motivated children.

Kimmel says Christians frequently believe that the battle for a child’s heart and soul is fought on the outside—with rigid rules and boundaries—when in fact just the opposite is true. He underscores the importance of communicating the unconditional love that Christ offers and affirming this timeless message of grace to one’s family. Kimmel asserts that this “radical” mode of parenting will meet the three essential needs in kids’ lives: for security, significance and strength. He assures parents that these needs can be met with grace-baced love, purpose and hope."

Mothering By Grace
Gentle Christian Mothers

1 comment:

e&e said...

Hey Melissa!

Great post. I think, from what I've seen and experienced, that so many Christian mamas (myself formerly included) follow "expert" advice that reminds me of legalism. We want a formula, a set of rules for every situation, that, when we follow perfectly, will give us perfect children.

Only, we aren't made like that, either in family life or in Christian life.

I'm learning that much REAL parenting has to do with rejecting "easy rule-following" and instead relying on prayer for discernment (and patience!) and laying down my life for another-my child.

It's not easier. But it's better.

You always give me something to think about, friend!