If you are a parent, you want the best for your child. And you want to be the best parent you can. Every mother or father feels this deeply unless their heart has become totally hardened. As a child once, you know how influential your own mother or father was, for good or for ill. And you want to get this right for your own child. Right?
So how come we get it wrong? Why doesn’t our parenting often work? After being a parent for almost 22 years and teaching students for 20 years, two things jump off the page.
One. Formulas. We parent out of formulas. If I do a, b, and c, then I should get d, e, and f. Parenting is an awesome task, one that seems formidable and filled with pitfalls. We need a sense of control in this, a sense that we know how this will all work out. We read books on parenting, we read the Scriptures on parenting, we read the lives of parents we emulate. It’s not that there isn’t good wisdom out there. Nor is it that there are definite things to avoid in raising children. It’s just that the energy behind it is not love. It’s not really about our children. It’s about us.
We want to get it right. We don’t want the shame of failure or rejection in this. And we expect God to be on our side in this. And when he doesn’t and the formulas don’t work, the disappointment and anger come. But we have forgotten one thing: our children are not formulas to be solved. They are fallen, mysterious beings whose hearts are filled with longing.
Two. Fear. We parent out of fear. It is so easy to think of the worst case scenarios, to live in anxiety over what you have seen happen to other children. Life seems dangerous. We’re not sure God can be trusted with our children. So we react out of fear. It could come out as anger. It could come out as control. But it rarely comes out as love.
What our children need is neither formulas nor fear. What they need to see is a parent whose own heart is abandoned to the Father in heaven, who lives in that love and sees out of that love, who delights in the Father’s will. We will then parent out of the Presence. It won’t be a formula or fear. It will be a life they are drawn to for themselves.