Month: March 2011

Picking a Parenting Model (Pt 2)

In Part 1, we considered 6 ways parenting methods fail and 3 reasons why. In Part 2, we will consider the shortcomings of child-centered parenting and the promise of discipline and instruction.

The Failure of Child-centered Parenting

Parenting isn’t a one size fits all. What works with one doesn’t always work with another. Customize. Focus on his or her particular needs. In the book Nurture Shock, the authors trace the history of the self-esteem movement. The self-esteem movement came along and told us that the “single most important thing in a child’s development was positive self-esteem.” A mass of research, books, and seminars were spawned.

Self-esteem task forces were formed in school districts across the country. Anything that damaged self-esteem was axed. Coaches stopped counting goals and handing out trophies. Teachers threw out their red pens. There was even a school district in Massachusetts that forced kids to play jump rope with an imaginary rope, lest they trip on the rope and suffer embarrassment! Child-centered parenting at its best!

In 2003, Dr. Roy Baumeister, the leading proponent of self-esteem research, was asked to review 15,000 studies on the topic. He discovered that self-esteem did not improve grades, career achievement, reduce drinking or violence. He was quoted as saying this was the “biggest disappointment of his career.” When we place our children in the center of our lives, we set our families up for disappointment.

The Idolatry of Children

For many of you, everything bows to your children, including your marriage. Your kids are your little idols. Everything revolves around them. Your concern for their safety cripples their sense of community. You parent out of fear, instill fear in them as a hyper-protective parent.

Your concern about influences leads you to eliminate social and cultural experiences, which isn’t always bad, but when a parent believes that eliminating certain influences is what makes their child better, they are mistaken. Every child is ultimately shaped, not by influences but by their heart response to their influences and options. My son chooses to use rude language, not because of influences but because his heart is rebelling against what Mom and Dad said. Children change, for good and bad, based on what their heart longs for, believes, desires not their influences.

Or maybe it’s about their schooling. The best education no matter what. You pony up the big bucks. Giving to God goes down because you giving so much to your mini-god, your child. And, oh, they have to have a well-rounded social life, so you run around town taking them to dance and soccer and guitar and so on. You are so busy you don’t have time be the church, to live in community, much less to be a family. You live a child-centered life, not a God-centered life. You’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy, to give them positive self-image.

When we make our children our functional idols, we remove the one thing they need most—God. We practically tell them that they are in charge, they are most important, they are god. If they are god, then they have no need of heart change, instruction, or discipline. They will continue to rebel until it gets out of hand.

Fathers as Parents

So method-centered and child-centered parenting so often neglect what matters most, God. If our children are eternal souls, not little idols, then our parenting has to be affected by eternity. If we are going to pursue their highest good, then we need to take their Creator’s design into account. We need to read and apply the Bible. Where our methods conflict with the Bible, we should jettison the methods.

Now, interestingly, there’s not a lot on methods in the Bible. So there’s flexibility. The reason for this is that the Bible is God-centered, not child-centered. In Ephesians 6, there are instructions for children and parents. We’re focusing on parents. Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Notice it begins with “fathers”. Now, this instruction doesn’t remove mothers from parenting, but it places a priority on fathers. If you recall, fathers are designed by God to bring leadership and order into the family (1 Cor 11:3). They are under God’s authority, and are to lead their wives and children according to his instruction.

Here’s a problem: a lot of dads give themselves a get out of parenting pass because they bring home the bacon. Before the Industrial Revolution, both mother and father worked around the house, in the field and in the garden, for instance. They both raised the kids. But after the Industrial Revolution, fathers left home. And slowly they left their fatherly responsibilities behind, until the responsibility was reduced to one— bring home the bacon, provide for the family. This is bad parenting. Making money for your family isn’t even close enough to make you a good parent.

Discipline and Instruction

Here’s a solution: don’t provoke your kids, but bring them up. What does it mean to bring up your kids? Nurture. The word is used a few verses earlier to refer to the way a husband nurtures and cares for his own body. Its intimate, attentive, nurturing. Okay, how? “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Here are two biblical methods for parenting—discipline and instruction. These two words appear throughout Scripture to describe the task of parenting (Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Ephesians, Colossians, etc). Discipline and instruction require time, reflection, and attention to our children’s hearts not merely their influences or esteem.

Most parents lean towards discipline or instruction or even vacillate between the two. If we’re not careful, we will parent our kids like a drunk. When a drunk is pulled over and asked to walk the line, he sways back and forth across the line. He is imbalanced. Imbalanced parenting is dangerous. If we swing too far to discipline, we become a disciplinarian. If we swing too far towards instruction become a buddy. Our kids need parents not buddies or disciplinarians. In our next post, we will examine how to avoid the extremes of child-centered parenting and disciplinarian and buddy by focusing in on gospel-centered parenting.

Diary of a Church Planter (Pt 2)

This series is taken from my personal diary during the first couple of years of church planting. The entries range from painfully raw to joyfully visionary. I hope they bring encouragement to anyone who reads them, especially church planters.

 

 

Austin, Texas                                                                                     December 18, 2006

Lord,

Expose sin, produce conviction, increase affection, give me vision.

Diary of Church Planting – Arriving in Austin

After reading through some old journal entries, I was provoked to share some of my struggles and highlights during the first couple of years of church planting. This series is taken from my personal diary. The entries range from painfully raw to joyfully visionary. I hope they bring encouragement to anyone who reads them, especially church planters.

 

 

Austin, Texas                                                                                     November 3, 2006

What a joy to write those words, “Austin, Tx.” Last night was our first night in our new apartment in Austin. Luke and Miranda drove down from Nacogdoches to meet us and help us move. Stew and Ross also helped…Yesterday I just kept thinking “This is right.” Driving back from dropping Ross off, it felt so right. Like we belong in this city…the roads, the air, the location.

 

Robie and I drove down from Massachusetts across 15 states, over 40 hours, in 3 days. It was a great time with Robie. Talking, praying, reading, laughing, saying nothing, finding hotels and parking spots big enough for our 17 foot van, plus a car carrier. We prayed for the city and our future as we came into Austin, placing our hope, not in this city, but in the city to come. Robie wept…a familiar land, relatives close by, and a vision for the city.

Recovering Rest

I’m enjoying a fabulous family vacation in Horseshoe Bay, where we are surrounded by palm trees, flowing fountains of all sizes, hill country green, the sound of chirping birds and the sight of gawking parrots. Yesterday we began the morning with a fun family breakfast in the meditation gardens, nestled in pools dotted with Lilly pads and rock fountains, decorated with an occasional turtle. Restful right?

It’s remarkable what is required to rest, and I’m not talking about finding an extravagant, secluded location. Rest runs much deeper than a break from work; it’s more than physical. Unfortunately, taking a day off, or a vacation is considered pretty virtuous in itself. The overbearing work ethic of the American workforce drives us to taking days off but not to rest.

The Unrested Church

The Church is no exception to this truncated view of rest. We have been willingly swept along in this vocational tide of overworking and under resting. We are told that, after creating all things in six days, God rested on the seventh and set it apart. Why did the omnipotent creator of all things rest? Because he was exhausted? Surely not. Augustine reminds us that “Thou ever workest and are ever at rest.” In a sense, God always works and always rests. What, then, was unique about his seventh day rest? That it wasn’t rest, as we think of it. It was completion. Like an artist rests from his creative work when it is finished, God stood back from his completed creation and “rested”, not in exhaustion but in admiration!

How should this understanding of God’s rest reconfigure our understanding of rest? Like God, we are created to both work and rest, though in drastically shorter measures. In fact, we work, not to rest, but work from our rest. Not our weekend, a deeper rest. Like God, we are meant to expience rest at all times, to be “ever at rest.” How? Our rest is found in God’s paradoxical, continual work-rest. How does God both rest and work? Augustine says it is because He is himself rest. God is rest. He is unwaning repose, never in short supply, fully at peace, come what may, because he was, is, and is to come. Eternally present, omnipotent control, overflowing goodness, always working, ever resting in His consummate self.

Recovering our Rest

Our rest, constant and enduring, is found in Him. We can rest, come what may, because he is rest and he is for us. We need not worry, fret, or overwork because God offers us himself, not a day off. This rest comes to us, sweetly, in Christ. Remember that Gods genesis rest was because he had completed creation. We can rest now because he has completed new creation. In Christ we are complete, in need of nothing else. Divine peace, rest, and joy are ours, if we will have them. But alas, we will not. We prefer busy notoriety, overworked importance, and anxious control over complete provision of rest in Christ.

As we prepared to leave for vacation, I was stressed. Trying to rest I was unrested. Trying to time our departure just right, I embraced anxious control over peaceful providence. Peace was thwarted by chaotic children, when Rest was standing by with his arms wide open. I repented and returned to Rest. His peace is much better than my fabricated peace. His rest transcends circumstances. His rest is precisely what we all need, and may possess, if we will repent and return. In the words of Augustine, “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”