There seems to be a spike in parenting conversations ever since the pandemic started. Perhaps when kids spend the day in school and activities, it’s more manageable to bribe, distract, manipulate, or intimidate a child for the last few hours before bedtime. Having kids around more can push parents to the limit. And perhaps some new habits that formed at home during the pandemic have been hard to break.
I love that our school is cultivating authentic relationships where we can be honest and say, “Sometimes I think I am failing at parenting.” Whether it’s disrespect, defiance, argumentativeness, laziness, selfishness, screen addiction… you might feel at times, “It’s not getting any better.”
Some of the best parenting training I ever received was working with high schoolers for 11 years. Apart from a miracle through the Holy Spirit, a rebellious, deceitful, or disrespectful teenager does not change. As principal, I met with many capitulating parents. And usually siblings followed suit. But the opposite also happens. I would encounter a family where each sibling would blow me away through kindness, respect, hard work, regard for others… The Tuck family was one of those families.
I have asked Pastor Craig and Rebecca Tuck to lead monthly BIblical parenting dialogues. This first dialogue proved to do just that; couples would ask questions and the Tucks would discuss their successes and failures in those areas and wrap it around Biblical principles. The main points of discussion were: discipline, marriage as the primary relationship in the home, fear as it relates to parenting decisions, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Scripture talks about folly being bound up in every child’s heart. Proverbs says that a loving parent disciplines their child. And the opposite is also true, a parent who avoids discipline is ultimately not loving their child. Let’s be honest, most of us parents naturally want the most immediate course to convenience. We work our tails off and want a peaceful home to end the day. So our parenting tactics can be focused on achieving immediate calm. One of the challenges we discussed during the first dialogue is having the long term goal lead us, not our lack of energy. For example, if we avoid discipline by caving to our children’s capricious whims, then we will successfully form a self-absorbed human. This will inevitably cause parents to suffer during the pubescent years. But beyond our own self-preservation and avoiding a troubled teen, we would be setting our child up to suffer broken relationships throughout life. Self-absorption makes for an incompatible marriage.
In addition to disciplining selfishness, Craig and Rebecca talked about making marriage the #1 relationship in the home. They gave some simple examples of how to show your children that your spouse is the most important person in the home. You might ask why would your spouse be more important? For starters, it’s the one permanent relationship that will stay. Secondly, that permanence creates a stable home for the children. Thirdly, it cultivates an understanding that the child is a welcomed and loved member of the family but not the center of the family. Fourthly, your healthy marriage forms your own children’s perception and anticipation of joy and love in marriage, and at least subconsciously they also understand marriage succeeds when there is a posture of unselfishness.
Some of us discussed our fears and how could we prevent our children from making injurious decisions in their teenage and adult years. Perhaps you can resonate with the idea of how fear can enter our parenting decisions. The Tucks led us to discuss how perfect love drives out fear. We also saw that God graciously starts parents in lower stakes. For preschoolers, the battles can be more about eating (greens), bedtime, dressing,…obeying. If you mess up, the consequence might be a temper tantrum or bad night sleep. But high schoolers confront high-stakes decisions such as drugs and sex. It still comes down to how we are forming their hearts to love God, through obedience, and then in turn, love others. Such an adolescent would make decisions based on obedience and protecting others instead of just feeding his never-ending appetites.
The end of the dialogue was the best part. As our children mess up, and as we mess up, we have to keep the gospel of Jesus Christ as the central narrative. Ultimately, we deserve eternal separation from God because of our selfishness. Yet, the greatest truth in the whole universe is that Christ paid that price for us and offers forgiveness to us. Not only does He forgive us, but He covers us with His perfection. He took on the consequence that we deserve and reinstates us as His sons and daughters, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. And the Holy Spirit slowly re-forms us to love Him and love others. Personally, I can’t parent well without this supernatural help!
I hope you have time to watch the recording and/or join December’s dialogue (date TBA). And the next time you have to handle an inconvenient misbehavior issue, may you first wink at God and thank Him for parenting us through our parenting. Then may your long term goal lead you to deal with it in the moment and unpack their heart, instead of just looking for conformity and a return to superficial calm.
Inspiring World Changers together,
Nathan Johnson Ed.D.
Charleston Bilingual Academy