Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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How to Convince Your Kids You are a Hypocrite

Years ago as a new mom, I embraced a child training philosophy that emphasized first-time obedience.

You might have heard it put this way: “Obey right away, all the way, with a happy heart.”

I believe obedience is important.

One place where I think this philosophy breaks down, though, is when we have higher expectations of our kids than we have of ourselves.  And not just a little higher.

Astronomically higher.

We want our kids to obey perfectly 100% of the time.  OK, 99.999%.  Some parenting gurus say that their very souls depend on it, and that if we don’t follow a certain model of discipline for every single infraction, we disobey God.

Yet Father God does not punish his kids instantly for every infraction—

Oh wait, we commit infractions?

We disobey?

Aren’t children supposed to obey “right away, all the way, with a happy heart?”

WHAT?  Christian moms don’t obey our Father God like this?

The thing is, we should.  And our kids should obey us.  But we don’t.  And they don’t.  Like our children, we are sinners who disobey our Father.

When we follow this philosophy, we operate with a huge double standard.  If we’re Christians, we expect more from our children in their relationship with us than we expect of ourselves in our relationship with God.  And when we mess up, we expect God to forgive us instead of dropping the hammer—but we can be so quick to mete out punishment to our kids for the smallest things.

Or maybe we do expect God to drop a hammer.  Maybe we believe that He is always ashamed of us or waiting to punish us.  Maybe we think that His love or favor depends on our performance, and that He withdraws when we mess up.  So it seems logical to do the same to our children.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus didn’t come to drop a hammer on you.  He came to offer forgiveness.

We do mess up, all of us.  We need someone to rescue us.  We deserve punishment.  I look at my sins and heck yeah, I think someone needs to knock some sense into me sometimes.

But the Jesus way is so much more gentle.  He just wants us to come to him and tell him how sorry we are, so that he can say, “I already paid for that.  I forgive you.”

Is that how we approach our children?  When they sin and mess up, do we drop the hammer?  Or do we understand their weakness and guide them toward truth?

I’m not saying that there should be no boundaries or consequences.  But what’s our heart toward them?  Retribution?  Anger?  Rigid expectations of perfection?

Are we surprised when they mess up?  Do we feel that we deserve better behavior from them?

Or do we get that we mess up too? 

Do our children know that we will quickly offer grace and forgiveness?

I don’t have this down pat.  Just as once upon a time I was too hard, maybe I am sometimes a little too lenient now.  Sometimes I fall back into old patterns.  I’m finding my way.

But I know this.  I don’t want to raise my kids with a double standard.  If I do, when they look at me they will see one thing: hypocrite.  That’s not what I want my kids to see, and I bet it’s not what you want yours to see either.

So how about it?  Instead of focusing on outward behavior, let’s guide our kids toward the great Heart-Changer, shall we?  Let’s give them grace!

How do you see God?  How does this influence the way you raise your children?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall.


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Has Mothering Burned You Out?

Today’s Mentor Monday is not by a mom, but a dad: Jeff VanVonderen, who is also a seasoned pastor, counselor, and writer.  Jeff’s writings have been essential in my growth, particularly as I came out of legalistic religious organizations and belief systems.

“[T]oo often…the work we do as Christian spouses and parents is not the right job at all. 

We focus on “unspiritual” or wrong behavior, then we set out to apply pressure, control behavior, and do everything in our power to change our spouse or children. 

As I have seen with numerous couples and families, this is the primary cause of exhaustion, depression, and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all.  When people spend their lives trying to transform their spouse and their kids, the natural results is tiredness and discouragement and the desire to quit…

The first step is easy—if we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God’s job and ours. 

God knows you have done the best you could, using the tools you’ve had.  But God may be…saying to you, “I can see that you’ve worked really hard to help me and to please me.  But—I don’t quite know how to tell you this—you have been burning yourself out doing a job I never meant for you to do…”

I am talking about learning how to be continually empowered by God’s grace, and therefore able to empower your spouse and children to learn and to grow.  And to do that, we have to make the frightening step of giving up our fear of people and our drive to conform outwardly to what other Christians expect of us, or seem to.

God’s job is to fix and change.  Our job is to depend, serve, and equip.  This is the work of grace.  And it is more restful than you can imagine.”

~Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall.

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Raising Strong Kids in a Fifty Shades World

Are you reading Fifty Shades of Grey?  I’m not.  Dannah Gresh sums up my thoughts pretty well.  (And if you don’t know what the buzz is about, hop over and read her post.  I’d like to keep my blog closer to PG.)

As I’ve listened to the conversation on blogs and Facebook, I’ve found it ironic: In a day when women are supposedly freer than ever before, they are falling all over themselves to read an erotic tale of pain and subjugation.  Because no matter how “consensual”, a lifestyle that includes the purposeful bondage and hurt of another is degrading, sinful, and abusive.

We can trust Jesus with our children.  If not, it would be a scary time to raise kids.  How will they navigate relationships and marriage in a world where books, movies, and one-click porn have made disordered sex mainstream and taught young people to expect and even crave it?

We parents of young ones can’t wait and see.  As we trust God, we must also be proactive.

Even before the Fifty Shades phenomenon, I saw parents react to our perverse culture in two radical ways.  On one end of the spectrum—admittedly the less popular end—I have seen parents over-shelter their children.  I believe this sets their kids up to be victims.  In this paradigm, loving parents want to protect their daughters by assuming all-encompassing responsibility for their protection even into adulthood.  This results in naïve young women who can’t defend themselves.  Also in this paradigm, guys are sometimes emasculated as they rely on rule-keeping and parental involvement to keep them from sexual sin.

On the other end of the spectrum are parents who give their kids no guidance about relationships.  The children are left to figure it out on their own.  They are discipled by the culture, AKA thrown to the wolves.

I’m certainly not an expert, but I propose that a middle way might be wisest.  We should seek to create strong, stable family structures that will shield our kids from the worst of the world.  But we should seek to raise our children to be strong individually as well.  They are not ours to keep forever.

Here are some questions we might ask ourselves about our kids.

Are my children discerning?  Our kids should be trained to spot obvious signs of a predator, but they should cultivate that spiritual sixth sense that says “danger!”  Foolproof?  No.  But important in today’s insidiously deceptive society.

Are they spiritually mature?  Are we teaching them to walk closely with God?  Do they know God’s Word and recognize ideas that oppose it?  Are they “God’s friend,” who can hear his voice?  A deep faith and spiritual toughness won’t happen by accident.

Do they have a secure identity?  Do they look to anyone—man or woman—for self-worth, or are they fulfilled in their position as God’s child?  Do our girls understand that beauty is a gift but it’s not what gives them value?  Do our sons understand that manliness isn’t about lust, sexual prowess, and domination, but about being God’s guy and stepping up to the plate to respect women?  Does their worth come from performance or from God alone?

Have they received unconditional love at home?  Really.  Do we parents love them even when they mess up?  Do we extend grace as God has extended it to us?  Do our kids have to go elsewhere for total acceptance?

Are they both strong and gracious?  Scripture tells us to couple truth with grace.  In a hostile world, have our kids learned to defend their convictions firmly while seeking to hear, understand, and extend compassion to the other side?

Are they sexually confident?  The world SCREAMS to them about sex and relationships.  This is no time for parents to be shy.  As we teach our kids to make moral choices, they should know what they are saying “no” to and what they are saying “yes” to.  Parents should be specific without being inappropriately graphic.  Our kids should know that they can ask us anything, because if they can’t ask us they can sure ask Google.  You won’t like what they find there.

My children are not grown yet.  I might get it wrong.  My kids will make poor choices—hopefully not lasting ones.  There are no guarantees.  But parents, I do know this: God is on our side, and we can’t afford to be passive with our children when there’s a Fifty Shades world ready to devour them.  So let’s raise them strong.

How about you?  What are you doing to prepare your kids for the world they live in?

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