Kids – enjoy them or endure them?
I wonder if perhaps popular culture has so permeated our thinking that we no longer have clear ideas about Biblical truth addressing areas of life…like why children disobey.
So the other day a young mom watched her son blatantly disobey her, all the while looking at her with a smile on his face, and she wondered aloud to me, “Why does he do that?”
The answer is simple – children have a sin nature; we all do. Modern psychology tells us that given the proper nurturing environment, children will rise to the occasion and fill our lives with happy bliss. It says if only we can parent correctly, we can eliminate any bad behavior from our kids. The Christian version of this is that if we can just get them to love God and see His great plan for their lives, extend grace and just really, really understand their tender hearts, then they will cheerfully obey us.
Or perhaps to absolve us of feeling some personal responsibility for the way they behave, we believe the converse, which implies it’s all the luck of the draw – some parents are fortunate enough to give birth to ‘good’ kids who naturally obey. This idea reduces parenting to a sort of roulette wheel of luck. Some of us are winners and some are losers.
I commented to another young mom recently about the cheerful, happy, and peaceful attitudes of her baby and toddler. She responded that she was just lucky. I encouraged her that while certainly some children have more easy-going personalities than others, it isn’t the sole determining factor in their attitudes. Parenting practices DO matter.
I did not say that parents are completely responsible. Let’s not play games on the edges of the argument. It’s both/and. Children’s personalities and experiences, along with their sin nature, affect their behavior. Additionally, and maybe even more importantly, the way in which their parents proactively teach and model, as well as respond to their children’s attitudes and behavior affects them as well.
It is interesting to me to note that the latest books written about how to help kids with the diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and other behavior issues advise parents to implement proactive, positive, structured training-type steps to help their children better cope and interact with their world.
This is Biblical truth! The principles we see in scripture point us to the necessity of teaching and training and practicing correct behavior until such time as that behavior becomes second nature. That should give us hope! We can teach our kids to be pleasant, cheerful, and obedient.
As Christian parents, it’s not enough to merely change our children’s outward behavior. We want them to be developing Christ-like attitudes as well. That takes time. In the same way that God uses the situations in our lives to develop Godly character in us as adults, as parents we use the situations in our children’s lives to develop and practice Christ-like attitudes.
For some reason, I frequently hear this kind thinking about proactively training children’s behavior, “I don’t want to just correct their behavior because then I’ll lose their hearts.” Of course we want our children to have the right heart attitudes and ultimately act out of them. Until such time as they are mature enough to do this, it is our job to help them learn self-control. This takes work, lots of it.
There is much caution about obedience without heart change. This seems to manifest itself in parents being hesitant to even try to train their children’s behavior because they say that it is merely being concerned with outward issues and not the heart. I agree that God is above all after the attitudes of our heart. However, if this obedience without heart change were truly a problem, I think we’d all be seeing a lot of perfectly behaved automatons. I don’t know about you, but I’m not seeing it – Christian kids or otherwise.
I’d like to expand our vision of what life with kids, big and little, can be like. I’ll be the first to admit that my family is far from perfect. But I can also tell you that I actually enjoyed my children’s presence – even when they were very young. I didn’t just endure it. It took lots of effort up front, but I think that the payoff was worth it.
We’ll talk about that next.
Copyright (c) 2017 Beverly Parrish