The Challenge of Parenting
Rev. Nathan Mains
Parenting is very challenging. Yet it is something we get very little training for. Every parent does have experience with parenting; it’s just from the other side, as kids. Our own experience of being parented strongly influences how we choose to parent, whether we know and admit it or not. We parents will tend to overreact to whatever our parents did that we feel was too much or not enough. And then our kids will probably overreact to our over reactions.
Parenting involves so many questions and decisions: When should bedtime be? At what age should they get their own phone? Should I “police” their social media involvement? Should I involve myself in their relational challenges, or let them learn to work things out on their own? What priority should I place on homework, sports, their job, our family, church, going to (the right) college, their future career?...
And there are so many opinions floating around about how we parents should respond to those questions and decisions. And with the Internet, those opinions are so easy to find. It can feel overwhelming. And we all want to be “good” parents, right?
After years of teaching the Bible, I find myself increasingly convinced that God’s ways are simpler, and more freeing and possible, than we tend to think they are. Regarding the challenge of parenting, I believe the simple parenting wisdom God wants each parent to embrace goes something like this (Imagine God giving you this talk when you take that little one home from the hospital, and again each time you feel overwhelmed with the task of parenting):
First, I (God) want to invite you (parents) to be my (God’s) partners in the maturing of these children. I want you to know that, as My partners, you will have My help and that you, and they (your kids), will never be alone!
Second, I’m asking for your help. Your children will need your help to mature. Throughout their time with you, in many different ways, they will be seeking from you, and from our partnership, the answer to two questions. Creating an environment in your home where these two questions are answered in alignment with My (God’s) Truth is the central thing your kids need from you.
The two questions your kids will be asking are:
Am I loved? – Seek to have the environment of your home and your kids’ experience with you, and with God, give them a consistent “Yes” answer to this question. You don’t have to be perfect, but they should get strongly confirmed over time that they are deeply and unconditionally loved by you and by God.
Can I get my own way? – Your kids’ maturity will only happen as they come to know the truth (Reality) that God, not they, is the center of the universe. In gentle, but firm ways, with God’s help, your kids need you to give them a consistent “No” answer to this question whenever you sense they’re putting themselves on the throne of their universe. This, more than anything else you could do, will give your kids the opportunity to mature, and to escape the bankruptcy of living a self-obsessed life.