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Monday, October 03, 2005

Thoughts on Child Rearing Struggles

Lately Evers and I have been thinking and talking about how we train and discipline our children. We seem to think about this topic on a continual basis. When I was pregnant with our first child, we read voraciously so that we might be well-prepared to be parents. Most of the child rearing books we read were helpful and insightful. However, I find that one of the danger we parents often fall into is relying on the method itself instead of God. Some of the books even suggest that if you follow a certain method, you'll have an obedient child. I am not trying to debunk child rearing methods. In fact, I find that methods are helpful and God does use methods to bring about changes in our children. What I'm speaking out against is trusting in methods primarily and not in God.

I've told Evers many times that God gave us our first child to humble us. Just when we think we have it all together, some encounter with him shows us otherwise. There were times when I got very frustrated and wondered what I did wrong since he still wasn't as obedient as he ought (we wanted him) to be. I asked myself these kind of questions: Did I flip out? Did I handle the situation righteously? Was I consistent? Are Evers and I on the same page? Did I teach and instruct him correctly? After verifying that I did everything right, I get even more frustrated. Why did he still disobey??? What is wrong with him?!! Most of the time when I begin to go down this path, the Lord brings about a change in me. He reminds me that though I may do everything "correctly," my child may still not be obedient as so-and-so said he would be, because ultimately it's the Lord who brings about real lasting changes in anyone. What I need most is asking the Lord for help instead of flipping through books or researching on the internet to see where I or Matthew went wrong. Instead of relying on my own strength or others' methods, I need to trust in the Lord and His gracious heart-changing power.

It's usually when I'm at my lowest point that God brings about hope. All of sudden my child is angelic and is the most helpful boy I know. What happened? I certainly haven't done anything differently. I believe it is the Lord's work, and I certainly have no claim on that remarkable transformation.

When it comes to parenting, I'm reminded that Christian parents are called to the daunting task of shepherding our children's souls and hearts and not mere behavioral modification. Our goal isn't to crank out well-behaved children, but to lead them to Christ that they might live for His glory. We are talking about soul-shepherding here, not training a dog to obey commands. This task is more serious and difficult. When they disobey, I discipline them—so as to warn them of the grave danger of sinful living—and point them to Christ. When I know that they are not getting it, or if they continue to commit the same offense, I get down on my knees and pray for the work of the Holy Spirit.