Lynne and I blew it a lot. We had a lot of great moments as a young family, but we also had a lot of bad moments – the kind of stuff that over time can lead to growing disconnection between parents and kids. We yelled. We said and did ugly things. We exerted our power in order to control. Did we mention condescension, micro-managing, and nagging? Much of this we did in the name of “being the parents” or “tough love.” We learned to be quite effective at disguising our selfish, sinful motives behind masks of authority, logic and even “spiritual” guidance. We found that in spite of the most wonderful of intentions, sin still does easily entangle.
As a result, on numerous occasions we simply did not obey the first part of the instructions to parents found in Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4a. In the name of “being the parent,” we provoked our kids to anger, embittered them, and downright exasperated them.
In spite of our fairly common displays of ugly parenting, we got past all this and found our way into rich connection and influence with our children. You can too. How?
One big answer, and three little ones.
The big answer: God. Only by God’s grace could we come through our myriad of mistakes. Only by his grace could we establish a vision and plans to get there. Only by his demonstration of love for us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) could we learn to gracefully attend to our children’s misbehavior. Which brings us to the three little answers.
Vision, humility, and skills.
Ugly parenting happens. The difference between kids who grow well into faith and life and kids who don’t is not the presence of ugly parenting. It’s the absence of being cared for by people with a vision, who can humbly admit when they’ve missed the mark, and have the skills to put things back together when they inevitably blow it.
Raising kids well into faith and life begins with a vision, rooted in God’s grace and truth. Establishing a vision requires answering questions like these:
- What kind of parent do I want to be?
- What kind of family do we want to be?
- What values are most important in our home?
- How do these wants and values line up with God’s word?
- What might living by those values look like today? In the future? Some day?
Honing a vision by answering and frequently reviewing these questions gives parents a foundation for their efforts. The biggest benefit of naming a vision like this isn’t an instant formula for getting it right. But it does hold up a mirror that helps us know when we don’t. This brings us to the second word.
When you clearly name the kind of parent you want to be and let your kids in on the conversation, when you blow it, you’ll know it. (If you don’t, the kids will help you. 😉 ) Once mistakes are in the open, you can apologize and ask for forgiveness. This is hard to learn at first, but eating humble pie when you’ve done wrong is perhaps your most potent way of teaching what’s right.
What we’re talking about here is simple. But it isn’t easy. You won’t just magically get past your parenting blunders by getting inspired. Practical skills are needed to navigate the turbulent waters of family conflict and misbehavior. Developing these skills takes much practice over time, and bears much fruit on the way to “bringing up your child in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:4b) We’ll write more next week about three key skills for addressing your parenting blunders.
Whether you’ve been at it for awhile or are just getting started, let us know how we can encourage you further in this. Take some time in the comments below to ask questions, or simply let us know how we can pray for you.
Apply it Now:
- Start talking about the values questions mentioned above.
- Read the humble pie post if you haven’t yet.
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