Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Keys to Raising Obedient Children

I tremble a bit whenever I write a parenting blog. If you don't know me, then you may have some crazy idea that our family has it together and has found the secrets of successful child raising. If you do know me (and my kids), then you may smirk and say to yourself, "Hey lady, I have seen you and your kids and you can step down from the platform!"

Be that as it may, I have been working this parenting gig for twenty one years now and I have learned a few things on the way. 

When my oldest was my only child, my expectations were very high. I lived by the thought that I was raising my child to become an adult. (And indeed we all are raising our children to be adults-- that is what they will become, not what they are expected to be right now.) So my dear little Taylor was constantly corrected in the smallest of errors and taught the proper behavior. I had high standards and little grace.

Much of what drove my parenting was my own identity. I was not going to be "that" parent. You know who I'm talking about. That parent allows his child to run willy-nilly in the grocery store. That parent lets her child jump up and down on the pew at church. And that parent is scared to death that he will scar his child by saying no. That parent allows back-talk, eye-rolling, sass, and....

I was so glad I was not that parent. My children were going to know who was boss!

When Caleb came along, I was a bit more balanced, but I still could still let what others thought about me determine how I would parent---especially when we were in the public eye. Parenting could be more about whether or not I was perceived as a good parent than what my children really needed at that moment. A stern or harsh reaction usually won approval from complete strangers when he was running through the grocery store. Caleb may have needed some kind correction and instruction in that moment, but I was often more concerned about winning the approval of people I didn't even know. Crazy, I know.

The years rolled on. Kevin and I hit the wall in ministry and marriage. God used those difficult circumstances to get us to a place where we received wonderful counseling and restoration. We learned that our family dynamic--how our family worked together (or against)--was not so healthy. We took the counsel to heart. We grew and we changed little by little over time.

And we then got another, unexpected parenting opportunity when we received our 20th wedding anniversary gift of pregnancy.

Levi has been a beneficiary of our learning and growing. We parent him with a lot more grace than we did Taylor and Caleb. And we receive some amount of grief from the older two about that. "That's not what you would do if we were standing on the furniture!" they protest. "That's not what you used to do to us when we yelled across the house!" Taylor and Caleb now yell across the house.

Mostly we say, "Yes, you are right. We didn't do it this way with you. We loved you and did our best for you with what we had. We've changed. We love Levi and are doing our best for him with what we have now."

We still haven't arrived, but here are a few things we've learned along the way:

  • There was only one perfect parent and His children still rebelled when placed in a perfect and loving environment. 
  • We cannot do this perfectly; we will do our best and trust God to fill in the many parts we miss.
  • For the regrets over how I did  things in the past, I can only own my mistakes, ask for forgiveness from the one I hurt and from God, and receive the forgiveness granted to me because of what Christ has done on my behalf.

By now you've figured out that I don't have "3 Keys to Raising Obedient Children" after all. But if I can learn that simple truth--that there are not 3 keys; that there are no guarantees of perfectly obedient kids; that I can't do it perfectly enough; that there will be days when I am "that parent"; that there are no shortcuts to good relationships; that I will fail in many ways; that God will grant me grace---maybe I can learn to rest and trust my children to their Eternal Father who created them and loves them unconditionally.

Caleb, Levi, and Taylor