If only parenting was like math. You don’t even have to like math to understand where I’m going with this…
1+1=2 every day
2 x 8=16 every day
If 4x=12 then x=3 every day
But parenting isn’t like math. In fact, there are no formulas when it comes to raising children. The techniques that worked beautifully on Monday seem to crash and burn on Tuesday. The methods you used with your firstborn child only make things worse with your second or third. Each individual child is God’s matchless creation—completely irreplaceable and definitely not a carbon copy of you or anyone else.
That couldn’t have been clearer to us when Emily was born. She laughed from deep within her belly earlier than any baby I had ever seen. She also had an iron will. At the age of 2 you could tell her not to go into the kitchen and she would put the edge of her toes onto the kitchen floor and stare you down. This caught me by surprise after parenting Benjamin who would stay put on a blanket in the middle of the room for hours on end, because it was the rules.
Perhaps parenting isn’t like math to pull us away from the belief that everything must be black and white, that temptation to elevate our opinions as gospel because surely our way is the right way. While this would be nice for our self-esteem, this isn’t nice for our character development or our ability to persevere when things don’t go as planned, and parenting rarely goes as planned. That’s why I am so glad that I can depend upon God and His guidance while raising my children. Aren’t you?
In this stage of parenting I find myself looking less at my opinions (as fabulous as they may be!) and more at God’s word. Although I have always taught my children scriptures, I’m finding that they need an even greater understanding of whole passages or entire books. Emily and I are taking on the challenge of memorizing the book of Philippians. We’ve spent a month taking 15 minutes individually each day to read the book in its entirety out loud. If we miss a day we just begin again the next day.
Emily’s first comment was that she is really beginning to understand what the whole book is about. Now we’re writing the book on notecards so we can begin to memorize. I’m sure we won’t be perfect but we are starting this practice of intentionally “hiding God’s word in our hearts” (Psalm 119:11). It is truly by God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit that we are changed from the inside out.
Each one of our children will face difficult choices throughout their lives. During the teenage years these choices can often have serious consequences that will affect them for years to come. If parenting were like math I would tell you that by memorizing scripture they will automatically sail through the teen years with no trouble, but let’s be honest—memorizing scripture is one major tool that we can offer our children. My prayer is that through this process they will be drawn into a vibrant and intensely personal relationship with God. If they don’t have this close connection with Jesus the motive to make good choices can be muddled at best.
What have you found to be the greatest tools in your parenting tool box? How are you learning to let go of the idea of formulaic parenting?
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