I have read many parenting books. I have learned many things from them. Sometimes though, parenting books can be discouraging at best. Sometimes, I feel like boycotting them altogether. I wouldn’t because I know that a wise person does not close themselves off to truth. Yet, these books are ideas — ideas from men. Because of that, the reader must read with discernment. People are also unique and with souls so formulas aren’t full-proof and normally don’t work.
This past week, I was reading a parenting book. It was a good book — is a good book. I put it down, unfinished with reading it. I tried to implement many of its suggestions. I came away frustrated. Frustrated because the book stated that you can change your child’s tone, facial expression, and behavior. Okay, maybe you can. I was frustrated though because I couldn’t change my child’s heart. Yeah, I know I can’t, but isn’t the heart what we all say we are working on changing?
As Christian parents, we have a responsibility to raise our children in godliness and towards godliness. We read lots of books, hoping to find the secret ingredient or formula to guarantee that our children will be the perfect fruits of our training and labor.
We get so confused in this. I get so confused in this — trying to produce outward godliness and trying to follow formulas. Thinking that we can somehow control their hearts as well — that we are in charge of them.
I read a great little booklet that addresses so many of these fallacies. It convicted me by a few great words of wisdom that especially stood out to me. They’re in the following quotes:
“Fruitful Christianity comes from the inside out — from who we are — not from what we do.”
“As Christians we cannot ask, ‘What must I do?’ We must ask, ‘What must I be’?”
[As parents…] “It was not what they did. It was what they were.” [… that influenced their children. Of course who we are does manifest itself in our actions. If we focus on the outward too much, it speaks of a heart of pride and legalism.]
“If we are to have significant influence of our teenage children, we must have their hearts. Having their hearts means gaining the opportunity to influence who they are, not just what they do.”
“Are we more concerned with protecting our kids from that which is bad or putting into them that which is good?”
“Our children learn what’s important to us not by what we verbally emphasize, but by what they see us passionate about.”
“Take them into the world on the offense not defense.”
“Cultivate a loving relationship with them, which will allow you to speak into their lives and influence their values.”
“Help them find security in their relationship with you.”
“Trust in formulas is really dependence upon ourselves.”
“It is critical to understand that God wants us to trust not in principles, methods, or formulas, no matter how ‘biblical’ they seem. God wants us to trust in HIM!”
“Our success in raising children to be lovers of God and others, is not going to be contingent upon achieving perfect sheltering or using the best Bible curriculum. It is going to be based on doing what we must as parents, but trusting God for the outcome.”
“God will not reduce Himself to being an ingredient in a formula or method.”
“It is critical that we realize our children are people whose hearts, as they mature, are influenced more by relationship that by external controls. In all our intensity, we can sometimes treat them not as fellow humas but as dehumanized ingredients in a cake we are baking.”
“The more we focus on formulas or principles, the more children become ‘things.’ The more they become things, the less we have significant relationship. The less we have relationship, the more we lose hearts. Without their hearts, the less we are able to influence their values. Without their hearts, the best we can do is control the outside (for a while).”
“A formulaic mentality is chiefly concerned with doing the right thing to produce the right result. Our children need us to not merely act like Christians, but to be genuine Christians.”
“We cannot simply implement loving actions into our homes, we must truly love.”
“Loving Him isn’t about our children — it is about HIM! God intends that the side effect of loving Jesus and enjoying the grace of the Gospel will be that all people, including our children, will be touched by the Savior in us.”
These quotes were taken from: http://www.familyministries.com/HS_Crisis.htm. So much good food for thought! I have been convicted each time I read it. I am recognizing is that what my children need most of all from me is not for me to read one more parenting book and to try one more formula. It is for me to grow in my relationship with the Lord — for me to love Him more. That happens as I learn to recognize His love first of all for me. If I focus on that Love, I will be transformed by it and loving my kids will come naturally as a fruit.
Note: This doesn’t negate all parenting books or negate trying to make practical changes or implementing wise ideas. What it does do is focus our attention on the heart issue. The heart issue of disciplining and training our children has always been the heart!