Written by Dr. Tim Kimmel
Raising children in today’s world is much like putting together a puzzle. You labor for years to put the right pieces of your children’s lives together, but when they grow up, they often do not resemble what you thought you were creating.
In spite of the disappointments that come with the job, raising children is the greatest thing you will ever do. Parenting is greater than any milestone you can hit in your career. Among other things, you have been handed a piece of history in advance — a love letter to a time you will not see — and you play the biggest role in how that history will ultimately be recorded. That is why, regardless of the challenges, you need to have a plan for parenting that works.
If you are running blind through territory you have never traveled, you are only as good as the map you are depending on. When you look at the way some parents raise their children and the way some experts advise them, it is no wonder that many parents feel they have lost their way.
Some typical parenting methodologies in the Christian community follow. Remember, these are all types so they are a bit exaggerated to make a point. All of these approaches are missing God’s grace as their central motivating factor.
1. Fear-based parenting. These parents’ fears
determine their strategy for parenting. These parents live in fear and
are overprotective of their children. Biblically speaking, these
parents live out of balance with the concept of being in the world but
not of the world by withdrawing. These parents are encouraged to be
wary of everything.
Fear-based parenting can create spiritually anemic children. It also can create an environment for children who do not have passion for lost people, who are indifferent and fearful, and who rebel.
2. Evangelical behavior modification. This is a branch of fear-based parenting that assumes the proper environment, proper information, proper education, and the absence of negative influences will increase the chances of a child turning out well.
This parenting plan works from the assumptions that behavior shapes a child’s heart, as if content can be transferred onto a child’s heart much like information placed on a computer hard drive.
The behavior modeled by these families paints a beautiful picture of an ideal Christian home, but it is one-dimensional. These are homes where God rules in the head but that does not necessarily translate into God ruling the heart.
3. Image-control parenting. This is a checklist method of parenting that is part of the seduction of legalism. Image-control parenting assumes that people will know you are a good Christian parent raising Christian children by your church attendance, the way your children dress (or do not dress), the way your children cut their hair (or do not cut their hair), the words and expressions your children use (or do not use), the schools your children attend (or do not attend), and the movies your children watch (or do not watch).
The problem with this form of parenting is not in the things these parents either do or do not do. For the most part, these are well-meaning parents trying to make good choices. However, they make choices for wrong reasons. Doing good things for wrong reasons consistently brings unfavorable results. Children can tell when they are being parented by a checklist rather than by a mom and dad who are trusting in God to lead them.
4. High-control parenting. There is a vast difference between parents who keep their children under control and parents who control them. High-control parenting happens when parents leverage the strength of their personality or position against the children’s weaknesses in order to get them to meet the parent’s selfish agenda.
High-control parenting is the worst of the four types of parenting methodologies. High-control parents ultimately get frustrated with the results of their parenting. However, they are usually the last to realize.
There is good news! There is a method of parenting that makes it easier and enjoyable to put together the puzzle of parenting. It has the borders and boundaries that frame the picture. It filters out the pieces of the puzzle that do not belong, and it knows exactly what your children are supposed to look like when the assembly of the puzzle is complete.
The box cover is in the Bible, and this model for parenting can be summarized in one word: grace!
A Grace-Based Family
Grace-based parents spend their time entrusting themselves to Christ. Their children are the daily recipients of the grace these parents are enjoying from God. If you are watching them in action, these parents appear to be peaceful and in love with God. They are especially graceful when their children are hardest to love. Their advice to their children is a mixture of the two following ideas:
• “You are a gift from God. Go make a difference!”
• “You may struggle doing the right thing sometimes, but you are forgiven.”
These parents feel they need to seek God more every day. One characteristic that stands out is how grateful they are for what they have and what they can do for their children.
Grace-based parents process their day-to-day life with a confidence that comes from knowing God loves them. One of the most important characteristics of grace-based families is they are not afraid. They are especially unafraid of the evil around them.
A grace-based environment changes the way children view their parents and the choices their parents make on their behalf. It also gives their children a more attractive look at their parents’ faith. Parents who operate by grace instead of a checklist or conventional wisdom are easier for their children to trust. When your children’s lives are falling apart, they are more inclined to turn to you.
Grace-based parents have a keen awareness of their own propensity toward sin. This makes the grace and forgiveness they received from Christ more appreciated. It stirs them to love others and accomplish good deeds. They are not driven by guilt or a need to do penance. They do not judge people who are struggling. They see themselves in these people and understand just how much of God’s love they have received. They are more inclined to love these people and care for the needs in their lives.
God’s Pattern of Grace
The primary word that defines how God deals with His children is “grace.” Grace does not exclude obedience, respect, boundaries, or discipline — it champions them. But it determines the climate in which these important parts of parenting are carried out. Grace-based parenting maintains a realistic attitude about the sinful nature with a compassionate desire to help children rise above it and flourish in the plan God has for them.
Parents who are giving grace to their children are not shocked when their children sin. They are not even caught off guard when their children make mistakes. Grace understands that everyone sins, including children.
Dr. Tim Kimmel and his wife, Darcy, are the founders of Family Matters™. Committed to equipping families for every age and stage of life, Tim is one of America’s top advocates speaking for the family today. Tim has hosted his own nationally syndicated radio program, speaks throughout the country, and enjoys life with his wife, his four children, and his growing number of grandchildren.