After my recent discussion on Tim Kimmel's book Grace Based Parenting, I received and email from Peter B., executive manager for Family Matters, which teaches and promotes Pastor Kimmel's philosophy. His words were encouraging and his email offers further clarification of this philosophy.
I live in Arizona, and the desert environment is extremely harsh. 120 degrees in summer, long days, not a lot of shade; then in winter, when the temperature drops below freezing, the damage is instantaneous and severe; the soil is clay, rocky, and like a dry sponge so that when the monsoon rains come in July and August, the ground floods with rapid moving water – it takes a lot for plants to survive. If a young plant begins its life in a greenhouse with the perfect climate, the perfect amount of water, the best soil, you would naturally think that this plant has a head start on native born plants. Yet when you move that plant into the real world’s environment, it will either whither and die in the sun, the foliage will freeze in the cold and kill the plant, or the monsoon rains will rip the plant out of the ground because its roots are not firmly planted.
Interesting, though, when we plant a new plant in our yard, we will place a shade clothe on top of it during the hottest days and a blanket on the coldest days. The young plant is able to grow strong roots that penetrate deep into the ground finding the scarce water supply and protect it from flooding. As the leaves grow, they become accustom to the relentless sun. The young plant, through a supervised encounter with the real environment, will have no problems surviving when it reaches maturity.
Mammals have endoskeletons, shellfish have exoskeletons. If I cracked a lobster’s shell, foreign bodies would invade the lobster’s internal organs and the lobster would die. If I broke my arm, a doctor would reset the bone, immobilize it for a few months, and I’d be good as new soon.
Is parenting molding behavior or building character? Any parent can force a child to comply with a standard of behavior while they live under their roof. And any parent can keep everything deemed evil from their lives by not allowing them to watch TV, not allowing them to surf the net, not allowing them to see certain movies. Parents will say they are building character by forcing good behavior because the behavior models the character they want their kids to own internally. But these kids are going to leave their parent’s home and will have to deal with more perverse and more worldly versions of the very things their parents never allowed them to interact with in the early years – except this time their kids are not under the roof of a loving home and the consequences are more severe.
Dr. Kimmel offers a comprehensive parenting philosophy: Create an atmosphere of grace, focus on meeting the three driving inner needs in your children, do not react to their behavior but instead build six character traits into their lives, and aim them at true greatness rather than the world’s shallow lure of success. Is it that simple? No. It will take a lot to learn how to do that. Moreover, it’s not lists of what-to-do, but the good news is that you can apply a paradigm to any situation – and no longer need the what-to-do books.
These concepts are supported through scripture. The atmosphere of grace is not what you do, it how you do what you do. It’s how God treats his children. For instance, if you were driving 60 in a 35, you may suddenly see a fast approaching police car with siren blaring and lights flashing forcing you to pull over. But instead of stopping behind you, this police officer decides to rear end your car for good measure, after which he come tearing out of the cruiser screaming at you, then rips your drivers license from your hand, stomps back to his cruiser only to return (still screaming) with a ticket that he throws at you. That’s not how God disciplines his children (and fortunately for folks in Arizona we have photo radar, so it’s unlikely that you will ever get pulled over for speeding, but if it did happen, the police don’t act like that either).
The three driving inner needs are exactly what the serpent distorted to deceive Eve and are what Satan used to tempt Jesus.
The six character traits will produce behavior, but will not guarantee it. Our kids will make the mistakes, but let’s be happy if they make them when their still living under our roof and the stakes aren’t as high.
And true greatness answers the question “What do you want for your kids?” Most people will say, “I want them to be successful, find a good job, a good looking mate, have a life of self-determination (e.g. not get kicked around by an arrogant boss), and make a name for themselves (basically – wealth, beauty, power, and fame). True greatness is a different target to aim your kids toward – humility, generosity, gratefulness, and a servant spirit.
As I said, it’s not simple, but if you read Dr. Kimmel’s work, you will see that these ideas are not tiny nuggets just discovered while mining through the depths of scripture, but large boulders of truth you can’t help but trip over.
Short disclaimer: I have known Tim Kimmel for the past 10 years, he teaches my Sunday school class for families (we started out as young families…), we serve our church together, and I work for Family Matters, the ministry he founded 25 years ago. Moreover, over the past 10 years, I have seen Tim’s four children grow into adults who really did turn out right. The proof isn’t always in the pudding, but if the pudding doesn’t offer the proof, then it’s not worth looking at the recipe.
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