Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Don’t Force Your Children to Be Grateful

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Thankfulness is choked out of our children by us trying to “make them grateful.” This happened to me. I grew up being thankful, but then I felt forced to be thankful, and suddenly I wasn’t thankful any more, because I felt that the only reason the other person gave me something was for me to be grateful to them. Forget it. Don’t give me a present. Can’t you see I loved it? Why do I have to chant stupid words for people not to be upset and angry and threaten to never give me anything again? It makes me want to dump the thing on the floor and walk away. I do not feel loved by a person who demands thankfulness. I don’t. I feel that they’re in it for what they can get out of it.

This affected my relationship with God. I felt that relationships were an exchange where you now had to be grateful. And even though I had always been grateful for Christ’s death on the cross, I now saw Christ’s death as something He did so that we would be grateful, and if we weren’t grateful, we weren’t allowed to have a relationship with Him. It suddenly felt selfish on God’s side, and I knew this was a warped and demonic view caused by being forced to be thankful to have a relationship with another person. This view, by the way, is completely wrong. Christ didn’t die to make us grateful; He died to free us from sin. It wasn’t for anything He could get out of us. Christ died for us expecting nothing in return. Anything good in us is because of Him anyway, and our deep love for Him includes gratefulness, but it was never demanded. It was spontaneous due to love.

I wish the person could have seen my eyes, that I was truly grateful with all my heart before she demanded it, and that after demanding it, it was suddenly gone. In its place was the wrong feeling that the other person was selfish and demanding, and I wanted no part of it.

It took me years to get over it. Then gradually God gave me back my gratefulness, but it took a painful process. Now I’m more grateful than I’ve ever been in my life, but it’s because of the grace of God, God directly teaching me about it and convicting me and transforming me. Because the way I had been acting toward this other person had been sinful.

So how did I teach my own children to be thankful? Anyone who has been invited to my children’s birthday parties can attest to the fact that I have the most thankful children on the face of the earth. Yes, in third world countries you see children who are so extremely grateful, and they’ve never been taught gratefulness. My children are identical to that. They are so excited at anything that is given to them, even if it’s a cheap toy from the dollar store. They even say thank you, though I didn’t force them to do that. In good conscience, the only thing I could do is to thank the people myself when they gave my child a toy. I quietly thanked them, not for the sake of the child to hear. But when my children heard my real thankfulness, they emulated it and actually said it.

My children burst with thankfulness, but it’s not because I forced them to say it. It’s because I myself said thank you to the giver for the sake of the giver not being offended. I didn’t care whether my children said it or not because their whole body already indicated that they were grateful. And in being genuine in my speaking directly to the giver, my children now say thank you continuously, and it bursts out of their soul.

Feed My Sheep

Thursday, October 27th, 2011


Many years ago I took an Old Testament class given by my pastor. We studied one book of the Old Testament per week, and it took a year to get through the Old Testament. I turned in Charlotte Mason summaries for each book of the Bible as it was presented. (Right before I took this class, I had read the six Charlotte Mason books and was enthralled with the idea of written narrations for personal Bible study.) I tried to think of every detail I could remember from each book, and I wrote it down in tiny print in pencil on blank sheets of paper.

Well, study for the class took between 2 to 10 hours a day. (Ten hours only happened once, the day I did Genesis.) I loved splashing into the Word of God and surrounding myself with it. It was my food and my breath. I felt like I was inside the stories.

When the class was over, I asked my pastor to please hand back my papers, because those were my only copies. He said the reason he kept them was so that his secretary would type them up for him, because the summaries gave him a fresh perspective on Scripture. I was honored that a pastor could actually learn anything from me.

After that last class was over, I heard a sermon on prayer. I realized that my prayer life was almost non-existent, and I committed to God that I would learn how to pray. Since I already had at least 2 hours for studying the Bible (usually during nap time for my tiny kids, or during an hour of outdoor play time where I would study my Bible outside on a swing or blanket), I decided that I would set aside one hour to pray before I would be allowed to read the Bible. (You can see how hard that was by reading “The Beginning of a Prayer Warrior.”)

After the month was over, I had no obligations, but I had built a new spiritual discipline into my life, and I considered it highly valuable. Well, my godly mentor rebuked me one day for spending too much time in the Word of God. I needed to spend more time being “present” with my children. She was right.

As I drove alone in the car one day to run an errand, I asked God, “So how much time do You want me to spend in Bible study?” I opened my heart to God and expected an answer. I heard (it was not audible, but an impression on my mind), “Do you love Me?” I said, “What the heck. That’s not an answer.” Then I heard it again, “Do you love Me?” “Of course I love You, Lord. What a ridiculous question.” Again I heard, “Do you love Me?” By this time I was nearly in tears. I was hurt. How on earth could He ask me if I loved Him? And then the words came, “Feed My sheep.” I sat there stunned. The Holy Spirit had confirmed what my godly mentor had said. What I needed to do was abide, and spend more time imparting to the children what I already knew. Yes, I would spend time in the Word, but that was no longer my focus. My focus was to pour the Word of God into my children.

At that point, when I studied the Word of God, it was to prepare to teach my children. (God taught me personally from what I was preparing for my children.) Many years passed this way before God gave me permission to study the Word of God for myself again.

Getting the Parenting Thing Right

Friday, April 15th, 2011

parentingBack when I was a new parent, I was bombarded by parenting books. I always study whatever it is I want to master. Since I didn’t want to mess up the most important assignment that God had given me, I studied the subject voraciously. I even took “Parenting Infant” classes and “Parenting Toddler” classes; I attended parenting conferences at local Christian churches. After a while, I realized there were a few common denominators: the books all mentioned first-time obedience and self-control as the two most important qualities to train into young children. They all agreed about spanking, since I was reading books that were based on the Bible and not on modern psychobabble. But the ghastly thing was that the majority of books contradicted each other at every other point.

Some of the books focused so much on the nitty-gritty of not allowing your children to ever get away with anything, even if they did something by accident because of childishness and not rebellion. (I remember being a child, and my parents believing I had done something out of rebellion when it was an accident. This happened a lot. Many times there’s no way for parents to know what motivated their child. They need to ask God.) Lists of rules don’t differentiate such things.

There was a specific book that I got rid of that caused me to sin by being more militant than I already was. The Spirit of God was not in that book. It ended up that the four children who were raised under that author ALL ended up turning their backs on God because of the militant way he ruled his house. The grown children eventually came back to God, and the author is quite a good speaker now. Humble and broken. But he hasn’t retracted his book. The book that destroyed his family and will destroy many more families that follow his process.

Having thrown that book out, I knew that the parenting book about shepherding the hearts of our children caused me to rely upon God to help me shape the heart of my child rather than focusing on my child’s behavior. Parents automatically notice the outer behavior of their children, because it’s physically noticeable and inconvenient to us. But God looks at the heart. If you lose your child’s heart, all is lost. Nothing else matters.

I think parents prefer to have a list of do’s and don’ts rather than cry out to God during each time you deal with your child. Leaning on the Spirit is outside the box. It’s being yoked to Christ, which brings rest to your soul. It’s having instant access to the wisdom of God, because many times only God knows what your child needs. If you rely on lists, you are definitely “leaning on your own understanding,” which is the opposite of the way God calls us to live. We must reach upward and yield to God in the moment. The fruit of the Spirit will become evident, and you will see exactly what I mean about parenting under Christ, because there is no other way to do it right.

How to Be the Best Parent

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

how-to-be-the-best-parentGod gave you your children. He didn’t give your children to someone else. God chose you, often to sanctify you, but also because there are things about you that only you have, that your children need. God made you who you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses. If we cry out to God for wisdom and are led directly by God, our parenting efforts will be mind-blowing. I’ve seen it in my own life, and it humbles me and makes me want to praise God.

On the other hand, if we force ourselves to parent the way that other people parent, we will not always see good results. For example, in my family-integrated church years ago, people were criticizing my parenting because they didn’t want their children to wiggle whatsoever during the church service. My children were completely silent and even paid attention to the sermon. Their bottoms wiggled a lot, but their hearts were soft toward God, and they didn’t feel like they were in a straight jacket at church.

Then I failed. I did the wrong thing. I cared that other people were frowning at me, and the result was anger toward my children. I sinned. But my children now looked better than ever. They looked perfect, but they were suffocating inside. It was sin for me to copy other people. It was wrong for me not to graciously forgive the person who was frowning at me. I ought to have prayed that the frowning person would yield to the Spirit so that the fruit of the Spirit would shine out of that person’s eyes. I didn’t even know that person was sinning. Instead, I was sinning as a gut reaction to the person’s frown.

One time my (then) 6-year-old son cried out right before a Scripture passage was read. I know many parents who disciplined their children for any sound their children made, no matter what, no exceptions. But what they didn’t know about my son is something that only I knew. I knew his heart. He wanted to find the Scripture passage, and he tried so hard to find the passage before it was read, but he failed. I knew that he loved the Word of God with all his heart. His crying out was not sin. I would have sinned if I had disciplined him for crying out. Only parents know the heart of their child.

Of course, if your children disobey you and you don’t discipline them, you are sinning. But most Christian parents are following God to the best of their ability, and they don’t need people slamming them down.

It took years for me to get over the whole parent criticism thing. My husband went so far as to have all the children sit by him. He wanted me to sit on the aisle. Whenever one of my children would make the slightest noise, I would close my eyes, yield to the Spirit, and praise Him for humbling me. It was God’s will for me to be humble. It always is. There was actually a point where, whenever my children made any noise, my gut reaction was sweetness. I radiated the Spirit of God out of my eyes. Because when you have your face smashed in the dirt, you have nowhere to look but up.

In fact, it wasn’t until a gray-haired man from our Bible study told my husband and I (with tears in his eyes) what outstanding parents we were, that my life as a parent was changed. He saw how we shepherded each child, and we knew the spiritual strengths and weaknesses of each child. It finally sunk into my soul. At that moment, I knew that I was a good parent. Yes, I fail, mess up, and sin, but I love God with all my heart, and I actively shepherd my children. God is pleased with me. The wind is blowing through my hair on the top of a mountain, and I am free!!!