Aside

Parenthood house group

 

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Our church recently had an interesting and useful house group discussion about parenting. Here are my husband Jon’s memories of the evening…

“Perspectives on parenting

 Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging phases in life – your fairly established lifestyle is turned on its head. At a recent home group on parenting, we talked about some fundamentals of godly parenting. As is often the case, this raised more questions than answers, but I got a lot of interesting ideas out of it specifically around: leading by example and the power of imitation, the best way to discipline children, introducing a spiritual diet in the home, and seeing myself (to a degree) as a fellow-child with my children.

Kate T put us onto this short video by Gary Thomas and prepared this handy crib sheet (including a useful list of resources) to prime our discussions.

Faith is more easily caught than taught

 When children get to a certain age, they start to imitate you – alarmingly accurately. I like to ride my bike, and our eldest son Joey recently got out some tape to strap his water bottle to his bike, just like mine! It perhaps goes without saying that children will imitate the good and bad in their parents, so having young children is one of the hardest times to keep faith strong, but it is also one of the most important. ‘Our faith is more easily caught than taught. It is what our children see that will impact them most.’ (The Parenting Book, Nicky and Sila Lee.) This idea goes beyond raising children – if we want to share the light of God’s gospel, the best way we can do this is to live it, so that those around us (at home, at work…in the supermarket) see our lives and say “yes, there’s something attractive about that”.

Spare the rod…

 We spent much of the time talking about discipline. All agreed that the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ idea taken from Prov 13:24 need not be taken literally. However, we do need to find effective ways to discipline our children – after all, God disciplines us, his children, so that we can grow to be more like him (Heb 12:6). A couple of useful principles seemed to emerge from the discussions: discipline should be positively slanted (more sticker chart than naughty step), it must be delivered with a clarity of mind not clouded by anger, consistency is hugely important – and probably more important than where you choose to set your boundaries, and what will work for one child may not work for another (e.g. some are more bribable than others)! Tim W notes here, “I would only emphasis the need for the parent to be a consistent parent in discipline and also as a role model – we cannot expect our children to do what we ourselves don’t do…..plenty of food for thought”

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Milk of the word

 Every Christian parent is keen to introduce some sort of spiritual diet into their household at the earliest opportunity. However, one of the parents shared an experience that was similar to ours: they introduced a simple Bible story at a set time in the day. This worked well at first, but the child soon got restless and disruptive making the whole thing counterproductive. We have recently changed tack here, and introduced some bible-based stories that we know our boys like that we read together before they go their separate ways for age-appropriate stories; the older one gets an extra story, and the younger one gets a story with the older one, so they are both happy!

Become like little children

 We have as much – if not more – to learn from our children as we have to teach them! There are some important Christian qualities that children have in spades: faith, trust, hope, inquisitiveness, resilience, obedience (well, sometimes), love. And these qualities are why we need to ‘become like little children’ (Matt 18:3). My children have also brought new insight on patience, love, and forgiveness. But how does this change our perspective on parenting? It is quite helpful for me to think of myself as continually learning to parent. This leaves more space to make mistakes and learn from them than a more ‘authoritarian’ view of parenting. Chris P notes here that, “children are resilient and the odd mistake will not detract from a normally consistent and loving approach to their care.”

Summary

 I left the home group feeling reflective. Do I need to make any major changes to my parenting style? Have I got my priorities right? And, perhaps most importantly, would my children vouch for my Christian character? “

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Aside

Older children and loving God – guest post by Esther Worboys

One day they’re cute, toddling around, listening to everything you say (!)… the next they’re spotty, answering back and full of issues…  It was lovely of Rachel to ask me to write a post about parenting older children (admittedly they’re now several months older than when she first asked) but like most of us, I don’t really feel I have any answers, but am just learning as I go.  It’s great to be able to learn together though and support each other on this journey, so hopefully something of what I’ve written here may be of some use, just as the posts I’ve already read have helped me.

So here’s what I’ve found so far about bringing my kids up to love God (four Fs although it wasn’t intentional!):

  • Make it “Fun” – it’s important that kids have a happy experience of church.  Having friends their age on a Sunday may not always be possible, but making an effort to take them to activities where they will get the chance to mix with other kids is important.  At home there are ways we can make what may otherwise seem a duty quite fun – we do the readings on the iPad and we also discovered a Bible Quiz app that asks questions based on the chapters for the day.  These are little things but they do make a difference – I’d love to hear of any suggestions anyone else has.
  • Be “Flexible” – we make sure our kids regularly come with us on a Sunday but, in the same way that we all have a holiday sometimes, we do give them licence to miss it occasionally.  This has led to some interesting and open discussions with them about why we do that.  Our answer (and you may disagree) is that God is our priority but that we want them to come to love Him as we do because they want to, not because we’ve forced them to.  We explain that if we make them miss every party that is organised on a Sunday, they may grow up resenting Him.  It seems to be working as the first thing Charlie wants to know when he receives an invitation for a Sunday is whether he can still go to Sunday School.
  • God time is “Family” time – we all know that children learn by example, so we must make every effort to set them a good one.  Praying together, reading the Bible together, going to church together, and above all discussing issues and questions openly and honestly as a family, I believe set a good foundation for our children.
  • Admit your “Failures” – following on from that, it is important to be honest both with yourself and with your kids and admit when you’re wrong.   Children see clearly through hypocrisy and there is nothing worse for their faith than a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.  And, as we all know, we won’t get it right all the time (in fact most of the time I’m afraid to say!) so it’s really important not to beat ourselves up, but as Helen said in her blog post, to forgive ourselves.  Again, this teaches that nobody’s perfect (even parents!), but that we’re all trying our best and dependent on God’s mercy.

God bless us all as we try to do the best we can to bring our children up to love and serve Him.