I’ve been involved in a very encouraging adult class at our church the past few Sunday mornings. Dozens of young parents (kids mostly elementary and pre-school age) have been gathering to hear about today’s youth culture. A rotating group of adults, including myself, have taken turns teaching on a variety of topics. I was asked to speak on the topic of “redemptive parenting” and I did so last week. We followed up yesterday with a panel discussion that featured five older and more seasoned couples talking about their experiences of living with and raising teenagers. It was moving to hear their stories.
After class a mother of three younger kids approached me and said how encouraging it was to see and hear “Godly parents who I look up to” speak openly about the fact that there have been struggles. Lisa and I sat on the panel. I struggled a bit with her use of the word “Godly” as a descriptor of my parenting skills – or as I usually see it, lack thereof. I know for me – and every other couple on that panel – I would more readily admit that while I’d love to be classified as “Godly,” honest introspection reveals more accurate descriptors. I would be much more comfortable with the phrase “struggler,” realizing that anytime I might get it right is purely by the grace of God. In all honesty, this is a realization that’s come over the course of time, as it’s very easy to think more highly of yourself and your parenting expertise when your own kids are young.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s class and at the request of someone who was there, I thought I would post a list of the main points I addressed in last week’s class. It’s not exhaustive, but it reflects personal lessons learned in the school of life as seen through the eyes of God’s Word. These are some of my thoughts on redemptive parenting:
WHAT TO KNOW NOW. . . BEFORE THE DIFFICULT TIMES HIT:
• Embrace a proper theology of the sovereignty of God. Yes, God is in control of all things.
• Embrace a proper theology of human depravity. Yes, all of us and all of our kids are fallen beings.
• In a sinful and fallen world there are no guarantees. . . . even if we do everything just right.
• Adolescence is a primetime for difficulty. Because of where they’re at developmentally, our kids are perfectly positioned to mess up.
• Our identity should not be rooted in our children and their performance. Our identity must be found in Christ. Anything else is idolatry.
• Your foundation must be the truth’s of God’s Word. When the difficult times hit, you will need to constantly remind yourself of the “This I know” foundational truths of life.
• God is parenting and growing us as we parent our teens.
• Helpless is a good place to be. It drives us to God and away from ourselves.
• Embrace a theology of pain and suffering. . . . and “consider it all joy!”
• Be vulnerable. Admit your own struggles with sin.
SO THEY SCREW UP. WHAT NOW? ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR REDEMPTIVE RESPONSE:
• Think of your children first. Your first priority is to see the situation and your child redeemed.
• Don’t worry about what other people think.
• Don’t blame yourself. Your child can make his/her own choices.
• Be a person of grace. Remember John White’s great advice: “As Christ is to me, so must I be to my children.”
• Respond. Don’t react.
• Get support. . . . prayer, professional, etc.
• Shoot for heart change, not behavioral conformity.
• Let them suffer the consequences of their behavior.
• Be free to lament. Embrace the opportunity.
• It’s never too late. No situation is irredeemable.