When I Suck At Parenting

df1ac3e3d25dd89f_509028451.xxxlarge_2xIt’s been a rough week.

In fact, these past couple of weeks have been extremely rough, for me.

With major life changes, coupled with the busyness of work, it’s easy for this reforming-knucklehead to get stressed out and err on the side of becoming selfish and angry.

That’s no bueno.

I think that the most difficult part of this sort of “crazy season” is that my family often ends up suffering the most.

I go from being Super Dad (okay, maybe an exaggeration) to Sucky Dad.

The stress I feel translates into undeserved anger towards my children, motivated more out of irritation and inconvenience rather than a sincere desire to love and to lead them.

I yell and grit my teeth in wonder as to why they won’t “listen” to me and do what I ask of them.

But it doesn’t work. It never works.

The problem remains.

And if I’m honest, the problem isn’t my children. The problem is Troy.

My issue is that, by nature, I suck at parenting.

But I am beginning to discover that when I suck at parenting, it’s mostly correlated to the absence of three vital components of biblically-driven parenting: communication, discipline, and the Gospel.

Communication

When I was a child, I can remember the sort of discipline I would receive like it was yesterday. For the most part, it was purely physical. At one point, the authorities were involved because I had gone to school bruised up from the beating I had received the day before.

This sort of child abuse was normative for me, if not from my father, then from others within my immediate family. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that there was something missing from the discipline I received in my younger years—aside from being loved, rather than beaten, of course—namely, communication.

To explain to my children what not to do, without the why, often leaves them frustrated and confused.

Sure, don’t touch the stove little Noah, but why not? Communication with our children requires that we talk with them, teach them, encourage them, rebuke them, and forgive them, when necessary.

But communication should never be only one-sided. As Dr. Tedd Tripp so accurately maintains: “we [may] think of ourselves as talking to our children. Instead, you should seek to talk with your children. Communication is not monologue. It’s dialogue.”[1]

In short, I’m not to preach at my kiddos from my parental pulpit, but rather, communicate with them and listen to them in ways that reveal my love for them, and my desire to see them grow into the children God intends for them to be.[2]

Discipline

God’s Word teaches us that He disciplines those He loves.[3] Fatherly discipline, as exhibited by our own Heavenly Father, ought to stem from a parent’s own love for his or her children. Not from the anger of embarrassment or unmet expectations.

You see it all of the time. Parents lashing out at their children because they are embarrassing them in public. I’m certainly guilty.

Then there are those parents who let their children run freely and do as they please. These parents claim that they are doing so out of “love,” but they are actually acting out of indifference; the exact opposite of love.

In sparing the rod of discipline, we only spoil our children[4], depriving them of the much-needed structure and reproof necessary in guiding them down the path to life.

The Gospel

Perhaps the most neglected aspect of parenting—at least in my experience—is my failure to apply the Gospel of grace and mercy amidst my children’s disobedience, as a rebellious, disobedient child myself.

Sure, they’re little sinners. But so am I.

And much like I need to receive and lay hold of the Gospel each day in my own life, so must I remember to share and live out that same Good News with my own children.

To love them despite how unlovable they may be at times.

So when my son or daughter misbehaves and I take every good thing away from them (e.g. Star Wars toys, etc.), I must be reminded of my own ever-present tendencies to sin. Yet God, being rich in mercy, still chooses to lavish me with good and perfect gifts, despite my wretchedness.

Maybe, just maybe, all my children really want is to be in my presence, much like I desire to be in my Heavenly Father’s presence.

Maybe I spend far too much time at the office, on my cell phone, or _______ (fill in the blank), rather than enjoying and investing in the lives of my children.

In our society today, we can spend ourselves wildly trying to become better parents by reading parenting guides, and attending parenting classes and conferences.

And while these should certainly be seen as valuable tools, there is nothing that can replace the knowledge and experience we glean from looking to our Heavenly Father, as a supreme example of what it looks like to train our children up in the way that they should go.[5]

Nothing can replace the fact that I partook in God’s creativity when I laid with my wife, and witnessed the beauty of our newly born child–made in God’s image. If that’s not enough to drive a man or a woman to love their children unconditionally, then one must not have a healthy view of God or humanity.

The Gospel is more than just God’s redemptive plan for the world, it is also the means whereby we are being restored and renewed as God’s image bearers, parents who have the privilege to point our children to the ultimate reality that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.[6]

_________________________________

[1] Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart

[2] Ephesians 6:4

[3] Proverbs 3:12,19; Hebrews 12:6

[4] Proverbs 13:24

[5] Proverbs 22:6

[6] John 14:6

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