It can be daunting to select a parenting philosophy in this era. The media, the healthcare system, the education system, not to mention friends, family, and Facebook bombard the new parent with a barrage of parenting trends and advice. I’ve heard it all: “Never hit your child.” “These are the words you should never to say to your preschooler.” “Be sure your child always eats…” “Leave your left shoe in the back seat so that you don’t forget your baby in the car.” “Let your baby set his own schedule.” “Don’t vaccinate.” “To not vaccinate is criminal.” Some advice really makes a lot of sense, but when it starts to contradict itself it becomes overwhelming.
All I know is that I want to do the right thing for my son. I want to protect him from harm; I want him to be as healthy as possible; I hope to cultivate within him a desire for learning, a respect for life, and a fear of God. Knowing my heart is one thing. Developing a parenting philosophy to fulfill it is another thing. As a fallible human in an imperfect world it is all too easy to become imbalanced. In an attempt to protect I could become a helicopter parent. Out of a desire to teach him empathy and respect I might go too heavy on the reasoning and too light on the discipline. If I focus too much on avoiding germs it is likely that I could weaken his immune system rather than fortifying it. What does a new mother do?
She must turn to the Word of God. As our Heavenly Father, the Almighty God sets the example of perfect parenting:
– He assures His people that His name is a strong tower that the righteous can run to and be safe. He promises security, but He doesn’t promise protection from all harm. He strengthens His children by allowing them to endure hardship. I cannot protect my son from all bodily injury or sickness, but I can assure him that there will always be someone by his side to support, comfort, and encourage him as he endures the trial and becomes stronger.
– He reminds His people that fear (or awe) of Him is the beginning of wisdom. When we respect the Almighty God, we will obey His commands and in so doing we will gain wisdom and discernment to help us avoid temptation, live long in the land, and deepen our relationship with Christ. This reminds me that an education in Who God is begins at day one with my child. By keeping that in the forefront of daily parenting all other forms of education will fall into place and have more meaning to him. The discernment he learns from following God will preserve his physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
– He tests His people. On several occasions God tested the faith of those He was leading. He tests us not for his benefit, but to reveal to us where we stand in our faith. These opportunities, usually painful or stressful, remind us that we can’t function on our own. We need to cultivate our willingness to turn to Him for strength and help. If I remove all sources of temptation from my baby, like breakable items on low shelves, I am robbing him of opportunities to learn obedience and to see that I truly mean what I say.
-He delights in His own. This is key to parenting. Not only does every child want to be cared for, he also wants to be delighted in. He wants to know that his parents are glad he was born. God certainly does that with us. I want to be sure that my son knows he is a delight in my life. This doesn’t mean that I avoid disciplining him; instead, I believe that discipline will be much more effective if he knows that his parents are delighted to have him as their son.
The positive parent shouldn’t avoid confrontation with their children or hand life to them on a silver platter. I think we succumb to claiming those things as part of our parenting philosophy as a path to making us feel good about ourselves instead of truly seeking the best interest of the child. No, the genuinely positive parent provides security in times of difficulty, instills respectful fear to teach discernment and self-control, routinely tests the child in order to assess the child’s level of obedience and to show the child where he can still grow, and delights in the child’s individuality by affirming, spending time with, and showing affection to the young one. While these are just a handful of examples of God’s parenting skills, they are certainly a good place to start.