Before we had kids, I used to travel across the country teaching a lecture I called, “The Ten Commandments for Raising Perfect Kids.” After Martha and I had our first child, I changed the title to, “Ten Hints for Parents.” After our second child, I renamed my title to, “A Few Tentative Suggestions for Fellow Strugglers.” After the arrival of our third child, I gave up speaking on the topic altogether!
It seems there are as many styles, methods, and ways of raising children as there are parents. Most all of them have pieces of wisdom and truth for us parents to apply. However, if you're going to raise a child to explore both following Jesus and becoming a leader as a follower, I suggest that whatever you do, find a way to involve your child in finding a solution to their trouble.
The key is in using parenting techniques that align with what Jesus is about. Parenting techniques and behaviors that impart shame, embarrassment, or guilt contribute to the very things Jesus came to overcome. We add baggage and hurdles that our child must overcome in arriving at a place of accepting the total love and acceptance Jesus offers them. We make smaller an already small child who by the gift of God embodies the very temple of the living God. And, we add to our feeling inadequate and frustrated as a parent.
Our three year old boys are fighting over who gets to sit in a pink recliner chair. I know what you're thinking, “Pink?” What boy would want to sit in a pink chair?! Yet, they're pushing, yelling, and tussling. I come on the scene.
Nathan, while continuing to push, says, “I want to sit here too!”
“Ian, do you want to share with Nathan right now?,” I ask.
Ian, pushes back and replies, “I want to sit here by myself!”
“Nathan, I have a problem. Ian was sitting in this chair first and doesn't want to share the chair with you right now. He wants to sit in the chair by himself. Do you have any ideas about how we can solve my problem?,” I ask.
He calms considerably, eases up and slides away from the chair and softly replies, “Yeah.” And moves on.
In times past, I would have used other ways that would have imposed a solution upon them, anything from imposing upon Nathan the choice between backing away or having a time out to settle down (some choice, huh!), to playfully cajoling Ian or insisting that he share. Or, I'd insist that Nathan step away and I'd impose a time out if he escalated his resistance to my imposed solution. Nathan would feel small, powerless, guilty, shameful, and embarrassed. He would get the message that in order to make it in this world he would have to become powerful, do the right things, and do them perfectly. Instead, gratefully, he gets the message that he has the power to make choices, including, ultimately, to become both a follower and a leader of Jesus.