Old School Parenting 2.0

My wife and I were blessed with six children to raise and prepare for life. From the outset of our parenting responsibilities we were given valuable advice but little training. For instance we were told things like “Every child is unique” “Don’t try to be a friend to your kids.” “Reading to your kids at a young age  increases thier aptitude for learning later in life.” “Your parenting style must change as your kids grow.” This last piece of advice has proven valuable but incomplete. (We still have 2 young people left in the home today.  I am recording my thoughts for reflection, comprehension and perhaps to help others.) A word about my upbringing may put things in context. In my adolescence it was “pounded” into me that regardless of the issue mom and dad are ALWAYS right no questions asked and no discussion.  Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that one malaise of our contemporary society is that there is an unhealthy dismissal of conventional wisdom from older generations, and from parents in particular. Further there is a lack of parental discipline upon children and the children are suffering from it into thier adulthood. So I am not criticizing my parents or any parent who insists on obedience, especially from young preteen children. But one of the errors I made in raising the four children who are now out of the nest is I failed to adjust my disciplinary techniques according to thier age and development. No matter how true it is that mom and dad are (almost) always right, most of the time our young people cannot accept that premise because, well, they’re trying to learn to become independent thinkers. We want them to be independent unless their independence moves them away from what we want for them. Some of my readers may be ready to give up on me at this point thinking that I’m about to advocate abdication of parental authority. That’s not where I’m headed so please keep reading. What I wish I would have understood as an apprentice parent is that it’s ok to give young people choices. Where this differs from the standard pop psychology for parents is in giving them choices you also attach consequences. For instance, I want my 16 year old son to clean his room but he doesn’t see the value in having a clean room. In my “one-size-fits-all-ages” approach I can pressure him to obey me just because I’m dad and of course that makes me right. This approach leads to humiliation, anger and eventually bitterness on his part and anxiety, frustration and perhaps guilt on my part. A second alternative may be to shrug my shoulders, walk away in frustrated resignation and mutter under my breath, “When I was a kid…” This method allows for avoidance of dreaded confrontation but fails to achieve either the immediate result of a clean room nor the long term connection of choices and consequences. A third option and one I am learning to use is the “choice and consequence” method. This method permits freedom of choice and yet upholds the dignity of authority resting in the parent. Using this method in our scenario I might reason with my son in the following way: 1. Your room is unacceptably messy 2. We expect you to keep a clean room 3. However you may not want a clean room and you may choose not to clean it 4 If you choose not to clean your room by 10 pm tonight I will not harass you but the consequence will be (     ) What goes in the blank is up to the parent. Most of us parents have more leverage than we realize but we are afraid to use it.  A cell phone we provide, an allowance we fund, a car we are paying payments or insurance for, are luxuries our kids enjoy at our expense but are not basic human rights. What we consider basic human rights (food, shelter, education), should never be part of the negotiation. But the list of human rights which they deserve from us is shorter than most think. It’s not manipulation to use these luxuries of life as leverage toward better behavior and manors. Think “Credit report” or “performance bonus” as legitimate, real life examples of incentives for the acceptable behavior. One complication comes when we have children at different stages of development. Our approach toward our 7 yr old must be more controlling than with a 16 yr old. Expecting her to understand her choices and face the consequences would be foolish and even dangerous. But I usually felt like I was negotiating away my authority if I gave my teens more choices than I wanted them to choose.  Besides it’s much easier simply to lay down the law than to think up some creative and appropriate if-then statement. If there’s one lesson that I want to apply going forward in my parenting it is that I am not compromising to provide my teens a choice. LIFE is full of choices and each choice has a consequence sometimes more than one. And since I’m supposed to be preparing my offspring for life, this is the best approach. Now if I can just figure out which choices to leave on the table and how soon to put the choices on the table I’ll be making even more progress. Comments anyone?

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Politicians vs Statesmen

Politicians seek publicity
Statesmen seek public service

Politicians love power
Statesmen love the nation

Politicians need civil dependency
Statesmen desire civil interdependency

Politicians envision utopia
Statesmen envision morality

Politicians think they spend other people’s money
Statesmen understand that they are spending thier own money.

Politicians adjust thier principles according to opinion polls.
Statesmen stand for principles even when opinion polls are unfavorable.

Politicians want to make you feel good
Statesmen want you to be good.

Politicians see groups
Statesmen see individuals.

Politicians see government intervention as the economic solution
Statesmen see private enterprise as the economic solution.

Politicians seek consensus
Statesmen seek

Letting Go

When I have control I feel powerful, invincible, like a boss. I set the rules. I determine the consequences for violation. I judge how and when to apply the rules. The strings are in my hands. I have the choice. What’s more usually the control I crave extends into the lives of people around me.

But there’s a fine line between me having control and control having me.  Usually control is most alluring when it’s someone else I am controlling. Obviously it is critical for me to be in control of myself After all one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control. But self control is different than control.  Self control focuses on managing my own appetites and habits. Mere control involves me trying to usurp God’s authority and anothers freedom of choice.

Letting go of control is painfully difficult. It requires me to let God work in others’ lives at a different pace than he works in me.

Next, clinging to control is an indication that I don’t trust the wisdom power or goodness of God.  I must keep control because God can’t control my situation better than I can. When I struggled with letting go of control of my circumstances I became proud and self sufficient. Only a strong and humble person can let go of control and trust God.

The second plan of the potter

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At the potters house Jeremiah learned about clay in the potters hand. The lessons were many.
1. Clay has to be soft and pliable to be shaped in the potters hands.
2. The potter not the clay determines what the clay will become.
3. If the clay is marred in the potters hands the potter can start over To make something different.

Practically if we make poor decisions and resist the potters first choice for our purpose do we forfeit his best plans for us?  It seems we do. However God can still salvage the clay and make it into something else.

Samson comes to mind as a Biblical example.  How might Samsons service and effectiveness have been different had he not insisted on his own plans? Samsons resistance was not entirely lost on God. He was still able to salvage Samsons life and use him to put the Philistines in disarray. Samson made his battle against the Philistines to be mainly personal rather than national. He was more interested in tormenting them for personal reasons than delivering Israel as a whole. Imagine what kind of deliverance he could have secured for the nation had he made choices similar to Gideon or Deborah.

How many people actually always experience Gods best? Likely few if any. What should be our response if and when we miss God’s best?
1. We should humbly accept God’s correction which He always applies to His children.
2. We should take time to consider where we strayed so we can avoid making the same error again.
3. We should yield to His reconstruction of His plan for us. Sometimes the reconstruction requires a dramatic shift in God’s plan and purposes. It almost always affects our effectiveness.
4. We should allow Him to free us from the shame and grief of failing Him and move on to serve Him faithfully in His new purpose for us

Romans 4 Bible study

We had a great Bible study this morning on righteousness. I am learning that I have more control of the study when I stand vs when I sit. For some reason standing communicates we are there for a reason not just to shoot the breeze.

Today’s lesson was on righteousness specifically imputed vs imparted righteousness.  We didn’t finish today so we will pick back up next week where we left off. Next time we will work on answering the question “If doing good doesn’t do any good what good is there is doing good?” 
Where we are going while righteousness does not effect our salvation, it does protect us from further judgment. For righteousness is obedience to God.

Our righteousness can be hypocritical, blind and self-glorifying. God’s righteousness is a reflection of his nature revealed in Scripture. It is perfect and complete.

Our righteousness is inadequate to resolve our sin problem. Today’s goodness cannot repair yesterday’s sin nor today’s sin. Only the atonement of Christ can resolve sin. However, God working His righteousness through us accomplishes the following
1. It gains Him glory
2. It exhibits His divine nature
3. It allows us to avoid further judgment
4. It achieves ends beneficial to the human race.

I get almost weekly compliments that my lessons are interesting and helpful.