“Iron fists chisel stony hearts, but graceful hands shape responsive hearts.” Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lea and Wendy Speake.
Happy Easter Sunday!
This Holy Week, Ben and I have spent time discussing what kinds of parents we want to be and how the Gospel should direct our parenting. It’s funny (and often infuriating) to watch how quickly even the smallest children start to push and defy the limits. It’s not so funny how quickly we tend to respond to our children’s immature defiance with impatient frustration and anger.
Together we have started reading Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses by Amber Lea and Wendy Speake. Man oh man- talk about a convicting book.
In these early years, we spend a lot of time training our children. Training them to sleep, to grow, to eat well, to listen, to wait, to share, and to obey. Much of my professional work is characterized by teaching families and children who often have negative behaviors that are major barriers to their fruitful engagement in life. From our education, Ben and I are firm believers in giving our children routines, structure, and clear expectations. I have lots of strategies and methods at my disposal.
With such a background, I know that I am tempted to relegate moral parenting to behavior management: positively reinforcing the good and swiftly (and too often impatiently and angrily) extinguishing the bad until I have molded my children into my own pleasing little creations who hopefully won’t embarrass me by throwing tantrums in public and who will grow into a successful adults who believe in Jesus.
But when I stop and ponder my goals as a parent, I want something much deeper for my children than compliance and good behavior that has a Christian label. I want them to know the joy of Easter Sunday! I don’t just want well behaved children. I want them to know, love and follow their ascended Savior! In Give Them Grace, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson write, “Christians know that the gospel is the message unbelievers need to hear. We tell them that they can’t earn their way into heaven and that they have to trust in Jesus alone for their goodness. But then something odd happens when we start training the miniature unbelievers in our home. We forget everything we know about the deadliness of relying on our own goodness and we teach them that Christianity is all about their behavior and whether, on any given day, God is pleased or displeased with them.”
Likewise they write, “Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law.”
I know that I can’t shoulder the burden of perfect obedience to the Law myself. I certainly don’t want that burden for my own children! I want my kids to love the God who knew we could never be good enough to satisfy the Law, who instead of pouring out His wrath on us (which was His right), entered into our broken world, sought us out, and rescued us through His own death and resurrection. Therefore, we don’t want to be parents who exact impatient and angry justice in the face of our children’s immature missteps. We want to respond as we want others, and ultimately the Lord, to respond to us: with discipline fueled by long suffering patience, love and grace.
Ultimately I know my children belong to the Lord. It is His role to soften their hearts and call them. It is their choice to respond. But hopefully, by the grace of God, we will guide them in that direction by modeling His “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”, even in the face of their disobedience.