Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Parent Trap

A friend recently wrote a great post about parenting and the trap of pride. This wise woman pointed out, gently, that it can be very easy to take credit for compliant children. Her gentle reminder to be careful where you place your pride was well-received by me.

Not because I have compliant children, though. Because I don't - not most of the time, anyway. Liz's post resonated with me because pride can lead us into believing that we are responsible for who are children are. Pride has led me to feel superior to other people in less fortunate circumstance.Prideful thinking has caused me, at times, to feel disappointed in the children God has blessed me with.

Growing up with two brothers who were 'challenging' gave me a unique perspective on judgmental adults. My middle brother was, I learned during college, kinesthetic.  My youngest brother was developmentally delayed AND kinesthetic.Now, that's a combo!  Many people we encountered were kind and loving. There were homes we were invited to, and there were moms that I knew were 'safe', moms who I knew liked my mom and decided her friendship was worth getting to know her wild boys.

There were those, however, who felt that with a 'firmer hand' or 'more consistent discipline' my brother, especially Erik, who is developmentally delayed, could be better behaved. I can remember children repeating cutting things their parents had said about my brother, or, even worse, overhearing adults at church discussing our family's unique circumstances with disdain.  I learned, especially as the oldest child, to be fairly thick-skinned about our family. I also learned to stand up to bullies, even when they were quite a bit older than me.

I am thankful to have grown up with a brother who wasn't 'normal'.  It helped me, as a new mother, to accept that my children were unique individuals.  The miracle of growing up with Erik was that because he was so delayed no one had ANY expectations for him at first - my parents were bystanders in his flowering as a person.  When he walked, it was a miracle, when he spoke, it was a miracle, when he fed himself it was a miracle.  I learned that my plans for my children's lives would never compare to God's plans for their lives.

Oh, man, have we ( my husband and I ) made mistakes along the way, though! Consistency is not our strong point, and this has gotten us into trouble.  We both like the fun side of parenting and can sometimes neglect the more difficult side. There have been times when we have gone through difficulties, such as job loss, the death of a parent, life stuff, and have allowed parenting to fall by the wayside. I think of those times as 'Just Getting Through'.  We're coming out of one of those times right now, and our three-year old is showing it.

Romans 12:3-6 from The Message reads:

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

I love Romans, and I especially love chapter 12.  What if we applied this passage to parenting?  Would it be easier to see that while there is one standard (God's standard) to raise our children with, God has designed us each uniquely to raise our children, who are also uniquely designed?  Could we stop comparing parenting and children, and see that the world is made up of many different types of people, all to be used by our Creator?

I am guilty of having compared my children. One of my dearest friends has 'perfect' children in my eyes. I used to compare my children to them, and consequently my parenting to my friends'. I seemed to fall short. My children, all of them, have never had a problem arguing with an adult, especially me. They can be sneaky,  deceitful, and, on occasion, mean.  Our children can also be gentle, loving, and generous beyond comprehension. I also know that my friend's children are equally distributed with good and not-so-good qualities.  The more I learn about the body of Christ, the more I see that we are distinctive and individual with a purpose. Our individuality is not accidental. God used Jacob and Moses, just like he used Rahab and Naomi, just like he used Elijah and Paul, just like he is using you and me to drive home His message of grace.

I can see that our children, yours and mine, are fearfully and wonderfully made according to God's divine plan. Children are people in the process of growing up. They are not manequins waiting to be molded into a position that would make their parents proud. God already has a plan for our children, and it is our job to allow God to reveal that plan. Yes, we should train them up (but please don't exasperate), but train them up for God's glory and not our own.

Pride is not to be confused with being pleased. We should not overly focus on our children's star qualities, nor should we browbeat them with their shortcomings. Parents should be pleased with their work, but not take credit for anything except the hard work put in.

What if parents, especially Christian parents, quit judging one another by worldly standards, and chose to embrace the kaleidoscope of individuality the body of Christ has to offer with love and acceptance?  Who would we find ourselves getting to know better?  I truly believe that each time we encounter someone who is different from us we have an opportunity to grow.  My friends who are more consistent in home discipline have taught me to stick to my guns. My friends who are more, shall we say, loosey-goosey, have taught me to enjoy who my children are.

I wonder how God will grow me today.

my unique people


  1. Kara,

    I agree. Comparison is a trap. We all fall into it at times, but it only wounds us, huh? Thanks for being real here.

    It's nice to be able to stop in here again.

    Jennifer Dougan

  2. Kara,

    Thanks for your honesty on my post "People-Watching in Ancient Israel." That tired feeling of being followed, tired, needed.. yes, we women can all relate. :) I'm glad my post there helped, and may the Father of our spirits breathe strength and energy deep inside you and me today.

    Appreciate you,
    Jennifer Dougan