One little girl was wandering all over the joint (with mom trailing behind), pulling out coffee stirrers and playing in the cutlery holders, and the other was protesting the notion of leaving, while her parents were trying to convince her of the plethora of joys that exist at home. What caught my attention was not the kids so much as it was their parents - they weren't parenting, they were negotiating.
I was grabbed by the scenarios that were playing out before me, mainly because I am realizing that I am often guilty of the same "parenting" style, which isn't really parenting at all. Cleaning up their messes is needful (kids are super messy, at least mine are) and I am all about trying to leave a public place without them totally losing their rag, but the more children I have and the older they get, the more I see that this isn't enough. I daily face the temptation to reason with an unreasonable child, or simply fix what they've wrecked because it's easier than teaching and correcting and dealing with the fallout. In some ways, it can just be easier to let our kids call the shots and adapt. But here's what I'm learning:
- God has made us the parents, and given us the job of raising and training them. If they have a problem with that (and at times, they will), their beef is with God, not us.
- We don't (or shouldn't) train and correct them to make our own lives easier - that's a happy consequence of a well-trained child. We (should) train them to know and love God and to serve Him joyfully. It's about His glory, not ours.
- One day, Lord willing, our children will no longer be little ones under our direction and care, but adults that need to interact with the world around them. Are we preparing them for that day, or just trying to survive with our nerves intact until bedtime? Are we creating a culture where they are used to getting their own way? If so, they're going to be in for a terrible shock when they realize the rest of the world is not geared for their preference, nor impressed by their tantrums.
- We are all, newborn to centenarian, made to worship. We will worship something. Our actions, words and attitudes reveal what we worship, and when our children make a career out of getting their own way and our career is to stay out of that way, we are only confirming what is already in their hearts - that the cult of "Self" is worthy of worship. As parents, it is our God-ordained responsibility to redirect our children's hearts to the only One worthy of our worship. We do that by reminding them of the Word, by teaching compassion and consideration of others, and insisting on obedience as God Himself does (Eph 6:1).