Sometimes parents ask this question, “Do you have any suggestions on good parenting?” It’s a question that usually comes from a parent who is struggling to control a child. And the assumption is made that, due to my line of work, I might know a thing or two about good parenting. Sadly enough, I find it very difficult to offer good parenting advice. Being a good parent isn’t easy. It’s a very demanding and complex challenge! Just last week I heard about a mum in Perth who was fined for spanking her child. I say, “What’s a parent to do?” And further, I am also not sure that what might work at school will necessarily help parents at home. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll permit me to share a few personal observations on good parenting.
Years ago, my first response to this “good parenting question” was: “What does God’s Word say?” In particular, I would often refer parents to Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Similarly, I would have mentioned Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” These verses are excellent reminders that good parenting involves an early intervention (start when the child is still young) and training/teaching, not expecting that a child will know his right from wrong. God’s Word is indeed the go-to-place for good parenting suggestions.
Yet years later, when again being asked the “good parenting question,” I found myself often inquiring about the reason for a child’s lack of control. What was causing it? To me it became very important to discover why a child was out of control. Surely, if I knew the answer to that question, I would also be in a good position to correct the situation. Does not Ephesians 6:4 underline this reality when it says, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Clearly, this indicates that there are times when bad parenting does result in an uncontrollable child. Nevertheless, I’m also not sure that bad parenting is always to blame. Sometimes it’s simply too difficult to find the answer to why a child is uncontrollable. The parents many have tried many things, and yet not enjoyed much success.
Although I still believe that it’s vitally important to answer the why question, I now also offer parents two key suggestions. These suggestions are not foolproof, nor meant to belittle the challenge of good parenting. Quite simply, if anything, I’ve noticed that these suggestions were usually well received by parents, and that they also may have made some difference. I apologize for their simplicity but hope that they will be helpful.
The first suggestion is captioned with the words, “Stay with the Lord.” A difficult child is not only tiresome, but also tests one’s faith and trust in the Lord. It’s very easy to become subconsciously dissatisfied or angry with the Lord. However, by staying with the Lord, by remaining faithful to the Lord, the uncontrolled child can also readily see his way back to the Lord. He will know by the faith of his parents that the Lord is steadfast and worthy of obedience. By the grace of God, staying with the Lord is not something new or magical, rather it’s needed in good parenting.
The second suggestion is captioned with the words, “Stay together.” When faced with an uncontrolled child, even the smallest difference of opinion, e.g., regarding the form of discipline, can result in a damaging “divide and conquer” situation. Satan’s work is always divisive, and this is especially so when it comes to divisive parenting. Every child needs that sincere truthful unity between dad and mum. This is a unity of love, which by its presence mirrors the love of God. It’s that deep love which holds good parenting together.
I realise that there are many more parenting tips that could be mentioned or might be helpful. For example, parents should avoid using the phrase “If you do this, then I will do that…” as such statements only result in child’s delayed obedience. And we should avoid a sugar-sweet rich diet, which usually results in a hyperactive, uncontrollable child. And we should limit the family’s TV/computer screen time. All these tips, and many more like them, are indeed good and most helpful. However, my personal observation is that these tips can become somewhat incidental, used in a now-and-then fashion. Ultimately, they seem unable to provide a solid basis for good parenting.
Hence, whilst not ignoring such helpful tips, nor the Biblical truths of Proverbs, and continuing to realise the importance of inquiring about why a child lacks control, let’s simply “stay with the Lord” and “stay together.” And in this way, serve the Lord through good parenting, “knowing that in the Lord, your work is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Dr. Pete Witten – JCCS Albany