Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4:8-10 NIV
Lately, I have received more than one inquiry regarding how I discipline as a mom of five. I bet this ask is a direct result of the current feud we have seen between Church and culture over the emerging philosophy, ‘Gentle Parenting’.
First, as an author myself, I see all around me audiences’ celebration of original, and therefore writers’ propensity to be the first to the finish line with the newest research, the newest methodology, and certainly, the newest step-by-step. Especially, drumroll…if it aids parents. Since Adam and Eve scratched their heads over what went wrong with Cain, parents have unanimously longed to learn how to child rear “right”. Because the Bible tells us there is simply nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), it is quite true that a lot of what is on bookshelves today, namely the gentle parenting push, is a variation of what’s been rinsed and repeated 70, 50, or 30 years ago.
We look over our shoulder and see that books have been greatly significant in changing cultural landscapes, consequently impacting parenting trajectories, or at the very least, causing disruptions. The more radical, the better the press. And, by attracting the critic, the curious, and the convert, the faster it sells. You may not even know it, but likely some of the understanding you (or your parents) have today was gleaned from the pages of old-school juggernauts by Dr. Walter Sackett, Mabel Lilliard, and Dr. Benjamin Spock, inevitably bleeding into our church classrooms as wisdom to be heeded. However, inherent to progressive finds, new methods, and creative step-by-steps, is the divorce from what is known, the status-quo, the foundation of what has “always been taught”, which to us in the West is often a divorce from judeo-Christian beliefs. A divorce from the greatest book, the Bible.
As deception is one of the common descriptors of our enemy, it stands to reason that not all of what is presented in Gentle Parenting is wrong. It is a lot of right with enough wrong for the entire leaven to be ruined by a little yeast (Galatians 5:9). Just this weekend, discussing Matthew 4 with our kids, we unraveled how the enemy twisted God’s words to try and tempt Jesus. Sure, we can see Satan’s lies from a mile away, but the ever-present challenge for the Church in attempting to outsmart Satan is our inability to respond to untruths like Jesus did in Matthew 4, instead thinking it’s enough to swing our pendulum so far the other direction that we wind up with a new set of problems, to include appearing like pious zealots to our unbelieving neighbors without providing any real solutions.
I have recently witnessed some well-intended, but venomous GP interviews that make me blush on behalf of our Church. They implore me to address the questions being asked of me and beg you to erase the line in the sand and replace it with an outstretched arm. To ask you not to cut your nose off to spite your face is a self-convicting statement to a “justice” person whose Strengthsfinder defines her through and through as a ‘Belief’, a black-and-white, by-the-book kind of gal. But nonetheless, I have been prompted lately to grasp that we Believers welcome all people to the table - as long as they should be there. Essentially, what has troubled me most in this parenting debate is what feels like an intentional pendulum swing prompted either by a conscious pandering to audiences that will esteem for plucking the next fashionable hill to debate on or a desperate desire to know the black-and-white rules that make us feel safe. All the while, we leave young unbelieving moms, so desiring to do this parenting thing right and ripe for salvation, utterly confused. Oh Church, how have we gotten here? Their fresh confusion over the ills of GP must be exchanged for our testimonies of hope and satisfaction in parenting hand-in-hand with Jesus, who ironically is the epitome of gentleness towards children.
Gentle Parenting is based on four principles; empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries, and I cannot discredit their value and place in Christian parenting. How these terms are defined or carried out, may be wherein the deceit lies. In other words, I am afraid if our pendulum swings too far in an effort to polarize an unfounded parenting style, we could convince ourselves Christian parenting should be devoid of such character qualities, or worse yet, convince our unbelieving mom friends the same.
So what exactly do I think of gentle parenting? As part one of this two-part devotion, here are five responses to the GP movement I will elaborate on next week:
The purpose of all discipline is to draw children back to the heart of God. Thus, relationship with our children and intentionally creating room for them to cultivate one with God is the aim of discipline as laid out in Scripture.
Our parenting should not be the surresponse to a parenting model, but a response to God’s parenting advice in Scripture.
No routine, five-step process, guide, or teaching will supplant the authority of God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s promise to guide us in disciplining each temperament, discipling through each situation, and guiding through each infraction.
As parents, Scripture says it is our love that should motivate our discipline and discipleship.
We will never be perfect parents, which is why relationship with Jesus, both ours and our children’s, is crucial.
Your fellow Able Mom,
Father God, allow us to look to your character in all things. Allow us to lay down our arms and outstretch one instead. Amidst so much turmoil and divisiveness, allow us to humbly see and wisely discern what your word says about parenting. Guide us. Let us be motivated by love with a keen understanding that our discipline should draw our children towards You. Amen and Amen.
Read next Wednesday's devo for Part II.
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