Friday, February 20, 2009

Grace

Here are more thoughts on this parenting issue.

Thanks so much, Molly, for you response. I appreciate it very much. I understand that AP parents really don't see their philosophy or its methods as child-centered. I understand that you see the grace in this philosophy. And I also see the various AP folks whose blogs I've read as people who are very determined to make a firm shift from previous parenting styles that they believe are damaging.

I also appreciate that you've also taken a good bit of time to evaluate AP and find places where you feel this philosophy mimics God's parenting. I do not know that that offers a solid Biblical support for AP in its totality; it only means that there are ways that you see it as a parallel.

Your repeated references to GRACE intrigue me. In the church today, this is a huge issue. Much of the modern church focuses on only this aspect of our relationship with God, as if believers have tunnel vision and can see only grace. There is little understanding of his judgment, or his wrath, or his immutability, or his power, or his discipline. Those are uncomfortable elements, and are avoided. Grace is a wonderful thing, and more pleasant to embrace. So, grace becomes everything. But it's a rather narrow way to view God.

Now, don't get me wrong -- Grace is HUGE, and is a foundational part of our relationship with Him. But grace itself is also more complex than most Christians realize, and certainly more complex than your comment implies.

When God allows my family to go without any income for 2 years, is that grace? Yes.
When God gives my mother cancer, is that grace? Yes.
When God causes my pastor's wife to die and leave 4 young children, is that grace? Yes.
When God allows an illness to plague my husband for 15 years and nearly destroy our lives, is that grace? Yes.

Where is that kind of grace, in your parenting? Or do you pick and choose what kind of grace applies? I know these are blunt questions, but they are honest ones. If you want to claim God's parenting as your guide, be careful. He's a mighty tough parent.

Now, many of the beautiful, individual points you made are rather general, and apply to many parenting styles: the importance of comforting and snuggling and physical contact; offering gentleness and forgiveness; not seeing the child as an enemy; servant headship/authority. I've used all these, and more "grace-based" concepts. They are not unique to AP. Some were even included in the Ezzos' philosophy. (And I remember, because I spent hours listening to their tapes!)

All I'm saying is that some AP methods concern me and seem child-centered. Just because a mom using AP feels tender, nurturing or comforting toward her child, doesn't mean that bad methods will be turned to good. Intent isn't everything. I do agree that, with tiny newborns, these methods are usually fine, and are used by almost ANYONE. We tend to hold, snuggle, comfort and protect newborns. I worry that AP parents don't necessarily see these methods as diminishing as the baby gets older. They wear their 3 year olds like they wear their 3 week olds. I think some AP moms love these methods as much for their own comfort as for the baby's.

J - as I've said before, I'm not an Ezzo advocate. Also, as I've heard you say of your own blog, this is my space, and I can state my opinions here. Yes, we disagree, but it's certainly not "unfair" of me to verbalize thoughts I've spent 20 years developing. I am addressing the aspects of AP, not that I've made up, but that have been described to me many times online, by its supporters. I do not agree that they are good for the child, or for the family.

*** *** *** *** ***

I do think I've explained much of my own parenting beliefs rather extensively in the past 2 days. But for a recap, here they are:

1) I believe in examining the Scriptures for instructions, and examining God's parenting for examples, as much as is possible, first. This includes discipline, tenderness, firmness, correction, punishment, and forgiveness. I need the discernment to know which ones to use in which situations. I think it's important to know in what ways I CAN imitate God's parenting, and in what ways I CANNOT, and should not, because I'm not able to.

2) It's important to consider always whether the traits you're training into your child are traits you want him to have long-term. It's important to realize that your actions toward your child are training habits and expectations in him. Don't train IN, things that you'll later have to train OUT.

3) Your children are sinners, and they are sinners from birth. You should assume that they will display selfish characteristics. You should anticipate that they will disobey. If you consider your child to be intrinsically good, then you've already violated #1.

4) Children need to be independent, both for their own sakes and the parents'. My parenting should produce children who can easily, confidently, and lovingly remove themselves from me, and attach themselves to a spouse and to God. This removal is a gradual process.

5) No parents have to "endure" the "terror years," indulging children when they are young. Children can be obedient and self-governed even when they are in pre-school. They will demonstrate the qualities you expect and require of them. If people move away from you in a restaurant, that's a bad sign.

6) God has designed the center of the home to be the marriage. Children are most happy and secure when they see their parents loving each other and focused on each other. Children who are the main focus of the home are unhappy and insecure.

7) Be flexible. There's no perfect, single recipe for all children, for all families, for all situations. People who say so haven't learned differently yet. The only standard is God's word.

8) Pray for your children. Be sure to ask forgiveness from your children when you've wronged them. Parents who have never done this need to begin. Allow your children to age and mature, so than as they pass into adulthood you can consider them to be your friends and equals.

--- Okay, so I waxed eloquent when I got going! Is that enough positive for you? These are beliefs I solidified with my husband well before I (or anybody else perhaps?) had even heard of AP, so they weren't formed "in opposition." I've seen the truth of these beliefs played out in my own children and others I know,and their neglect produce children who are painful to be with.

Enough for now! I've enjoyed this thinking and processing!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this response. :)

    Some things here I agree with 100% and some I'd like to offer an alternative way of viewing:

    1) I believe in examining the Scriptures for instructions, and examining God's parenting for examples, as much as is possible, first. This includes discipline, tenderness, firmness, correction, punishment, and forgiveness. I need the discernment to know which ones to use in which situations. I think it's important to know in what ways I CAN imitate God's parenting, and in what ways I CANNOT, and should not, because I'm not able to.

    We are to be like Him. We are to emulate Him. We are to bear His image. We are to bear His fruit.

    His fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control.

    This means *we* are responsible as parents FIRST to be bearing those fruits ourselves.

    This also means that we recognize that it's the Spirit who grows those fruits in us (not us spanking our kids "into" the fruits of the Spirit, etc). :)

    I would like to challenge you to consider, from a Biblical perspective, what you are saying about how we can't be as loving or kind or forgiving as God is. It seems like you are saying we can punish like He does, but we can't love like He does...? It doesn't make sense to me, but maybe I'm just not hearing you right.

    I know what we are called to be, as Christ-followers, and I can say that ANY Christ-follower who is bearing the fruits of the Spirit in ample supply WILL be a fantastic parents.

    GB-parents are all about those things in a parent: love, joy, peace... This is the heart of GB-parenting, right there: growing in His fruits and letting our kids taste them in sweet supply. There is no better way to usher our kids into a love of Christ than that. :)

    2) It's important to consider always whether the traits you're training into your child are traits you want him to have long-term. It's important to realize that your actions toward your child are training habits and expectations in him. Don't train IN, things that you'll later have to train OUT.

    Agreed. I think most every grace-based parent would agree. GB parenting is primarily PRO-active, not RE-active.


    3) Your children are sinners, and they are sinners from birth. You should assume that they will display selfish characteristics. You should anticipate that they will disobey. If you consider your child to be intrinsically good, then you've already violated #1.

    Agreed, but with a MAJOR caveat. That caveat is that parents need to realize that THEY are sinners, too. This means our urges for a child's obedience aren't going to come from God all the time, but are often going to come from our own flesh's desire to have what we want and have it now. We are going to be liable to put our needs before our kids, to put our feelings before our kids, to put our wants before out kids.

    Because *we* are sinners in need of a Saviour every bit as much as they are.



    4) Children need to be independent, both for their own sakes and the parents'. My parenting should produce children who can easily, confidently, and lovingly remove themselves from me, and attach themselves to a spouse and to God. This removal is a gradual process.

    Absolutely, we can agree here, as well. Our goal as GB parents is to raise happy healthy whole adults. No problems there. Many studies show, btw, that kids with secure attachment are able to attach to others easily. Healthy attachment is a good positive thing that leads to later healthy attachments. :)

    5) No parents have to "endure" the "terror years," indulging children when they are young. Children can be obedient and self-governed even when they are in pre-school. They will demonstrate the qualities you expect and require of them. If people move away from you in a restaurant, that's a bad sign.

    Yes and no.

    We can train our kids, but we also have to be aware that some kids are not like other kids. The mom who's kid has autism, the mom who's got a child with ADD, etc, need our gracious response, not our tsk, tsk, tsk.

    I have five kids, and the last one was a WILD thing...wait, let me rephrase that, IS a wild thing. :)

    Thankfully, I know about wild things, because one of his older brothers was the same way, and he is now a model student, top of his class in both grades and behavior, at school. But as a toddler and preschooler, OMGosh, the kid was ALL OVER THE PLACE. I was a Pearl fan then, so he was swatted regularly for it, too. Yet, despite my firm and consistant consequences of punishment, nothing phased him. He was simply very tactile and very motion-based...ie, I was punishing him for his PERSONALITY and for hte fact that his brain hadn't grown into that personality yet. :(

    My youngest is obviously made of hte same stuff, and I'm handling him in a much different way than I did my oldest son. I wish I had known then what I do now. I wish I had known that it was the way he was wired. I wish that I hadn't worried so much about what all the other folks in the church would think of my parenting. I wish that I had taken a break from trying to get "control" over this kid and instead worked harder on learning to harness that energy that no amount of punitive action on my part could stop. I wish I had known that as his intellect matured, he'd find good things to put his energy to use on.

    Thankfully, God protected my older son. I began realizing that I was going to hurt him, and really slowed down... And thankfully, I know better with my youngest and can work to be proactive (still takes the same amount of my ever-vigilent energy on my part, just as my older son did, but energy in a different direction now) and find proactive ways to deal with that huge need for hands-on motion. :)


    6) God has designed the center of the home to be the marriage. Children are most happy and secure when they see their parents loving each other and focused on each other. Children who are the main focus of the home are unhappy and insecure.


    GB-parents are there to love each other and love their kids. It's a false dichotomy to suggest that it has to be either/or. It can and should be both/and.


    7) Be flexible. There's no perfect, single recipe for all children, for all families, for all situations. People who say so haven't learned differently yet. The only standard is God's word.


    Yes. Yes. And... Yes.

    8) Pray for your children. Be sure to ask forgiveness from your children when you've wronged them. Parents who have never done this need to begin. Allow your children to age and mature, so than as they pass into adulthood you can consider them to be your friends and equals.

    Yes. GB-parents can agree with this 100%. :)

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  2. I would just like to say that the Bible does seem to indicate that you can spank a child into the fruit of the spirit (or at least out of the fires of hell.

    Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. Proverbs 23:13 - 14

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  3. I agree that that is one interpretation, but we should always measure our interpretations by the light of Christ. If spanking can save a soul from Hell, then Christ did not need to die. The Law should have worked on Israel just fine, if a system of reward and/or punishment could grow Spirit-born fruit and cause righteousness.

    So...what is the problem, God not using enough punishment on us, or our misinterpration of a proverb? I vote for misinterpreting the proverb! :)

    I think that the problem is probably in our literal interpretation of that proverb. Which is not to say that we shouldn't take God's breathed word literally---because we should---but in order for us to take it literally, we have to know what it means (ie, we have to rightly interpret it).

    For example, many of our translations substitute the word "Hell" for the actual word, "grave/sheol" that the author wrote. That, unfortunatly, mistranslation causes us WRONGLY interpret it. When the more likely interpretation is, literally, death.

    Another thing that causes us to interpret wrongly is the translators choice of "child," when the passage is (as most Jews attest) talking about teenage boys (na'ar is a word that sounds like a lion's growl, and that's what it means---a young lion who is just starting to sprout his mane). This is not a word usually used for young kids but for what we call teenagers.

    Keeping in mind that this was a culture that beat and/or stoned criminals, etc, and we see that the proverb author is wise advice: "Hey, dad, beat your young-adult son and hopefully it will case him to turn him back from his evil ways, because otherwise the authorities are going to get him and they'll probably STONE him (that, or his wild actions might get him killed naturally)... Eli's adult son's are a case in point. He did not restrain him, and because of that, they died.

    Again, I do think we need to take the Bible literally. But in order to do that, we have to find the most accurate way of interpreting the Bible.

    And so if we choose a popular conservative interpretation of that proverb and thus believe that spanking young kids may save their souls from hell, then we are not only NOT taking it literally (since it literally doesn't mean hell, nor does it literally mean young kids, nor does it literally mean an American-style spanking [but an over-the-back beating with a thick rod]), but we are also saying that the death of Christ on the cross isn't quite good enough...

    We are then saying that His death, *plus* spanking, saves our kids from Hell. And...as I'm sure you can agree...that's really a problem.

    With love,
    Molly
    (who used to believe that the proverb literally meant hell, young kids, and an American style spanking)...

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  4. Gah. I type so quickly and then leave a gabillion typo's. My apologies. I hope the above comment is somewhat decipherable...
    *laughing groan*

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