The Privilege Of Parenting

Here is a parenting article my wife just wrote for Inside Worship Magazine, in an issue called The Circle Of Family.

THE PRIVILEGE OF PARENTING
Anita Wilt (with Dan Wilt)

A mother kneels down to kiss her child’s wounded knee. A father sits down with his teenage son after a hard day’s work, and helps him work through a tough algebra problem. A mother seeks to make nutritious meals for her family every evening for years, though she doesn’t really enjoy cooking. A father works long hours, at a job that is stressful, to insure that his children have new jeans for the school year.

A child watches his or her parents closely, worshiping in the congregation, reading the Scriptures, responding to crisis, handling relationships, attending games and bowing their heads to pray. A child will in many ways become like their parent, and carry the values and the ethics of the parent into society with them. A child will look into the authenticity of their parent’s walk with God, and determine their own worship choices.

Parenting is a high calling, indeed.

The Privilege Of Parenting

To see parenting as an act of worship, is to begin to scratch the surface of what Paul must have meant in Romans 12, when he called us to be “a living sacrifice” to God. Raising our children to acknowledge God as the center of their worship, Jesus as the center of their lives and the Holy Spirit as their strength and source, is one of the highest worship leading callings that exist. If a parent is not leading worship by the way their life is lived, then their children may find other gods to love.

The task of parenting has been, throughout the ages, the subject of much heated discussion – and varied opinion. The task has been vilified, glorified and everything in between. Parenting has reduced the strongest man to tears, and brought out the fire in the most timid mother. Parenting has produced anarchists and presidents, murderers and saints. You and I are the result of someone’s journey through the parenting whirlwind. Parenting opinions are wide and passionate, and are often incredibly different from one another – even in Christian circles.

The fact remains, however it has been approached, that parenting for the Christian is a holy calling, an act of worship, a God-given task, for which God has given unparalleled resources – the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit for starters – designed to equal the task. In short, parenting is a high privilege, as we co-act with God not only in the raising of children, but in the raising of adults.

Approaches To Parenting

Unfortunately for us, the fact that parenting is a widely discussed topic mean that there are an abundance of theories and methods about parenting that muddy the waters and can confuse us. It has been my observation, as a parent and an educator, that all parenting theories boil down to one of three ways of parenting: parent-centered parenting, child-centered parenting or God-centered parenting.

+ Parent-centered Parenting

Parent-centered parenting, also know as authoritarian parenting, was the predominant method of parenting prior to the 1960s. A parent-centered parent requires outward conformity to certain behavior, but does not take the time to explain “why.” This focus on outward behavior leaves little room for helping a child internalize principles of interpersonal relationship. It becomes more important in the parent’s eyes to restrain evil than to elevate good, and children conform out of fear of reproof rather than love of goodness. The policy of obedience is taught, but not necessarily the principle of obedience – which springs from the heart.

+ Child-centered Parenting

Child-centered parenting, or permissive parenting, was a reaction to authoritarian parenting. It became popular in the 1960s and 70s and is still the norm in our society today. Permissive parenting is feelings-oriented, and elevates the psychological health of a child above right and wrong. How a parent thinks a child feels ends up being the basis for ethics. Childrearing becomes an avoidance of any negative emotions in pursuit of positive ones. The end result of permissive parenting is an out-of-control child, and a society in steady decline.

+ God-centered Parenting

While the previous two ways of parenting make either the parent or the child the standard for effective parenting, God-centered parenting is about parenting according to God’s principles. God-centered parenting recognizes that parenting is a divine calling; that children are a gift from the Father (Psalm 127:3), never given as a curse, and that we are, as it were, “custodial” parents, accountable to God for the molding of a life given to us for a time.

God-centered parenting focuses on heart training that has its foundations in God’s Word, and is about cultivating Godly character through principles of discipline and obedience, coupled with love (Ephesians 6:4).

Parenting Today

Most parenting theories today are rooted in child-centered parenting. At the core of this philosophy is the belief that children are born morally good, or at worst neutral; a “blank slate” who has only the capacity to disobey – and not the desire. This is clearly opposed to God’s Word which tells us that though we are wonderfully made in the image of God, we are also bent toward self-promotion and self-absorption – we are sinful from the time of conception (Psalm 51:5) and sin underlies the conscience (Jeremiah 17:9).

Permissive parenting is also steeped in the philosophy of moral relativism, a philosophy that purports that there are no absolute or objective standards of truth (or behavior) by which to live – the truth is whatever you want it to be in the moment, and is born within you. Moral relativism is diametrically opposed to the biblical Story, which establishes the concept of absolute truth being found fundamentally within God Himself, and responded to by humankind.

The Rock Of Absolutes

The rock-bottom foundation we are constructing in our children’s lives is the concept of absolute truth – truth that applies in all ages, at all times, for all people (Josh McDowell). Absolute truth is a core principle in God’s economy, and in a relativistic and tolerant age (tolerance has its up and its down side), is often dispensed with in favor of immediate feelings. Absolute truth, found in the riches of the Scriptures, is the platform from which we seek to instill values and create an ethical framework in the hearts and minds of our children.

When children learn to be obedient to the law of love, modeled by Jesus and those parents (hopefully) who are committed to following him, then they are being equipped to be adults. A parent receives no greater gift than to see their child walking closely with God, hearing His voice for themselves and others, and living a life full of the loving authority that characterized Jesus.

Proactive Parents In A Reactive World

As those who seek to become God-centered parents, it is our responsibility to look carefully and critically at the parenting methods that have influenced us. We must weigh them against the standard of God’s Word, and recognize that we are responsible to adjust our parenting method even when it runs against the prevailing culture of our own experience.

We are called to be proactive parents, parenting with a purpose and a goal before us; not reactive and haphazard in our parenting. The world will be quite happy to raise our kids for us; even to entertain them for hours a day so that we can get some peace. Yet you and I are designed for this privilege of parenting, and though it may cost us everything we have, we were made to love and learn as we parent our children. God, who is the perfect Parent, has given us everything we need for the act of worship that is parenting – and will Himself see us through.

Further Resources:

www.family.org This is the excellent website of Focus On The Family, and is a portal to hundreds of resources covering all aspects of parenting, marriage and family life. They also have just produced a full DVD church curriculum for a parenting class.

Boundaries with Kids, by Cloud and Townsend.

Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, by James Dobson

A Family of Value, by John Rosemond.

Bio:

Anita Wilt is an educator, mother of Anna (14), Abigail (12) and Benjamin (9), and wife of Inside Worship editor Dan Wilt. She has taught on issues related to family life and parenting in various conferences and events. Her heart’s passion is to see the family strengthened, resourced and empowered in our generation – to the honor of God in the world.

Join the movement.

We're all on a journey of worship and spiritual formation, and we all want a faith that sustains through the good and bad times. Get the email designed to help you take your great leaps with God.