thoughts on parenting

Couples are drawn to marriage by love.  

As they join in marriage they make a commitment to each other and a promise to God to love their spouse forever, unconditionally, just as God loves them.  

Couples are called to become a cord of three strands – as husband, wife, and spirit – entwined with the strength to endure all the adversity life may bring.   There is never ANY reason for a couple to break this promise, not even in the midst of the tumultuous parenting years.

Children are meant to be God’s blessing within the marriage.  Shared love for children binds a couple together and tightens their bond over time. As parents, they share a purpose in life and a focus that extends beyond themselves.  Together, they are responsible to nurture, encourage and guide their child’s development and teach them to know and honor God.  When they do this, maintaining their commitment to love each other, the couple and the child experiences all of what God envisioned a family could be.

So then why is parenting so inherently stressful on the marriage?

With rare exception, trials in parenting are inevitable and will often overwhelm a couple’s natural ability to cope.   This is understandable, especially in couples that do not maintain the strand of God in their marriage.  But why do Christian couples that are praying regularly and attending church still struggle? Perhaps it is just humannature to tend to “dis” cord the marriage as spouses co-parent.   

Today’s culture has created false expectations of what marriage, love, and parenting are about.   

Romantic movies fading into the sunset at the moment of the emotional connection does not prepare couples for the realities of long-term relationships.   Work, home chores, and child-rearing duties are exhausting. Couples just run out of energy and cannot maintain the level of excitement of the initial relationship. In this “me” centered world, this can lead to disappointment that can cause marital “dis”cord.  

It is worldly to think that “love” is a noun.  Something wefeel or something wereceive in response to someone else’s action. However, God intended “love” to be a verb.  Something weintentionally do for others without expectation of something in return.  Fractured couples consistently claim, “I don’t love him/her anymore,” which in fact is an admission of failure of their own part to maintain their commitment to God to “verb” (love) their spouse unconditionally, especially when worn out with co-parenting duties.

It is also worldly to think that “parent” is the title granted by birthing or adoption.   In fact, mother or father is the title.   The word parent reflects the immense responsibility inherent in the role of the mother or father who holds that title. 

God intended “parent” to be a verb.  God loans us a child to parent: to care for and to raise according to His Word. Parents receive a blessing if our child honors God as an adult.  God never said parenting would be easy.   The job of parenting will end when the child is launched; the responsibility to love a child never ends.

The media image of a baby or young child in a mother or father’s arms generally conjures thoughts of mutual unconditional love and acceptance, life’s ultimate beauty.  It probably doesn’t generate the reality; piles of diapers, sleepless nights, marks on walls, enormous expenses, worries, heartbreaking teenage battles, mayhem, and ongoing distraction from the couples own relationship.  Most adults probably bear and nurture children with the expectation that their love will be returned and that they will be respected for their ongoing, lifelong efforts and sacrifices.  However, nothing can prepare a couple for the reality that a child’s love is very conditional and that this young, seemingly innocent child will soon learn manipulative techniques that split parents in order to obtain their own selfish desires. 

Parenting is not for the feign of heart.  Rejection of one’s love by their child is painful.  Some parents, desperate for acceptance from the child can put so much effort into the child, that their relationship with their spouse takes second place, causing marital stress.  Some parents blame their spouse for their child’s behaviors in lieu of recognizing that the child is their own little being, capable of making their own selfish behavioral choices, again resulting in marital stress.  

This can easily lead to marital discord as a result of sinful judgment of our partner and a self-pride over our own parenting style.   

Parenting style is always an individual choicethat most likely reflects our own upbringing.   This is because our earliest exposure to a parenting style in our “formative” years is ingrained as our base understanding of how to parent.  This style will inevitably “feel” most comfortable and most “right” to do ourselves when we become parents.  This sense we feel of a “right” way of doing things is not initially based on fact or double-blind study outcomes.  It is emotionally driven comfort, coupled with a self-appraisal that it “worked for me” because I like the way “I” came out, therefore, “I need to do this again for my child to be okay, too”. 

The problem is that your spouse will also be making an individual choiceregarding parenting style.  Again, based on their comfort based on their experiences in their formative years and acceptance of their adequate outcome.  

Parenting experts or therapists will suggest ways of parenting, unavoidably biased by their own individual choice and formative year exposures. There is data and research to support many different parenting approaches.  This only adds to the confusion, creating the awareness that there are not only different styles of raising children, but creating a sense that some are better than others.  An “expert” can always be found that will reflect your own style, adding to your sense of rightness.  

If your styles are different, there is a risk that one or both spouses will think that they are doing things the “right” way and that their spouse is doing things the “wrong” way.  Notice, it is not human nature to think of it as “different”, but to think of it as “wrong.”  When we think we are “right”, naturally, we think we are “better” and this is a form of pride.  

God has warned us about pride.  Pride comes “before the fall.”  Pride precedes judgment.  Judgment leads to dislike, disharmony, and bad thoughts or actions towards another. We are not called to judge others. This includes not judging our spouses. God asks us to love each other and allow him alone to be the judge.  

Pride and judgment are the opposite of love.   They “dis-cord” the marriage.   

Outside of blatant abuse of any kind, it is unlikely that one parenting style is actually better than another.   In fact, it is likely that multiple parenting styles are actually better than one in preparing a child to face a world that is variable and unpredictable. Perhaps this is part of God’s design; that each parent is supposed to bring a different approach to parenting and allow God to weave these together with love.   God blesses us when we tolerate and love each other.

What better way for parents to demonstrate and teach tolerance of others to our children than by tolerating each other’s differences in parenting styles?   Imagine what the experience within the marriage relationship would be like without judgment from your spouse.   Imagine how much easier it would be for your children to not listen to parental bickering, but instead to constantly feel reassured that their parents still love each other and want to stay together, to see the tolerance, and to learn to respect both parents equally?  

Regardless of whatever the evolving culture claims, the cord of three strands is the immutable, time-tested, ingenious design by our loving God intended for use by Christian parents.

Deuteronomy 24:16 Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

Proverbs 15:5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

Proverbs 17:6Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

Proverbs 17:21 To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.

Proverbs 22:6Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 29:17Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

(Quotes from New International Version of the Holy Bible)