What steps can we take to replace adversarial parenting with relationship homeschooling?
Each spring, our town hosts what they call “Gabby Days,” when residents can clean out their basements and haul to the curb all sorts of items for the city to remove. One year, I hurriedly went through a couple dozen boxes and quickly made a “to keep” pile and a “discard” pile which promptly went out with the trash.
A couple hours later, as I sat sipping tea and feeling quite self-satisfied, I discovered, to my horror, that a large box of family photos, many of them in their original frames from the 1940’s, had mistakenly been thrown away. I ran outside to find that someone had already picked them up. The sense of loss was horrendous, remembering the wonderful pictures from my parents’ courtship and others from our own early days of marriage. In spite of an announcement placed on our local radio station and an ad in the newspaper, the pictures were gone. Forever. In my eagerness to do a good thing, I had suffered tremendous loss over what could not be replaced.
As I survey today’s landscape of homeschooling, I am troubled by much of what is being promoted as sound parenting advice. From the death of little Lydia Schatz at the hands of her parents who were proponents of Michael Pearl’s To Train Up a Child to Hillary McFarland’s accounts of the physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse of homeschooled daughters in her book, Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy, some homeschooling families have chosen to follow unhealthy teachings for raising children. In their eagerness to see children become responsible adults, many moms and dads are using adversarial and controlling parenting methods that often destroy their own families. The results are embittered children and estranged loved ones, the casting aside of the great treasure of family relationships. Many have lost what they cannot replace.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us about God’s relationship to us with the presupposition that fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. He assumes we won’t give them a stone instead of bread, encouraging us, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and Prophets.”*1 In other words, our obedience to Christ is measured by how we “one another” and “one-anothering” begins with our children!
Here are a few things to consider:
Am I expecting age appropriate behavior? Become familiar with stages of child development so you have realistic expectations. “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”*2 If this describes our children, how are we then to respond to them? Scripture tells us “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”*3 If we are to “restore gently” when someone sins, how much more gently ought we to respond to the normal afflictions of life!
Each stage of growing up brings about particular burdens…incoming teeth, learning to read, the physical and emotional changes of puberty, the natural leaving of young adults. Choices we make in how to parent during their most needy times will set the tone for all future relationships with our adult children. I love these words of 19th century British pastor J. C. Ryle: “Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys, these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart.”4
Have I set my family up for success or failure? Be sure everyone has had proper sleep, healthy snacks and meals, time to explore and create, outdoor play in fresh air, and meaningful face time with mom and dad. These apply to the grownups as well! Moms, recognize the special place hormones play in your life during various seasons and anticipate their affect on you and your responses!
Do I recognize the amazing gifts the Lord has given to each of us within my own family? If so, how am I putting them into practice? Remember that each family will have its own culture, talents and interests. Revel in them and wisely refuse to compare yours or your individual children to others! Know what delights each of your children and purpose to delight them as often as possible! Tell them how much they are loved every single day simply because they are unique individuals made in God’s image!
Do I appreciate the fact that my children are not only my children but my brothers and sisters in Christ? The one another commands of Scripture tell us how to live in relationship with each other ~ love one another, forgive one another, be kind to one another, admonish one another, spur one another on to love and good works, bear one another’s burdens, show hospitality to one another, etc. Read through the Bible and make a “one another” list, considering how they apply to your children. Think of creative ways to put them into practice
Do I model a life of grace in front of my children by extending it to them every chance that I have? Teaching a generic grace is not enough, it must be purposefully lived. I appreciate Tim Kimmel’s powerful words: “Grace can’t be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home. It has to be a real-time action that ultimately imprints itself in your children’s hearts. To talk about grace, sing about grace, and have our children memorize verses about grace – but not give them specific gifts of grace – is to undermine God’s words of grace in their hearts. Grace means that God not only loves them but that He loves them uniquely and specially. The primary way to give our children grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences.”*5
Am I willing to change the way I parent in order to experience fruitful, organic relationships in my home? Scripture promises us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”*6 What a blessed truth for parents to abide in every single day! Each of us can look back at our past efforts and see things we wish we could have done differently. Rather than lament our failures, we should rejoice in God’s willingness to forgive us and cry out to the Lord to “restore the years the locusts have eaten,”*7 even when we, ourselves, have been the locusts! What great comfort we have knowing that “the Lord’s lovingkindnesses, indeed, never cease, His compassions never fail, they are new every morning!”*8
*1 ~ Matthew 7:12
*2 ~ Matthew 9:36
*3 ~ Galatians 6:1-2
*4 ~ The Upper Room
*5 ~ Grace Based Parenting
*6 ~ 1 John 1:9
*7 ~ Joel 1:4
*8 ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
*This article was recently published in the 2012 #2 issue of Home Educating Family Magazine. Be sure to order your subscription today….this publication is chock full of great information and encouragement for Christian families, whether you are homeschooling or not!