Being a parent can often feel like being a referee. Or a cat herder. Or a paramedic. Or a prison warden.
Parenting is a game of reaction. Something happens, then we react. We pray our reactions stop bad behavior, encourage good behavior, and help our children to grow into good and Godly adults.
I've been using this method for years with generally good results. At times, if I think my current reactions aren't getting the above results, I'll experiment with different types of reactions (aka new methods of discipline). Most things I try seem to produce the three results mentioned above.
The other evening, after a long, late-night conversation with one of my children about some stuff that child is struggling with (fitting in, bullying, lying, swearing, over-emotional reactions), I wrote these words:
My children are desperate to experience God as a reality in their lives. They need to see that Jesus works and He can truly help them in life's struggles.
With those words, my parenting goals shifted. I'm no longer solely focused on increasing good behavior and decreasing bad behavior, hoping that we all survive until they reach adulthood. My number one priority as a parent must be helping my kids experience a true and personal relationship with Jesus Christ in their everyday lives.
Sure, I'll still need to react and run interference. Discipline and encouragement cannot be abandoned. But there's a new element that needs to take precedence, and it cannot just be reactionary. I need to turn in my striped referee shirt and whistle for a t-shirt labelled "Coach."
We can't help our children experience Jesus personally with phrases like, "Do you think that Jesus would like the way you're treating your sibling right now?" That makes Jesus look like us - reactionary. We don't want Him to be a "watchdog" over our kids' behaviors; we want Him to be a resident of their hearts.
Teaching Jesus - at a heart level - needs to be proactive, planned, and interactive.
Proactive - Acting in advance rather than reacting.
Planned - Regularly scheduled.
Interactive - A dialogue or conversation rather than a monologue (commonly referred to as a lecture).
Here are three things we're going to try at home to help our children experience the reality of Jesus working in their lives:
1. Learning together. This week we will begin working through the Kids of Integrity curriculum (by Focus on the Family) together. Our first lesson (chosen by the earlier mentioned child) - honesty.
* On a little side-note, KOI is giving away an iPad 2 to those who sign up! Use my link to enter the contest, and you help increase my chances of winning. :)
2. Visioning together. Anyone who has ever led a team knows how much stronger the team becomes if everyone "buys into" the organization's vision. I think the same is true of a family (is there any team more important than family?). So I would like us to develop a family vision, mission statement, values, etc. based in Scripture.
How will this look in practical terms? We'll start with a family meeting, do some brainstorming, and go from there.
3. Following the Holy Spirit together. If I had to name one single thing that grew my faith, it would be the experience of "hearing" the Holy Spirit, listening, and then experiencing the results of that obedience. I want to be more intentional about sharing our obedience with our children, and inviting them to participate in it.
For example, the next time one of my kids wants to give away their favorite toy, I will not suggest they take some time to think about it. Instead, I will praise them for listening to God and help them obey immediately. Or when Pat and I feel led to do something for someone, we'll share the story with the kids over dinner. And when we're in need of provision, and God provides, our whole family will praise the Lord together.
What do you do to help your kids (or the kids you have influence on) experience a living and active relationship with Jesus Christ?
Or, like me, have you been stuck in reaction mode for too long? If so, what is one thing you could begin to do that would take you from reactive to being proactive, planned, and interactive?