Last week I mentioned a couple of articles on parenting that I had recently read. (See that post here). The author of the article on spoiling kids and I have agreed that everyone is entitled to their own decisions on how they parent. We also agreed that we can’t know everything about someone’s parenting style without knowing them personally and in depth so, with that in mind and with respect, here are some responses I have to some of the other things in her post:
I don’t think my kids learn to be generous because I give them things they haven’t earned, but because they see me giving to others who are in need. We support full-time missionaries as a family. We support friends who go on short-term mission trips. They’ve learned to set apart 10 percent of their allowance or work earnings every month and then choose a ministry they want to support with it. This summer, my boys are helping send a couple and a graduating high school senior from our church to Italy on a missions trip. They see me put dollars in the baseball helmet of the high-school team trying to raise money to purchase lights for their field. They see their father take a homeless man into a restaurant to buy him a meal. They see me buy gas for a woman who says her debit card was stolen and she needs to get to work.
Do I lavish affection on my kids? That was a lot easier to do when they were little. My teenage boys don’t really go for that so much anymore. But I hug them and tell them I love them often. Do I do things for them that they could do for themselves? Yes, on occasion. But I tell you what, my 11-year-old knows how to make her own bed, and her own meals, and do her own laundry. If she needs clean clothes, she knows how to do it. But if I’m doing a load that needs more to be full, I’ll do hers with mine. And I help her fold stuff and put it away sometimes. None of my kids are going to leave my house without knowing how to keep something clean and keep themselves fed in a healthy manner (now, whether they pig out on Pop-Tarts once they’re on their own is a question for another day).
Do I make them the center of my universe? Absolutely not. They are an important, sweet, vital part of that universe. But Jesus is the center. And David comes next, no matter what. When they leave the nest, he’ll be the one staying here. And they know that. They complain every once in awhile that we always take each other’s side. Yep. Pretty much. But what they don’t know is that behind closed doors, we talk things out and occasionally win the other to another way of thinking. In our house, it’s usually about changing Dad’s mind about pets.
My kids are not allowed to speak unkindly to each other, they aren’t allowed to laugh if one of the others gets hurt. If they want something, they work for it. But that’s about stuff, that’s not about love. We don’t ever tell them they’re not good enough to get something. Yes, the harsh reality will come at them soon enough, but I’m certainly going to do my best to get them ready to face it while they’re still in the safety of my home. You break something that belongs to someone else? I still love you, but you’re paying to replace it. Or you receive grace from the owner, which I’ve seen happen more often than not. Not gonna happen in a store. You break it, you buy it. You didn’t win a game? You don’t get a trophy. I’ll tell you I love you and that I’m proud of your effort. But the winner gets the prize.
You want that new iPod? Better start looking for extra jobs to earn it. I’ll teach you how to do that, but I’m not doing it for you. The essentials I gladly provide as God gives us provision, but the extras are on you. God loves to lavish good things on His children, so ask Him to provide that which is the desire of your heart. Oftentimes, we find that our desires change as we seek to align them to God’s desires for us.
My bottom line is this: our children are very, very important. They are vulnerable, empty pots that will get filled with whatever comes along to fill them. Will it be Jesus or will it be the world? If I keep them filled up with the love and heart of Jesus, there won’t be room for anything else. I want to raise independent adults who know how to do things for themselves, and who rely on Jesus for every step they take.
How about you? In what ways do you help your kids be independent yet reliant on Jesus?