How to Sift Through Parenting Advice

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How to Sift Through Parenting Advice

There’s so much parenting advice out there! With myriad voices claiming that their method is best, how do parents sift through all of the advice to find the truth? Following is a question that was emailed to us and our response. We think it might be helpful to both parents and pastors as they try to navigate treacherous currents of parenting advice:   QDear Family Matters, I’ve been working as a Children’s Minister since I graduated college (4 years ago). Our Nursery Director has been promoting a parenting method I have issues with. The method is very rigid but she claims it produces great results. I can see some good things about the program, but I can also see how the strict rules and discipline methods could be taken to the extreme. Since I’m young, my opinion is not heard as easily as hers. I would love your thoughts on this curriculum. I am trying to figure out how to lovingly bring a different prospective to this problem.  Thank you, Jennifer from Minnesota A: Hi Jennifer, I think that your spirit was unsettled about all of this for good reason. There’s a lot of parenting advice out there, and lots of strong opinions about how things should be done. As a minister, you’ve got to constantly have your filters ready to vet the advice, curriculum and materials that come your way. The first problem I see with the method you described…is that it’s a method. That is the first fatal flaw. A method is like an equation that, if followed, assumes the same result will be reached. The issue with this is that it doesn’t take into account the differences in kids and in parents. If you plug different variables into the same equation, you get different results. At Family Matters, we’re constantly asked by parents to give them a list of do’s and don’ts. Parents want the steps…the rules…the words they should say, because they want to know that they’re doing the right thing. But Family Matters can’t and won’t write them a prescription for perfect parenting because it doesn’t exist. When you boil down parenting into one method it ignores the vast diversity that God has created. A method might work great with some kids and backfire with others. And like the concern you expressed in your email, a method can be used wisely by some parents, and taken to an extreme by others. What we do offer to parents is a philosophy. We believe that we should parent our kids the way God parents His kids (all of us)…with grace. God’s grace sees all our flaws and loves us anyway. He knows that we are preprogrammed to fail (sin nature) and rather than allowing that to define our relationship with Him, He says, “Get back up, walk with Me… because you are my child and I delight in you!” God’s grace doesn’t circumvent consequences, and the Bible says that God disciplines those that He loves but God does those things knowing that there is nothing that we can ever do to earn our favor with Him…He simply gives it as His gift to us because of what Christ sacrificed on the cross. So, a grace based parent doesn’t subvert consequences or standards, because God doesn’t do that for us. But, a grace based parent also doesn’t lose sleep over “sin entering the camp.” We know full well that sin was already alive and well in our kids from the moment they took their first breath. And from the moment we took ours. That’s why we all need a Savior. That’s the Gospel. I mentioned that as a minister, you need to have your filters in place to sift the teaching, advice and methods that come your way, so I’ll share the filter we use at Family Matters: Is this how God parents us? If the answer to that question is no, then we shouldn’t parent our kids that way. Further, ask yourself about the motive behind the method. Is this method/advice/curriculum motivated by outside-in behavior modification and sin management, or does it focus on the inside-out transformative power of God’s grace? Something that focuses on the outside-in is doomed to failure from the start because the issue lies within our hearts and the hearts of our kids. Only God’s grace has the power to transform us from the inside out. That’s where everything has to start. I hope that sharing this perspective with other leaders at your church helps them see the folly in promoting any single method…especially one that isn’t firmly rooted in the Gospel. All is Grace, Family Matters

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