Having raised now two adult children and a third one just a couple of years away, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about parenting. I would never call myself an expert. In fact, I couldn’t even claim to be right about my ideas because others would probably say I’m not. And that’s okay. We have our own experiences, beliefs, values and unique personalities (both in us and our children). So it’s always with a grain of salt that I take someone else’s advice—and it’s what I hope you do with mine.
Some things just aren’t black and white when it comes to parenting. We can believe the Word of God, know it and follow it. We can certainly gain knowledge in how to raise our children. But there are some aspects to parenting that requires a lot more thought, prayer, trial and error.
One of the biggest issues I have found myself struggling with over the years is where you draw the line when it comes to raising children in the church. The line can pertain to any number of issues—such as discipline, how often you attend church, the friends your children choose, dating, dancing, television viewing habits, education and the list could go on.
Let’s face it…everyone has an opinion on these and the many other issues we deal with in parenting. I know this because I’ve read about them in books, I’ve heard about them in parenting classes and I’ve seen them lived out in the lives of other believers. So there’s no shortage of opinion or thought on these issues. But these can create a lot of confusion, guilt, jealousy and other negative feelings when a person isn’t confident in their ability to parent—not in their own ability but with and through the help of Jesus Christ.
My confidence in parenting isn’t where it should be. Yet it’s certainly not where it used to be. It has improved with time, experience and a deepening relationship with the Lord. There is much more work ahead. If I thought I got this parenting thing down, God will surely stir the waters to show me how wrong I am.
With all of that said, I feel that one of the greatest things I’ve learned as a Christian parent is that I can make the idea of serving Christ undesirable. I can make it seem like work, un-fun, dull and predictable. In fact, I would daresay this is the reason many of those outside the church won’t step foot inside one. We’re too fixated on the don’ts of serving Christ. We are wrapped up in religiosity instead of relationship. And we focus more on the outward behavior of a person rather than the inner heart.
It’s become a joke in our house how mom (that’s me) would never allow my children to watch “Scooby Doo.” My response is that they can feel free to sit inside a counselor’s office one day and tell him how horrible their childhood was because they didn’t get to watch “Scooby Doo.” Although this is now a source of humor in our home, it speaks to something deeper…how so often I would make Christianity undesirable. Now we can argue all day about whether or not I was right or wrong in not allowing my children to watch the cartoon. That’s not the point. Instead, it’s the idea that maybe in some of my parenting decisions, I really didn’t know where to draw the line.
There is nothing in the Bible that speaks specifically to a cartoon where a cast of characters solves mysteries through supernatural creatures. However, there are scriptures that can be called upon that show the dangers of engaging in the supernatural. This can leave some of us in a quandary about the handling of such an issue.
This is also true when it comes to another complaint that my children have brought up on more than one occasion—that I never allowed them to go trick or treating. Again, we can come at this with all different viewpoints and yes, we can call upon scripture. But at the same time, we can also manipulate God’s Word to fit our circumstances.
In drawing the line—however that might look for any given issue—I do believe we need to ask ourselves an important question. Am I making serving Christ more or less desirable? This doesn’t mean you question the validity of God’s Word, nor do you disobey it. And it doesn’t mean you discount prayer or discernment. What it does mean is that you consider if the issue is worth losing your child’s interest in Christianity because it’s all about rules, what you can’t and shouldn’t do.
When my children were younger, that’s how I tended to parent. As they grew older, I switched things around to more of what they could do. Hopefully I’ve taught them that being a Christian is a lot of fun and without the repercussions that can happen when it’s based on harmful or hurtful things. I’m less rigid and more grace-filled. As a result, it’s become easier to know where the line should be drawn. Even then it will sometimes differ depending on the child.
The bottom line is that I want to make serving Christ desirable. This requires that I seek Him for guidance and direction. I focus less on what others are doing and trust that He will show me the right way. We can never rely upon our own confidence or even the “wisdom” of others. Parenting isn’t a formula and there is no one model to follow. However, you will never go wrong when you it’s left in the hands of Jesus.
© 2015, Stephanie Romero