Parent Through Grace And Faith

Romans 4:13-16:
“For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

I often see Scripture applying to the parent-child relationship where most would not.

For example, this Scripture clearly states that living by grace and faith is what we ought to do as Christians because merely living by the Law brings wrath and voids faith. We all know that the reason Jesus came to die on the cross was to allow us to have an easier way to access God.  People cannot successfully keep the Law of Moses. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we now have grace and can live by faith in Jesus.

So, how come so many Christian parents tend to make their children live by the Law which brings about wrath?

Parenting by the Law means that parents set up rules by which their children cannot abide such as expecting a toddler or preschooler to sit quietly through an hour long church service. This is completely developmentally inappropriate for young children. Then when the child inevitably breaks this arbitrary rule, the child gets spanked/hit or otherwise punished by the parent. The Law brought wrath upon the child. The parent’s and child’s faith are void because neither is trusting God in that moment even if the parents think they are doing as God commands by punishing the child.

Therefore, when a parent spanks/hits a child, he/she is parenting under the Law and acts as a judge. The child commits an offense, the parent tries the child and decides a spanking is necessary, the parent doles out the punishment, then the child is free to go on since he/she paid the price.

Only, as Christians, the Law is no longer binding. If we want children to learn the grace, peace, love, and mercy of the Law of Christ, why do we parent under the Law of Moses?

We are supposed to be living by grace and faith. 
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Living and parenting by faith means we get to know Jesus and follow His example in our parenting. He set realistic limits for His disciples and gently corrected them.

We also need to understand child development in order to set realistic limits for our children. For example, instead of expecting toddlers or preschoolers to sit quietly through a church service, we either worship at home with them, bring crayons and let them color as we sit in the back of the sanctuary in case they need to leave, or allow them to go to children’s church.

Grace doesn’t punish. It doesn’t nullify faith. Grace sets appropriate limits and allows natural consequences when appropriate. 

Let us parent our children through faith and grace.

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What Is REALLY Wrong With Today’s Youth?

Believe it or not, every generation complains about “today’s youth” being “out of control.”  But, what drives me nuts about this is that many people claim that the reason children are “out of control” is due to a lack of spanking/hitting children.

The reality is that between 70-90% of parents still admit to spanking/hitting their children. Obviously, corporal punishment isn’t helping at all. And since there are a huge array of harmful effects of corporal punishment, it will never help children to be more respectful.

I believe that in addition to children being treated harshly there is another huge reason why today’s society and youth seem so disconnected. Technology!

Yes, I said it, technology is one of the reasons why our society is so disconnected.  The very thing that is supposed to keep us more connected is actually tearing apart human interaction.  Go to any public place and observe the people.  I can guarantee that the majority of the people are looking down at a screen instead of interacting with each other.  Couples at a restruarant text or update their Facebook statuses instead of talking to each other.

What is even sadder is that I recently heard on the radio that children are getting hurt more often at playgrounds because their parents are too busy staring at their phones to even hear their children calling for help.

Here is an interesting study from an Exchange Everyday email:

“‘A new Chinese ad campaign illustrates the way smartphones can affect family life and relationship,’ reports The Huffington Post “Titled Phone Wall,” the campaign by Ogilvy & Mather China is a literal representation of the barriers to human relationships that screen addiction creates.’

Juggi Ramakrishnan, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai, told The Huffington Post, ‘We want people to see [these ads] and rethink their relationships with others and their phone in a different light. This is a definite pressure point that Chinese society is facing on its path of rapid development.’

‘This pervasiveness has the potential to be especially detrimental to families with kids,’ says Ramakrishnan. ‘There is an alarming trend of parents ignoring their children of all ages, paying more attention to their phones and tablets than their immediate surroundings. Consequently, children may feel they aren’t getting the attention they need…. Addiction to mobile devices can put a strain on romantic relationships as well, as partners may become less responsive to each other’s feelings and have fewer meaningful interactions.'”

This addiction to technology starts way too young in this society.  There are now bouncy seats for infants that hold iPads for the infant.  I’m sorry but as an early childhood professional, this really disturbs me.  Infants and young children need lots of human interaction as well as using real toys such as balls, blocks, plastic dishes, dolls, trucks, cars, musical toys, push toys.  Manipulating concrete items and having real experiences are absolutely crucial to healthy development.  By giving an infant an iPad, the infant is going to be more interested in the iPad as a whole because their brains don’t truly understand what’s actually happening on the screen.  Too much screen time can actually hinder development.  A toddler should be able to do a range of fine motor activities, not just swipe on an iPad or phone!

Also, infants absorb and are affected by everything in their environments. It’s much better for a baby’s brain development to have music playing in the background rather than a TV.  Another thing is that we are almost constantly exposed to violence thanks to the media. This is desensitizing us to violence and so many other disturbing things.  Besides sex, violence is a common theme in our movies, television shows, music, and videogames. Plus, the news is constantly reporting acts of violence. We are so much more aware of violence whereas prior to when media was so prevalent people were not as exposed to or aware of the violence that was occurring and they could shelter themselves and their children from it because there was no television or Internet.

Children didn’t watch cartoons or play videogames filled with violent images like they do today. Because so many parents have to work full-time in order to survive today, children are being left alone with all this access to violent media with little guidance from busy, stressed out parents. Research shows that all of this exposure to violence is desensitizing children and adults to violence. Greven (1992), page 129, states:

“Research has demonstrated that television must be considered one of the major socializers of children’s aggressive behavior. Two major behavioral effects of heavy viewing of televised violence are: (1) an increase in children’s level of aggression; and (2) an increase in children’s passive acceptance of the use of aggression by others. Both aggression and apathy thus are intensified by an immersion in television violence although the roots of both undoubtedly are to be found in the life histories of punishment and abuse of those who view such violence with either indifference or enthusiasm.”

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All this being said, I do understand that there is a time and a place for technology. If a parent or relative is far away, using Skype or FaceTime to help them see the child is perfectly fine. And once children become preschoolers, it’s ok to slowly introduce them to technology.

It’s just important to naturally limit technology by having plenty of other activities for children to do. This way, too, by not putting much focus on technology, we can avoid power struggles when it’s time for them to put it away.  Always allow children to finish the game they’re playing or show/movie they’re watching before having them move on. I love this article by Janet Lansbury regarding introducing and limiting technology with toddlers.  We need to be present while our children are using technology to protect them from all the evil things and people lurking on the Internet.

And, of course, technology is a must for children with special needs/disabilities. With my severe cerebral palsy, technology allows me to write and communicate with others whereas I otherwise would be unable to do so.  Amateur radio is another great use of technology. It allows people to talk to each other over the airways.

In sum, technology definitely has valid uses. However, we need to stop allowing it to consume our lives.  We need to be totally present with our children and intentionally interact with them throughout the day. Children should not have to compete with technology for our attention. Technology cannot substitute actual parenting. Nor is it fair to only interact with our children to spank/hit or otherwise punish them.

Do you want children to be kind, empathetic, and not self-entitled?  Put down your phones, tablets, laptops, and other consumer electronics and model how to interact with people. Talk with your children. Let them see you actually watching them play.  Stop spanking/hitting them and discipline (teach and guide) them.  If you are a Christian, make Jesus the focus of your home rather than technology.

Reference:

Greven, P. (1992). Spare the Child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

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Are Children Truly Selfish?

Many people, especially Christians, think that young children’s incapability to always share or to not be able to put themselves in other’s shoes or to need what they need is selfishness. They think this is children’s “flesh” and “sinful nature” taking over. It is not sin or selfishness at all.

It’s a developmental stage that young children go through. Only much older children and adults are truly able to be selfish. We have impulse control. We should have empathy. Children don’t. They’re learning.

Infants and toddlers are very aware of their parents’ emotions from birth and are affected by them, but this does not mean that infants and toddlers can empathize with the parents.
Young children from birth until somewhere around the age of four or five years are what Jean Piaget calls egocentric. Again, this is not due to their “sinful nature” and it does not mean that young children are evil. God designed children exactly how they are. There’s a reason He made young children egocentric, probably for survival in this harsh, sinful world.

As we teach children empathy by modeling it to them as well as pointing out how their behaviors–both positive and negative–affect others, children begin to learn how to be empathetic.  We need to teach them how to be gentle and respectful to others by being gentle and respectful to them.

Punishing them will always hinder their learning of selflessness.

Unfortunately, parents who use fear and punishment to make their children obey them are actually teaching their children to be selfish as the child is not thinking about doing something for another person but rather protecting him/herself from punishment. We should not be teaching our children to only do things to avoid punishment, as the Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

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I’ve dealt with many pro-spankers, and the way some of them dismiss the painful experiences a great deal of people have had with being hit by their parents is selfish.  The way pro-spankers automatically assume that their children will “survive” just because they feel they did is selfish.

In essence, spanking/hitting makes many selfish because it leads to worldly sorrow and a sense of self preservation instead of godly sorrow.

So, what is godly sorrow and worldly sorrow?

In 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, it states:

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

What the Apostle Paul is saying here is that godly sorrow makes us think beyond ourselves to how our actions have hurt or affected other people and our relationship with God. We look past whatever consequences our actions caused us and want to do everything in our power to repent and seek forgiveness from God and the person we have hurt. This is why Paul says that godly sorrow brings life as we seek to be forgiven.

On the other hand, worldly sorrow brings death according to what Paul says in this verse. Due to fear of punishment as well as guilt, people of all ages will focus on the consequences that are happening to them because of their actions rather than how they’ve hurt God and the other person. This is worldly sorrow. Being afraid of punishment and rejection causes worldly sorrow. Also, feeling so guilty and bad about oneself that one feels that he/she deserves whatever punishment he/she has coming to him/her leads to worldly sorrow.

We need to do our best to use discipline instead of punishment so that our children don’t become selfish people who believe that it is perfectly acceptable to inflict pain on others.

No, young children are not selfish, but we sure can be!

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Knowledge Does NOT Equal Understanding

I watched this video called, “The Backwards Brain Bicycle.” In this video, a guy has to re-learn how to ride a bike that was built exactly opposite of how typical bikes are built. He was totally taken aback by how difficult and how long it took him to learn how to ride this bike. He had been riding bikes for over 20 years. Finally, he gets the hang of the bike, but then, when getting back on a normal bike, he finds that it takes him a bit to be able to ride it again.

Interestingly, his young son was able to learn to ride a backwards bicycle in just a couple of weeks, thus, showing that young children’s brains have far more plasticity than our adult brains do.

What really hit me with this video is when the guy says, “Knowledge does not equal understanding.”  He had plenty of knowledge on bike riding, but make a change to the bike and all that knowledge went right out the window because he just had knowledge without a true understanding of bikes.

All of this got me thinking that the Church today may have a lot of knowledge, but not a lot of understanding. They can memorize Scripture, but do they truly understand the Scripture?  I mean, I’ve memorized Scripture as a young Christian because that was the thing to do. However, it never really touched my heart until God revealed Himself to me through particular verses. I may not have exact verses memorized anymore, but I can come up with them when needed because it’s the meaning of Scripture that matters more than just rote recall.

I think when teaching children Scripture, our focus should not be on rote memorization.  It should be on getting them to truly understand Scripture.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about being able to truly understand Scripture and, ultimately, the true character of God.

“And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven'” (Mark 4:11-12, ESV).

“And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cornithians 2:13, ESV).

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6, ESV).

*Note: I know Hosea says knowledge but I think it can also mean understanding as God’s people knew Him and His laws, yet they still turned from Him.

“And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, ‘Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear'” (Matthew 13:3-9, NASB).

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25, NASB).

Also, many people seem to believe that they know a lot about children.  Some of these people are called Christian child-rearing “experts.”  These “experts” claim that all “misbehaviors” stem from children’s “sinful nature” or “defiance” and must be dealt with swiftly through spanking/hitting the children and the use of other harsh punishments. They clearly do not understand child development!

Understanding child development is crucial to disciplining children appropriately. When we see that God actually created children to go through each developmental stage, we can figure out kinder, more merciful ways of guiding them through each stage. The Bible says that children are blessings from God in Psalm 127:3.  Jesus says we are to be like children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 18. Jesus raised the status of children.

We must take time to truly understand Scripture, the true character of God, and our children in order to effectively live our lives as Christ-like as possible.  Knowledge may be power. But I believe understanding is where the true power lies!

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Born Sinful?

I believe the doctrine of original sin is man made like the doctrine of spanking is man made.

God created children to go through each developmental stage. Babies cry to communicate. Toddlers test boundaries and lack impulse control. Young children do not set out to sin until they are older.

God does not call children sinners. The way we view children is how they will behave. Many Christians seem to view children as “sinners” and “manipulative.” That’s Dobson’s view too as he calls them horrible degrading names in his books. This sets up an adversarial parent-child relationship.

Interestingly, God calls children blessings in Psalm 127:3. I view children as little people in need of help, guidance, and discipline (teaching).

When the focus is on cooperation instead of control, children cooperate. Children do better when we view them as God does. Young children are not capable of truly understanding sin. They even have a special knowledge of Who God is according to Matthew 25:11.

I do believe Jesus cried as a baby and screamed as a toddler because these are developmental behaviors. James 4:17 states, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” This can only apply to older children and adults who truly understand sin. “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it” (Deuteronomy 1:39).

God clearly says young children do not know right from wrong. It’s up to us to gently teach and guide them through each developmental stage.

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