Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Raising 'good' kids

1 Thessalonians 5:12-24 (NIV)

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
I don’t have a parenting philosophy. I know other people do, because I’ve heard it mentioned, usually in the context of a Christian small group, or perhaps just online or in casual conversation. Usually the two parents have spent many hours thinking about what kind of children they want to raise. They have snappy mission statements, seemingly borrowed from the corporate world where every product or company is branded so you know what you’re getting just by seeing the logo.

There are buzzwords, like attachment parenting or grace-based parenting. There are people who focus on how they intend to relate to their offspring (“We want to empower our children”) and others who focus on the end result (“Our children will grow up to be good stewards of their resources”). But for as much thought as I’ve put into what it means to be a dad, I’ve never really come up with anything more specific than, “I want to raise good kids.”

I now realize I have adopted something of a parenting mission, calling it as such and throwing it on the side of the blog: “Encourage. Comfort. Urge them to live lives worthy of God.” And while I still agree that should be my goal, I’m going to cut myself some slack for not having it committed to memory yet because I only came across that a few days ago. It’s from three chapters before the section I’m writing about today, and that makes sense to me because Paul’s words at the end of this letter strike a similar note.

The writing is simple, clear and direct. Live in peace with each other. Be patient (I am not great with this one). Two wrongs don’t make a right. Do what is good for each other. Rejoice always. Reject evil. And so on.

The more I read things like this, the more I realize these are the essential kinds of behaviors I hope to see my children develop. It’s what I mean when I say I want “good kids.” And as I read today’s selection from Matthew (Matthew 6:19-24; the “treasures in heaven” passage), I was kind of struck with the obvious: it is not enough to just try to teach my kids to become this kind of person. First, I must become this type of person myself. I must set an example of the kind of life I want them to live, because it’s going to be pretty hard to expect them to carry themselves in a way I clearly can’t or won’t.

And since I know I won’t be perfect, I must allow them to see me deal with failure — because they won’t be perfect either. This is why you apologize to your kids when you lose your temper, or why you treat your wife with the same respect you expect your son to afford his brother.

The more I go through this project, the more I realize the lessons I am learning are for me and my character. If that spills over into making me a better parent, that’s all the better.

A prayer for May 9:

Lord, please help me to be the father my children need, and help me remember that starts with becoming the person you want me to be. Thank you for these words of Scripture today, giving me a blueprint to follow for connecting with others. I am sorry I do not always live up to these ideals, and I consider it a blessing that you do not turn from me when I fall short. May I wake tomorrow with a chance to do my best, the will to pursue it and the strength to follow through.

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