Parenting with God's Voice

Parenting is a tough job. Kids don't come with a manual, an instruction guide, or even a short list of bullet points. And if you have more than one, parenting each one of them is as different as they are. Finally you find something that works great for a few months, and then it doesn't. Your toddler has finally overcome the biting phase only to enter a new one with tantrums. You manage at last to nail down a routine for the summer and school is mere days away. There are many opportunities to fail, and succeed, daily as a parent.

I've seen this list {pictured above} floating around Facebook recently, and it's a very good reminder about which thoughts to pay attention to and which to disregard. It's so easy to get caught up in thought patterns that are negative and unproductive. What struck me about this list, however, wasn't that obvious message: I saw instead, with a heavy heart, how often I parent with Satan's voice. It comes out in my tone, in a poor choice of words, in nagging, in harping on them, and I even see it in how they speak to each other. How they respond to me. And they learn that from...ME.

God is our heavenly Father, and I've often wondered as I've read through the Bible what it would look like to parent like God. He has many characteristics that we should strive for as parents: abounding in love, slow to anger, gracious, compassionate, just, righteous, disciplines those He loves. I think the list describing God's Voice showcases those characteristics in how He chooses to communicate with us, and the same could be true of how we parent our children.  

Instead of rushing your children:
Come on! Hurry up! We're going to be late! Let's go! Get a move on! We've GOTTA GO!!! 

Still them
  • Allow extra time to get out the door, especially when school starts in a couple weeks. I know, at least for us, that getting out the door to school is a hectic "rushed" time. And you know what, if you happen to be late, it's not the end of the world {I know some would disagree with that, though}. 
  • Don't jam pack the schedule so full during the school year that you are literally running from one thing to the next, as if you have a part time job as a taxi driver. Let some extracurricular activities go, miss a practice, only allow one activity at a time, and {gasp} don't go to every single Wednesday night church event.
  • Take a few minutes to read this article and make a point to eliminate the "hurry" in your life.

Instead of pushing your children:
You must get straight A's. You need to be more like ______. The crazy screaming parent at the game.

Lead them
  • Pay attention and notice their areas of talent, interest, and strength. Encourage them in those areas and present them with appropriate opportunities for growth and fine-tuning of those abilities. 
  • Help them persevere in an activity while keeping an open mind. They may need to finish the season, but they don't have to be committed to something for life. 
  • Understand that not every child is good at school, music, sports, or art. That's ok. Let them be who God created them to be, not who you want them to be. 

Instead of frightening your children:
Yelling, screaming, and fighting in front of them. Condoning abuse. Allowing them to watch mature content on TV or play violent video games. Threatening them.

Reassure them
  • With this one, it's not always the parent doing the frightening but allowing the child to be frightened. If there is a toxic situation in the home, however, such as domestic violence, abuse, or fighting, that is very frightening to a child and needs to be resolved immediately.
  • Children thrive when they feel secure and loved. Set up healthy communication patterns and make sure they feel comfortable talking to you about the hard things. They need to know that you will always be on their side and that they can trust you.
  • Put age-appropriate boundaries on what they see and hear, from the news, on TV, video games, or otherwise. They can't unhear or unsee things, so once the damage is done it's done. Kids are growing up so fast these days--don't hurry them into losing their innocence.

Instead of confusing your children:
Inconsistent consequences. Not keeping promises. Expecting them to do as you say but not as you do.

Enlighten them
  • To enlighten is to give intellectual or spiritual light to, to instruct or impart knowledge to. 
  • Teach them how to live. Most of what they learn from you will be imparted by watching how YOU live and doing the same, so be the person you want them to be.
  • Decide what is important in life and make sure that is a priority in your schedule, both personally and as a family. 
  • Be consistent with consequences, even when it's difficult.

Instead of discouraging your children:
Name calling. Hostile correction. Lecturing. Nagging. Belittling. Constantly pointing out weaknesses or failures.

Encourage them
  • Praise them appropriately. Notice when they succeed or display praiseworthy characteristics, like kindness, empathy, service, compassion, or mercy. 
  • Be creative with your encouragement: write notes, surprise them, reward good behavior. Make sure your encouraging words are more plentiful than correction. 
  • Discourage name calling and negative talk by implementing a consequence across the board, like a "potty mouth" jar, where everyone needs to put in a quarter/offense.

Instead of worrying your children:
Privying them to information {financially or otherwise} beyond their scope as children. Not being there for them when they need you. Reacting and being unpredictable emotionally.

Comfort them
  • Let kids be kids. Don't bring them in on your adult concerns until they are mature enough to handle the information.
  • Model trust in The Lord and pray together as a family about their worries. Keep a journal to record when God's answers to their prayers. 
  • Foster a loving environment of openness in the home & make sure they know that they can talk to you about anything. They need to know that you are always on their side, and whatever comes along in life you will face it together.
  • Be on time to pick them up and show up for them when they need you. 

Instead of obsessing your children:
Putting too much pressure on them to succeed in a certain area. Making your love conditional. Modeling obsession. Idols.

Calm them
  • Everything in moderation, including food, media, sports, and anything else. 
  • Just as God loves us, make sure that they know that you love them just because they are your children. They don't have to be anything or do anything more to earn your love. 
  • Sow a spirit of calmness in the home by responding instead of reacting, speaking gently, and calmly enforcing consequences.

Instead of condemning your children:
Heaping guilt on their habitual sin. Harsh correction. Scolding. Shaming. Making them feel like they can't do anything right.

Convict them
  • Only The Lord can get ahold of their heart & convict them, but you can assist in that process by praying with them and encouraging them to ask for forgiveness. 
  • Focus more on the heart issue behind the behavior than the behavior itself. There's a reason for every behavior: figure out what's in their heart. True heart change will produce a change in behavior.
  • PRAY for your children daily. Ask God to help them become the person He's created them to be and to do what He's called them to do. 

Well, I don't know about you, but reading over this list is incredibly convicting for me... I would love to parent with God's voice, but I know I can't do it on my own. God loves all of us with an unconditional, sacrificial love, and out of overflow of His heart His mouth speaks. We need to ask God daily for the ability to see and love our children the way He does, and the more we allow God to change our hearts, the more we will be able to parent with His Voice.

Which ones do you struggle with most as a parent? For me, it's rushing & condemning.

What has helped you to parent with God's Voice?