When my kids were little, I had plenty of rough days as a mom. (Parenting is hard work, amIright?)
One particular day, the behavior of my then nine-year-old son drove me to the brink. I went into the house, away from him.
“God, what does this child need from me?” I wept.
Immediately, my attention was drawn to a painting on the wall—three carousel ponies symbolizing my three sons, painted by an artist friend.
As I looked at that picture, I heard the answer to my question.
“Tight reins and lots of sugar cubes.”
I’m no horsewoman, but I got the point.
Danny needed rules and consequences, but he also needed plenty of affirmation—as did all my kids. I needed to make an adjustment so the sugar cubes were in proper proportion to the tightness of the reins.
It’s easy to drift into undesirable behavior as a parent. Sometimes we lose our cool and say regretful things. Sometimes we let things slide that we should address.
Sometimes we repeat negative patterns from our own childhood.
One helpful tool for re-calibrating our approach to child-rearing is to consider how God deals with us. He is, after all, the perfect Parent.
Here are four aspects of how our heavenly Father’s parenting can shape ours:
1. God loves unconditionally, but he doesn’t accept all behavior unconditionally. He is much wiser than we are. He knows what can harm us and what can damage the people around us.
He gives us principles by which to live, and he sets up consequences for our misbehavior. He does this not to spoil our fun, but to keep us and others safe.
Parenting principle #1: Loving your child unconditionally doesn’t mean you don’t deal with misbehavior. Good rules and consistent consequences are part of parental love.
2. God lets us ask questions, but he doesn’t obligate himself to answer our every question (especially “why.”) He understands the limits of our capacity, and he knows what we need far more than an explanation is developing trust in him.
Parenting principle #2: You can give your child a few reasons for your rules—but keeping in mind their limited capacity and natural tendency to want to argue, it’s perfectly appropriate to reply, “Because I said so.” You know better than they do.
3. God delights in every one of his children uniquely, and he shapes us according to our God-given bent. There is no favoritism with God (Galatians 2:6). Literally very single one of us is his favorite.
Parenting principle #3: Rejoice in the special nature of each one of your children. Avoid comparisons between them, especially with regard to looks, talents, and athletic abilities. Affirm each son or daughter in the way he/she best receives it.
4. God doesn’t allow us ultimate control over our lives. Just as tolerating all sorts of behavior, bending over backwards to explain himself, or showing favoritism would be a bad idea, God knows that allowing us to take the wheel would be disastrous.
He’s God, and we’re not equipped to do his job.
Parenting principle #4: Although your kids may resist it, God has given you parental authority for their protection. As they grow up, you’ll let them make more and more of their own decisions, but while they are young, kids don’t lead lots of choices–they need to learn to trust and obey.
These are just a few examples of how God parents us.
How have you “copied” him in raising your kids?