Seeing our Children With New Testament Eyes
I’m an introvert who prefers to be alone, but I also love being a husband and father. A busy family leaves little time for solitude, and with a wife and four children at home, and a team of employees in my charge at work – all right in the heart of New York city, to say I’m in over my head with relationships would be a serious understatement. I would be drowning in guilt and out of energy if I hadn’t learned one important secret.
The secret is found in the Gospel story… actually, it IS the Gospel story. The way God relates to us is the only example we need to completely transform every relationship in our life.
So, what’s the secret?
People, even little people, naturally follow others who know them and are invested in helping them work out life’s circumstances.
After thousands of years laying out the rules and consequences, God proved the type of creatures we are: We are hopelessly incapable of trusting external wisdom, even if it’s from the God of the universe! Then, in a master play to capture our hearts and win our devotion, He sends His Son to live life in our shoes (to fully understand us) and then takes upon himself our sin, laying His life down for ours (unequivocally proving his investment in our well being).
This isn’t new to us. As Christians we relish God’s Mercy and Grace, in Christ coming to dwell with us. And I’m sure that none of us long for the good old days of the Old Testament system.
So why do we parent like Old Testament parents? Why are we so quick to accept the way God leads us in relationship and by faith, but so often turn around and give our children something so prescriptive? How can we train their hearts and reach them? More importantly, how can we turn our hearts to our children and adopt a Gospel centered parenting style – even in the midst of our busy lives?
Here are three habits that have been helpful for our family that might be helpful for you. They are small acts that can reset the patterns for how you relate and offer tangible grace. The focus is simply on making time to listen you your kids and showing you care about what is important to them.
1. Kid Conferences
Schedule a 1-1 date time with each kid at least once a month. This is a time for you to listen. Draw out their feelings with questions like, “what’s the first thing you thought about when you woke up this morning?”, or “what’s one thing I could be doing better as your mom/dad?”.
2. Kids Day Off
For a whole day, try not to ask anything of your kids. Don’t ask your kids to clean anything or pick anything up. Instead, calmly do it for them. Don’t ask them to bring you things from the other room. When you let your kids breathe and take some weight off them, even for a day, you might be surprised how much more relaxed and willing to share with you they are.
3. Look Before You Ask
Every time you want to ask one of your children to do something, try to first look at what they are doing and say something that shows you see them and care about what they are working on.
For example: Let’s say you want your daughter to clear the table for dinner, but you look over and notice she has made a huge mess – she is sitting there with dozens of pieces of paper and hundreds of crayons strewn every which way! Before you say a word, stopy yourself, and take a look at what she is doing. Instead of showing your frustration or focusing on just the task, ask something like, “Oh wow, that’s a beautiful picture, what is it?” After they answer, then move to asking what you wanted to. “Can you please move your beautiful picture so you can help me set the table?”
Simply observing first and listening well is such a good habit to be in with everyone in your life. It’s probably the simplest and most effective way to continually communicate your interest and win people’s hearts. Try it at work (or with your spouse) and you’ll be amazed what a difference it can make!
In the midst of the coming Christmas busyness, let’s all take a little time to stop and really see our children with New Testament eyes. Let them know that we know them and love them, and want to come alongside them to help navigate this messy world, in the same way our Savior came to do for us.
Wow! Thank you so much for a different perspective. I want to raise Godly children, but I also need to be sensitive to the fact that they are human too. All they want to do is please me and make me proud. I as an adult wants an occasional day off so why not them. They work hard everyday just like I do. Thanks again so much.
Thanks Kristy! It’s amazing how hard it is to keep our eyes open to the people we are closest too 🙂
This is such a fantastic post! I have read it a couple of times now. Have you read “Gospel Powered Parenting” by William Farley? It focuses on the same concept. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks! I haven’t read that book, but I will definitely have to go check it out!
Thank you for this article. I agree with you, but my husband, who is the stepfather of my 3 almost grown daughters, does not. He does not seem to believe in parenting with grace, because it will spoil children and teach them to be lazy and ungrateful. He believes in making them work hard and suffer consequences for anything that they do wrong, even if we have to invent consequences to make them understand they did wrong. Even things that aren’t a moral issue…he has a hard opinion about everything and how it should all be done. It has caused a huge rift between us, and he does not impose his discipline on them, but he makes it an almost daily issue about how I won’t follow him as head of the home. We manage day to day, but the weight of this difference between us is a sadness that I carry, and I know it hurts him too. Through much prayer and God’s goodness, we have come a long way, but still so far to go. I know this may never be reconciled, but I will continue to pray it will not always be between us. Any advice?
Thanks so much for sharing about your family… it’s so good to know what other people are thinking through in their own families. It sounds to me like you have a very normal family. It’s very common to have different parenting preferences than your husband/wife. Sometimes I think we spend too much time and worrying on trying to get on exactly the same page with our spouse. Ideally you want to get to a place where both styles of parenting can coexist peacefully. I feel like sometimes the biggest step you can take is to acknowledge your differences, then find ways to apply your different styles without contradicting each other.
I probably should have made it a little more clear in the post, but I am not promoting that we get away from giving our kids rules and consequences. It is important for us to train our children to be fully responsible grown humans who can pull their own weight and stand on their own two feet. That said, our kids minds are going a millions miles an hour and most of the time they are literally in their own world. Remembering that helps us understand that simply commanding their attention whenever and however we want it doesn’t really work. And when we do command their attention it usually just makes us seem like rude and disrespectful people. Just like us, our kids have thriving internal thought lives and the world you see with your eyes is not the whole picture. This is the basis for the Look Before You Ask idea I mentioned in the article – train yourself to see the whole picture, then engage with your child with that full knowledge of what’s going on. It’s also a big part of the 1-1 Kid Conferences where the whole point of your time with them is to say, “Enough about me, what’s going on in your head? What’s hard or good or confusing about life for you right now?” and then, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
It’s not about rules/consequences vs. grace. It’s about plowing the ground of our children’s hearts so the seeds of good habits and responsible gospel-centered living can take root!
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