The Problem with Parenting Advice (plus … a bit of advice)
It’s gotten a lot of attention lately; the formula commercial where moms and dads with differing parenting strategies mock and trash talk one another on the playground until someone’s baby carriage goes careening down a nearby hill with baby inside, whereupon all the previously warring factions run to rescue baby from a watery end. Suddenly it’s kum-ba-ya time, as all the moms and dads pat one another on the shoulders and we’re finally reminded, “we’re all parents first.” The commercial may not have convinced anyone to buy Similac, but over seven and a half million views later, it’s certainly started more than a few conversations about parenting decisions and the fallout that can occur when we judge one another—often, children are the unintended losers.
My own experience with the supposed “mommy wars” hasn’t been quite so dramatic. Coming into motherhood as an anxious twenty-something, determined to do everything just right, meant I devoured every book I could get my hands on. I was especially pulled in by those whose authors loved God and wanted to let me know just how He wanted me to approach parenting.
There was only one problem … well, okay; maybe two:
First of all, my babies didn’t read any of those books. Neither did my toddlers, elementary-aged children, or teenagers.
Second of all, the books hadn’t read my children. In other words, the authors wrote about what they’d learned in parenting their own kids. But they hadn’t had any training, insight, research, or Holy Spirit-granted guidance about mine.
Here’s the thing: God wants me to get my parenting advice from Him. He didn’t write a book detailing specific God-approved parenting practices, advice on diapering, vaccines, education, or any of the zillions of things I wish He had written down somewhere.
On the other hand, He did write a book detailing HIM and His interactions with His people. And from that book I can draw some pretty major inferences about the way He wants me to relate to the people He’s put into my charge.
He made a beautiful world for me; I can find ways to incorporate beauty into my home.
He reached out and sought after people by name. I can look my loved ones in the eyes and let them know how much I want to spend time with them.
He created chili peppers and chocolate, cream and cashews, bananas and berries. I can craft meals that delight our palates and invite my children to join me around the table.
He taught His disciples faithfully, living with them day and night, opening the Scriptures with them, teaching them to pray. These things, too, are my privilege and responsibility.
The children He has given my husband and I are our particular charge. Each one is a unique creation, with gifts and good works which God has prepared for them. Each is a magnificent bundle of strengths and weaknesses, features and failings, and no other parent on earth will ever deal with the exact same combination we are dealing with.
And so I’m required not to simply research the issues and then choose which side to fight on. I’m required to do something much more difficult and yet also much simpler: to walk with God, seeing each new choice that presents itself as a chance to ask Him what He would have me to do, this time, in this situation, with this child. I am guided by the principles He has demonstrated, and His word will never fail, nor will His Spirit neglect to instruct me when I ask for wisdom.
So here’s my advice: refuse to be put in some simplistic parenting box, and refuse to judge people who are doing things differently than you.
Consider yourself free to follow the Good Shepherd, and encourage others around you to do the same. And if you find yourself on a playground somewhere in the midst of warring moms and dads? Keep an eye on the babies.
That’s what Jesus would do.
This is a much needed post in this sheep-friendly world we live. Thanks for reminding us to seek God first, use others for ideas and counsel, and move into the life God gave us, complete with all it’s idiosyncrasies.
Thank you, Terry! Yep, we need to refuse the boxes and listen to what God’s saying to each one of us. 🙂
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