She stepped in holding this precious little package, all bundled and tender, and looked at me.
"What do we do now?"
And that began the adventure- with almost no instructions- thankfully with my mother-in-law for a few days- but make no mistake- this was ours to own up to.
I have found the Bible to offer great instructions for many things- but it is especially beneficial in its depth and balance of parenting. The universality of parental love is just another piece of many proofs to me of God's existence. Yes, sin can make it go wrong in both small and disgustingly disastrous areas- but a healthy heart yearns to love, protect, and nurture that little child.
I should have already added the category "Parenting" to the proverbs- the entire Book is dedicated as a father's instructions to a son. But there are enough parental tidbits here to spend some time on this vital area.
Let's start right at verse 1- a wise son needs to heed parental advice. This infers that we give good instruction. For better or worse- we are giving lessons to our children 24 hours a day- in word, attitude, and deed. Because of that- we know we will fail to keep the standards that we want to emulate. That is why I am always gospel focused. The gospel is a beautiful message to human beings- so prone to wandering and error.
What is the enduring instruction I want my children to know? God exists and He is good and the gospel is His greatest expression of that love. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a heartfelt mystery that we need to grab in gratitude. Yes, things like obedience and success are things we desire- but more than anything I want them to have JESUS. I want it to be real and not ritual.
All of the good instruction needs to be modeled and reinforced as our children grow.That is why we are consistently in church and a huge reason why our family made a commitment to Christian schooling. I have tried to show my wife a lot of love and hug them with a lot of tenderness. I have tried to teach them- how to read... so they can read His word. I have tried to teach them fun skills like fishing and golf so they can enjoy His world. As much as we have tried- we are short in MANY areas- my wife is MUCH better than me as a parent- but even in her exhaustive effort- our kids have sin and we have areas of neglect and issues- THAT IS WHERE THE GOSPEL comes in again and again. The heart of all of this is FORGIVENESS- how can any relationship stand without softhearted repentance, forgiveness, and restoration?
There is so much good parental standards all through Proverbs- let me step on some toes in referring to verse 7.
One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
Though I have given some decent effort at combating materialism with my children, I do think that my children have a lower tolerance for contentment in the material area than I do and it is because I have given them too much and let them have it too easily. We live better than the Kings of the ancient world and much better than most of the world. It is OK to have these things, the key is teaching and encouraging us to not be DEPENDENT on certain standards of life.
This is tough because we love giving our children good things- but I caution all of us to do it on a natural pace, be willing to say NO as a training exercise, and giving our children experience with people who have different socio-economic conditions.
As far as pace. I have had students over the years who as freshmen have been all over the world and experienced all kinds of luxuries- often with a ho hum attitude about it. As a football coach, I made special care to never allow my players to belittle a facility of a school from a poorer area. And we can all be better at being grateful for ALL God has given us- especially the little blessings.
This is the heart of this proverb- the wise man does not think it is important to play the status of wealth game. Wise wealthy people do not 'put on airs'- and the foolish so desire material things that it consumes them- even to where they pretend to have more than they do- this is where debt can creep in. The Biblical goal for parenting is contentment in all circumstances without complacency- but especially no need to compare and compete.
Now the often quoted verse 24:
Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are careful to discipline them.
This can be mis-used in a variety of ways- here is how we did it in our home.
While my children were infants, we did not restrict their eating and sleeping and comfort. I wanted them to start early in life with warmth and love and safety. When they were hungry, we fed them- when they were sleepy, we let them sleep. Until they matured a little, we did err on the side of spoilage.
At some point, you begin to see their 'will' come in. Now their stubborn will is of some benefit- it helps them fight to walk and battle to grow. But, I truly believed that I wanted to 'win' the battle of wills in love while they were very young. I taught a firm NO and when they tested it, I gave light reminders- not out of anger and very consistent.
As they became a little more sophisticated in language, we added our famous family paddle. I made it- put this Bible verse on it and showed it to my little 'Jules". I explained before there was a problem what the purpose was. It was my job to train her, this was my duty.. to love her enough to spank her when she broke the rules. The boundaries were clear: defiant disobedience and disrespect would mean a paddling. One good pop for single digits (age 4-9) and double licks when they turned 10.
I am a big believer in this type of controlled corporel punishment- it is instant and it teaches great lessons, including how to take the medicine of consequences.
Here is how I did it:
1) Firm warning- 'you are about to get a paddling'.
2) They go over the line.
3) Without anger but VERY FIRM- I make them get in position to get the lick. They will not want to do this- I just say "Do it now or I will spank you harder." The position was, laying across the bed, eyes closed (so they won't put their hand back).
4) A good suggestion- sometimes I would get them in the position- I would touch their bottom with the paddle, pause, and then not give the punishment. I would hug them and tell them I was proud they they courageously put themselves in that position. But we all know- a bluff is not good for long.
5) The pop- has to be good enough to send the signal, but it is not full speed. I had practice as a paddler because for a while I did it at our school. Right after we introduced the paddle, I had to go out of town- my wife called me after 2 days and said 'The paddle is not working". "I paddled Julie 4 times today and she is still being bad!" My response was, "Sweetie, If i had paddled Julie 4 times, she'd be in the hospital."(My wife understood this as hyperbole) and I know that sounds horrific, but the main point is: it has to make a pop and it had to sting. Only a calm and restrained back and through can make it work.
6) A lot of love afterward- hugs, tears, not words.
I have 3 girls- they are now all teenagers- I used the paddle a total of a dozen or less times total. But it works. And it is HARD to do and may not be for everyone. I think the two hardest things I did as a young parent was to hear my girls cry in their crib (at some point we put them in and made them go night-night and sat in agony as they wailed away AND having to paddle them when they are crying NO. But both produced good fuit of obedience, discipline, and we have a close relationship because it was surrounded by tenderness.
I do not recommend the paddle past 7th grade ( for girls, I'm not sure I would go past 5th grade)- you need to find creative ways to send the same message- disobedience and disrespect will cost you.
I know what I just wrote is controversial and 'out of style'- it can be mis-used and mis-managed- but I greatly believe that you must be tough enough to win control while they are young and do not let them wear you down. Husband and wife need to pray and be on the same page. But when you get a household of teens, you will be glad to have won the battle.
Finally, the foundation of love and tenderness has to be there. What hurts the most is that they have become out of fellowship with their mom and dad- love them more- but love them enough to allow pain. Positive affirmation has to be there- it needs to be more than getting on to them. Praise them 3 times more than punish them. And it is OK to overlook offenses every now and then. But do try and be consistent!
Way too much to cover in one blog journal- but should be a good discussion starter!