Thursday, February 18, 2010

Learning to parent...

You know this whole parenting thing is definitely an "on the job training" situation. There are so many many things that I learn about children, about myself, about love, about God and about trying to apply HIS character to my parenting style each day. or each hour even!

I am currently reading a book called Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. Every other evening when I am not at the gym, I crawl into a hot bath and read one full chapter while I soak. It has been one of the first parenting books to teach me so much in a long time. I LOVE it.

A few nights ago he pointed out something that I just can't stop thinking about, more thoroughly than I ever have before. It was a chapter on unbiblical parenting methods. He shed some new light on methods that I had just accepted as a "good idea" in the past. He challenged me as a parent to examine each method, as to whether it is Biblical or not. If my goals in raising my children are Biblical, then the method should be also. "...we must identify and reject the non-biblical approaches that vie for our attention. Biblical goals require a biblical approach--only godly methodology will bring glory to God." My deepest desire is that my parenting and furthermore, my children will bring Glory to God! This really got my attention.

Methods he said we should be careful of...

I Didn't Turn Out So Bad - not thinking through any method, simply using our parents method without thought because "I didn't turn out so bad"

Pop Psychology/Behavioral modification - psychologically motivating children, for example contracts or bribes (monetary or material rewards for exhibiting the desired behavior) *one I am guilty of using*

Emotionalism - using fear, guilt trips, separation (including time outs *guilty), humiliation

and some others.

As noted, I was convicted of my use of behavioral modifications and emotionalism. If you are like me, your defenses might be raring up right about now if you also use any of these methods. But reading the following is what drove it home for me...

In regards to Pop Psychology/Behavioral modification...
"These approaches are superficial. The point of appeal in bribery and contracts is crass self-interest. Bribery latches on to evil in the child's heart and uses it as a motivation. The child is not taught to look out for the interests of others. The child learns nothing about being under authority because God is God and the parent is his agent. The child does not learn biblical reasons for integrity, responsibility..."

"These methods will not be satisfying to a parent who understands that the heart determines behavior. Such methods do not deal biblically with the heart. They are only concerned with instances of behavior. Unfortunately, the heart is being trained, but it is not trained in biblical motives or goals."

"Since the heart and behavior are so closely linked, whatever modifies behavior inevitably trains the heart. The heart is trained to greedy self-interest and obtaining rewards. The point of appeal is to Junior's greed... your methods inevitably instruct the heart - the heart determines behavior."

and in regards to the emotionalism...
"This approach is not only cruel, but ineffective in addressing the heart biblically. [The child] is not learning to understand her behavior biblically. She is not learning to discern the specific issues of the heart that her behavior reflects. What she is learning is to avoid the emotional privation of being in the chair. Her heart is being trained, but not to know and love God. She is being trained to respond to the crippling fear of emotional privation."

and then here was my "duhhhh" moment...

"Biblical discipline addresses behavior through addressing the heart. Remember, the heart determines behavior. If you address the heart biblically, the behavior will be impacted."

yea, *nodding my head furiously in agreement* what he said!

"Changing the behavior without changing the heart trains the heart towards whatever you use as your means."

I don't even know how to further expound on that.

All I know, is in areas where I have applied the unbiblical methods talked about here, we never see any progress. One particular issue I can think of right now... picking up toys. Picking up toys has been our battle. The one area that I have the most trouble getting Hana to obey. I have tried taking away toys. I have tried setting timers and punishing if the task wasn't finished. I have tried giving away her toys. I have tried yelling and nagging. But then recently I tried a new method.

After dinner when I was cleaning up the kitchen, I ask Hana to pick up her toys. I talked about how our whole family ate this food and made the mess in the kitchen so I am cleaning it up and could she also help clean up the living room, etc. And I agreed that since Kai helped make the mess but can't help pick it up, that Mommy will help her when I am done with the kitchen. The profound result of this method were a child who is now happily cleaning up her toys when asked to, and even NOT requiring that I help take care of Kai's part!

I addressed the heart issue, laziness and a sense of unfairness. She didn't see why she had to go to the trouble to clean up her toys when she'd rather not, and she also didn't want to have to do Kai's part. But I demonstrated the behavior of taking care of our home to keep it clean and nice for all of us, and she followed the example and seems to know understand and joyfully do the task when asked. Who would have thought it would be so simple.

This book is challenging me to think more about my methods. As in anything, habits are hard to break and I'm sure I will continue to result to some method before I think about it. But I hope and pray that this little bit of wisdom can help improve the way I parent. I feel so sorry for the oldest child now, they really are the guinea pig. Kai will not have to go through some of the confusion Hana has had to endure as Mommy tries and fails in areas along the way! Ultimately though, she is in the Lord's hands and I know he will protect her heart and mind and help in remodling her in areas where I have already gone wrong (and surely will also go wrong in the future).

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