Grace-Full Parenting

This was taken from a blog post I wrote recently on my "mommie blog"...I thought I'd share it here.
The Hands of God...Seriously!


This post took a direction I didn't start out for. When I sat down to write it I thought I was going to discuss the culture and Mommy guilt. But I ended up asking some questions I didn't expect to. I don't claim to be very experienced with all of this. I've only been a Mom for a couple of years. But I've "sat at the feet" (in a manner) of some very wise Mother's and some of this is what I've gleaned. And some just God's been pouring into my heart. I feel like after writing this (processing almost two years of things I've been learning)I have a better understanding of my job as a parent. May you be blessed by reading of the scriptures shared...They absolutely blessed me!
I was laying awake last night. And I was thinking about my life as a mother. I was thinking about how much failure I felt when I had my first. The unexpected C/S, the breastfeeding issues (we over came!), and then a very high needs baby.
My baby didn't do what babies were "supposed to" do. At least from what *I* understood of babies. She didn't sleep well (45min stretches there for a few months), she was very sensitive, sounds made her cry, new things made her cry, change made her cry. She was not a friendly smiley baby. She often scowled at strangers and screamed if they touched her. She didn't want to be left but she didn't want to be cuddled. She would squirm and scream when she was kissed and played with...She had to be in just the right mood for those kinds of games and only VERY briefly. The only time she liked snuggles and touches was when she was being nursed. Looking back I can see how hurt I felt by her stand offishness. I thought babies were supposed to love their Mommie's. To melt into a puddle in your arms and love you. I loved her even if she wouldn't "love" me back. I weathered through that first year, I snuggled her when she'd let me. I soaked up every smile and giggle! Because they did happen, just not as often as I thought they would. And she loved the closeness of nursing, and it felt like constant nursing, so I took the kind of snuggles I could get.
When she was 11months old I found out I was pregnant again. That pregnancy was a journey for me (Ri slowly weaned over 38 weeks of the pregnancy), we learned new ways to connect she became an extremely cuddly lovable toddler. One who would give kisses and loves to be tickled and snuggled (but still for just so long and on her terms). She still scowls at strangers in this adorable way, while she buries her face into me saying, "I bein sy".
My Question ...My Point
What was circling my head early this morning was, why did I feel like a "bad" Mom because I didn't have a "good" baby? The logic is ridiculous. I have no more control, despite my best efforts, over what she liked, how she slept, how she played and how often she needed to eat than I do over her ...her bladder!
Why does our culture focus on these issues? And view any baby who doesn't fit the mold in a negative way? I can't count how many times I was asked "how is she sleeping?" or "oh is she a good baby? Is she sleeping through the night?" by people I barely knew. I wanted to sask "Why do you care? Why is that a sign of moral standing for my infant?". A better question to ask new Mom's would be, "Are you getting enough rest? Do you need help with any thing?" ...Which I suppose that some of the people were trying to ask in their kinda skewed way.
Why the focus on these issues? Maybe it's the rampant teaching that "discipline starts at birth". And you have to control every thing and "keep your baby in line", or your baby will grow to be a child who rules you.

That's a lie, well the second part is.

But yes, discipline does start at birth,

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast

(Psalm 22:9)

Important Fact Of Life..
We can't learn every thing we need for life unless we trust. We can't grow up confident and able to stand up in the world and what it throws at us unless we feel secure. Teaching a baby that you are always there is discipline. If we ignore this fact we run the risk of emotionally handicapping our children for life.

So What Did Jesus Really Say..?
Jesus didn't teach control. And all through the New Testament He talks about how we should treat people. Babies are learning what the world is about. And we as their parents are the hands of God, their first taste of who He is.
What is Actually Emphasized?
I've read quite a few parenting books from many different kinds of authors, all the ones on discipline seem to focus on these verses:
Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it

Prov 22:6

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.Prov 19:24
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Prov 22:15

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.Prov 23:13

(Some Background On "The Rod")
If you go through Strong's Concordance and look up the Hebrew words for "rod" and "discipline" and even "child" in each of those verses (and they are different Hebrew words for each in the different verses), you will find some surprising things! I think some time I will go through all that and explain it in a blog post. But briefly. 1) You can't make a doctrine (on discipline or any thing else) on a verse or two. You have to take the Bible as package. 2) Proverbs is a book of word pictures and ideas. "The Rod" is generally a word picture of authority. And the times it's used in correlation with beating a child the the word "child" (specifically in Prov 23:13) is actually the word for youth (around 13-15 years old). In Prov 23:13 the verse is talking about when you have a teen who is out of control and is going to be stoned for his folly. Beat him with a rod and save his life! Be the parent before the rest of the tribe has to do the work. Harsh, yes. But that was life back then. That was life under The Law.

So that's just the brief explanation of that issue... More later. I do want to emphasize, this is not about spanking or not spanking. The point is, what does the Bible really say as a whole in how we treat people (and children by extension)? And what does the current "mainstream" Christian view of parenting reflect to the world? Does it reflect Christ? Not from many of the Christian parenting books I've read, and sermons I've heard. From what I've heard from people looking in from the outside? It looks pretty screwed up.
Parenting Verses to Live By...
Let's take a look at some other passages that could also be applied to parenting. Children, babies, they are "others", they are people. If we are followers of Christ why are we not teaching THIS when it comes to our children. How does God lead us? How would we react if He was physically walking through life with us and constantly rebuking and hitting us into submission??
I don't think we'd like Him very much...We'd love Him from duty and fear. Not because He is a gentle, wise and gracious Heavenly Father.

So here is a look at the Father heart of God...
This is the God we love, and this is how He has called us to live with our children...

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. John 13:14

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal 5:22-23
Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Rom 5:20

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thess 5:14 (emphasis mine)

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them
Hosea 11:1-4

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:7,8

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matt 5:9

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin...
Heb 4:15

Every high priest is selected from among men and is ... able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. Heb 5:1-2

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently, But watch yourself or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children--
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Psalm 103:8-14, 17-18

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."
Jeremiah 31:3

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.Ephesian1:7

(Thank you to the GCM for all the resources! And to the Mama's who shared their favorite verses recently, what a blessing!!!)

I love these verses, I love how they can be applied to every aspect of life. In marriage, in parenting in friendships.
"But What about the God of Judgement?"
You ask... Well yes, God does have some hard correction for the people of Israel through out the OT. He is the same God in the OT as the NT. But in the NT He sent His only Son to redeem His people, and then the Gentiles (anyone who is not Jewish)...Jesus died on a cross, faced hell and all the punishment we deserve, and then overcame death and lived again!
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.Isaiah 53:5

So why do we continue to punish our children for their sins. Instead of leading them to the throne of Grace? Isn't that really our job? Discipline has it's roots in the word "disciple", which essentially is living and working with some one. Modeling and showing them how to live- that's how Jesus did it. He was always gentle in His correction of his followers. Just read the interaction with his disciples, so patient so compassionate! I think we go astray when we assume kids know (and always remember) what is appropriate. It takes time to teach them. It's our job as parents to learn what is age appropriate behavior. And then with this knowledge modeling to our children (which is living and verbalizing the lessons= teaching) what the appropriate behavior is. Wash, rinse, repeat and wait for them to mature.

Some Examples of What It Looks Like...
It IS normal for toddlers to get frustrated and tantrum. Or disappointed and cry. It's our job to assume positive intent (they are frustrated at the world not going as they see it should. Not out to rule the world) so that we can face them with patience and grace and teach them words for what they are feeling. We give our children words for every thing else in life ("See the spoon?", " Look a bird!", "That's a fire truck!") it's even more important to face emotional outbursts and big feelings from a point of teaching. It doesn't happen once, it takes time for them to learn to connect the feeling and word and use their words first.

Now with that teaching, we still hold the boundary! They can't have ____ because they are upset about it. But their feelings are their feelings. And they need to experience them so they can learn real self-control. Not just stuffing them because they are afraid of punishment. So we teach what to do when they are upset. We give them skills: deep breaths, verbalizing the feeling, learning tricks to calm down and reorganize feelings. These are skills that must be learned at some point in life! And let me say learning these skills as is tough. I am a feeling stuffer and it is a hard pattern to break.
On top of teaching skills we reinforce and remind over and over. And wait for them to mature enough to handle the skills we've taught. It takes time (I can't emphasize this enough). And there will be time your kids behavior won't be where you want it, at all. But then again- is your behavior always perfect? Do you always obey God 100%, do you always treat your spouse or friends in a respectful and kind way? Do you always handle your big feelings appropriately? How would you want to be treated when this happens?


Focus on life skills and the child's heart instead of what they did or are doing "wrong". I want to emphasize the "not punishing" thing does not mean you let your children run around like wild animals. But why can't consequences be connected to the misbehavior?

More Examples...Consequences
You can't control your hands [hitting]? Than sit by yourself until you can play gently. And as the parent you don't put your child in a situation where they CAN hit. If your child is in a hitting stage, you stay close and try to stop it before it can happen, teaching "gentle touches" as you go.

You can't jump on the couch. But jumping is a good skill to practice and you need to burn up some energy: here's the trampoline jump on that. (I've heard of some families having an old mattress for the kids to do their jumping on. Either way, you can get small indoor trampolines quite inexpensively on amazon we have this one and it's been a life saver!).

You leave your bike in the yard? Well you obviously can't handle the responsibility, and bike gets put up for a while until you show you can handle caring for an expensive toy.

You're playing in a place that is completely off limits and dangerous (and you know it!). You can't leave my side for a while (be it a day or a week) until you show me you can handle the responsibility of playing out on your own. We'll work closely together, spend lots of time together connecting, talking, and read stories/ have lessons about responsibility.

Consequences should focus on connecting parent and child not driving them apart! That's how God leads and guides us.
In Closing.
I had a rough start when I was launched into motherhood. It was hard. I often felt alone with my sleepless, cranky, sensitive bundle. But I wouldn't be the mother I am today if it weren't for being the baby who didn't fit the mold. I'm not perfect (obviously!). I don't share any of this in judgment, but I am excited! I love these verses, I love what God has been showing me as a Mother! These verses and ideas are just hitting the surface of my heart. I fail all the time. But I also have some success, and I'm blown away how teaching gently really does work, even with my short time as a mother I've seen how quickly (with consistency!) my girls learn things! Yeah we still have our problem areas. But time, prayer (for wisdom) and consistency we'll have conquered those hills and be on to the next mountain range I'm sure. I desperately want to grow and go deeper. I want to teach and train my children as God handles me, through grace.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:17

I'm so thankful that God doesn't make cookie cutters in life or in parenting. And that seems to be the theme of the week.

The "Your X Year Old" books are an AWESOME they go through ages 1-8 and talk about what is developing in yoru childs brain so you can understand some of the baffling behaviors kids pull out. By Louise Bates Ames Ph.D
"Easy to Love Difficult to Discpline" by Becky A. Baliey Ph.D: a great resource, I feel like I have so many more "tools" in my parenting "tool box"!

The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Child Care: A Medical and Moral Guide to Raising Happy Healthy Children by Dr William and Martha Sears an awesome guide for new parents! Goes through a lot of first-time parent stuff: sleep questions, newborn fussiness, nutrition guidelines, bonding with your baby in utero, praying, a chapter to Fathers...It's a really encouraging book. Dr Sears and his wife raised 8 children: one adopted and one with special needs. On top of being a father of 8 Dr Bill has also been a pediatrician for 40+ years and has a LOT of experience under his belt. His wife, Martha, is also a RN with a lot of experience too. They are a great resource.
COOKIE CUTTER PARENTING...Another Article...THIS ARTICLE (from Secular Homeschooling) is AWESOME. It got me all fired up on facebook and I did that "write a whole long thing before the link and then 3 comments afterwards" thing.
When I could just post about it here. and put up THAT link But I feel awkward, this blog still feels so private to me. Though I don't mean for it to be, I want to be open about my parenting, shout from the roof top...
What would I shout? Definitely not, "do it like me!" Because that's the whole problem. So many are doing it like some one else, and so few are thinking for themselves: even when it may make them different. (gasp).

"But the world is a difficult place, and parenting is a difficult job. Some people would rather have someone tell them exactly what to do than have to think things through for themselves — especially since making one's own decisions means taking full responsibility when, inevitably, mistakes are made and everything doesn't go perfectly.
What these people don't learn until it's far too late is that letting someone else make the decisions for you is a decision, too. And if you follow someone else's directions for what they promise will be the perfect life, you're still responsible for every one of the actions on that to-do list you decided to let someone else write up for you."
"This is about thinking for oneself versus handing one's thinking apparatus over to someone else and begging them to tell you what to do."

Parenting is HARD work. There are no easy or quick fixes. It's time for parents (especially parents who profess to follow Christ) to start thinking for themselves. Be wary of any teacher who says their way is "guaranteed" to make a baby sleep, bring up well disciplined and happy healthy kids...bla bla bla. If you're looking for Christian teaching on the family the emphasis should be on the fact that God is a PERSONAL God. The book should be encouraging you to crack open your Bible and pray through these issues for yourself.

Not fear mongering and guilting you into submission and agreement on the point they are trying to make. Example: "it's your fault your baby/child isn't doing obviously weren't following the program closely enough."

Or it's your fault your child IS doing XYZ. You obviously weren't being consistent enough with what we said."

Or a parent does follow and every thing to a T and it blows up in their face (you know little things like, beating the child to death. Or to the point where they are taken from you by CPS. Or you baby is diagnosed with failure to thrive and is hospitalized. Because silly thing, but your breasts make and store milk differently than the next Mom. And your baby actually DID need to eat more often than every 3 (or two! Or one!) hours. Or your milk supply disappeared (for the same reason), shucks! The response? "Well you obviously misunderstood what we were saying."


Anyway back from the rabbit trail (did I get on one? hmm...), the point I'm really trying to make: Our God doesn't make cookie cutters. He has a specific plan for every parent, baby, and family. So much of what we are conditioned to think of as "moral issues" are actually a culteral bias. Or just plain ignorance.

Examples: where and how baby sleep. In the USA babies are expected to sleep alone pretty much from day 1. In other countries the majority of babies sleep with their parents (or mother) from birth well into the toddler years. Another culteral bias: "children should be seen and not heard." That toddler tantruming in the grocery store? Yes, annoying. But the child is not sinning for crying (okay screaming) because Mom dragged them out at lunch time and they are HUNGRY and ready for a nap...You get the picture. Don't judge, they are little and immature and doing all they know to do in the circumstance. That said, Mom take your baby (I mean 3 year old) home as fast as you can, we've all been there but no one likes hearing it. Okay THAT was a rabbit trail.

So in closing, I do "over think" what I do as a parent, I admit it. But I'd rather be guilty of that, than get to the end of my parenting years and be filled with regret that I didn't pray and seek God's face more when it came to my children- and how I treat and raise them. Babies and children are human too, they have feelings just as real as any adult. And they should be given just as much consideration. They are also heedless, foolish and children: they take a LOT of time and training (ie TEACHING: modelling appropriate behavior, and lots of consistency with boundaries: over and over and over again).

I thought least 4 times this morning that being a parent is so big and difficult. At one point this morning I wanted to quit. The girls were just overwhelming. I feel like I fail all the time. But I'm always going to keep trying, keep extending grace to myself and to my children, and keep praying that I'll continue to grow. That God will continue to drop information in my lap to pray over so I can make informed decisions for my family.

That article said so many thing that I wish I could go into...But that one subject was on my mind today. Please take a read and encourage those who are considering adopting the Pearls teaching to look elsewhere! Their teaching not only damages families and children. It gives Christians and homeschoolers a bad name.

To recommend: Dr. Tim Kimmel has an awesome book on parenting that gives a really new (well not really new) look at Christian Parenting in the American/Western culture.. It's called, Grace Based Parenting (it truly isn't a book on permissiveness 'grace covers all so let your kids do their thing" but on the Father Heart of God). Take a read of that, it has so much crystallized in my heart how I don't want to parent: out of fear...But knowledge and love.