It may take a few episodes before the underlying message about parenting comes fully into view. Until that point, I ask you not to reject this content outright if something I say sounds like it goes against everything you have come to believe. This is not psychology, or sociology which try and steer a child’s behavior or find blame for unwanted behavior. While valid disciplines, such frameworks are too small when it comes to truly understanding the sacrificial work of parenting. You will need a bigger framework in order for what is taught to actually be caught. Only then will any strategy emerge which can restore what has been missing.
To make this as easy as possible, I’ll spell out the underlying philosophy and just like last week, it will be up to you whether you reject it as nonsense, or scour your soul to sincerely find out if it applies to you. This means the effect of this teaching may be confusion, or worse, it may evoke that prideful criticism or a lashing out if not understood. If what I say falls on the good soil of humility, this series will light the way toward incremental transformation. It will free you and your children with the power of love.
Last week I talked about the first watershed within our thinking as parents; Randomness or Design. To go farther, we must pry ourselves away from any notion that we live in a random world. Parenting from an A Priori of randomness ushers in countless missed opportunities for our own personal growth and creates a spiritual “tone-deafness” or “color-blindness” in our children. A parent who believes in a random world creates an environment where anxieties have no boundaries, and where there is no appetite nor thirst for the intangible aspects of reality. The random belief system has no answer for countless questions which are obvious to kids as they grow. This philosophy denies, or diminishes the existence of non-physical reality (spirituality) in the name of being rational and logical. As I’ll show later, this is actually an illogical assumption which always comes back on parents.
The next piece flows in step with the randomness or design, and that is: ownership or stewardship. If a child is a product of conception then the parents take responsibility for the child by means of ownership. If a child is a product of love, a gift given to a loving couple, then the parents take responsibility by means of stewardship. If our kids do not ultimately belong to us, but instead are entrusted to us, on loan to us, and we are being evaluated by how well we care for, nurture and send out what has been entrusted, then the philosophy deepens. The random framework views kids as a possession or as “belonging” to the parent, which leads to two quagmires: under-investing or over-identifying. The “random owner” can have no answer or deeper purpose for the uniqueness of the child.
While these might seem like minor nuances, there is an ocean separating the parenting philosophies between a random owner who is trying to deal with what they got and the steward by design who understands they received exactly what is needed and purposed for both parent and child. The focus of raising the children is quite different. The former is like driving at night in the fog, reacting to the most immediate concerns, while the latter navigates with a GPS guided course correction.
Now we can see the trajectory of the underlying parenting philosophy. These frameshift ideas may be quickly dismissed as unimportant or even immeasurable, but they are completely different seeds which produce completely different blossoms when in bloom.
The true test of any parenting philosophy are the transition years of adolescence. As a youth pastor who worked with troubled teens, I would often tell parents that there is a five to ten year gap between when you ask your teen to change and when it happens. This leaves parents with a helpless feeling as they realize that the time to deal with a sixteen year old is when they are six or nine. The time to deal with a nine year old is when they are three. The time to deal with a three year old is when they are eight months old, the time to deal with an a baby months old is when they are weeks old. You may think that is where this reverse engineering ends, then you have missed the parenting philosophy I’m offering. For the time to deal with a baby who is just a few weeks old is ideally prior to conception, but certainly during gustation.
If you feel like you’ve missed the boat, or that your kids are too old to change now then I would like to offer you this. It’s not too late to adopt a bigger perspective. Yes, many patterns of thinking, moments of pain and missed opportunity are certainly behind you. Some things may be beyond your ability to change, but finding the right parenting philosophy now will still alter how you relate going forward. The path to healing is not focusing on fixing the relationship as an external thing, but focusing on fixing ourselves within. Once we do the soul work on the inside, we can go back to our own parents as well as our kids and begin healing our entire family tree.
If we scrape our knee, we need only clean up the wound and healing automatically occurs. We set the right course and healing results. Our family is the same. The beauty of seeing we are off course, even if it has been a long while, is that we can move to set things right.
If everyone begins this process, the world would begin to change overnight. What would the world look like if we continued to do this over time? That is our clue to the power of parenting.