Saturday, November 15, 2008

Perfect Parents - Do They Exist?

I have some very dear friends. I've known them for almost 20 years and watched carefully as they raised their children. They did everything "right" with their kids. They homeschooled, they raised their children in the church and with love and grace. They encouraged their talents. They were, in a sense, role models for me as a parent.

I recently learned that their oldest child has left home, gotten involved in some really hard core drug use, and has been having a series of one night stands involving men whom she doesn't even recall in the morning.

How did this happen? They did everything good parents are supposed to do.

Other people I know were raised by some of the worst parents I've ever heard of. Drug abuse was rampant, neglect was an understatement, physical and emotional abuse were the norm. Yet these people have turned out to be amazing adults, in love with God, kind, generous, and godly.

How did this happen? Their parents did everything wrong.

The simple answer is that we are stewards of our children. We are to do our best and let God be in control. He's the only one that can draw our children to salvation; the only One who can create godliness within them. All our efforts towards raising godly children are, at best, a push in the right direction.

Am I saying that we shouldn't bother? That what we do as parents doesn't matter? Not at all. But ultimately we have to recognize and understand that our children will grow and mature into their own sense of right and wrong and their own relationship with God.

I may teach my children to do the right thing, but they will have to decide whether or not to do it.

I may pray for them every day and night, encourage them to read the Scripture, and teach them to worship God with all their hearts, but they have to make the decision to follow Christ.

I feel that some of us today are being lulled into a false sense of security that if we just do everything perfectly and control every aspect of our children's lives, we will be guaranteed "success." Our children will grow up to be the very image of a model citizen. Right? Wrong.

As stewards, we take care of our children, giving them the best start we can. We will indeed answer to God for our parenting.

But, since our role is only that of a steward, we are not responsible for the final result. That is God's responsibility. He may have plans for them which can only be accomplished by our children's failures. They may need to stray a little in order to recognize their need for a relationship with God. We are not to create little robots, mindlessly doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. Our children need to find their own way to a relationship with Jesus.

As parents, it's tempting to try to force our will on our children. There's a fine line between discipling our children and brainwashing them. It's hard to find that balance, but it's necessary if our children are to grow into mature, intelligent Christians.

What do you think? How do you find that balance between being an over-controlling parent and one who neglects their proper and necessary role as a parent?


Mom To Six said...

Great post! It's hard. I really believe that we have to trust God to watch over them and lead them on the right path. Our job is just to make sure they know where that path is.

I constantly remind myself that my children are here on loan from God and that no one could ever love them like He does.


Claire said...

I think that not one person on earth has every gotten that fine line perfectly defined. Christian parents are human, just like all parents, and make mistakes. I am doing my darnedest (but not always my best, I'm afraid) to instill God's way into my kids, but I'm not always the greatest example. I pray they see how everything I've done has been out of love for them and for God, and that they forgive me for my shortcomings, like He does.

Thank you for this post. All children are sinners, just as we are, and we should give a healthy dose of grace to all parents who are trying to do the right thing, even if their kids choose not to.

Anonymous said...

In line with your post, this article appeared in the Miami Herald today written by Ana a mom who has children of all ages (25 - 2.5), there is a profound amount of truth to both your post and this...

"My daughter, pregnant with her first child and my third grand, has spent the past few weeks getting acquainted with her toilet bowl. Morning sickness, I've long maintained, is the introductory offer to labor pains. It is the initial fee exacted for the joy of new life. To paraphrase Bette Davis, pregnancy isn't for sissies.

Then again, neither is parenting.

After three tumultuous decades of teething and terrible twos, football games and piano lessons, college applications and post-graduate job hunts, I've made some embarrassing mistakes on my way to learning some valuable lessons.

If only I could share them with her!

Nadie aprende an cabeza ajena, my own mother used to say. Or, no one learns from others' mistakes. But I'll share and preach anyway:

• Don't worry about the wrong things. I did, at times. Too often I compared my children with others or among themselves. At 12 months, I fretted over the child who didn't walk as steadily as I thought he should. In 12th grade, I agonized over SATs and GPAs. In doing this, in trying to get all to fit the same mold, I failed to see the unique talents that each of my children has eventually displayed -- in spite of me. Had I to do it over again, I would've worried less and relaxed more. I would've recognized that there is a wide range of development and interests even within families. Raising children is not a competition with a finish line and trophy.

• Frustration and failure can be a good thing. Children should be allowed to make mistakes. It's the way they learn. Don't hover. Don't rescue. Don't stay up late helping with a science project because Jose proved disorganized or lazy. Don't do for them what they can do for themselves. I know, I know. This is so very difficult! It goes against every molecule of maternal instinct. But trust me on this: Start them early. If they can hold a toy, they can also learn to put it back in its place. The rewards will be bountiful. Which leads me to this strange but proven corollary . . .

• Don't smooth the path for your child. Shocked? You shouldn't be. Early hardships forged the resilient adult I am today, yet I've made things too easy on my kids. Actually, my generation shares this fault, yet we express surprise and dismay at our children's pervading sense of entitlement. Hunger of a certain kind is a good thing. Nothing -- not talent, not money, not brains -- can replace motivation, tenacity, fire in the belly. You owe your baby food, shelter, clothing, love, an education and a sense of values. Everything else is a privilege that must be earned.

• Spending money on a child is not a measure of your love. You don't need a plush Bella Bear or a Stokke crib in the nursery. Teach kids that the trappings of wealth are superfluous by modeling a simple life yourself. Focus on family instead of work, God instead of bank accounts, self-discipline instead of self-interest.

• And when the baby's bawling and your back aches and the house is a mess, remember that, one day in a future that is a lot closer than you suspect, your child will announce the debut of her own child. And between warring emotions of unbearable happiness and debilitating trepidation, you'll think: Life doesn't get any better than this."

Karen said...

I'll add a random thought to your post. I have a dear friend whose parents are in the ministry and have been all of his life. They are wonderful, godly people who brought their children up to know the Lord. My friend has increasingly struggled with alcohol abuse and homosexuality. He continues to lament that he wishes he could turn his back on the church and just live the way he "wants". My point to all of this is that he KNOWS the Word. It is a part of his very being thanks to his upbringing. No matter what path he chooses to walk, the Word is there with him, prodding him to turn back to God. So my only other piece of advice to your post is stressing the importance of bringing our children up in the Word. And we keep praying...

Melissa said...

I don't know if I've found that balance.
I was talking to my dd today about why she is so moody. Turns out she thinks I am moody. We finally had an open conversation about what bugs us about each other. She thinks I micromanage where I think I have a pretty "hands off" approach. But at least we talked about how we felt.
The only perfect parent is our Father.

Catherine said...

You express my sentiments perfectly. I have seen many "good" families have kids that make bad choices and vice versa. And, of course, parents blame themselves. It's kind of hard not to blame yourself when your kids make bad choices since we are bombarded with so much info about how to be the perfect parent. So, if our kids don't turn out perfect, it must be our fault for not being perfect parents.

How do we find the balance between trying to be the best parents we can be without taking onto ourselves the ultimate responsibility of how our kids turn out? I'm not sure. I do agree with your comments, though, that our best bet is to teach our kids about Jesus and pray for them.

Thanks for the post.

Just me~ Bobbie Jo said...

Thanks for this post-I really really needed to hear(read) this today!

stacey said...

in a way, it is hard to even think about because you realize we are all so susceptible to satan unless we are fully girded in Him.

there is a balance!

and lots of praying!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything in your article except this statement, "He may have plans for them which can only be accomplished by our children's failures. They may need to stray a little in order to recognize their need for a relationship with God." This isn't biblical...while God can make good come out of our failures, I don't see any example in scripture where it is in His plan that we fail so that we understand/see our need. in Jeremiah 29:11 He says "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
Granted it does happen often that the result of our failure is that we"see the light" I don't think we can ever say that God plans our failures to accomplish His will. I hope you are not offended... wording is very important, because we might inadvertantly misrepresent the word and cause others to stumble. In love, a sister in Christ

Nancy M. said...

We just have to teach them the right things and hope that one day they will come back to what they were taught.

Cindy said...

I was that over controlling parent and my oldest rebelled Big Time.

Today I trust God to do what I am not capable of nor was I created to do.

This is a wonderful and truth filled post.

How are you enjoying AZ?


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