Parenting 101

Great fathers are a tradition in my family.  There’s my dad, who I paid tribute to on Father’s Day with a little tribute and biography in Facebook. (I don’t plan to add it to this blog.)  There’s my husband, Mitch.  My brother-in-law, Bob, is in this league.  Both grandfathers seem to have been pretty great dads as well.  Hopefully (prayerfully) my sons and nephews will keep the tradition going.  

I know.  Father’s Day is nearly two weeks in the rearview mirror.  I had noted some thoughts before that day – thoughts about God’s role as our Heavenly Father and how he is not only the Creator of the Universe, but a parent.  

You might be saying, well, that’s nothing new, people often refer to God as Father.  Do we really think about what it means?  Some see him as a sort of genie in a lamp.  I want this to happen, I prayed, so why didn’t things go as I hoped?    Some see him as an unknowable, impersonal sort of god, who maybe created everything but sees the world from a distance.  Some don’t see him at all. And some see God as a kind old gentleman who wouldn’t want his children to experience pain or heartache.  None of these impressions reflect the behavior of a perfect parent, a perfect Father. 

The truth is that many of us refer to God as Father, but our actions and our attitudes often reflect a lack of true understanding of this role.  God is and does the same things as the most loving, effective parent. 

What do you do to protect your child, to instill values, and to develop their character to enable them to have the best life possible?  Here’s my list: 

  • Love your child unconditionally. 
  • Care for them, make sure their basic needs are met, and teach them how to live a satisfying life.
  • Establish boundaries and rules.  State them clearly. 

The rules are for the child’s own good .  To protect them from the harm you know is possible even if they are not aware of the danger .  To teach them how to love others, be unselfish, and have great relationships.  And you don’t explain the reason for every little thing you want them to do.

  • Enforce the rules and be consistent in implementing consequences, no matter if it is difficult for you to do so.
  • Allow your child to make mistakes and to fail.  Guide them, but don’t do the work for them.  Teach them to think for themselves and to learn from their mistakes.
  • Beyond childhood, if they fall short on the character you have strived to develop in them, you love them.  You do not force your standards upon them and make them do what you want.  You allow them free will.  You’re disappointed when they make the wrong choices, but you give them the freedom to do so.
  • You ask them to trust you.  You know how to keep your children safe and healthy.  They don’t understand why they can’t touch the top of the stove at first.  They don’t understand your ways, because they cannot foresee the results that you can.
  • When they do what they want and refuse to listen to you, and they suffer in doing so, when they come back to you and admit they were wrong, you welcome them, forgive, and celebrate their return.  (See the story of the prodigal (lost) son from Luke 15.  Scroll down.) 

When you have trouble understanding God, think of him truly as the Father, who loves you and wants you to have the best life possible.

Following is a parable that illustrates God’s character and how he responds to his children.  As you read, keep in mind that the father in this parable is God.  The lost son represents each of us.  As parables go, these comparisons are not always apparent. 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11-32  

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

 13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

 17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
      “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.[a]

 22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

 25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

 28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 31” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “ 

Psalm 139:13 (New International Version)     13 For you created my inmost being;
       you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

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