Wednesday, April 6

Passively Parenting

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-12 (The Message)

I wrote recently on asking God to reveal sin in my life (see this post). I was really hoping there would be nothing terrible to uncover -- a girl can dream. I was not pleasantly surprised when the Holy Spirit started whispering in my ear, "Here's one. And there's one. And another. Oh, and right here, this is a BIG elephant in the closet you have ignored for far too long." My uglies were revealed.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23.

One such revelation was the sin of passive parenting. We all know what it looks like, I've heard it referred to quite descriptively as "armchair parenting." It can either be barking orders without much intention of following through (inconsistency) or not even acknowledging when a child does some bad behavior (ignoring).

Both tendencies of passive parenting have disastrous effects on children. Giving orders without consequences says, "I do not mean what I say -- do whatever you want." Children grow into adults who lives without the knowledge of consequences.  They do whatever they want, hurting people, living for themselves, committing crimes, and showing no reflection of Christ.

Ignoring children's misdeeds seems harmless enough. I often see a concerning behavior in my child and think, "I'll deal with it later." The next time comes and I ignore it again because I don't want to handle the child's tantrum or, I'm not really sure what to do or, worst of all, we are in public. Ignoring the behavior doesn't make it go away and the sin in my child's life gets bigger and bigger. It is my responsibility to teach her/him how to live in a way that reflects Christ.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

This could say, "This is going to require effort. Training doesn't just happen." I find so often that it is old fashioned laziness that keeps me from tackling parenting issues. I have to battle my tendency to passively parent.  I prayed, "Reveal my sin," and once again my children were the catalyst God used to show me what needed the most help.

We were on the way out the door and it is always a stressful time. Socks, shoes, coats, out the door, into the car, who didn't close the back door? why is everyone crying? I told my oldest (6 years old) at least 5 times to get her socks on. She wasn't even listening to me. I said the same thing over and over again until I was yelling and frustrated. Finally she had her socks and shoes on but her coat was on the floor of her room upstairs (I told her bunches of times the day before to hang up her coat by the back door and she didn't). She had to take her shoes off to go up to her room and by then she was in full-blown tears. I loaded up the other kids and went back inside to wait. And wait. Her dawdling gave the Holy Spirit time to kick me in the seat of my pants.

I realized that my passive parenting got us into this mess. For quite some time I allowed my child to disregard my commands. I said the same things over and over again and everyone ended up frustrated and angry. In reality, I trained her not to listen to me because there was no consequence other than my anger.

When she finally came back sniffling and upset, I told her I was sorry. I was sorry for not following through when I told her to do something. I asked, "How many times did I say 'get your shoes and coat on'?" She responded, "Like 50." She then reminded me that I yelled at her and made her cry. She was right, I got angry because I realized my parenting method was to ignore problems. Kinda hurts the pride. I also apologized for that.

We talked about how things were going to change. New rule: Mommy would say ONE time what to do and obedience would be required at a quick pace. We also talked about consequences and we came up with a list of things that would be taken away for future offenses.

I wish this is where the story ended. Queue upbeat closing music. Mom and daughter hug, go to car and all is sunshiny and beautiful. All errands were completed with obedient, quick, and helpful children in tow.

Instead, there were many more battles during the day.  Undoing passive parenting will always bring on a struggle (sometimes huge). A child would rather do whatever he/she wants. Discipline hurts and is a lot more work than sitting in an armchair. Godly parenting doesn't ignore and isn't inconsistent. I now have an understanding that passively handling my children's behavior is wrong in God's eyes. It might be comfortable in the chair, but it isn't rewarding.

"Train a child in the way he should go..... 

and when he is old he will not depart from it." 

Proverbs 22:6

1 comment:

Micah and Christa Forsythe said...

So nice to know I am not alone in this crazy world of trying to parent in authenticity and humility... thanks for sharing!