From fear to love
Something has been bugging me. As I’ve been challenged to open my eyes and heart to more closely examine what I will call a traditional parenting paradigm – the kind that says children must obey at first command and there is a subsequent harsh punishment if they do not do so immediately – something isn’t adding up. Now, I must admit that I did my level best to practice this type of parenting for quite a few years. Like I’ve said before, I just kind of rolled along with what I knew and didn’t ask too many thoughtful questions of myself or those I was looking to for parenting tips.
A major tenet of the Christian faith is that humans have free will. God doesn’t force us to love, follow or obey. Though I acknowledge that there are natural consequences to deciding to go our own way, God rarely, if ever, flexes big muscles and forces us to walk a certain path. Grace is the over arching story.
So why do we insist that our children meet a standard that none of us is able to meet without the gifts of mercy and grace? I am not talking about permissive, anything goes kind of parenting. But why is any kind of “negative” emotional expression immediately deemed as disrespect and something to be squashed ASAP? Why do we seek to control rather than lovingly teach and mold our children’s behaviors? Why do we default to shame and fear tactics to keep children in line? Sure, children who are immediately compliant make our lives easier, but aren’t we trying to model and teach something much more profound to these precious souls in our care?
The myth that we can control anyone other than ourselves is quite prevalent as we look around at the voices and practices in much of the parenting advice world. Control by definition requires a level of fear and intimidation. Is that really what we want – fear based compliance? I have come to believe that there is a much better way- a simple, yet far from easy, way to express this change in parenting perspective is a shift from fear to love. In John’s first epistle, he said it this way. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.”
I, for one, surely am grateful that God doesn’t use a traditional parenting method with me. I need all the grace I can get.