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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Effective Parenting

As a parent, I have often given thought to the subject of effective parenting. It has been common for me to think of myself at times as not so great of a parent. At other times, I can be quite proud of some of my parenting skills. I think a lot of people experience this emotional roller coaster of the mind. Am I a good parent? What if I'm not? How can I tell? These are some of the questions that seem to never have concrete answers.

What is the criteria for determining a good parent? Does anyone really know? You might think that some do. Both secular and Christian authors abound with their books on how to raise children. There is no shortage of books on parenting - all purporting to give us sage advice that will help us turn that corner and be certain of our effectiveness as parents.

I have read many of these books (my wife is a fan of them and devours one after the other). As parents of children, it's probably a good thing for us to be consumers of parenting books too! However, I have yet to find a book or an author that I thought just really provided some significant insight. Mind you, they often provide fresh insight. It's just never particularly significant.

In the end, I often take their fresh and witty insights and conclude that this is bigger than me and I can't control or manipulate it. Raising children and even parenting adult children tends to feel more like a roll of the dice. No amount of parenting wisdom seems to take away that feeling. Why is that? Isn't there some point that would change the whole paradigm? And if so, what could it be?

I think I may have found something recently that changes everything. At least it does for me. It helps me understand some of the things in my adult children that I don't care for. It helps me grasp some of my parenting failures. But most importantly, it shows me something tangible and personal that I can do to be a better parent that gets measured differently. By that I mean the measure of my success isn't necessarily found in my children. How is that?

One of the things I notice in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel is that King David had some parenting challenges. His children didn't turn out so well. They created some grief for him. But one of the other things I notice about that is that, in many ways, the behavior of his children not only reflected but amplified some of King David's own behaviors. In other words, the very things he found in them that troubled him were amplifications of things he'd found in himself.

So here is the simple truth, that piece of parenting wisdom, that I think God just provided me. The sins of parents are usually reflected and often amplified in their children.

As I study this theory, I find that my own children seem to prove out this simple truth. So what can I do to be a better parent? I think the answer is to do a better job with my own sin. Stop denying my sinful thoughts and behaviors. Stop justifying. Confess. Turn from my sin. Make a practice of turning from my sin. Find ways to honor God with my sin.

This could be the most significant piece of parenting wisdom I've ever found. And the cool part of it is that I don't have to rely on my children to measure my success with it. Perhaps the secret to lasting peace for parents is then found in having parents become really good at dealing with their own sin - instead of fretting about the imperfections and dysfunctions of their children!

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