By MaryAnn (a Christian Mother in our community)
Romans 12: 2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
When my sitter asked me if I had read Dobson’s The Difficult Child, I had a sense where she was headed. Dobson’s book includes a checklist to rate your child from something like easy, compliant to mother killer. My sitter followed her question with a statement that she had answered, “Yes” to every prompt – putting my son in the “mother killer” category. He was “difficult” – and that set me on a course to seek wisdom in how to parent him. I remember reading another book that was more loving toward “difficult” children. The author preferred a gentler, more understanding label, “intense” children. And I embraced a deeper sympathy and understanding for our son’s intensity after reading that book.
Our journey to seek wise parental advice included many books and sensible, older moms, as well as courses at our church and Fourth Presbyterian. We chewed on various insights, spitting out the gristle.
One focal point became parenting my children’s minds. Emphasis on parenting a child’s heart abounds. For some reason, reaching minds resonated, at that time, a bit more. The wisest man in the Old Testament tells us that the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. In awe of God and on our knees we tried to learn.
Our goals for our sons were to raise Biblical husbands, dads, sons, servants, and citizens. How do I do that? How do I influence them to make wise decisions? How do I inspire them to have a growth mindset, like Kuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove? – “Bring it on.” Research clearly shows that kids raised with a growth mindset are much more likely to succeed. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/
I wanted our sons to have growth mindsets spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. In reading and researching I found that how I interacted with our sons had a significant impact on whether they developed a fixed or growth mindset. When I asked questions and focused on encouraging my children to figure things out for themselves I supported emotional development and a love of learning. So, that became our parenting style. And in showing more respect and asking more questions, discipline followed naturally. Because we had a warm, loving relationship, there was less opposition, less defiance, less behavioral problems. And it felt more like what I could see Jesus doing. I couldn’t picture Jesus yelling at a kid or spanking. I could envision Him telling stories and asking questions. That felt right.
When my children were young I was involved in women’s ministry at The Falls Church. I asked the director, Ruth Brock, to recommend a parenting book for women to study. She pulled a book off her shelf and smiled – Ross Campbell’s How to Really Love Your Child – an old book even then – but still lovely. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk (a secular book) also heavily influenced our parenting. We kept it on our nightstand and periodically revisited it.
Our “intense” child grew so sick that I ended up home schooling him for medical reasons. By God’s grace, however, he was healed and grew to be a Biblical man that blesses us. Turns out, his worldly struggle was food intolerance (gluten, etc.) Former anxiety and irritability were rooted in reactions to foods. Who knew?
Our son’s physical healing commenced soon after we asked for James 5:14-16 deacon prayer. Steve King gathered a few deacons between services to pray with our son. Shortly thereafter, God gave us an appointment with an internist that found gluten and other food antibodies – non-celiac intolerance which was practically unheard of back then. Today, the physical and mental effects of non-celiac gluten intolerance are well documented: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389040/
On many levels God renewed all of our minds.
There’s room for a lot of grace and love with our children. Discipline, I am convinced, is all about our relationship. Adopting parenting tools from parents I respected and from rich books, I learned to ask my children how they would solve a problem or what they needed to do to make things right. Their thinking and answers often surprised and delighted me. I drafted chore lists, instead of nagging, offered to teach them something by saying, “I think you are old enough to learn how to….” I let them feel the natural consequences of choices, when appropriate.
Dr. Knecht at McLean Presbyterian taught the best parenting class my husband and I ever took. Knecht gave an example that became a theme for me. He offered a hypothetical of a child that kept getting out of bed, instead of going to sleep. Knecht said that you might try telling your son or daughter to go to bed and then turn on your heels and leave – leaving them with the decision, but also with any negative feelings if they disobey. Too often, I had felt that I needed to “win,” that I needed my son to obey, and when he didn’t I was frustrated. But, that didn’t allow him to own his error. Knecht’s insight helped me keep the natural consequences of right and wrong, age appropriate decisions, in my children’s courts. At 3 children do not get to decide what time they will go to bed or whether to brush their teeth. But, whether they choose peas or broccoli, elect listening to a book or drawing, they are learning to think and make decisions that will help them eventually launch.
You have probably heard the secular proverb of the battle between the sun and the wind. They challenge each other to see which can coax a man to take his coat off. The wind blows and blows, but the man only wraps tighter in his coat. Then, the sun tries, warming him with rays. The man takes his coat off.
Basking in our “Son” – how He shows us to love and how He disciplines us – offers great insight into parenting. Renewing our minds and helping our children renew theirs, in the warmth of scripture, with fear of the Lord, and in prayerful humility, may be the pattern for parenting that helps us most.
Other scriptures on the mind:
Ephesians 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Mark 12:30 “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment.
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
Luke 12:29 And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.
-Written and posted with permission from our son. 🙂