Friday, June 24, 2011

Biblical Parenting, the next phase

When I was new to the internet and to mothering, the subject of parenting styles was a big topic of conversation, which is to say, the same kinds of conversations the US and the USSR had during the Cold War. The stakes were only upped when you brought faith into it. If you were a Christian (or knew one, or thought you knew how we thought...) the question came down to: "Will you be a Christian parent like the Pearls or the Ezzos, with the sleep and meal scheduling, the crying it out and the baby hitting, or will you be like the Sears, with the extended co sleeping, the child led breastfeeding, and the gentle discipline?" Of course it's not usually as black and white as all that, but when you're a new parent, cut off from family, desperately looking for direction, it SEEMS that simple.
The Bible says little about parenting; much less than most Biblical parenting pundits would like you to believe. But it has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to treat people- with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. What parenting philosophies bets express the fruit of the Spirit?
If you know me, you know I came to the latter conclusion; that God made us to parent with love and answer our baby's  cries. Sadly, I came to another conclusion; that most people who used the label "Biblical Parenting" were people I didn't want to be associated with.
 The years passed. My kids grew. The question of co sleeping and breastfeeding passed, as they gave up those things in their own time, and the new weird thing I was doing was homeschooling. And again, I was doing it differently than the other Christians- teaching my kids evolution, reading Harry Potter with them.... but more than that.
I was teaching my kids to question authority.
I always have to suppress a laugh when people feel compelled to point that out to me. If some one knows me, the fact that I teach my kids to question authority and to accord respect based on one EARNING it, not on the numbers of years or they position they have over them, should be obvious. That's how *I* roll and I would never be so hypocritical as to teach my kids to blindly follow when I refuse to.
A few months ago, a friend from church and I were talking about the challenges of raising kids with intellectual freedom. The hardest part, as they got older, is not that they will defy you. (kids will do that anyway). It's that, at a young age, they will form well considered opinions that are different from YOUR well considered opinions. My eldest son believes in the death penalty, a great departure from my consistent life ethic (I kind of blame my husband for that one). My daughter believes that yeah, Rob Bell probably IS a heretic. And my friend's son? Hanging out with us has given him a more liberal attitude toward gays than his parents (I am pleased to say, I think this is in part because my kids have called him on homophobic things he's said over the years. He says those things a lot less now).

Now let me be clear; I teach my kids to be courteous and to follow rules. Following rules (with a Sheldon Cooper-like intensity) is also how I roll. But not to follow rules blindly. As a kid, I hated being told "Because I said so!" and I have never done that to my kids. If I have a requirement for them, I share my reason (no, they don't have to agree with my reason). Remember, while the Bible tells children to honor their mother and father, it also exhorts parents not to exasperate their children.  And we should always be courteous to others; but because we are human beings, not because that person is older, or female, or...take your pick. I am often told at coffee shops and stores that my kids are "the most polite kids I've seen all day".( Of course, this is as much a negative commentary on society as it is a positive one on my kids.)
But unquestioning belief in what they're told? An inability to be civilly disobedient? Is this what the Christian parent of older children is to do? I would say no, and looking at history I'd say the opposite is true. I don't want nice little robots; I want to raise people who will gird themselves to fight for the justice the Old Testament prophets tell us to seek. I want to raise citizens with the courage of Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Raising kids who can defy an unjust society and speak truth to power is not easy. God knows. You have to be willing to be their educational experience. Are you up for it?

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At 5:07 PM, Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I am so up for it. Though it is exasperating - no lie. My daughter stands up for what she believes is right all the time - passionately and actively and I am so proud of her. People are either amazed or horrified, it seems - there is no in between.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Olson Clan said...

Amen! Couldn't have said it better myself. I too have gotten many a comment with a negative conotation about how my children have questioned an adult. My response is always, "Did they do it politely?". If so, then good for them. We have seen the fruit of our labors. Although, I do think it helps them to watch our examples of questioning the professionals and choosing our own way while politely fielding negative comments about our choices. More than anything I want my children to think, and being a sheep doesn't really lead to the thinking skills we desire.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger gojirama said...

Yes! And that is a trait out kids all have in common- they've seen us question the status quo.
Now there's an interesting question- is questioning the status quo the same as questioning authority?

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I think it is but questioning authority is not necessarily the same as questioning the status quo. Both needed.


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