We all take this parenting stuff pretty personally.
Unfortunately, we take it so personally we often times don't go into any discussion with an open mind.
We sense judgement, whether real, or imagined, and so we put up our dukes.
It makes this parenting dialogue so hard.
And I don't like upsetting people, and I don't like defending myself, so I backed out for a while.
But that was fear.
So I jumped back in with another "risky" facebook post that got people up in arms!
One lady even wrote, "I don't care what research or scientists have to say about...."
Okay, we're done then.
If you can't hear facts, without feeling offended, no one can have a conversation.
A pattern arose on my feed, as well as others who posted the same article, people were continually bringing up as their , "proof" that their parenting styles/decisions "worked" was their child's behavior.
"I used ______ strategy and it has worked because my children are very well behaved" (children are under 5 years of age).
"I can tell when other people haven't used _________ strategy because of their children's behaviors."
This really upset me, so I disengaged (part of my attachment past:)
I didn't know why I was so upset by these statements, I couldn't put my finger on it. So I have spent the last few weeks praying about this, and trying to figure out why these behavior statements upset me.
And I came to this question in my mind,
"Is the bottom line to your parenting strategy behavior?"
And my answer is "Absolutely not!"
To me, aiming for "good behavior" is like the gospel being cut short, like really short, like maybe right before the New Testament starts.
Right before Jesus shows us it's about relationships, and love when it's least deserved, right before we realize that no matter what we choose, no matter what behaviors we display, God is constant.
I believe that parenting is suppose to be a worldly picture of how God loves us. In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In that, perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and that we don't shame or disappoint (Romans 5:5) because we hold the hope of Christ.
This idea that we prove our parenting strategies by our children's behaviors, and ultimately, their choices, is very scary to me.
Fundamentally this terrifies me because if that's the bottom line in my parenting, I have surely proved that my Heavenly Father is a terrible father. I have surely proved that His parenting strategies are wrong. Because my choices and behaviors don't often reflect His heart or desires for me.
And ultimately, I have taught my kids that the love of our Father is based on behavior. That if my ultimate goal in parenting is their behavior (thus my severe punishment or disappointment when they misbehave), that God's ultimate goal in parenting is our behavior. And that is untrue.
If that's what my kids walk away with, when they leave my home, I have done my part in raising children who will never fully believe the Gospel. Who will never fully give or receive unconditional love. Because they ultimately believe that their faith relies on their choices and on their behaviors, two things that they are responsible for. Not Christ's blood. Not His sacrifice.
I think this form of parenting (specifically in Christian circles), in which we equate our success with our children's behaviors and choices, comes out of an American church that has taught us the same. We don't rest, we earn. We don't show up messy, we cover it up. We can't be honest with others, or even ourselves, in fear of judgement and condemnation.
And so we parent this way. And we judge others parenting from this lens.
(Which makes the church a very unsafe place for parents who have children who are struggling behaviorally.)
Behavior should not be my ultimate goal.
My children's behavior and ultimately their choices, do not reflect on me. My love is constant and firm, despite them. (Just as Jesus loves us, despite us.)
So what is my ultimate goal in parenting?
My bottom line is relationship.
I want to see that when my children misbehave, choose incorrectly, hurt people, throw fits, or disobey, that my relationship is constant. That despite their choices/behaviors I am the same. My love has not wavered, my availability to meet their needs, comfort, rejoice, pray, celebrate, or cuddle, is always the same. Just like Jesus is for me.
Because ultimately, I don't want moral kids who believe they must earn a spot. I want messy kids who are alive in the freedoms of Christ.