Monday, February 24, 2014

On Parenting with The Mirror

-“I want you to share your toys with your brother, GJ”, -Me, on an authoritative, yet loving tone of voice. –“No!! it’s mine!”, -GJ, snatching it away from his brother’s hands, taking off and igniting a tantrum which I have come to realize makes my mommy’s lower back pain worse.  Sounds familiar? I know this happens a thousand times in a house with little ones.  I’ve been trying to correct this behavior and teach the value of sharing and generosity for a while now, and yes! It can be frustrating, and double yes! It is exhausting! However I recently learned something that makes my efforts and exhaustion purposeful. A silverlining that I very much needed:  that moments like these are not only prime opportunities to instruct our children’s behaviors, or to instill Godly characters in them, but actually to preach the gospel to them: To get to the “heart of the matter” –Their heart, and show them their need fo God.

In the meanwhile I will also entertain you with our pictures from our "Weeding project" ..Yes, it looked really sad, hadn't been back there for a while!

 This is not originally my idea.  It actually comes from the bible. (See Ephesians 6:4).  I love the powerful way that a couple of books that I’m reading expand on the matter:  “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp, and “The Faithful Parent” by Stuart Scott. These two are superb resources which I highly recommend to parents of kids of all ages. These two books expand in much more than this, however, they make special emphasis on our sharing the gospel to our children as our main goal as parents. Such a special task, yet so humbling. No wonder they say that our children are our first mission field.  I think it’s totally true, who else in the world has such intimately access to somebody’s world at such tender and impressionable age? I know we don’t have the power to make them be born again. God does.  But we definitely have the power and the responsibility to diligently and faithfully teach them the truth of who God is and also who they are, and how the gospel connects those two facts.  How else can we assure that our children will have fruitful, meaningful and productive lives, but by ensuring that their hearts are surrendered to God? “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b).

But I had new recruits!

I am focusing today on one of the best ways to teach our children about who they are.  I know this may not sound very appealing, but that doesn’t make it less truth:  Our children are fallen sinners, desperately in need of God’s salvation and grace.  I remember not long time ago, when brand new to parenting, I use to wonder about the “age of accountability”.  I know there are different positions on the subject.  And I don't think I can state any specific age.  I actually believe this may change from child to child depending on their maturity level and development pace.  I am one that believes that newborn children and babies that die go straight back to God in heaven.  (See 2 Samuel 11:22), thus our hope to see our son again when we get there.  However, I don’t wonder about this age of accountability anymore.  I can just plainly see the answer with my eyes as they start to get older.  Those stinking cute little ones of mine, who melt my heart a thousand times every day, are starting to show the buds of the decaying seed implanted in them.  The selfish, self-glorifying, God-rejecting, sinful nature is there, and  I just know with my big loving mother’s heart that I have the pressing responsibility to teach my children that there is a change of heart, a change of seed that needs to take place.  And that they will be held accountable for it. That is the most loving thing to do.  After. Praying. A. Lot.  Lest they face the unfortunate challenge which makes sharing the gospel very hard in our day and age, the fact that most people don’t understand the concept of sin or even conceive they’re sinners.
The kind that loves playing with dirt!! =p

So going back to my example, simple acts of disobedience are wonderful windows of opportunity to lovingly, patiently and consistently teach our children about their sinful nature, and how this is one of the influencing factors of their behavior.  I know there is a lot more behind a child’s behavior than this.  I don’t pretend to simplify child psychology to just this area.   We have to do a lot of training, helping our children understand their emotions and how they can develop effective character tools like self-control and obedience, among many other things to cope with the upsetting or frustrating situations they will encounter every day.  But the primary root of the problem, their sinful nature, needs to be addressed if we want to really help them grow to be all God wants them to be.  So I don't think that just teaching them to behave, or to be self-aware or self-controlled, or to be good is enough. They just can't do it on their own, they need God to give them a new nature.

They actually really earned their keep! =)
Of course any of this will be literally impossible if we don't spend some good "quality AND quantity" time with them.  How else are we then going to catch those windows of opportunity? A good illustration for this is the process of "potty training". You can't potty train a child if you don't spend time with him catching her accidents and teaching her why, and what to do when she feels the urge to go.  You need to be close to them continuously to accomplish this.  However, even though this is a good illustration, we need to remember that we can't "outsource" our parenting role to preach the gospel to our children, in the same way we sometimes can let others, a childcare giver for example, potty train our child.  We the parents, are ideally the ones that are given this responsibility and opportunity.  I know this probably is an unlikely proposition for non-Christian families, and there is when we are called to be salt and light to them.  But for a family of believers, we the parents are to be the number ones sharing the gospel with our children.
Boys will be boys!

One of the greatest tools God put in our hands to facilitate this child training process is His Word.  Sometime ago I had the realization that if I learn to use the Bible as a mirror it will help me show them and lovingly tell them how dirty they really are, and how much they need a deep-inside-out cleansing by the gospel.   Otherwise they just will not know.  It works just in the same way as when we are told that we have a little bit of food on the side of our mouth in a social situation.  It is the kind and loving thing to do, and even though it makes us feel awkward at first , it makes us feel thankful as we can take care of it.  As parents we need to learn to lovingly hold this mirror in front of them, every chance we see them “covered in dirt”. 

"Noise with dirt on it! =p
Do you like my "bull dog" face? =P

So it seems to me that disobedience at an early age is not that bad after all.  I’m not claiming to be mastering the use of this “mirror” yet, I am at the very beginning of the process, but I’m very intentionally trying to memorize some passages that I can translate down into their level to use when needed. Some of the passages that I’d like to start using are: (Romans 7:19, Romans 3:23, John 3:16, & Psalm 119:11). Here it is a very good resource I found with short, handy bible passages to memorize with our children to help us on this training process. The name of the website is "Parenting with Scripture".  It is really good.

We even had the chance to pick up some calamondin oranges from our tree!
Baby brother couldn't resist, I guess what better lesson on "Sourness" than just to try it yourself huh!..But they're awesome for marmalades and baking goods! =)

I know some of you may be thinking as I wondered myself at some point:  Aren’t these way too abstract concepts for a child to understand? The idea of conceiving the Word as a seed that you plant and water every day has given me much peace about it.  Sharing the gospel with our children so they can grasp the concept to express saving faith later on is a process that takes time. And our faithful labor on it as parents day in and day out should give us the opportunity to plant as many seeds as possible specially during the highly fertile season of the early years, and any other seasons for those with older kids.

We actually did a good job, didn't we?..well, this is a good start! Thanks for cheering us up! =)

The timing is not completely on our hands.  We must remember after all, that the harvest doesn’t depend uniquely on our labor, or on our children’s choices, but primarily on God who is the one who calls each one by name and produces the growth. He does it on His perfect time and way, and wants us to trust Him for the results and of course to enjoy those little ones to the rims of our hearts! They are a gift to treasure, to teach and to grow old with!