Everyone loves a good controversy, right? I knew that this would stir the pot a bit because parenting seems to be such a hot topic.
For me, it seemed controversial because I know many people believe (as I did) that using the rod in the form of spanking is the only Biblical way to parent. Now, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater- I think Tedd Tripp has a lot of wise and biblical counsel for parents. I think that addressing issues of the heart while disciplining is so important and leaves room for the child to know and learn the gospel- and eventually, to apply it to their lives on their own. For Matt and I it made sense for the past few years that the rod is the best tool for getting to the heart and it seemed like the Bible had a lot of support for it. Also, we knew many wise and Godly families who implemented the same method and we saw the fruit of it in their families. I am not saying that spanking is wrong or unbiblical. What I am starting to have a problem with is the notion that it is the ONLY way to parent biblically. Obviously, this has been what I have been considering since it was becoming clear that one of our children was not responding to that approach. All of a sudden phrases like, "God has commanded the use of the rod in discipline and correction of children. He has told you that their are needs within your children that require the use of the rod. If you are going to rescue your children from death, if you are going to root out the folly that is bound up in their hearts, if you are going to impart wisdom, you must use the rod" (Tripp, 108) make me question a lot of things: Am I in disobedience to God now that I am not spanking Jesse? Can I not rescue my children from death, root out folly or impart wisdom without the use of the rod? Does this mean that Christian parents that don't use the rod will have kids that don't know and understand the sin in their hearts and their need for Jesus (that excludes A LOT of parents)? I have been doing a lot of investigating on this the past few weeks and I now have questions as to the interpretation of the rod in scripture in general (that may be a whole other post!).
Another area where I have done a lot of processing on is the idea of rewards for good behavior. I have always thought that kids shouldn't be rewarded for behavior that is expected of them. But, I was noticing in my own parenting that there was so much emphasis on the sin, the misbehaviors- I truly think Jesse thought that he could not do anything right. On some theological levels he is right, he can't and we try to encourage him to do good through the help of the Holy Spirit but on another level, he is a child and we need to train him how to do good. What I like about the reward system we are using is that he is not rewarded with toys or money or material objects but with a ticket that represents a tangible sign of the blessings that come when you obey. I have told Jesse and Karis both that God tells us to obey Mom and Dad so that it may go well with you. We have discussed the circle of blessing that they are in when they obey and the danger they are in when they don't. But, I think for kids this can be so abstract, sometimes having a tangible understanding of blessing can be helpful. And I have seen it help Jesse. But, as I mentioned before, it has also helped me. When we first started the tickets I found it so hard to give them out and I wondered why it was so hard for me to shower blessing on my son- what was I so afraid of? I began to see that while he may be more difficult than most kids, he does do some things that are good and by pointing those moments out, it was helping him see the blessing of it. And, something that surprised me was that the kids started obeying and doing things without mention of the tickets- it is usually me that has to remind them of their tickets. It is my hope that we can phase out of the tickets in the future and that they will do good out of a desire to obey God but I think for now it is helping us demonstrate that.
But another part of the controversy for me is that this whole switch has really turned things upside down for me and has made me think about things on a whole new level. One thing I am realizing is that I have used a particular parenting method as a way to ensure that my kids will turn out right. When that method changed I realized how deep my fear is that my kids will not turn out right, that they will not love the Lord, that they may become drug addicts or haters of good. That means that I have been parenting out of fear and trying to make my kids fit into a model so that I felt secure. Jesse has helped me to see that parenting is not a one size fits all model. I am realizing that my job as a parent is to "train a child up in the way he should go" and that training can take on different forms. I also need to be faithful to what God has called me too and not get focused on the outcome. Christianity Today has a great article about this that really spoke me, check it out if you get a chance.