What Kind of Parent are You?

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This week I have been reflecting on my parenting style and how it may be affecting my children. As the Christmas season approaches, I have been faced with how my choices have given my daughter the impression that everything is attainable if she just asks for it for Christmas….and that toys and entertainment are completely a necessity that you cannot live without.  I find myself often asking, “Where have I gone wrong? Why is my child being so greedy?”  Jill Rigby, in her book Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World considers three different parenting styles that are formative in raising a self-less child.

First she mentions the Deflector. This is the parent who makes their child think they are the boss by giving them too much control.  The child is allowed to make choices about things that they aren’t ready to handle so they become overwhelmed and frustrated.  They are given power over things that should not be theirs to control so they begin to feel as if they don’t need to listen to any authority.  I fit this category more than I would like to admit.  One night I was putting my daughter to bed and she asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” And I replied, “I don’t know, we’ll have to see what happens.” And her response was, “Well, it doesn’t matter ‘cause we usually do what I want to do anyway.”  I was totally taken aback…I hated being faced with the honest truth that I had let my child take over so many of the decisions of our home.  As I thought it through I began to realize when I am frustrated and can’t make up my mind I ask my daughter, “Should we go to Kroger or Wal-Mart  today to get groceries?” And when her closet seems out of control and unmanageable I ask, “What do you want to wear today?” Before I’ve had my coffee in the morning and I just want to be able to get ready quickly and get her to school, I ask my daughter, “What do you want for breakfast?” She is four! Why should I think that she should be responsible for decisions that I feel too frustrated to make? I pray that as I study this topic more, I will uncover more areas such as this and replace my sinful habits with god-honoring, intentional practices.

Secondly she presents the Depriver.  The Depriver may do too little for their child.  Either they are too busy or too self-involved to spend time with their child so they fill the child’s life full of “stuff” to make up for the lack of attention. Or the Depriver can also be one who does everything for their child and thus, deprives them of responsibility and opportunities needed to become a capable adult.  So, picture the little spoiled daughter who has rooms full of toys and clothes but is left every day with a nanny.  She becomes needy and empty and as an adult and fills her life with shopping and men. Or imagine the son who isn’t made to lift a finger his entire life so he continues to live in his parents’ basement until he’s forty and thinks everyone should cater to him. 

Finally she mentions the Developer, which is the parent who gives their child everything they need to become all that God made them to be.  A Developer takes charge without being harsh.  A Developer sets boundaries and sticks to them.  A Developer gives appropriate responsibilities, lavishes love and is sparing and intentional about gifts.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, with a firm foundation in scripture and a powerful reliance on prayer I can become the kind of parent I am called to be so that my children can develop into the adult they are called to be.

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Psalm 3

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 LORD, how many are my foes!
   How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
   “God will not deliver him.”

Oh Lord, I praise you for being my deliverer.  Though the world may mauk me for what I believe you will always give  me strength when I ask for it.  Lord I ask that you will help me to stand firm in my faith even when all I want to do is crumble beneath the weight of fear.  I pray that as I face the world today I would long only to please you and would turn a deaf ear to the threats and jeering of the world.

 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
   my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD,
   and he answers me from his holy mountain.

Because I belong to you, oh God, I can hold my head high, not in pride or in condemnation to others but in the confidence that you hear me, you know me and you see me. 

 I lie down and sleep;
   I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 
I will not fear though tens of thousands
   assail me on every side.

Lord, may I never forget that I am alive because you want me to be.  You have a purpose for me and as long as I am on this earth I pray that I will seek to bring you glory.  I don’t have to fear harm or death in this life because you protect me, you sustain me and you wait for me on the other side.  Oh God, you are truly all I need.

 Arise, LORD!
   Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
   break the teeth of the wicked.

From the LORD comes deliverance.
   May your blessing be on your people.

I am often overwhelmed by the fact that when I call to you with my problems, you actually hear me.  No matter how large or small my problems are, Lord, you make them a matter of concern because I am your child.  And when I truly seek deliverance from you in faith, God, you give it to me in full abundance.  You are my deliverer!

Selfishness Breeds Selfishness

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As I have read the book Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World the author, Jill Rigby, has a way of really shining a light on my hidden (or maybe not so hidden at times) parenting flaws.  Her mantra is “help your children to see the world as if they are looking through a window not in a mirror” or give your children the upbringing they need to see the needs of others instead of feeding the already innate demand to see their own desires and wants fulfilled.  Here are some of the flaws I have so blatantly observed:

I am a bad example of selfless living. I ask my children to stop being so selfish with their toys but I put strict limits on where and how much I give to others.  I am stingy with my time when I hurry people through a conversation because I have other plans for the day.  I am greedy with my money when I don’t even attempt to help others because our budget is tight.  How can I expect my children to stop asking for every toy in the store when I can’t seem to control my endless desire to buy more clothes?

I give in to the culture’s standards of what needs are.  Our culture tells us our basic needs are no longer food, water, shelter and clothing but on top of that you must add a new car, a smart phone, a computer, digital cable, and wireless internet.  I have many times felt like I am in extreme poverty because I don’t have an iPhone.  I have felt like we are poor because we don’t have cable.  I have complained to my husband because I can’t buy a new outfit every month.  And I fail to see that even on our budget we are among the richest people in the entire world.  I don’t have to fear that my children are going starve like a mother in Somalia.  I don’t have to worry about where I am going to sleep tonight and there are people in my own town who have no place to call home.  How can expect my child to stop saying “I need that” instead of “I would like to have that” while looking through a toy catalog when I throw a fit when my computer doesn’t work and forget that it is a luxury and not a necessity. 

I long for my children to grow up to be selfless servants of God but it looks like I need to work on a few things before I can truly expect fruit from my labor.

** Check back next week as I reflect on some more wisdom from Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World**

Psalm 2

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 Why do the nations conspire
   and the peoples plot in vain? 
The kings of the earth rise up
   and the rulers band together
   against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 
“Let us break their chains
   and throw off their shackles.”

Lord I am thankful that you are in control.  You are more powerful than any nation, you are greater than any ruler.  No one can bring down those who belong to You.  Though people come together and try to resist You, your kingdom will always stand. Though men may say that You bring bondage, surely You are the only true freedom.

  The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
   the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
   and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 
“I have installed my king
   on Zion, my holy mountain.”

Lord, I am glad that the words of men do not effect you like they effect me.  You can laugh in the face of the proud because you know how ridiculous their actions are.  May I have the strength and wisdom to stand up to those who speak against you, knowing that You are on my side and I have no reason to fear them.  You are in charge, Your king is the true King and no one can overthrow Him.

 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:

 He said to me, “You are my son;
   today I have become your father. 
Ask me,
   and I will make the nations your inheritance, 
   the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
   you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

God, in Your great wisdom you have set your Son as ruler.  The earth is his inheritance and all that is in it belongs to him.  When the time comes he will judge us all. And Lord I am grateful, through his death on the cross, I can take part in his inheritance, I too can be called your child.  I am overwhelmed by Your grace, to allow me to be free from the punishment that I deserve and to be seen as righteous in your eyes because of my Savior. 

  Therefore, you kings, be wise;    be warned, you rulers of the earth. 
Serve the LORD with fear
   and celebrate his rule with trembling. 
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
   and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
   Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

God, I thank you for giving me a way out. I humbly rest my faith upon Jesus knowing that he has freed me from Your wrath. He is my refuge  and his reign is forever.

Decisions

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I am the worst at making decisions.  It doesn’t matter if it is a life changing decision, like choosing a major in college, or if it is a decision that will have no bearing on the rest of my life at all, like what I will eat for lunch…I wait until the last possible second to make that choice.  I weigh all my options.  I go through all the “what ifs”.  I seek advice from my friends and family.  I check my emotions.  I check my calendar. I make a pro and con list.  I observe decisions that other people have made in similar circumstances.  And in the end, I doubt that my decision was the best possible choice.  What is wrong with me?!? Maybe I need a new decision making strategy.

The world looks at decision making as a list of steps that if you follow them you will achieve the best possible outcome. But I’m beginning to see that something just isn’t right with that. Following steps to make a decision may not be the worst way to go about it, as long as you are using the right steps.

  1. Pray!!  We have direct access to the One who is in control of the entire universe.  He has a plan for us and the world and He is completely open to us talking to Him about it but we often don’t make use of this great privilege.  In Philippians 4:6-7 we are told that we should be anxious about anything (including decisions that have to be made) but we should present them to God to receive a peace that defies all logic. And we aren’t just to pray about it but know and believe that God has an answer for us. In Matthew 21:22 we are given the assurance that if we pray for anything in faith we will receive it…that includes an answer to a decision.  We don’t have to fret over choices, just pray about them!
  2. Seek wisdom from the Bible—it gives us all the information we need in knowing how to make decisions.  We have in our possession the written words of God.    According to 2 Timothy 3:16 all Scripture is God-breathed which means that every word was spoken directly by God. We know His wisdom is infallible and his great knowledge is there in writing for us to study and apply. 
  3. Seek godly council. When faced with a decision, make sure you are running to the person who will point you to a godly decision and who will be honest with you. Avoid the person that you know will simply tell you what you want to hear. Try not to go in to the conversation with a strong decision already made but have a heart that is open to facets of the situation that you hadn’t thought about.
  4. Rely on the Holy Spirit. When you have an important decision to make, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone you trust to come along and pray for you and tell you exactly what to do? Wouldn’t it take a huge load off to receive comfort and wisdom from someone very close to you? Well, the Holy Spirit is all of those things and lives inside of you.   In our time of need the bible says that the Holy Spirit will pray for us (Romans 8:26) and tell us what to say (Luke 12:12). The Holy Spirit was given to comfort us and remind us of the words of God (John 14:26).   
  5. Trust God and know that He sees you. Psalm 139 is a great reminder that God is ever present and all seeing.  He sees all of our actions and knows all of our thoughts.  He knows us better than we know ourselves and knows our feelings that we don’t even understand.  He also has a great plan for you…a plan that is better than anything that we can imagine (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Not only that but he hears us when we pray. Our cries of frustration and confusion do not go unnoticed.
  6. And finally, know that the outcome isn’t always our definition of “best”.  There have been so many times that I have followed the steps listed above and felt confident about my decision.  And primarily I felt relieved and excited about my choice.  But as time went on, something went wrong and I began to doubt my initial decision.  Especially in these situations, I look at my life in parts instead of as a whole.  I view that particular incident isolated from the rest of my life and beyond that I view my life as separate from the entire kingdom of God. I have to understand that my life ambition should not be to make all the choices that will make me happy in each particular situation but to make the small decisions based on what will make me more holy in the grand scheme of life.

The world may make decisions based on what the best would be for themselves, or even for their family or friends but we have a much higher calling on our decisions.  We are to bring glory to God and further His kingdom.  This gives us great responsibility but also, a great hope in knowing that God sees us and gives us resources to bring about His mighty plan even through our small decisions.