I’m very excited for this post today. Why? Well, I stumbled upon something that shifted something important with me. And I wanna share it with you.
Okay, in the last several posts, I have been talking about the concept of Parenting Below the Line, which means that we meet our children where they are at and we love them there. We guide them. We build into them. We create a family culture where our children don’t have to hide from us. And when they hide from us, we still meet them in their sin and muck and misery and we love them.
We give them the undeserved gift of grace.
Well, that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? What gets in the way of that? Well, we do. You and I have a way of doing life. We have gotten this “way” from the way we were parented. And even if we have vowed to never act like our parents, we cannot help but act like our parents, at least some of the time.
I mean, think about it. When you were handed your newborn child (or adopted child), you were beginning a totally unfamiliar journey. The terrain was brand new. The road before you was unexplored. What sort of map would you naturally rely on? Well, the one you received from how YOU were parented. Makes complete sense, doesn’t it?
We also have the influence of the beliefs from our churches, communities, friends and extended family.
Well, your parenting, then, is as good as the “map” of all of these beliefs you have received.
Dr. Tim Kimmel is the founder of “Family Matters” and he works with his wife Darcy to equip families to raise strong families. I like him. A lot.
Within his work, he has seen that many of the maps that we use are flawed. And he has compiled a list of the seven most common inadequate parenting methods that he has seen emerge from Christian parents:
In Fear-Based Parenting, (which he has found to be the most pervasive) the parent is afraid of just about everything. Schools. Immodest clothes. The internet. Liberals. Santa Claus. Their fear determines their strategy of parenting.
In Behavior-Modification Parenting, the parent thinks that the proper environment, education and input will create a child that turns out well. This creates the perfect picture of a perfect family but it stays on the surface and does not enter into the regions of the heart.
With Image-Control Parenting, the parent really wants to present their understanding of Christianity to the world around them by doing all of the things. They are living by the handy dandy checklist versus trusting in God to lead them.
High-Control Parenting happens when a parent uses their strength of personality or authority to get their kids to comply. There are lots of toxic things going on, from fear to anger to shame. Interestingly, high-control parents think they are doing the right thing and morally justify their actions.
Parents who follow Herd-Mentality Parenting are doing just that: following. If the majority or parents are overscheduling their kids, so are the parents caught in herd mentality. They try to parent like everyone else.
Duct-Tape Parents don’t work at long-term solutions. They just put out fires and patch up problems as they arise. They don’t have a sense of vision because they are too caught up in the immediate.
Finally, 911 Parents are like Duct-Tape Parents, except there is also a crisis in the picture. Many 911 Parents have heavy wounds from their own childhoods.
Interestingly, all of these methods of parenting are based on fear. As Christians, we’ve gotten scared. And our fear is what is motivating us. (Don’t do that, Don’t be that, Don’t wear that, Don’t, Don’t, Don't.)
As we parent with fear in the driver’s seat, we will likely have one of two passengers:
Judgmentalism means I am better than you. Everyone around me is wrong. I am right. You should do life like I do it. And well, let’s not hang out with anyone that doesn’t think like we do.
Legalism is about making sure everyone in the family does all of the right things. Life becomes a checklist for Christ. We must do all of the things. Properly and in order. “If we do the things, then we are accepted by God.”
Here’s the deal. It’s easy for me to see how I have clearly missed the mark throughout my years as a mother. Take any of my eight children out for coffee, bring a notebook, and ask them to share with you the times when I controlled them, created fear in them, or spewed judgmentalism or legalism. They will share with you an impressive list, I am sure.
Yes, that’s gross. And yes, we can change, which I will get to. But I want to know the reason below the reason. WHY do we parent from fear? What is making us do that? I mean, we believe in God. We trust Him, don’t we? Why can’t we just easily and effortlessly parent with His grace?
Dr. Kimmel says this fear is the result of what he calls the parent’s theology.
Remember that the word “theology” means the study of God. So a “parent’s theology” is literally how that parent sees God and how that parent thinks God views them, which is, again, given to us from the maps or beliefs we’ve received from parents, our churches, our communities, friends and extended family.
If we were raised in a home that was about following all of the rules, then we will think that if we color outside of the lines, God will be disappointed and angry with us.
If we were raised in a church that stresses behavior over relationships, then we will think that God is more interested in how we act than who we are.
And here is the real zinger:
HOW WE VIEW GOD DETERMINES HOW WE PARENT.
People. Wow. That’s Truth. Not lowercase letter truth, but Truth with a Capital T.
I had to allow this new understanding some space: How I View God Determines How I Mother my Babies.
Think of your own life. Think of the child that is driving you the most crazy. Think of how you are parenting that child, your own parenting theology towards him or her. (If they are grown now, think back to a time when they were under your roof and making you crazy.)
According to Dr. Kimmel, that’s how you view God.
See what I mean? That’s a dagger in the heart of a mama.
And, I may be crazy, but that’s what I love about parenting. I don’t love the pain involved, but I love being shown where I am justifying or bluffing my way through life. If I cannot meet my children with grace below their line, that simply means I have a skewed view of God.
So, if I want to meet my children with grace, I need to change how I view God. And how I think He views me. How to do that, exactly? Well, there are probably as many ways to do this as there are people!
What I have been doing every morning: I sit in the quiet, I get still. I have asked Jesus to speak to me about how He feels about me.
“Tell me how much you love me.” (That seems a bit outrageous and vulnerable. But I trust that He will answer me.)
And I open His Holy Word and read. I get overwhelmed and full. I’ve been reading and rereading from Luke 12:22-34, which is the passage about dependence on God. He will provide all we need.
This one little line seemed to speak louder than the rest:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Not sure I have ever concentrated on that line before.
Don’t be afraid. Your Father, the King, is pleased to give you everything.
Okay. I’ll take the Kingdom. Now help me trust that my Heavenly Father is pleased to give it to me. Open my heart. Help me trust.
Why this is super important: just as we received from our parents, our children are receiving a ton of messages from us. We are parenting the next generation of leaders. I don’t know about you, but I want to raise children who feel secure, who know they are loved as they are, that they are significant in our world and that they can find everything they need in God.
You, as the parent, are incredibly important in the life of your child.
I would love to hear what you thought about this post. What kind of parenting theology do you use on the daily? If it is a little off kilter, how can you shift that?
Next time we’ll look at some simple ways that we can raise children that feel secure, know they are significant and who can find their strength in God.
I love sharing and exploring this topic of parenting our children below the line. I have been doing that more intimately with a small group of women via Mother Retreats. The next set of retreats is next weekend, Friday March 25 OR Saturday March 26, 2022, from 8 a.m to noon. If you live in the area, please consider coming. Just choose which day works better for you.
Here are details about the retreat: MOTHER RETREAT.
If you are reading or hearing this after those dates have passed, just go to our site: The Parenting Dare. Click on “retreats” to find out when the next one will be. If you cannot go to the retreat, I have plenty of good content and such available. Look around. If you want to really parent below the line, you'll love our free series Raising Strong Children.
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