Pioneer Parenting: Building the Christian Home You Never Had
- Monday, February 20, 2006
Pioneer parents — and all parents for that matter — make mistakes. We say painful words that we heard our parents say — words that once stung us, words that now sting our children. The best way to disarm sin is to admit it. No parents are perfect. Trying to appear sinless (particularly during a bout of anger) causes children to worry about how they "made" mommy or daddy be mean. Confessing our sins to our children and asking their forgiveness opens the door to communication, de-escalates heated arguments, and shows children that even parents need the restorative forgiveness of Jesus.
4. Understand that parenting is not outside-in, but inside-out.
I used to think parenting successfully meant finding the "best" strategies and practicing them. Though good parenting strategies are helpful, particularly for Pioneer Parents, they lacked real power. I realized I could impose all sorts of methods from the outside, but my heart (where parenting starts) remained the same. To parent differently than how I was raised, my heart needed to be healed. David said, "What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life" (Psalm 51:6, MSG). God is in the business of cleaning, healing and rejuvenating our hearts from the inside out. The greater the healing, the more authentic and effective our parenting will be.
5. Forgive your parents.
Jesus told us to forgive, plain and simple. Sometimes He even used impossible math: 70 times 7 — 490 times! Holding bitterness in your heart, shunning forgiveness, actually hinders you from parenting freely in the present. Forgiveness sets you free — free to love your imperfect parents, free to give grace to your imperfect self as you struggle to parent differently. It’s not pretending nothing happened back there; on the contrary, forgiveness is a revolutionary, brave act.
How is forgiveness connected to pioneer parenting? Picture a thick iron chain around you and your family of origin. If you choose not to forgive, the chain keeps you connected to the past. It stifles your heart so that you cannot parent effectively today. Choosing to forgive causes the chain to fall away, setting you free to parent your children differently.
6. Stop the comparison game.
Few acts are more destructive than comparison. I’ve caught myself observing other parents not to glean pointers about parenting, but to chide them or myself. I will never parent that way, I think, which can either mean I don’t want to be like that parent or I am an utter failure at parenting well. Jogging through my neighborhood one day, God taught me a comparison lesson. Each yard was different. Some sported "Yard of the Month" signs. Others hatched weeds. I realized that the sanctification journey is different for me, as my "growing up" yard may have had bad soil and not enough sun. Comparing myself to Yard of the Month parents, who may have had affirming upbringings, was unfair. God asks us to concentrate on our own yard, to pull one weed at a time, to revel in one flower planted.
Paul says, "That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original" (Galatians 5:26, MSG). A chapter later, Paul asserts, "But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another" (Galatians 6:4 NAS).
7. Find support.
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