Parent with the Real World in Mind
- Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mark Matlock's new book, Real World Parents: Christian Parenting for Parents Living in the Real World (Zondervan, 2010).
There's no magic formula you can use to make sure that your kids fare well in this fallen world. So you don't need to feel guilty if you don't keep up with certain behaviors, such as regular family devotions. And you don't need to feel shame if your parenting sometimes falls short of what of what it should be, and you find yourself saying or doing something wrong with your kids.
What matters most is for your kids to see you living for Jesus in a real way - simply doing your best to live faithfully. If you do that, your kids will learn what real faith in action looks like in the midst of the world's sinful realities. They'll witness the ultimate reality that faith can overcome anything the world throws at them.
Here's how you become real world parents:
Embrace grace. Rest assured that God loves you and your family just as you are right now. Rather than worrying about how you are or aren't performing as a parent, draw confidence from the fact that God has forgiven and accepted you, and He loves you deeply and unconditionally. Decide to respond to God's love for you by loving Him back through living as faithfully as you can.
Consider what story you're telling. Every day, you're telling your kids a story by the way you live your life, even when you don't speak a word. What story are you telling your kids about the world, and especially about the way you live with and for God over time? It's crucial that you're communicating God's worldview to your kids, instead of telling them to believe what the Bible says but then living according to the world's values rather than what God values.
Ask God to give you His perspective on every part of your life so you can recognize how the world is influencing you in unhealthy ways. Confess and repent of each way that you've been living the wrong story, and pray for the power you need to live the story God wants you to live. Love God with all of your heart and invite Him to change you from the inside out. Then your life will communicate the right story to your kids.
Give your kids what they need to be spiritually healthy. Let these key parenting values guide you as you raise your kids: setting strong and clear expectations with boundaries, demands, and accountability (while explaining the purpose of those expectations to your kids); expressing emotional warmth and closeness to your kids so they feel loved by you; and allowing your kids to freely express their own ideas (even when they conflict with your own), listening to their ideas respectfully, and letting your kids gradually make more and more of their own decisions.
Let go of broken strategies for competing with the world's story. Trying to isolate your kids from the real world won't ultimately protect them, because they're destined to grow up and experience it for themselves someday - and need to be prepared to make wise decisions for themselves when encountering harsh realities. So whenever your kids are exposed to something you wish they weren't, use that opportunity to help them discover how God views the situation. Attempting to regulate the world's influence on your kids in certain areas - by telling them what they can't do - can create a mindset in your kids where they just follow rules without understanding the big picture of God's story and how it relates to each situation. Your goal shouldn't be protecting your kids for the sake of keeping them innocent; it should be teaching them how to think about the world's values so they'll be able to turn away from wrong values on their own. Trying to compartmentalize your family's life - going to church and doing other Christian activities, while allowing your kids to live just the same way as non-Christian kids - will also fail. Rather than conforming to the world, God calls you and everyone in your family to be transformed by inviting the Holy Spirit to renew your minds regularly.
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