Monday, December 21, 2009

Parenting Heritage


Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention, and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live." —Proverbs 4:1–4

We become what we were raised to be. Much of the process is unconscious. It happens naturally as we grow up and go about life.

I like baseball and hunting. When I was just a boy, even before I was old enough to carry a gun myself, I went hunting with my dad, grandpa, and a couple of uncles. It was just something our family did. It was the same with baseball. My grandfather bought me one of my first baseball gloves. I used to go to his house to watch ball games. My dad coached my brothers and me for years. Little by little, without fanfare or awareness, I became an enthusiast for the woods and the ballpark. I have now passed on that same enthusiasm to my own kids.

Our parenting style is something we were developing when we were still little kids. We didn’t think about it, we didn’t reflect on it, and we didn’t consciously develop it. We became the parents we are today by the parenting style we were raised under when we were two years old, five years old, thirteen years old, and eighteen years old. We were parented to be parents.
Such a reality is at the same time both frightening and exciting. It is frightening because if the parenting style we were raised under was not sound, our parenting style won’t be either. If our parents were neglectful or abusive, there is a good chance we will treat our kids in the same way. On the other hand, if our parents’ style was healthy, then our style likely will be as well. If we were loved and nurtured, we will tend to practice that same kind of care toward our own children.
In Proverbs 4:1–4, when Solomon is passing on instruction to his son, he draws from his own experience as a boy and the parenting care he received from his mom and dad. When he refers to himself as tender and the only child of his mother, you can picture Bathsheba’s gentle care for him. When he refers to being a boy when his father taught him, you can see David sitting at the dinner table, saying, "Son," and then passing on some words of fatherly care and advice. Now, as an adult, Solomon draws from that experience and practices the same level of care with his own son.

When we become adults, we generally parent like our parents, but we don’t have to be locked into a certain pattern. If our parents had an unhealthy style, we don’t have to parent as they did, and we don’t have to engage our kids the way our parents did us. As adults, we can reflect. We can think and say, "You know, I like the way my parents handled some situations but not the way they handled others." We can decide to be more patient, compassionate or involved than we perceive our parents to have been.Dr. Phil McGraw says there are two common ways of reflecting the parenting style of our parents. One, we parent our own children just the way they parented us. If they hollered at the kids for any infraction, then we probably will as well. The second response is to react against the way our parents raised us. If we regard our parents as having been too strict, we may become overly lenient (Family First, p. 67).

I think the important thing to realize is this . . . we have a choice in the kind of parents we will be. With proper reflection, dependence upon the Word, prayer, and continued mentoring from and accountability to older Christian parents with a proven track record in parenting, we can incorporate the very best of our parents’ style into our own approach to parenting. We can enhance our parenting legacy with the instruction of our parents and the ongoing instruction we can receive from other Christian people God puts in our lives.

Warren Baldwin

(This essay is from Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs)


Sue J. said...

Our tendency will be to follow what we know, what has been built up on the inside. But, when we accept Christ and are "new creations," we are freed to see other directions, more Godly directions in our parenting.

This is not something we just do, however. Even when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we spend the rest of our lives "working out our salvation." I would heartily agree with you that our parenting works similarly.

And as God extends us grace, we need to receive it--especially as we parent--and to share it.

Andrea said...

There is a 3rd way: Abandon the past and seek "GODS" guidance.

Merry Christmas and GOD BLESS,

Kelly Combs said...

Warren - interesting writing today. My mom was an alcoholic, mentally ill and an unfit mom by many accounts. I pray that I am creating a NEW LEGECY for my children, one where they are secure in the love and security of their mom. Amen.

Edie said...

I have to be honest here. I have a hard time with this. Yes there is truth to what you say here but not all kids choose to follow what their parents say or do. The father in this scripture counsels his son to choose to listen to him, "do not forsake my teaching." But there are no guarantees that will happen no matter how we parent.

My daughter is one who chose at a young age (and still chooses) to forsake my teaching and I have been judged by many people, including Christians, because of her rebellion. I don't think you are doing that here. I'm just saying it's important that we are careful not to attribute too much of the results to the parents.

I hope this doesn't sound critical, it's not meant to be at all. Just the flip side.

Have a very blessed Christmas with your family! :)

Steve said...

God bless you Warren. I thank God that my kids did not turn out the way I did. They seen something in me as they grew up, that they did not want to be. They never seen me while I was drinking, and I'm so glad for that, but they knew I did drink. As you know, the Lord was not apart of me for many, or most of my years. They never had any bible teachings from me at all, until the last 12 years. But your right, I did has my dad did, as far as raising my kids. I thought it was good enough for me, it should be good enough for them. I wish I could go back and do it all over, I'd change alot of things.
My kids turned out doing well for themselves, and maybe, the way I lived helped them to want better.
God bless

Warren Baldwin said...

Sue - I agree. As Christians we seek God's guidance in all areas of life, parenting being one of them.

Andrea - Abandoning the past is hard, b/c it is such an embedded part of our nature, character and personality. We often do things without really even thinking about it based on upbringing, habit, etc. I believe in seeking God's guidance. One way I believe that is mediated is through other Christian people. That was the point about seeking mentoring from older Christian parents.

Kelly - Thank you for sharing your personal experience as an illustration of the point here.

Edie - Very good corrective here about not assessing too much blame to parents for how their children turn out. Great parents can have kids that rebel; horrible parents can have kids that are wonderful Christians at a young age (I've seen both of these extremes happen). But, this really isn't what this post was about, anyway (At least I didn't mean for it to be).

The point I tried to make here is not about how the kids turn out, but about how the parents parent. Many parents go about their parenting without deliberation, prayer or a godly sense of what they are doing. They repeat many of the mistakes of their parents b/c they don't think through the roles. So, while I agree totally with what you are saying about how the kids turn out, my point was about something different - how the parents function in their role.

But, thanks for the feedback (I apparently was not clear enough in my writing) and no, I don't think you are being too critical.

Steve - Your vulnerability in sharing aspects of your life is humbling and inspiring. I appreciate that so much, Steve. Thank you for sharing about your earlier parenting style - just doing what your dad did without serious reflection (until your kids got older). That is the point I was trying to make.

Thanks for the feedback!


Proverbs 27:19 said...

This is one of the sections of your book that I highlighted quite a few pointers in!

It's as good a read this time as it was the first time!


Warren Baldwin said...

Thanks Larie. I'm glad some of the points in this article and the book were helpful. Glad you are following Titus 2!

The Old Geezer said...

Nothing to add.
I just enjoy reading the great comments
God bless you and have a Merry Christmas

Stacy Wittkamp said...

I think it is true that we pick up some of our parenting style for sure from the way we were parenting. How many times can we remember saying, "When I'm a parent, I'll never say/do that" and lo and behold one day out of our mouth comes something just like our Mom or dad once said...verbatim!! LOL!
I do know that as I have grown as a Christian, I have measured my actions and reactions against what God has said in His word. If the action stands up to His scrutiny it stays. If it doesn't, it has to be removed from my parenting style. The important thing to realize as you said is that our "natural" response may come from our environment.