Monday, July 20, 2015

Mom-ing Through Faith: On Freedom and Control, Part 1

This one is a game-changer. 

I was trained in cognitive-behavioral child and family psychology, which has a lot to do with behavioral chains and reinforcement and consequences and on and on and on. Actually, I've already spoken about some of those techniques in previous Mom-ing Through Faith blog posts. And I think there is definitely a time and place for those techniques. 


Late last year, my LifeGroup studied a book that completely shifted how I view parenting. And I think it's a safe bet to say that the perspective offered by this book is completely different than the one most, if not all, mommas out there adopt when it comes to parenting and discipline. Mainly because it is not how most of us were raised. And as the author of Loving Our Kids On Purpose, Danny Silk, points out, adopting this new view and approach to parenting is challenging because we are required to "parent our children in a way that is completely foreign to the way that we ourselves were parented." Because, you see, "survival in life mostly comes down to attempting to successfully imitate others in your environment."

Whoa. Let's pause and think about that for a second. Most of the time, we surround ourselves with people who are very similar to ourselves: same views, same morals, same SES, some perspectives, same interests, etc. Because it feels safe. This is why most of us were likely raised by parents who had very similar views on parenting as those around them as far as spanking, being grounded, losing privileges, etc. Am I right? And yet, as Danny says, "There is a huge difference between a culture where obedience and compliance are the bottom line and a culture where relationship is the bottom line." 

Confused yet? Keep reading...

First, if you have never read this book, I could not recommend it more highly!!! I'm telling you, I fully believe that the perspective offered will totally change how you view parenting and your relationship with your children. It has, and is, certainly changing mine.

Ready to dive in? Let's go!

Let me start by sharing some of the introductory rationale behind this perspective. Please know that this amazingly insightful and life-changing knowledge is not my own but comes straight from Danny Silk's book:

In the first few chapters, Danny tells us that

...we are terrified by our children's poor choices. We try to eliminate as many as possible. The fact that we eliminate poor choices from our children's lives, while God introduced one in the garden on purpose, shows us that we need a paradigm shift. 

Now, I don't know about y'all, but I frequently adopt the false belief that my children should be perfect all the time and when they aren't, it's a reflection of me. But hello!!! I am so far from perfect. As are my children. As are you and yours. There was only ever one perfect person in this world, and He is our Lord and Savior. 

A wise friend (shout out to you, Amy T.!) once wrote that, as mommas, we cannot control our children's actions, but we can control our reactions to them. This falls right in line with Danny Silk's views on control, which I'll get to more of next week. But for now, know that he also says:

Our children are professional mistake makers. They are all on a learning journey. When we are afraid of their mistakes or their sins, our anxiety controls our responses to them and the spirit of fear becomes the "master teacher" in our home. 


As they work to eliminate opportunities for sin, parents develop an expectation that their children live a mistake-free life, and the goal of parenting becomes teaching obedience and compliance. As a result, their children miss the whole lesson about freedom. 

Why are we (I) so afraid of our (my) children making mistakes? Why are we (I) so quick to punish rather than get to the heart of the matter. Because you see, as Danny says,

Until our children learn to deal with what's going on inside of them, they simply cannot learn to manage freedom. 

He is trying to prepare us to live absolutely free lives in an environment of unlimited options more than trying to keep us from sin. 

And yet, 

When children grow up in an environment where their parents are scared of sin, they learn to fear failure...[which] builds fear instead of love.

As a result...are you ready for this? This one is hard to swallow. But mommas. Let's be honest with ourselves...this is absolutely TRUE:

For many of us...intimidation is our only real parenting tool. We have various levels of intimidation. We try to convey to our kids that we are in control of their lives from the time they are tiny. 

Are you guilty? I am. 

Ever said a sentence that started like this?:

"If you do that one more time..."

"This is your last chance..."

"I'm going to send you to time out if you do that again..."

Ouch. Most of us use intimidation daily to try and elicit better behavior and punish bad behavior. But this is wrong, wrong, wrong according to Danny Silk. It's like putting a bandaid on a deep, infected cut: It is only addressing what's on the surface. But. If the underlying infection, if that deep wound, isn't treated, it will never properly heal and may even make things worse. Danny does on to say:

We want to become apt at training our children to reach inside themselves and listen to the Holy Spirit for direction in the way they should go. 

We need to focus on helping our kids get in touch with their hearts. When we discipline behavior rather than addressing the motives and thinking that produced that behavior in the first place, we teach them to be externally governed and prevent them from getting in touch with the source of their power to walk in relationship and direct themselves towards God's vision for their lives. 

And then he says, and I LOVE this, 

We need to become students of who our children are. 

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. 

"That's all fine and good," you say, "but now what?"

For now, I just ask that you come along with me as I continue to explain the thinking behind this new way of viewing parenting. Honestly, I think things will become even more clear next week before throwing out some actual, specific techniques the following week that we not only now use in our home, but that actually, really work!!

Stay tuned, and I'll look forward to seeing you again next week!

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4.

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