Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Parenting with Grace, Part 2

(In Part 1 of our series, we discussed the three types of mothers and introduced the topic of Grace Parenting. You can find Part 1 of this series here.)

In Part 2, I'm speaking from my heart to the more law-driven mothers. Later, we'll address the more permissive mindset and the need for balance between the two.

 If you don't fall into the first category, you might be wondering what in the world is she talking about? But I do believe some of you, like me, have been taught to parent very authoritatively, and henceforth very harshly, and can relate to every word I'm writing.

This post is for you.

I Thessalonians 2:7 says, "But we were GENTLE among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children;"

Especially notice the words gentle and cherish...can you picture in your mind a nursing mother hearing her baby cry, picking up and snuggling her helpless newborn?

Do you have this same attitude of gentleness with your 3 year old? Your 8 year old? Your teenager?

This attitude of You are a precious gift from God and I will cherish every hug, every disobedience, every victory, and every failure because YOU ARE PRECIOUS to me and to God?

Are gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, restoration, humility, and sweetness the key parenting words in your toolbox, or do you find yourself using authority, harshness, inconvenience, annoyance, discipline, and punishment more?

Keep in mind that this verse in I Thessalonians was not speaking about being gentle with children---it was a statement to the Thessalonian church---"We (the leaders, the authority) were gentle among you".  If gentleness is preferred between church leaders and church members, how much more should it be preferred between mothers and the sweet little ones God has entrusted them with?

I Corinthians 13 explains how our LOVE should be: 
longsuffering and kind, humble and unselfish, calm and slow to anger, thoughtful and considerate, rejoicing in truth, thinking no evil, and never failing. 

I will freely admit that I spent the first few years of my parenting experience applying the love principles of I Corinthians 13 to adults and not children.

Forgiveness, second chances, endurance through trials, focusing on the positive, and restoration? Wasn't that just for grown-ups?

Weren't children supposed to obey the first time, every time, no questions asked, with a smile and a "yes, ma'am" or face a swift and consistent consequence?

There was no doubt that I loved my children with every ounce of my being, that I cherished being a mother and was passionate about being involved in every aspect of training and nurturing the little ones entrusted to me. But I was focusing on the outward behavior, the instant obedience at any cost, and in the midst of my passion, my good intentions, and my deepest sincerity, I was missing this attitude of grace and I was teaching my children to live under the law in a "works" based environment where Mommy was only happy if they fulfilled my "law".

Verse 11 of I Corinthians 13 says, "When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought  as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Children are supposed to be childish. :)

Simple, I know. But deep, too.

Because, once again, in Jesus' kingdom, things are backwards:

*We want our children to be like adults when Jesus said He wanted the adults to be like children.*

Children are supposed to be children: They're supposed to think, act, understand, and behave like children. Lovingly, gently, and consistently trained, they WILL eventually, gradually, "put away childish things". But I've learned that obedience doesn't have to be obtained by the harshest, strict methods that some might endorse and that I once practiced.

If you're a law-minded momma like I once was (and occasionally still struggle with being), you may find your really great intentions fueled by FEAR. You know exactly what I mean---you're afraid your child will grow up and rebel against the things of the Lord, you're afraid to raise a "spoiled brat", you're afraid of what people might think, you're afraid that if you allow this behavior you'll ruin your child for life.

I was once ruled by these overwhelming fears.

They drove me to extremes in my parenting style because I was trying so hard to do everything just right.

But you know what?

Grace is extended to mommas, too. :)

I found forgiveness at the feet of my Jesus---and the strength I desperately needed to change the areas He revealed to me. Slowly, as my mindset shifted from law to grace, and my parenting style changed, I started to see the fruit I had been trying to cultivate in my children for years!

Children are alot like flowers. Flowers need rain---but they will wither and die under a harsh downpour. Children need discipline----but their spirits will wither and die under a harsh parent.

Both the flowers and the children will THRIVE under a gentle and nurturing touch.

(If you've read my blog for any length of time---or know me in real life :)---then you know I am not encouraging a child-led home with no order or discipline. I believe in teaching and training my little ones just as much as I always have. We'll touch on the practicalities of gentle Grace Parenting in a later post.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guest Post by my 10 year old daughter

I came home from a trip to town a couple of days ago and found this blog post ready on my computer. Without any help from me (she came up with the title and content completely on her own!), Eliana (age 10) had written this, sharing her perspective on life in a large family. It's so precious, I just had to share it here.

Having a Large Family, 3 Goals from Eliana Bergey

 1)   How we get anything done.  In a big family yes, it is hard to get alot done! What I do is I take Johanna into my room and we do our math together and turn our fan on so we can’t hear anything! These are just some things we do.
2)   What are some fun things to do in a big family. Here is an example. A few nights ago we were eating dinner and I said,“Hey guys, let’s hide from Daddy when he gets home!” They said “yes, yes!” “Ok,” I said, “When Johanna sees him I will get Gabbey, and Johanna can get Lyssie and everybody else RUN!” So we waited and waited, then he came in the driveway I said “Hide! Hide!” So all the babies were in Mommy’s closet hiding when they were supposed to be under the bed! J Anyway that’s just a ideaJ. They love to play hide and seek! And most of all they like to play under my bed!! Which they are not allowed to do!

3)    How I deal with all the noise.  In our house yes, there is alot of noise! How do I do it? I do not really know. We have 7 children, 3 babies and one more in Congo, Africa! So you ask me how I do it. We have a small house, so we can’t have it perfectly no noise! Sometimes yes we do make the toddlers be quiet, but sometimes we don’t! Here are some ideas for you (1) make a play area for your little ones.( 2 ) teach them when mommy tells you to be quiet you be quiet.( 3 ) give them blessings when they obey! Now don’t think our toddlers are perfect! Cause they are not! Yes we have had some timeouts here and there, but they’re learning! Now when I say blessings I mean reward them, say “Good job, you obeyed mommy- you get a 1 chocolate chip!”

  And if you’re thinking I have my own computer I don’t! I just
 asked my Mom if I could put it on her blog! Thank you for listening and I hope to write more soon! J

 Written by: Eliana Rose Bergey, 10 years old. I love children and my dreams are to have or adopt more children!
(From Mommy: Eliana has already begun writing her second post, one on older child adoption from a younger child's perspective. I can't wait to read what she has to share!)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Parenting with Grace, Part 1

(This post was initially meant to be Part 5 in my Finding JOY in Motherhood series....but due to its length, I've decided to just start a new series on this subject.)

By way of introduction....

Let’s say tomorrow you have a really bad morning. You wake up late and forget to have your devotions. During the morning rush, you snap at your husband when he asks you to make his lunch. Can’t he just make his own lunch for once? The dog spills his water, the toddler has more breakfast on his shirt and the floor than he does in his tummy, the four year old is shouting, “Mommy, there’s no toilet paper and I went number TWWWOOO!” and a battle over clothes is about to ensue with your teenager. You feel yourself hitting your breaking point, and you react angrily to your circumstances by yelling at everyone. Your guilt is immediate, but your pride is having a hard time admitting that you’re wrong, so you sulk for a while.

It’s only then that you realize your best friend has been sitting on the couch the whole time, observing your behavior. She chooses that moment to say, “Oh, my goodness. You are such a bad wife and mother! You nag your husband, yell at your children, and look at this house! It’s a pig sty! I bet you haven’t cleaned it in a month. And don’t get me started on your attitude. It’s lousy. Quite frankly, you’ll probably never be a godly wife and mother and I’m sick of being your friend.”

Sound like grace?

I don't think so. :)

Now, think how you would feel if your friend said these words instead....."Oh, my. It looks like yu're having a rough day. I bet you could use a hug. Being a godly wife and mother is hard and I know how badly you want to do a good job. Why don't I pray with you and then I'll watch the children for an hour while you take a little break, regroup and come again?"

What response would you rather receive at the hand of someone you love?

Today, we're going to begin a series on a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

I've eluded before on my blog the paradigm shift that occurred in my parenting style a few years ago.

You see, during the years of infertility we experienced before our first child was born, I spent hours upon hours researching Christian parenting and reading every book I could get my hands on about the subject.

Several of the most well-known Christian parenting experts promised that if I would just do A plus B, I'd get C-----the well-behaved children I desired to have.

Well-behaved, godly children.

Yes, that's what I wanted!

I was willing to do anything if it meant having my children love God and obey me. I was literally 100 percent consistent. I constantly looked for ways to train my children. I disciplined frequently, often for minor issues. I won every "battle", no matter the cost.

My heart was in the right place---I wanted to be the very best mother I could be!

But, sadly, I was missing what I now believe to be the most important aspect of good Christian parenting and disclipline:


Parenting With Grace

I like to think there are three kinds of mothers.

There are those who parent by the law, those who parent by permissiveness, and those who parent by grace.

Let me explain.

The mother who parents by the law is a determined momma. She wants to raise up a godly seed, and goes after her children’s behaviors with passion.

This mother keeps the rod handy and uses it frequently.

She has devoured every parenting manual that exists in the hopes of doing it all "right".

She often feels like a failure when her "consistent parenting" doesn't result in "perfect" children.

Yet not one sin goes unnoticed, not one disobedience goes unpunished. She has set herself up as the authority in her children’s lives, her rules are many, her goal, seemingly perfection.

Her standards for her children are commendably high yet her methods are rigid and authoritative. She lives in fear that if she loses a “battle” with her child, she has lost the “war” and ultimately, her success as a parent is based on her children’s performance.

The mother who parents by the law desires obedience above relationship and her goal is to make her children obey.

At the other extreme is the permissive mother.

She also wants to raise up godly children, but lacks the motivation to establish a plan. Her children have few rules, little structure, and even less discipline.

Intimidated by the work involved in parenting her children, the permissive mother finds it easier to avoid “battles” altogether by allowing the children excessive freedom.

The mother who parents with permissiveness desires relationship above obedience and remains continually frustrated that her children won't obey.

The balanced mother is the one who parents with grace towards her children.

 She realizes that obedience without relationship is merely OUTWARD compliance and that relationship without obedience is destructive to the child’s moral conscience and ultimately, their walk with the Lord.

This mother has experienced the amazing, forgiving grace through salvation in Jesus Christ and seeks to lovingly extend the same grace to her children by teaching them obedience in the midst of a gentle, nurturing, loving environment. 

She is quick to forgive and offer second chances.

She does not expect her children to reach perfection and is not shocked by their "childishness" nor offended by their mistakes.

Her goal is to help her children obey.
I realize that there are many parents who struggle more with the need to discipline their children than the over-use of discipline on their children. The goal of this series is emphasize the need for a BALANCE between the two extremes.
Are forgiveness, grace, second-chances, mercy, gentleness, respect, and kindness ONLY for adults? Next time, we'll look at what the Bible says about GRACE. Then I will share how this Grace Parenting came about in our family and our new approach to child-training since our shift in mindset towards our children.