Monday, 11 June 2012

Gentle Parenting isn’t religious

We’re Christians. I won’t hide it or apologise for it. Our faith means a lot to us, it directs us in so many ways. The way we parent is an overflow of our faith and our understanding of respect and love. But at the same time, our parenting style separates us from many other Christians of our persuasion who choose to take literally the scripture “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24) as an instruction to use violence to “train” their child (we’ll get to this in a minute).

However, Christianity isn’t the only faith that teaches respect, and neither Christianity nor any faith are essential to the fundamentals of BackRods Parenting. If you search around the internet you will find that there are many BackRods Parents who are pagan/new-age believers.

I think the crux of the matter is that same old recurring theme here, respect. When you believe something that teaches respect, whatever that may be, and you start applying that to your children, the natural conclusion is a respectful parenting style. The best bit is that in our modern, connected age you can find other people that think similarly to you and that leads you onto other related thinking and methodologies.

That’s how we started, I can’t remember the exact starting point, but we’re down the rabbit hole now and it just keeps on going now. We just keep on learning and growing. We find something new and we think it over, we research it as fully as we can, we make an informed choice: “Does this work for us or not? Does this fit with what we’ve seen before? Does this fit with our worldview?”

It doesn’t take faith to make those decisions, but for us our faith definitely influences those decisions. Our faith is our starting point and is a major part of our worldview. We’re all about informed choice.

So you don’t have to be religious to make yourself some BackRods, but what if you are Christian? How are you supposed to parent in a Bible-honouring way and in a gentle and respectful way, when the bible contains statements like the one above? Here’s how we see it: the book of proverbs is very symbolic in the way it tells its wisdom, like those sorts of sayings often are (after all, we don’t all carry around a bird in the hand as much as we might agree that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”).

Have you ever seen a middle-eastern shepherd? They don’t push their flock onwards, they stand at the front and lead their flock. They call the sheep to follow them, this works pretty well because of the natural herding mentality of sheep but occasionally they’re going to need to deal with an individual. This is where the shepherds crook comes in, you can hold it at arm’s length to help direct sheep, you can use it to save wanderers, you can even use it to get sheep unstuck out of difficult situations. And I think this is the rod that Solomon is referring to, not a rod of whipping but a rod of guidance.

That to me fits in much better with my overall picture of respecting life and loving my children. But it is most certainly influenced by my overall worldview.

BTW. This subject leads in nicely to discipline, but that’s a whole other blog post... Watch this space!

The Bible is full of wisdom on how to treat each other, Jesus particularly raises the bar in how we respect each other and how we live in a generous way. If we are to love our enemies, our household needs to be totally immersed in that same love and respect. Of particular interest to me is this verse from Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Col 3:21)

Our purpose as parents is to protect our children and teach them to become “good” adults, but there is a temptation to focus our efforts on side issues. We personally believe that we should be teaching our children to make the same informed choices that we try to make (not necessarily the same outcomes, but the same stringent decision making process), this means that if it isn’t a “health & safety” issue then they can make their own decisions. We wouldn’t let them play on a motorway, because that would be dangerous; but if, for instance, they want a tattoo or they want to drink alcohol (which we aren’t for) we will educate, inform, give our opinions and enable them to make an informed choice, cos that’s how we roll.

And one last thing. If, going back to the previous illustration, they get a tattoo and regret it in 3 months time, we won’t be saying “I told you so”. We’ll be sympathetic and supportive, but we might leave them to deal with their own consequences.

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