Christian parenting in our current culture is not easy. Those who think it is easy probably aren’t paying close enough attention. There seems to be a new land mine to step on every day. There are several tensions that Christian parents have to process and navigate that can be very difficult. I am going to bullet point some of the tensions below. I could write a lot about each of these, but for now I just want to start the conversations.
- Life trumps Words. We all know that things are easier said than done. This applies probably most to christian living. Most parents live with an awareness that their life will always speak louder to their children than their words. A tension that arises out of this is one of strong accountability. Christian parents badly want their kids to love Jesus and enjoy Him forever. Yet, they know that many days their lives are not a picture of loving Jesus and enjoying Him forever.
- Law and Grace. Not only is getting the balance between how we apply law and grace to our own lives, it is extremely difficult in parenting. I remember one night being FILLED with anger towards my oldest son, Caleb. It was a moment that I wanted to be heavy “pro-discipline” and think about grace later. Realizing that I was not functioning from a healthy heart I walked away and addressed it later. When I walked away though I was extremely frustrated. I had just had an internal epic-battle between how law and grace was supposed to function in that particular moment. Christians that have a deep understanding of grace can sometimes shy away from demanding obedience from their kids. We must work hard to navigate how both law and grace apply to our parenting.
- Guidance and Freedom. We know our kids won’t be kids forever. We know at some point they will be responsible for themselves. How do we find the line between how much guidance and how much freedom we ought to be giving our kids as they continue to grow and mature? We all know the over-controlling parents that “guide” their children like dogs on incredibly short leashes. We also know the “cool” parents that give their kids so much “freedom” they have essentially stopped being parents. Both of these extremes are great recipes for disaster. The disasters might look different, but I don’t want to be in the middle of a tornado or hurricane. Christian parents must wrestle with the tension of how much guidance and freedom is given year by year as their kids grow and mature.
- Protection and Relevance. You should be noticing a trend, these tensions are difficult for our own lives, not to mention being responsible for other lives as well! Parents seem scared to death to have the “weird kid.” While I kind of get that in one sense, I don’t think most Christians approach that in a healthy way. Most parents seem to think “weird kid” means their kids don’t have all of the latest electronics and access to everything their friends have. If that is what it means, I will make sure my kids are “weird.” On the other side is this thought that we are somehow doing our kids a service when we shield them in such a way that when they go to college they think they just entered the anti-Narnia. It is a really tough tension of how much do we protect our kids from the world and how much of we “let in” so they can be “arrow children” going out into the world.
- Broken systems, yet responsible. Yes, parents are totally responsible for how they raise their kids. Like in every culture, we are responsible for how we raise them despite the tough reality that the systems in which we have to raise them are incredibly broken. Jesus loving parent, meet fallen world. Broken systems are literally all we have to function in. There isn’t a perfect system to raise kids in which we can guarantee our kids will flourish in educational, social, emotional, psychological, and physical areas. We are responsible for all of these areas of their life, yet we must navigate through the brokenness of the systems available to us.
- Holy and Missional. We all desire our kids to be holy as God is holy. We also know kids aren’t very learned in “chewing the meat and spitting the bones.” We don’t want our kids to only be able to spend time with kids who are Christians (heck most of the ones you think are Christians probably aren’t), but we also don’t want them to be heavily influenced by kids who will introduce them to all types of evils and issues they don’t know how to navigate.