Parenting: Us vs. Them?

Part 1: What Do You Mean by “Good”?
Part 2: Parenting: Us vs. Them?

Kohn observes that many of the books on discipline have to do with winning battles, how to outsmart them, to get them to do what we want, etc. The language that is often used seems to pit us versus them. But, the real question, Kohn asks, is “do we want to see our kids as opponents to be beaten? (100)” He suggests that this kind of thinking and language comes from a hypercompetitive society, where parents who adopt this are people who need to win. I would suggest that parents who adopt this could also just be desperate for a solution to help them to parent their kids better.

Most who know us know that one of our adorable little children is particularly hard to handle- strong-willed and near impossible to motivate with punishments or rewards. This little lady has driven Jake and I nearly crazy at times, because we just didn’t understand how her mind worked or what we were doing wrong in parenting her. During the worst weeks, I found myself to be open to a lot of different ideas, simply because I was desperate to find something that helped me get control over her so that our family could move beyond tantrum after tantrum. Thankfully she has eased up some, and we’ve all found a way to communicate with one another better.

Kohn suggests an authoritarian approach (i.e. high control) to parenting is not healthy. However, sadly enough, the christian community has fallen into the deception that in order to be godly parents, we have to break our child’s will and teach them how to be obedient to us, without question. The reason behind this idea is that we have to help our child to know that it not his or her will that they should do, but God’s will. I must admit, this sounds very sound and reasonable. But, the more I’ve been thinking through my relationship with God, and how I see Him dealing with His children throughout Scripture is more flexible and relationship-based.

For example, we know that some places in Scripture say that God changes his mind sometimes. Moses was able to talk God out of a couple of his ideas. God invites us to be like the persistent widow who asks and asks and asks, even if the first answer is no (um, can any parent relate to that?!). God doesn’t just want our obedience, he wants a relationship. He teaches us– discipline is involved, but not punishment. He gives good gifts to both good and evil people (sending rain on the just and unjust). I have a lot more work to do in Scripture (and life) before I can make any real definitive case for any of this, but initially, these are my thoughts and reflections on God’s relationship with us.

I’d be curious to get your thoughts on this- is it our job to break our child’s will? And what does that mean and look like?

And another question I’ve been wondering- does God love us with a conditional love? Kohn suggests that the God of the Bible seems to do so. Initially I said, “of course not!” But, as I was thinking more about it, I wondered if it wasn’t an easy assumption to make.

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