Since we first got engaged, 4 years ago, Ben and I have spent countless hours talking about child training and discipline- probably weeks worth of hours. Our kids have always been extremely important to us, and it’s always been high priority to think through why we do what we do, especially when it affects them. As we’ve hashed and re-hashed new and old ideas, we’ve gradually formed guidelines for how we think God wants our family to operate. Guidelines that are drastically different than what we thought they’d be 4 years ago. Slowly, gently, God’s pulled and tweaked our ideas, molding them carefully.
We have more questions than answers. And we can’t guarantee that the road we’re on will lead to perfect success. Yes, we’ve seen positive results so far….but Vivi’s just 15 months, and our only little one. There’ll be new phases and stages, new challenges and blessings, new personalities….and lots of new questions along the way. We can’t point to a host of families around us who parented this way and say, “See? Their kids all turned out well….” Because the path we’re choosing would seem at least a little radical to most of those we fellowship with. On the other hand, we’ve seen lots of methods that don’t work. We know, for example, that legalism won’t get you anywhere, and that controlling your teen’s life only works till they’re old enough to hit the highway. And, on the other extreme, we know that total leniency also produces negative results. We know that failing to be perfectly consistent in whatever one chooses produces negative results.
It’s very much been a journey of faith for me. I’ve assumed for a long time that spanking was biblical and what godly parents do, for the good of their kids. I thought through how I wanted to parent, and why, all based on the assumptions that certain philosophies were biblical- and not just biblical, but the only biblical option. And then, gradually, God started giving us new ideas. Ideas I wasn’t sure about at first. I wanted a set action plan, and it had to be “biblical”. As the ideas have formed together, they have become a loose plan of sorts….they’ve given me a guideline for how to handle various day-to-day training issues. Gradually, we’ve become convicted of the way God wants us to parent. A few months ago, while I felt it was clearly the direction we were supposed to go, I would’ve preferred if it was something we didn’t have to discuss with anyone else. But God had more work to do….and slowly, our decisions have become a passion. A conviction strong enough that it doesn’t matter how much opposition there is, or if everyone disagrees with us. Like babywearing and cosleeping. We know, absolutely, that this is where God has us.
So, then….where are we headed? We feel very passionately about relationship-centered parenting. We always have. More than anything else, we want solid relationships with our kids. We want to have friendships when they reach adulthood that will carry on through whatever life has. We don’t want them to be afraid to come to us- whether it’s with an idea, a troubled conscience, a life issue, or something else. We’re passionate about attachment parenting and its many branches- breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, involving our babies in all of everyday life, cosleeping, etc. We’re also very passionate about treating babies and children like real people….acknowledging that they have emotional and physical needs, just like us. That they count just as much as adults- that, in fact, our children are the most important people, outside of each other (Ben and I) to spend time with, because they’re the ones we’ve been entrusted with. We believe in guiding and leading our children in righteousness. And we’re far more interested in making sure their hearts yearn after God than that they make us look good by obeying perfectly on the outside. We want our kids to obey, not because they’re afraid of getting spanked otherwise, but because it’s right. We want to show them a picture of who God really is- a loving Father. Because they’re people, like us, we believe we need to have grace for them. I’m not perfect; why should I expect my kids to be? We believe in explaining to our children why we ask/tell them to do what we do.
And we’ve come to the conclusion that spanking won’t help us reach those goals- and would, in fact, hinder many of them. Every parent has different goals, and different means of reaching them. These are ours, and following is more on how we currently feel we’ll best be able to meet them. Although I feel very uncertain right now on how biblical spanking actually is, I’m not at a place of saying it’s wrong for everyone, across the board. Spanking might suit your family and meet the goals you have in raising your children. And that’s okay. It, and many of its components, just isn’t going to work for us.
I was realizing this week that we believe in parenting teens as a friend and counselor, rather than a dictator. And we’re firm believers in all or most things attachment parenting. So, it really just doesn’t make sense to totally shift gears and mindsets for the approximately 2-12 crowd. Not sure why I didn’t see that light before!
As we seek to form solid relationships with our children, we desire to spend lots of time with them. Family is our top priority. We love our children, and we love hanging out with them. We want them to feel valued and cherished, which means we spend a lot of time interacting with them. It means we plan activities just because we know Vivi would love them, or that we choose not to partake in activities that don’t work for Vivi. It means that we talk to her a lot, and involve her in our conversations. We get excited over the things that excite her. Mostly, we just love being a family together, interacting with each other.
Our marriage, and time for just us, is important too. The two don’t have to conflict….we typically enjoy lots of good marital time in the evenings after Vivi goes to sleep for the night, focused on just the two of us.