And to being thankful for the Holy Spirit. I definitely appreciate the red flags He occasionally waves, indicating that perhaps I’ve just read, thought, said, or discovered something a bit “off”.
There was one such red flag last week when I realized how deeply mothers associate themselves with schools of thought or philosophies of behavior. A “beware” sounded in my ear.
Here’s what happens: We’re all, always, looking for the right way to be a mother, the right way to parent, the right way to not fail our kids. Built into each of us — whether through personality, background, or culture — are instincts. And we hear an idea and say, “Aha! That sounds right!” Eventually, you may hear a whole string of “aha” ideas, find out it has a name and an official wikipedia entry, and realize that not only does your style have a title, but there’s a whole circle of mamas out there with the same ideas! How comforting is that? To find out there are whole books written to answer each of your questions as your refine this style that you’ve decided is yours? To know there are forums with dozens of trying-hard moms asking and answering the same dilemmas you face? Magazines, conferences, groups… You’ve been adopted into an official mama club!
But here’s the deep, deep problem with that: we begin to identify with a philosophy, rather than with Christ and His Word. We begin by perhaps agreeing with the outlying principles of a certain school of thought, but eventually, we’ve bought the whole thing. Our ideas on the basic nature of man, the relationship of parent-child, the goals of parents, the end-result desired for our children: all of these are now defined and articulated by whichever philosophy we’ve decided is “us”.
And that’s dangerous.
That’s not how a Christian is supposed to live life.
Want an example? Okay, how ’bout me: I came to mothering with lots of ideas inherited from my mother. Imagine my amazement when I discovered that much of what she’d taught and modeled to me was attachment parenting. (I can hear my mom now: “Attachment what?”) As I read about this philosophy of parenting, I realized how much I happened to fall into that “camp”. But when I began to notice “attachment parenting” in the profiles of Christian mama bloggers, a red flag went up. See, my ideas about how I respond to my baby’s cries, or feeding them on-demand in favor of schedules, and about nurturing them and ministering security and comfort to them were a result of my mom’s Bible studies, maternal instincts, and discoveries about how God designed babies’ and mother’s bodies.* As I continued those Bible studies on my own, the instincts that had been cultivated by my mom just grew stronger.
But I saw the trap before me — to jump from my Holy-Spirit and Bible based parenting into a camp defined by a human philosophy. A philosophy that would eventually influence my thoughts on human nature, parental authority, and goals for my children.
See, books and research, forums and magazines can perhaps help to confirm a God-given instinct. But when they become our identity, we can find ourselves going down paths not carved by the Word.
This goes for all parenting “methods”, not just the one I’ve given as an example. I just don’t think it’s a good idea for us mothers to go around saying, “I’m attachment,” or, “I’m Babywise,” or “I’m gentle discipline,” or whatever your flavor of choice may be. There are “hook-line-and-sinker” ideas in all of those that should not simply be adopted as our own. (With attachment parenting, for instance, you eventually come to the belief that children are basically good.) The Bible tells us to sow with a view to righteousness, to sow to the Spirit — if we want to see Holy Spirit fruit. That means we must do more than simply grab at the most natural to us parenting style; we must purpose to have our minds renewed, our choices refined, and our lives characterized by Kingdom values.
Perhaps our parenting choices should be guided by the Word of God itself — a Word rich with principle, wisdom, direction, and all manner of guidance for every moment of life. Perhaps our questions should be posed to men and women of the faith who have borne fruit and whose wisdom is seen in the lives of their loving-the-Lord children…and not to a stranger in cyber-space who makes us feel comfortable because she just admitted to screaming at her children, too. Perhaps when Dr. Phil, or even Dr. Sears, makes a statement about the psychology of children, we should be quick to run to Scripture. And when the world tells us what kind and loving parenting is, we should be ready with the knowledge of what God says love and kindness are.
The world doesn’t need another generation of parents who think they’ve got the corner on the market with their new ideas and techniques. The world needs a generation of radical, take-God-at-His-Word disciples who are raising up a generation even more in love with Jesus.
So, I guess I’m writing this to stir myself and challenge you: don’t be an attachment mama or a Babywise mommy, or whatever.
Be a Christian.
(*This is not my subtle attempt to tell you that this is the only right way to parent. I’m just telling you about me, so you can understand the close parallels I found in attachment parenting.)