Parents – Keep to the Middle of the Road (part 1)
Raising children, like just about everything else in life, is fraught with difficult decisions. From the time a couple discovers they are expecting to the moment they watch their child pass from under their roof and beyond, there are countless judgement calls to be made.
There are generally two extremes that come with most decisions, and decisions concerning parenting are no different. Should you let your baby sleep face down? Should you vaccinate them? Should you homeschool them? To many these questions can be answered with a simple yes or no and each side has their strong reasons.
How about the way in which you parent your child? There are two distinct sides of the road here as well, though the parents that walk on either side are met with many difficulties along the way. Lets take a closer look at them both.
The Right Side of the Road
The first side we'd like to identify (we'll call it the right side) places a premium on correction, order, and discipline. The parents who walk therein are quick to address any misbehavior in their child before it "gets out of hand." They take the shaping of their child's character very seriously (as they should) but are often disturbingly harsh in their punishments and intractable in their judgements.
Right side parents generally see their children as being guilty until proven innocent and are particularly swift to correct public misbehavior as it can be a reflection of their parenting abilities. They simply cannot have others thinking that they do not have their children "under subjection."
The defining quality of the right side of the road is justice and if challenged, right side parents will generally defend their methods by asserting that their child represents an eternal soul molded and fashioned by an omnipotent God and as such they must be very deliberate in their training to keep them in the right way.
On its face, this reasoning appears very sound, but we as parents must always bear in mind that ultimately our children are God's and we are not Him. Treating your children like they are miserable sinners who constantly stand in need of your chastening rod will all but crush their spirits and will likely provoke them to anger. If you're hoping to cultivate the peaceable fruit of righteousness in your children, this is exactly the wrong way to do it.
The Left Side of the Road
The second side (we'll call it the left side) is, as you may have guessed, the very opposite of what we have described above. The parents who walk on this side of the road have but one rule when it comes to raising their children - no rules. They love their children very much (as they should) but often cannot bring themselves to cross them even when they are clearly out of line. They believe that with enough rewards and enough praise, their children will prosper in whatever they set their hearts to.
Left road parents generally see their children as being innocent until proven guilty and often permit their child's strengths (no matter how small) to blind them to their weaknesses (no matter how great). The defining quality of this side is mercy and those who walk therein are nearly blind to flaws in their child's character. They are perfectly content, in most cases, to allow them to go "wherever their heart leads them" with little to no parental guidance along the way.
In the quest to affirm their child, they tend to ignore the fallen nature which they've inherited. In their eyes the child can do no wrong and as such they generally allow them to dictate what's best in any given situation, be it the food they eat or the career path they pursue. They want what's best for the child, and what's best is what the child wants. This is terribly dangerous and all but ensures that they will wander down an errant path, bringing sorrow to both themselves and their parents. If you're hoping to bestow true happiness and prosperity upon your child, this is exactly the wrong way to do it.
There is Another Way...
Choosing to parent along one or the other of the two extreme sides of this road can be deceptive because each of their defining qualities (justice and mercy) are good. Where things go wrong is when we focus on one of these qualities to the exclusion of the other. The better way is to keep to the middle of the road allowing both justice and mercy to influence the way we raise our children.
This is easier said than done, but there is one element that can enable us to keep these two qualities in balance. In my next post we'll take a closer look at what middle of the road parenting looks like and how it is the path which offers the greatest blessings to our children.