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On Close Examination

February 15, 1997

When you have spent ten minutes with a parent and child, you can feel whether or not there is a healthy environment for growth and development. Now we are not looking at how much they know or even how informed they are in parenting skills. To be able to define technique and principle is useful and often saves a lot of time when faced with a problem. But there is something that runs much deeper; it is as deep as the soul. We see parents who are socially clumsy, intellectually slow, and couldn’t discuss child training with any coherence at all; yet they are good parents, raising stable, contented kids.

On the other hand, we know of parents who are wise enough to provide stimulating and challenging conversation on points of child training, parents who could probably teach an impressive class on the subject. They have read several good books, retained most of what they read, and are very confident of their abilities. Yet, as you see them relate to their children, you know they have problems that will lead to great disappointment.

What is the missing element? It is a matter of the soul. We are not talking about religious indoctrination or spiritual airs; we are talking about the life and attitude that makes us who we are inside. In some homes you can sense that the parents and the children are just coexisting. Out of the chance of nature they are sharing the same dwelling. They may mantain a compromising truce, bringing relative stability, but you know that what you are seeing are souls in competition. The parents have disciplined the children into subjection, but the children are not walking in the parents’ light; they are walking around their parents’ displeasure. There is no mutual respect and appreciation. The parent and child are walking separate paths. Due to the necessity of circumstances, their paths are running parallel, but they are not walking together, not in fellowship. They are all survivors. For practical purposes they have learned to get along with various degrees of give and take.

Then there are those relationships where parents seems to have invisible radio links to their children. It is like they were in constant communication. You sense that the parents’ most important moment-by-moment task is to nurture their children. We are not talking about constantly indulging, or even constant attention, but just an awareness of their child’s soul. The parents are ever on guard, stimulating, challenging, teasing, encouraging, appreciating their children.

If you were to approach a child who is part of such a culturing relationship and ask, “What does your Mother/Father think about you? The child would unhesitatingly, and with a contented smile, tell you, “My Mama/Daddy thinks I am great.” I am by no means suggesting it, but if you were to teasingly say, “You are so much trouble, your mother is going to give you away.” The child would not be angry. He/she would pity your ignorance or stupidity, condescendingly smiling at you as if to say, “Poor ignorant man; doesn’t he know that my Mama would be unhappy without me?” How would your children answer if someone asked them how you felt about them?

Children who are tolerated and pacified feel insecure. They are angry. They come to such a frame of mind that if you told them their parents had decided to give them away, they would explode in anger, because they feel it could be true.

Only parents who feel desperate will admit to this condition. Many Christian homes are in this deplorable state. Busy, career absorbed parents speed along through life, take their children to church, send them to youth camp, go to an occasional ball game, take them to Disney World, restrict the kids’ TV, ration the sweets, make sure they get a good education, spank them when they are young, and nag them when they get older. They watch them go through all the “stages,” and then one day the parents stop long enough to exclaim, “That ungrateful kid! Well, I gave him/her everything. Why is he/she so angry? You would think I was the enemy! Oh well, it is out of my hands now. I just hope they don’t bring that bratty grand-baby over here again this weekend.”

If you fear you have allowed this condition to develop in your home, what can you do? You must change your entire philosophy of life. Your perspective and values must be revamped. Decide where your priorities lie. The key is to determine where you are going to invest your best emotional energy? When you can look in your child’s face and smile with a genuine relaxed pleasure and delight, you have turned the corner to renewal. When you can get in touch with your child’s soul and know that your hearts are beating together, you have conquered. To maintain that fellowship is the best of parenting, and the best of what this life can offer.

Children are not deceived. They are great psychologists. They want to be loved, valued, appreciated, understood. Your conversion must reach all the way to the deepest recesses of your soul, or they will know you are fake.

John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, was given the ministry of preparing the nation of Israel for the coming of Messiah. His calling was “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17).” Fathers, Mothers also, your children need your heart. There is no substitute, no technique, no wisdom, no program that can take the place of the heart. Your intelligence and education alone are worthless. Psychology is a deceptive vanity. Techniques, including the ones we teach, are paint brushes without artists. God breathed into us a living soul – making creatures with whom He can fellowship. If you would fellowship with your children, you must breath your soul into them.

You may need to make adjustments that allow you to have more relaxed time with the children. But sometimes the problem is deep in the soul of the parents. If you cannot be heart-to-heart with your children, because your heart is corrupt, you need to go to God in repentance. When you have peace with God, you will exude peace in the home. You will become approachable to your children. They will come to enjoy just spending time with you. You will become their best friend.

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One comment on “On Close Examination”

  1. Coming from a home of co-existence, this article meant so much to me ~ I'm learning to connect with my own little ones !
    Thank you very much.