Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Have you met the counting lady? Let’s call her Mable. Maybe you have seen her in Walmart, standing in the checkout line. Her 7-year old son–let’s call him Biff—was disobeying her, and she was fearfully hoping he would stop being disruptive. Her method for getting little Biff to behave was to count. 1… 2… 3 …
This method is like a game of dare. Mable begins a slow cadence down a dead-end street, hoping Biff will get a clue and choose respect and obedience. This method is often the product of a fearful or angry heart.
If he does not respond favorably, she may stop counting and start yelling. She may grab a body part to motivate him to cease misbehaving. If her method becomes punitive and he does not respond correctly, she will be at a loss. Success in Mable’s mind is an immediate behavioral modification, whether it comes through anger, the infliction of pain, or the threat of future retribution from Biff’s dad after he arrives home.
The sad thing for Biff is that he will not be transformed from the inside out because the parenting model is pragmatic—immediate behavioral results—rather than centered on gospel truths. If there will be shalom in their home, it will be temporary because the transformation comes through manipulation out of fear or anger.
In many of these situations, the dad has not been leading the family. He may not be in the picture or possibly have delegated his parental role to the mom because he is preoccupied with “more important things” like his job. Part of the parent’s motivation is to keep their child from becoming whatever it is they fear. This “something” is usually part of the parent’s experience.
Rather than trusting God by parenting from the Bible, they oversteer the car, choosing to parent from anxious fear. If your parenting is not connected to and flows from the gospel, you will set up your children for current frustration and future failure. Many pragmatically parented children spend their adult lives un-parenting themselves. They have to unlearn the negative shaping influences of their parents.
If you believe you are a pragmatic parent, the first thing to do is examine your parenting heart. Do you know how to parent according to the gospel? What is your methodology for cooperating with God in the transformation of your child? Do you primarily parent the way the Lord parents you?
A biblical diagnostic that will help you examine your parenting style is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Read and replace the word “love” with your name. Whether the word “love” is stated or implied, insert your name in the blank.
______ is patient and ______ is kind; ______ does not envy or ______ does not boast; ______ is not arrogant or ______ is not rude. ______ does not insist on its own way; ______ is not irritable or ______ is not resentful; ______ does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but ______ rejoices with the truth. ______ bears all things, ______ believes all things, ______ hopes all things, ______ endures all things.