Written by: Pastor Conrade
Date: Feb 6th, 2017
A friend of mine once told me his predicament. He moved to Vancouver when his kids were studying in Vancouver High Schools. After high school, they moved again to the East Coast because their kids started University studies there. After they graduated, they moved again. Where their children go, there the parents will be also. When will all these follow-the-children movements end? Surely life is much more than our children?
Times have changed. Unlike the past, where children usually follow their parents, many parents are now following their children. From schools to universities to job locations, some families literally move as one under the pretext of being together as one family. John Rosemond lamented about the shifting of parenting priorities compared to the culture back in 1972. At that time, his wife said:
“We are not going to make this child the center of our lives. This child is going to adapt to us, not the other way around.” (John Rosemond, Family Psychologist)
I have seen quite a number of my peers, including Christians, whose lives revolve around their little ones. Even their marriages revolve around their children. I call this “Child-Centered Parenting.” In this article, I want to encourage Christian parents to aim toward Christ-centered parenting.
A) Child-Centered Parenting
According to family psychologist, John Rosemond, modern parents nowadays spend 80-90 percent of their roles at home as fathers or mothers, more than as husbands and wives. Engrossed with their children, they fail to pay sufficient notice to one another. Parents adapt to what the children wants, sometimes at the expense of their spouse’s needs. For others, it is a subconscious compensation of what parents had lacked when they were growing up. By paying extra attention to their kids, they had hoped to re-compensate what they had lost in their own childhood, in order to guarantee their own children will not suffer the same heartaches of theirs. The problem is, the contexts of yesterday and today have shifted. What was in the past should remain in the past. Why re-introduce the past into the present? We should not transfer old baggages and dump it on the next generation.
Tom did not experience a happy childhood. His mother scolded him a lot for even the smallest things. As a result, he ran away from home often. He played truant. He tried to avoid seeing his mother as much as possible. His father was virtually non-existent. Even after spending lots of times at work during the day, the time at night was strictly TV to himself. In growing up with a controlling mother and an absentee dad, his view of parenting has become one of defiance, that whatever he had experienced, he would never allow his children to suffer the same. So he compensated forward. He gave his children the freedom to do things. He tried to spend lots of time buying goodies for them. His life practically revolves around the children until he has no time to develop his own skills, talents, and hobbies. Once the children grew up, moved out, and started their own families, he was left alone again. Naturally.
“In the child-centered family the kids aren’t really happy because obeying parents is not a priority. But kids in a child-centered family are fine with the arrangement because they have power, and power is intoxicating.” (John Rosemond)
Having children at the center of the lives of parents is common occurrence. For young parents, it is seen as completely normal under the guise of inexperience and over-enthusiasm about children. I have seen many of my peers dropping everything at the first sound from their precious little child. While I understand the need to attend to little kids, I question the wisdom of maintaining that level of over-enthusiasm when the kids grow up to be teenagers. When Child-Centered Parenting becomes more acute, parents find it hard to let go. They feel that life without their children is meaningless. They dread the empty nest syndrome. They are unable to cope without hearing the sound of their children in their house. They are not sure how that would impact their own marriages.
Meanwhile, their children find them a nag. As the children seek to be with their own friends more and more, controlling parents become more paranoid about what kind of friends their children are mixing with. Who are their dates? What kind of jobs or houses their children need? Honestly, if parents live with their whole lives revolving around children, it could very well bring about negative consequences. Could over-parenting:
- Grow in them a sense of entitlement?
- Encourage them to be more self-centered instead of others-centered?
- Teach them that the world revolves around them?
- Inculcate a “Me-first” paradigm?
- Conclude that parents, church, and God exist for their sake?
Jerry Jenkins reminds us that “kids may hear what you say, but they believe what you do.” This can be reflected in the way we prioritize our time, our work, and our family. Does our schedule reflect the values we hold dearly to? If we want to teach our children the importance of punctuality, do we make an effort to show them what punctuality looks like every Sunday morning in Church? If we tell them that it is important to read the Bible or to pray regularly, are we as parents showing them we read the Bible and pray regularly ourselves? Are the things we do remind them that we first belonged to Christ?
If not, we are in danger of Child-Centered Parenting. Worse, it could become an obsession with our children. Christians parents need to be reminded constantly that it is Christ that they pledge allegiance to. It is in Christ that they parent and it is in Christ that they bring up their kids.
B) Christ-Centered Parenting
JD and Veronica Greear hits the mark when they observe that Christian parents need to do “Jesus-Centered Parenting in a Child-Centered World.” In their 7-session series entitled “Ready to Launch,” they describe the Family and the Church environments as the two primary ‘laboratories’ or ‘gardens’ to help children be more Jesus-centered. They urge parents to remind their children constantly that they belong first to God. They are to be equipped not for self-accomplishments or any selfish purposes but for the Mission of God.
In the area of disciplines, the world and the devil begins with accusing us of what we do and punish us for it. The way of Christ begins with who we are and helps rebuild our lives. The difference is stark. In moments of discipline, Christ-centered parents should regularly manifest the love and grace of Christ to differentiate their disciplines to ensure they build up rather than tear down their children.
I believe this is one of the most important aspects of Christ-Centered Parenting. It is to see our children becoming more like Jesus, and less like the world. It is equipping our kids to be thankful for all God has done for us. It is helping them see with eyes of God’s heart for the world, instead of limiting our children only to their own needs. Mark Holmen wisely puts it:
“It is by intentionally and consistently talking to our children about God and His ways that we encourage our kids to live in a loving and lifelong relationship with Him.” (Mark Holmen)
Indeed. Parents, do your children a favour. Seek to be Christ-centered yourself, that you may live out Christ-centered parenting, for your sake as well as your children.
It begins with two simple practices: Read your Bible daily in the presence of your children. Pray regularly everywhere. That is teaching by showing Christ-Centered Parenting on the fly.