Parenting Advice: What's best for MY family?

With so many differing opinions coming at us from online “mommy groups,” infomercials, play group friends, and our own immediate families it can be overwhelming and perplexing to know just how to raise our children and just what standards should be important to us at any given moment.

Although all of the above avenues of counsel and encouragement can be often be helpful, unless we are grounded in the Word of God and strongly committed to obedience to God’s direction for our own family, we will soon find ourselves frantically going from one new parenting fad to another. Whether the cause of the day is organic baby food, or cloth diapers, or sunscreen, or whether or not to vaccinate it is only as we weigh those “passions of the moment” against the Word of God that we can confidently implement our own parenting decisions.

None of the “causes” I mentioned are inherently wrong, but if they are not consistent with God’s desires for your family, they will merely become a distraction from meeting your family’s goals. While they each have merits and importance in the larger discussion of parenting, such causes, when embraced simply because our sister, or our best friend, or our small group ladies, or even our acquaintances on the Internet are passionate about them, will only leave us breathlessly racing from one parenting choice to another. Instead of confidently training our children and trusting God for the outcome, we’ll second guess ourselves and hesitate to uphold our family’s standards and convictions.

The book of James in Chapter One, verses six to eight, addresses this type of doubtful living. It says this: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a waves of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

In other words, when we are following the crowd without thinking through the results and ramifications of those choices, we are just like the waves, haphazardly blown and tossed from here to there. In many ways, we become like a sheep in the midst of the herd. We don’t make our own decisions, we don’t stand up for what we know is right; but instead, we move with the herd from one new field to another. We’re just grazing with the group, frightened of what frightens them and hungry for their food.

Our shepherd becomes the prevailing parenting thought of the moment and our security is found in conformity to the herd.

I get it! Sheep parenting is easy. It’s much easier to go with the flow and fit in with the crowd, rather than standing out and being different. However, God never called us to fit in. In fact, in the book of Hebrews, He proclaimed us a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Honestly, it is our peculiarity in the midst of the herd that will actually win us the opportunity to tell others of the God who has called us to stand out and be different.

Sheep parenting isn’t just hazardous because of the confusion and doubts that it plants in the mind of parents. Its effect on children is even more destructive. When we are characterized by moving from one parenting cause to another as we follow the crowd, we are providing a strong model for our children, but that model isn’t a positive model! Our children aren’t learning the important soul-strengthening character qualities of faithfulness, commitment, courage, dependability, conviction, and steadfastness. Instead, they’re learning that wherever the crowd goes is where they should go, as well.

Think for a moment about your long-term goals for your kids. Do you want them to walk faithfully with Jesus? Do you want them to courageously say NO to temptation, regardless of what anyone else is doing? Do you want them to stand up for the cause of Christ and make a difference in their culture?

If so, today is the day you must make the decision to stand out from the crowd and stop mindlessly following the prevailing parenting expert of the day!

But how can we know exactly how to live and in what direction we should point our family? The previous verses in James, chapter one, provide an answer for us when they say this: “If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” God is aching to come alongside us in our parenting! He longs to inform, instruct, counsel, and encourage us, in order to see us experience joyful, successful family life, as we exhibit His greatness to a watching world!

In order to confidently make a stand for God and your family, you’re going to have to have strong, carefully formed convictions and standards in place. As a couple, spend time in prayer and searching the scriptures. Ask God to clearly show you the convictions and standards that He has individually chosen for YOUR family. Seek out older, wiser Christians who can help you fine-tune your parenting choices, in order to bring spiritual stability to your home and glory to God. Commit together, and as a family, to doing whatever it takes to uphold what the Lord has shown you.

Joshua 24:15 says this: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (emphasis mine)

Joshua was a flesh and blood parent, just like us. Joshua loved his family… Just like we do! He was surrounded by a multitude of other parents who claimed to know the One, True God, but who refused to single-mindedly live for Him. As the rest of the nation found themselves “blown and tossed by the wind,” Joshua’s decision to personally and passionately follow God, and to lead his family to do the same thing provided an anchor for their souls and a commitment to which they could cling. His steadfastness commitment to faithfulness provided a safe haven for the family he loved.

There’s nothing wrong with being a sheep parent, if the only Shepherd you are following is the Lord! When He’s your shepherd, you can trust that He’ll lead your entire family into green pastures!

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