Monday, April 27, 2009

Bring Them Up!

In my latest post I focused on what parents should not do when considering their child's achievements: exasperate - make a bad feeling worse. The film Slipping Behind draws attention to the fact that many of our youth are overwhelmed by trying to reach some elusive standard of success (constant work and being good at everything). Parents tend to push their children to do more and to achieve more because we do want them to succeed, but if we're contributing to their sense of failure then we are failing them.

God instructs us not to exasperate our children in Ephesians 6:4. Instead we are to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." I went back to the original Greek again to better understand this phrase.

  • Bring is ektrepho - to rear up to maturity, to cherish or train, to nourish. The roots of this word are ek - origin and trepho - fatten, cherish, pamper. I interpret this to mean that parents should be the origin or source of their children's training, nourishment and cherishing; nurturing.

  • Nurture is paideia - training and by implication disciplinary correction.

  • Admonition is nouthesia - calling attention to by mild rebuke or warning.

To put it all back into a sentence: Be the source of your child's nurturing as you train them to do things correctly and warn them about the wrong ways to do things according to Christ's teachings. I think a very key point is that the correcting and warning are to be done with the goal of nurturing, not punishing. Nurturing is tender and has an ultimate goal that its object should flourish. Many (self included) err on the side of correcting and warning to a punitive end. This is legalism exacted on our children. For others in our culture it is easy to fall into the other extreme and to pamper with no goal of teaching right and wrong. Moral relativism on the candy aisle. There is a fine balance to all of this that is challenging to maintain, and yet I am coming to believe that it is critical for our children that we find that balance.

I think it is particularly difficult to keep that balance when raising a special needs child. It can be so frustrating to tell your child for the umpteenth time to follow a particular rule or meet a particular standard. Every parent faces that challenge. But when that challenge is multiplied by the self-doubt of whether or not you should hold your child to that standard because it is hard for them to meet or because you know it will result in an all out fit (what I like to call a class 9 hurricane), becomes easy to let certain standards slide a bit. It is easy to pamper, over-help, and coddle. It is also easy to push too hard hoping that with enough intervention, therapy, treatment, whatever that your child will "overcome" their challenges and go on to do great things. It's sometimes hard to realize that they are already doing great things by simply making it through a busy day without a major meltdown or by scoring average on an assessment in an area of challenge. It is also hard to maintain the level of nurture that a special needs child requires. This is why social services offer respite care to special needs parents. From special physical demands to emotional supports, the logistics of arranging various therapies among the other family needs, and the spiritual issues that all special needs parents face; no one can do all of this full-time without support. Yet this verse is what we are called to do as parents. I believe God gives us the resources we need to meet what He is calling us to do. My last post on this topic will address our hope in Him!

Part one Achievement
Part two Achievement
Part four Achievement


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