Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spiritual Parenting

I finally finished Spiritual Parenting.  It was a great book and it opened my mind to a lot of things.  I thought I'd share a few of my notes with you.  I'm going to do this in two parts because otherwise it'll be waaaay too long.

The author (Michelle Anthony) describes 12 "environments" she believes are vital for spiritual parenting.  Here are my notes on the first 6.

1. The Environment of Storytelling
Children are ego-centric. Teach them they're not the main character by telling The Big God Story.  [Anthony sells a children's book by that title.  I'll probably look into getting it.] The Big God Story is all the main stories of the Bible told as one big story in chronological order.  It makes Jesus the hero.

2. The Environment of Identity
We need to help our children find their identity in Christ. Anthony told a story in this chapter that blew my mind.  She and her husband went away for the weekend, leaving their 16 year old daughter home alone.  She threw a party that got out of control and resulted in cops being called.  Instead of flipping out on her and freaking out (like I would've done), Anthony had her daughter write an essay on what a 16 year old Christian girl should look like.  "I didn't want to simply punish her," Anthony writes. "I wanted to redeem this moment for her ultimate good." (70)  After her daughter wrote the essay, Anthony took her away to the mountains to reconnect and rediscover their identities in Christ.  She continues, "When she made a bad decision, I didn't send her away . . . I brought her close." (74)  Anthony points out that this is how God responds to us when we disobey - by drawing us close.

This chapter also emphasizes that our words define our children.  Anthony implores us to stop defining our children in negative terms (shy, unathletic) and to make it a point to bless them every day - especially through out loud prayer.

3. The Environment of the Faith Community
Kids need to see other people believing in God.  "How will I intentionally and strategically set up an environment where my children will be a vital part of a faith community?" (98)

Anthony also talks about the importance of "remembering and celebrating."  The Israelites had their feasts.  We need to make it a priority to remember what God has done for us - within community.

4. The Environment of Service
Teach kids to ask "What needs to be done?"  In Anthony's household, they referred to chores as "acts of service" to point to the interdependency of the family unit.  "We live here in this home. We're participants in this family. What needs to be done?" (102)

God commands us to serve - that starts in the home.  Show by example, and draw attention to your own acts of service.  I thought this was kind of weird at first - to point out when you do acts of service, but Anthony explains it like this: "So often we're great models of service, but our children don't know what we're doing or why we're doing it.  In order to bring clarity to this, we must call attention to it." (105)

5. An Environment of "Out of the Comfort Zone"
I didn't like this chapter. Haha. Anthony says we can't protect our kids from everything.  God uses trial and pain to allow growth. We need to leave room to let Him work.  "We need to start looking at these hard things that happen in our kids' lives as things that God wants to use to refine them - and then we need to walk with them, prayerfully, and model for them how they should respond in grace under trial." (120)

She also admonishes against letting kids get too comfortable.  "Signs of a home whose children are living in excessive comfort include laziness, ingratitude, lack of motivation, selfishness, entitlement, a critical spirit, and gluttony . . ." (122).  She encourages parents to take their kids on mission trips and expose them to areas where people daily live uncomfortable lives.

And one more part of this environment is one I'm sure I'll have to deal with: Help kids face their fears (spiders, the dark, swimming) instead of avoiding them.

6. The Environment of Responsibility
Give kids things to look for - ways to bless others. Anthony used to tell her kids different things before they left for school like "look for someone to encourage, look for a way to be generous today, or be honest when others are being dishonest." 

We are responsible in 3 areas:
1. Personally - life, gifts, resources
2. Family and Spiritual Family
3. Hurting, poor, spiritually lost

"We need to create opportunities where our children can take ownership of not only their family members, but also others, their community, their school, their money, their time, and their talents." (141)

Anthony told a story about her daughter seeing a man on a street corner begging for food.  Her daughter asked to go to McDonald's and get that man some food. So they did.  Anthony says we have to be on the lookout for opportunities like that to allow our children to be responsible with their resources - and to model being responsible ourselves.  Which leads to the next point . . . something that was new to me.

Model responsibility . . . accurately.  Don't try to be supermom. Acknowledge to your kids that you need God's strength - ask Him for it in front of them.  "To be a spiritual parent mens I will live an authentic life before my children and allow them to be eyewitnesses to my own faith journey." (149)

See Part Two Here

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