Monday, March 24, 2014

The Mission of Motherhood: Part 2

This post is a continuation of my thoughts on Sally Clarkson's The Mission of Motherhood. To see part one, click here

Part 2: Discipline and Teaching

I love reading about Biblical discipline techniques. I was raised a certain way and my sister (who I model much of my parenting after) parents largely the way we were raised. So I love hearing new ideas that I wouldn't have come up with by myself. 

I love how Clarkson started her chapter on discipline:
"I don't just want my kids to be moral. I don't just want them to know all of the biblical rules for behavior . . . I want them to leave my home with a hunger and passion to know God personally . . . I want them to personally hear God's voice and have his Spirit's gentle touch and impression on their hearts as they read the Scriptures and struggle with the issues of their lives." (82)
This is something I've always struggled with. I grew up in a Christian home, school, church, community. I know all the right answers. I like the rules and knowing what's expected of me. I feel righteous when I follow the rules. But I've always struggled with what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I somehow want to raise my kids to value the rules and obedience but not become little Pharisees!

Clarkson shared this quote which I'd never heard before, but was a huge eye-opener for me: "Christians are like people who are trying to straighten the picture on the wall while the house is burning down!" (81) We're so busy correcting our kids' behavior, we forget the big picture of pointing them to Jesus. Clarkson says, "Isn't that what we as mothers are tempted to do - to waste our energies trying to meet external standards while our children's deep spiritual needs go unmet and unnoticed?" (81)

Of course my big question (which is scribbled in the margins many times throughout this book) is "how?!" Never fear, Clarkson has lots of practical advice. But she prefaces it with this thought: "All that God requires from any of us is a desire to serve him and a trust that he can make up the difference for the things we lack." (83) Whew! That's a relief. I've got the first part down. I truly desire to serve him by raising my girls to know him. But I definitely need to remember that he doesn't expect me to do it on my own. He will use my efforts and fill in the gaps.

Clarkson's first suggestion for teaching and disciplining our children is simply to be with them. She explains that Jesus didn't just have weekly Bible studies with his disciples, he was with them all day every day, teaching them at every opportunity. This is something my sister is really good at - finding teachable moments throughout the day to point our kids to Jesus. And she points out Deuteronomy 6:6-9 reminding us that "[God] wants us not only to think about Jesus but to obey him and to speak of him often in our homes." (116 - emphasis mine)

I thought this passage was interesting. I'm not sure I totally agree, but it's something I hadn't really considered before:
"I have also tried to give my children sheltered and protected time at home during which they can become attached to their siblings and parents. Choosing to spend lots of family time together has given my children a close relationship with their siblings. Time together in our home, practicing our standards, has underlined these principles in their daily lives." (94)
She's not proposing we become hermits. She's just suggesting that in our fast paced, sign up for all extra-curricular activities, go home only to sleep society that we make a conscious effort to spend more time at home together building relationships and modeling Christian behavior. Interesting.

Of course before we practice the standards she discusses in the above quote, we have to make those standards clear to our children. This is something I've kind of already done with Lucy (as seen here). We made a list of 4 family rules to serve as a reminder of what's acceptable and what's not. Of course Clarkson and her husband are way better parents than we are and have a list called "The Twenty Four Ways." She shares it in an appendix in the back of the book. They're really great rules that I will definitely start to incorporate as Lucy gets older. I don't think she can handle much more than our 4 broad ones right now. I liked how Clarkson used the rules [ways] to reiterate the values that were important in her family as her kids were growing up.
"If one child hit another or spoke rudely or took away a toy, we would say, 'In our home we love one another and treat each other with respect. You may not talk to your sister that way. Please apologize to her. What is our family way?'" (91)
Talking like that does not come naturally to me, but it's something I'm working on.

I also appreciated her thoughts on family devotions. This can become such a legalistic, ritualistic, meaningless tradition if not done correctly. And especially when kids are little, it seems like it's more of an exercise in wrestling them to sit still than it is a meaningful time of teaching. Clarkson shares in that frustration and shares this idea:
"Over a period of time, though, I began to find other ways of establishing devotional times that really got through to our children . . . I shared with them a dramatic story beginning with their names: 'Sarah, imagine what you would do if a giant came to attack our country and you were the only one who could rescue us! Well that happened to a little boy named David many years ago!' If I cuddled up my children on the couch and had grapes or cheese and crackers to eat, they would pay rapt attention while I read Bible stories . . . Often I would give them markers and paper and let them draw while I read." (89)
I also thought this was a pretty good idea for older kids, although I doubt all of you will appreciate it. ;-)
"Next we began to show the kids how to use the concordance in their Bibles to study topics that were relevant to their own lives. For instance, when they were caught in immature arguments, I would have them look for three verses that addressed the issue of how to speak to others or the dangers of an uncontrolled tongue. Then I would have them write a paragraph about how these verses applied to the situation . . . By learning to search through the Bible for themselves, they became familiar with using it to give instruction for their life questions and issues." (106)
Honestly, she has so many ideas for how to teach your kids how to read, memorize, and apply the Bible - giving them the tools to make their faith their own. I really loved these chapters and could share so many more of my underlined passages, but I've written way too much already! I'll probably have one or two more parts to my series on this book, but really you should just read it for yourself. ;-)  And no, I don't get paid to say that, though I wish I did. I really need to figure out how to make money off my links and recommendations . . .

{Part 3}

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