We have four kids. In the house. With me. Every day.
Of course they don’t each have a personality that meshes well with mine or with each other.
Every day (sometimes every moment) is a challenge.
I’m raising leaders, not followers.
But the catch is that I do want them to follow my directions.
It’s a delicate balance. I want them to obey, but not blindly. I want them to think, but not to question me? It’s a dilemma.
Because if kids are trained to obey, they will find someone to obey rather than make wise decisions. Kinda scary.
Society gives mixed messages, in Christian and secular circles.
Obey. Be good. Be compliant. Be conformist.
There are parenting arguments about punishments and discipline and charts with stickers. There are popular programs rewarding kids for memorizing Bible verses. Empty praise inflates self-esteem and the attitude of “everyone’s a winner” means that no one is.
I want none of that.
I want my kids to be self-controlled rather than parent-controlled.
I don’t want my kids to “be good,” but to do good.
I don’t want to raise a little army of obedient soldiers, taking orders. I want to raise soldiers for Christ, thinking and feeling and wise, improving our world.
Walt Whitman said: “Resist much, obey little.”
While this may not be the best lesson for a toddler who refuses everything, it’s an important lesson to understand for older kids and teens when there’s injustice in the world. As a parent of older kids and a teen, it’s becoming more my job to be a coach, a guide, leading the way over the rocky terrain of life rather than issuing orders.
As Christian kids, they want to do good, they want to please Mama and Dad and God and be decent citizens in society.
I seldom have to do or say much when my kids misbehave. They know. They’re instantly remorseful and have regrets and desire to make amends. Natural consequences are good. They learn from each other.
I don’t want to crush my kids’ spirits. I want them to grow and develop into who God made them to be. I certainly don’t want to stand in His way. I want to encourage my children to follow His calling and be life artists. I want them to shake things up, be broken, go beyond the emotional to the heart of the matter. I want them to know Jesus. And know His people. I want them to be radical, life changers.
I listen more than talk. I strew books and materials for them to learn for themselves. I help them make connections with the people and topics we learn about.
Often, I just get out of the way and watch them fly.
The time for mere obedience is almost over.
They drank milk when they were babes. Now they long for meatier stuff.
Read my series 31 Days of Servant Leadership