Archive for parenting

Aug
13

Is ‘Obey’ a Four-Letter Word?

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I once read an article about parenting with the headline, “’Obey’ is not a four letter word.” Indeed. I see a lot of parents in Wal-Mart who seem to think it is. But a biblical view of parenting teaches us otherwise.

The Bible very rarely speaks directly to children, but when it does so it is unequivocal. “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). And parents are likewise unambiguously commanded to be in authority over their children, instructing them in God’s ways. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them [God’s words] diligently to your children,” said the Lord to His people (Deut 6:6-7).

But what does it mean for children to obey?

It is obviously possible to do what you’re told with a heart full of rebellion. Is the standard mere external, compulsory compliance? I am reminded of the little boy sitting in the corner who told his mother, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but on the inside I’m standing up!”

The biblical standard of obedience is captured well in the dictum, “We obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude every day.” This is something that children hear around the halls and classrooms of Regents Academy quite often.

Obey right away. Slow obedience is no obedience. Prompt obedience is evidence of a heart that is willing and ready to obey. This heart-readiness to obey honors the authority and position of parents or teachers and therefore honors God.

Obey all the way. True obedience is complete and thorough obedience. If I tell my daughter to place the dirty glass in the dishwasher, but she places it in the sink instead, I don’t do myself or my daughter any favors if I say, “Well, at least she got close. At least she didn’t leave the glass on the table.” Obedience means obeying all the way, not just half the way or most of the way.

Obey with a good attitude every day. Sour-puss obedience is dishonoring to God. God desires our joyful obedience to those in authority over us, and He desires this same joy of our children. Obedience that says with facial gestures or posture, “I’ll obey but I don’t like it” may be compliance, but it’s not obedience.

We must train our children to obey. Our children are sons and daughters of Adam and are born with a bent toward selfishness and rebelliousness. But we must seek to capture their hearts and win their loyalty. Children who are thankful, joyful, loyal to their parents are children who obey from the heart. Only the gospel of Christ produces this kind of heart obedience, so we are reliant on God to give us and our children His grace. We must pray for our children diligently.

This year at Regents Academy teachers are joining parents in this training process, training children, both young and old, to obey from the heart. Like any training process, there is pain involved – the pain of correction and discipline. But there is also great joy when children are heartily obedient and readily loyal to those who are charged by God to instruct them.

You love your children and want the best for them. That is why you have them at Regents. We are aware of that great trust, and we will do everything in our power to love our precious students and strive daily to train them toward obeying right away, all the way, with a good attitude every day.

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May
21

Parenting 101, part four

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This is the fourth installment in a series of posts called Parenting 101. These are meant to be suggestions for how to be a good school parent.

The next principle is this: Be a supporter of the school when you’re out in the community.

Parents are our school’s best spokesmen, ambassadors, and advocates. So look for opportunities to get the word out about Regents Academy in our community. Private education seems odd to many people, not to mention private Christian education. And private classical Christian education is an outright enigma. But then there’s you standing before them: your children are part of a classical Christian school, and you can help people understand what is so great about that.

Are there things the school needs to do better? Are there things the school has gotten wrong? Of course. However, we can all major on the many things the school has gotten right and the many wonderful gifts God has given us through the school. A little bit of criticism on Facebook goes a long way. But a few well-chosen words to friends and neighbors about how God has blessed your family through Regents Academy goes even further. As the school’s reputation for excellence in education and for being a loving Christian family grows, the school prospers, and we all benefit.

You have a lot to do with that. So do your part. Talk the school up, and watch what happens.

May
17

Parenting 101, part two

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Here is another Parenting 101 principle: Don’t believe everything your children tell you happened at school.

I am not suggesting that you regard your child as a liar. I am suggesting that you be wise. A pastor I once worked with used to say, “There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth.” There is truth to his statement. Your child will inevitably tell the story from her perspective and so will tell it a certain way. She will include certain details while omitting others. She will reverse the order of events or remember something wrong or make inferences that sound like facts.

Or perhaps she is lying. That is indeed a possibility. Solomon wrote in Proverbs that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. That includes sins like lying. If you believe your child is incapable of lying, you should go back to what the Bible says about her.

So don’t automatically believe everything your child says about what happened at school. Instead, try to understand what happened as best you can. Ask your child questions in a calm and even tone. Seek facts, not interpretations and inferences. Then, call or approach your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Avoid accusing your teacher before hearing her perspective. Ask what happened and listen carefully.

I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells and then go to the teacher and point the finger angrily, accusing the teacher of unfairness or inconsistency without allowing the teacher a single word of explanation. Also, I have observed parents who listen to the story their child tells, accept every word, and then refuse to go to the teacher at all but instead bury the grievance, which quickly rots into bitterness and anger. In either case, this is a formula for a poisoned parent-teacher relationship. The Bible calls us to peace, not poison.

My own children have come home and reported an occurrence at school that was unsettling or problematic. We talked to the teacher and found out that what really happened was quite different from what we were told. Or, we found out that what happened was accurate, but it had been dealt with. In either case reacting based on my children’s account alone — or reacting with my emotions bent out of shape — would have been the worst thing I could have done.

A teacher once said, “If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I’ll promise not to believe everything he says happens at home.” Sounds like a good agreement to abide by. 

May
16

Parenting 101

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I enjoy Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, not just for the wacky humor, but because Watterson gets us into the mind of a 6-year-old so that we see the world through a child’s eyes (even if that child happens to be a precocious daydreamer like Calvin). One cartoon pictures Calvin as a square peg being beaten into a round hole, than as a zombie, a robot, a hamster on a wheel, a parrot, and a prisoner on a chain gang. At the end of the strip, Hobbes asks, “Another typical day at school?”

What is it like for the other guy? How do things change if I look through his eyes? We should be asking these questions often in many relationships of life, and no less in the complex of relationships that make up the family-school connection. As an educator I try often to see things through the eyes of my students or their parents. As a school parent myself, it’s not too hard to see how the view looks from the other side of my school administrator desk.

Reaching the end of another school year, it strikes me that it is a good time to take stock of how to be a good Regents Academy parent. Call it Parenting 101. Here and in a few subsequent posts, I will offer some suggestions for how to be a good school parent.

First, realize that the school relationship is a partnership, not a solo act.

Resist the temptation to be a drop-off parent who thinks, “They do the educating. I do the parenting. I pay them thousands of dollars so that I don’t have to worry about the education part.” No, parenting is educating. We are your partners in fulfilling your responsibility under God to educate your children.

When you approach school as a partnership rather than as a responsibility that you have abdicated or shifted, it changes everything. You get involved with the day-to-day progress of your children. You go over spelling lists and discuss the literature of the week and review math facts and probe your child’s Bible knowledge. You spot weaknesses to work on and strengths to praise and celebrate. You see the teacher’s role as an adjunct to what you are already doing. You support the teacher in countless ways as a co-laborer rather than as an mere spectator. You develop trust with your child’s teacher as you work together with him or her.

Teachers love it when parents are deeply involved with the academic progress of their students. And the opposite is true as well: teachers get frustrated with parents who are distant and only minimally involved in the education of their children. The first matter of Parenting 101 is to be an involved mom or dad who takes seriously your responsibility under to God in the education of your children.

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