Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't Feed a Fool

This bit of advice is pretty familiar among Christians:

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15 

You've probably considered it, especially the second half which admonishes parents to discipline their children lest they go astray. 

But it is a difficult thing to discipline our children. 
We feel bad about it. 
We wonder if we are doing something wrong when our children are unhappy with us.

I want to focus on the first half of this verse—“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” We can think of this in terms of our own foolishness, as children of God—sheep who are prone to wander, and we can think of it in terms of our children’s foolishness—the tendency of their hearts to run after wickedness and folly.

In the first instance, our acceptance of this truth inclines us toward humility in light of God’s wisdom and gratitude for his gracious discipline.

In the second instance, it can serve to reorient and strengthen our sometimes timid, second-guessing, insecurity as parents. 

Know this:  Children are inclined toward foolishness.

That puts the burden of wise guidance on us, the parents. That’s a heavy responsibility.

And it may make our children unhappy. 

(Although, can’t we all see that our children ultimately—in the long run—will be happier when their feelings are not in control?)

What a mistake to be led by what my child insists that he needs. 
To be a servant to his tears,
his whims,
his temper,
even his sense of fairness.

What a mistake to be led, even, by my memory of my own childhood experience and childish understanding of my parents’ choices.

I think we get off track when we begin to use our memory of our own parents’ mistakes or our interpretation of our own disappointments as a guide for the choices we make as parents. 

It can be a bit of a revelation to suddenly realize that much of the time my childish understanding of my parents’ behavior was limited, immature, and foolish

Now, of course, there may be serious, wrong-headed things that your parents (and mine) did—rightly to be avoided. 

But, I’m talking about the run-of-the-mill stuff, 
the things we feel conflicted about doing as a parent 
                                          because of the reaction it causes in our children: 
                                                                                   disappointment, anger, a sense of injustice. 

Don’t mistake me, I’m not recommending that we care nothing for our children’s feelings. 

But, really, is that our problem? 
(It's worth considering, it may be . . . )

Are we so callused and strict? Do we err on the side of being detached, harsh, and unconcerned? 

Or are we soft,
and involved?
Are we encouraging dependence?

Remember how we can’t control our kids’ behavior? We also cannot control our kids’ feelings. And, just as a child’s behavior often evidences the foolishness of his heart—his feelings often reveal foolishness as well.

So let’s sit up straight, get our heads in the game, think it through, and bring all the godly wisdom we can muster to the task of guiding our children. It is likely that the very thing they need the most will (in the moment) bring an unhappy reaction. 

It is loving to give my child what he needs. 
It is selfish to cater to my own insecurities by bolstering, validating, and strengthening his foolishness—
                                                                                                                                     by feeding a fool.

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