Monday, October 20, 2008

Christians as Parents

Aftermath of Kid's Party
So we've been celebrating kiddie birthdays. (There are no photos of said kiddies because even though the safety car could save Fernando Alonso his Singapore Grand Prix Formula One champion's trophy, it will be able to do nothing to save your eyeballs from melting from the cuteness overload.)

The most useful thing we could think of getting them was the gift of eternal life. But that sort of thing not being generally available in the market, little presents were obtained from an uncle shop (an "uncle shop" being like a "mamak shop" but more specialized) at Peninsula Plaza, Su Ling of Pupsik Studio (who even did the wrapping for us!) and Baby Gap. Never before have I eyeballed so many powder blue and pink, stripped and polka-dotted items with a view to splashing out good money for them.

According to their parents, it seems that not only is the gift of eternal not to be found in the shops, even leading youngsters to drink from its spring is fraught with much uncertainty and toil.

Being in close proximity to the parentals, sorting through old stuff over the past few weeks, has demonstrated that the best intentions of collective groups of parents can do nothing to steer their progeny in any given way.
Birds on an Old Paper Plate
Apparently my dad used to go to the sorts of parties where it was fun to break out the paintbrushes and doodle on empty paper plates when things were slow. He and his close-knit group of artist friends had great hopes for their children as the future of modern Chinese art and made sure they were properly schooled in Chinese ink brush painting (though more Nanyang school than the classical sort).

Skinny Goldfish and Horticulturally-Incorrect Flowers
Unfortunately, not only did none of their children show any sort of interest in continuing their line of passion, they demonstrated no discernable ability to have done so. As my poor beleagued teacher said, solitary tear rolling down her cheek: skinny goldfish + horticulturally-incorrect flowers = FAIL!

But for Christian parents, there is more at stake than having their children fulfilling their subjective hopes and dreams; there is the matter of their eternal life/death.
John Ruskin's "Praeterita" and a Big Breakfast
Have been picking my painful way through John Ruskin's autobiography Praeterita (his unfettered self-love being a terrible obstacle to smooth reading). Thought of by some to be the spiritual founder of the British Labour Movement and by Mohandas Gandhi to be responsible for much of his early thought on social justice, Ruskin, as a child, had been dedicated to the Lord by his evangelical mother. Thus dedicated, his childhood and adolescent years were occupied with close study of the Bible, the reading of tracts and the digestion of sermons. In grand infant apocryphal Gospel form, Ruskin tells of how he would preach:
a sermon at home over the red sofa cushions – this performance being always called for by my mother's dearest friends, as the greatest accomplishment of my childhood. The sermon was, I believe, some eleven words long; very exemplary, it seems to me, in that respect – and I still think must have been the purest gospel, for I know it began with "People, be good."
What exactly he believed, Ruskin did not care to elucidate, though he was observed by others to have "a very real awareness of the depravity of mankind". Ruskin would later turn against his earlier faith after the death of his parents.

What went wrong? And more importantly to every Christian parent, how can we prevent such a success-in-this-life-but-eternal-loser type disaster in our children's lives?

So with all things perceived to be important but whose outcome is uncertain, a whole Christian parenting industry has sprung up to address the insecurities of parents. Unfortunately, their advice has been, like that of their secular brethren, for the most part contradictory: James Dobson's Dare to Discipline vs William Sear's attachment parenting; if you pick up a brawling baby he will lack self-discipline later in life, if you leave a brawling baby to cry until he falls asleep in his own vomit he will be insecure and distant later in life; if you smack your child they will learn to do violence to others, spare the rod and spoil the child; praise your child and they will be dependent on the approval of others, neglect to praise your child and they will have low self-esteem etc.

The one thing the parenting industry agrees on though, is that if you do not follow their sagely advice, you will do untold irreversible damage to your progeny.

With all that cacophony out there, perhaps it's just best to knuckle down to first principles:
  1. every parent is sinful. Therefore you will fail as a parent and do untold damage to your child regardless of how hard you try or what you do.
  2. every child is sinful and will rebel against God no matter what you do.
  3. however, God has instituted certain responsibilities to parents:
    • love your children (Ps 103:13-14, Tit 2:3-4)
    • provide for your family's/children's physical needs (1 Tim 5:4, 8, Prov 31:10-31)
    • teach your children about God's character and salvation from the Bible (Deut 6:4-9, Ps 78, 2 Tim 1:5, 3:14-5)
    • instruct and train your children in the way of righteousness and wisdom (Prov 1:8-9, 4:10-11, 22:6, Ps 34:11-14, 1 Thess 2:11-12)
    • expect your children to obey you as the authority God has placed over them (1 Tim 3:2-4, 11-12, Deut 5:16, Eph 6:1-4)
    • Discipline your children fairly and without harshness (Prov 13:24, 22:15, 29:17, Eph 6:1-4, Col 3:20-21).
    • live godly lives for your children to imitate (Prov 20:7).
  4. but, as with any other ministry, parents are only workmen in the field, and so as with any other human, the growth is God's alone to give. Therefore pray for your children (Rom 12:12, Col 4:2, Eph 3:14-21).
Apart from these clear instructions, I guess, each parent may exercise Christian freedom and godly wisdom to do as he/she thinks is appropriate for him/her and his/her particular child at that particular time and situation. Jean Williams speaks of Philip Jensen recalling, in Chapter 7 of By God's Word, the time he spent in England staying with faithful Christian families. Some were rigid, others were laid-back; some consistent, others experimental; some formal, others casual. But when he stayed with the same families years later, all the children were happy, well-adjusted individuals and committed Christians. (And one supposes they could all have turned out the other way as well.)

The duties of parents (Part 1)(Part 2) by JC Ryle
Teaching children about God by Christine Jensen
The first duty of fatherhood by Andrew Lansdown
A Christian Upbringing by Andrew Lansdown

It may be of some comfort though that children not yet of age are thought of as being part of the covenantal community of their parents and might thus have access to its salvic benefits.

Children and Salvation by Glenn N. Davies

(PS: Rather poorly in the way of internet connection, loads of links, not much time to explore much further. no experience in the matter. However, reckon godly obedience and the usual need for faith and dependence on God's undeserved favour to be bottomline.)

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At October 20, 2008 11:02 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should check out Storybox. They are great for Kids aged 3-6 and have a drawing competition on this month!

At October 28, 2008 12:05 am , Blogger Rachel said...

Hi there, I read your blog occasionally to pad out/re-visit the stuff we cover in DG and er this is actually totally off-topic but is there any chance of getting a better look at those birds? And do you know of any good English books on chinese ink brush painting? I've just picked it up, and sadly belong to the horticulturally-challenged, skinny-goldfish category myself.

At October 29, 2008 10:36 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

just click on the image


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