Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be my way of telling parents how to discipline their children. There are a number of books which discuss what one person or group of people view as the "Biblical way" to parent. I don't believe that there is one correct way or mandated Biblical way. How a parent chooses to teach their children should be decided after much research, prayer, and dialogue.
Part 2: Is it wrong to spoil a child?
For me the ultimate examples of good parents are Mary and God, the father. Mary was this loving woman who we know sacrificed her body and her reputation to give birth to the Living Lord. She has had many apparitions and has continually guided the Church. I have a picture in my dinning room area of the Virgin de Guadalupe whose pregnant and looking downward to the people in the world. I have her there as my reminder of a loving mother.
God is also a loving parent. He sacrificed himself for us so that we may have free will to choose. I can't imagine being the kind of parent that says "here are my rules. Follow them or not. The consequences are a life time hanging out with me or a life time without me." Reminds me of a certain child of mine who gets upset at the dinner table. He can either play quietly with us or he can spend the rest of dinner by himself crying. We love him yes, but he has a choice rather he wants to be alone or with us surrounded in love. We can't force him to behave.
For parents, it's frustrating to parent. We loose sight of what children are. The Bible is a great reminder of that. A number of online bloggers discussing children reminded me that even during those trying times HB is a blessing. The Bible offers the following quotes:
Psalm 127: 2-5
Children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”
The Bible clearly says that children are gifts and rewards graciously given. How does a parent treat a gift or reward that is given them by God? I believe that is the question every parent should ask themselves. I try and remind myself that HB is like a gift. There are days when you want it around constantly and there are days when you need a break. He's still a gift. I'm not going to mistreat him or disrespect him. God wrapped him up and tied him with a bow. I can be ungrateful or grateful of him everyday. But let's look further.
"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."
To me there is a strong connection between our guardian angels who personally guide us and God. This passage confirms that children also have guardian angels who are in contact with God. Here Jesus says not to despise our children. In other words, we are to love our children. How do we treat those we despise? How do we treat those we love? Are they similar? Why? God says to love our enemies. Therefore, one can conclude that we should love our children to the nth degree like Jesus loves us. Jesus sacrificed himself out of love for us. We didn't sacrifice and cannot sacrifice ourselves for him. So too are parents called to sacrifice themselves. Time, money, etc. My father used to wait til his underwear and socks had holes in them and the elastic was nearly gone. But we could get new socks every year. To be a parent is a call to sacrifice. A nun actually said that when asked about leading a celibate life. Every vocation has sacrifices. For parents it's to love so so so much that we would give up our very lives for our children. Continuing on...
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Clearly, the Bible mandates that we discipline (which means "to teach") and instruct children in the way of the Lord. However, here it says not to provoke your children to anger. From my childhood, spanking provoked anger, but there are other ways children can be provoked to anger. As parents we may not always recognize that we are making our children angry when instructing them. In my opinion, we must be diligent in making sure that we treat them with dignity. This passage does not say that children won't ever be angry with us, but rather we should make efforts not to insight anger. Frustratingly pushing a child to do something like play baseball when that's clearly not their path is also another way to provoke anger. Children have their own vocations. Our job as parents is to guide and teach them so that they can actively seek those vocations out.
The same applies to age. Parents can be brutally competitive. "Look Jr. rolled over at 5 months. But Kate rolled over at 4 months." You can see it in the number of ads for toys and dvds all designed to make a child smarter, more athletic ect. at younger and younger ages. Is it wrong to spoil or baby a child? I say no. I'm not saying don't teach your child about desires vs. wants, but lavishing a child with love and loving them for who they are is extremely important. It all goes back to that sacrifice thing. I know that many of my friends admonish me for picking up HB when he's upset, but he's my baby and I don't care if loving him spoils him. I want to have a relationship with Jesus so bad. Why is it strange for my child to want the same thing from me?
Mark 10: 13-16
And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."
There's this old thought/saying that children should be seen and not heard. Jesus shatters this notion. When people started bringing children to be seen by Jesus, the disciples chastised the crowd. Jesus, instead, welcomed the children as innocent gifts and blessed them. Blessing children is a common practice in the RCC. I go to Mass every Sunday, and sometimes during the sign of peace a person will bless HB. It's quite simple. They draw the sign of the cross on his forehead. As RCC parents, we're often told that it's important to bless our children. Some parents bless their children before putting them to bed for the evening. Other parents have holy water at the front door or in their child's bedroom and use it to bless their child as they walk through the door.
The ten commandments instructs children to "obey" their parents, but the Bible also says that we should treat our children with dignity as we teach them about God. Children are blessings even while they are being "holy terrors." If you find yourself at your wits end with your child, here's my suggestion: step back, take a deep breath, slowly let it out, then pick up your child, say a prayer, and bless them. If they are an older child, they may understand what you are doing. Encourage them when they are calm to bless you or their sibling. I said encourage not make. And if they are an infant, they may not understand but it's a good physical reminder that they are blessings and gifts.
Keep in mind that children are not little adults. They are different people at different milestones. Do we as parents set our expectations for a children too high? For example: expecting a young child to be quiet in a place like Mass or the store for an hour. Is that high expectation in keeping with Ephesians? Are we treating our children as blessings or are we despising them because we are unable to take a shower or use the toilet by ourselves? Are we allowing our children to come to God's path on their own or are we pushing them too hard?
Remember they are only children once. They are only that age for a moment in time. This is their childhood, a time of great joy and wonder. In a world over-sexualized images for younger and younger children (thongs for toddlers) are we expecting our children to grow up to soon? I know a lot of parent's are worried about spoiling their children or babying them for too long, but so what? There's no Biblical mandate that says a child must grow up fast and cannot be spoiled with love while learning about God's great love for us. Heck, Jesus spoiled us. He died on a cross to save us from ourselves instead of leaving us to clean up our own messes by ourselves. Think about that the next time you ask your child to clean his/her room by themselves without help.
Remember the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."