Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Open Doors: Christian Parenting

Growing up in the late 60's & early 70's, prime time tv was by today's standards very family friendly. Most of what I remember watching on tv at that hour, were the variety shows. For those of you not familiar with those, they were shows that had comedy skits, songs, dance routines, etc. There were many of them on, but the ones I remember the most were The Carol Burnette Show (my favorite) and Sonny and Cher. I know there were others I watched but those are the two that stand out.

balanceOne of the segments on shows like this was often a magician or some other kind of stage performer, like a juggler, or contortionist. I'm not sure why that was so entertaining, but it was. One particular trick I enjoyed watching was the plate spinner. He was the guy who'd put one or more plates on a thin stick and spin it around, keeping it balanced - and spinning, on just the tiny end of a stick.

It has occured to me that being a Christian parent is a lot like balancing that plate on the end of the stick. Since all analogies fall apart at some point, this one will too; but there are some definite similarities.

At first, the plate wobbles and falls. The better the spinner gets at balancing & momentum, the less wobbling. The key, is for the spinner to apply just the right amount of force and not too much, or the plate spins out of control and crashes to the floor. With the right amount of force though, the plate spins quite nicely on it's own for a while, until it needs a little more intervention from the spinner. Yep, I can absolutely see Christian parenting in there.

They key is balance, and how to get there. The only way to get there is by experience, and with experience comes trial and error, failure and success, joy and sorrow. It's really the only way.

When I was writing about the open door the other night and how we ought to be careful about that; since open doors are an invitation to things we may not have willingly invited, that also made me think of Christian parenting. I want to be really clear here - Christian parenting is NOT the same as non-Christian parenting. I have been a non-Christian parent and I know the difference between my own expectations and standards as a non-Christian parent, and those standards and expectations as a Christian parent. One way of parenting is with a limited "this world" view, and the other way of parenting is with both "this world - this life" and "the life to come" view. I'm sure you can figure out which is which. Christian parenting is done from an eternal perspective, non-Christian parenting isn't.

The specific kind of "open doors" I'm referring to, are the outside influences you let into your home and your kid's lives, that shape the way they think, the way they act, and the way they speak. While the annoying myth says that homeschooling parents shelter their kids from the "real world", there is some amount of sheltering that MUST take place in every Christian family's home, for the sake of the child - whether you homeschool or not. Just as you wouldn't expose your 5 year old to a drug dealer and expect him to respond properly (with wisdom, maturity & sharp discernment), there are other influences you have to keep guard over, for their sakes.

Just like the plate spinner, the trick here is the right balance, the right momentum, and of course, trial and error. Not enough input and influence from you, and they fall flat. Too much control and influence, and they spin out of control and shatter, leaving you to pick up the pieces.

Over the next few days I'm going to focus on some of those specific influences I'm referring to. I do hope you'll share your own thoughts as I post on this subject.

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