No Ideals in Parenting, Just Faithfulness

Build others up, don’t tear them down!

It’s a mantra that I say often to my children. But then I talk to other parents and in the course of conversation, I can feel torn down and I wonder. How am I supposed to teach my kids to build others up when so many adults don’t seem to have a grasp on this?

How am I torn down, you might ask? When parents talk about ideals in parenting, they automatically dismiss differing opinions and intentionally or not, they make others feel less than.

Let me share some examples…

  • If you say that homeschooling children is the ideal, then for the parent who sends their kids to school, you have just made them feel inferior.
  • If you say that the ideal is to have a father and mother in the home, then you have just ostracized all of the single moms without entering into the reasons for it.
  • If you say that cloth diapering and organic foods are the only way to go, you have diminished the parenting of those who do not hold the same “ideals”.

These are just a few examples, but I could go on and on. The truth is there are as many different ways to parent as there are people. To me, this is something that we need to celebrate. It reflects the immense creativity of the God who made us all unique. But instead, these differences can become giant chasms that separate us. For what purpose?

Before Lindsay (my oldest) was born, I was determined to breast feed her exclusively. Based on all the research, I believed that this was the ideal. But three days after she was born, I was readmitted to the hospital because of high blood pressure issues. As my doctor handed my husband a case of formula to feed our newborn, I felt like a failure. I cried as he left with our baby girl and then I slept through the night, returning to a healthy normalcy. In the morning, I discovered that our daughter had slept for 6 hours straight. I now see that night as the grace of God in my life. He pried my hands off of my ideals and humbled my heart.

I now believe that it is appropriate to have standards and expectations for our parenting, but we need to approach those things with humility.

Pride results in ideals. Humility results in faithfulness.

As parents, our goal should be to be faithful to what God has called us to do, understanding that our choices might look different from others. We should never elevate our own choices over the choices of others if these choices are not a sin issue.

When we talk about ideals in parenting, we diminish the different choices of others. This is contrary to the Word of God which emphasizes building others up.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need. ~Ephesians 4:29

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. ~1 Thessalonians 5:11

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~Hebrews 10:24,25

Rather than talking about ideals or criticizing someone’s parenting choices, we are to encourage one another to seek God’s will and to pursue wisdom. We should speak about our own choices with humility in order to invite others to speak about the joys and the struggles they have in their own lives. If we set ourselves up as the ideal, we only build bigger chasms instead of building each other up.

If you are feeling the pressure to make choices based on the strong opinions of people in your life, might I encourage you today to instead pray? Ask God to show you what he has for you in your parenting journey. Understand that his call on your life will probably look different than others. Seek to be faithful to Him. The opinions of others are not the Word of God. If you are seeking to be faithful to Him, then trust that He will make His will for you known in your life. Walk confidently in that. And then reach out your hand to encourage others, to build them up and not tear them down.

Because parenting is not about ideals. It’s about faithfulness.

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