I often wish the Writings and Bible had more to say about day to day hands-on parenting. It is my most difficult undertaking by far, and I am perpetually in pursuit of advice and encouragement. My favorite kind of advice is of the Divine sort, but I find few practical tips on infant sleep habits, picky toddler appetites, and how to resolve sibling discord.
However, a learned friend of mine, assures me this is probably for the best. After all, imagine the controversy and judgment if there was a scriptural passage that read, ‘Thou shalt nurse thy child at the breast for x moons…’ And even the practical child-rearing tips that there are, have been misunderstood! Take the well-known phrase, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’. This has been used for centuries as an argument in support of corporal punishment, if not outright child abuse. However, when understood rightly and in context, it advocates nothing of the sort. A rod is a shepherd’s tool which is used to guide the sheep and point them in the right direction. If we withhold guidance and instruction from our children, the neglect surely leaves them at a spiritual disadvantage. A good shepherd uses his rod to protect and lead his sheep and would never use it to beat them!
The Lord is without doubt a good shepherd, as is often told us in the Word. Over and over again, particularly in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, we read that the nature of God is to be kind, loving, merciful, forgiving, and infinitely gentle. And that’s when the light bulb went off! There is so much in the Word that directly relates to parenting. Everything that is said about how the Lord treats us is a guide for how to treat our children. Are we not his children, after all? So I modeled my understanding off of the Golden Rule and now can be found muttering to myself under my breath hourly, “Do unto your children, as the Lord does unto you.”
For me this means be present for them at all times. Leave them in freedom unless their safety or the safety of others is at risk. Set clear expectations for behavior but enforce them lovingly. Forgive them their mistakes. Seek for them when they go astray. Try to give them today what will serve their eternal well-being. Hold them tenderly, speak to them gently, reprimand them respectfully.
Strive each new day to be the best parent you can be. Read Matthew 5:48 which states, ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.’ Having such an ideal does not mean beating yourself up when you don’t reach it. It does mean each time you fall short, stop and acknowledge it. Then hit reset and try again. Failure does not mean stop trying. It means try again.
In the end I guess sometimes all I’m looking for is a bit of encouragement and an acknowledgment of how demanding it is to be a parent. If I remember to turn to the Psalms in this state, my energy and purpose is often renewed. So hold yourself up to high standards. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t meet them. And remember, God does have one big advantage in the parenting department as described in Psalm 121, ‘Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.’