Archives For Over Parenting

Parents can tend to place their kids on a pedestal.

It’s not that children take the place of God nor that parents deify their children. The pedestal is more akin to that of an illusion; a fog of false security which assumes our children are perfect, and if not perfect, at least better than we are.

In sum: without sin.

Of course, parents know deep down that it’s naïve to think children are excluded from a sinful world.

We know by our own childhood and teenage years that they aren’t. Those years teach us that we shouldn’t be complacent in thinking that our children are not prone to the affects of sin, in the same way that we are, and once were.

The condition of the human heart, as described by Jeremiah 17:9, says that we can expect ‘the human heart [to be] deceitful above all things’. This goes right back to the retro-prophetic witness in Genesis, whereby the archetypal humans, together as male and female, through temptation, broke humanity and at the same time, broke fellowship with God.

In the beginning was God and relationship with God. This relationship was initiated by God and nurtured by boundaries. By breaching those boundaries, man and woman broke fellowship with God. Having already outlined the consequences, God brings humanity to account: “Where are you? Why are you hiding? What have you done?” (Gen.3:8-13).

In a great act of love, God punishes the serpent, makes clothes for the man and woman (Gen. 3:21), then removes them from the Garden. Where, if they were to remain and eat of the second tree (the fruit of the tree of life), as they had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death – this break with God; its lifeless godlessness; the nothingness of the abyss[i] – would be forever.

The cherubim and flaming sword (Gen.324) are set in place to save humanity from the condition they now find themselves in. God doesn’t cut and run. He sees the consequences and redefines the relationship. He removes them from the Garden, but not from His fellowship. For ‘God does not flee to man for refuge – man flees to God and lives by God’s grace’ (Barth, p.187).

By removing man and woman from the Garden, God removes them from their own destruction. That God does this proves His love for His creature. He doesn’t separate the man from the woman. Any separation of male from female; man from woman, at God’s command, or any others, would bring about the same thing that God is protecting humanity from – its own absolute and final self-annihilation.

By choosing to help them, in the midst of God’s judgement, we see His wisdom and mercy. This decision helped humanity, it was never about depriving or hurting humanity.

God never stops being graceful, merciful or just. This is who He is. No where greater is this seen than in the constant care God shows towards His people, through His people, and with decisive finality, in His son. In Jesus Christ, the entire world sees His glory. Jesus Christ is God revealed; God in revolt against the disorder of the world. God, the light of the world, pushing back against eternal darkness; against the potential forever of lifeless godlessness, and the nothingness of the abyss.[1]

By choosing to help us, we see wisdom and mercy, in the midst of God’s judgement.

‘sin means that man [and woman] is lost to themselves, but not to their Creator’. That ‘true freedom is in the act of responsibility before God […] it is never the freedom to sin’ (Barth, pp.196-197)

Contrary to God’s parenting style, parents can tend to place their kids on a pedestal. One indication that we might have put ourselves, or our children, on a pedestal is thinking that “our kids can do now wrong”. This is dangerous because the pedestal is high. The inevitable falling-off can lead to a serious falling-out between mum, dad and children. One way that we can remove ourselves and our children from that pedestal, is by acknowledging human limitations.

It stands as a well established fact, that parents are limited in being able to protect their child from the consequences of their child’s rejection of parental advice or poor decisions. We cannot wrap children in cotton wool, nor completely protect them from the affects of a sinful world.

As much as parents may want it to be different, Children are not excluded from a sinful world. As much as parents fight for their kids; teach or desire to walk with them. Just as the archetypal humans did, children may choose to walk away. They will choose not to listen to advice. They will choose to run too fast on a slippery floor, deceive from time to time, and be reckless with a knife, boiling water or worse. When these things happen, the pedestal shatters and the child comes crashing down.

Parenting then is not about pedestals, but about recovery, joy and improvisation! Being there to nurture, correct, create with, love and empower those entrusted by God into our care. Giving a firm “yes” and loving “no”, and allowing wisdom and mercy to inform when to give them.

God has no grandchildren; just as we are children, our children are God’s children. Therefore, parents are caretakers (Gen.2:15). We are given a great gift, and entrusted with the ‘training up a child in the way he should go; [so] even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). .

Parenting is a gift. There can be no pedestal for us or for them. There can only be protest and petition. Protest for them against the disorder of the world [ii]; prayer for them, as they walk with God against it and all that sets out to destroy them.

Ultimately, parenting is receiving what God has to teach us. Learning what God has done for us. Learning from what God does and will have us do, then doing our best to walk in that; to help pick up the pieces of our children’s poor decisions, when they make them; to pray like breathing [iii], to ‘love justice, love mercy, [and together], walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).


References & Notes:

Barth, K. 1960. Church Dogmatics III/2 Hendrickson Publishers

[1] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1, 1958 p.294) ; ‘Every supposed humanity which is not radically and from the very first fellow-humanity is inhumanity’ (CD. 3:2, p.228)

[i] As are the terms given to this breach by Karl Barth & Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[ii] I’m adopting Karl Barth’s phrase: ‘Prayer is a revolt against the disorder of the world’ from CD Fragments IV:4 

[ii] because to pray is to act. Prayer is action. Prayer is not stoic detachment.

‘far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray to you, and I will instruct you the good and the right way.’ (Samuel’s “Parenting Speech” 1 Samuel 12:20-25)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo credit: Liane Metzler on Unsplash

Over parenting is not the same as homeschooling. Over parenting is the parent smothering the child in too much kindness. An old term for this is ‘’babying’’. Suited for when the parent refuses to let their child grow up.

Every bump, bruise or brawl is accompanied by an excessive amount of sympathy and concern. Even if their child started the fig)ht, or caused an incident, their child is innocent and everyone else is to blame.

What usually drives this is insecurity and separation anxiety. Mum or dad projects their fears and insecurities onto their child. Out of an unhealthy fear and connection the mum or dad wraps their child in cotton wool.

In some instances, over parenting is about making the parent shine. Everything done for the child is only done for sake of the parent. The world looks on and applauds. Here, vanity metrics matters.

Being seen to be a good parent, always saying “yes” to our children in order to keep them feeling happy, is of high importance. In these cases, maintaining appearances in public or on social media takes priority over the actual nurturing a child’s character.

Over parenting is not the same as homeschooling because over parenting involves doing everything for the child. Ironically, this results in the parent having done next to nothing for the adult their child turns into.

19th Century pastor Charles Spurgeon, using the pseudonym, John Ploughman wrote,

‘Happy is he who is happy in his children, and happy are the children who are happy in their father. All fathers are not wise. Some are like Eli, and spoil their children. Not to cross our children is the way to make a cross of them. Those who never discipline their children, shouldn’t complain when their undisciplined children become a burden to them.’ (2007 pp.80-81) [i]

In addition, Psychologist, Lisa Firestone notes:

‘When we assume our children need more than they do, we are undermining their abilities and hurting their confidence… as parents, we often fail to recognize how capable our children are.’ (2012) [ii]

There’s no disputing that most parents want the best for their kids. For some parents, though, the only way they think this can be achieved is by doing everything for their child. Everything they might never have had done for them. This is admirable, but it ultimately goes from one extreme to another.

The problem is that,

‘doing too much for our kids teaches them to be dependent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

It’s important children be given guidance and a reasonable amount of room for independence as they are growing up because

‘growing up, by its very nature, is a series of weaning experiences for children. From the moment a child is born, they are weaned from the comfort and safety of their mother’s womb. Learning the lessons of how to get their needs met then transitioning to meeting their own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival but to their psychological well-being.’ (Firestone, 2012)

While over parenting can be a real trap for some homeschooling parents, it’s wrong to equate over parenting solely with homeschooling.

The basic goal of homeschooling is raising children up outside the academic industrial complex. There is no conveyor belt conformity. Homeschooled kids do not become clones of the system nor are they forced to conform to any playground social order.

Homeschooling means equipping the child with the shared responsibility for their own education.  Ideally, the homeschooled child will not only have acquired academic skills from a holistic and rigorous learning environment, but the child would also have acquired a decent amount of life skills.

For instance, among other things they learn to love learning, how to manage a budget; where to shop on a budget. How to change a car tire, maintain a bike, cook, clean, and craft. Most also learn how to engage people of different ages, recognise and refute the propagandists when they come, think critically, when to show compassion and hopefully, how to live out a loving relationship with God and neighbour. In short, they learn to become independent.

Homeschoolers won’t be entering the adult world with unrealistic expectations about how society works. They won’t have had these expectations drilled into them by the social order set by the trends, likes, dislikes and moods of those who dominate the playground or schoolroom.

Over parenting is not homeschooling because the aim is to

‘help our children get a real feeling for themselves by offering them real love and affection, while equipping them with skills that help them feel competent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

Homeschooling isn’t about training up experts. That’s an untenable goal. Homeschooling is about training the child up in the way they should go. Independent of the academic industrial complex, both mum and dad, provide guidance and enough resources to empower their child to succeed in life. Homeschooling is about doing school together.

This process involves parents working alongside their children, helping them to identify and then develop their childs gifts and talents; and work towards a trade and career. Over parenting dis-empowers, whereas homeschooling channels freedom for empowerment.

It isn’t fair to equate homeschooling with over parenting:

‘The most honest proof of good parenting is seeing our child doing well, showing interest, learning skills, finding contentment, and finding him/herself. What we can offer as parents is love, safety, support, and guidance, a strong security from which our children can confidently venture out and independently experience the world.’ (Firestone, 2012)

For me, the purpose of homeschooling is best summed up by Hannah Arendt:

‘[Homeschooling] Education is the point at which we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new – but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world’
(Hannah Arendt, 1961:193 parenthesis mine) [ii]

This isn’t over parenting. Homeschooling is about funding and facilitating our children’s potential.

It’s another way of selling all that we have and giving it to the poor. (Matthew 19)


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 2007 The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition Christian Focus Publications

[ii] Firestone, Ph.D, L. 2012 The Abuse of Over Parenting Sourced 20th November, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201204/the-abuse-overparenting

[iii] Arendt, H1961 Between Past & Future, Penguin Classics p.193