Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sharing Footprints -- Some practical parenting tips

Foundational to godly parenting is building a home around the Scriptures, using the Bible to guide your thinking, habits, and techniques. Sometimes it is still difficult to know what this should really look like when lived out in your home.

Part of the challenge lies in the uniqueness of each home and parent. What works for me might not for someone else. We will all have a different hierarchy of values that we want stressed in our homes and impressed on our children. We all have areas of strength and weakness and our parenting game plans will reflect that.

I wanted to share some practical ways that we handle some specific hot spots with our kids, but with the understanding that these are not universal truths. We believe these practices do not contradict Scripture, but they are not legislated by it either. Love, discipline, training, nurturing, and mentoring will find a place in every home, but will look different in each one.

God has blessed you with the children He chose for you, and He chose you to parent your children through His strength and leading. We need to prayerfully consider how to shape and grow our home to benefit our children, while recognizing that our home will not look exactly like any other home that we visit or read about.

With that backdrop, I wanted to share some details from our home (over a few posts) in the areas of sharing, Scripture in discipline, and other day to day practices.


I cannot remember now where I read it, but we have moved away from stressing the concept of sharing too much in our home. As adults we don't "share" too much. I don't generally loan out my car or refrigerator. I usually read my Bible, not my husband's. I don't wear my neighbor's clothes or use her pots and pans on a regular basis.

Picture this: The church service wraps up and families rush out to the parking lot to claim "their" car. Whoever gets there first, gets it. If someone else takes your car, you should refrain from feeling hurt or disappointed because you should "share" it. Not very realistic, eh? So, we do not work that way with our kids either. What's theirs is theirs.

While we don't stress "sharing" per se. We do stress responsibility and generosity. Most of the material possessions in our house belong to a specific person. They bought or received it as a gift for them personally.

We don't assume that they must always leave that item out for general use by other family members. We do assume that we all hold loosely to this physical world and desire to use what God has entrusted to our care with responsibility and stewardship. We also will respect what belongs to someone else and find contentment with what is ours.

These are huge lessons to learn, ones I still learn alongside them some days. We encourage them to show love, and help them find joy in giving and stepping away from selfishness. At the same time, it is sometimes foolish to let others borrow an expensive or difficult to replace item. Being a good steward at times does mean refraining from letting someone borrow something that belongs to us. Learning to say 'no' is a hard lesson, too, for some of us (uh, I mean them).

Interesting example in the Little House series that we just heard recently. Almanzo had some seed wheat that he did not let anyone know about even though the rest of the town faced starvation. That was his choice. It was his. But, he also recognized his responsibility for his neighbor's well being and willingly put himself in harm's way to search out other wheat for the town to survive off of as he realized that even if he gave his seed wheat it could not keep the town alive until spring. That was a great teaching moment.

Some exceptions --

~Teaching generosity: we encourage our kids to let others use their toys frequently. They still have say over it, but since all we have comes from God, we don't really have a right to hold it too tightly. We don't force it, but they generally do what is right and let others use something. Sometimes if they really struggle with this we will encourage them to let someone else use a toy for a short time (set the timer and supervise the play time to make sure nothing breaks). This can help ease them into giving more freely and finding the joy in it.

~Respecting special toys: often a child has a special toy that has high sentimental value. We respect their right to keep that out of access to others. They will still often share these at times, but we keep them put in a special place reserved for their toys.

~Growing out of toys: sometimes even when they generally practice generosity it is difficult to let go permanently when they have grown out of something. This is a time when we need to talk gently about entrusting all we have to God. Sometimes they need to learn the difficult practice of letting go. Now, they must release this object to their parents to do as we see fit (pass it on to a younger sibling or another family), but someday God may ask them to let go. This is a time to help them begin wrestling through those tough decisions on a practical level. Not easy, but a lot less painful now than in adulthood.

Holding loosely to fun material goods is always a challenge. I realize that I need to set the example here and actively seek out opportunities to do so, talking about it the whole way. Sharing those footprints as I seek to follow Him. Step by Step, every day a little closer to where we should be.


Lindsey said...

I had found your blog during the UBP! I'm so glad I did. Loved your post. It is difficult sometimes to understand we all have different parenting techniques. I love how you stated God gave us the child we have specifically to raise them. Thanks for being a great example of a Christian mom...I'm a follower of your blog and can't wait to read more! I want to raise my son the way God has planned and pray everyday that I'm doing it right!

5intow said...

Welcome, Lindsey. Thank you for the encouragement. I love growing together with other moms here.

Amy said...

Thanks for this post on sharing. It makes so much sense. God bless you for sharing your wisdom!

Courtney said...

I never looked at things this way. Why do you suppose there's such an (overall societal trend) emphasis on sharing? Your post made so much sense to me. I feel like we've been fighting an unnecessary battle. Something for me to think about for a very long time. Thanks, Erin!

5intow said...

Thanks, Amy and Courtney, hope it is a helpful perspective.

Interesting question, Courtney. I think sharing is rather PC, and yet respect isn't necessarily so (at least giving it, demanding it from others seems all the rage).

imho, I see this fitting with a subtle move away from personal freedoms. Again, looking back at the Ingalls family . . . when the store keeper wanted to charge the starving town more than double for wheat, the people got upset.

They agreed that he had the right to charge what he wanted, and they also had the right to shop elsewhere when supplies came in on the next train. I think that's how it should work. Those who are less scrupulous with their business and belongings will end up losing out.

It's still somewhat of a selfish motivation, but hopefully it will move away from that with time as we see the benefits reaped in a true community. Having God as the basis and model for all of this makes it all the more powerful.


practical parenting said...

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