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.