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What if there were a better way to parent? Would you want to know? Would you want to know even if it contradicted your current parenting style?
Each of us brings something unique to our parenting. Call it personality or whatever you want, but you’re definitely you. Yet what if our base nature – what if our personality – were flawed by sin? What if we were never taught how to parent like Christ would? Would you expect that our natural parenting style would be successful or an abysmal failure?
Let me say from the outset that we’re not interested in Greek philosophies about boldly fluids and personalities. Personality discussions offer little help because they can’t provide answers beyond, “This is who you are, and this is the best you can do.” We don’t even have time for that. We don’t have time to be average parents. So, I want to approach this from a very different perspective.
But more on that in a minute.
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And now back to The 5th Way to Parent. I’m very excited about this, our first two part show. This topic is of absolute and utmost importance to your home today, because you are going to using at least one of the parenting styles today. And four of them are guaranteed to cause harm because only one of them is biblical. Only one of them will work. But it’s the one that our favorite personality gurus know nothing about. And the good news is regardless of how you were born, or how you learned to respond to life, you can be the 5th Parent. Your natural personality and your fleshly responses don’t have to tie you into a preordained parenting style where you’re destined to just “get by. “
No! Our God is a God of hope and change, and each of us can be the 5th Parent. All we have to do is answer three questions: 1. Who am I? 2. Who is God? 3. What does that mean for me?
So let’s start with the first question. Who are you?
With all this talk of individuals and their personalities, I’d like to start by observing that the Bible doesn’t have anything to say about your personality type. In fact, when we’re introduced to a unique personality in Scripture, and that personality submits itself to the Lord, that personality always changes. That change is often so dramatic that the new man no longer resembles the old man at all. We don’t read Scripture and see a redeemed phlegmatic or saved sanguine, we see a Christian in the body of Christ where race, and sex, and tribe, and tongue all disappear into the unity that is the Church.
But, in order to know who we are and understand our need for Christ in parenting, we’ll look briefly at four very common, quasi-stereotypical caricatures of parents and their sinful discipline styles. It’s my hope that we understand these incorrect approaches to parenting and understand which ones we’re prone to embracing so that we can answer the question 1. Who am I?
But then we get to spend the balance of our time answering the second and third questions by studying who God really wants us to be in our parenting, and thereby discover how His plan can dynamically upend our parenting regardless of the personality we had when we woke up this morning.
So, if you are one of those people who knows everything there is to know about personality tests and parenting style analysis, then I should probably tell you now that I’m a Melancholic ENTJ Dalmatian Pear.
Alright, with that silliness out of the way, there’s one thing you need to understand about the first four, sinful parenting styles. We need to get the concept of expectations. Each of us has them, and everything we do flows out of these often veiled perceptions of life; each of which have a firm grasp on the helm of our minds. And it’s these expectations that help us glorify God or fail in our parenting.
In March I have the opportunity to interview Paul David Tripp for a two part show. I hope you’ll join us because we’ll discuss his newest parenting book and take questions from our listeners. If you’d like to submit a question for Paul, please “Like” our Facebook page (which is linked in the description) and submit your question there.
But to our point, one of Mr. Tripp’s books on marriage is called “What Did You Expect?” and in the first chapter Paul exclaims the following, “I am persuaded that it is more regular than irregular for couples to get married with unrealistic expectations. . . . Unrealistic expectations will always lead to disappointment.” This is true in every relationship, including parenting.
You see, in parenting our expectations come in two forms:
- We have expectations for ourselves, and
- We have expectations for our children. To understand the first four, sinful parenting styles we all slip into from time to time, we need to understand how our expectations for ourselves compare to our expectations for our children. When we understand this, we’ll easily discover our default parenting style and be able to answer the question – Who am I?
I. The First Four Ways
So let’s look at the 1st Parent. This parent is called The Dictator. They have high expectations for themselves and equally high expectations for their children. But don’t think that by “high” I mean higher than other people’s expectations. No, in fact, one Dictator may have comparatively low standards for himself than another Dictator has for herself. What we’re trying to see here is how my expectation for myself compares to my expectation for my kids.
I understand this first style well because it’s my natural, fleshly parenting style.
A. The Dictator (high expectations for self, high expectations for others)
- Positive Attributes: This parent is very hard working & successful in their tasks. They also have a natural desire for their children to excel and succeed in life and achieve their highest potential.
- Negative Attributes: This over-achieving parent can be very annoyed by slackers (children and spouses alike) and struggles building significant relationships with people who aren’t like him. A child who doesn’t want to over-achieve is a foreign concept to the Dictator, and this type of parent can struggle to relate in any meaningful way.
- Common Discipline Style: React first, questions are for babies. When a child asks a foolish question, forgets, or deliberately disobeys, the Dictator with Sherlockian flare instantly knows what happened, what should have happened, and what better happen next time. All the child needs to do is fall in line. The Dictator is also highly accomplished in choosing and implementing punishment.
Remember, make a mental note when we describe your default parenting style because it’s helpful to know where you’re starting in order to get where God wants to take you.
The second parenting style is The Joker.
B. The Joker (low expectations for self, low expectations for others)
- Positive Attributes: Most kids love this parent. He’s the cool dad. All the kids want to go to her house. They’re always watching movies, they tell the best stories, and there are very few rules in this home.
- Negative Attributes: This under-achiever isn’t annoyed by much, and often expects as little from his children as he does for himself. It doesn’t really bother her that the kids laundry hasn’t been done because neither has hers. This dad doesn’t mind his kid gaming all weekend, because preoccupied with the TV.
- Common Discipline Style: As long as none of his kids are murdering anyone, pretty much most behaviors are okay. Excuses for non-existent rules are easy to come by. This parent will only punish if the child has really crossed the line . . . like daring to be funnier than he is.
I’ve tried to make these parenting styles easy to remember. The pair is the Dictator and Joker (D and J), and the second pair is a D and J as well. Number three is the Doormat.
C. The Door Mat (high expectations for self, low expectations for others)
- Positive Attributes: This parent appears to be an amazing, selfless servant. They get up early, work late, packs the kids’ lunches, and often have the most pins and Pinterest. The house is generally spotless, and they’re the first to volunteer for a church work day or prepare a meal for someone.
- Negative Attributes: This parent will kill himself for others without expecting anyone to do their part. If she hasn’t burned out yet, she’s been smoldering for years. And because they’re the first to volunteer and spend themselves for others, they’re often taken advantage of.
- Common Discipline Style: When a child disobeys, this parent first looks to himself, taking all possible blame for somehow encouraging the child’s behavior by not being the parent he knows he should be. She will spend great deals of time with friends, podcasts, and articles trying to discover where she needs to grow more. They will likely utilize punishment from time to time, but often prefers to coo the child into compliance.
Statistically, there are fewer Doormat parents, a higher percentage of Jokers, even more Dictators, but the category we see more frequently is the 4th Parent, The Judge.
D. The Judge (low expectations for self, high expectations for others)
- Positive Attributes: This parent has very high expectations for his children. She hasn’t bought into the notion that kids these days are lazy and dumb. She knows they can achieve great things because look at all the things kids in the past have accomplished.
- Negative Attributes: Though he is extremely critical and judgmental of his kids and wife alike, overall he seems to have very low standards for himself. She always has an excuse for her lateness, unpreparedness, and poor parenting, but she doesn’t give an inch to kids and husbands that struggle in the same areas she does.
- Common Discipline Style: This parent would hand out as many punishments as the Dictator does, but they either doesn’t get around to it or frequently prefer instead to condemn and harangue the child in their minds. However, all the other moms and dads will likely hear a very well-crafted discourse on the child/spouse problem and many possible remedies.
Now, I acknowledge that I may have just offended my entire audience by implying that everyone can be reduced to a two-dimensional caricature. I know that’s not true because after looking at these parenting styles, I can see that I am – by nature – a Joking, Judgmental, Door Mat, Dictator. In fact, I honestly believe I have had all of these responses to my children and wife. But I won’t apologize for pointing out that whether I manage my family like this – or you do – we’re not glorifying God in our parenting. So, instead of obsessing over silly human quirks, let’s see the amazing potential we all have to help our children become true disciples of Christ.
We answered the question “Who am I?” and now we’re going to answer the second question, “Who is God?” Only then will we be able to bridge the gap by asking the third question, “What does that mean for my parenting today?” – the answer to which will ultimately be a description of The 5th Parent.
God is many things. He has communicable attributes and incommunicable characteristics. In fact, we will spend the rest of eternity being unable to grasp His greatness. But for our purposes today, we need to look at God’s expectations for Himself and for His children.
At this moment the Dictator is getting very happy and the Joker is freaking out because they both acknowledge that God has very high standards. The Doormat and the Judge however are conflicted because at least half the time they agree someone should have high standards.
But are “high standards” the answer? If that were the case, wouldn’t the best parenting type be The Dictator? I believe there is very huge difference between God’s parenting style and the other 4 because God’s expectations are nothing like ours.
And that’s where I leave you today.
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