Parenting the Old Testament Way

January 12, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

What a catchy title that is. I am sure that no one is clicking on the link to come read this, so I essentially am writing to myself.  “So Cloften, how is it going?”  “Pretty good just writing myself a brief post on parenting.”  “Sweet.”

You see, from most people’s perspective, you don’t want to do anything the Old Testament way, certainly not parenting.  There are some crazy-bad examples of parenting in the Old Testament.  I do not want you to emulate any of them.  Actually, what I had in mind was something that I have been thinking about as I’ve been getting ready for our Nehemiah series.

This last Sunday I did basically an OT History review lesson.  You can listen to it here.  During that sermon, I explained how and why God called the Jewish people and the big picture of their relationship from the time of Abraham until the beginning of Nehemiah 1.  While I was getting ready for that Sunday and thinking about the OT, a random parenting thought hit me.  I tried to share it on Sunday, but I think pretty ineffectively.  I will try again.

The Jewish people in the OT did a lot of complaining and rebelling (Isn’t the parenting parallel already apparent?).  There is a lot of complaining and rebelling in all households with precious little ones under 18.  Typically as parents, we have our one standard reaction that we have to complaining, whining, etc.  Some of us are big “natural consequence” people.  We let them do the bad thing they want to do, they get hurt, they learn the lesson.  Some of us are “peace at any price” or “grace-based.”  We respond to the whining by loving on them, giving them what they want.  Some of us “bring out the stick.” (I don’t think that requires any explanation)

My default is the stick, not literally a stick, but punishment.  Classic Cloften parenting line, “In all of your life has whining and complaining ever gotten you what you want from me?”  “No (dejected face)”  “What could possibly make you think it would work this time?”  Then there is some kind of punishment.

What I am struck by is how God incorporates all of those methods at different times.  They complain in the desert and say that they want to go back to slavery.  Sometimes God blesses them with manna, quail, water from a rock.  When they ask for a king in total rebellion against God and his leadership, he warns them, they ask again and he gives them what they ask for and leaves them to natural consequences.  Sometimes, he brings the stick.

He integrates all of these.  He doesn’t always punish.  He sometimes gives in, and sometimes with no bad consequences, natural or otherwise.

Maybe I am only talking to myself, but I believe that we need to have multiple “tools in our belt.”  Every circumstance is different and each child is different.  Sometimes you need to punish, sometimes you can just let it go.

“That’s right Cloften.  Now put down the stick.”


One Response to “Parenting the Old Testament Way”
  1. Sarah says:

    Today in the one year Bible was Isaac and Rebekah again and how they dealt with Jacob and Esau. Exhibit A on how not to parent, per your admonition not to emulate bad examples. Also, I think you’re being too harsh on yourself. I think this came across effectively on Sunday, but your followup is appreciated :) I enjoyed (and appreciated) this prequel to the Nehemiah series and am looking forward to the series itself!

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