Freedom · Joy · Parenting · Parents · Pleasure

Positive Parenting

Often when we think about godly parenting, we think that we are supposed to stop our kids from doing bad things. Essentially, we believe that if they are not doing anything wrong, we should let them go. But if they are going toward sin, that is when we need to step in and stop them. By this method, we often end up only talking to our kids about what they can’t do. 

Would it surprise you to realize that this is not how God parents us?  When He placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He first showed them what they could do. He showed them all the trees of the garden that they could enjoy. After that, He then showed them what they were not allowed to touch. The order is significant here.

When we take our children somewhere, whether it be church, the store, or someone’s home; we usually start by telling them what they can’t do. We focus on what is prohibited. 

If instead we start out with what they can do, we show them all the freedom they actually have, and how there is really more to do than not do. This starts out with the positive. This does not neglect the negative, it just changes the focus. This is a nuance for sure, but something that can be a game changer in your parenting.

If we only talk about the don’ts, we make our kids think that we are just restrictive and just trying to stop their fun. But if we show them the do’s first, we can show them what they can enjoy with a few restrictions. When we actually get to stating the restrictions, things that are off limits will not be as appealing because they will know that they have other things that they can choose.

If instead we start out with what they can do, we show them all the freedom they actually have, and how there is really more to do than not do.

This is exactly what God does. It says in Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Notice how God points out what they can pleasure in first. How there is so much out there to enjoy. Then He moves to the one thing they can’t do. 

Too often, Christian parents present God as limiting their joy and fun, as if God is a cosmic killjoy. Are there sins which will lead to destruction that we must warn our children against? Yes. But if we are not showing them all there is to enjoy, we are doing them a disservice. We are only showing them the restrictive side of God, not the God who brings so much joy and pleasure. We don’t want to give our children a tainted view of God.

Let’s look at an everyday example. We are headed to a friend’s house for a visit. Usually we lay out a list of rules before we get there to make sure that our kids are not destructive to our friends’ property, and that they do not embarrass us with their behavior. 

What if we did this instead?

On the ride to our friends’ house we said, “Listen, you guys can play some board games, talk with your friends, and run around in the yard. I think your friends have a basketball hoop, you can go out and shoot hoops. You are welcome to play some video games for a little while too. 

Now also, we do not want to see you getting too obnoxious and hurting anybody because we know you’re excited to be with your friends. We also want to make sure that you have manners while we’re having dinner, and to treat their home like we treat ours.”

See how that starts out with all the fun things that they can do and lists more of the do’s than the don’ts. They can go into the situation thinking, “We can’t do these couple things, but there’s a long list of things that we can do. This is gonna be a great time.”  

Starting with the negative and focusing on that sets up the idea that this isn’t going to be joyful or fun, or if it is, we really need to be watching out.

Because so many Christians parent with a first emphasis and a primary emphasis on the don’ts, kids grew up thinking that the Christian life is without pleasure, God kills fun, and there is no joy in living according to His ways. Kids raised in a Christian home can end up carrying these ideas into their adult lives. There are many adult Christians who look at God the way they were parented. This can lead to a joyless Christian life.

But God is a God of joy, freedom, and even pleasure. He created so many things for our enjoyment. He didn’t give us the world to just use, but to enjoy. Let’s make sure our parenting reflects that.

Do you parent your kids like God parented Adam and Eve? Do you talk about joy and pleasure that God allows in life first and most and then give the restrictions? How are you representing God in your parenting?

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