When my children first came along, I wasn't very confident about my parenting skills. So, I looked to various sources for ideas. First, I used my parents' example. But that didn't work as well as I'd hoped. My kids had different needs from mine, and the circumstances were different.
Next I bought a couple of books on raising children, and I began to read parenting magazines. I did get some ideas from those resources, but my confidence never really improved.
Often I was more preoccupied with my own feelings of inadequacy than with the actual nurturing and spiritual growth of my kids. I floundered. I had no model, but at least I had a goal.
While I knew there were many factors in how my children would develop, my goal was to be the best influence I could be during the times that I was with them.
I guess that's why I began to think of Christ Jesus. There was someone who made the most of his opportunity to be a good influence on others. And in that sense, he was a model. Even if he had not actually raised children, I could look to his career for guidance in my own parenting efforts.
Of course, the key to Jesus' influence on others, along with his whole healing ministry, was his relation to God. Once, in describing this relation, he explained, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). I understand this to mean that Jesus recognized God as his sole source of ideas, direction, support, and life, I began to look for actions in his career that would stem from such reliance on God. A common thread that ran throughout was his ability to tune in to God's direction, to the exclusion of other influences.
We don't know what Jesus' innermost thought processes were, but it seems that in listening to God, he found great conviction of the value we all have to God - that God so loves each of us. And this understanding produces the right responses or actions.
Now this was a model that would eliminate floundering. From this example, I saw that turning to God could bring the satisfying kind of guidance that Jesus received. Furthermore, it seems to level the playing field. Everyone can be an expert at parenting their own children with fresh and inspired ideas from God, case by case.
Since adopting this model, I've had to make many parenting decisions: How long should I nurse the baby? Should the kids start preschool? Do we use time-outs or not? Can my daughter have just cheese for lunch? The relative importance of these decisions ranges from serious to fairly trivial, but I'm more effective and consistent with this approach. I've naturally found more confidence as a consequence.
My second child recently gave me another opportunity to proceed in this way. She was noticeably less verbal than other toddlers and was unresponsive. She often seemed in her own world, content not to interact with others. A few people had suggested that she was partially deaf, or at least not developing properly.
While not deaf - she always came running happily when she heard the Blue's Clues theme song on television - her development certainly needed some extra care. I saw pretty quickly, though, that I was going to be pulled in several directions if I took every well-meaning person's remark to heart. I resolved to try to respond to her as Christ Jesus would have - by listening to what God was telling me about her. My prayer had affirmed for me that she was cared for by God, and it gave me lots of little ideas for bringing out her intelligence and getting her more connected to the family. The negative comments soon stopped, and her communication and development greatly improved. Today she's an affectionate, involved family member.
Inspired ideas result in better parenting, and turning to God brings these ideas. The real basis for inspired and effective parenting is the same basis that Jesus started from in his own healing career - a close and growing relationship with God.
[Jesus] ... paid no homage
to forms of doctrine or to theories of man, but acted and spake
as he was moved,
not by spirits but by Spirit.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)