The overwhelming majority of parents want to do what’s best for their children. To me, good parents need to exemplify the character and behavior they’d like to see in their children and grandchildren. The great news for me has been learning that it’s natural to express good because, as the Bible brings out, it’s inherent in everyone’s true nature as the offspring of God.
Rather than depending on chance, guesswork, or human will, I’ve come to feel that better parenting is the outcome of understanding something of the actual nature of God and man. The Bible refers to God as Spirit, limitless good, and that man is the likeness of God (see, for example, John 4:24; Job 36:26; and Genesis 1:26, 31, respectively).
Seen in this light, neither parents nor children are truly products of the flesh. Rather, the authentic identity of each individual is the outcome of Spirit – expressing the fullness of the divine nature. A growing perception of this enables us to overcome, through prayer, perceived limitations of heredity, environment, or detrimental social conditions that could get in the way of supportive parenting.
Christ Jesus proved the practicality of understanding God to be the one true Father of all. He lived the ideal, Godlike model. His teachings show the importance of being faithful to God, by expressing in our own thoughts and lives qualities such as meekness, compassion, forgiveness, and moral strength. The Bible says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). When undergirded by a perception of man’s spiritual origin and nature, both children and adults are able to see the naturalness of these qualities and incorporate them into their own character and behavior.
This approach of identifying man’s true spiritual nature proved practical when I was teaching parenting skills to some single parents. I based that volunteer work on this statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 63).
In one instance a mother told me that she and her daughter were constantly at odds, and she didn’t know what to do. I asked her to specify the character and behavior she’d like to see in her daughter. When I pointed out that the qualities she listed were the same ones mentioned by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere and that these qualities were natural to all of us as God’s children, she understood.
Then I asked her to examine her own behavior and see where she could show she was exemplifying those same qualities herself. She admitted there was a conflict between what she told her daughter to do and what she herself was doing.
I listened as she explained how she would eliminate that and instead be an example of what she expected from her daughter. I also encouraged her to pray to support her efforts to be a better parent. I prayed, too, acknowledging God as the one divine Parent of everyone, and that not any of God’s children are subject to negative influences but forever belong to God, Spirit – who made us and maintains us as spiritual representatives of divine Love.
Just one day later she reported there were already signs of peace and mutual respect evident between them, which continued to grow and resulted in positive, permanent change. Her daughter was obviously happier, displayed more self-control, and was a better friend to others at school.
It’s important to expect children to love living in harmony with their true nature as God’s children. When parents are striving to follow that same model, and their children feel the sincerity and love they express, parents and children learn together, and they grow in their ability to support, love, and help one another without hypocrisy or harsh judgment.
In such a nurturing environment, children feel safe, loved, valued, and respected. Such an environment gives them a stable basis on which to thrive and develop into confident, responsible, and caring adults.