I took so much time and effort leaving a comment on Sally Clarkson’s blog about this article sweeping the internet, I figured I should copy and paste my response here and break the blog silence. So here is my revised and expanded comment:
Two things about this article. One…there’s something missing from this firm stand/sacrificial love/never-give-in method of raising children. I read this article and there’s a haunting emptiness that sort of screams out at me. This account of raising children is completely devoid of the gospel. If we were to make a picture of God’s character and apply it to our parenting, if we discipled our children the way Christ discipled those who would build His Church, I think we would still come up with the foundations of “firm” and “requiring much” as well as “sacrificial”, but what we require of our children and our striving for them to achieve would be tempered with love and grace. Not an enabling “oh, that’s okay” but a protective covering, a “sheltering under the wing” that acknowledges their fragility and frailty as well as our own.
Two…children should be held to a very high standard, but we should first try to inspire them to greatness before we ever drive them to it. I would rather do battle with my children’s character flaws through Story and accounts of great men and women, especially those who triumphed for the sake of the gospel, than to shame them and scream at them in order to “motivate” them. I would desire that their souls be stirred by Beauty rather than a hollow perfection with no end in sight but the applause of a dying world.
I just told my sweet 7 year-old David yesterday that we strive to do well (to write neatly, to speak clearly and with an accomplished vocabulary, etc.) so that others may be that much more compelled to listen to our Message. We pursue success that we may wrap up the gospel in an attractive package and bring it to the world. We are “neat in our person” and “pleasant in our manner” so that people might be drawn to us…to be near us, to listen to us. God does the drawing, God does the saving, but oh! that we may strive to be His instruments! To play the piano, strum the guitar, win the spelling bee, get an A on the English test, act in the play, pitch the baseball, all to His Glory!
A mistake that I feel both “Western parents” and “Chinese mothers” make is to inflate their own pride with their children’s success…the temptation to live vicariously through our children so that their achievements reflect positively on us. Thus, when they experience failure, we in turn feel that we have failed. The first step, then, is to find our worth in how God views us…I hope that as you read these words you are able to say along with me “God views me as His child, chosen to be His before the foundation of the world, reconciled to Himself by the blood of Christ, justified by His atoning sacrifice, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and someday to be glorified and reunited with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom.” I hope you can see how such Truth ought not to be shaken by a missed pitch or a flat note.
Yet this article brings up a valid point, doesn’t it? There’s a sting therein, a convicting point of the finger that should not be overlooked. A truth that we try to work around and excuse and ignore.
We…the “American parent”…are too easy on our children. Okay, not all of us. Most of us. Me.
I hereby confess to being at least a little bit lazy when it comes to Real Parenting. It’s just so easy to compare ourselves to “the Joneses” and see that we’re doing “a little bit more” than they are…isn’t it? And while I have no desire to initiate all-day screaming sessions with my children over a piano piece or a math problem, tossing around threats and humiliating them with shame and reproach, I have come away from reading this piece with a heightened resolve, a commitment to firm parenting intermingled with love and grace. The goal–to inspire my children to greatness, to lavish them with encouragement and affection, to surround them with beauty, to expose them to great minds through books and art and music, and ultimately to point them to the Cross, where grace and mercy abound for their sinful souls as well as for my own.