Authentic Parenting

By Dave Firth

Do we ever ask ourselves what ‘authentic parenting’ looks like?

How do we know if we’re doing a good job? Who makes the rules anyway?

Disclaimer: Please don’t think that I in any way am suggesting that I have got it all together and that I am the perfect model of a Christian parent!

Last year I was booked to speak at an event so I told my boys I was going to be to be talking about the authentic Christian life and I asked them what they thought an authentic parent was like. I asked for serious answers only!

Their responses were interesting:

  • Calm 
  • Disciplines kids when they’re naughty
  • Treats them when they’re good
  • Takes showers
  • Nice to kids
  • Has self-control
  • Reads bible to kids
  • Protects kids from bad things
  • Tells the truth

What a good list – I was impressed!

No mention of iPads, lollies or McDonalds! (Whose kids are these?)

It’s interesting how we determine what is good. A ‘good’ parent according to our kids might be very different from what we think is a ‘good’ parent.

I try really hard not to make promises.

I took my eldest boy to a Father & Son camp a couple of years ago, and I promised my other boy that I’d take him next year.

Unfortunately when the camp dates came around I had booked to go to America for 7 weeks so we couldn’t go. He was gutted! (I took him the following year and he loved it!)

As parents we often make promises. We say we will do something and we try really hard to keep to our word but sometimes our word just isn’t good enough!

The promise you make might be a genuine ‘hope’ but you are in no position to make a promise!

We can easily say things like ‘I won’t let you down!’, ‘I’ll never let anything bad happen to you!’ or ‘I’ll be there by 4pm to watch your soccer game – I promise!’

I’m so glad that when my Heavenly Father makes a promise it’s not like one of mine – where several factors (including my memory) can lead to me breaking a promise!

His promises are perfect!

It is so important that we instil in our children that God’s promises are important.

A few years ago my friend had a baby that died at full term and was still born.
It was a heart-breaking time for them and for many of us that journeyed through it with them.

But one day my friend and I were having a coffee and talking about everything being in God’s hands and the realisation hit me, “My kids don’t belong to me!”

“They’re God’s – they’re just on loan to me”

The same applies for my mum (who went to be with the Lord when I was eight), my wife and my kids.

If you were looking after my daughter while I nip to the shops, when I get back you’d willingly hand her back to me – she’s not yours.

Understanding we are charged with looking after His children (whether that’s a spouse, child or friend) changes how we view them.

Authentic Parenting is simply pointing our kids back to their real Father!

So how do we decide what is good parenting?

I mean, if I gave my kids everything they asked for they’d be dead several times over!

Doing what’s right doesn’t always make you popular.

With some things we seem to just know what is good or bad for our kids

Jesus said, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

So we know the basics. Fish = good, snake = bad

But we also know that we make some good decisions and some bad decisions.

What are we drawing on? Where do we get our standards? Society? TV? What other people do? What our parents did?

How do we decide what’s ok for them to wear, watch, see, listen to?

I read some alarming stats recently from TV research group, Nielson, that basically said that NZ kids watch an average of 4 hours TV a day! 

That’s crazy! The TV is not a babysitter. 

The TV and movies we watch determines the standards we set for our kids and the TV & movies they watch. Don’t kid yourselves – your standards will drop without you noticing!

Last Christmas we watched Star Wars as a family for the first time. My eldest son was 12 at the time and he was shocked when a planet was blown up and, according to Obi-Wan Kenobi, “millions of innocent voices cried out in pain”.

He wasn’t used to seeing stormtroopers killed by the dozen either!

It made me realise that we’ve conformed to a standard that is worldly – not godly.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Rome to say, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Maybe we need to take a step back. Reevaluate what we accept as ‘OK’ and determine to make the Lord and His Word our focus and our guide for how we raise HIS children.