“Just you wait!” they say.
Wait until they’re teething and keeping you up all night.
Wait until they start to walk and they’ll be into everything.
Wait until they get to the terrible two’s.
And the big one…just wait until they’re a teenager.
Always the words are spoken with a slightly sinister chuckle and a knowing smile…as if there is some secret club of suffering that awaits you and there is nothing you can do about it. From the moment that precious bundle of joy arrives in the world the clear and seemingly only trajectory is one that leads to hard times ahead.
Expectations of rebellion and trouble and general teenage angst are considered the norm and you just have to hope and pray that you did your best and that you’ll weather the storm without too much collateral damage. What exactly is your best and when you do it, are of course subject to some nebulous thing that is about as concrete and substantial as the latest parenting trend.
The saddest and most tragic thing to me about the whole “just you wait” mentality is how rampant it is within the church. Believing parents and pagan alike all take a stand on this common ground as if there is no hope. But as a mother of two daughters in various stages of teendom and three other children at different ages and stages behind them, I’m stating without hesitation that Christian parents need to abandon that hill to those who have no Hope and plant the flag of Christ’s reign and rule over our children and every moment of their life.
The expectation is and should be that they will love the LORD their God with all their heart and mind and strength. The expectation is and should be that at every age you exhort them to be as Christ like as it is possible for them to be…and that imitation should grow and develop more fully with every year that they live. There should be no concept in the mind of Christian parents that they can do all they can when their children are little but should expect some kind of sabbatical from the faith from about the age of twelve or so until the early twenties.
Child rearing and boundaries should have a funnel like shape. In the early years the boundaries are narrow, and despite a negative sounding connotation, restrictive and confining. We may have to rethink our understanding on these “negatives” though because a train is restricted to the rails and that is not a bad thing. It’s a point of fact that it allows the train to fly at amazing speeds and accomplish all that it could not do if it went off the rails so to speak. Fires are wonderful and useful when they are confined to a specific place, destructive and devastating when they are not.
As children grow in their knowledge and understanding the boundaries begin to open up more. By the time they are at the older age of the teen years our children should be at the open ended part of the funnel with lots of freedom and little fear in the hearts of the parents that the young man or woman they’ve raised cannot handle it. Mind you I am not saying the children are completely free of any restraints or ties to mom and dad but the balance should be shifting to a new relationship between parent and child with the child able to stand sure footed beside the parents.
Of course there are dangers to this way of parenting. If we aren’t careful we make it about keeping the rules and doing the right thing without teaching them to love the Rule Giver. It’s the difference between a chain linked fence with barbwire at the top compared to a garden with a beautiful living hedge. The Rule Giver is also the Grace Giver and our goal as parents should be to nurture a love in our child’s heart for the standard of holiness that we’ve been given.
So be faithful during those little years. Even when everyone else around you thinks you’re being too small minded; remember that you’re looking and working toward a bigger picture.
And just you wait. Because the discipline that is hard for you and your child now, will produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.