Don’t miss out on a chance to win a copy of Child Proof — enter below!
Parenting According to the Needs of Your Family
Being an expert at knowing each of our children naturally leads to a commitment to shape our parenting and our homes to serve our family well. This does not mean that life revolves around any one person. Rather, it establishes Christ at the center and then seeks to minister to the individuals and to the family as a whole. It takes into account our personal strengths and weaknesses, our marriage, financial needs, careers, choices in education and extracurricular activities, ministry opportunities, church activities, and, overall, the things that will nurture the family as a whole and the individuals within it. Each decision can feel weighty when you are trying to balance multiple needs. Choices are made knowing that there can be implications for everyone.
I didn’t realize it at first, but I had an idealized picture of the type of parent I wanted to be: calm, rational, easy-going, gracious, and wise—a sage in my children’s eyes. I wanted the type of relationship where I could sit down and reason with my children about their behavior and choices and win them over with my insight. This is not a bad ideal. However, I quickly came to realize that not all of my children bought into it.
God gave us children with their own opinions, preferences, tastes, and natural proclivities. He gave them aptitudes and gifts that needed to be encouraged and developed. They each came with personal weaknesses that needed to be recognized or compensated for. They are individually prone to areas of temptation and sin, and it was our job to help them see them and point them to Christ in their need. They were all given unique personalities by the Lord. All of that shaped the work of discipleship that Greg and I embarked on as parents.
Parenting by faith and wisdom does not mean that we parent in the way that makes us most comfortable. When we base good parenting on what “feels right” to us, we mistakenly assume that our parenting preferences are what’s best for our children, which may or may not be true.
A non-assertive parent may be given a child with disabilities that requires them to be their child’s advocate, to be assertive and push back when they know that more help should be offered. Another parent is affectionate and loves to touch, but is given a child who does not enjoy demonstrations of affection. Another child’s bent toward fear and anxiety might rub up against a parent who enjoys adventure and risk-taking.
A single-parent home, a blended family, or a family where one parent has a significant disability will find that issues of discipline, homework, cooking, etc., will fall to the parent best suited for it (or the only parent). It might mean that parents establish roles that are nontraditional but suit their gifting and the family’s needs. It might mean that the father is the one best suited to be home with the kids after school to help with homework. It may mean that the mother is the primary disciplinarian in a blended family.
You may desperately want to homeschool your children but, due to unexpected life circumstances or the clear needs and disabilities of your child, you find yourself relying on a school system better equipped to assist with your child’s educational needs. Sometimes what we fear is settling for less is really God’s better plan. We need to be willing to let go of our plan and trust God to provide what is best.
Many of the parents I have counseled do not parent intentionally. Perhaps I should say, they do not intentionally evaluate the needs of the people in the family. Why is this true? Because we all receive help and input in different ways. We all have our own weaknesses, temptations, aptitudes, and disabilities that impact what we need to hear, how we hear it, and why we reject or accept it. We go on autopilot, relying on what we know, on our natural leanings, and on what we learned growing up.
Consider these differences that I have observed in children I have counseled:
- Some children argue or are oppositional/defiant. They need structure and accountability.
- Some children nod their heads yes while silently disagreeing. They need someone to notice and gently call them out.
- Some children are sensitive, with a tendency toward fear. They may shut down. They lack self-awareness and need a patient adult to draw them out and reflect back to them.
- Some children demonstrate developmental delays or impairments that impact how they hear or process information. They need an approach tailor-made to their challenges so that they can learn.
- Some children do not respond to laid-back parenting. They thrive on routines and rhythms. They need to be highly structured and disciplined or they fall into unhealthy or ungodly patterns.
- Some children do not respond well to overly structured households; they need grace and extra time, less pressure to think and accomplish tasks.
In this list, a parent’s response should be based on the needs of the child instead of the parent’s preferences. Your knowledge of your children can and should shape how you shepherd them, engage with their struggles and weaknesses, address the temptations and sin that entice them and encourage their strengths, gifting, and spiritual sensitivity.
Picture your son’s tendency to hide his feelings or the things that tempt him. Over time, you’ve seen this tendency; you’ve observed places in his life where he struggles with peer pressure or the desire to fit in with ungodly individuals. How do you approach him? Do you wait for the next situation to arise? Do you sit him down and go into a lecture that only you will appreciate?
Knowing your son’s struggle is only part of the challenge. Now you must pray for discernment in reaching his heart, reflecting back to him what you see and pointing him to Christ.
Excerpt adapted from Child Proof by Julie Lowe, ©2018 New Growth Press.
Julie Lowe is a faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). She holds an MA in counseling from Biblical Theological Seminary. She is a licensed professional counselor with more than eighteen years of counseling experience. Lowe is also a registered play therapist and has developed a play therapy office at CCEF to better serve families, teens, and children. She is the author of the book, Child Proof: Parenting by Faith, Not Formula (New Growth Press).
Julie and her husband, Greg, have six children and serve as foster and adoptive parents.
More about Child Proof
As a freedom-over-formula parenting book for parents of all ages, Child Proof provides biblical insight and encouragement for readers who want to parent by faith. As an experienced counselor of children and families and an adoptive and foster mom applying the CCEF model of biblical change, Julie Lowe uses Scripture and biblical wisdom to teach parents how to know their children and specifically love them with the love of Christ.
Every family is unique, which is why Child Proof explores the need for parents to cultivate personal and intimate care for their children as modeled in God’s individual, personal, and fatherly care to his children. This parenting book lays a foundation of parenting by faith and progresses by teaching parents how they can know their own children well and parent accordingly. By discussing particular issues parents might have in family life, Lowe demonstrates how parenting formulas aren’t the answer, and parenting with biblical wisdom is best for a proactive rather than reactive approach to parenting.
Through Lowe’s personal and professional experience, parents as well as those helping parents—pastors, counselors and counseling students, youth workers, and churches—will discover gospel-centered application rather than formulas for the ideal family, equipping parents to be experts at knowing their own children so they can know Scripture and live it out personally in their homes.