My grandfather fought in World War I. My father fought in World War II and served stateside during the Korean War as well. One of my sisters was a nurse on a Navy hospital ship anchored in a harbor off the shores of Vietnam. My brother was stationed in West Germany during the Cold War.
The Army and Navy trained all of my family members how to prepare for and operate in a wartime environment. They learned from the government how to follow orders, shoot, treat wounds, even how to properly peel potatoes and shine shoes. The interesting thing is that the Army and Navy didn’t teach them why you should go to war and how that decision should be made. That’s because other people make those decisions.
From the Korean War through Vietnam into the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan, people have become increasingly vocal in asking “Why are we fighting this war?” And that’s because there is a big difference between how to wage a war and why you go to war.
Likewise, there is a difference between parenting strategies/techniques and parenting philosophies. A parenting philosophy is the foundation on top of which you try different strategies/techniques. Most people don’t give much thought to their parenting philosophy but, instead, only focus on practical “how do I get my kids to behave” strategies.
My book House of Grace is a parenting philosophy with a few strategies mixed in for example. Some people have seen me post a couple of strategies as examples and they say, “Well that is fine for your daughter, but that would never work on my child.” But the strategies aren’t the important message; strategies can be tweaked or swapped for others depending on the child and situation. The important thing to me is that your parenting philosophy is grounded on the gospel of undeserved grace, not just common grace proverbial wisdom saving that gospel grace for when they’re older. When you can articulate your parenting philosophy, then you can properly evaluate parenting strategies/techniques to see if they line up with your philosophy and, if so, judge their effectiveness for your child and your situation.
Like my family members and others that served our country, how you fight a war does not necessarily reveal why you go to war.
But how we parent does reveal why we parent.
If our strategies revolve around their proper behavior and compliance, then we parent based on a standard of current and future performance. If our strategies revolve around showing grace and mercy, on how we’re all fallen and yet God loves us sacrificially, then we parent on the gospel.
So moms, dads, take a breath, retreat to your war room, base camp, master bedroom, or kitchen table and ask yourselves, “Are we letting strategies on obedience and behavior create a fog of war that obscures the most foundational question, ‘What are we fighting for?'”
It’s important for you to know.
The Prince of Peace wants you to know.