When “Do unto others” is a bad idea

You’ve all seen them.  Maybe you’ve been one yourself–I know I have.  Frankly, it’s easy to fall into the trap, thinking that by serving my children, they will see my great example as a serving, sacrificing parent and turn around and serve others.  But really, do you see it turning out that way?  Do most kids who are the center of their parents’ lives grow up and center their lives around others?  Or do they get rather…spoiled?

But the Bible says do to others what we would have them do to us, right?  So why can’t I cater to my kids and focus on their happiness?  In reality, wouldn’t I love to have a butler, maid, and chauffeur?  Wouldn’t I love it if the world revolved around me, and my happiness and well-being was foremost in the life of someone?  Am I not just applying the Bible when I set myself aside and focus on them?

It’s so easy to miss the point in parenting.  And kids can be loud and whiny and draining–sometimes I give them what they want because they make life easier when I do, but when that child is an adult and he starts screaming at fast food employees because the lemonade is gone or  the fries are slow…well, you’ve all seen adults like that.  You wouldn’t want to admit you helped create that.

Yes, we are to do to others what we want them to do for us.  But applying it here is flawed in two ways.  For one, we’re never promised that those we treat well will treat us–or anyone–well in return.  It’s not a lesson in training, but a lesson in living.  And second, the truth is we really don’t want to be children our whole lives.  We want to be challenged; we want to mature; we want to be praised for doing something well.  We want to work for what we get, because it makes us feel good, because we are wired to work.  Good parenting isn’t about happy kids.  And as Christians, we’re not raising children; we’re raising warriors.  If we do it right, the world will hate them.  They won’t blend in at all, so we need to teach them to put on their armor and sharpen their swords.  We need force them to serve others when it’s hard–and serving is always hard because it means ignoring our own needs.

So, I fail at this all the time.  I want my kids to be happy.  Okay, I mostly want them not to be whiny.  I don’t want to take the time to teach them the important stuff, because Satan fights me when I do.  He doesn’t bother me at all when I take them to endless lessons and plunk them in front of the computer and revolve my world around them, especially if I do nothing else for God while I parent.  But I need to fight them and their sin natures and their self-centered attitudes, trusting they will someday see I was fighting FOR them.

Next time I’ll talk a little more about what that might look like.  For now, I’m just going to ponder areas where I’m raising my child to be a child.  And nobody wants to be stuck with adult children, and no Christian wants to get to heaven and explain to God why she never trained her children to be anything but children.  I don’t think he’ll take the ‘do unto others’ quote as a good excuse.

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