When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (I Corinthians 13:11)
Being a parent is hard; being a parent who wants to raise their children to love God is even harder. To know when to discipline, how to discipline, why we should discipline, is enough to make one want to give up out of utter confusion. The books, the blogs, the conversations at the park that revolve around those questions are endless. We want to be sure we are doing the right job, being the right parent, so that we can raise the right kids.
With all the emphasis on our parenting, we have forgotten that we are raising children. We have forgotten that they are actually just kids. They think like kids, they speak like kids, they reason like kids. They don’t have 20 or 30 or 40 years of experience under their belts like you and I do.
We so often expect our kids to think like us.
To have the life experience to be able to reason like an adult. We expect them to know that when they swing the rope that way, it will probably hit someone in the face and knock their eye out. We expect them to think through the fact that when they sit on the dog—which is such great fun, and the closest thing to the horse they want but you won’t buy—the dog might bite them or might get hurt. We expect them to think like an adult.
The tragic thing is, in our desire to raise godly children, we punish their childishness as though it were sin. We forget that they have only been alive for eight years and only have eight years of knowledge. We accuse them of being unloving, or unkind, or foolish as though they actually thought through what they were about to do and decided that jumping off the highest branch and landing next to/on their sister was the best course of action. Talk about exasperating. When I am next to a techie and I do something stupid on my computer and hear the inevitable sigh of displeasure, I feel like an idiot. “No, I actually didn’t know that if I hit that button, my entire computer would blow up.”
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we should excuse sin. When we see sin, we must talk about forgiveness and a Savior. I am all for disciplining a child when they sin. But I would love to ask the questions—and have you ask yourself—“is this truly sin?” or “is this child just thinking like a child?” We can take those opportunities of child-like thinking and use them to gently, patiently explain what all our years of living have taught us. As I write that, I laugh; there is so much more I need to learn too. I am sure my parents would agree.