Post by the Husband
How qualified are you as a parent?
I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers here, but plumbers do apprenticeships for 3 years, Vets do 4-year undergrad courses and then some post-grad training, and even the childcare worker who looks after your toddler does 6 months Certificate III at TAFE to qualify to look after your kids, and that usually under supervision, now how much learning do you think the average parent does?
Most of us rely on our experience being a child, what our parents did, and random pieces of advice from friends and family, what we absorb from our culture, and maybe a book here or there.
In other words, your average Mcdonald’s worker has had more formal training in their job than your average parent.
Imagine if you went to see your General Practitioner, and to your surprise, she has no medical degree.
She explains that she learned to be a General Practitioner by her life experience. She then explains that she had a few sicknesses as a child, and her parents gave her some remedies that seemed to work, and as an adult she watched some youtube videos and read 3 books about common medical problems.
You wouldn’t trust anything she says.
Yet, somehow, we all feel well qualified to do perhaps the hardest thing in the world; to raise a human being from birth to adulthood without any specific training.
I had the same ignorant thinking when I first started this parenting journey.
After all I was a doctor who was training in psychiatry at the time. What more would I need to learn? Also, I figured I turned out okay…?
We figure: it’s “natural”. After all, bears care after their baby cubs without any training.
But isn’t that the same as saying: bears can look after their own medical problems naturally, so can we?
Sure, it’s possible to “wing” it, do what you vaguely remember your parents did well, and reject the bits you didn’t like.
But you get ONE chance with this.
Do you really want to experiment with your kids?
Okay, let’s talk about schooling here.
I still remember my thinking about schooling for kids before we had our first child.
I figured, if I turned out okay going to a public non-Christian school, surely it’d be fine to send my kids to the local primary school.
You know that “mind blown” emoticon?
Well, after we read and learned about Christian parenting, and then lead parenting courses at our local church, the question was no longer: “should we send our kids to a Christian school? Or should we be homeschooling our kids?”
The question became: What is our primary purpose in raising our children?
This abrupt turn around in my mindset came about because there was one question that helped to clarify the entire question about schooling.
What is the goal of parenting?
Why did God give us children?
I believe that the primary goal of a Christian parent is to help make our children disciples of Christ.
It is to do everything humanly possible by the grace of God to help our children know the Lord and walk in his ways.
How does schooling then fit into discipleship?
For many parents, especially from an Asian background, the primary reason we send children to school is to achieve academic excellence, ultimately so that our children can be financially successful adults one day.
For some other parents, the focus may be on allowing the children to develop social skills and a broad social network that will come in handy down when their little ones grow up.
My conviction is that the time that a child spends in school is such a large and influential part of the child’s upbringing that the schooling itself must be part of the overall discipleship plan that the parent is implementing.
Even if you just break this down into the number of hours, it’s easy to see that the time a child spends in school, and school associated activities and then socialising with other school kids outside of school must be more than the amount of time they spend with their parents.
This is a strong argument to consider how much Christian values are actually undergirding the whole of your children’s education.
Any parents of primary school children will tell you that by the time the child has spent 6 hours at school and then whatever time they need for their homework, they have very little left in the tank to then allow you to teach them more lessons in life!
One could certainly also argue that sending a child to a Christian school is not necessarily going to ensure they are strong in the faith. My argument would be that of course, that is the case – but that we are still compelled to do everything we can to ensure they have the best opportunity to form a biblical world view and to know God. Ultimately it is only the Holy Spirit that can convict a heart and regenerate a soul. Yet we are called to “make disciples” – and who are more important in the world to us than our own children to make disciples of?
As for our family, we saw that discipling our children to be Christ-like was not only the priority in our parenting, but also our perpetual priority at all times.
What good would it be to earn a lot of money, or have a beautiful house, if our children were not optimised in their spiritual growth?
So it was clear for us that we needed to make it a priority to see that our children received an education that helps with their spiritual formation.
This has lead to some sacrifices, including some money of course, but also moving to a more peripheral part of the city to be close to the school that God had put in our heart.
I am certainly not saying that every parent should do what we did. But regardless of which school you send your kids to, I think the important question of the “why?” needs to be answered clearly.
I also used to think that the primary school years would not be as important for the formation of the Christian faith in our children. I now believe I was completely wrong. In fact I know think that the primary school years are just as, if not more important than the highschool years.
Between the ages of 6 and 12, the child is constantly absorbing everything around them including the values, the role-modeling, and any discrepancies in what people say and actually do (i.e. hypocrisy!).
They generally accept what is told to them – so it is vital that truth is imparted.
These years are like the iceberg under the ocean, you can’t necessarily see them by the time the kids get to the teenage years, but the behaviour of the teenager is in part a reflection of what happened in the earlier years.
But can’t we impart spirituality through our home life?
This is really talking about the idea of quantity vs quality and how to do them both.
Let me break it down like this.
If you take the average school day (let’s say for argument’s sake there is 9 hours of sleep and 15 hours of wake time) of a year 7 child, you have 6 hours at school, 1-2 hours of homework, 2 hours of alone time, and perhaps 1 hour (if you’re lucky) of actual parent face to face interaction time.
No matter how much quality is in that hour, if the rest of the 14 hours is not headed in the right direction, I don’t think you’re in a great position to steer that ship back on course.
But what about the holidays and weekends?
I would still argue that particularly as your child gets into the tween/teen years, that social media, school friends and youtube would have a large influence than you might possibly be able to get into them. So my thought would be that we need to disciple our kids in partnership with the school.
We pray that God will help you in your parenting journey and that you will find the best path forward so that you will raise children as mighty disciples.