Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Guest Blogger: Seven Insider Tips for Pioneer Parents: Part One

My friend Mary DeMuth is the author of two novels and a couple parenting books. She will be on Family Life Today March 22 and 23 and gave me permission to post this article about pioneer parenting. I hope it blesses you today!

4. Understand that parenting is not outside-in, but inside-out.

I used to think parenting successfully meant finding the “best” strategies and practicing them. Though good parenting strategies are helpful, particularly for Pioneer Parents, they lacked real power. I realized I could impose all sorts of methods from the outside, but my heart (where parenting starts) remained the same. To parent differently than how I was raised, my heart needed to be healed. David said, “What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life” (Psalm 51:6, MSG). God is in the business of cleaning, healing and rejuvenating our hearts from the inside out. The greater the healing, the more authentic and effective our parenting will be.

5. Forgive your parents.

Jesus told us to forgive, plain and simple. Sometimes He even used impossible math: 70 times 7—490 times! Holding bitterness in your heart, shunning forgiveness, actually hinders you from parenting freely in the present. Forgiveness sets you free—free to love your imperfect parents, free to give grace to your imperfect self as you struggle to parent differently. It’s not pretending nothing happened back there; on the contrary, forgiveness is a revolutionary, brave act. How is forgiveness connected to pioneer parenting? Picture a thick iron chain around you and your family of origin. If you choose not to forgive, the chain keeps you connected to the past. It stifles your heart so that you cannot parent effectively today. Choosing to forgive causes the chain to fall away, setting you free to parent your children differently.

6. Stop the comparison game.

Few acts are more destructive than comparison. I’ve caught myself observing other parents not to glean pointers about parenting, but to chide them or myself. I will never parent that way, I think, which can either mean I don’t want to be like that parent or I am an utter failure at parenting well. Jogging through my neighborhood one day, God taught me a comparison lesson. Each yard was different. Some sported “Yard of the Month” signs. Others hatched weeds. I realized that the sanctification journey is different for me, as my “growing up” yard may have had bad soil and not enough sun. Comparing myself to Yard of the Month parents, who may have had affirming upbringings, was unfair. God asks us to concentrate on our own yard, to pull one weed at a time, to revel in one flower planted.

Paul says, “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original” (Galatians 5:26, MSG). A chapter later, Paul asserts, “ But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another” (Galatians 6:4 NAS).

7. Find support.

My parenting skills increased when I found other pioneer parents who struggled just like me. When I’ve had a particularly difficult parenting day, I’ll call a fellow pioneer parent and vent. Paul says that we are to “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:4 NAS). Finding like-minded pioneer parents who are willing to share struggles lightens burdens. As I shared my burdens, and listened to other Pioneer Parents share theirs, I realized I was a normal parent with typical struggles—with a big God who ultimately shouldered every burden. In the company of like-minded friends I’m able to laugh at my mistakes and continue down the pioneer parenting path.

Being a Pioneer Parent is no easy task, particularly when we’re plagued by worry that we’ll duplicate the homes we were raised in. In granting ourselves grace, seeking mentors, saying I’m sorry, seeking inside-out healing, forgiving our parents, eliminating comparison, and finding friends who bear our burdens, we will scale the difficult peak of parenting, by God’s grace.

Cara again: if you are interested in listening to Mary's Family Life Today episodes, here's more information about the broadcasts:

A Rocky Beginning 3/22/2007 (Day 1 of 2) Guests Include: Mary DeMuth: On the broadcast today, Mary DeMuth, author of the book Building the Christian Family You Never Had, tells Dennis Rainey about her rocky start as the only child of a single mom heavy into drugs. Mary tells about the abuse she encountered at the hands of neighbor boys and her eventual faith in the God of the universe.

Embracing Forgiveness 3/23/2007 (Day 2 of 2)Guests Include: Mary DeMuth: Today on the broadcast, author Mary DeMuth talks honestly with Dennis Rainey about the change that took place in her life when she choose to forgive her abusers.

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