Par­ent­ing should fo­cus on hu­mil­ity

The Prince George Citizen - - Religion -

The best par­ent­ing ad­vice I know is found in a book that is not about par­ent­ing. It is a book, how­ever, about hu­man na­ture, and it is nec­es­sar­ily true that if we do not un­der­stand hu­man na­ture we can­not be good par­ents. The ad­vice is found in chap­ter nine, book three, of the Chris­tian clas­sic, Mere Chris­tian­ity, by C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is writ­ing about pride, “The Great Sin,” and he says this:

“Pride can of­ten be used to beat down the sim­pler vices. Teach­ers, in fact, of­ten ap­peal to a boy’s pride, or, as they call it, his self-re­spect, to make him be­have de­cently: many a man has over­come cow­ardice, or lust, or ill-tem­per by learn­ing to think that they are beneath his dig­nity – that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is per­fectly con­tent to see you be­com­ing chaste and brave and self-con­trolled pro­vided, all the time,

he is set­ting up in you the Dic­ta­tor­ship of Pride – just as he would be quite con­tent to see your chilblains cured if he was al­lowed, in re­turn, to give you can­cer. For Pride is spir­i­tual can­cer: it eats up the very pos­si­bil­ity of love, or con­tent­ment, or even com­mon sense.”

Although Lewis does not di­rectly re­fer to par­ents here, what he says is very ap­pli­ca­ble to them.

Just as teach­ers may be tempted to ap­peal to a child’s pride to cure them of “sim­pler vices,” so par­ents may be tempted to do the same. If my ob­ser­va­tions are cor­rect, some par­ents reg­u­larly in­dulge in this temp­ta­tion and there­fore raise chil­dren who seem to be­lieve that the sun shines out of their nose and that ev­ery opin­ion they hap­pen to have is worth its weight in plat­inum.

Chris­tian par­ents (in­clud­ing my­self) are just as prone to this kind of child-rear­ing than other par­ents, and per­haps even more so.

Chris­tian par­ents have a very vested in­ter­est in get­ting their chil­dren to “be­have” and some­times seem to aim at that be­hav­iour at the cost of all else, even the risk of the dic­ta­tor­ship of pride.

It may be that th­ese par­ents them­selves are caught up in that same dic­ta­tor­ship, which is why they need their chil­dren to be­have – be­cause they think it re­flects well on them.

There are many prob­lems with us­ing the method of pride to get our chil­dren to be­have, as Lewis in­di­cates, but there is one prob­lem that tran­scends them all.

It is stated very clearly by the Apos­tle James: “God op­poses the proud but gives grace to the hum­ble” (James 4:6).

The grace of God only ex­tends to those who rec­og­nize their sins and know that they are needy.

As Je­sus also said, “Those who are well have no need of a physi­cian, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the right­eous but sin­ners to re­pen­tance” (Luke 5:31-32).

Of course, par­ents should not be harsh with their chil­dren, nor should they try to hum­ble them by treat­ing them like dirt. Th­ese are not bet­ter al­ter­na­tives. In­stead, Chris­tian par­ents, while un­con­di­tion­ally lov­ing their chil­dren, should try to in­still in them a deep sense of hu­mil­ity in con­struc­tive ways, in­clud­ing in their dis­ci­pline.

Most im­por­tantly, they should do this with daily prayer for the wis­dom and pa­tience of God, which He has promised to give to those who ask.

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